Sunday, June 23, 2013

An Apple A Day - Whole Group Instruction

I'm here with another link up to The Applicious Teacher's An Apple A Day Linky.  This week's topic: Whole Group Instruction.

This past year (and continuing on into next year) my goal is to consistently make whole class lessons short - no more than 15 minutes.  This is really challenging for me for two reasons: (1) I usually have a lot of ideas (from the curriculum, from my teammates, and from myself) that I want to include, and (2) I want to make sure that they really get it (otherwise 25 hands go up the second they start working - something I'm going to work on with my class next year).

But here are some things that work really well for me:

  1. Pair-Sharing - I try to have students talk with a partner every couple of minutes.  My desks are in groups of four, which gives us three easy pairings - elbow partners, face partners, and back partners (the kiddos on the ends have to get up for this one and go across the classroom).  Having three different pairing options keeps them engaged with pair-sharing.
  2. Notes - Taking notes makes them know that they need to be doing something during the lesson and gives them a reference for later.  Bonus:  I can easily look out over the classroom and see who is paying attention.
  3. Get Up Activities - At some point during each whole class lesson,  I try to do something that gets the kiddos out of their seats.  My two go-tos are: "Stand Up, Hand Up, Pair Up" for a pair share or "Corners" (I ask a question with four possible answers and designate each corner as an answer.  Students go to the corner they think is the correct answer).

What are you tips and tricks for whole group instruction?  Link up with Leigh at The Applicious Teacher and share!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Five For Friday

I am linking up up with DoodleBugs for Five for Friday for the first time.

This week, my five might be relatively boring and not education related - after all, it is the first week of summer, so RELAX has certainly been the theme!


We put a deposit down on our wedding venue!  (Unfortunately, the contract is not quite signed, so I am not allowed to "advertise" that we are getting married there, so I can't even post a pic for you)
Okay, maybe I'll post a rather non-descript pic.
(Photo by Terry Way Photography, found via google search)


I printed (most) of my binder covers and put them in the binders.


I started working out after about two months off.  My body is SO SORE!  But, oh, does it feel good!
Plus weights and swimming


I cleaned my apartment.  Does your house/apartment get crazy messy at the end of the year?  With all the crazy to-do lists and cleaning the classroom, straightening my apartment was the last thing on my mind.  It feels so much better to have a clean apartment! 


I started watching Gossip Girl on Netflix.  I put it on mostly thinking "let's see how bad this is" (with a hint of curiosity) ... and even though it is a very ridiculous show, I'm a bit hooked!  Perfect, mindless, summer fun.

What have you been up to?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Throwback Thursday - Writing "Shots"

The First Grade Parade is hosting a throwback linky!  Now, I have to admit that I almost decided not to participate since I've only had this little blog for a year and was MIA from it for half of that year.  BUT I decided to choose a post from when I only had a couple of followers, so even though it isn't that old, it will be new to most of you!

From September 2012:

Right now, we are working on narratives.  Our first district assessment, which is mid-October, is fictional narratives, but we start with personal narratives and then move into fiction because it's easier for kiddos to put details in about something that has really happened.

Last week and the beginning of this week, we worked on SnapshotsTalkshots, and Thoughtshots.

For each one, my lesson went the same way:

1.  Read a published example from books most students know (Harry Potter and Rick Riordan books to the rescue!).  

2. Have a class discussion about how they felt as readers (they make you feel in the story) and what kind of information they got from the excerpt. 

3. Take notes.  I do my notes under the document camera, and they copy.  We have a special section in our writing notebooks for notes.

4.  I model from the story I'm working on with them.  I pick out a scene from my Backwards S (our picture mapping) and then do think-aloud writing on the document camera.  I make sure to talk a lot about how I don't remember every exact detail, but I make up reasonable details.  They just watch and listen. Some try to give me ideas.

5.  I tell the students that when they get back from lunch, they will do what I just did from one of their own Backwards Ss. I remind them they need to come in silently.  

6. We have lunch.  I write a reminder of instructions on the board.

7. They come back from lunch, and 99% of them silently get to work.  It is far and beyond the best transition time of my day!

8. When writing time is almost over or I see them getting antsy, they share their work with someone.  We do elbow partners, face partners, stand up - hand up - pair up, and back partners on different days to mix it up.

9. The next day, we start writing by reviewing the most important things about a Snapshot/Talkshot/Thoughtshot to make our mini-poster for our writing wall.  I laminated these before hand and used whiteboard makers, so I'll just be able to erase and use them next year!

We're starting to get good at writing for longer and longer!  Half an hour is my goal for them!

I'm hoping we get through our full personal narrative unit in the next two weeks.  I think for fictional narratives this year, we'll write spooky stories to read on Halloween! (June update:  We ended up doing monster stories and they were not ready anywhere near Halloween, but the kiddos loved writing them and most turned out spectacularly!)

How do you teach writing?  Do you have a curriculum?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

An Apple A Day - Behavior Management

Back in September, I posted about my behavior management plans for this year.  The Applicious Teacher's linky is giving me the perfect opportunity to look back on how those systems worked!

The Clip Chart

Unfortunately, I never took another picture of the clip chart later in the year.  It was so colorful as the year progressed.  Students were so excited each time they got a new clip!  Some were on their third glitter clip by the end, and all but one student got a new clip at least once during the year.  (That student with from the clip down/clip up anecdote from my previous post got his black clip during the last week of school.  He was beaming with pride).  I will most certainly be using my chart again next year.

However, there were two problems:

  1. Numbers - their numbers were taped on (so they could easily be switched to a new clip).  After the first couple of months, about half of the clips didn't have a number because they fell off.
  2. Clips - I made 32 black clips, 32 purple clips, 32 blue clips, 16 green clips, and 16 red clips before school started.  This hardly lasted me the first trimester.  After that, I never did another huge batch of clips.  I'm sad to say that some students had to wait a week before I got their new clip ready.  It was stressful for me and not really fair for them!

So, this summer ...

I am going to make 34 (to be prepared for new students - that was another wrench in the plan) of ALL of the colors.  I am going to glue numbers 1-32 (and just have two extra of each) on to them.  I know not every student will use all of the clips, but that will just mean I have a head start for the next year, right?


Having clips and raffle were just too much.  I had a hard time being consistent with both.  Next year, I think I will still do a math raffle (since I can't use clips then) and will probably still do a raffle from unused bathroom passes at the end of each month.  Not too long after my last post, the allure of the raffle diminished and it wasn't a good Afternoon Routine motivator (I have another idea for that - it will probably be a Monday Made It sometime this summer).

Class Chain

I never started it!  I think I will try doing something whole class next year, though.  My kiddos were jealous when other fourth graders got their marble/button jar parties!

What's your behavior management?  How do you balance the different aspects of it?

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Tried It Tuesday - NEON Binders

As I stalked read blogs last summer, I saw many ideas for organizational binders for students, including many cute acronyms.  I posted some thoughts about it last summer here.  And then, I TRIED IT!  (however, as you clearly know from my lack of posts over the past months, I was a bad blogger this year.  I don't have pictures of my kiddos' binders.  I hope you'll forgive me!)

(and am therefore linking up with Fourth Grade Flipper's Tried It Tuesday)

I decided on N.E.O.N as my acronym (as my classroom color scheme is black with neon colors).  It stands for Navigating Everyday with Organization and Neatness.  I got this particular acronym from Ginger at Ginger Snaps, though my binder was very different.  One major difference is that these binders never left the classroom.

Here's the cover, which each student colored.  32 identical binders?  They definitely needed names and a bit of personality! Most of them were into the neon idea and used highlighters.  They turned out cute! (Bad Blogger, Bad Blogger)
Click the picture to go to the Google Doc.

Inside, we put three folders, all labeled (with cute labels that I cannot seem to find an electronic copy of right now).  
  • Each student had a red folder.  One side was labeled "Ready to Turn In" (see my post linked above for why) and the other said "Miscellaneous."  (New vocab word for some students on the very first day of school!)
  • Each student had a blue folder for Language Arts.
  • Each student had a black or yellow (their choice - because I couldn't find enough black ones) for social studies and science. (I alternate teaching these two, so students never need both)

What students kept in them:

  • Front Pocket of Binder: Bathroom Pass, Daily Behavior Log
  • Red Folder: Work ready to be turned in and work that didn't "fit" anywhere else
  • Blue Folder: Any work in progress for Language Arts, especially Writing Workshop and Reading Workshop papers
  • Black/Yellow Folder: Any work in progress for Social Studies or Science
  • Back Pocket of Binder:  Any work that involved construction paper (you know how it's too big to fit in folders?  Well, it fits here!)

What I liked:

  • Students' desks were more organized than last year, when they just had folders in their desk.
  • Many kiddos felt like they were organizational super stars.  They bragged to other classes about them.

Needs to Be Improved:

  • Wow, did some kiddos accumulate work/papers in there!  I tried having a whole class clean out every other week, but the kiddos who needed it the most didn't really pay attention.
  • Some kiddos (those same ones) jammed paper in, so it wasn't organized, papers were crinkled, and it was just a MESS!
  • The holes on almost every students' folders ripped during the year.  Major pain to deal with. (Cute story side note:  I had a about six students who at the beginning of the year were an academic mess - no organization, no effort, nada.  I worked with them and their parents very closely to get them on track.  All but one made huge progress.  When students were cleaning out their desks at the end of the year, I commented to one of the successful ones that I was amazed at the great condition of his NEON binder.  His response:  "Well, you know how at the beginning of the year ... well, I wasn't as good at being a good student and I never used my binder.  So really, it's only half a year used."  It made me smile to be reminded of how far he had come and that he knew it!)

The Verdict:

Better than the folders from the year before, but not everything I'm looking for.

Will I Do It Again?

Not the same way.  My teammates and I have already talked about having school-to-home binders this year, so NEON binders may still exist in my room, but their purpose will be different.  I blog about it more once the idea is more settled in our minds.

What have you tried?  Go link up with Fourth Grade Flipper and share!

Monday, June 17, 2013

My First Monday Made-It of Summer 2013

Today marks the start of my productive summer.  I've spent most of the time over the past three days watching movies (we went to see Man of Steel - I was SO bored for the second half of the movie), TV shows on Netflix (I'm a bit late to The Office), playing video games, reading blogs, and just generally being a bump on a log.

Well, no more!

Today starts my summer of:

  • wedding planning
  • exercising
  • eating healthy
  • working on school projects
  • finally finishing setting up my apartment (almost two years into living here)

I did get started on the first of my Summer-To-Do-List for school - ORGANIZING MASTER COPIES.  That means I have something to link up to Tara's Monday Made-It!!!

The first step in making organization that you'll actually use is making something cute (or at least decently nice looking), right? 

 I have decided to use binders.  I'll go more into my reasons once this project is finished, and I can proudly present the final product.  Therefore, my first step was making covers and spine inserts for my binders.  Now, these aren't the cutest things in the world, but once they are printed on brightly colored paper and lined up in a neat row on my book case, I think they will look plenty pretty enough to make me happy.  I also made a page to put in the front of each binder that lists the standards covered in that binder and some of the bigger, overarching standards (especially those in Common Core).  I am really trying to focus on the standards rather than the curriculum, especially for the coming year with having to use our old curriculum to meet Common Core (plus, my team-mates and I found this year that the activities we come up with to meet the standards are almost always more fun for students than the curriculum's).

Here's the whole document - 71 pages!
Fonts: Oh {Photo} Shoot by Kevin and Amanda, Tekton Pro Bold, Tekton Pro BoldExt.
Border :  From the Pond    

An example social studies binder - the front has the topic and the over -arching standard.
The next page is the full standard and the chapters in our textbook it relates to
(this will be the first thing in the binder) and the last page has Analysis Skills we
are supposed to teach all year long (it will be on the back of the standards page).
Social Studies and Science Binders have California State Standards.

An example for math.  I split these up by Common Core domain.
Down at the bottom of the last page are the 8 Mathematical Practices, just to keep them in my brain!
Math binders have California Common Core (so, Common Core plus CA's additions).

An example for Language Arts.  Again, the last page has the broader Common Core standards.
Language Arts binders have California Common Core

My Language Arts spine inserts.  I decided not to make them full
length because it is so hard to get a full length one in, am I right?!?!?

Would you like to use these?  

Click HERE to go to the PDF in Google Docs.  Click HERE to go to an editable Word Doc in Google Docs, so you can edit (though I'm not sure how well the formatting will transfer - make sure you have the fonts downloaded)!

Happy Monday!  

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Summer Time and the Livin's Easy

Whew!  This has been a hectic seven months.  I can't believe it's been that long since I posted.  I bet most of you thought I was gone for good.

Now that the school year's over, I'm back.

Next year, I'll try blogging the whole year.  Wish me luck.

A quick recap of November - June (with more details likely to come in later posts):

1.  I got engaged!!!!!!  We aren't getting married until next summer, so I haven't started planning yet, but now that school is out, the planning is ON!

(nothing else on this list is going to come close to that level of exciting, at least to me, so hence the font size decrease)

2.  I successfully survived my second year of teaching, with me being the second most experienced with 4th grade on my team (and therefore having to step up to leadership roles) and having one team-member transferred mid-year (followed by a train of subs as they searched for a replacement).

3.  I finished BTSA.

4.  I didn't get a pink slip (hey, big deal for a second year teacher)

5.  I said good bye (making them promise to visit, of course) to an absolutely amazing group of kiddos. I think that this will be one of those groups that stands out as one of my favorites for my entire career. 

Now, for my summer plans ...

This year, I'm trying to keep my school summer to-do list shorter.  Last year, I was so overwhelmed by everything I wanted to do that I did very little of it.  That, and I have a wedding to plan! :)

  • Organize master copies
  • Make "I can" statement posters for all standards (especially Common Core Math and Language Arts, but also Social Studies and Science)
  • Map out Language Arts (I meant to do this last summer.  It's even more important now that we are switching to Common Core this year)
  • Make a Teacher Toolbox (yep, I didn't last summer)
I've seen SO many great ones.  This inspiration is from Mrs. Tina's Tots.
  • Make a Copy, File, Laminate box (my take on the Copy, File, Grade box that's been all over lately)
Again, so many great ones.  This inspiration is from 4th Grade Frolics.
  • Work on Social Studies Units (I completely re-did one social studies unit this school year, and the kids LOVED it.  They cheered for Social Studies time, rather than groaning.  WIN!)
  • Make Behavior Chart colored clips
  • Figure out how I'm going to organize myself next year (lesson plans, grading, student info, meeting notes, etc)

What's on your summer to-do list?  Any advice for any of mine?