Monday, June 30, 2014

Monday Made It

Two weeks in a row!!!! Go me!

This one is new:

I am going to print these off and staple it to any papers with a failing grade. I want to give kids a second chance, but I also want parents to be aware of the amount of failing grades their child might have in a grading period. I will add the date in the box the paper is due. 

Easy! You can get your free copy HERE. Email me if you want an editable copy.

This one is old:

I take all the kid's papers from their desk the day or days they were absent and staple this to the top. 

Click HERE to get your free copy. As always, email me if you want the editable version.

Have a great day!

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Book Study Notice & Note - Part 7 & 8

I got a little behind the group this last week...

Between summer school in the morning and VBS at night, I just didn't have time! Oh summer! So this is a two-in-one post.

Anchor Questions

Have you ever had a "Duh." moment as you were reading a professional development book? Well, it just happened to me.

I have been struggling in my reading instruction to get the students to think about their texts. Now I see that I was just encouraging them to depend on me. I wasn't sure how to go about asking questions. I would ask the questions. It is something we are trained and highly encouraged to do. I have gone to several staff developments on higher level questioning, but until the kids are asking the questions we aren't gaining any ground.

I am so excited that this text is going to show me how to get my kids to notice changes in their texts and then what questions they need to ask themselves and answer. I am really getting excited about this!

The Role of Generalizable Language

This section made a great point. We need to give student the general language to deal with all texts, rather than something that only pertains to the text on hand. I have to say that I haven't done a good job with this in the past. Now that it has been pointed out, I get it.

We need to use the signposts and the anchor questions as general language that can be used with any text.

Our Generalizable Language

You can find some great resources HERE!

Explaining the Signposts

I loved reading through the Classroom Close-up on pages 90-93! These authors know how to write an engaging book.

They did make an important distinction in this section when they talked about explaining the signposts to our students. "Not everything should be taught in seven to twelve minutes. reviews should be mini lessons. Introducing new concepts, well, that requires time. You'll need about thirty to forty minutes for the model lessons we've provided." pg. 87

It's getting good guys!

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Google Docs - Part 4

Student Logins

As a 1:1 iPad class, we have a lot of logins. My school district gives us a lot of resources, which I am thankful for, but it can be confusing for the kids.  In the past I have made login cards for the kids on index cards using colored labels. I can't find a picture of them...

Basically, I would take a large white index card and put the kid's name at the top. I would use Word to print off labels for each service. For example, I used red address labels for their iStation usernames and passwords. Every card looked the same. It worked well, but it was time consuming and if a student lost it, that was it. I hated that!

So this past year I got a brain wave. Why not make the cards in Google Sheets? That way they would be easy to reprint if needed. I can't show you my cards from last year, because they are full of usernames and passwords, but I can show you my blank document for the upcoming year.

The printing feature for Google Docs is pretty good. You can enlarge them or make them fit the width of the page. I liked how it turned out this year. I just have to fill it out once, and then we are good to go for the year!

General Technology Information

I also need to keep track of which iPad is assigned to each student, so I made a tab for that. We were using Blogger, so I was going to add their blog address to this doc as well, but now I am thinking about doing KidBlog instead.

I know these aren't fancy or too pretty, but it is so functional, that it is hard for me to care about that! 

I love that I have access to all this information from any device. That trumps everything in my book.

Do you think you might use something like this? Would any of this make you life easier?

Monday, June 23, 2014

Monday Made It - Envelopes

My husband and I are going through Dave Ramsey's Financial Peace University. We are learning so much and we will be changing how we do things financially. I am pretty excited! So I made this my Monday Made It.

I found a quick and easy template and tutorial from Kelleigh Ratzlaff Designs' website.

Dave Ramsey advocates using a cash envelope system for specific parts of your budget. You can see his envelopes and wallet HERE. The kit we bought for the class has these envelopes. My husband will be using this envelope for our Restaurant, his Clothing , Dry Cleaning, Entertainment and Fun Money envelopes.

I wanted my envelopes to be "prettier" than those. I am also not going to write on my envelopes. When I pay for something with the cash in the envelope, I will put the receipt inside. That way when I go to refill the envelope, I can take out the receipts and reconcile our budget. I also want to keep track of how I am spending the cash. I am so tired of spending money and then wondering where it went. Does that happen to you?

These are my envelopes. We have a category for money I can spend on my classroom, so I will add that to my fun money envelope. I have purposefully not kept track of my classroom spending because I know it is way too much! Stopping by Walgreens for a few things and spending $15 doesn't sound like a problem, but when you do that once a week... Then there are the Target trips for rewards. And the Dollar Tree. This isn't even counting the beginning of the year fun stuff that I buy.

I hope I am not the only one with this problem.

I wanted my envelopes to be front and center in my wallet. This way I have a constant reminder to stay on track. I have to move my envelopes to get to my debit card. :) Sounds like a good plan to me.

We will still use our debit cards for gas, medications, and doctor visits. We have figured out, in the past, that we are better about staying within our budget if we use mostly cash. 

How do you stay within your budget?

Saturday, June 21, 2014

Google Docs - Part 3

How often do you talk to parents? Email them? Do you send home notes every day?

I guess that depends on the grade level you teach. When I taught Pre-K, I wrote in their folders every day during nap time.  :)  (Oh how I miss nap time.) I at least saw 90% of the parents every day after school. When I taught 2nd grade, I still did daily folders, but it was a lot less detailed. I only saw a handful of parents every day at dismissal. In 4th grade, I do not have much contact with parents. If I need to talk to a parent, I will call or email them.

I feel like I have good relationships with parents, even when we do not have a lot of contact. How do you feel about that?

My parent communication goal for next year is to keep a detailed log of parent calls.

Here are my tabs to make that possible:

These aren't anything special, but I like them because:

1. They will be on my computer.
2. I can't lose them.
3. They will be neat and organized.
4. I will have easy access to family information.

I also take all the emails addresses, make a contact group, and then send out mass emails for things like upcoming events and monthly newsletters. I also use Remind 101 because some parents do not have email addresses.

I am thinking about using a website I found the other day called Class Messenger. Have you seen this? If you have used it, please leave me a comment.

I tried to find a video to explain this service, but I couldn't. So here is a screen shot of my dashboard. It is empty because it is summer and I don't have a class to input. I just found it the other day.

Friday, June 20, 2014

Evolution of Newsletters

It seems like the last several years I have changed my class newsletter. I like it during the school year, but I like new things. :) Don't you?

My newsletter from 2 years ago:
During that year I sent home a newsletter every week. A little exhausting, but I did it. This was the 5th six weeks, the 3rd week. It wasn't too pretty, but I was able to share plenty of information.

My newsletter last year:
I really liked this one, but the borders made for a lot of unused space. I also feel like the title area, "The News" section, takes up too much space. I started to send these in emails about mid-year, so I wanted more color. The calendar started to look better because of that.
This is what I am playing with for a newsletter for next year:
This is unfinished, obviously, because it is June. I update the iPhone image from the iPhone 4 to the iPhone 5. I also wanted the calendar to be more of a focal point.

What do you think?

If you want an editable copy of any of these newsletters, leave me a comment with your email!

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Technology Thursday

I want to share a website today called

Do your students need vocabulary practice? Mine have such a limited vocabulary. I have to admit that I am not the best when it comes to vocabulary building. I hate vocabulary worksheets. We learn new vocabulary during read alouds and any other reading we do in class, but I don't feel like those words stick.

I found this website through a friend at school.

I like it because the kids are using synonyms as definitions. They can make connections as they choose a correct synonym. And as they do that, they are giving back to the world.

Isn't that awesome?

You can create classes to track your giving and progress. There are other categories other than vocabulary. They can work on any of these.

Book Study Notice & Note Part 6
Click to go to the linky party to read other's thoughts.

The Signposts We Found

We are finally getting into the meat of the book. The signposts are:
  • Contrasts and Contradictions
  • Aha Moment
  • Tough Questions
  • Words of the Wiser
  • Again and Again
  • Memory Moment
Already I am remembering these things in young adult books I have read.

"The more students noticed these signposts, the more they were using the comprehension processes: visualizing, predicting, summarizing, clarifying, questioning, inferring, and making connections." pg. 68-69

I am so excited about learning more about these signposts!

"We know that we(usually) don't read consciously hunting out connections (or places to predict or visualize, or so on). Rather, as we are reading, something in the text triggers a response that causes us to think in a certain way (predict, infer, connect, visualize, question, and so on)." pg. 69

Defining the Signposts

"We think that these signposts show up in novels because they show up in the world. Fiction does imitate life, and as a result we shouldn't be surprised to find that the patterns that help us understand the world around us also help us understand the world of the book in front of us." pg. 74

Here are bookmarks from the publisher you can download.

Listen to what the author's have to say!

One of the reasons I love this book and what it is teaching me is that this is about authentic reading. These are strategies that adult readers use without realizing it. This is how we get meaning from the fiction we read from fun. It is how we make connections. The books we enjoy the most are the ones we have the deepest connection with, whether we realize it or not.

This is about a test taking strategy or focusing on getting kids to pass a test! It is refreshing to read a book that is wholly focused on helping readers grow through reading books. Not passages. Books.

How are you liking the book so far?

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Google Docs - Part 2

Last year's version

These are examples of what my spreadsheet looked like at the end of the year. I would input each student's grades on our district level tests so I could see trends. These were taken over the course of the entire year. We have tests every three weeks. (Excessive? Yes.)

Color coding (because I just can't help myself)
     Green - Commended or Advanced 85+
     White - Passing 70-84
     Yellow - Almost passing 60-69
     Red - Struggling lower than 59

We also use iStation as a documentation tool and an intervention tool, so I kept a record of their overall reading scores. Again with the color coding. Green is Tier 1, Yellow is Tier 2, and Red is Tier 3. I am pretty happy with our progress over the year! I have noticed a trend over the last 3 years. My kids always score the highest in December. I don't really know why that is. Maybe because they aren't tested to death at the point in the year? Maybe it is because we all enjoy the fall more than the spring? Not sure. If you have any ideas, please share!

Next year's version

We are keeping the same testing schedule, that is testing every 3 weeks, so I went ahead and made my Checkpoint tab. I have a place for math, reading, writing, 4 Social Studies, 3 Science, and ISIP every month.

I also kept a tab last year for STAAR accommodations. Those accommodations had to be met in class and during all our testing, so it was important that I have easy access to that information. (I have already enumerated my difficulty with keeping up with paper copies.) I can't share that one with you due to privacy laws, but here is my blank one for next year.

Things like extra time, a dictionary, read aloud, and using a math folder are things that have ARD paperwork and have to be provided to certain students. Using a whisper phone and testing in a small group are accommodations we can give any student who needs them.

Teaming and sharing grades

So I will be team teaching with another 4th grade teacher next year and I am beyond excited!!!! I will be teaching math and social studies to both our classes. She will teach reading and science to both. We will each teach writing and spelling to our homeroom group. One of the things we have been thinking about is how we will get grades to each other.

I don't know right now if we are going to have access to the other teacher's students in our online grade book. That would be the easiest solution. We won't know about that until the beginning of the year, so here is my plan as of now.

We will assign each class a letter. For example, my class might be Class A and hers Class B. Then each student will have a number. We will create a shared Google Spreadsheet with 2 tabs. One for Class A and one for Class B. We will just list the numbers down the left hand column, input the name of the assignment across the top, and enter each student's grades. That way we can access our homeroom student's grades for the subjects we don't teach.

Let's just say I hope we can use the grade book!

What do you think of Google Docs? Do you prefer Evernote?

Part 3 will cover parent communication records.

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Book Study Notice & Note Part 5

"This vision of text complexity may suggest that there is much to consider beyond the more obvious indicators of difficulty in a text. Glancing at a text and noting that the words are multisyllabic, the sentences complex, and the paragraphs long will tell us something but not enough. And the importance we have placed on the reader-text considerations in judging text complexity should suggest that the unique and personal elements the individual readers bring to the text are just as important, perhaps even more important, in assessing the suitability of a book for a student." pg. 58

Question 9: How do I judge the complexity of a text?

I appreciate that the authors chose not to focus on quantitative and qualitative measures of a text. We know those. We learn about them in college and use them to level our libraries, choose guided reading texts, and lead kids in finding independent reading books. I didn't need a section over that.

These authors knew that and didn't waste the page space. Hallelujah! They focused on reader and task considerations. These are the "human" aspects that we deal with as teachers. Will my students be interested in this book? Do they have sufficient background knowledge to enjoy and understand it? Will this book fit us where we are in the year when looking at their attitudes and maturity level?

Those are such important questions and they take much longer to answer than what level each kid is on. I also think there is another aspect to figure in when considering a class read aloud. Whenever I choose a chapter book to share as a class, I need to make sure I enjoy it. The kids know when their teacher isn't into the book. I don't want to share that. So I make sure that our class read alouds are books that I thoroughly enjoy and am excited to share with them. 

I have shared The City of Ember for 2 years in a row and I know it will be a book I share for many more years. I really enjoy it and I can get the kids excited to read it with me. What books do you prefer to read with your class?

Question 10: Are we creating lifelong learners?

I think many people would say no, but as a teacher I am saying yes. I am doing more than teaching kids how to pass a test. I am showing them math skills they will need in life. I am sharing my passion for reading. I am showing them that I don't have all the answers, but that I can find things out. I am showing my students that they can teach me.

I do my best, in the year that I have them, to teach my kids to soak up knowledge and always look for more.

Do you?

Monday, June 16, 2014

ThingLink Challenge Week 2: Design Your Digital Self

This was fun! I can't wait to find out all the possible ways to use ThingLink in my classroom next year.

Do you use ThingLink? How?

Google Docs - Part 1

My school district has given all teachers and students access to google accounts and I love it!

I wanted to share a few things I changed this year so that I don't go crazy. It seems that there is so much we have to keep track of during the year and I am notorious for losing papers. There is something about paper and me. I love paper, but I can't seem to keep track of them all year long. It is a problem.

I am also trying to keep things digital, so I started using my Google drive more often. I have tons of storage space.  :)

I chose to use Google Spreadsheets because it is easy to keep things organized and I like being able to have multiple tabs for navigation.

This is last year's everything spreadsheet. I have learned some things and I am streamlining this upcoming year. I am also going to make my tabs look nicer. :)

These are my tabs so far for next year's spreadsheet.

Part 1: Organization for phone numbers, emails, & dates

This is my family information tab in Google Spreadsheets. It is all ready for information to be added in August! I don't like our system that tracks family information of our students, so I put this together. It only holds the information I need on a regular basis. Short and sweet!

I know that many of you like to use Teacher Planners from Erin Condren or others on Etsy or TPT. I yearn for one of those, but I don't think I would put it to good enough use to justify the cost. (pout, pout, pout) This is my teacher planner and I just wanted to share!

Do you have any suggestions?

The next part will be about my testing tabs!

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Teaching Kids to Sincerely Apologize

I read this blog post a few weeks ago. Go check it out because this isn't my idea.

How do you feel about requiring kids to apologize to each other? What about forgiveness? Do you make them forgive each other? Doesn't sound so hollow when we do that?

Are we teaching them something good or bad when we do that?

I have been pondering that since I read the article I mentioned above. You should really read it.

I am looking forward to doing this with my class and even in my life. These 4 steps really make you think about what you did, why it hurt the other person's feelings, how you will act differently in the future, and asks the other person to forgive you. I also agree when she says that you shouldn't force kids to forgive each other.

I want to give kids a way to work things out with each other. I hate that so many of them don't or won't think through what they did and realize why it hurt someone else.

Do you have something like this that you teach your students or kids?

You can download my signs for free HERE.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Book Study Notice & Note Part 4

"The most rigorous reading the student can do involves more than simply drawing upon the basic definition of words; it involves exploring the understandings of those words that the student brings to the text and weighing them against the apparent understandings of the author." pg. 42

Question 7: Do text-dependent questions foster engagement?

I knew a lot of kids in high school and college who loved Spark Notes. They wanted the quick and easy way to study for our literature tests. I never bought into that. I love reading, even when the book doesn't reach out and grab me. I read every book assigned to me in middle school, high school, and college. I think there is growth to be had by reading books outside your interests. Sometimes I disagreed with what the other students thought about the books (via the handy Spark Notes), but I could always make connections that helped me grow. I don't think the other kids got that experience...

There is a place for text-dependent questions, but I agree that there needs to be connections being made with the text. Why would anyone read anything if the main goal was to pick out information without connecting it with something in our experiences? That sounds horrible to me.

pg. 43 - "... we worry that a focus on text-dependent questions may create a nation of teacher-dependent kids. Text-dependent questions suggest that a teacher has crafted the questions and the order of them to lead students to a predetermined meaning of a particular passage. With this understanding of text-dependent questions, students come to rely on the teacher to ask the questions."


Bull's eye. 


In the two years I have spent in 4th grade, I have been puzzled and frustrated with my student's lack of questioning skills. For the most part, they solely rely on me to walk them through things. I hate that. There will be at least one or two students who ask questions and those are the outstanding readers. They ask themselves questions and make connections naturally as they read. If I am honest with myself, we have done this to kids. Kinda heart-breaking.

I hope this book gives me the tools to effect some change. I really like how Beers and Probst outlined encouraging students to create their own text-dependent questions. This isn't a new concept; I have heard it before and done something similar in class. Unfortunately, it wasn't something we did on a regular basis.

Instead of woefully lamenting the lack of questioning skills in my students, I am going to give my students the tools they need to become questioners of text.

One more thing --

I am so glad Texas isn't a Common Core state! We do want our kids to bring their experiences into their reading. My class this last year made some marvelous connections to our class read alouds. It was amazing to sit and share those connections. It made each book personal and relevant. How else are we to interest kids (or anyone) in reading for pleasure?

Question 8: Must everyone read the same book?

Ok. Time for no judgement. Can you do that? Just for a minute?

I want to tell you about our whole class reads this year. Remember, this is a non-judgement zone.  :)

Together we read The One and Only Ivan (I projected the book onto the screen for the kids to see as I read it to them), Among the Hidden (each student had a book to follow along and read from), The City of Ember (each student had their own copy, but I did most of the reading), and The People of Sparks (I read aloud to the class from my copy without projecting it).

I wanted these books to be about enjoyment. I had them answer a few questions, not anything wonderful, make a few products, and discuss aspects of the book. I did not have packets for each book. Nor did I use this as a focus for our ELA time. This was mainly to share my pleasure in reading. 

And you know what? It worked! A cheer went up when I said, "Let's read from our book." They would groan when I put it down for the day. I was good at ending on chapters with cliff hangers! It amazed me that as the year progressed, their memories improved. They had to hold the events and feelings of the books in their minds over the course of weeks. 

So do I think everyone should read the same book? Yes!

Should that be the only way you read in class? No!

The only books I chose for my students were these read alouds. They had complete autonomy in their reading from my classroom library and the school library.

Don't be an extremist! It shouldn't be one or the other. Let's enjoy books in every way we can.

Please share your thoughts about these two questions!

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Notice & Note Book Study Part 3

What is the role of talk?

This book is really helping me understand rigor in new ways. I feel like I haven't really understood what the words means until now. I have fostered monologic talk in my classroom for years. How sad. Dialogic talk will be a huge focus for me this upcoming year.

Monologic talk- authoritative and presumes that the goal of the listener is to agree with or learn from the speaker (pg. 28)
Dialogic talk- expect that the speaker becomes listener and the listener become speaker, that through give-and-take new ideas might emerge, one might change one's mind when the other is convincing, and the other might reshape an opinion when the first is persuasive. (pg. 28)

I love their tips for improving student discourse. I want to implement these next year.
  1. Listen to the conversations- I do this whenever my kids are in cooperative groups, but I haven't really focused on what they are saying. Sadly, I was mainly focusing on if they were on topic, not fighting, and working together.
  2. Step back and let students pose questions- Um, duh. I am not good at this. It takes a lot of modeling and time to get students to do this, but it is time well spent. I hate that I feel like a lazy teacher because I have opted out of doing this so much. Teacher fail.
  3. Give various students prompts that can keep the conversation going- I love that. Don't ask them questions-- give them prompts. I am good at questioning. I mean, I ask a lot of questions, I am not sure they are all up to a high standard. I have been working on asking higher order questions the past few years and I am making progress. But I have to say, that I love looking at this like I can be a prompter instead of stepping in and asking the questions I wish the kids were posing to each other.
  4. Record small-group conversations- Once again, DUH! We have iPads. If would be so easy to do this. Then they could post their videos on Edmodo for the class to watch later. It would be a great way to keep everyone accountable and on task. It will also give us examples to watch on how to have conversations with each other.
  5. Encourage students to elaborate- Man, this is a hard one. I loved my class this last year, but when I asked them to explain what they just said, I got the deer in the headlights look. They automatically assumed their answer was wrong, got tongue-tied, or had no clue how to rephrase or elaborate to help me understand. I wasn't successful in guiding them through elaboration. I need to make that a priority.
  6. Ask high level questions of all students- This is something I do! Yay! I am glad there is something on this list that I can say I am doing.
  7. Encourage students to use the vocabulary of the discipline- The more I used words, the more I hear the students using them as well. If I can discipline myself to use content specific words, I know that will carry over to my students.
  8. Arrange desks so that students see one another's faces instead of backs of heads- Another thing I can proudly say I do! My kids stayed in groups all year. There were 2 groups of 5 and 2 groups of 4 (mostly, depending on move-outs & move-ins). I love having kids in groups.

What is close reading?

That is a good question. One I didn't know that answer to before reading this section. Texas isn't a Common Core state, so we haven't had a big push for "Close Reading" in and of itself. 

Definition from pg. 36-37
       Close reading should suggest close attention to the text; close attention to the relevant experience, though, and memory of the reader; close attention to the responses and interpretations of other readers; and close attention to the interactions among those elements. To focus exclusively on any one of them to the neglect of the others is simply foolish. Likewise, to suggest this is how we read every passage of every text is unreasonable. What we want is to notice those elements of the text that are, for example, surprising or confusing or contradictory, so that then we pause and take note, think carefully, reread, analyze--read closely.

As a teacher in Texas, I teach these kinds of skills to my students. I am very excited to learn more about how these authors suggest we teach these strategies. My students struggle to read with meaning and I know I have a lot to learn.

What did you think of these sections?

Monday, June 9, 2014

ThingLink Challenge 2014 Week 1

The challenge has begun!

We were instructed to create a "How to" image on anything we wanted. You can view mine above.

Do you use ThingLink? If so, how?

Friday, June 6, 2014

Last day of school!

Well, 2013-2014 is in the books.

It was a great year, really it was. My kids are great and I am really going to miss them.  (sniff, sniff)

We spent time this morning recording some nice thoughts and memories with little books I created. None of my students this year bought yearbooks, so I wanted them to have something to take. (Next year I have grand plans for this...)

We folded it in half and the kids went around the room writing in everyone's book. They turned out really cute!

We go back for a work day on Monday and then summer school starts on Tuesday! I will be teaching Reading for 5th graders for 2 1/2 weeks. 

More fun times ahead!