5th Grade Summer Reading List

To get families started with ideas for summer reads, I created the following list.  This week I will send an attachment home, plus invite parents to email me if they would like a more personalized list based on reading level or interests.  I’ve found that interest often trumps reading level, but neither do I want frustration to get in the way of pleasurable reading.  Also, summer time is perfect for a family read aloud.

To put out all of the fireworks my students will end the year with a Book Tasting and a Wish List to leave them wanting to pull out a book during lazy days.  Bon Appetit!


ILA Conference Bound and Stronger Confidence

Moving, working in a new district, and returning to a previous grade level, this past 9 months have been too busy for blogging. I’ve enjoyed my year. As I look back, I consider areas of growth and new goals (later post). My greatest improvement is confidence in my purpose in teaching. Having stayed home while my children were young, I struggled with great guilt of the time teaching pulls away from family. We’ve all felt this at some point, but I had this lingering seed questioning if the toll was too much. There was no crashing epiphany. My students simply chipped away the doubt with every comment that I “made” them enjoy reading, a smile expressing pride in reaching a new milestone, or unspoken request for a needed hug. My family also reassured me along the way. I’ve come to terms that I am a teacher and a mom and I embrace both sides with a confidence that I am where I am meant to be.

Okay, that was my Mother’s Day reflection, now for the exciting news. Every year I treat myself to a teacher conference out of town, stay a night or two, and geek out over my new experiences. This year I am going big – the International Literacy Convention in Austin for 4 days. I registered early so when I signed up for Institute Day, I chose a topic without knowing who would serve as the workshop leaders. Creating Engaged and Attentive Readers and Writers: Texts and Tools That Change How Kids Read and Write is the title that hooked me into one of the added days. That’s a mouthful. Forward a couple of months when I decided to return to the site during idle moments of internet site jumping. Family members could hear shouts of glee from other rooms as I learned that Donalyn Miller, Stephanie Harvey, and Laurie Halse Anderson would be some of the speakers. It helped that surprises and Scholastic were mentioned as well. If you are not familiar with Ms. Anderson’s work, I recommend her book Fever 1793 – a favorite historical fiction of mine. She’s also written Seeds of America trilogy with a slightly more mature tone. On Literature Day, I will learn from a panel of 3 well known authors, then meet an additional 7 with books to take home. I chose the middle grades, ages 8 – 12. Some of the authors I’ll meet: Blue Baillet, Megan McDonald, and Jonathan Stokes. I was more familiar with the Early Readers group so I wanted to stretch myself.

Hurricane Harvey and What it Means in the Classroom

Children are natural reporters; one of my daughters could hear a drop in tone from another room, stealthily positioning herself to soak up the concerns and interests of nearby adults. This is most children. So it should be no surprise to parents and teachers that our children have an interest in the results left behind by Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma. How can we address this in the classroom? With age appropriate truth, compassion, and action. My favorite means is through the use of mentor books that share effects, yet also share the spirit of caring neighbors.

For younger elementary students, I recommend Marvelous Cornelius: Hurricane Katrina and the Spirit of New Orleans. This tale demonstrates one street sweeper’s spirit of community and strong work ethic to restore his hometown.

For older students, facts of how hurricanes work can be shared, alleviating fear through scientific knowledge.

Action can be as simple as sharing well wishes or thoughts on a classroom board, letters of encouragement, or a book from home to be sent to children affected by the storms.

My heart goes out to those affected by these natural disasters, as well as the fires on the west coast. Nature is to be respected for its beauty, as well as its strength, traits mirrored in the everyday citizens helping in the aftermath.

Making Thinking Visible Compass Points

Today I began studying chapter 5 in Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchhart. Before beginning a new chapter in nonfiction, I usually review the past chapter – old habit ingrained in middle school. When considering the tool of Compass Points where a student reflects on a recent lesson using Excitements, Worries/Concerns, Needs, and Stance/Steps, I realized a connection to how I approach reading intervention/groups. First I start with a compliment, followed by an observation, then an area of improvement, concluded with a strategy.

The past two years I’ve successfully used Jennifer Seravallo’s Reading Strategies book. It’s my favorite reading resource book. I take her anchor chart images, simplify them, and draw a suggested strategy on an index card in sharpie. Depending on the student’s ability to write clearly, either the student or I write the strategy at the top of the image. Students keep these index cards on a shower ring which we review every time we meet. The cards go home in their book bag so parents can see what strategies are being practiced with the vocabulary being used in the classroom. Students’ success rates have exploded using this resource.

So how does this connect to Compass Points?
For documentation, I usually write tiny notes on a classroom grid, but I haven’t really recorded my compliments. I created a Compass Points organizer to display in writing, with the student, the process used in conferences. This will stay in my data binder under individual sections, but the student and I will review and reflect as needed. The student will continue to use the index cards as a personal tool. Imagine with time how a student can use this Compass Point as a self-reflection, first with the teacher, then independently because they’ve seen and discussed the model throughout the year! Also, because Compass Points in used in reading, students will better grasp how to use this tool in other content areas (of course, with modeling :)).

Seriously, I just love teaching. I’m doing all of this for fun right now as I hope/work towards a new job. It’s out there and I am ready!

The organizer? I won’t leave you hanging. The first page is a more elaborate template as I teach/model using Compass Points for reading. The second page is a condensed version to save paper once the student understands each step. I will explain that we are going from east to west, which seems counter-intuitive in reading (right to left), just like the sun rises in the east and sets in the west, then we cover our strategies from top to bottom (north to south) as we understand what we need so we can apply an appropriate strategy.

Youtube Playlists

I have inserted links to 3 new youtube playlists I’ve created for the classroom in my Transition Music Page. For the positive songs, I usually don’t display the video so that students can focus on their morning or work activity. All you have to do is click on the tab labeled “Transition Music” at the top of the post. For convenience, they are here as well. In my past district, the use of youtube was allowed. Of course, I will follow the guidelines of my new district. Brent Vasicek was an inspiration to some of the happy songs chosen.

Transition Videos

Brainbreak Videos

Happy, Positive Music

I hope you enjoy the lists. I reviewed every video, but if I’ve missed something that could be considered inappropriate, please let me know. Also, if you have suggestions of videos to add to the playlists, I’m happy to listen.

“Music is a piece of art that goes in the ears straight to the heart.” ~ author unknown

Prepping for a New Year

Not having a classroom hasn’t stopped me for prepping for a new school year.  I’ve completely organized my TPT purchases into a categorized PowerPoint thanks to a template by Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd.  Have you ever gone to plan, then realized later there was a file you had downloaded from TPT that would have been perfect, but it was lost in an abyss of resources?  I filled 92 pages – well including the category pages, but, wow, that is a lot.  I’ve also created a class set of Writing Resource folders, including a 7 page picture dictionary to aid students struggling with reading or new ESL learners.  This will supplement my word wall, color coded by subject, that will need to be revamped with a new job.  I’m up for the challenge – eager really.  This year I will focus on technology.  Though I use technology routinely such as Padlet, PeppleGo, Epic, NewELA, xtramath, etcetera, I’d like to utilize SeeSaw and Google products more extensively.  To this end, I’ve been doing some exploring through different educational web pages.  I’ve re-created my Parent Contact Information, which I used last year.  This is an incredible idea I found on Pinterest; no more illegible email addresses or phone numbers and it’s all congregated into one Excel style page.  I’ve also created a Google Form for reading assessments in case I teach Language Arts.  Again, it will be all documented for me in individual student folders for better individualized instruction.  Right now, I’m creating my own Symbaloo of recommended websites for parents to provide a fuller list.  Typically, I have a handful of links on my webpage and the grade level webpage.  Other than that, I’m working on small items: making sure my newsletter is ready minus the year expectations, placing Meet the Teacher items in a bucket, and preparing a new teacher planner.  It’s late in the summer, but the area here is growing rapidly so one can still hope for new classes to be needed.  I’m ready to share my passion for learning with a new group of students.  Regardless of the outcome, may all educators and staff have a fabulous 2017 – 2018 school year!

Here’s a link to my Google Form for a Reading Assessment.

My symbaloo is in the early stages, but here are two pictures from my TPT PowerPoint Organizer:


Latest Technology Finds

This week I came across two teacher tech tools to use in the classroom.

First of all, I joined The 40 Hour Workweek Club earlier this month; it’s a year long cohort to learn more efficient teaching strategies.  No, I’m not hoping to reduce my hours to 40 hours per week, but I thought it would be helpful to learn more organization tips.  It seems that much of what we learn as teachers is through trial and error.  When I can use professional development to avoid pitfalls and improve my teaching in a collaborative manner, then I’m all in.  In the Club, we are beginning with planning and time management as a means to organize before school begins.  Angela Watson shares great resources to help with this.  What I wanted to find for time management was a paperless structure that I could easily access.  I tried Google Keep, then Google Sheets, then stumbled upon Trello, a software and app to manage tasks.  Guys, I can create task lists for home, school, lesson planning, project based learning, etcetera AND choose participants to join so it’s collaborative in real time.  Yes!  As far as the Workweek Club is concerned, I am receiving great value out of this program already.  The number of resources we are given is outstanding, plus the shared information comes in different formats so you can choose what works best for you.

Then proof that Facebook can sometimes be a valid use of time, I discovered classroomscreen.com.  I already use dailyalarms.com to manage our multiple reminders for transitions, but I can see using the timer for a quick write, partner discussion, or other use.  I usually use Online-Stopwatch.  However, I prefer that this screen has multiple tools incorporated into one page.  The traffic light could be used as a reminder during BAS assessments or one to one conferences as a visual for when it is appropriate to approach the teacher or not. It could be a gentle reminder for volume control, but I saw another app called Too Noisy that has incentives for volume control that I’m interested in if I have access to Ipads.  Another tool on the screen are the work symbols for volume expectations.  This might be a great visual at the front of the class if the screen is not being used for the lesson/activity.  There are other gadgets on the screen, but I’ve discussed the ones of personal interest.  Overall, I wanted to document this website so I can try it out this coming year.  Hopefully, it will evolve.

I love technology when it’s relevant and makes work easier.  If there is a more effective alternative, then I think we should teach the students to evaluate when and how to use technology.  We’re still in the infant stages of using technology in the classroom so we want to be careful to not use “a square peg in a round hole,” but use the right tool for the right job.

*I want to add this website: http://www.visnos.com/demos/clock because it’s an excellent interactive clock.  You can turn off the time, then check your answer.  I found it earlier this summer.

Making Thinking Visible Chapter 4

I love getting into the nitty gritty or meat of a book.  Now I can explore new routines to use to prompt further thinking and use for assessment!  In chapter 4, you are introduced to 7 new routines.  At our last school, we were already using See, Think, Wonder in response to a visual in math and science as a tool to understand where students are in their understanding or to prompt discussion.  Also, Think, Puzzle, Explore just sounds like an alternative to a KWHL chart.  Zoom In is similar to See, Think, Wonder but focuses on a small piece of an image, then yielding to a larger view.  I think this would be handy as a lesson to show students the value of close reading and reviewing material.  It also gives a different perspective to how you see something.  Chalk Talk is similar to how we opened up new units in our International Baccalaureate program: Ideas?  Connections?  Questions?  These were all valid tools, yet I didn’t feel like it was anything truly new from what I’ve been practicing.

So let’s get to the 3 which I found the most interesting:

3-2-1 Bridge

Here is a quick method to stimulate background knowledge, promote thought, then assess connections/growth.  The idea is that a student provides 3 words, 2 questions, and 1 metaphor/simile in response to a topic, then repeats the same activity after learning more about the concept.  If time, I might would ask students to write a brief explanation and draw a diagram to show their thinking.  At a minimum, I would ask for because to be added to each of the 3 words to deepen the activity and provide a better understanding of what each student is thinking.  Otherwise, you’re just playing word association – I can do this without really knowing what I’m saying.  Because is such a powerful word in education.  I’m always about students writing down their thoughts to practice explaining ideas.  If you’ve ever taught, then you know a student saying the sky is blue because of the angle of the light coming through the atmosphere sounds like he/she has some understanding.  However, when you ask for an explanation you might get something quirky such as, “because the aliens from other planets are shooting rays of light from different places, which planet is shooting rays decides which shades of blue you see or if it’s red,” which means Suzy actually doesn’t understand at all and has access to alien movies at home.  Ah, small moments such as these bring joy to teaching, almost as well as that aha moment by little Suzy.  I’d like to play with this routine several times to see what types of assessment I can gain.

Compass Points

In second grade, we teach interpreting information on a map including orientation and legends.  How fun to tie in the compass points with a method of sharing our ideas.  In this routine, E = Excitement/advantages W = worries/concerns/problems (which leads to action needed), N = needs, and S = stance/opinion.  I see this as a different structure for a concept wheel.  I can imagine using this when researching landforms, considering how people settle according to their environment or considering the concept of saving money.  I think I will tie in the Carousel Kagan structure with this routine for a unit allowing for movement with activation, the revisit the same activity for assessment.

The Explanation Game

This routine allows for a student to look closely at one piece of a larger concept and consider its function or role.  The steps are Name it, Explain it, Give reasons, and give alternate reasons/possibilities.  I like that it is asking for reasons, then asks a student to delve more deeply into possible alternatives.  I will need to really work on modeling this to promote thought beyond the superficial, but it allows for a natural differentiation with infinite growth.  This is an excellent match with open ended projects in science and social studies.  In a way, I think Number Talks provide this type of thinking in math naturally.  Students are describing their observations/steps, explaining them, then discussing alternative perspectives.  I’d like to try this with the program SeeSaw, allowing students to record their thoughts individually or in pairs, then discuss as a class.

Overall, I’m always looking for engaging ways to get my students thinking about their learning and better understand what they know.  I’m excited to implement these ideas in my next job.  I can’t wait to be back into the classroom to try these ideas.

Get Your Teach On – Dallas Day 2 Review

Day 2 was all about Writing, More Games, Technology, Back to School, and Top Tips.  It was just as jam packed with new information as Day 1; I believe I enjoyed it even more, excited to try new ideas, excited to get back to school.  This is something because I love summer time with family and friends.  To be honest, something most teachers understand, school breaks and summer are practically the only time I get to visit with friends.  Luckily I have some golden ones.

However, back to GYTO.  I will give a general review because it would be unfair to give away someone else’s material.  This is to spark interest or remind myself of specific action points.

Writing is an area in which I feel confident.  Yet I feel I will be a stronger teacher this year due to the ideas presented by Hope King.  She has a way of breaking information down for students that stays relevant, yet gives easy clarity for the students.  I kept thinking, “Ooh, I like that one.  Let me add it on my “Try It Out” list.  The index is long enough that I’ve decided to use a Table of Contents this year for Professional Development ideas.  It’s not even August.  I’m even going to follow the suggestion to move out of my comfort zone by trying a couple of content songs taught by the King team, one being about the writing process.  Poor children :).  For writing, Hope uses a hamburger paragraph with on point explanations that are fun for the students.  There were also new ways to learn grammar.

For technology, I plan to look further into tes teach, formerly blendspace,  to congregate links for students and parents under concept categories.  It was a little awkward to be presented with blendspace, then find out the name/format of the website were all changed 10 months before the conference.  There were 4 ideas in this session that look interesting.  Some I already use, but again, the session was worth my time.  For a two day conference, there were no sessions where I didn’t come away with several new ideas.   For games, again, I received new ideas.  One used the human hippos you may have seen on Pinterest, but in an educational fashion.

Amy Lemons presented more math games and fresh back to school ideas.  For math, I really like using the Origo Fundamentals books so this part of the day was probably the least exciting, but only because I feel I have a really strong set of games.  I already own the orange and purple books, and I will buy the green book this year, dependent upon the job I receive.  However, there were still games I can use.  For Back to School, I was excited to see something beyond the same quilt, t-shirt, or books for the beginning of the year.  The games were highly engaging.

Lastly, were the Top 10 Tips for Teachers.  Think of this as the motivational session.  I left feeling as if I had a new perspective on Engagement, new strategies, and new lesson ideas.  Five out of five stars for a comprehensive professional development – definitely worth the money.  Check them out to see if they are presenting on your grade level in an area near you (two at my table were from out of state) Get Your Teach On.  I receive nothing for my review; I’m just a teacher who loves to teach and share.