Thursday, January 15, 2015

Freedom Summer Mentor Text


Today I was excited to use my new Freedom Summer Literacy Companion Pack with a third grade class.  I've been working a lot with third grade this month, so my teachers can get their dreaded MOY state assessments completed.

One of my goals this year is to model for my teachers the importance of using Collaborative Pairs and/or Cooperative Learning Structures.  Unfortunately, many of my teachers find this as a struggle to fit into their teaching style.  There are so many benefits of allowing your children to collaborate!

MY LESSON



Pairs & Whole Group
We started our lesson out using the Fan-N-Pick Context Clues cards (Pairs).  I loved hearing their discussions for the the word "shell".  The sentence in the text was, "We shell butter beans together".  They came up with some pretty good definitions: share, cover, and cook.  They were pretty surprised by the actual definition.  During Whole-Group I read each sentence and we discussed the definitions they came up with and each word's actual definition.



Whole Group & Pairs
I then read aloud Freedom Summer to them, stopping to discuss our vocabulary again, asking guiding questions, etc.  Any time I asked a question I had the students turn and talk to the person next to them before I called on one student for the answer.  Doing this requires ALL students to participate and not just the one or two students who always raise their hand.  Once we read and discussed the story we worked on the graphic organizer.



Whole Group & Pairs & Whole Group
We completed the Time Period and Character components together.  I had them work together with a partner or group to complete the "Important Events" and "Evidence Joe is a Good Friend" components.  We then went over their responses as a  whole class.





Independent
They were getting chatty by this time, we had a snow day yesterday, and I was in there first thing this morning.  I assigned them to start working on the Comprehension Brochure independently.  These questions are Higher Order thinking questions and I knew it would be a little bit of a challenge for some of them, but appropriate for them to think about and try.

To help my teachers remember to use pairs during their lessons and remind them that anytime you ask a question to your class, require your students to talk to their partner before calling on one student for the answer.  As adults we learn from each other through collaboration so why not allow your students the same opportunity. :)

On a different topic...Grab my sample freebie (click on the image below) from my newest product "Figure Me Out" for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  Students use MATH to lean interesting and important facts about famous African -Americans.


Thursday, January 8, 2015

Main Idea {Freebie}

I was excited to teach in a third grade classroom yesterday!  Our third grade teachers started mClass assessments (state intuitive for reading, online DIBELS and RR) today, and this is their first year doing this.  

(Side note: No idea why, but third grade teachers were not trained on mClass in my district until last month.)

Our teachers have to complete the assessments on all their children by the end of the month and with a holiday a few workdays, time is of the essence.  I told my third grade team to sign up for me to come in and teach so they can focus on mClass.  This will also help them if they have any questions or concerns I'm right there in the room with them.  



So today one of my new teachers signed up for the last hour of the day and I prepared a Main Idea review activity for the class.  I based the lesson off of one of my favorites Main Idea Lessons from last year in 4th grade.  I made a few adjustments to meet the needs of third graders and this particular class.



First, we reviewed what "Main Idea" meant and how we can identify, along with our graphic organizer.  I created the template below, which you can grab for FREE, to use with sticky notes. They were excited to use the colored sticky notes for this activity!




I then created teams of four students and had them read the informational text together. I didn't assign "parts" yet because I wanted them to focus on the whole passage first.  I then provided each student with a specific colored sticky note.  Each color was assigned to a specific section of the text.
Our map had space for three key details, but our text had four sections so we used four different sticky notes.  I wanted to ensure ALL students were responsible for one component of the team assignment.



Students then reread their assigned section and wrote down the key detail/main idea on their colored sticky note.  I encouraged students to help their teammates who were "stuck" on finding their key detail/main idea.



Once teams had placed their "Key Details" to their graphic organizer (the blue and green had to share a box) I provided them a larger sticky note to write down the main idea of the entire text.


Once all teams were finished we went over their main ideas.  This was great because two teams wrote "Blizzards and Snow" and two teams wrote "Blizzards and Snow can be dangerous".  We discussed/reviewed the difference between a topic (blizzard and snow) and the main idea (blizzards and snow can be dangerous).



Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Jumpstart January


Have you enjoyed your Christmas break?  I know I have!  I'm also sure you are in need of some great resources to use when you go back :)  The ladies of the Lesson Deli and I have put together a Jumpstart January Blog Hop to help you create your plans for the next few weeks and a chance to win a $50 Target Gift card!

One of my favorite stories to use this time of year is Snowflake Bentley.  This is a great text to use for informational text, biography, timelines, sequencing, character traits, and science!  I love a text that touches on a variety of skills!

My freebie for you is a mini Snowflake Bentley unit!


This unit includes 4 comprehension questions (that require Higher Order Thinking) for Fan-N-Pick or Team Showdown, Character Trait Map, and an Informational Text Feature template for student writing.


Some of my favorite ways to use task cards are by using the following structures.  With these structures you only need a few task cards instead of a whole class set.

Fan-N-Pick/Showdown
1. Provide each team (4-6 students) with a set of cards.
2. Each team member should be assigned a number (1-4).
3. #1 Fans the cards
4. #2 picks a card
5. #3 reads the card aloud to the team
6. EVERYONE writes their answer on a sheet of paper or student white board
7. #4 shares his/her answer first and then students continue to share their answers in order.
8. Rotate the deck of task cards to #2 and repeat the steps. Each student will have a different job this round.
9. Continue the steps until all cards have been answered.

I combine two of Kagan's Cooperative Learning Structures to ensure ALL students are actively engaged and participating in the team discussion.



When students identify the character traits of Wilson Bentley they are also required to support their thinking with evidence from the text.  I have also created a text feature template for students to write their own summary or informational text piece on W. Bentley or snow using a variety of text features.

Along with the other members of The Lesson Deli I am putting a few of my products on sale for $1!  This is a great time to stock up on some great deals using those TpT gift certificates you received for Christmas!

Math: Fractions with Recipes
Fractions with Recipes 4.NF.4

Science: Nutrition Close Reading Passages
Nutrition Close Reading Passages & Corresponding Activities
Social Studies: The Scarlet Stocking Spy

The Scarlet Stockings Spy {Unit ONLY}


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Base Ten Blocks for Upper Grades...Use Them!


There is an epidemic in our upper elementary math classes...teachers are not using manipulatives!  Many teachers are still stuck to the belief that our children MUST memorize their facts and no longer use hands-on experiences in math.  Our students in the upper grades are still children and enjoy learning through manipulatives, play, and interaction with others.

A few weeks ago my 5th grade teachers said they were in need of fraction bars, so I went on a hunt throughout the school to track some down for them.  I was amazed and disappointed by the amount of dust on the teachers tubs of manipulatives!  I'm sure this is happening in classrooms across the country.

I can assume that manipulatives aren't being used because 1) it takes time to pull them out 2) the students will play and not pay attention 3) teachers don't see the importance of using them in the upper grades and 4) teachers aren't comfortable using the manipulatives.  There are solutions to all of these 1) prepare ahead of time 2) set expectations for your students use of the tools 3) understand that children learn by doing and 4) practice with the manipulatives yourself.

Using manipulatives at the beginning of a new concept or skill is vital to many students.  They need to experiment with the tools and tasks, along with conceptually see how to perform the algorithm or skill.  I still see students in the upper grades struggle with regrouping because they are still in the conceptual learning of the skill and not the abstract, and many upper grades quickly move to the abstract. 

Every year I taught 4th grade I always had a handful of students who still struggled with regrouping in addition and/or subtraction. This year I was helping out in a 4th grade classroom and saw the same struggle, a handful of students who were still in the conceptual aspect of regrouping.


I created a small set of task cards for these students, and those in your classroom too, for them to practice and hopefully move over to the abstract level of thinking with this skill.  There are eight addition and eight subtraction task cards. Each card has an equation represented by base ten blocks.  I also created a record sheet where they read and write the equation in the box and a record sheet where the equation is already written for them.  This is so you can use a record sheet that best meets the needs of your students.


I recommend laminating the task cards or placing them in a small photo album (see above) for students to actually write and manipulate the equation.  Ideally students would set up the problem with actual base ten blocks. :)


These task cards are great for intervention and for students who are in the RtI process for math.

Monday, December 22, 2014

What is an Instructional Coach?

It's been awhile since I have blogged...I think this is the longest blogging break I have ever taken, yikes!  This is my first year as an Instructional Coach and I am still adjusting to the new job, new district, new school, and new responsibilities.  Over the first half of the school year I have learned that the role of an Instructional Coach (IC) is different across the country, districts, and even schools.  

If you google "what is an instructional coach?" you will find that there is no set job description or role, it truly is different for each school.  It all depends on the vision of the district and the Principal to determine your role as an IC.  I wanted to share with you a glimpse of my role as an IC.  



First, I am never in my office.  It's hard to track me down because my schedule is always busy.  I am responsible for providing PLCs every Tuesday, assist with the RTI process, ensure our state Read to Achieve initiative is being implemented, conduct classroom walk throughs, ensure our district's new curriculum and Lesson Plan is being implemented, and many many more things!


At the beginning of the year I was given all of these technology tools!  The Chrome book is for all communication, our district is moving towards Google drive for EVERYTHING!.  The Dell mini is so I can print.  Our technology peeps are not allowed to install a printer on our Chrome books because of the move to straight digital, but lets be real I need to print some things!  Finally, the iPad is again for our all digital movement and makes doing walk throughs easier than carrying the Chrome book everywhere.  We also use mClass state assessments and the iPad is a must have for those.  Even with all of these I still bring my personal computer to school because I like it better...I LOVE my MAC!


It was my responsibility to decorate our PLC room, this was a fun project for me.  Our district didn't do so well on last year's assessments and we have been drilled on these numbers since the fall.  So, in order to keep them the focus of our instruction and remember that we need to make some improvements  this is the front BB in our PLC room.  Our Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction loved this board when she came to visit. She didn't love the numbers, but loved it was part of our focus.


This year our district adopted the Learning-Focused Lesson Plan.  It's a format that ensures that all best practices are included in your lesson plan.  Right now our teachers are only required to use it for their Math lessons.


Every Tuesday I provide PLC for my teachers (we are a 3-5 school).  PLC's focus on our new ELA Curriculum, Learning-Focused plans, planning, Math strategies, etc.


We are using Pam Allyn's Core Ready materials for ELA this year.  This is an AMAZING curriculum!  It's not a basal, but Common Core aligned lesson plans that use literature!  I love it because it teaches students about reading and writing with BOOKS, not a basal!  To help my teachers I have started creating Smart Board plans for them to use.  The lessons are step by step and I create the slides for them to use with each of the lessons.  Part of being a coach my goal is to help take some of the stress and work load off of my teachers, so I try to help out as much as I can.


One important part of my role as an IC is to go into classrooms and do model lessons.  This is also one of my favorite parts of my job!  I will model a lesson if a teacher asks for help, or if he/she is struggling with teaching a skill, classroom management, or just wants to see some new strategies.


Each week I send out a newsletter with information related to the topic we discussed in PLC.  I also include important dates, links to TpT freebies, a reflection quote or question, and other important information.  I know that not all my teachers read the newsletter.  I will say the biggest challenge of being an instructional coach are those teachers who are not open to new ideas or who are not reflective in their practices.  I have learned to not focus on those who are not open to the help, but rather invest my time in those who are reflective and want to improve their best practices and teaching methods.


My goal this year is for more of my teachers to use Collaborative Pairs (from Learning-Focused) and/or Cooperative Learning Structures.  I am always reminding them the importance of using them in their instruction and model CP in my lessons and PLCs.  


As an IC you can quickly pick up on the school's climate. You know when everyone is happy and loving their job and you know when everyone is unhappy and hating their job because ONE more thing as been asked of them.  When the ONE MORE THING has hit I try to leave my teachers with a little morale booster.  I also hold off on telling them about another thing the district or state wants them to do. 

I honestly LOVE being an IC!  It has been the best decision I have made in regards to my teaching career.  I love helping other teachers plan and create lessons to meet the needs of their students.  Even in this role my number one priority is our students.  If it's not in the best interest of our students I will speak up, my teachers discovered this very early on when we had an LLI "issue" at the beginning of the year.  I will also stand up for my teachers, for example my 3rd grade team has a LOT on their plate with local and state ELA assessments.  I have not yet told them about ONE more thing the district wants them to do.  I knew if I told them before break many would not come back after break :)  So, I will share it with them after break and answer to who I need to answer to. :)

Does your school have an Instructional Coach, Literacy Coach, or Math Coach?  What are their roles?


Tuesday, November 25, 2014

A Christmas FREEBIE & Do You Need Some TpT Cash?

I haven't blogged in awhile, because I am simply swamped with life!  Why is it this time of year is always so hectic!?!  To make up for my recent slacking I have a FREEBIE for you and an AMAZING Giveaway!

Have you started planning your Christmas activities, stories your going to read, and or crafts you plan to make with your kids?  To help you tie in curriculum to your favorite Christmas themed text I have created a NEW FREEBIE for you!

These flipbooks can be used for ANY TEXT and are perfect for students to practice skills already taught or to help you teach new skills.


Skills covered: 
Questions While Reading
Main Idea
Character Traits
Sequencing
Cause and Effect
Story Structure
Plot
Theme
Making Inferences



Are you a Black Friday Shopper or a Cyber Monday Shopper?  I am BOTH, I can't pass up a good deal!  Wouldn't you LOVE some TpT cash for these days? :)


We are so excited for the holiday season that we couldn't help but spread some love! Lots of your favorite TPT Teacher-Authors and I have teamed up to give YOU some TPT spending money. We love you and appreciate you (and we wish we could give all of our fabulous followers some money)!

Enter the Rafflecopter below by simply following our TPT stores, and you will have a chance to win one of five $25 TPT gift cards! Good luck!
I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

3rd, 4th, & 5th Curriculum...DEAL ALERT!


So some teacher friends and I have teamed up to load you up with resources to make teaching a bit easier!  



 $114.15 retail value available for a limited time for $29.99 which is 74% off!  Extreme value alert!

To grab this SWEET Deal click on the image above or HERE.

In this bundle you will find my Spiral Math Review for 4th grade, Spot On Research Report, and What's the Big Idea? (for teaching theme).

With 27 instant downloads and 739 pages of materials including centers, printables, units of study, flippables, book studies, centers, and much, much more.

Academic Concepts Covered
·      Parts of speech
·      Spelling
·      Sight words
·      Word work
·      Comprehension
·      Types of sentences
·      Reading strategies
·      Authors purpose
·      Character analysis
·      Book studies
·      Adding and subtracting fractions
·      Finding common denominators
·      Multiplication and division
·      Multistep word problems
·      Regrouping
·      Research
·      Writing Process
·      Time
·      Geometry & measurement

Check out the previews below...    






























 
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