Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Teaching Theme part 1

Wow it has been forever since I have blogged, and to be honest, I am not even sure if anyone will read this. However, I have decided that I want to get back to sharing ideas as I have time, so here is the first installment in my never predictable, who knows when I will do it, blog.

I have always struggled with teaching theme. And by always, I mean the past 3 years because up until I taught 4th grade it was never in our curriculum. So... with that, I feel like I finally figured it all out this year! Of course, it was figured out with the resources of many other amazing teachers. But since it worked so well for me, I figured it could work for others as well.

Let's backtrack for a minute to where I realized that I really had to step up my game on teaching theme. Last year, the 4th grade state test's 4 point essay (the biggest writing piece on the test) was all about theme. Not only did my students completely destroy it (and not in the 'we killed it bc we did so amazing' kinda way) but so did pretty much every other 4th grader whose paper I scored. Almost every single fourth grader wrote about the main idea. And while their writing was great, and their details supported their answer, and they cited evidence... they didn't write about the theme. It pained me to read the papers because as soon as I saw the question I knew it wasn't going to go well. Theme is just a tough concept to teach and even harder for these little kiddos to understand. Until this year...

Since I knew this was such a hard skill, I decided to devote four full lessons to it. It was well worth the time spent away from a story because we didn't have to rush through mini lessons and they really enjoyed the lessons.

Day 1:
We started by watching this short video on theme. I warned the students that the voices sounded like robots but they just needed to pay attention because it was actually a good video. They laughed at the lack of actual arms of the characters.... but in the end, they grasped it and THAT is what matters.

After watching the video, I asked students to tell me what they learned about theme. We started with the rules for a theme statement (what you see in red/green). Then we talked about how to write a theme statement (blue). And finally talked about how it has to be relatable to other stories and life (purple).

The next thing we did was listen to this song (yes it is from Sesame Street, but it works). The kids actually really got into the song and asked me to play it again today (we ran out of time but I will do it again this week for them). Seriously- go listen to it. It is really catchy. I found myself singing and bopping around the room. Anyways... back to what we did. We listened to the song and the students were told to listen to the words and try to think of what the theme of the song would be. Once it was over, each student wrote what they thought the theme of the song was on a sticky note. Then I played it again and as they were listening, they had to find lyrics from the song that supported their theme. All about the evidence right?! (I didn't think to take a picture of their sticky notes- sorry!)

After that students discussed with their groups what they came up with for a theme and then as a group decided on a theme statement... but we did this with a twist. I played the song 3 more times. The first time it played they had to all share what they had on their sticky notes. The second time they had to come up with the group theme statement. The third time they had to write down lyrics that matched their group theme.

Then I wrote down each group's theme statement on the board and we talked about how even though they were all different, they were all correct. We checked the "rules" for writing a theme statement and made sure we had evidence to support each one.
They left day 1 with all of us feeling like it was a huge success. They knew what theme was and how to write a theme statement.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

A Bright Idea... To Get Kids Reading More Variety... and just MORE!

It has been a LONG time since I have blogged... over a year in fact. But for good reason. I went MIA when I found out I was pregnant because I was tired, sick, and... more tired. Then we decided to move while having a newborn and I honestly haven't been 'into' blogging lately. I haven't felt like much of what I have been doing was 'blog worthy'... but I have been implementing this new idea since October and I knew I wanted to blog about it... so when the opportunity came up for a new Bright Idea post, I knew I had to jump in... even if this is the last post I do for a couple months. It is a good one (though admittedly the pics are not the best because they are quick cell phone pics due to deciding at the last minute to take pics).
So here is my idea...

You know those kids... the ones who ONLY read Diary of a Wimpy Kid... or ONLY read ONE genre and then either reread those same books or just give up reading when there are no more to read? I have a few of them in my room. Not that rereading is bad, nor is finding an author you love and reading all their books (that is what I do and why I have over 200 unread books)... but I love getting kids to branch out and read... more... different... just read. So here is what I did.

When my students ordered Scholastic books I would place an order as well. I would use the rewards I got for that month plus pay for some out of pocket. When the box of books comes in I make a HUGE deal about the new books. The first time I did this, I did one book at a time and explained the procedure (which I am going to explain below) but now I have a new way to really get the kids intrigued.

I read the title of the book and the summary from the back/inside cover. Then I place the book on the marker tray of my board. I do this for every book. Then I write the title of the book and numbers 1, 2, and 3 underneath the title. I draw sticks with student numbers on them and when their number comes up they can come sign up for a book. (pic below of what it looks like before the sign ups begin)
Now, here are the rules... they can have their name under as many books as they want (once everyone gets a turn to sign up, I put the sticks back in and redraw- if there are enough slots still open... if not then I leave the open spots available and kids sign up in their free time). BUT... they can only HAVE one book at a time. So, using fake names here... here is an example of what I mean...
In the picture above you can see everyone that has signed up for these three books. Payton has her name on two books and Tim has his on two books. In this picture, Payton has 'Elijah', Ashley has 'Murphy's' and Tim has 'Double Cross'...

When students finish the book, they bring it back to the board and erase their name, and move everyone else up a spot. Then they bring the book to the next person. So in this example, Ashley finished 'Murphy's' so she went up and erased her name. According to the list, she would hand the book off to Payton,
but Payton hasn't finished 'Elijah' yet. So, since Danielle doesn't have a book, Ashley will rearrange the names on the list for 'Murphy's' and bring the book to Danielle, placing Payton in the number 2 spot and leaving the #3 spot open for someone else to sign up (and believe me... they rush to sign up!)
(My students actually came up with this method... my original plan was the book would sit on the shelf until Payton was 'free' for it but they decided this was fair so that the books don't just 'sit'... and they all agreed that it was ok to get bumped down if they already had a book.)

Those are pretty much the only rules for this... only 'holding' one book at time... and they have to manage it on their own. The only other 'sometimes rule' is if there is a book series that must be read in order. I do not let them read certain series out of order. There is a series I found in my garage called Kidnapped (it is age appropriate and from Scholastic but I did give them a disclaimer about not reading it if it would scare them) and the books have to be read in order for it to make sense... so they are not allowed to sign up for book 2 unless they read 1 and can't get 3 until they read 2. And they are REALLY good at it. Here is a pic of the board after sign ups... 
You can see almost all the books have waiting lists and one student is up there managing one of the lists. They seriously LOVE this and I can not keep the books on the shelf for the most part. A lot of the times, if books are sitting up there for more than a day, someone will take it just because they want to try it while waiting for another book to open up. Once books are no longer having lists, they come off the shelf and go into our class library. 

And sometimes, just sometimes... books come BACK to the shelf. We had the 'Al Capone does my shirts' book, as well as the other two in the series, a few months ago. They have been moved to the class library, but thanks to the Battle of the Books assembly, the students wanted them back out because they wanted to read them. So we put them back. 

I mentioned above that I do things a little differently now... I put the books on the shelf and have it all set up before the students come in. The buzz that starts from this is crazy. They can not WAIT to get their names on lists. I need book security when they come in! But I don't let them sign up until I read the summaries and pull sticks because I want everyone to have a fair chance. And the really 'popular' books... you should see what happens when someone is about to erase their name because they finished it. There has been a mad rush to be the next one to add their name to the bottom of the list! 

My kids WANT to read... they LOVE the books... LOVE the system... are reading out of their 'norm'... and are READING... I call it a win. And... aside from ordering the books, reading the summaries, and making the original list set up on the board... I do not have to do a thing. 

(If you want the scoop on those crates in my pictures, check out my former bright idea here.)

And for more bright ideas, check out the link up below! 

Saturday, March 7, 2015

Slim Down Saturday- March 7

How was everyone's week? Health wise- I thought mine was alright. Actually fairly decent. I didn't work out as much as I wanted but I ate pretty healthy all week. And then I stepped on the scale today. It has been 2 full months of this and I have made NO progress. I am at a standstill. I didn't make it to the gym as much as I wanted this week but I DID start the 30 day abs/squat challenge and have stuck to it each day. Which is huge for me- I usually give up after 3 days just because I forget a day or two and don't want to catch up. But I am determined this time. So even though the number isn't budging, I am just not giving up. I am going to revamp things, change my workouts, change some eating (though I am running out of things to change), and keep trying.

With that, here is my chart for this sad week...
Like I said, it isn't great. 2 FULL months since starting and not even down 2 pounds. I am not going to sit here and pretend it isn't discouraging because it is. I am just not going to let it stop me. I did have some positives all week. I am weird in that I don't count my weekends when I am thinking about "the week" and "next week" when doing these posts. I'm not really sure why, but it's just how my brain works I guess. So during the work week- I made my step goal 3 out of 5 days. The two days I didn't make it, I was around 8,000 I think and the days I DID make it had so many extra that it averaged to 10k a day. So not terrible.

I mentioned above that I started the 30 day challenge. And so far, so good. A friend added me to a challenge group on facebook and I truly think that is why I haven't given up. Because it is holding me accountable. And, it helps that my little almost 4 year old likes to do the sit ups and squats with me.

Next week, I need to work out more, and drink more water. I was doing really great with my water (great for me) but this week, I have no idea what happened. I guess I just wasn't thirsty? I don't know but I didn't even finish half of the water I brought to school and usually I have been finishing it all before the day was over and having to refill when I got to the gym or home.

My goal- 1-2 pounds. I am going to keep it at a number because all week, I kept saying to myself that I had that goal and it really helped me eat right. I am hoping it will continue to help.

And my quote- A quick workout is better than no workout. I completely agree with this. If nothing else, situps, squats, and pushups at home are better than nothing. I used to (years ago) do squats while brushing my teeth, wall pushups in the shower, and some other simple leg exercises in the shower. Those things (at that time) were literally the ONLY thing I was doing and it worked. I was losing fat in my legs and toning up my arms. I am going to add all of that back into my daily routine too, so if nothing else, I have done that each day (plus my 30 day challenge).

It dawned on me I completely forgot to add the blank template last week. SO sorry!! I was in a rush. Here it is. Hopefully I have some friends joining in again! Even if it was a rough week- share something positive!

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I am back with another what I'm reading post... and this week is a book by one of my favorite authors...
The Shopaholic series is one that I have been reading for years. I absolutely love these books and their lighthearted nature. I have laughed through every one of these books. If you haven't figured out yet, I am most definitely a light and fluffy book kinda girl. I like books that don't require me to think too deeply or get too emotional. And these books are just that. So imagine my excitement when I walked into Barnes and Noble to find this book. I had no idea a new one was released! I instantly bought it, even though I own way more books than I have time to read. And this book moved right to the front of the line up.

In this book, Becky and her family are moving to LA for her husband's job and she can not wait to start living the lifestyle of a star. Except she isn't a star and is having a hard time becoming one. She decides she wants to be a stylist and goes through a few people to get herself there. The should-be easiest route would be to become Sage Seymour's (the actress her husband is in LA doing PR work for) personal stylist through the help of Luke (her husband). But he is not as supportive as she had hoped he would be. Through a twist of fate, Becky is given the opportunity to dress Sage's "enemy" and things take a crazy turn...

Becky is caught in the middle of a faux feud, her dad and best friend's husband have gone missing, and she has to decide what kind of person she wants to be...

While I love all of the Shopaholic books, this one I would give a 4 out of 5 stars. I wasn't AS engaged in this book as I usually am and the ending left a lot open, which I assume means there will be another book... at least I hope so anyways! Either way, I would still suggest this book, especially if you have followed Becky's story from the beginning. And if you haven't followed from the beginning, I would definitely recommend the entire series!

Have you read this book? What were your thoughts? Or if not, is it on your wishlist?

Saturday, February 28, 2015

Slim Down Saturday February 28, 2015

Is anyone even still around for this? I realize I kinda gave it up this month. I had posts ready to go but I never got them out. I haven't been the best about working out lately, mainly because I am just tired. Seriously. And cold. I am so sick of the cold! But I am making it my goal, once again, to get my butt back to the gym and work out. I only went once this week and only because my 3 year old dragged me. Literally- SHE wanted to go because she wanted to play in the kids area with the other kids. I dragged my butt there and was glad I did but then one thing after another came up and I never went. I can ONLY go between 430-830 because that is when the child center is open, so I try to stay at work until 4:15 and then go.... because once I am home, I am not going to go back out. I get too relaxed. It's just how I function. Anyways, I am making it my goal to go back to 3 days a week.
Even with only going once, I did lose a pound, thanks to eating not too bad I guess. I gave up chips and dip for Lent and haven't been drinking pop a lot lately. I drink it less than once a week. I decided that my goal for next week is to lose another pound. I rarely make "weight loss" goals from week to week because I don't like to but I am thinking maybe it will push me to keep going if I put it out there.

My quote is to be patient. I am the type that gets discouraged when I work out and eat healthy and lose barely anything, if anything at all. And then I get in a funk and give up. I have to be patient and realize that it WILL happen and I WILL like how I look, it just takes time.

Hopefully next week I will be reporting another pound lost! If anyone is around to link up, feel free to join in!

Saturday, February 21, 2015

A Bright Idea... to make sure no one forgets ANYTHING

I know--- you are thinking "this girl can't be serious... there is no way to make sure everyone remembers everything"... But I am here to tell you that there IS a way. There is a way to make sure your students remember what to bring home every day without having to say it 100x or write it on the board. It has only failed me once or twice because of my own chaos during dismissal.
(**Disclaimer- a coworker introduced me to this idea but I think it is too good not to share.)

I have been away from the Bright Ideas sharing the past few months because life has just been chaos and I have chosen to enjoy time with my family. I am hoping that my followers understand that sometimes a girl just needs a break. (Proof- My daughter will be 4 in June and I am currently blogging on my mommy blog about our vacation we took when she was TWO... so yeah...that.)

Anyways, back to this bright idea!

Have you ever had students forget something they needed for homework? Forget to bring home their entire folder? Forget WHAT they needed to bring home? And then at the end of the day you are repeating the same thing 500x or you are making this list on the board...
As if we don't have enough going on at the end of the day, we have to add in constant reminders of what to bring home and making lists on the board. And if you are anything like me, you very well might forget yourself!

Here is a way to make sure that does not happen.

First- every student needs a crate. You line them up against the wall. I keep mine in number order. This way I know which crate belongs to which student. What you keep in the crates is up to you. We keep all text books and notebooks in there. (Our desks have reading folders and notebooks as well as religion books and folders and writing journals because we use those almost daily.)
Throughout the day, students place things they will need to take home ON TOP OF their crate. If we finish a science lesson and they need their book for homework, I tell them to put it ON TOP of their crate. This allows me to see at a quick glance who does not have it prepared to go home.
At the end of the day, I fill out conduct sheets and check planners (these stay in desks too since we use them regularly) and tell students to grab everything off their crate and pack up. Because I check the planners and fill out conduct (which is in their homework folder), it ensures they have both of those things in their hands ready to go home. They quickly walk by their crate and grab their pile and go pack up their belongings for the day. Since my crates are in number order, I can see who forgot to grab something and a quick "hey T you forgot your math notebook" and we are on our way. (Admittedly, I HAVE forgotten to check a couple times because we were rushing to get out the door and I had a student forget something.... twice. Same kid both times. But most days when I check I don't even have to remind anyone.)

That's it. Simple right?! I couldn't believe the ease of this. My biggest fear was that the crates would become messy- with garbage, pencils, who knows what else. But as you can see, they haven't. I am really impressed!

And another benefit of this... whenever you get papers you need to pass out, you can put it ON the crate. A lot of times there will be things in my mailbox to give to students after students have already left (because I always forget to check close to the end of the day). And I know me. I KNOW I will forget to give them the papers the next day. So I simply take the papers and place one on each child's crate so they see it in the morning and put it in their folder.
Simple. Genius. I love it!

For more bright ideas, check out the link up below!

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

What I'm Reading Wednesday

I am going to try to bring this weekly post back because I know I am always looking for a new book (even though I own over 250 that I have yet to read)... yes I am a book hoarder. Lucky for my husband MOST of those 250+ books are on my ereader so I don't have to worry about how much space my books take up. However, our house did come with a little built in book shelf which made me so happy! I have wanted a built in shelf for as long as I can remember. And my husband actually thought I was going to use it for decorations... UM NO! The only time my books come down is Christmas because I have a LOT of decorations and they fit in the shelf perfectly. I mean, just looking at this makes me happy!
The shelf above holds only books that I have not read yet. Once I read a book it doesn't go back on that shelf because, well, I have a bad memory. I don't want to have to look at my goodreads account to see if I have read a book that I already own. I use goodreads to keep track of the books so I don't double buy (I have done it more than once).

I have read quite a bit recently (more so over summer than now) and I want to share the books with you. My goal has always been a book a week but some books are taking me longer due to all my other hobbies and such. But it's ok because I have plenty of books to share! I am definitely not going to be posting these in the order I read them because I never kept track of when I finished a book until this year.

So with all that said... the first book I want to share with you is...
(Clicking the image will take you to the book on amazon)
This is the first book I read by Jodi Picoult. The only book I have of hers on my wishlist is House Rules, and I have yet to read it. But there are a ton of books in our faculty room for us to borrow and I saw this one so I decided to give it a whirl.

Honesty- it took me over a week (maybe two) to really get into it. I read the first 30-40 pages 3 times I think. There are a lot of characters that get introduced right away and I was just not remembering them all and who each person was because I was reading for a short amount of time then taking a few days away due to exhaustion and being busy. But once I got into the book, I had to keep going. Now, I don't usually read "deep" books. I read fluff. I read brainless books. Books that make you laugh, smile, and saw aww.... chick lit. So when I finished this one, I had to take time away from the serious stuff. It is intense.

This book is about Sterling High School- a completely normal school, until one day there is a shooting that turns everyone's world upside down. Even the people in the town. Friendships are strained. Victims are plenty. And the one student who would be the best witness for the state, can't seem to remember anything from that day. And the shooter has issues of his own that we find out more and more about through the story.

This book makes you stop and think about what it is like to be different, what goes through the shooter's mind, what causes these events, and if anyone is really how they seem to be.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars, mainly because it took me a while to truly get into it. I did like reading it but it took too long for me to get going with it. It is very 'heavy' in terms of the types of books I read, but I did enjoy reading it and seeing the story develop and getting a look into each character's life and what events shaped them into the people they came to be at the time of the incident.

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