Friday, April 18, 2014

Five For Friday

Even though this was the week before our big state test (STAAR) for my 4th graders, it has really been one of my favorite weeks of the year!  I'll link up some of my reasons why for this week's Five For Friday linky over at Doodle Bugs.


For one thing, getting dressed for work this week was really fun.  We had a "testing tips" dress code.  My favorite days were Monday and Tuesday.  On Monday, we wore our PJ's to represent getting a good night's sleep before testing days.  The kids loved these slippers I wore around all day with my pajama set.

Tuesday we wore bright fruity colors to represent eating a healthy breakfast.  I loved getting to wear extremely bright colors all together at the same time and not caring if they matched or not because it was for a fun reason!


I feel like the biggest part of making sure kids work their hardest next week is the MOTIVATION piece.  I still did whole group and small group review every day this week, but I also made sure to include some inspiration every day.  One day, we watched Thank You, Mr. Falker by Patricia Polacco on  We discussed how we could use Patricia's story of starting off as a struggling reader to growing into one of the most famous children's authors as inspiration for working our hardest on the test.  

Another day, I used an article about bristlecone pine trees from this book:

The article describes how this type of tree has been alive for 5,000 years, even though it struggles in harsh conditions, such as strong winds and little rain.  It grows slowly, which helps make it dense and strong.  We applied this to testing, making connections like that we need to work slowly on the test in order to make our final scores stronger.

Today, I used an idea from this test prep pack:

I showed the kids an online video version of "The Tortoise and the Hare."  We decided that we want to be like the tortoise when we take the test: stay focused on our goal, work slow and steady, and believe in ourselves.  

I told the kids that they have 3 role models to keep in mind during testing next week, especially if they find their energy levels or motivation dropping.  They can think of Patricia Polacco, the bristlecone pine tree, and the tortoise!


We had the most amazing STAAR pep rally at my school today.  I've taught at this school for 6 years, and we have never done anything like this before.  It was the highlight of my week.  Grades K-2 made huge signs and held them up while the upper grades entered the gym.  All the younger kids were cheering for us, and there was lively music playing.  Our Dance teacher taught some of the 2nd grade girls some STAAR cheers that they performed on stage.  The teachers were called out to go do the Cupid Shuffle in front of everyone.  Student volunteers were chosen to have fun dancing to The Wobble.  There was even a relay race to see who could bubble in these 2 huge bubbles the quickest (to represent bubbling in our answer documents completely haha!)  The principal gave a speech about thinking about the people who love us and care about us instead of feeling scared or nervous.  

Best part of my day - his speech brought 2 of my sweet boys to tears.  At first, I thought they were feeling scared for the test.  Turned out, they were just overwhelmed by the principal's words.  They were full of joy and inspiration.  Cutest thing ever!  I was there to pat them on the back and tell them my emotions get the best of me all the time too!


Besides cheering for us at the pep rally, our reading buddies also made us the sweetest little STAAR care packages.  They wrote their buddies encouraging notes with the cutest pictures, and they gave each of my students a blow pop (You're going to blow this test out of the water), some cookies (You're one smart cookie), and some Smarties (You're a smarty pants).  These care packages really brightened up my students' day and they felt so supported.


Finally, something un-test related.  My boyfriend's birthday was this week.  I made him my BBQ chicken pizza that he absolutely can never get enough of.  The recipe is inspired by California Pizza Kitchen's version.

I buy a store-bought pizza crust.  For the toppings, I crisp up some bacon and chicken.  I mix BBQ sauce in with the chicken. Then I put BBQ sauce on the crust, top it with chopped red onion and jalapeno, as well as the bacon and chicken. Last, I pile on smoked gouda cheese.  Pop it in the oven according to the directions on the pizza crust, and there you go.  I promised him I'll make it again soon...he wanted 2 whole pizzas this time and they only lasted him about a day and a half!  It's a real treat for him when I make this pizza because I'm vegan and really don't care for handling meat. So that makes him appreciate it even more.

I also got him tickets off of Living Social for 2 private dance lessons.  Can't wait to go to them!

Whew, that was a long post!  Now to start my relaxing weekend and rest myself up for 2 full days of testing next week.  I hope my students feel as calm and confident as I do!

Sunday, April 13, 2014

A Peek at My Week - Last Week Before Testing

The last week before STAAR testing is finally here.  That means the last week of staying later than usual for after school tutorials - yay!  That's a definite positive, although a negative of this week is that we were supposed to have Friday off.  But Houston actually had 2 ice days this winter, and we have to make them both up.  Oh well, that means one extra day to review before testing, right? :)

For this week, I am actually really excited about a product I found on TPT to help review for the reading test.

It's made by Teacher Trap, and it is one of my favorite things I've ever bought on TPT.  It is really going to help kids analyze the structure of the Reading test and its questions.  I also love the last couple activities that will be like a last minute "pep talk" for my kids.  As you can tell from the cover, one of the activities involves using the story of "The Tortoise and the Hare" and comparing it to being a good test taker.  Such a simple idea, but something I had never thought of before - genius!

Along with activities from this unit, I also plan on continuing to review some of the skills that show up on the test the most - summarizing, context clues, and making inferences.  One new product I found for context clues is this one by Logical Lex:

I already blogged about some of the other products I'm using to review the other skills {here}.

I've also already written a lot about how we're reviewing for the Math STAAR using a math scrimmage game.  You can read more about that {here}.  It is hands down the most motivational math test review I've ever done with a class.  They absolutely love it!  

And what I'm most excited for this week is the fun testing dress code our school is implementing based on information I found at Connections Academy Blog.  Tomorrow is PJ day to remind students to get a good night's sleep the nights before testing.  I found these cute and comfy PJ's from Target this weekend that I'll be lounging around in during test prep tomorrow!

I'm linking this post up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for A Peek at my Week.

I'm off to make my salad lunches for the week (I make all 5 salads on Sunday) and watch the MTV Movie Awards.  Love a lazy Sunday!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Positive Thinking Thursday - Fun Dress for the Week Before Testing!

I have a VERY positive thought for today to link up over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings Positive Thinking Thursday!

My positive thought is about...standardized testing!  Wait, what?  Yes it's true!  While searching around on the internet for ways to motivate my students and lessen the stress of testing, I came across the Connections Academy Blog.  They have this amazing, super creative idea for a fun dress code that ALSO reinforces testing tips for every day of the week before your school's tests.  For example, "Wear pajamas on Monday" reinforces the testing tip of getting a good night's rest the day before any test. 

I didn't want to break any copyright laws by posting all of the days of the week right here, but if you click the picture below it will take you right over to their page.  

I found this idea last night, got approval from my Dean of Instruction (in fact, he wants to share it with all the other testing grades in my school), and typed up a quick flyer this morning.  And just like that, my positive thought for today is that next week I know my kids will be excited about the idea of "testing" because it now involves a really fun week's worth of clothing!  Yay!  

I am still on the lookout for other fun ways to motivate my class next week, so let me know if you have any other ideas you use with your class.  Can't wait to see more positive thoughts over at the linky!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday - Mastering Multiplication Facts

I am linking up with Sugar and Spice's Wordless Wednesday linky.  This is the perfect linky for today because my boyfriend and I had a movie night, and now there is not much time left before bed starts calling my name! :)  Click the picture below to see what pictures others have linked up.

Here is my blurry shot from today...(my hands were a little shaky because it was lunchtime and I was hungry, but I wanted to remember to take this picture before I forgot)!

Have all your students learned all their multiplication facts yet?  How do you motivate them?

And I know this is supposed to be "wordless,"  but I have to give credit to the amazing Laura Candler and her Mastering Math Facts program for the train tracker idea and templates in the pic!

Monday, April 7, 2014

It's Monday, What Are You Reading? - Pinocula

I'm excited to have found a linky I haven't seen before.  It's called, "It's Monday, What Are You Reading?"  Can't wait to read some of the other posts and discover some new books!

This school year, I decided to try to read EVERY book that I get for my classroom from Scholastic.  If I read the books first, then I can recommend them to particular students AND when I ask them what the book is about, I can make sure they are comprehending it.  This goal of mine has led me to read some books that I normally would have just passed along to students.  The one I'm reading now is one that never would have interested me at first glance.  It is called Pinocula by Obert Skye.  

This book came free in a 10-pack of books from Scholastic because my class had spent so much money.  This book would definitely not be on my top list of books to read at first glance.  However, I'm glad that my goal of reading every book before I take it to my classroom is exposing me to new types of books I wouldn't normally try.   This book is actually very funny and clever.  I figured out pretty quickly that it's actually the second book in a series.  I've learned so far that the main character has a closet with leftover lab supplies and books inside it.  When characters from the books get mixed together, creatures are formed!  In this book, Pinocula is formed from Pinocchio and Dracula.  

The author mixes drawings with text, and his drawings are full of humorous details that you might miss if you don't pay close attention.  I'm almost halfway through the book now, and I would say that I will be recommending it to some of my higher readers.  I have some Big Nate fans in my class, and I think this book will be right up their alley.  I teach 4th grade, and I think this book would actually be perfect for 5th and 6th graders.  But a few of my kids will definitely be interested in the funny title and concept of the book.

I'm going to get back to finishing this book now so I can hopefully take it in to my class tomorrow and recommend it to someone - I have the perfect student in mind for this one!  Then, I'm on to the next book in my huge pile of children's literature that I need to get through :)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Peek at my Week - 2 Weeks Until State Testing!

I am linking up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings to share what I have planned for this week...with only 2 weeks to go until Texas state testing for my 4th graders, I needed to have a solid plan for every minute!

In Math, I started by creating a plan for Whole Group and Small Group review based on which objectives my students need more practice with.  Click the link to view a google doc showing how I organized my Whole Group and Small Groups review.

Math STAAR Review Groups

In the mornings, the whole class will participate in our Math Scrimmage competition that I blogged about HERE yesterday.  In the afternoons, I will use the information on the google doc to review a skill with the whole class.  Then, I will work with a couple small groups on their targeted objectives while the other kids either do fact practice, a spiral review worksheet, or STAAR task cards.  This time will be a Math Workshop, with students assigned to what they are supposed to work on.  The task cards they will be using are these by Gina Kennedy:

For Reading, I only had 9 kids fail the practice Released STAAR test we took a couple months ago.  So my main small group focus is going to be on them during the next couple of weeks.  I plan on doing a short whole group review every day.  One resource I will use during this time is these Paired Reading Selection cards by Rosie's Resources:

I will also review summarizing with the task cards from my Summarizing unit:

Then, in small groups with the 9 students who failed the benchmark, I will use various short passages with questions and task cards.  I plan on meeting with 2 groups per day (5 students in one group and 4 in the other) every day for the next two weeks.  Here are some of the task cards I plan on using:


So, as you can see, I have a LOT of small group time planned for this week.  Last chance to get as many students as possible over the "Passing" line for the big test!  If you teach a testing grade, how do you plan out your last couple weeks before the big day(s)?  Link up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings to share...I'd LOVE to see what others are doing!

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Spark Student Motivation: Math Scrimmage

Yay!!! My class has one state test (Writing) down!  In Texas, 4th graders have a 2-day, 4-hours-each-day Writing test, and I am sooo relieved it is done.  I am also SO proud of my students because I heard from their test monitors that they were working very hard the whole time.  Nothing makes me prouder as their teacher :) *Happy Dance!!*
So that's one sigh of relief.  BUT, before I get too excited, there are still the state Reading and Math tests to prepare for...which are coming up fast in only 2 weeks!  How is a teacher supposed to keep her students motivated to work hard after just having a 2-day testing marathon?  Well, I have an answer for that, so I'm linking up with Head Over Heels for Teaching for her linky Spark Student Motivation Saturdays.

In order to prepare for the state Math test, everyone knows that a lot of spiral review is good.  But how good is it if the students aren't trying their hardest or aren't paying attention?  Enter....Math Scrimmage! Math Scrimmage is a way of turning spiral review into a group competition.  Luckily, my class is already divided into groups: Giraffes, Zebras, Crocodiles, Toucans, Lions, and Anacondas.  So I made a class chart that looks like this:

Included on the chart are places to put scores for daily scrimmages and homework, and a weekly "Game" (quiz).  The scrimmages are 10-question worksheets with review problems.  The homework includes 4 questions each night.  And the Game is a 10-question quiz with review from the whole week.  Every day, I grade students' homework and quizzes immediately and tally up the average scores for each group.  And here's one of my favorite parts: If a student doesn't show their work on any or all of the problems, they lose 10 points for their team.  However, if a student gets a 100%, they earn 10 extra points!  The winning team at the end of the week gets a special prize from me, as well as from our Dean of Instruction.  I also gave prizes to the 2nd and 3rd place teams.  I'd be happy to explain any more of the details if you have questions, but that's the gist of it.  

The important thing is, I have NEVER seen a class so motivated to show their work, take their time, and do Math review worksheets!  We did the scrimmage 2 weeks ago, but not this week because of the Writing test.  But on Thursday, after the testing was over, my students were already asking when we could do Math Scrimmage again.  When I said we'd get back to it this coming week, they literally cheered!  So needless to say, I am feeling confident that these next 2 weeks before the Math test are going to be extremely productive.

I also transferred the same idea to Reading practice.  When the kids take a reading quiz, I calculate the groups' average scores to determine a winning group.  This idea can be used for any subject.  Thank you to our school's Math Interventionist, who found this Scrimmage idea!  

On a side note, I am offering my Spring Summarizing Sort (Grades 2-4) over at my store today for FREE!  Its normal cost is $4.  Head to my Facebook page for the link if interested :)  Ladybug's Teacher Lounge

Have a fabulous Saturday!  I, for one, will finally be getting my taxes done...woohoo....!