Saturday, March 30, 2013

Common Core Connection: Using Nonfiction Series In the Classroom

Need ideas on how to teach nonfiction?  Check out Nonfiction Series at:

When You Reach Me: Book Review and Teaching Ideas

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is the first book that as soon as I finished the last page, I turned back to page one and started reading it all over again.

It's sixth grade and Miranda is discovering life without her best friend, Sal.  He no longer wants to be her friend and she is faced with the challenge of making new friends, navigating past the laughing man on the street corner alone, and discovering why things must change.

I haven't enjoyed reading a book this much in a while.  When You Reach Me is the kid of book that sticks with you, runs through your mind, and makes you think.  I can't wait to use this book to teach.

For more information check out:

Create a year long unit with this book in mind to meet all of the needs of Common Core standards.  Pairing When You Reach Me with A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle and several nonfiction texts on New York City, the seventies, and science will meet the needs of all Literature and Information Text standards.  

Why I Teach?!?

There are times (especially when I get my paycheck) that I question "Why do I teach?"  Why did I choose a job that follows me home, wakes me at night, and has me reviewing the day as I shower, dry my hair, and drive to work.

Each and every time I question my choice, I get to school and find the answer, in the "I Got It!" moments, the smiles, and my coworkers.

A few years ago in the middle of independent reading, I had one of my best moments.  It was the first week of school and I was setting up the procedure of independent reading.  When I do this I have all students reading at the same time (later in the year this changes), and as they are reading, I model by reading as well.  One student was having difficulty staying focused and kept talking to his neighbor.  I had corrected him once and on the second occurrence asked him to return to his seat.

He came up to me with something in his hand and held it out for me to take.  I hesitated, not 100% sure what was being placed in my hand, but curiosity won over and I held my hand out for the "gift."  Into my palm dropped a peppermint.  The student smiled up at me and said, "Keep up the good work teaching, and there's more where that came from."

And that is why I teach.  

Keeping It All Together: A Long Range Planning Guide for ELA Common Core



Using Choice Boards

How do you motivate and meet the needs of all students in assessing Common Core standards?  Choice Boards and Menus are great ways to do both!

Choice Boards and Menus allow for you to design authentic assessments that allow teachers to  differentiate, meet the needs of all learning styles, and motivate students to give their best.

In working on the Choice Boards and Menus below, my students were excited from the moment I handed out the assignments.  The energy in the classroom was amazing.  Once I discussed the choices and allowed them to start, I could see the wheels turning and the results were astounding!

In a world where information literacy is a must, the students showed me that not only had they gained new information, but they were able to USE the information as well.

Tips for Creating Choice Boards and Menus: 
1. Use your top row of choices or your first item on the menu for your easiest options.
2. Check to be sure that each column or menu course has an option for various learning styles.
3. Be creative.  Incorporate current trends into your choices.  (Ex: Write a graphic book, write a song using the tune of a popular song).

Jazz It Up With Fun Borders

Are you looking for borders to use to jazz up your bulletin boards.  Here are a few options I created for my classroom.  You can purchase these at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Close Reading

Need a way to spice up your reading lessons?  Want to get your students engaged in the text they are reading?  Well, check out Close Reading!  This is a fantastic strategy to motivate your readers, and give purpose to their reading.

Close reading will guide your students to using reading strategies that are important in them becoming lifelong readers and learners and in teaching to the Common Core standards! This is a great strategy to use for guided reading groups and for independent work.

A quick peek at how to use:
Guided Reading Group:
Use pages you are currently reading.  If students own copies or have eBooks, then let them write and highlight in the book.  If they are school or library copies, use Post-It notes.  An example for reading Bridge to Teribithia:
1.  Let's read pages  106-107. As you read, I want you to write or highlight words and phrases that you think are important or inspiring.
2.  Share and discuss the words. You can create a chart of these words to document the groups responses.
3. Now let's read the same pages again, but this time let's read these pages and think: "Why do you think the author has Jess go back and remember his day in Washington and conversations he had with Leslie?
4. Read one more time and look for figurative language.  Ask, "What examples of figurative language do the author use on these pages?  Why do you think the author used these examples?

Independent Work: See Slides Below

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Authentic Assessment: Measurement Olympics

Need a way to motivate your students to show what they know about Common Core Measurement standards?  Check out Common Core Connections: Measurement Olympics.

1. A choice board with 9 different measurement activities
2. A follow-up graphing lesson
3. A list of materials needed
4. List of 3rd Grade Common Core standards addressed in the lesson.

Also meets some second and fourth grade measurement standards.  This is a great tool to differentiate and extend and review standards.

Need Pictures?!

Are you looking for good pictures to use in student presentations that you can use copyright free?  Well, the answer is right in front of you!  Take the pictures yourself!  Take your camera everywhere with you and start creating your own collection.  Encourage your students and their families to donate pictures for the class to use as well.  You can create lists togethers of habitats, animals, having fun, etc.  Take pictures at recess, field trips, on a trip down the hall.  "Hire" student photographers for the week and have the students take pictures while they are at school.  You can download these photos once a week to the class collection.

I started my own collection recently and I am able to use my pictures without the fear of copyright laws or citing sources.  Above are a few that I added to my plants collection.

To help save memory and make the pictures portable for your students, buy a few flash drives for use in the classroom, media center, and computer lab!