Saturday, May 6, 2017

Learning from the Best

The important thing about writing is. . . having a strong model to emulate! I love reading well-written picture books to my class, as we learn the language of writing from authors. A favorite book to use as a mentor text  comes from the series, Discover America State by State by Sleeping Bear Press. Each book focuses on a different state, with a simple rhyme for each letter, as well as informative text in the sidebar.  G is for California: A California Alphabet by David Domeniconi is a fact-filled, beautifully illustrated book. My class loved it so much that they wanted to write their own version!
In this alphabet book, each page is set up with an upper case & lower case letter, a sidebar with facts about the topic, a 4-line rhyming poem to introduce the topic, with a large illustration. 

Together we brainstormed for what we had learned about California during the year, then sorted the topics into alphabetical categories. After selecting which topic they wanted to write about, my kids got busy! It was a bit challenging to write a 4-line rhyming verse about the topic they selected, but with peer suggestions, they did an amazing job!! And since (of course) I had more than 26 (letters) students, we added digraphs as pages: ch, th, sh, wh, wr and kn. 
After writing the poem, students began to organize and write their informative rough drafts. We went through A LOT of revision, especially to form writing into coherent paragraphs! Typing their final copies took a while. . . we formatted the width to fit into the sidebar. Since my kids wanted to make this unique and special, their idea was to draw then watercolor the illustrations. . . this was not as easy as they had anticipated!! But the effect was still beautiful! Lastly, I got scrapbooking stickers to use for the capital and lower-case letters on each page. Voila!! A memorable class book!! 
What books do you use as Mentor Texts for writing? I'd love to hear from you!

Monday, May 1, 2017

Teacher Appreciation Giveaway

It's Teacher Appreciation Week and you don't want to miss this!
Prize: 10 Teacher "Must Haves" prize pack including: Mr. Sketch Markers, Flair Markers, Personal Laminator, Dry Erase Pockets, Dry Erase Markers, Astrobrights Paper, Sharpies, Ticonderoga Pencils, a Wall Calendar, and a $50 Teachers pay Teachers gift card.
Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)

Co-hosts: An Apple for the Teacher, MM Bilingual, Debora Marines TeachMagically, Cara's Creative Playground, Amanda's Little Learners, The Craft of Teaching, Jackie Crews, Sugar Cube Learning Resources, Stephanie Rye-Forever in Fifth Grade, Teach with Hope, 180 Days of Reading, The Literacy Garden, Sandra Naufal, Teacher Jeanell, Sliding into 1st, Teacher Mama School, Tried and True Teaching Tools, Third Grade Giggles, The Chocolate Teacher, Sarah Griffin, Peas In A Pod, Heart 2 Heart Teaching, It's a Teacher Thing, Teacher Gameroom, Save the Teacher, A Plus Kids, Digging Deep to Soar Beyond the Text, It Happened in 3rd, The Literacy Garden, A Place of Story, Kindergarten Is Crazy, and Knowledge Mobile.

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter. Giveaway ends 5/8/17 and is open worldwide.a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, April 29, 2017

California, Ho!

California, ho! The rush to California was a critical part of California's history, even before the discovery of gold.
Learning why and how pioneers traveled to California in the 1840's is always an exciting time. Thanks to Rick Morris at New Management, we end our unit with covered wagon races. Be sure to go to his website to download his very clear and explicit directions for how to make covered wagons out of a piece of cardboard and one sheet of printer paper. (And if you don't know Rick yet, he is a teaching GURU! All of his ideas are so helpful and teacher-friendly! Check him out!)
After making their covered wagons, we "raced" to California. Using string through the top of their wagons, students have to maneuver their wagons over the "prairie grasses" and across the Sierra Nevadas (plastic cups covered in butcher paper, taped onto cardboard). Some years,  they have to cross raging rivers also. They learn what a difficult and treacherous journey the trail to California is!

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Writing for Focus & Meaning

I'm SO excited to join in on our collaborative book club: The Writing Strategies Book: Your Everything Guide to Developing Skilled Writers by Jennifer Serravallo! This book is a bible for planning mini-lessons during Writer's Workshop.
Today we're covering Goal 4: Writing for Focus & Meaning, but if you missed the first few goals, you can catch up here:
Focus Strategy 1: Focus on an Issue (p. 156) This strategy has the writer think about the life/social issue their piece focuses on (e.g. bullying, racism, poverty, etc.) This is very effective because students have a passion for that issue and are able to add details to bring the issue to life in their story. A wonderful mentor book and video to use is Bully by Laura Vaccaro Seeger (2013). She shares her process, vision, and purpose for writing and why she included specific details to convey the issue.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Angle Art

Other teachers are some of my best teachers. Inspired by my friend, Layla, over at Fancy Free in Fourth , we practiced making and measuring angles (while creating a cute bulletin board display!)
This is a great activity for using up scraps of paper. . . I sliced up strips of neon paper. Students created straight, right, acute, and obtuse angles. They used a particular color for each type of angle, then noted the color on the key.
The neon colors really pop on the black paper. Next, they measured each angle with a protractor. They LOVE using this math tool, and I love that they're practicing one of the eight CCSS standards for mathematical practices: Use appropriate tools strategically.
My students were also very  motivated to borrow my "special silver Sharpie" to record their angles on the black paper :) Voila! A cute geometry display and a greater understanding of angles!
How do you reinforce learning angles and using protractors?

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Integrating Music, Science & Technology

There's nothing like music to get students motivated and hooked on learning.
Have you ever heard of Soundtrap? It's a FREE program to make music online!
Soundtrap works on almost any device and projects are stored in the cloud so you can access them wherever you are. (ie. students can start this project at school, but work on it at home) And students can collaborate to create music together!  Here's how it works:
Every single one of my kiddos was successful in creating a theme song. I love how each of their songs sounded uniquely like them. Since we were learning about sound waves in our NGSS physical science unit, we printed each student's theme song so they could actually see their longitudinal wave patterns. They could see how (or if) their patterns repeated, the length of their phrases, etc.

But then, if that wasn't cool enough, we spoke to our art teacher and she had the brilliant idea of turning their waves into art! She had each student draw 2-3 horizontal lines across a piece of art paper, depending on their song and the number of sections it had. Next, they took their unique printout and copied the waves with a Sharpie.
Using colored pencils, keeping warm colors or cool colors together, kids copied and extended the black wave lines. They came out so beautiful!!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

The Magic of a Circle

What's the big deal about a circle, you ask? A circle is MAGIC! This lesson is always THE best introduction to our geometry unit!
First, students cut out a circle. As I give directions while folding my circle, students follow along with their own circle.
We stop after each step to write their own definitions in a small Geometry Vocabulary Book (Simply made out of a half sheet of manila tag for the cover and 5 or 6 half sheets of printer paper, folded in half & stapled down the center) We use this book throughout our geometry unit, to keep adding terms and illustrations.