Sunday, February 23, 2014

Slim Down Saturday- Week 8

I am back for week 8 of Slim Down Saturday. (I know it is Sunday... I just realized I never published this... and therefore not only am I late, but I am also breaking the one post a day "rule" sorry!!)
I am not doing as good as I had hoped and I know it is my own fault. Something needs to change here friends. The good thing is that I am at least not gaining weight. But I am also not losing like I want to. It is because I need to incorporate some cardio.... our schedule is just so crazy that it is hard for me to fit it in at the right time.

Ultimate goal- lose 25-30 pounds. I want to feel happy with how I look. 

Gain/Loss for this week: Since two weeks ago (remember I didn't get on the scale last week) down .6

Total since starting-  Down 6!

Positives from the week: I got situps in 4x (my goal was 5x but I forgot that), I lost weight, and I went on a walk. I know my goal was 3x but I went on two in one day with the dog... that counts right?

Something to do better: Water and less snacking. The past week I have been snacking too much. No more!

Goal for this week: 150 situps 5x and lose one more pound. I don't usually do a weight loss goal but I am hoping that if I do make one, it will push me more.

One word: Public- I think making this public is really helping me keep going. I am not losing a ton and I know I am not working out like I want to. But I am making progress. Slow and steady wins the race right?

Here is the blank template. 
And the wordle:

Hopefully there are a few people who have posted and want to link up. Sorry this is so late! Things have just been hectic here! 

Are you a text detective?!

A couple weeks ago I shared how I use Close Reading with my reading groups. (You can find that post here.) I mentioned that my tier 3 group had to do something a little different and I want to share with you what that is...
In December I found out about these amazing Text Detective packets on TpT. I knew they were good... but little did I know just how great they would turn out to be for me. I originally started using them just simply... read together, color code the text, answer the questions. But now, now they have taken my tier 3 group to a deeper level.

Reading the passages and answering the questions wasn't taking too long so I knew I had time to build more into each passage. So here is how we use each passage (sometimes we finish in a day, sometimes two or three days).

First, I read the passage to the students, them following along. Then we all read it together. Finally, they read it twice to themselves using the whisper phones. While they are reading to themselves I am listening to them one at a time and taking notes.
After we have read the passage and I finish taking notes on each child's reading, we flip the paper over and practice with a reading skill. This week, we worked on sequencing. The students told me the events from the story in order and we wrote them out together. I ran out of time but we are also going to complete a main idea and details graphic organizer for the story we did this week.

Once we finished writing out the important events, we went back to the front to start answering the questions. While this might be easy for the typical 3rd graders, this group of students has a hard time pinpointing the EXACT answer. And this is PERFECT to help with that. The students might know the answer, or have a general idea of the answer, but forcing them to identify exactly where it was found in the story and justify their answer is big. Some of them are fairly easy, which is nice because the students don't get to a frustration level. Each question has a color next to it that the students use to underline their answer. Add a little crayons or colored pencils and all of a sudden this is the best assignment ever!
I absolutely LOVE these and love how they are forcing this group of students to think just a little bit more.

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Slim Down Saturday... On Sunday!

Ok let's just blame this delay on Valentine's Day weekend. We had been celebrating Valentine's Day since Thursday and I am just now sitting down to get this post taken care of. Sorry!! 

Week 7 of Sim Down Saturday. I am going to be honest here. I am not doing so great. I am not eating bad (with the exception of indulging a bit this weekend) but the working out... just not happening. And because I had quite the Valentine's celebration, I refused to get on the scale this weekend. Next week is another day.

Ultimate goal- lose 25-30 pounds. I want to feel happy with how I look. 

Gain/Loss for this week: I decided not to get on the scale. I enjoyed myself this weekend (I honestly don't think I gained weight) and don't want to stress about it. I will get on Saturday.

Total since starting- Down 5.4 pounds. 

Positives from the week: I did my sit-ups. I only managed 3x and my goal was 5 but I was really sick this week. I fell asleep at 7:30 Thursday. THAT never happens! 

Something to do better: I am running out of creative ways to say I need to work on this water thing. I need to find a big water cup to bring with me to work. The one I have is 20oz and that is not enough. I end up being worried I will drink it all... so then I drink it too slow. And once I get home, I don't want anything else to drink. Maybe the new cup will be my solution... once I find one. 

Goal for this week: I want to do my sit-ups again and add to it taking Payton and the dog for a walk 3x. 

One word: Relax. I chose this one because I got all my planning done for the week by Thursday and intentionally left my school bag in my classroom. I needed this long weekend for me.. not for work. And I am loving every minute of it!

Here is the blank template. 
And the wordle:

I am sorry I am late. Hopefully everyone still sees this and joins in!

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

On Cloud 9... Science Fun!

The words science and fun are rarely in the same sentence for me. Honestly, I have always been awful at science. And my kids sometimes know more than me because they watch Animal Planet, Nat Geo Wild, and read all kinds of science. Believe me I am grateful they are into it all.. but whew sometimes they ask questions that I stutter to answer. But we all learn, and in the end, that is what matters.

This week, we are learning about clouds.
More specifically cirrus, stratus, cumulus, and cumulonimbus clouds. And in order to get more done in a short amount of time, I turned all of my activities into "centers". I have a lot of activities I like to do with my kids when we learn about clouds, and having the students complete one activity a day with a small group is a much better use of time. So this is how it is working...

I have 4 activities that I use. The first one is

All of my students are in a colored reading group. I put the leveled passages in a folder that matches their reading group color. When they get to this center, they take their passage and questions out of their colored folder and work. The groups for science are heterogeneous groups, so sometimes the students have someone in their same reading group and sometimes they don't. The passages all have the same information, just written at different levels. 
Each passage also has comprehension questions with it. There are short answer, fill in the blank, and multiple choice. The way I have it set up, students have the questions that I made to go with their passage. But it is possible to use any format of questions with any of the passages. 
My students even managed to work together even when their passages were different. They read their individual passages on their own then came together to help each other answer the questions. 
The second activity I have is a note taking center. 
The students are given facts about the different cloud types and sort them out based on the type of cloud the fact is describing. Once students finish, they create a foldup. On the inside they write the facts about each cloud type and on the front they use cotton balls to create each type of cloud. (I didn't get a picture of the cotton ball clouds because I forgot-sorry!)
This one definitely took the longest. It was definitely my fault because I didn't clarify that when they were filling in their foldup they didn't have to use the complete sentences. Once I went over to them and told them to ONLY use the key words, things moved a lot faster. 

The third activity is 
This activity was a big hit. Bigger than I expected it to be! Students are given puzzle pieces- words, definitions, and pictures. They have to find each piece to the vocab puzzles. Once they put them together, students fill in the matching sheet with their answers. 

And the final activity was a fan favorite for sure... 
I originally planned to do a cloud in a jar for this activity. But all the ideas I found involved hairspray and matches... and well, I am one of those people where if it weren't for bad luck I probably wouldn't have much luck at all sometimes. So I wasn't about to brave it. (Of course after I decided this I found one that involved hot water and some ice.. but it's ok because this was a big hit too.)
Students first predict how many drops of water their cotton ball will hold. Then they start dropping water and realize very quickly that their predictions were way off. Most of them guessed close to 10 drops. And they had so much fun with this one. Who knew dropping water onto a cotton ball would be so much fun. I think it was that they were just very fascinated with just HOW MANY drops the cotton ball would hold. Four of the five students had about 110 drops and one student had 179 drops. We discussed how this represented clouds, what causes precipitation, and why the students had different numbers. 
All in all, I would say we had a lot of fun in science today and will continue to have fun all week since they do one "center" a day. (My time is very limited otherwise we would do a couple a day.) We will review with task cards after they finish each activity and then take a quick quiz. Fast, fun, and effective. 

If you want to look closer at this unit, you can click here.

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Task Cards in Action

I am sure everyone has seen all of the amazing task cards floating around TpT and the blog world. At first, I had no clue what to do with them. And now, we use them almost weekly. I want to share a few ways I use them with you because until now I had no idea how else they could be used other than Scoot. But.. some people might not even know what Scoot is! So let's start there...

Scoot is a fan favorite in my classroom. Last year, I would hang the cards in the hallway because I was in a portable and didn't have the space to do this in the class. But now that I have a real room, I hang them (in number order) around the room. Students start at one card (I have them start at the card that is the same number as their class assigned number) and rotate clockwise around the room, solving the problems and answering the questions on the cards. Depending on the skill, I give the students anywhere from 30 seconds to a minute and a half to answer the questions. Usually we are in the range of 30 seconds to a minute but some math problems take a little longer. I don't say scoot usually though. I just ring my bell. And off they go. They like this because they get to move around while working through questions. Sometimes, to make it a little more enticing I offer a "prize" for the student who gets the most correct- a starburst, homework pass, pencil, etc. I do this when I know it is a skill that requires a bit more thought and I want to make sure they really put their effort into it and not rush to pick an answer. 

A new way we tried to use task cards was to play it in scavenger hunt form! I found this idea (and the next one) over at Task Card Corner. I decided to try the scavenger hunt idea with my telling time task cards. Let me tell you the general idea before I tell you how I completely botched this one up! The idea is that the cards are around the room and above them are answers to OTHER cards. So once students answer card #1, they have to find the answer around the room, then solve the card that is under it. It gives them a break from just going in order AND it ensures they get the answers correct and have to check their answers. Any time I had a student say "this answer isn't here" I told them they had to go back and check their work because they must have made a mistake. It was perfect. Except for my snafu... See, I decided last minute to try this out. And so I quickly wrote out all the answers on little index cards to attach to the questions. What I didn't think of was... I was just randomly placing them. And some of my students started going in circles. I accidentally had the answer to card 11 go to card 16... and the answer to card 16 took them back to card 11. I fixed that mess... then it happened again. So I fixed that one... and then... you guessed it. It happened again. So I finally said "if you end up in a circle, pick a card you haven't done yet and start a new loop." That worked. I realize NOW that I need to plan out where the answers are going and lay all the cards out and logically place them next time. But my kids were good sports about it and just carried on. I did let them work in partners for this one because I figured that would leave some open cards so that when students worked at different paces they weren't stuck waiting for someone else. That worked out well too.

The last method I tried was to give each group 3 cards on half a sheet of chart paper for them to solve. The cards in the pictures are elapsed time from Courtney. You can find them here. What no one knows is that there are two levels of cards on those posters. I believe the blue ones were easier than the red ones (but of course I can't remember now). But this allowed me to give certain groups more of a challenge.
Once everyone finished, the groups rotated and checked each other's work. I gave the half size sticky notes and they had to put a sticky note on any answers they didn't agree with. I made them label their group number on the sticky note so that we could discuss the discrepancies as a class when we went over them all. The kids LOVED getting to check their classmates' work and didn't even realize that they THOUGHT they only had three problems to solve, and in the end did anywhere from 6-12 problems. (Some students moved faster than others.) When we finished, I hung all 5 posters on the board and we went over every single problem together. (I forgot to take pictures, sorry!) Students got their white boards and markers and individually solved the problems too. This helped them to see what mistakes they made. Elapsed time is so not fun.... but they REALLY enjoyed this one!

I can't tell you enough how much fun we have with task cards in my room and how excited the kids get when I say we are going to play scoot or use task cards. If you have never used them, I suggest trying them out. There are TONS on TpT for everything you can imagine! You can even teach your kids to play scoot in a fun way with no worries from the students about actually getting the content portion. You can grab that freebie here.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Slim Down Saturday Week 6

Sorry I am late with this friends! It snowed last night so we just HAD to take Payton to play in it. And by snowed... I mean less than half an inch. She is definitely a southern kid to think that was exciting. Good thing she likes it since she will be exposed to a whole lot more of it next year. But anyways... onto the topic of the post...
Week 6 of Sim Down Saturday. I am sorry I never got the chance to hop around last weekend. We were out of town with family and I just now realized I never looked at the post. It was a chaotic weekend to say the least.

Ultimate goal- lose 25-30 pounds. I want to feel happy with how I look. 

Gain/Loss for this week: down 1.6 pounds...since two weeks ago. I didn't weigh last week since I was away with no scale. 

Total since starting- Down 5.4 pounds. I know this isn't a lot since this is week 6, but it is better than what I was doing before I started this... slow and steady for now.

Positives from the week: I found out I still have a vitamin D deficiency... so I am on vitamin D pills- one a week for 8 weeks then one a month for 3 months. Hopefully this will help. Also, I forgot to put this in the picture BUT... the number in the tens place of my weight has gone down! Here's to it NOT going back up!

Something to do better: Must I say it? Drink more water.  I am never thirsty! I have been doing pretty good with finishing what I bring to work, which is only 20 ounces. But once I get home, I just don't drink it. There has to be a way to remember to drink water! Anyone have any good ideas?

Goal for this week: Since I have fallen off the workout wagon completely, I want to do 100 situps a day 5x this week. My stomach and legs are my target area so I am going to focus on the stomach for now. 

One word: De-stress. I feel like for the most part I am getting a lot better with managing my stress and I want to continue!

Here is the blank template. 
And the wordle:

Since I missed a week, I can't wait to see what everyone has been up to!!

Friday, February 7, 2014

A little reading- close and guided...

Confession: I have NEVER been good at guided reading. It probably has something to do with never seeing it done or never even really hearing about it until I started stalking reading blogs. I never really could get a handle on what to do, with who, when, and how often. I would always try and then just give up. I can honestly say that has changed this year. And I owe it all to my friend Melissa at Common Core and So Much More. That girl is a rockstar and if you don't know who she is, you have to hop over to her blog as soon as you finish this post.

Our school implemented mandatory group times from 8-8:30 and 2:15-2:45. At first I was really unhappy because I used those times for other things. But in the end I was glad because it forced me to figure it out. I wasn't liking what I was doing when we first started this. It was just randomness. And it wasn't effective. And along comes Melissa's Weekly Close Reading Passages. I thought, sure, I'll give that a whirl. Why not right?! It can't hurt to try. And I am in l-o-v-e with them! Yes, it is that serious friends. I don't know what I would do without them now. There are four passages for each month (2 fiction and 2 nonfiction) and each passage is given a lexile level. This works perfectly for me because I spend 2 weeks on a story instead of 1 due to time. So I can pick which passages each group will be working with. My schedule is a little different than most, but I meet with my tier 2 (my bubble kids) every morning. EVERY morning they come to my table and we work through this. The first day we just read and mark up the story. Typically, I read it to them so they can focus on marking. Then I make them reread it themselves and make sure they didn't miss anything they wanted to mark.
The next day we read again and talk about the story and anything that students marked. Then on day 3 we start working through the 5 days of activities Melissa includes. Usually it takes us about 8 days to finish one week's story. Leaving me 2 days in the 2 week rotation for finishing up other things, making up for days we may have had off or I was out, etc. It works perfectly for us! If this is something you want to look at, Melissa offers one of her weekly passages for free to try out. You can find it here.

My tier 1 group meets with me 2 or 3 times in the afternoon, depending on my tier 3 group's needs. They do the same thing as mentioned above, but they use a different story. Because they think deeper than the rest of my students, it takes us just as long, if not longer to finish because they get so into the discussions. When they aren't meeting with me, they are working on their Book Club.
They voted a while ago on Because of Winn Dixie and have been working on it since maybe November. I know that seems like a long time but it is because I make them do more than just read. Each time they read a chapter (I just changed it to two chapters this week), they have to go back to their desks and work on some thinking stems in their files.
After everyone finishes, they gather back together to discuss. Each student gets 5 sticks and can ONLY talk when they put out a stick and it is their turn. So, the first person reads one of their thinking stems. Then any student who wants to reply holds up a stick. The original student calls on someone and puts their stick in the middle of the group. And this continues until no one else wants or needs to reply to that very first thought. Then the next person in the circle reads a stem, and they continue. Once a student has no sticks left they have to just listen to the discussion. Once ALL students are out of sticks, they redistribute them and start again. This continues until everyone has had a chance to share their thinking and add to the discussion. It took about 2 weeks for me to get them to understand this and now they just go over to the reading corner and lead their own club. They LOVE it.
My tier 3 group is a little different in that the passages from Melissa are too hard for them. Instead I do something else with them (more on that in another post). I typically see them (in the afternoon) 2 or 3 times, alternating with the blue group. That doesn't mean that is ALL I see them... I see them other times throughout the week too. But for THIS purpose, 2-3 times is what they get. Their tasks vary and are usually Reading Detectives, sight words, simple comprehension strategies, etc. Very different and will need its own post for sure.

Now that I have started this with my groups, I wouldn't change a thing. I love being able to have deeper conversations with my small groups and forcing them to REALLY think about the things they are being asked to do.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Making Every Minute Count with Math Facts

If you are like me, you are ALWAYS looking for new ideas for your classroom. So it makes me so excited to be joining in on this blog hop of Bright Ideas for the classroom. Every year I struggle trying to figure out HOW I am going to get my kids to master their math facts. Teaching third, it is really important that they know their facts- for division, fractions, and for 4th grade. And every year, I start off strong with one gimmick idea or another... and a few weeks in, I give up. This year I have found something that works for me. And I have a coworker to thank for this one. I always saw her doing this and decided to modify it to fit my needs.

Every two weeks my students are required to learn and master a set of math facts. And instead of passing out papers and timing them on their facts and collecting and grading more papers... I now test my kids.... at the bathroom! Yep at the bathroom friends. We have to take our class to the bathroom twice a day. And usually we end up having to wait for another class to finish. Talk about the ultimate waste of time! I have my students bring a book to read while we are in line. But that wasn't enough. Now I test them. And it is extremely simple!!

1. Determine which facts the students need to know. Send the list home the Friday before you plan to test.
2. Set up a paper similar to the one pictured here.
Students are tested on five facts a day, every day of the week. At the end of the week, I take the average of their scores (if it is a full week, each problem ends up being worth 4 points) and that is their score for the week.

3. Call students one by one and quiz them verbally on their facts.

Easy as that!

Here are things that I do to make this fit my needs.
1. Because my students are learning these facts for the first time, we do each set of facts two weeks in a row. I take the higher of the two scores.
2. I give students 5 seconds per fact. I know this is a lot. But as soon as we get through all the facts, they will be getting mixed facts and get about 3 seconds per fact.
3. I do not let students count on their fingers.
4. I DO modify for my students that need a little differentiation- I have a couple students who do not have a time limit (they don't know this though... I just don't mark it wrong after 5 seconds like I do for the others).  I also allow these students to count on their fingers.

And that is it. I set up two sets of the test sheets in advance so I am all ready for two weeks of testing. This can be done with ANY math facts... addition, subtraction, multiplication, or division.

For another great idea, hop to Laura's blog at Love to Teach. She is sharing ideas on organizing student writing.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Growing Readers

This year has been a struggle for me. Not in the actual teaching aspect, but the inner struggle to do what I know in my heart my kids need and do what I am told to do. Last year, I read The Book Whisperer. And I was blown away. And I knew that this year I wanted to include time in our day for my students to read. JUST read. Read for the purpose of reading. To learn to love reading. After all, I am a reader. I would read all day if someone would pay me to do it. But alas, I must work for a living. I digress..

I mentioned in a meeting one day that I was incorporating a daily time for my students to read. And I was questioned. And told that there just isn't enough time for "just reading". I brought up the research. I brought up the book. I did all I could. But in the end, I had to let it go.

I knew it wasn't right. And I knew my kids would love to read if they were just allowed. But I let it go for a while. Until just recently.

A couple weeks ago, I decided to bust out the Read to Self time. I taught my students what it meant to build up stamina. We talked about the people that go to the gym and how they have to work up to lifting 300lbs. And then we had our first go at it. Everyone got their books, found a spot, and started reading.

And after 35 seconds, we were done. 35 SECONDS. Folks I was defeated. I thought this was going to be awful. I told them we had to stop and I actually heard groans. Ok... maybe, just maybe, they will get it together. The next day they did pretty good and made it to 9 minutes even with interruptions and people knocking on the door. The third day, I hung this sign on the door.
This was not a cutesy sign, it was handmade really quickly. But I wanted everyone to know we really needed to be left to read.

Within 4 days we were surpassing 20 minutes! And when time has to stop, they groan! In fact, when the announcement was made that it was our turn to go to the sockhop, they actually were upset that their reading time had to end!

And I can assure you these kids are reading. How do I know? They are laughing as they read their books! They are so focused they don't even realize someone is at the door, or that I dropped a million things on the floor, or that someone sneezed. All things that usually take their attention away from the task at hand. But not when they are reading. I have been amazed. It might help that we just got this amazing library from Donor's Choose!
(I had a bunch of books before but there was just no rhyme or reason to how I had it set up. Now everyone knows what buckets they can get books from to be successful. It is a beautiful thing!)

And then... the ultimate proof. I sent home Scholastic book orders last week. I send these home every single month. And most times I either get no kids buying books or I get one or two and we are struggling to have $20 so we get free shipping (which usually results in me adding to the order). This month...

my order was over $120! That, my friends, is a lot of money in books. And the kids are asking me every single day "When are the books coming in??" "When will the books be here?" "You said by next Friday right?" Never have my children been THIS excited about books. (A few of them snagged Charlotte's Web for a dollar this month too after I told them what a steal this was!)

Every single day they ask, "are we going to get time to read today?"... and THAT alone tells me that what I thought all along and felt in my heart... it was right. And maybe, hopefully, it will help them improve their reading scores. But in the end, what really matters to me is that I am developing these children into readers. And I couldn't be happier!
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