Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Spring Resource Roundup and Giveaway!

Happy Spring!

I'm hopping by to share some of my favorite resources for the spring, and to do a little giveaway because my birthday is coming up and, well, why not?!

Read through the descriptions and then enter the giveaway at the bottom.  Click any picture to see the preview at TPT.

1. Many of my ELL's are unfamiliar with major US sporting events.  This set of reading passages covers the major events throughout the year, including March Madness and the Stanley Cup,

2. I usually teach about hibernation during the fall, but I like to teach about habitats during the spring.  I find the forest habitat easiest to teach about, since we can go take a nature walk in the trees right near our school.  Do you desert-dwellers feel the same about your own habitat?

3. Spring fever- it is contagious.  Scientifically proven by teachers around the world.  If your classroom is in need of a little mid-year management, check these out! They are completely editable!

4.  I love teaching about seasons, months, and weather.  My littles often come to me with no sense of  the chronological passing of time, so this unit can get pretty in depth! I find myself referencing some of these pages every time the seasons change.  

5.  I love doing author studies at the end of the year, especially after testing.  It's so comforting to kick back with a bunch of books and do some research, knowing that the testing is behind us and we can focus on the good stuff!

6. March is Women's History Month, and if your learners are on the older/more proficient side, this diary is just the ticket.  It chronicles three American female spies.  

7. This pack came out of desperation, and the realization that Main Idea, Theme, and Cause & Effect were skills that were sorely lacking from my ELLs' reading skills.  So I spent one spring break working day and night on passages, stories, and posters that would put them on the reading trinity fast track.  I pull from this unit all the time! 

There you have it! My spring must-haves.  Now it's your turn- tell me what your spring must haves are (they can be products, clothes, food, anything) and then enter the giveaway below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

5 Speaking Activities for English Language Learners

English Language Learners are assessed in the 4 language domains: reading, writing, listening, and speaking.  They get great exposure to reading, writing, and listening in their content classes, but speaking practice is usually regulated to social conversations with peers or a simple answer given to a teacher. Many times, ELL's trick their teachers into believing they are more proficient than they are with a high level of social language, but falter when it comes to speaking academically.  Think: can your student hold an extended conversation with his peers beyond playground talk?  More importantly, can he hold an extended conversation with a teacher?  How can we encourage our ELL's to speak at a higher academic level?  Practice.  Lots and lots of practice.

It takes time, patience, and persistence, but getting your ELL students to speak academically can be done! Here are some ways we practice social and academic language;

 1. 10 Finger Sentences: I ask a social question like, "What did you do last weekend," or an academic question like, "Explain how a frog is different than a toad." Students use their fingers to count out their words and revise their sentence.  5 fingers works, too- it can be a challenge or a modification.

2. Picture prompts: I use these for speaking and writing.  Most often, I will project an image and have students discuss it, then write about it.  We use sentence frames (below) and the 10 fingers strategy to structure our speaking.

3. Headbandz: We LOVE this game!  In my room, students use a picture dictionary open to the category page to help narrow down the possibilities.  This game is great for answering and asking questions.  Students ask things like, "Am I a mammal?" or "Can I swim?"  Other students answer in a complete sentence: "No, you are not a mammal."

4. Guess Who: Another game that's great for answering and asking questions.  It's mostly for facial features and accessories, but I stress asking and answering in complete sentences.

Hasbro 05801 Guess Who

5. Would You Rather: These quick questions are great for warm-ups, closures, and those extra minutes before the bell rings.  Questions can be related to holidays, current events, school subjects, basically anything!   If the question is, "Would you rather be a hippopotamus or a rhinoceros,"  my students must answer like this: "I would rather be a hippo because....".  This opens up the floor to discussion, especially when there are differing opinions.  I usually ask a question off the top of my head, but there are PLENTY of ideas floating around pinterest- just search Would You Rather Questions.

Young Teacher Love: Beginning of the Year Team Building Updates!
Source: Young Teacher Love
These are just some of the tricks I have up my sleeve: we do a lot of fun speaking activities to practice, and I'm always adding to my arsenal. I want my students to learn to speak naturally, rather than talk.like.a.robot. Plus, if I'm not having fun, they're not having fun!  What are some ways you encourage your students to use social and academic language?

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Higher Level Question Stems for ELL's

We all want to ask higher level thinking questions in class, but sometimes we find ourselves hesitant to call on our ELL's.  Or, we find ourselves simply asking basic questions in order to include the whole class.  I bet you're used to thinking about how to differentiate the activities in your lesson, but have you spent time thinking about how to differentiate your direct instruction? Small group or whole group, teachers spend a lot of time asking questions- but are your questions reaching all your learners?

Making higher level questions applicable for all learners IS possible!  As noted in this article, there's no need for teachers to shy away from higher level questioning, as long as there is an understanding of student proficiency levels.  That sounds very nice, but how are busy classroom teachers to understand proficiency levels in the first place?  The answer? Use a map.

I have a student who is a solid Level 1.5, another student who is spot-on Level 3, and one who fluctuates between Level 1 and Level 3, depending on the day.  This is just a guide, so don't worry if yours don't match up perfectly!  

How can I use this to drive my higher level questioning? For starters, keep this map handy when planning lessons or activities.  Stick it in your teacher binder or save it to your desktop.  When planning, you can even group your students by color or level, which will make differentiating your questions easier.  Do you have any observations coming up? If you are using the Danielson model of evaluation, you'll be familiar with Domain 3b: Questioning and Discussion Techniques.  If you are using the Marzano framework for evaluation, you're probably thinking about Domain 1, Element 40: Asking questions of low-expectancy students.  Use these charts to show your administrators how you're designing effective questioning!

Once you are familiar with your students' proficiency levels, the questioning will come easily.  You'll be able to quickly see who needs to move up or down a level as the year progresses.  Having my questions broken up into groups will allow me to differentiate my activities by proficiency as well.  

I'll be sharing this with the teachers in my district, and I hope you can use it with yours! Free to pin, save, and share!  If you have questions about using the chart, send me an email or leave them in the comments.  

What strategies do you use to differentiate your questions? I'd love to know! 

Sunday, March 1, 2015

Currenty, In Like a Lion

There are a lot of great things about March.  One of them is that if it comes in like a lion, it will go out like a lamb.  It has to! It's the rules!   Then, there's my birthday to think about...that's always pretty great.  The other great thing is Farley's Currently!

1.  Ooh Frank Underwood.  You are sneaky, devious, underhanded, and I love it!

2. My husband got me a mixer for Christmas- I'd been wanting one for a really long time.  My friend just showed me how to pull chicken! 

3. Tomorrow starts 15 straight days of testing for my students.  ELL's have two weeks of ACCESS testing, plus one week of PARCC.  I realized that I could choose to be wringing my hands about all the testing like so many others, or I could put on my game face and be a role model for my students.  If I am stressed, my stress will transfer to them. I can't be responsible for any more stress than my kids already have! So, I chose game face...at least on the outside!

4. I had a dream that I was getting a tan.  I woke up to snow and ice.  Dreams = shattered.

5. I deal with a lot of anxiety, and once I was told to just Stop, Breathe, Be throughout the day to lessen it.  I'm going to share that strategy with my kids this week, as we head into the most stressful weeks of the school year.

6. Our Spring Break is right after Easter, so I have a few weeks to go.  My husband and I will be heading to Vegas in July for the TPT Conference, and extending our vacation so we can travel to San Diego or Los Angeles.  We'll probably will stay close over this break so Miss Lacey doesn't spend too much time in the kennel!

Happy March!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

My Teacher Hero

Not a day in the classroom goes by without me thinking of my 6th grade reading and social studies teacher, Miss R.

I had a lot of growing up to do in 6th grade, but that didn't bother her.  Miss R saw the potential that I had, that my classmates had, and pushed us to do better than our best.  It didn't matter that we were 11 and 12- she treated us like adults and truly respected us.  From her, I learned how to hold my head high even when I was feeling small.  Each time we struggled through a task she was there to guide us.  She never gave you the answer, but always gave you a path to the answer.

In Miss R's class, we held mock trials, we created a mock society, and we worked on things that mattered to us.  She even made tedious sentence diagrams into an exciting story.  She sent us postcards every summer until we graduated 8th grade. I remember her devotion to a Broadway star named Robert Cuccioli- she was the president of his fan club, I believe. Every time Miss R went to see him on Broadway (we were 15 minutes from NYC) she would come back and fill us with stories about him. As a class, we became obsessed with him too!  That taught me to share my passions with my students- if I'm excited about it, they'll be excited about it.

Miss R would always say, "Call me.  I'm in the book," if we needed homework help.  She would talk to us privately, saying, "This is between you, me, and the wall."  Apparently, she even made predictions on little index cards about what we would be in the future.  If we asked, she'd say, "Ask me when you're 18.  Look me up.  I'll be in the book."

My first teaching job was at my old middle school, and she was still teaching there.  I remember feeling nervous to be next to her at a faculty meeting- this bright star from my adolescence.  When I went to her retirement party, I was a first year teacher.  I didn't know to pick her brain about how she made a room full of 6th graders love every minute of her class, which I regret.  But I do not regret any part of being her student, or her colleague, for that matter.  She was (and is) my teaching hero. Thank you, Miss R, for your wisdom, your passion, your wit, and your strength.  I hope I can be half the hero to my students that you were to me.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Saving the Day!

Is there a resource in your classroom you couldn't live without?

Besides my tablet and projector, I find myself most often referring to my posters and anchor charts.  Some in particular have a prominent place right up front on our board.

For some reason my 4th and 5th grade friends have an awful time remembering subject-verb agreement, which I call SVA.  The posters from my Subject Verb Agreement pack are used constantly!  I sing "1 subject equals verb plus S. 2 subjects equals verb minus S." and "I and you, no S - he and she, yes S," almost daily.  Having a little chant helps my kids pick up on those pesky grammar rules that are so easy to forget.

Grab it by clicking on the picture!

Do you have a superhero product in your room? Link it up with Ideas by Jivey!

Oh, before you go... 

That's right! My store (and so many others) will be 28% off for a little while this week.  

Happy shopping!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

I Love Meet-Ups!

When I started blogging and selling on TPT in January of 2013, it was because my good friend Halle told me, under no uncertain circumstances, that I had better start.  Two years, a few dozen products, and hundreds of friends later, I'm pretty glad I listened to her.

That's me in teal! Picture courtesy of Study All Knight

I'm lucky to live right between two metropolitan areas- Philadelphia and New York City.  Living here has allowed me to attend 4 different meet-ups with bloggers and sellers from all over the country.  I've met celebri-teachers whose work I adore, and who have inspired me to keep on doing what I do!

Some of the takeaways from yesterday's meetup included: 

Check your Pinterest analytics: if a board isn't working for you, stop pinning to it! 

Join Twitter: lots of professional discussion happening with weekly Twitter chats

Collaborate with buyers and sellers: take product requests and work with sellers to cross promote.

Expand your niche: if you are posting products that can work for grades 2-6, then say that! Choose grades 2, 4, and 6 in your product description, rather than sequential numbers.

Hootsuite: it can manage all your social media.  Kind of like a virtual assistant, but without the expense!

Which of these tips are you going to try? I've been holding off on Twitter, but I guess it's time to jump into the pool!