Wednesday, January 30, 2013

If you didn't know, now you know!

For superbowl weekend, both Teachers Pay Teachers and Teacher's Notebook are having sales Feb 2nd-3rd.. check 'em out!

Happy Wednesday.. back to lesson plans ;)
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Monday, January 28, 2013

A Case of the Monday's

Today was definitely a Monday... one of those days where no matter how creative and hands-on a lesson is, your students still stare at you in pure boredom with a look that shouts, "Please..just stop!" I was practically exhausted at the end of the day not just from teaching, but from trying to spread my excitement to my students. Yah--better luck tomorrow! I had one of those moments today where I thought I had finally gotten through to a student, and when I asked my final question as a quick assessment, he answered incorrectly, but with such enthusiasm! That was the moment I walked to my mini-fridge to grab a bottle of water, and ah-ha! Heaven!

I then remembered the case of diet sun-drop I had brought in last week, and that somehow made my day muuuch better. Healthy? Not so much, but tis the little things! :)  How was your Monday?       --Mandy

Friday, January 25, 2013

What's the main idea?

This week in ELA, our focus has been main idea and supporting details. To begin the lesson on Tuesday, I made an anchor chart while the students made mini anchor charts for their notebooks. Perfect? Not so much! I've given up my hopes for eye-catching anchor charts.. I figure as long as it does its job, I'll be satisified with student achievement. What a teachery thing to say, huh?!

For our text, we used a piece from National Geographic Explorer, May 2012 edition. We read "Caves," which the students found interesting. Finding nonfiction texts that fit the skill being taught while still holding the attention of my students can sometimes be a challenge, so yay! Success!

While reading, we used a graphic organizer found on the FCRR website. It was a very basic organizer, beginning with the topic, main idea, then details to support the idea. My students worked with me, then with a partner, and finally individually.

 For stations this week, I created task cards for my students to practice finding the main idea. Some of the cards are nonfiction, while some are fictional, and as usual, feature characters such as my dogs and kids. My students always seem to smile when reading about Molly and Buddy! There were 24 cards total that my students practiced with over the course of 3 days. Some students used the multiple choice answer board, while some used the short answer board. Both sets of students did great! (You can view this in my TpT store by clicking on the picture!)

In small group, we used those same task cards and made a game of it for my struggling students. They each had a game piece and tried to beat me to the ending star. When it was my turn I modeled my thinking outloud, explaining how I determined the main idea, and soon the students caught on. "Well... it can't be 'c' because that's not what the passage is mostly about..." Love it!

Happy Friday to you all! --Mandy

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Fabulous Friday!

Yesterday was a much-needed teacher workday in my county. This was the first one this year I believe that we weren't required to attend professional development all day. It was LOVELY! From 8:30-11:30 I completed my report cards and report card comments, cleaned up my room (which was grossly dusty), and entered some assessment results. Time seemed to fly!

Instead of going out for lunch, my team planned a pot-luck taco day, complete with soft tacos with fixins and buffalo dip (that has to be SO unhealthy, but was SO delicious!). We ate/talked for about an hour straight--much needed downtime for sure!

From 1-4 we planned as a grade level for next week. Time seriously flew by for those 3 hours.. but of course, we weren't exactly focused the entire time.. we somehow manage to talk about random things then get re-focused when we realize the time. We also took a planning "detour" to make a run to the supply closet to get paper. Every teacher loves to hear those magical words, "Come get your box of paper!" True excitement! Needless to say, I still managed to come home with a bag full of work. Funny how that works out. Oh, well. At least I got the chance to actually sit for once in my room and look around, and sigh in relaxation. We all know that NEVER happens in real life, so yesterday it was  appreciated.

On another note... we have a new addition to the Lopez family! It took us forever to come up with a name for the little guy, and I'm not sure I'm convinced of his name yet, but my husband chose "Buddy."  Yes, he's sitting in my daughter's princess chair, which he seems to have taken over. Molly, our other dog, still tries to sit in it, too. Just like babies, these two! :)

I'm going to enjoy the rest of my LONG weekend now. Church tomorrow, and hopefully a nap (what is that?!). I'll tackle the school work on Monday.. it can wait until then. :) 

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Making Connections

Connections... what are those?!

We've been working hard this week reviewing how to make connections. I hope KNOW these kids have been taught this reading strategy, but since we've gotten back from Winter Break, I couldn't tell! I will definitely be reviewing ALL strategies and teaching mini-lessons in the near future. Yikes!

While reading and comparing/contrasting the details and themes of different Cinderella stories, we also practiced making connections. We first determined what the word "connection" meant by finding 5 people in the room to "connect" with. Some of my students' answers surprised me! I honestly expected to hear tons of "We both have a favorite..." --instead, I got a couple "favorite color" answers, and other "we have the same dream job" and "we have the same best-teacher-ever" answers. Bless 'em!

We made a class anchor chart and the students also made mini anchor charts for their notebooks (pictured above). We used the book Rough Face Girl to connect with, which was perfect since we had all just read it. Here's a picture showing what we came up with: (Please note--I by no means claim to be an artist--I don't know how all those people on Pinterest make these look so cute!)

Each day this week during stations, my students read their independent books for 15 minutes, then made connections--Monday: text-to-self; Tuesday: text-to-text; and Wednesday: text-to-world. Today I had my students put all the information they've (re)learned together to make "Making Deep Connections" books. Although it isn't quite Valentine's day or even February, my kids didn't mind! I downloaded this book for FREE here:

I printed the black and white versions and plan on having the kids color them when we have free time. You know, what we have SO much of!

I can see a bulletin board for the month of February for these in the near future!

I hope you're enjoying your Thursday evening... it's almost Friday! For me, I'm off to grading papers, planning and eventually sleeeeeep.

--Mandy :)

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

AR Success

My school uses the AR (Accelerated Reader) program as a tool to get kids reading. It doesn't count as a grade, but I try to promote it as much as possible to ensure my students are actually reading. Students take what is called a STAR test at the beginning of each grading period, to assess their current reading level. Using those results, there is a scale I use to set a point goal for each student. Students have 9 weeks to read books (on their instructional reading level), take quizzes online, and ultimately reach their point goal, with an accuracy of 85% or higher.

As most things go, I tend to get busy (with life in general) and not print out a roster telling me how many points my students have earned for weeks at a time. I find it being the 7th week in and some kids still haven't taken one single AR test. No bueno! I came up with a very simple solution for this:

How it works:

Each student has their own clip and begins at the bottom of the chart every Monday. (The 2 red clips are the same as the others, only I ran out!) They get to move their clip everytime they score an 85% or higher on an AR test, for each book they read. Yesterday was the first day I used the clip system, and already today 4 students told me, "Mrs. Lopez! I have taken 4 quizzes! Where do I put my clip?" To which I responded, "Um... tomorrow we'll add another section for 4 or more quizzes!" They definitely surpassed my expectations! This is a very simple, yet VISUAL way for me to see who has and has not taken a test. It's a quick way to look at the students at the bottom of the chart and throw some encouragement their way, or ship them off to the library!


I created (slash  stole borrowed from my wonderful teammate!) a notebook for students to record their testing data. Yes, I could technically sit down on the computer, log in to AR, and print these results, but again--the time thing! Using this notebook, each student has their own page where they track their own results. There is a space at the top of each page for students to record their 9-week goal and which grading period we are in. Also, students meet with me to discuss weekly goals in order to meet their final goals.

Let's celebrate!

At the end of each grading period we have grade level celebrations for those students who did meet their goals. Usually it's a half-day celebration including some sort of craft or movie--just something special as a reward. I'm very hopeful more of students will meet their goals for the 3rd 9-week grading period. After all, they won't get better at reading uless they actually read!

Sunday, January 6, 2013

Saturday, January 5, 2013

New Beginnings


As it is a new year, I decided it was finally time to create my own blog, updating friends and colleagues about the happenings in my classroom {with my 4th grade lovelies} and various other family happenings {with my monsters} at home, and also to make new teacher friends to share ideas. To begin, here's a little information about me:

This lovely lady is my sweet Lilly with our dog Molly. She is a constant smile and my heartbeat, keeping mommy on her toes! Her favorite phrases so far tend to be, "No no!" and "Ma ma, Gabba!"

This handsome stud is Anthony, who is a 2nd grade genius. He's such a good big brother, helper and already has a way with the ladies. :)

And finally, this is Kevin, my superhero husband. :)