Saturday, March 30, 2013

Mentor Text Linky

I just found a linky that I am super excited about!  It is a new mentor text linky going on over at Collaboration Cuties. 

Every Sunday, people can link up with their favorite mentor texts.  After this week, there will be a schedule to follow based on subject area, but this week, anything goes.  I can't wait to see what everyone links up with!

Since anything goes this week, I will write about one of my favorite books to use at the very beginning of Writing Workshop, when kids think that they have absolutely no good ideas to write about.  The book is called Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street

In the story, a little girl, Eva, has her writing notebook and is supposed to "write about what you know,"  according to her teacher.  But Eva keeps thinking, "Nothing ever happens on 90th street."  She's sitting out on her apartment steps, and we begin to meet her neighbors.  They all stop by to give Eva some writing advice.  We realize that Eva's neighbors are all very interesting people, but she is so used to seeing them every day that she doesn't realize they would be great writing topics.  Also, the advice that her neighbors give her is all really good writing advice.  When I read this story to my class, I like to write an anchor chart with them as we go titled: "Writing Tips from 90th Street."  

If you need a fun, inspiring book to get your writing workshop started, or your students need a reminder throughout the year that writing topics are all around them, this is the perfect mentor text for you! Let me know what you think if you have also read this book to your class.  What are some other books you like to use to get writing workshop started?

Thursday, March 28, 2013

The Easter Egg Farm

Today, after my students spent the past two days taking practice STAAR tests, I was glad to have a fun spring book to read them to relax a little. (I needed to relax a little too, because they totally bombed the practice tests...aahhhh!)  Anyway, the book I read them is a really cute story with a great message.  It's called The Easter Egg Farm, and the main character is a hen named Pauline who is different because she lays eggs that look like whatever she is looking at.  For example, if she is looking at the grass, her egg will look like the grass.  The other hens tease her for being different, and she is ostracized.  But when their owner finds out about her eggs, she loves them!  By the end of the book, Pauline learns that it is a good thing to be different.

The kids loved the funny pictures and dialogue.  They also contributed to a great discussion about the positives of being different.  After our discussion, I gave students each a piece of blank white paper and told them that they should each pretend that Pauline is their hen.  What kind of egg would they want Pauline to lay?  Here are some of the results:

On the back of their egg, they wrote about one of the following prompts:

*Write about a time you were teased for being different.  How did it make you feel?
*Write about something you are proud of about yourself, even though it is different from others.
*Write about why it is a good thing to be different.

Students were then given a chance to share, and I was very happy with their thoughts.  I will keep trying to build good character in my students, one lesson at a time!  There will be more time for that after the STAAR tests are over in 3 time to get to planning for how to get them motivated for that!  

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Excited about Next Week!

So I know I was just on Spring Break last week, but after a week back in class, I think I am already ready for another rest!  Fortunately, my district planned for that by giving us next Friday off school too!  Can't get much better than that...but that's not the only reason I'm excited for next week.  I just finished my lesson plans, and I have some fun stuff planned.  I'm also really enjoying Math lately because I recently switched to a Math Workstation model so I have more time with small groups for test prep.  I love the workstation model so much more than whole-group.

Here are some of the activities I have been using/will use for Math Workstations (click on the picture to go find that product on TPT):


I'm really excited to start a fun how-to writing unit next week also, beginning with discussion cards where students practice orally giving direction before they try writing.  Then they will try their first how-to paper about how to go down a slide, and I will try to follow their directions out on the playground to see who did the best job!  Here is the unit I will be using:

And in Reading class, we are reading Because of Winn-Dixie (which the students are loving), so next week we are doing a "10 Things I Learned about my Classmate" interview and news article project.  I think my students are going to love it!  I am using the project from this amazing unit:
To end on a high note, I will share something that made me laugh (on the inside so as not to cause embarrassment)!  My 3rd graders were reading a passage about simple machines.  You know, levers, wedges, and whatnot.  After reading over this passage, working through some questions, and discussing simple machines for a couple days, we were working on a question about what simple machine they think is most important.  I called on one sweet girl who just has the hardest time focusing/comprehending/giving answers that aren't from la-la land :)  She said that the most important simple machine is.....wait for it......SNACK machines!  Oh goodness, how much time do I have to prepare these kids for state testing again....?!?! Happy almost-Friday everyone!

Monday, March 11, 2013

Let's Get Acquainted Linky

I am absolutely loving this week; my school is on Spring Break and I am just relaxing like nobody's business :)  And finally finishing a product for my TPT store that has been in the works for a couple months now!  I have been wanting to join in with this fun linky going on over at Flying into First Grade.  It is called Let's Get Acquainted, and it is the first in a new series of linky parties Latoya will be having every Sunday in which we can get to know other bloggers better.

For this linky, you need to tell about yourself using the initials of your name.  You also need to comment on the two people's blogs who linked up before you.  So, my initials are RGH.  Here we go!

R is an easy one - reading, reading, reading!  I am currently reading this book for my next book club meeting:

I buy books like some women buy clothes.  I can't leave a bookstore, used or new, without buying something!  I probably have at least 30 books sitting in my apartment waiting for me to read them.  There's just not enough time in the day!  I can't wait till I have time to read all the books in this series that my boyfriend just got me for Valentine's Day:

And when I was a kid, I was actually a member of the Babysitter's Club.  They would send me 4 new books each month, and it was always the greatest thrill to get that package each month.

G is for Grey's Anatomy.  I am way behind on the popularity of this show.  I remember everyone talking about it years ago, but I for some reason never saw an episode.  Now, I have discovered it on Netflix, and I'm hooked.  I have been known to watch 5 or 6 episodes in a row.  Gotta love Netflix!

H is for Hummus.  I am a vegetarian, and I discovered hummus a long time ago because it is a good source of iron.  It is also delicious, and I pack a hummus sandwich in my lunch every day.  I love the roasted red pepper flavor, and also recently discovered a tomato and basil flavor that tastes kind of like pizza!


Well, that is a little about me.  Now click the linky image at the top of this post to head on over and share a little about yourself on your blog.  I have really been enjoying learning about everyone else!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Graphic Organizers for Test Prep

So our state testing in Texas is fast approaching, and I am trying to cover things in Reading that students still struggle with.  One of those things is figuring out graphic organizers that they might not have seen before.  It requires higher order thinking for students to be able to study what a G.O. is showing you, figure out what information is needed to complete the G.O., and then complete it correctly.  Plus, even if they have seen the G.O. before, they are not used to seeing it in test format, with missing information and answer choices to choose from.  For example, my students are experts at filling in their own Venn Diagrams, but when it comes to seeing one on a test with a missing bullet point that needs filled in, for some reason they freeze up.

So, to help with this problem, I have been introducing students to various G.O.'s that may be seen on our state test.  I used a picture book that they are familiar with (Stand Tall, Molly Lou Melon) for each of three separate minilessons on three consecutive days.  Each day, I created a G.O. on chart paper with some missing information.  I wanted students to study the G.O. and identify what it was showing us (was it a timeline, a story map, a cause/effect organizer, a character traits organizer, etc).  Then, they needed to identify what information was missing and decide what would complete the G.O.  Here are the charts I used:

I plan on reviewing these G.O.'s with other books they are familiar with, having them fill out their own while doing independent reading, and introducing them to even more G.O.'s before the test.  The last thing I want is for them to freeze up if they see a G.O. they don't recognize.  Ideally, they will be prepared with the "thinking" skills necessary to figure out any G.O. the test throws their way!

Do you guys have any tips for Reading test prep that you can share?  My kiddos need all the help they can get, since many of them are ESL students or just students who do not come from print-rich environments at home.  I would love to hear your ideas!