Saturday, October 18, 2014

Five for Friday

It's Saturday morning, a time to sleep in, savor one's coffee, take a nice walk with the dog...sounds great, right?  Not for me- I'm heading off to grad class this morning.  When I tell my students I have to go to school on Saturdays, they can't believe it.  I also tell them I'm in 23rd grade...they love trying to figure that out!

Here's what went on this week:

We learned about the truths and misconceptions of Christopher Columbus.  First we wrote what we thought we knew, then we researched a little deeper to find out more.  We also read Encounter, by Jane Yolen to practice our visualizing and imagery skills.  

One extra special friend is having a really hard time remembering the names of the letters.  So we went back to basics with some one to one correspondance, sensory sand, whisper phones, and an incentive game.  I forsee lots of Jenga in our future. 

Three of my boys figured out that they were all reading the same Read to Self book.  They decided, completely on their own, to form their own little reading group.  I was busy with another group, and when I looked over, they were taking turns reading and discussing.  I was so proud of them.

Yesterday I received a call from the office that two boxes had arrived for me.  I sent two kids up to pick them up, and they practically danced back into the room. "What is it?" "Can we open it?" "Is it a new dress for you?" "Why are there so many stamps?"  I figured out that it was our Elf on the Shelf, but I didn't open it in front of them.  Instead, I had them write down their guesses- no one was even close! They are in for a big surprise in December...

Last night my husband and I went for dinner to one of our favorite places in town.  We've been there maybe 5 or 6 times in the last year.  As we drove up, I noticed this door to nowhere next to the adjacent gym.  I am positive I had never seen it before.  I grabbed my phone to take a picture, thinking, "What a great writing prompt!"  Then I couldn't focus on dinner (and it was lobster mac and cheese- my favorite), because I was lesson planning in my head. 

I hope you had a great week! Link up with Doodlebugs to share your five!


Monday, October 13, 2014

Buffalo Chicken Dip: Monday Made It

There's really nothing better than a good fall weekend.  Street fairs, sweaters, boots, and football...what more could you ask for?  My husband is a huge buffalo chicken fan (is yours?) and made a special request for the Giants/Eagles game this past weekend.  We had plans to go to our neighbors, so I needed something that would carry well and last through the night.  Believe it or not, I'd never made buffalo chicken dip before this.  I've made wings a few times, but nothing compares to the local places around us.  I'm pretty glad I tried this recipe, though, because it was a huge hit!

 Buffalo Chicken Dip
Adapted from Taste of Home


8 oz softened cream cheese, divided
2 to 3 cups colby-monterey cheese, shredded
1 bottle of buffalo wing sauce (I used Sweet Baby Ray's)
1/2 bottle of buffalo ranch dressing
1 rotisserie chicken, shredded or chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Layer half the cream cheese on the bottom of a 1 qt baking dish.  Layer in half the chicken, wing sauce, ranch, and cheese.  Repeat process.  Bake for 20-25 minutes, until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly.  Serve with chips or baguette slices.

I was craving something sweet, so I whipped up my favorite chocolate-pumpkin cake.  Instead of the mascarpone topping seen in this recipe, I added Salted Caramel Sauce from Trader Joe's.  When the cake came out of the oven, I simply poked holes throughout (like you would for Tres Leches cake) and drizzled the sauce over.  When it cooled, I flipped it onto a plate (not a fancy one...just easy to carry) and drizzled more sauce over the top.  The cake absorbed the sauce, so after about 10 minutes you couldn't even tell there was a glaze on top.  This cake is the lightest, airiest chocolate cake I've ever had, and it's because of the pumpkin.  I may need to make another one soon!

What's your go-to dish for football parties?

Friday, October 10, 2014

Five for Friday

It's Friday and we survived full-moon week.  Give yourselves a round of applause.


My students weren't bad, they were just extra chatty.  And silly.  And goofy.  And, well, they're 10 so I guess that's to be expected. I managed to channel that chattiness into some actual learning, which works out for everyone involved.  Here's what went on this week!

My kids rocked their technology this week- split screening, two hand typing, sharing and sending...I was super impressed.  

Free Elf On The Shelf Classroom Kit For Teachers K - 5

I entered and won an Elf on the Shelf for my classroom! I love playing tricks (nice ones) on my students, so my wheels are already turning.  I'm even thinking about switching out the "Fabulous Cone" for the month of December and using our Elf as an incentive.  Have any ideas? Send them my way!

Miss Lacey chewed the following this week; her Daddy's iPhone.  This brings the list of Super-Storm Lacey damaged items to the following: 1 iPhone, 3 of Mommy's shoes, 2 of Daddy's shoes, a remote control, 1 coffee table leg, the baby gate, and countless hair ties and bobby pins.  When she's good she's good, but when she's bad she's awful!

We made these symmetry skeletons today as part of our shapes and geometry unit.  I got the idea from my friend Christy over a year ago and always wanted to replicate it- love how they turned out!  They look great next to my Whoooo Am I Ghosts- I'll be blogging about that later next week. 

I'm running a pumpkin decorating contest at my school.  Today was the day the students got to pick up their pumpkins.  It was a good thing I inspected the pumpkins...there was a pretty huge worm just chilling on one of them...just imagine the irate-parent phone call I would have gotten!  I took my pumpkin home to decorate this weekend...I'm pretty excited about it.  

I'm keeping my pumpkin idea a secret until the big reveal, but if you can guess how I'm decorating my pumpkin, you can have winner's choice from my whole store! 


Happy weekend!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Structuring a Literacy Block (for First Grade ELL's)

If you missed my post on structuring a 90 minute literacy block, click here to read it.  Today I'm going to be giving an overview of my 35 minute first grade ELL class.  This class varies widely in proficiency, as does my 4th/5th grade block.  I have students who are still in their silent period, and students who are near-native speakers.  Find out how I reach them all!

 My lesson sequence comes from our basal series; I use the ELL Leveled Readers for guided reading and supplement with mentor texts on the week's theme.  My weekly sequence usually looks like this:

No, that's not me in the picture.  Our VP stopped by one day this week so I had him help me out during morning meeting.  We meet on the rug every day to share what we did last night/last weekend.  Towards the middle of the year we will move to sharing the weather and writing what we did. 

 There are questions to ask on the poster, but I'm not exactly a Teacher's Guide kind of girl- I'm much better at making up my own questions based on student proficiency.  I use the poster mostly to keep in line with what the mainstream classroom teachers are using.  Below is an example of an anchor chart we worked on for our At School unit.  I have been writing the students' answers to the sentence frame for them but soon I'll be letting them write their own.

I choose a mentor text for the week based on the theme.  Our themes have been family, pets, neighborhood, and school (so far).  I may choose books I know the students have already read, which helps with bridging the vocabulary gap, or I may choose new books or non-fiction books.  The leveled readers are typically non-fiction, so I like to liven up our reading with a good children's lit book.

There are four High Frequency Words from the mainstream classroom, and usually two or three from our leveled reader.  For partner/group games, I use Reagan Tunstall's Sight Word Stick Centers, or on the tablets.  For whole group games, I use the pocket chart.  One of their favorites is "Say it like a..." and they say their word like a pirate, or a zombie or a grandpa.

 The literary elements posters come from Fabulous in First's Chrysanthemum pack which is so wonderful- I love that I can use the activities with almost any book.  On Fridays I will put up a sentence frame with word bank for students to write and/or draw about, or we will complete a vocabulary activity from the basal.

I really don't love using the basal so much, but I have these students first period, then they go right back to their first grade teacher who is using the basal.  So it helps to give them a little preview/background about what they'll be studying.  There are weeks when I'll deviate from the basal (my favorite weeks!) and use a unit from my store or someone else's.  I typically do that around holidays or when I want to do a reader's theater. 

I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into my classroom! How do you structure your reading block? Leave me a note in the comments!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

October Currently

Bring on the boots, pumpkins, and's time for October!  Notice how I left out Halloween? I do not love Halloween, it's safe to say I don't even like it, but I do like candy.  So there's that. And I do love Currently with Farley!

1. I have different "moods" of stations on Pandora.  When I need to just get it done, I put on Zac Brown Band.  When I need to chill out, I put on yoga, film scores, or classical.  When I'm ready to party, I have a few to choose from.  When I'm with my students, we listen to Disney or KidzBop.  Pandora gets me through the day.

2. I always have such a hard time finding boots due to my beautiful calves.  I guess they really are normal calves, actually, but for whatever reason boot makers like to make boots for women whose legs look like toothpicks.  Anyway, I found boots and I can't wait to wear them!

3. I recently blogged about my structure for my 4th/5th combined ELA class.  We've got morning work, GoNoodle, reading groups, spelling, and grammar going on.  We do not, however, have writing.  I have to figure out a way to get the writing in and I've realized most of my students need Empire State level scaffolding, so independence is a ways off.

4. I'll be done in December! Yay! Just a few more papers to write.  Which I was supposed to work on last night.  And the week before that.  And the WHOLE summer before that. Ahem.

5. Movies and dinner sound like a great way to procrastinate my grad school papers...anyone around this weekend?

6. Treat!!! Like I mentioned, I love candy but I don't love Halloween.  I mean, I can put on a costume for our little parade at school, but no way no how am I going to Party City from Labor Day to Thanksgiving.  Too many scary things.  So instead of a trick, I'm going to put both my Halloween Mini Books on sale tonight- there might even be a freebie.

Great Halloween mini book- perfect for my class!

If your students love Halloween, they will love this book! This mini-book is great to use as a substitute lesson or in a literacy center.   This mini-book is three entries in the diary of a gender neutral witch. It addresses overcoming fears about going to school, making friends, and trying your best.

Make sure you're following me on Facebook to find out when it is!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Structuring a Literacy Block (How I use Daily 3)

We are almost a month into the school year, and my combined 4th/5th ESL ELA class (that's a mouthful!) is running smoothly and efficiently.  When I had a 3rd/4th combined class two years ago I used Daily 5 in the form of Daily 3, and when I found out I was teaching a combined block I knew I had to use it again.  We do things a little differently around here...come and see!

One of my goals for all my ESL classes is to read, write, speak and listen in every period.  There are times when we do more of one than the other, but if I can get three in a day I consider it a success. I pull my 4th and 5th graders out of the mainstream ELA classes in order to provide more modifications. My class ranges in proficiency from level 1.5 (newcomer) to level 5.5 (almost-native speaker).  

We recently adopted Foresman Reading Streets as our basal, however, the ESL department uses Fountas and Pinnell Guided Reading.  When it came time to plan my scope and pacing guide I spent a lot of time breaking down the topics/sequence from Reading Streets Grade 4 and 5 into something manageable and approachable for my ELL's.  I decided to keep the grammar and writing sequence from Reading Streets, while the comprehension and literary elements would come through the F&P books we read.  Oh, and one more little, teeny, tiny thing...we do that while being almost completely paperless.

When my students enter the room, they immediately grab a tablet (Surface RT) and begin their morning work.  Each student has their own notebook on OneNote, which is a Microsoft Office program.  I have the capability to edit and share any page from their notebook, and can project them onto my interactive whiteboard.  When I want to assign work from a TPT pack, for example, I simply "print to OneNote" and choose the destination (a student's notebook) for the chosen pages.  This is a great way to differentiate, since I can "print" appropriate proficiency level work directly into someone's notebook.

After 7-10 minutes of morning work, we check our work together.  Then we GoNoodle! My boys are so into it...they tell me it's their favorite part of the whole day. GoNoodle only takes 4 or 5 minutes, so depending on how much time we have we might Noodle again at the end of the period.  (To their delight!)

Right after we Noodle we move into our reading groups and stations.  I run 3 groups- low, medium, and high proficiency/F&P reading levels.  We use our tablets to take Cornell Notes about the books we read, and it's during those 12-15 minutes that I incorporate the literacy elements and other CCSS standards we won't hit as a whole group.  On Fridays we review our Book in a Bag homework (seen above) together, which gives us an opportunity to review concepts and spiral the skills we've learned throughout the week. 

While I work with students, there are 2 other stations going on: Read to Self and Word Work.  If you peeked in my room you would see students stretched out all over both reading areas, some holding stuffed wearing Minnie Mouse ears...#whateverittakes 

For Word Work my students use Spelling City.  I have the premium subscription, so they have access to all the games and activities.  This is another amazing place to differentiate, since I have 4 lists going on at once- all the way from the standard 5th grade Reading Streets list to Pre-K Dolch words.  

Once we finish reading groups we either work on grammar or work on writing as a whole group. In the activity shown, we were reviewing the 4 Types of Sentences with QR codes.  See- paperless! We usually have about 20 to 25 minutes left in the period, which is a perfect amount of time to introduce or review a grammar skill in groups/partners.    It's not quite long enough for writing. but soon I will have writing as a choice for when students are done with Spelling City.   And in case you were wondering, yes, they write on their tablets, too.  I use Teaching in Room 6's Paragraph of the Week and simply "print" the week's pages into their OneNote notebooks.   

That takes us to the last few minutes of the period, during which we GoNoodle again or play a speaking game like Would You Rather, Two Truths and a Lie, or What Would You do.

How do you structure your literacy block? Do you use a basal or readers? Let me know in the comments!

Friday, September 19, 2014

Hula Hoops and Worms: 3 Team Building Activities

This year marks the 4th year in a row that I've looped with some of my students.  After having my loopers last year and in summer school, I noticed that we were having trouble working in groups.  I attributed it to "sibling rivalry" since these kids are together in class and at home- they all live in the same apartment building.  This summer I spent a little bit of time finding first-week activities that suited our needs- we didn't need All About Me worksheets, we needed practice working together.  I implemented two of my favorites during the first few days of class and could immediately see the difference in their cooperation.

We started with a hula hoop activity.  We placed a hula hoop on the floor, then used our index fingers to raise it to chest height.  From there, we had to spin it until the tape marker was back where it started.  This took quite a few tries, as some kids were faster to get up than others. 


After that activity we moved to the hallway and formed a circle.  They had to hold hands and step through the hoop until it went back to the first person.  I was so impressed with their technique- for students who wanted to go over the head, the last person would count "1,2,3" and then toss it up.  This activity was a lot easier than the lift and spin one.  I loved doing these back to back, because we were able to sit down and talk about what made things easier or harder. 

The next activity was "Save Sam." aka "Save Fred." As I've mentioned before, my goal is to get reading, writing, listening and speaking into every lesson or activity.  The hula hoop activity was heavy on listening and speaking, so I decided to add a little more reading and writing to this lesson.  After some research I came across Fearless 5th Grade's Prezi and scientific method worksheet, which was perfect for my students.

The object of Save Fred is to get Fred (the worm) into his lifejacket (the lifesaver) which is under the boat (the cup) that has capsized.  My boys all were yelling out "Easy Peasy!" until I told them they couldn't use their hands.  I love surprising them.

They worked in groups of 2 or 3 to complete part of their scientific method sheet and determine a plan for their experiment.  Finally it was time to Save Fred, amid much shouting, laughing, and cheering.  The following day we talked about working together, shared our scientific method plans, and discussed how each person contributed to the experiment. And then we ate gummy worms...possibly their favorite part? 

I'm positive that doing these experiments contributed to the a-m-a-zing teamwork I've been seeing over the past two weeks.  My boys have really stepped it up in the cooperation department and I'm hoping it stays that way!  What do you do to build community in your room?