Friday, February 14, 2014

Valentine's Day

I was strangely surprised that today was such an easy day...

Full moon and Valentine's Day? I wasn't expecting a red letter day, if you know what I mean.  :)

I just love my class!

We didn't get to have Valentine's Day parties, but we did exchange valentines at the end of the day and have a contest.

I issued a challenge to my kids last week. Decorate your valentine bag or box at home and submit it in one of three categories: Funniest, Most Creative, or Most Valentinesy (not a word, I know).

May I present the winners?


It was rigged to drop candy eye balls out the bottom when it was picked up.

Most Creative

I love the crown.

Most Valentinesy

I hope you had a great day!

Thursday, February 13, 2014

App Smashing

3 apps + 3 subjects = iPad fun!

We are learning about the Civil War in Social Studies, so I gave my kids some independent learning time. Instead of doing the T-chart on paper that was in the curriculum, I had my students do this to show the same learning.

Assignment: (groups of 3 students working together)
  1. Read 2 pages in Social Studies textbook on Abraham Lincoln & Jefferson Davis.
  2. Screen shot the Venn diagram in Felt Board.
  3. Insert that screen shot into Educreations & add text.
  4. Screen shot your finished Venn diagram and insert it into Poplett.
  5. Use Britannica Image Quest to find complimentary pictures.
  6. Insert those pictures into Poplett.
  7. Turn in your finished product via Gaggle school email.
The finished products are not perfect, but there was a lot of authentic learning and discussion happening.

I love having iPads in our classroom!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Thank you notes

Last week our counselor hosted a Career Day for our school. It was a great experience for the kids. They got to listen to and interact with a general contractor, air traffic controller, Manager for Mesquite Sports Center, HVAC guys from our district, 2 counselors, a pharmacist, owner of a media company, and a Dr. Pepper distributer.

The kids took clipboards and paper to take notes as they rotated around the gym listening to the presenters.

So, this week they have been working on thank you notes. Each student wrote 2 notes and here are a few:

I love their drawings! They love having a chance to flex those art muscles. I wish we had more opportunities for drawing in the classroom. I try to incorporate it as much as I can, because they enjoy it so much.

Does your school do something like this?

Monday, February 10, 2014

Homework, Homework, Homework

The never ending battle of school vs. home. Not fun.

I have said it before and I will say it again. I don't like homework.

But... I have to assign it.

This year my homework routine has been as follows:

Monday & Wednesday: read for 30 minutes and write a response
Tuesday & Thursday: math practice & spelling practice

Not bad. I feel like I have had more success with this than any other year. Plus, I have seen real growth in their writing abilities. (Which is always a wonderful thing!)

It is time for a change, though. As I was perusing my Bloglovin' page, I came across this post by Emily Kissner at In My Classroom: The Forest and the Trees. First of all, I love her posts. There are some great writing ideas on her blog! At the bottom of this post about combining sentences, which is something that 4th graders struggle with, I noticed that she mentioned her February homework is ready. So I clicked on the link and...

this is what I saw!

So let me just tell you that I don't buy many things on Teachers Pay Teachers. It is a wonderful site and I visit often, but normally I just download the free resources. I just don't have the money to spend on paper activities. (Even though I could spend a fortune...) I immediately went and got by debit card out of my purse and purchased this pack.

Oh wow. Just wow. It is fabulous! I handed out the packet with an information sheet on top this afternoon. The kids were excited about doing something new and they were happy to hear they had a full week to complete the activities.

To supplement the weekly stories, I am creating ThingLinks with more information. Since we have 1:1 iPads, I wanted to provide another way for the kids to learn and build their knowledge base and vocabulary with their homework packet.

Here is the ThingLink for this week:

Have a great night!

Friday, February 7, 2014

Sequencing a Personal Narrative

We have been working on personal narratives the last few weeks. I decided that I wanted to show my kids several excellent essays written by 4th graders, but I wanted them to dig deep into them instead of just doing a cursory reading. That led me to the STAAR Released Test from last year and the resources available on the TEA Writing Resources page. I was very happy to find documents for personal narrative and expository essays with 4 examples of essays that scored from 1-4. 

I took the essays that received fours and typed them up. I broke them into chunks in the document. Then I printed out enough copies for my kids to work in partners (9) and we were ready to work!

I instructed my kids to read each piece and then work together to put it in the correct order. They needed to pay attention to order words and other clues. The first time we did this I had them glue the pieces, after I checked to make sure the order was right, on a small manila sheet. Then they had to explain their decision making process on a separate sheet of notebook paper. We went over the order and discussed things we noticed.

This is the second attempt. They were given a large sheet of manila paper this time and were instructed to write their reasoning around the pieces.

I liked what this group had to say about their reasoning.

I plan on doing the same thing for expository when we switch back soon.

Get your FREE copy HERE!

Do you do something similar? Any ideas on how I can make this better?

Thursday, February 6, 2014

A Snowy Day with Authentic Writing!

Today was a beautiful snowy day! We get snow in Dallas, but mostly it is wet and turns to slush pretty fast. Today's snow was so different. I told my students that this was the kind of snow that the northern states get every year that allows them to build awesome snowmen. The snowflakes were so large and we had steady snow from 8:30-2:00. (ish) 

I don't have a window in my room so we didn't get to really appreciate the view.  :(

I decided to turn this potential distraction into a great experience for writing. After our Career Day, we went outside for about 15 minutes. The kids had a blast throwing mini-snowballs and just running around.

After playing in the snow, we talked about what we saw, heard, and felt while outside. We even came up with a few similes.

Prompt: Write about a time when you played in the snow.

Today was the first time that I did not model a plan for our prompt. I am releasing responsibility a little at a time. Yikes! It makes me more nervous than the kids. They jumped on this task and planned like crazy. My group this year really likes to write! (Such a blessing...)

I will post more about our writing process later, if anyone is interested.

A rough draft that has been "Colored up."
The plan for the rough draft above. It has also been "Colored up."
Personal Narrative plan
Personal Narrative Plan

Amber wrote:

     "Today you are going to tell me what you saw, hear, and what you feel when you play in the snow out side," said Mrs. Morris.
     We all felt as exsited as a kid getting presents for their birthday. Yha! said the class now line up Mrs. Morris said.
     When we got out side we saw the whole side walk full of snow even the play ground. The whole class shouted cool so then thats when all the fun begained! We were happ to play in the snow. We thout our hands were going to melt!
     When we came in side our hands were as cold as a popsicle in the frezzer, but we were all right. When we came in the class room we took off our coats, scarfs, jackets, and glooves. When was a time when you plaed in the snow with your class?
(We need to talk about adding more descriptive details and rereading for errors.)

Freddy wrote:

     "Isaiah, Jakai, you want to play snow fight?" I asked.
     "Yeagh Freddy!" They both said in excitment.
     We went outside to look for snow balls to throw. I couldn't wait to play snow fight against my friends. At that point Mrs. Morris opened the door and we looked at all the snow.
     Once we were out side I took another big look at all the snow. Then me, Isaiah, and Jakai began running around throwing snowballs at each other. At one point I acidently hit Veta with a snow ball and she came charging at me like a mad bull. I ran away quickly and luckily she slowed down I got her back by throwing a snowball at her.
     When it was time to go inside, I thought I was whezzing, so I asked the teacher if I could go to the nurse. She let me, when I was there the nurse got my nebulizer and when I was almost done I noticed a book that was about the titanic I read a couple of pages then I went to the classroom.
(We need to talk about straying off topic...)

Corvirious wrote:

     Last year, my stepdad asked, "Do you want to fly to Ohio?" "Yes I do want to fly to Ohio," I told him. I wondered how the flight would be like but, I new the pilot would keep us safe. After the flight my stepsister and stepmom came to pick us up.
     The next morning I woke up to drink something hot, I saw something white outside it was snow! I ran into my room to get some clothes. My brothers and sisters heard me putting on clothes and they did to. After that we woke up my stepdad so he could play with us.
     The ground was full of snow the first thing we did was have a snowball fight for a long time. Next we made snow angel together that was fun sinking into the snow laughing at each other. Last we made a snow family there names were Jay, Pariz, Corday, lee, Asia.
     After we made the snow family we went inside to warm up. I was as cold as a puppy in the snow. Once we got back in my stepmom had hot chocolate. We all had a blast in the snow. How did you feel when you played in the snow?
(We need to talk about run-on sentences.)

Joel wrote:

     "What are some rules for playing in the snow?" asked Mrs. Morris. I knew what we going to do! So we got on our jackets, gloves, and hats. We got to the door exitedley. Right there I felt exited as a kid getting his first dollar! We all rushed outside. After about 5 seconds everybody was outside playing. I went over to my friend Marquis. He told me that his hands were hurting. And I told him the exact same thing. So I went away and I looked to BreAnna when she yelled "Joel!" So then she threw a snow ball at me. I looked at her almost as if I was going to get her back. So I played in the snow for awhile alone until my freind Cody came around. I talked to him for about half a minute. I looked around. And I saw the snow and felt the snow. It was like I went to the coldest place ever. I was as cold as a baby bird coming in the winter. I thought "Finally know one is throwing snowballs at me!" I thougt to soon! I felt a pow pow pow and just then I though Breanna threw a snowball at me so I thougt for half a second who would throw a snowball at me? "Isaiah!" I turned to him and got out a snow ball and was about to throw one back to him until I heard "Time to go back inside." I thought I was going to get him back. We all rushed back inside. It was too crouded. So we all got back in. When was your favorite time in the snow?
(We need to talk about having a stronger ending.)

Overall, I was happy with most of their work. This was the work of about and hour and a half without my help!

I do need to walk them through conclusions...

Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Picture Day Fun!

I love these kids! 

Here are my girls...

Here are my boys...

Then I told them to look "manly" and this is what I got:


Monday, February 3, 2014

Big G - Teaching Customary Capacity

It is that time again. Time to teach conversions. It is not a fun time for a 4th grade teacher...

We will make it through this unit. That is my mantra!

Last week I introduced Big G to help my kids remember and visualize the relationships between a gallon, quarts, pints, and cups. This is the story I tell them:

In the land of G, there are 4 queens. Each Queen has a beautiful princess and a handsome prince. Each princess and prince has 2 cats!

(I am not a story teller... I love reading stories, but I am not an actress.) This is just a little thing I say as we draw out Big G. I am sure there are other more well thought out version you can find out there.

This year I wanted my kids to come up with their own story for Big G. Here are a few. I don't know if The Zoo or Goosh the Boat is my favorite.

Land of Geneses

The Zoo

The Garner House (I think it was inspired by Among the Hidden)

Goosh the Boat

What do you think?

Do you have any fun things your kids do with capacity?

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Expository Writing- Revising and Editing

So we are getting into some serious writing these days. The first 2 weeks after the Christmas break we spent time writing 2 expository pieces. The last 2 weeks we have been working on narratives.

I am getting this ready for when we switch back to expository next week.

Here is my plan:

I am going to glue the typed up essays onto large pieces of butcher paper which will be placed around the room. I will put students into mixed ability groups to rotate through the posters. They will be told that each person must find something that needs to be corrected and something the author did really well. They will use markers to draw lines from the text to a spot on the butcher paper where they will correct a mistake or leave a compliment.

I am very blessed this year in that my students really enjoy writing. I have all ability levels, so conferencing can get a little chaotic, but I am not having the refusals to write like last year. #smallblessings

Writing teachers:
     What do you do to help your students revise and edit their work?
     Where have you found the best resources?

I will post pictures of our finished posters after we do this activity! Have a great week!