Monday, November 19, 2012

"Pushing Our Thinking"

"Pushing our Thinking"

This is my new favorite saying....

My students are now used to me asking, "Are you doing the MAXIMUM, or the MINIMUM?" This is coming from Lucy Caulkins, but I have really tried to take it the next level. I truly believe our students are, 95% of the time, doing only the minimum-what we ASK them to do. see..I'm TIRED of that!! I don't want my students to JUST do the minimum anymore! I want them to PUSH their thinking! I want them to DIG DEEPER! Think like no other student has thought before! JUST WHEN YOU THINK YOU ARE FINISHED..YOU HAVE JUST STARTED!

Please, please, please don't tell me, "I'm done, Mrs. Gates."! No, you are NOT done! You have just begun!

I have a student (and I know you all have this SAME student!) that gets finished with the minimum of what I've asked...aka... "I did exactly what you asked, but not a bit more." He then gets out his huge chapter book that he can't put down (don't get me wrong, this too, is wonderful-but NOT during WRITING time!) and begins to read while he waits for me to move on to the next mini lesson or meeting. Noooooo!!!! I don't want you to read during WRITING time! I want you  to keep pushing yourself-

-What else do you have to say about this idea?
-Can you write something else about this topic?
-Can you try this technique as a writer again with a different idea?
-Can you stretch your thinking on this topic?
-What other opinions do you have? Why do you think that?
-Can you take this idea and turn it into a personal narrative?
-Can you take this personal narrative and write it as an expository essay?
-Can you abandon this idea and think of something else to write about?

The questions are endless!

Monday, November 12, 2012

"Becoming Essayist"

Familiar with Lucy Caulkins? I wasn't until I started teaching in Katy. At first, we were given this "kit" (don't ya' just love "KITS"!), and expected to read through it and use the great ideas.

My first instinct: When am I going to have to time to do this? (Looking through Book 1... "she goes on and on...") Set it aside and think about it later.

Sometime mid-October: We've taught personal narrative and realistic fiction narrative with good success using our own past experiences as teachers and past, no-fail, lessons. We've taught an essay, "What I want to be when I grow up..." with moderate success---(the same 'ole boring essays that every kid can write if they follow the formula.)

End of October: I start reading Lucy's books. I jump to "Breathing Life into Essays" and start to think, "Maybe I'm rushing it. Maybe I'm trying too hard to get them to follow a formula." I decide to follow Lucy, mini-lesson by mini-lesson. (An action research approach!).

Wow! I truly think I'm getting it, and so are my students! We can write about the same topic as a narrative OR as a non-narrative! We go outside and find simple, unimportant topics to write about. We turn them into GREAT topics to write about! We PUSH....yes PUSH our thinking!!!!

We ask ourselves, "Are we doing the minimal, or are we doing the maximum?" We can be AMAZING writers if we CHOOSE to be!

This is going to be EXTRAODINARY writing, and we haven't even written a roughdraft yet!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Can you relate?

So, this post has nothing to do with a new, great idea, but everthing to do with just needing to share "teacher" thoughts:

Thought #1: I'm tired.

Thought #2: My team-teacher is coming back after being out for 2 weeks with a broke ankle...OMG!! Thank GOODNESS! I have missed her!

Thought #3: What was I thinking??? I have 3 kids (one still in diapers), I'm 40 years old, and I'm married to a in the WORLD am I supposed to have time to work on my Master's-much less run in a 5k...ha!ha!ha!ha!

Thought #4: I DON'T want to be a principal.

Thought #5: Surely there is a curriculum/training job out there that's waiting for me.

Thought #6: Be patient.

Thought #7: I miss co-teacher from Mt. Vernon. I miss collaborating with her. I miss having her in my classroom every 30 minutes or so. I miss combining our classes and co-teaching. Bummer. Oh well.

Thought #8: The holidays are coming up! Yay! I miss my family, and it's my favorite time to teach (besides January, February, March, April, and May-especially May).

Thought #9: I'm out of thoughts, but I need to make it to 10.

Thought #10: I've found a GREAT place to raise my kids. It may be a challenge for me, but I've never given up before, so why start now. I have fantastic principals to help guide me and a team that supports me in every way imaginable.

Okay...Thought #11: I'm thankful.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Writing Realistic Fiction

At first, I really thought this was going to be a HARD genre to teach, but actually, it's turned out pretty simple....and fun! I started by reading Lucy Calkins' #4 book (from her series on Writer's Workshop) "Writing Fiction: Big Dreams, Tall Ambitions". Now, let me warn you, Lucy is a very wordy writer. But then, again, so am I, so it was an easy read for me! My colleague and I already had plans for this week before I read the book, so we had to back-track a little (my mistake!).

The BIG concept: students need a good writer's notebook FULL, and I mean FULL of writing ideas. This is not just the usual, "Things I know a lot about", or "Things that are DEAR to my Heart". I mean what serious, REAL writer's do. They write down EVERY little bitty thing they notice, hear, experience...

I started by having my students think about their weekend and start a list of"Things I "noticed" over the weekend: " (I had a sample list on the board for them as well: 1. an ambulance parked outside Wal Mart 2. The man next door plays football every night with his son. 3. The dog across the street barked all night long.)

I then proceeded to model my thinking... I looked through my own journal and came across a page that was full of places I'd moved to. I spoke my thinking outloud and demonstrated my writing on the Smartboard.

"Hmmm...I've moved a lot. That must be a subject that means a lot to me. I could write about several places I've moved to. I think I'll focus on my move to Katy. (Writing on the board) I moved to Katy over the summer from a small town. My  neighborhood is pretty big with large houses all around. I see a lot of kids outside playing. I wonder if my own children will be able to make friends. (Talking now..) Hmmm. I  think I could write a realistic story about this. I could name my main character, Grace. So it could go something like this:

(Writing again) Grace moves to Katy from a small town. She sees kids playing outside her window as she's unpacking boxes in her room. She wonders if she will ever be able to make new friends in this small town.

My students become excited and join in on the story line....

"Maybe she rides her bike later and meets some of the kids." or, "Maybe she's really shy and has to overcome her shyness to be able to meet new people." Both good points and I validate their thinking by jotting down their ideas with my ideas.

This continues as we also come up with ideas for realistic stories for the examples I've listed on the board: "I saw an abulance parked outside Wal Mart. Can we create a realistic fiction story with this idea??" The students talk in small groups and come up with some CRAZY stories!

Then the students find an "I noticed..."idea from their own writer's notebook. They extend their thinking as I did, and then create a character name and problem.

This is extended into today lesson. We created a foldable that resembles the story mountain we have used previously (Character, setting, problem, rising action, climax, falling action, resolution, conclusion). Wow!!! My kiddos did an AWESOME job with this! I was so impressed! We have our stories planned out and ready to start our roughdrafts tomorrow!

Of course, MODELING is the KEY here! Tomorrow, I will model my roughdraft and they will begin theirs. I can't wait to see how these stories turn out!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Parent Conferences I'm one of those WEIRD teachers who actually like parent conferences! Why??? Because, for example, this past Friday I learned so much more about my students that will help me, help them, reach their goals as learners! Does it wear me out to the point that I drag myself to my car and crash as soon as I get home...YES! But on Monday,  I can use all the new information I have to improve my teaching strategies.

I have AMAZING  parents (I usually do!), so this year will be full of GREAT learning experiences for both myself and my students!

We just started a unit on inferencing. We read The Memory String by Eve Bunting. If you haven't shared this story with your class, PLEASE do so IMMEDIATELY! Not only does it have wonderful life lessons (themes) we can share with our students, but the character analysis is amazing. We filled in a 3 column chart: Character/What the Character does or says/Our inference. We filled in the chart as we read the book. Students  were completely engaged and many related to the story line. Here is the book if you're interested:
The Memory String

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

My NEW Classroom at Wilson Elementary!!

I've FINALLY got around to posting about my new classroom! It's the second week of school and I am sooo pumped! I LOVE only having  two classes to teach Reading and Writing! It gives me such an awesome opportunity to really get to know each and every student on a personal level.

Let me tell you...honestly...these students in Katy, TX...Wilson Elementary...are AMAZINGLY intellectual! They are excited about learning and have a passion for education in general. I know a lot of teachers post about struggling students and how they are working above and beyond to meet their needs.(I've been there and done that MANY times in the past!) Well, this year, I will posting about, (and asking for suggestions), over the top enrichment. I believe this will be a wonderful year of growth for me as an educator and I am sooo excited!!

Okay..enough rambling! Here are some pictures that I meant to post as I "built" my classroom this year. We LOVE our Book Boxes!!!

I'm moving....again

So, my husband accepted a basketball coaching position in Katy, TX, and I've accepted a 4th grade LA/Reading position at one of their brand new elementary schools: Wilsom Elementary! The Wilson Wolfpacks! Although this  is a very exciting move for us, it is also the 12th move in our marriage, which can be very stressful!

My husband's a coach, so moving is "normal" to us, but it's never easy! My classroom was packed and moved out on the last of day of school (I'm pretty good at getting this done by now!), my garage is full of boxes ready to be filled with whatever is left after the many garage sales we'll be having over the next few weeks, and my family has been notified-not the most fun thing to do!

I think what makes it harder this time, is that I'm leaving a co-teacher who was just as passionate about teaching as I am. Someone who wanted to grow professionally with me and wanted to absorb all techniques and ideas for future use. Someone who believed that there is so much more out there to learn as a teacher than we could ever imagine, and she was ready to take on whatever crazy idea we came up with! I can only hope and pray that I am blessed with another co-teacher like Mrs. Sessums!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Book Whisperer: You HAVE to read this book!

The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller is, by far, the BEST professional book I've read in a long time. Here are some highlights that Crystal and I decided were "we HAVE to implement this ASAP!"-or next year-whichever comes first!!

-Organize your books by GENRES-not by LEVELS: This was a huge wake up call to me because I have always organized my classroom library by authors, then levels, award winning books, science, etc. But if we want our students to think about GENRES, we have to organize our books in that way as well. I absolutely HATE AR testing. Students get so wrapped up in whether they should read a book based off of how many points they can get, rather than if they are truly interested in the book! What are we doing to our kiddos???
So, NO MORE LEVELS for my classroom library!! My students will check out books because they are interested in reading the book, NOT because they can earn 2 AR points for it!

-Children should be reading at LEAST 20-30 minutes a day without interruptions!

-Students should be allowed to choose THEIR OWN books! How would you like it if someone was always telling you what to read? We teach them how to self-select. A life-long skill.

-It's OKAY for students to abandon a book! That's REAL LIFE! If they aren't interested, they won't read it! It's my job to help them find books they will fall in love with!

-Students should not be worried about what they CAN'T do, but thinking about what they CAN do! We set a goal of however many books we want our students to read. If they reach that goal, GREAT! If they try as hard as they can, but fall short...that's GREAT, too!

-Children should be able to find a comfy place to read. They shouldn't be confined to their desk. That's not what REAL LIFE readers do. When we're at home reading, we're usually laying in the bed or curled up on the couch. Shouldn't we allow our students to be as comfortable during classtime reading?

-We DON'T focus on state assessments *gasp*! If we are allowing our students to read, read, read...they will be successful.


-intervention should NOT be happening during classtime. "Students who are pulled for intervention from the general ed. classroom are reading 75% LESS than other students"(Miller, 2009) -How is that helpful?

I hope you've like my highlights! If you'd like to read more, PLEASE buy the book! We can change lives, one student at a time! The Book Whisper by Donalyn Miller


Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Well, NOW I have to RETHINK things!!! I hate it when that happens! I think I've got things planned out for the next year. I have the BEST idea EVER. Then...I read an incredible book and my whole thought process changes. In this case, it's the author Aimee Buckner of Notebook Know How and Reading Notebooks. Crystal and I had it all planned out...a new Writer's Workshop notebook (the pictures were posted in the previous post), a new Reader's Notebook, Poetry ALL sounded and looked good! Until now...

I've read these books, and also started The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, and my entire way of thinking about writing and reading reflection has changed! Okay...well, part of it changed, and part of it was renewed. What I mean is that at one time I was thinking the say way Aimee Buckner thought, but the state testing expectations lured me into their trap and influence me to (I hate to say this...) "teach to the test".  Has that ever happened to you? It makes me sick to think about it!

Crystal and I are switching books, studying books together and rethinking how we want to instill a passion for writing and reading in our classrooms for next year.

I'm not saying we're going to ditch the new Writer's Notebook, but we may need to reevaluate it. I'm thinking, (and I haven't passed this feeling on to Crystal yet), that it's too rigid. It's too "by the book" and not what REAL writer's and reader's would do.

We'll have to brainstorm, rethink, throw ideas around until we figure what we believe will the best way to instill a love for reading and writing for our students will be.

Am I worried about this.....No! Because I know that THIS is what makes GREAT teaching! We research, we rethink, we reevaluate, we remain flexible....and we know that, THAT is what is going to make us influential teachers!

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Poetry Journals and Writer's Workshop Notebooks!

I've VERY excited about this post! My co-teacher (Crystal Sessums) and I have been mulling over "what to do about next year"-a typical question that passes through EVERY teacher's mind around this time of year. I LOVE this time of year! No, not because school's almost out (well, maybe a little!), but because I get to analyze what worked and what didn't work this past year and start planning for the upcoming school year. I always order professional books, (see "Professional Books" for the recent ones I've ordered and am studying), and start figuring out what I want to throw out that was a ridiculous idea that CLEARLY didn't work, and what I want to change and incorporate for next year.

Okay...enough jibber-jabber...Here's our two newest and greatest ideas for next year! (I'm sooo excited about this!!!!)

Poetry Journals! I'm in Texas, and the new STAAR test is ALLLLLL about poetry. So, after much research and digging for ideas, we've finally came up with an age appropriate poetry journal for our kiddos. Most of the ones we found online were geared toward K-1. We're 4th grade, and this journal would work for 2-6th or 7th, or even higher.

First, we started with a typical composition notebook. We decorated and labeled it:

After that, we worked toward figuring out what we wanted the kiddos to know in their "Poet's Toolbox" (what all good poet's use to write great poems). We typed that up, adjusted it a few times, and glued it to the front inside cover of the journal:We then discussed which types of poetry we definitely wanted our students to learn and came up with an informative sheet to glue into the back part of the journal:

Here, also, are a few of the ideas we decided to take note of inside our sample journal, of what we want to use this poetry journal for:


This past year, and years before, we have only had to focus on personal narrative writing in 4th grade, so a folder has done the trick as far as keeping things organized. NOT ANYMORE! With the new STAAR test, we are required to teach persuasive, informative, and entertaining writing. So Crystal and I brainstormed a way to reorganized our Writer's Workshop. We decided we need more space..which is where the "notebook" Vs. "folder" comes into play. We are planning on purchasing (yes, with our own money) enough white 1 inch or 1 1/2 inch binders for two classes (assuming we'll be switching only twice). Each part of the notebook will be divided into sections: Basic information, persuasive writing, informative writing, entertaining writing, and extra notes. It also will have a clear pouch to hold colored pencils (for revising and editing), highlighter, post-its and extra pencils/erasers. Behind each divider will be their flow charts and roughdrafts, plus any notes that will help them with that style of writing. Here are the snapshots of what we are planning on (if you have any suggestions, please share!):

Friday, March 30, 2012

MUNSCH MADNESS BABY!! my husband is a basketball coach, freak, obsessive, compulsive fan. March Madness is his absolute FAVORITE time of year! It's also MINE! Except, I put a little twist on it....

Are you familiar with Robert Munsch? FABULOUS children's author! I was introduced to him during my student teaching semester 13 years ago, and I STILL love him! His stories are written using children he has actually met as the characters. They are funny, excellent for fluency practice, and great for character analysis or "I wonder what's going to happen next??".
You HAVE to read his books to your class! Any grade level!

On the 3rd day of March (can't start 'til after Dr. Suess's birthday on March 2nd!) I start my month long "Munsch Madness!" I always start by reading outloud "Purple, Green and Yellow"-my FAVORITE book! The kiddos absolutely love it and hang on every word! This year we (my team-teacher compadre) have a great bullentine board we're sharing outside our class room. We've been reading Robert Munsch all month and using his books to build our fluency. Monday, we're reading "The Paper Bag Princess" on Tumble Books and writing a surprise ending. We hang the best surprise endings in the hallway for all to enjoy! I'll post pictures next week!

Happy weekend! I can't believe there's only 2 more months of school left! is Robert Munsch's website. Check it out! :

Monday, March 12, 2012

CSCOPE questions

Here are the questions I pulled out of CSCOPE for 4th grade.There are a lot! But once you categorize them, you'll see we actually need more for some areas. I'm positive I would use these for any grade level. Enlarge, glue onto construction paper, laminate, cut apart and categorize. Pull for literature circles, flexible groups, or whole group instruction. You can also send questions with unexpected 'volunteers' that show up and want to read with a group. I've found this works great and you are sure your students are being asked high-order questions.

Is the piece you read a biographyor autobiography? How canyou tell?
What do you know about biography and autobiography?
What is the purposefor reading a biography or autobiography?
This biography reminds me of______.
This autobiography reminds me of________.
How does comparing a biography with a fictional piece helpyou understand the text?
What do the meanings of the words graph have in common?
How do affixes and root words help readers understand text?
How do authors use an interview to gather information?
How can listening and speaking help me as a reader andwriter?
What seems similar about this story and the biography? Whatseems different?
What do readers do when they come to a word they don’t know?
What strategies do readers use to help with comprehension?
What information have you gathered and how have you gatheredit?
Why do authors use appropriate conventions?
How do writers create interesting sentences?
Why do readers and writers use dictionaries?
What strategies did you use to help you understand the text?
How do you readers show understanding of text by writing?
What events or experiences in the person’s life werepresented? What design techniques were used?
How could the following simple sentences be combined to makeone combined sentence?
What was the message of this piece of media?
How did the design technique influence the message?
How does studying words help us as readers and writers?
How do readers understand text by writing?
What am I wondering?
What questions do I have about this text before reading?
What questions come up as I read?
What questions do I still have after reading?
What does it mean if a word is singular or plural?
What events or experiences in the person’s life werepresented? What design techniques were used?
What did you notice about words that only have an –es?
What happened to the “y” in the words ending in –es?
Can you give me other words that fit each pattern/rule?
How can studying words help us as readers and writers?
How and why do authors edit their writing?
What was the text mostly about?
What is a good summary for the text?
What does it mean to summarize or write a summary?
What makes a good summary?
How do readers use story structure and elements tounderstand fiction?
Why do authors publish their work?
What does the text remind you of?
What personal connection did you make with the text?
Did the text remind you of something else you’ve read?
Did the text remind you of something happening in the worldor community?
What do you hear that is the same in each word?
What two letters usually make the /sh/ sound ?
How has thinking about the story’s structural elementshelped you understand the story?
How do authors generate ideas for writing?
Are these words singular or plural and how do you know?
How did the word change?
What strategies can writers use to generate ideas forwriting?
How can the elements of drama help us understand the story?
What features do you see in a play?
How does knowing base words and affixes help us as readersand writers?
What structural elements do you expect to find in drama?
How did the author use sensory language like similes andmetaphors to help you understand thetext better?
What are guidewords? How are guidewords used?
How do we use a dictionary effectively?
How does writing about reading help you understand the text?
How does an author develop an engaging story?
What are some other reasons people use dictionaries?
How do movies and television programs tell a story to theiraudience?
What is the same about these types of text s?
What is different about these types of texts?
What type of prepositional phrase could be added to thesentence to help the reader mentalpicture?
What did you learn about the character through the dialoguethat was read?
What did the dialogue tell us about the characters?
What are some examples?
What are adjectives and what are they used for?
What are adverbs and what are they used for?
What is a setting?
How do movies, plays, and TV shows portray setting to telltheir story?
What did you learn about the setting of the story?
Describe the setting.
Why do you think the author used dialogue?
What is plot?
What is the difference between /there/, /their/, and/they’re/?
What is the difference between /to/two/too/
What is the difference between /your/you’re/
What is the difference between /its/it’s/
What is the problem?
What events affect the problem?
How was the problem solved?
What is a homophone?
Why do we need to know about homophones as readers andwriters?
What transition words could you use to help the readerunderstand the sequence?
Where could you make a compound sentence?
What is a theme?
What did you learn from the theme of the story?
Describe the theme?
What does the author want you to think or do?
Why did the author write the text? How do you know?
What is the central, or main idea of the story?
What details support the main idea?
How did the author use language to influence the reader?
What strategies do readers use to understand text?
How does writing about reading support understanding of thetext?
How can studying spelling patterns help us as readers andwriters?
How do authors organize information to create meaning?
What was the text mostly about? What were the supportingdetails?
What does it mean to sort words? Why do we sort words?
How can a writer organize ideas in an expository text?
How does thinking about details, main ideas, and summaryhelp us as readers?
What do you think the text will be about? Why do you thinkthat?
What do you notice about the topic sentence in an expositorytext?
What was the main idea of the beginning of the text?
What was the main idea of the middle of the text?
What was the main idea of the ending of the text?
How do readers use text structure to organize informationand construct meaning?
How does studying the meaning and spelling of words help usas readers and writers?
How can readers determine the meaning of multiple meaningwords when reading?
Why do readers need to be able to distinguish facts andopinions?
What do you notice about concluding sentences in the expositorytext?
How can the word _______ be used in different context?
Does your concluding sentence summarize the central idea ofyour composition?
How will we find reliable and relevant information to answerour questions?
What is revision?
How did you use the skills of skimming and scanning to findrelevant information?
How did the text structure help you interpret the relevantinformation?
Which analogy represents a synonym and which analogyrepresents an antonym?
What is research?
What are topics you may want to research and learn moreabout?
What are text features? How do text features help readers?
Why did the author write this text? Why would a reader readthis text?
Which questions would give the researcher more information?
How will you find answers to your research questions?
How can we take the information and summarize it in our ownwords?
What is plagiarism?
What is the main point of my research?
What research question does this information relate to?
How do text features help you as a researcher?
What is one important and /or interesting fat that you foundabout your topic?
How do you summarize the main idea and details to answer thequestions in your own words? Why is this important?

How are you using a variety of resources?
What information do you need to gather to cite your sourcesfrom shared and independent reading?
How do researchers organize their findings around a purpose?
Why did the author write the text?
Why would a reader read the text?
Was the purpose stated in the introduction or was the readerable to imply it?
What other thinks do you notice about the introduction ofthe text?
How can making connections with the text help withcomprehension?
How do readers determine the main idea of a text or sectionof a text?
Based on the important details, what is the main idea of thesection of the text?
How can writers use their knowledge of roots and base wordsand prefixes and suffixes to spell words?
How do text features help readers?
What connections can be made between the two types of text?
What are the steps in researching a topic?
What went well for you and what was challenging in doingyour research?
The reader can tell________________because_____________________________.(Inferencing)
What do the words connect and connection mean? How doreaders make connections to text?
What inference did you make?
What do I do well as a writer? What do I need to improve on?
How are the poems alike? How are they different?
***What formwas your poem? How do you know? What structuralelements did your poem have?
What will you do to improve as a writer?
How do authors generate ideas for writing?
Is this story written in first or third person?
How are the characters alike? How are they different?
How were their experiences alike or different?
Why is it important to examine characters interactions ,relationships, and changes when reading fiction?
How are the characters similar? How are the charactersdifferent?
What strong feelings did you discover as your wrote?
What was the theme or message in the story?
How does knowing the plot of a story help the reader?
What elements of a character can a reader analyze afterreading a traditional/classical literary text?
How does a plot line help you understand the text?
What is the same about these two genres? What is differentabout these two genres?
What connections did you make across the drama and fictionaltext?
What do writers do to improve the quality of their personalnarratives?
How do writers spell base words and roots with affixes?
How o authors develop an engaging story that sustains thereader’s interest?
How do poems convey their theme or message?

Friday, March 9, 2012

Poetry! Poetry! Poetry!

With new state standards, we have been digging way deeper into poetry than we ever have in 4th grade! We are not only writing poems, but studying many different forms and their parts (stanza, line break, rhythm, patterns, etc). We study the reason a poem is written and classify it by its characteristics. 

My co-teacher came across a great idea to make poetry books. We modified for our needs and were very pleased with the results! Students ended up writing around 25 poems along with a special keepsake from 4th grade! Here are a few snapshots:

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Welcome to my Class!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Have you misplaced your passion?

I purchased a book randomly off Amazon called The Passion Driven Classroom  by Angela Mierers. It's based around the concept of a "Clubhouse" classroom, which, so far, sounds very much like a 'workshop' approach. (Lots of student-lead exploration). At any rate, I'm really enjoying it! Not for the clubhouse idea presented, but for the interesting, driven philosophy that a teacher MUST have passion in her/his teaching in order for her students to have passion about their learning. I will have to say, most days, I'm passionate. A lot of days... I'm tired! But, on those passionate days, I feel so blessed..needed... purposeful...EXCITED!! You have to block the negativity out and focus on what you believe is good teaching. It's HARD! But, by doing it everyday, your students will benefit.

Okay, so what does it mean by "Passion"? From what I gather, so far, it means that you believe so deeply about your subject, or personal teaching strategy, that the students can't help but be engaged. They LOVE listening to you and can't take their eyes off you in anticipation of what you might do or say next. The BEST part of teaching this way, is when you KNOW you've reached that point! You can feel the excitement of your students, see the smiles on their faces...hands are going up everywhere and you're not sure who to call on because you know they all have great ideas! Love, love LOVE that feeling!

I'm reading this book and thinking, " I can't lose this feeling...". I believe I'm passionate about teaching. Don't get me wrong, I do have my bad days, but my good days out number them. Tomorrow, we are digging deeper into persuasive writing...How "passionate" can I be? I hope more than I realize, because these kiddos are depending on me to teach them something they have no clue about. If I want it to be embedded into their lives forever, I have no choice but to be PASSIONATE!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Adjective Word Study

Today we were word hunters! I got this idea from Dinah Zike's book Foldables, Notebooks for Spelling...K-3. I can spend just about all day looking through her books and getting ideas for future lessons! Anyway, we divided our page into 3 columns and labled them 'adjectives, comparative adjectives and superlative adjectives'. We then found any of the three types of adjectives in magazines, cut them out and sorted them into the appropriate category. The students were able to get as creative as they like when cutting and adding words together. If they couldn't find the comparative or superlative form, they could hand write it in.

The kids loved this activity! I must say though, you need a good 30 minutes to work with, and a little extra patience!

Monday, February 13, 2012

Our Class Will Be...

I'm reading the book The Passion Driven Classroom. There are many things I like so far about the book, but the first chapter really caught my attention. "...96% of teachers reported that creativity should be promoted in the classroom. However, when asked which students they actually preferred to teach, teachers chose the students who were most compliant. These studies confirm what we suspect: What we claim to want and what we actually reward in practice are two very different things." (p.5)

"We need students to be adpative, flexible, creative, innovative, leaders, and cross-cultural."(p.6)

I loved this thought so much that I decided to make a poster for our classroom and talk about the kind learning that should be taking place this year as we learn together.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Higher-Order Thinking Questions for Literature Circles

I've always had "Reflection Cards" for literature response time, or flexible groups, but I felt the need to upgrade them a bit with the new STAAR test. Our district uses CSCOPE curriculum, which is supposed to be directly aligned with STAAR, and its Exemplary Lessons promote higher-order thinking to its upmost level. So, I spent a nice evening at home combing through the entire L/A Reading 4th grade CSCOPE and typed up every questions I could find. I then enlarged them, printed and glued them onto construction paper. They were then laminated and cut apart. I sorted them into 10 different categories: Text to Self, Text to Text, Text to World, Expository Text, Story Elements, Bio/Autobiography, Drama/poetry, Author's Purpose/Theme, Research Writing, Word Study and Writing, and made the notebook below to store them in. Now I can grab my notebook when I call a flexible group, or literature circle, and pull questions that align with the text they're reading, etc.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

Crazy about Idioms!!

I love doing this project with my students! The original idea came from a fellow 5th grade Reading teacher. The kids love it! Other classes are encouraged to come down our hallway and try to "solve" our idioms.
Here are just a few of them:

The answers are under the flap. Scroll down to see the answer to the first one!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Analyzing Poetry

This week my student teacher was being observed by her professor, so we developed a lesson around poetry (since it's the big push this year with the new STAAR test and all-yippee). We started off by asking students what they liked and disliked about poetry. Students wrote their responses on post-its and stuck them on the pre-made classroom T-Chart. This was a 5 minute "Engage". We then briefly discussed the results (like I said, 5 minutes top!) and then reviewed what we already knew about poetry using the previously made anchor charts.

The students discussed with the teacher 4 main types of poetry using the SmartBoard, and then iwere nstructed to go to their tables to "Explore" the type of poetry in their table baskets. As a group, the students created a poster that described the different characteristics of their poetry. (15 minutes).

Students then presented their posters to the class. ("Explanation"). The teacher led a discussion on the likes and differences of the types of poetry presented and elaborated on understanding poetry is a life-long skill. (Elaboration).  After the discussion, students were "Evaluated" using a teacher made activity sheet.

My student teacher did an awesome job! Here are a few snap-shots: