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Saturday, April 28, 2012

Literature Circles and Book Clubs

I am still using my small group leveled reading books in my guided reading groups at this point in the year.  However, I'd really like to keep the enthusiasm for reading in general up.  Since I've been hearing so much about book clubs and literature circles lately, I thought I'd check it out.

Original version of literature circles
  1. The teacher chooses the book students will read and assigns each student a "job" in the circle. 
  2. Students read the novel together as a group and as they read, each student does their "job."  I have used this model in the past.  Below is an example of some of the group jobs and their descriptions. 
  3. The teacher assigns follow-up comprehension questions that are usually pre-written.   Students are expected to answer these as a group.  In this scenario, the teacher is still the leader of discussion. 

New way of looking at literature circles (AKA: book clubs)
  1. The teacher lays out several different novels of varying reading levels. 
  2. Students choose the book they want to read and the groups are formed by the interest in that book.  I always remind students they must be able to pass the "five finger rule" (turn to a random page and read it without making more than 5 mistakes) in order to choose that book.
  3. Students read the novel on their own for 3-4 days, marking points of interest with sticky notes or scraps of paper.  This would be where each child would be a "Word Detective", "Connector", "Captain Answer" and "Summarizer."  They would EACH be responsible for having that job done/recorded in their notebooks when they returned to group.
  4. The teacher is more of an observer as the students share the questions they had while reading and help each other to answer them.  I made a tally chart (below) that I use to keep track of student progress and assign a participation grade.

Which version do you use?  Can you recommend any good novels that are on 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade levels?

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Classroom Behavior Chart Freebie

This is a chart to keep track of positive points students earn, and "Yikes!" points for negative behaviors.  I have my students "pay back" the Yikes! with a positive behavior that cancels out the negative. 

Each of the 4 pages can be laminated and attached to each other to create one poster.  The lines in the chart don't show up in the previews on TpT, but the document itself looks exactly like what you see above.

You can pick up a FREE copy at my TpT store by clicking here.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Classroom Jobs Freebie

I saw a post by Sara at Smiling in Second Grade about how she organizers her classroom jobs.  My job chart takes up a ton of space on my board, and I don't think it's particularly clear about which student does which job.

Here's what Sara does:

And here's what I came up with based on the inspiration I got from her blog:

This is a polka dot themed set of class jobs. It can easily be changed using Paint. There are 24 blank labels for which to put your student numbers at the end. I laminate them and attach magnets to the back so the student numbers can easily be changed.

You can pick up a FREE set at my TpT Store

What do you do to organize your classroom jobs?

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Parent Communication Link Up

Lorraine at Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies is having a link up about parent communication.  Since I just posted about my classroom newsletter, I found it timely :)

Come on over and share your process for communicating with parents!

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Classroom Newsletter Freebie

I do a weekly newsletter.  Our principal only requires us to write one every two weeks, but I find that parents typically want to know more often than that what's going on.  Also, I honestly can't think two weeks ahead!

Here's an example of my latest newsletter. 

I use Microsoft Word and a set template.  I use the clipart at Phillip Martin's Website, which is FREE.  The pencil at the top can be changed with Paint to reflect your personal contact information.  You can download the template at my TpT store here.

Do you use a classroom newsletter?  How often do you write them? 

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Brain Breaks 2

I did some digging around and found some other teacher's examples of Brain Breaks.

  1. Rachel at Minds in Bloom has a list of 20 brain breaks in this post. 
  2. Krista at Stellar Students offers a "Bucket of Brain Breaks".
  3. Stephanie at 3rd Grade Thoughts offers several cute pictures to go along with her suggestions for $4.50.
And here are some cute alternatives to the usual popsicle sticks:

Monday, April 9, 2012

Brain Breaks

What are they? They are mini activities (2-3 minutes tops) that happen in between subjects or during transition/clean up time. There's a lot of research by both educational gurus and doctors alike that says kids learn best when they're moving.

Ideally, these breaks should happen every 20 minutes, but I think it really depends on what's going on. For example, if kids are in the middle of a science experiment I wouldn't suggest taking a random break when they're fully engaged like that.

I have a couple of ground rules for the kiddos:

  1. All these activities have to be done silently.
  2. They have to keep themselves to themselves. In other words, stay out of other people's personal space. This includes waving your hands in someone else's face.

Here's a list of the favorite activities in my classroom:

Write these brain breaks on popsicle sticks. Put colored dots on the tops of the sticks to indicate length. Green = REALLY quick (20 seconds, tops). Orange = semi-quick (1-2 minutes). Red = longer (2-5 minutes).

· Play karaoke pop song music(no words in the songs) for about a minute while kids dance in or beside their seats.

· Brain bump: Students put their two fists together (looks like a brain) and “brain bump” (like a fist bump) 15 other students and then return to their seats.

· Miss Mary Mack

· Core Matrix-Students sit on their legs (they are bent underneath them) and they lean backwards. They should feel the stress in the core of their body.

· Grab your left ear with your elbow pointing towards the ceiling. Write your name and then the names of 5 of your classmates on the ceiling with your elbow.

· Squat in place

· Macarena (red—3:44 min): play the song while they do the dance.

· Tic Tac Toe: The students play tic tac toe on their paper with the person who sits next to them. They try to see who can win the most in one minute.

· Spin X 3: This is the one I pick on purpose when we are short on time, haha. The just stand up, spin around 3 times, and sit back down.

· Seat Switch (math): They have 10 seconds to sit in someone else’s chair. They then check the last problem that person did. They then have 10seconds to return to their desk.

· High Cincos: High 5’s to 5 people.

· Rainstorm: Start by everyone tapping one finger on the desk, then two, then three, then four, then lightly tap whole hand, a little harder, a little harder, now pound! Now do it all backward. It should sound like a rainstorm hitting the building.

· Beach ball: sit in desks and pass around a beach ball.

· Categories: Pick a category such as words with long a, verbs, junkfood, etc. Go around the room and each student says one word that fits in the category.

· Get in Order: Say an order for the students to get it, such as height, birthdays, ABC first name, ABC last name, etc. Give them 1minute to get there. Challenge – do it without talking!

· 20 Jumping Jacks

· Jump Rope: Jump rope for 30 seconds… it gets tiring.

· Sign Language ABCs: Sing the ABCs and sign the letters. Would have to teach the sign language first.

· Jokester: Pull a popsicle stick for the student who will read/tell the jokes from a joke book.

Students count to six as they follow each step.

1. Rub your palms together fast. Feel the heat.
2. Rub your ears in circles. Squeeze your earlobes between your thumb and finger.
3. Rub the back of your head with your pointer fingers, moving toward your ears.
4. Rub big circles around your eyes with your fingertips, moving from your eyebrows to the top of your cheekbones and back up along the side of your nose.
5. Rub the sides of your nose using your pointer fingers.
6. Act like you’re washing your whole face with your palms.
7. With your right hand, brush your left arm, from shoulder to fingertips, top and underside. Then switch sides.
8. Put one hand on top of the other on your stomach and make 6 circles.
9. Use both hands to rub your thighs.
10. Stomp your feet on the floor.

Do you use brain breaks?  What activities do you use?

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Little Website that Could

Chrisi at Ms. Fultz's Corner inspired me to check out Symbaloo. 
This is a FREE website that makes little icons for the different websites you frequent.

I plan to use it exclusively for use in my classroom.  I currently have boards for Virginia Studies, Language Arts, Science, and Math.

What's Symbaloo got that Pinterest doesn't, you ask? Well, for one thing, it's a direct link to the website. For another, you can organize and color-code/group ideas within the board more than with Pinterest. For example, everything that has to do with prewriting/graphic organizers are in green within the Language Arts board.

Do you use symbaloo in your classroom? 

Saturday, April 7, 2012

Care to Play a Game of Tag?

Courtney at Teaching in Paradise has tagged me!  I'm a gamer at heart, so this should be fun!

Here Are The rules:
* Post these rules
* Answer the 10 questions that the tagger posted for you
* Create 10 questions of your own to ask the people that you're about to tag
* Tag 10 people and link them with your post (and let them know they've been tagged!)

Here are Courtney's questions and my answers:

1. What is the one thing that you couldn't live without in your class?
The projector that hooks up to my laptop.  I use this ALL day for everything from showing movies to projecting written instructions.

2. If you could teach any grade, what would it be and why?
High School Honors English for two reasons:  My grandfather was a middle school English teacher and I got the chance to substitute teach one of these classes.  So much fun!

3. What is your absolute favorite food?
Pasta!  It could be covered in cheese, marinara, butter, or alfredo.  I love it all!

4. What does a typical morning breakfast look like for you?
2 eggs over easy, a piece of toast, and at least one cup of coffee.

5. Nicest thing that a parent has ever said to you?
Thank you for teaching my child the way he needs to be taught.  He's responded so well to you!

6. Most touching moment with/from a student
One of my grade level teachers taught her class how to sign my name and they signed/sang "Happy Birthday" to me.

7. Favorite website besides blogger and pinterest.
1000 Awesome Things.  It highlights one of the million reasons to be happy each day that I often forget.  It's the homepage on my laptop.

8. Best place you've ever traveled to and why?
That would be a tie between Deep Creek Lake in Maryland and The Outer Banks in North Carolina.  I love the sun and water.  Anytime I can mix the two is heaven to me.

9. What is your favorite thing to do on the weekends?

10. About how much time, on average, would you say that you spend doing things for school?
Oh, my.  At least 1-2 hours a day, and that would be a good day!

Here are the 10 bloggers I'm tagging because I'm excited to get the chance to pick their brain:
Tanya at A Class Act
Laura at Love to Teach
Ruth at Teacher Park

Here are the questions inquiring minds (me) are dying to know about you:
1.  What tricks/techniques do you have to keep the things you bring home from school to a minimum?
2.  How do you "fake" happiness on the worst of days?
3.  Quick!  You wake up with 10 minutes left to get out the door.  What is your go-to piece of clothing that makes you look put-together?
4.  Flats or heels?
5.  How do you make peace with a difficult parent?
6.  What's your most expensive guilty pleasure?
7.  Pretend you have an entire weekend to yourself.  How do you spend it?
8.  Favorite t.v. show?
9.  What was the last book or movie that made you laugh and cry at the same time?
10.  What is one skill you possess that would surprise most people if they knew?

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Miraculous Journey of Edward Tulane and The Velveteen Rabbit Freebie

I really love these books, and since bunnies and April go so well together, I thought I'd make a quick packet to go with them!

I plan to read Edward Tulane as a class, and then split into pairs/small groups to read The Velveteen Rabbit.  I created a  comprehension packet/mini unit that incorporates the following skills/subjects:  Compare and contrast; science (habitats/ecosystems); research (online and print resources); writing (conventions/editing/adjectives/creating mental images); comparing fiction/fantasy to nonfiction texts; making inferences.  

You can pick up a copy of the comprehension packet at my TpT store by clicking here.

Do you love these books or similar titles?  I'd love to hear what titles you like read that have rabbits for main characters.