Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Sunday, May 8, 2016

End of the Year Student Self-Assessment

I am a planner.  I love getting a jump on planning over the summer.  Many of my colleagues are the same way.  But the one thing I hate about starting the school year is getting the opinion of another teacher or a parent about my class list.

I decided to get around this by having my students complete and End of the Year Self Assessment. This assessment would be written by the students knowing that the "audience" would be their teacher the following school year. I felt this would give the future teacher a better understanding of the student.

Hop on over to the Primary Peach to finish reading and download your FREE copy of the End of the Year Student Self-Assessment. 

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Do you want more ideas about self-assessing?  Check these out.

Header Photo: Mama Miss Designs

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The BEST Way to Increase Teacher Sanity

This post has been moved to my new website.  CLICK HERE to access your FREEBIE

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Spring into April - Using Found Poetry to Dig Up Main Idea

One of my favorite ways to have students connect with a passage or story is through found poetry. With found poetry students can identify the main idea and supporting details in a text.

Found poetry takes specific words and phrases from a piece of writing and organizes them into a poem.

To finish reading and access the FREE Lesson Plan and Downloads hop on over to the Primary Peach.  

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Teachers Who Rock: Cailin Hannan on Differentiation

Today I am interviewing my good friend, Cailin Hannan.  She is a model teacher for differentiation in the classroom. Today we talk about the importance of differentiation in the classroom and how she uses it in different subjects.  

Differentiating is so important in education. I know this is a topic you are passionate about. What about differentiation is so crucial to your planning?
In my classroom, as is typical in most, I serve a lot of very diverse learners.  My students come to me at many different levels, sometimes spanning multiple grades.  They also come to me with a variety of skills and interests.  When it comes to meeting every individual student's needs,  while also motivating them individually, this is a huge challenge.  Because of this, when completing my unit and weekly plans, differentiation has to be a focus in all subject areas.  First of all I need to plan assessments that will help me make imperative decisions about differentiation quickly (diagnostics, tickets-out-the-door, etc.).  I first need to think about differentiating based on the student's level of mastery.  I think about the supports some students will need (additional teacher support, regular check-ins, paraphrasing of directions, reading partner, word bank) and extensions for others (what will I do for those who already have mastery and/or finish quickly). I want all students to have the support to show me what they know.  Another element of my plans is differentiating in regard to how the students will show me what they know. All students do not need to complete the same task (choice boards are a great way to make this happen). This is where I take into account the different learning styles and interests. 

How do you differentiate in your reading groups?
I use a diagnostic such as a running record as a starting point for the year and group students at a similar instructional reading level.  I do not like to always keep these groups throughout the year, though.  Obviously they will be flexible as students make progress, but I also like to mix things up and group students in other ways.  For independent reading I like to group students by their interest in a particular genre or author.  All the students have a choice of what they will read independently (which will be on their level) but they get to discuss their common interests with a diverse group during "book clubs."  For students who are struggling with reading I like to group them by the area for which they are struggling.  I have a strategy group that focuses on fluency, and one that focuses on decoding with accuracy.  Students can also be grouped based on the comprehension strategy for which they need the most support.  I encourage independent reading with my readers who struggle in a variety of ways: reading the first chapter of the book with them and discussing all story elements prior to releasing them, allowing them to buddy read and have regular check ins, or allowing them to reread (from a read aloud) a book they enjoyed.  

3. Subjects like science and social studies are harder to differentiate. How do you ensure that the needs of your class are met?
When possible I try to find reading passages and books at a variety of reading levels.  This is not always readily available, so I always plan to meet with particular students who need support prior to them reading for information.  I get them started and then check back in a bit more often than with other students.  I also provide outlines and word banks to help students key in on the most important points while they are reading or during a mini-lesson.  Student projects are completed either using choice boards (for both interest and ability) and collaborative work.  Most of the time groups and partnerships are strategically chosen to help allow students to utilize leadership skills while others can get the support they need.  Lastly, I have a research question that goes with each unit.  As students demonstrate mastery and complete tasks they can work independently (or with others as possible) on "answering" the question.  Their challenge is to try to use a variety of sources and come up with different ways of showing me (and the class) what they know.  Lastly, I really like to do a Jigsaw activity.  This gives every group member a specific role for which they will be an expert.  After working with a group on their specific role the experts move to a new group where they must share their ideas.  This allows for every individual student to participate, but not before getting support from their peers.  

4. Where/how do you get your ideas for differentiation?
My main source of knowledge has been my colleagues throughout the years.  Everybody I have worked with has had great ideas that I become lucky enough to add to my tool box. 

5. How do you manage the classroom with students completing different tasks? How do you ensure they are engaged?
I am constantly working with students and questioning their progress.  I walk the room and keep lots of checklists.  A quick check on a sheet lets me know that a student is progressing, while an anecdotal note on another student lets me know I need to pull them to provide support the following day.  I have more regular check-ins during project and/or independent work with students who have more difficulty with time management.  I also like to have conferences with students or a discussion with my whole class as a reflection after completing tasks/projects.  This will hopefully help me in the future.

6. What is your favorite part of teaching?
I love the planning, especially planning pacing for the year or for particular units.  I love to make sure that all the standards fit together in a way that will be engaging and cross-curricular for the students.  Deciding on the perfect activity is also a great part of this job.  Above all I love the students.  I love watching them learn and getting to play a small part in their world for a year.  The connections that I make with them are my favorite part.  

Cailin was recently spotlighted on the Face of Fulton.  Check out this video! 
Face of Fulton, January 2016 from Fulton County Schools on Vimeo.

Want to learn more about Cailin plans her classroom?  Click here.

Monday, April 11, 2016

6 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day in the Classroom

Today I am linking up with my friend Meghan Harris from Keeping Up With Mrs. Harris to bring you ideas for Earth Day in the Classroom. Keep reading to win a $50 Amazon Gift Card.

Here are 6 ways to celebrate Earth Day in the classroom.

1. Plant something - Nothing is more beautiful in spring than bright flowers and new green growth. Choosing a class plant(s) to place on the school grounds is a great way to celebrate Earth Day. Taking care of it as it grows over the last month of school is another exciting journey and an easy one to tie in measurement and science experiments.  If you have a school where there isn't anyone to water over the summer, just put it in a container that you can take home over the summer and bring back in the new school year.

2. Write poetry to celebrate the Earth - Haikus are the perfect writing assignment for Earth Day. These short Japanese poems about nature are perfect for teaching syllables and word choice. Take the final drafts and add an art design for a quick wall display.

3. Conduct a science experiment - Use this runoff experiment to teach students about littering.  Download the Lab Guide for this runoff experiment.

4. Hold an Earth Day Debate - Persuasive writing and speaking is an important standard to cover.  Students also need to be willing to think about and listen to another perspective.  Here are some interesting topics to use for the debate.  I find it interesting to hear students talk about a topic from a different perspective.

5. Perform community service in the school - One of the easiest ways to do this is to have students clean up the school grounds.  Gather some plastic gloves, a few trash bags, and some hand sanitizer and head out to recess a few minutes early.  (I always let my administration know ahead of time so they would know why we went outside early.) Once the students have helped clean, give a little hand sanitizer and send them off to play.  I am always amazed at the students who continue to ask to spend the first few minutes cleaning up the playground.

6. Play A Game - Make 4 Corners into a science game.  As students play, tell reasons why a population might die off.  Take owls for example.
- In the first round the ones not in the corner are living in areas that are being cleared for new houses.
- In the next, there is a pollutant being ingested by the mice they eat.
- For the third round, the water the owls drink is polluted.
- In the following, an owl accidentally consumes litter.
When you are finished have the students write a reflection on the game.  What did they learn?  How could they help protect the owl population?  What other factors could cause the owl population to decrease?  You can do another round for animals in other habitats.

Want more ideas?  Hop on over to this post by Keeping Up with Mrs. Harris.

You can also have your whole Earth Day planned for you with this Earth Day Craftivity.

Thursday, April 7, 2016

How to Organize Your Fonts for EASY Use

This morning I was downloading yet another set of fun fonts when I happened upon the most amazing thing.  I found a way to organize my fonts so I don't have to scroll down that long list hoping to find the one I "might" want.  It may have been that second cup of coffee or the prayer I said about wanting to save time.  Either way or a combination of both, here is what I found! 

Step 1: Go to your launchpad. 

Step 2: In the search bar type in "font." This will bring up your Font Book.  

Step 3: Click on user and this will bring up the fonts you have added to your computer.

Step 4: Drag the font that you use the most into your collection folders. You can customize these by clicking the + sign and adding new folders. I did one for blog posts and a favorites folder.  I also put my favorite easy to read fonts in the traditional folder. These are the ones I use for products and fun activities for my preschoolers learning to read. 

Optional Step 5: Delete any fonts you don't use. Click the font name and then click delete. This will bring up a pop up box. Just click remove. Unfortunately you cannot delete all of those unused fonts that came with your computer. 

Step 6: Open the project you are working on and highlight the font or just click the font. Hover over the drop down arrow. This will bring up your font list. The first option is font collections. Hover over the arrow beside this option and it will bring up all of the folders you just created. 

Step 7: Click the font you want to use. Easy peasy!

These directions are for a Mac. Off to research if a PC is similar!  

Happy Creating! 

Thursday, March 31, 2016

How to Transform Student Writing with Mentor Text Transformations

Happy Spring Everyone!  This is Jessica Zannini from Notes from the Portable and today I want to talk about using mentor texts to transform student writing.  Transformations are one of my favorite ways to introduce a new writing genre.  The rhythm and word choice of mentor texts are fantastic to get students motivated to write.

What is a Transformation?
When teaching transformations you take a great book with a specific pattern that writers can follow. Students write using a similar structure.  Transformations allow students to make reading and writing connections.  

To finish reading this post and get FREE lesson plans and suggested books for transformation hop over to the Primary Peach.  

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Getting the Most Out of Author's Share

Author's Share is  my favorite part of the writing lesson.  It is the part where students show bravery, where they show kindness, and where I see the most growth.  Author's share is the perfect wrap-up and my chance to have whole group conversations about topics or mistakes I see in my one-on-one conferences with students.

Each grade has speaking an listening standards that need to be assessed. Author's share is a great way to assess growth and mastery in these standards.

Tips for a Great Author's Share
1. I choose who shares.  This eliminates students getting upset over sharing or not sharing.  I will usually post the list right before my last conference so that the students sharing have a few minutes to prepare. 

2. Have the students read aloud first.  Then ask the audience if they have any "LIKES."  As these are shared I note them on a piece of paper for the student to read at a later time.  Then I ask if anyone has any "QUESTIONS."  These questions can be anything that might have been confusing or that the future readers may want to know more about.  I will write these on post-it notes so the student can see these and place them where they may need revisions at a later date.  (If you have time, take a quick picture of these likes and questions before giving them to the student, just in case they get lost). 

3. Make this time important.  Even if your day runs short, or you have a fire drill, assembly, or any of the many things that get you off schedule, make time for this.  If your lesson gets cut short or you lose track of time, pack up 5 minutes early that day and have the student share before dismissal.

FREEBIE  Get this free download with sample likes and questions to get kids talking about writing.

Cover Photo:  Sergey Nivens/Dollar Photo Club

Wednesday, March 9, 2016

April A Poem Each Week

The Free April A Poem Each Week has moved. Click HERE to get your FREE Download.

Want to save this post for later? Pin the image below.

Happy Teaching!

Friday, March 4, 2016

The Zen of Teaching Poetry

Poetry Month is quickly approaching.  In the midst of cramming for testing you think, 'I hate poetry! Why am I stressing over teaching it?'

Let me solve that problem for you!  I have 3 units designed to specific grade level Common Core standards.  In addition, I have created monthly poetry literacy centers to keep your students enjoying poetry all year.  Each unit has over 170 pages of detailed lesson plans, assessments, student pages, exemplars, and wall display materials.  The lessons provide an essential question, objective, common core standard, procedures, and assessments.  (Keep reading for FREEBIES and to ENTER the GIVEAWAY for a free unit and April Literacy Center!)

I know many of us fear poetry and symbolism, but poetry is so much FUN and it is the perfect outlet for creativity after spending the morning taking a standardized test.  Your students will be engaged, you will have lesson plans taken care of, and ALL of you will be able to have fun, relax, and enjoy finding a new found love of poetry!

Each unit contains: 
- Over 5 WEEKS of  Lesson Plans aligned with reading, grammar, and writing standards.
- A 40 + page Student Handbook that gives visuals for all lessons, handouts, and poetry templates. 
- Rubrics for Research Poem, Unit Portfolio, and Poetry Choice Board.
- Poetry Choice Board Activity
- Poems written by Jessica Zannini 
- Letter and evaluation for sharing poetry portfolios with parents. 
- Quizzes and Unit Test 
- Essential Question Posters
- I Can Statement Posters
- Vocabulary Word Wall Display 
- Suggested Book/Author/Website List 

- Additional Review Lesson on previously taught standards

What people are saying about these units!




Want to learn more about the specific types of poetry taught and standards covered in each unit? Click the images below to go to each product description.

2nd Grade Poetry Unit

3rd Grade Poetry Unit

4th/5th Grade Poetry Unit

March Poetry Literacy Center 

April Poetry Literacy Center 

So now it is time for prizes and freebies!  Want to win a unit?! Pick the grade-level of your choice to enter and win!  Winners will be announced on March 15th on my Facebook page.  And if you want some free poetry resources now, scroll to the bottom of this post to find links.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Want to learn more about teaching poetry?  Check out these blog posts for FREE downloads and more tips on teaching poetry. (Just click the image to learn more.)

5 Poetry Styles That Spark Creativity in Struggling Writers 

How to Teach Poetry (Even if You Hate It!)

If you are looking for even more ideas follow my Poetry Pinterest Board. 

Cover Photo: puckillustrations/Dollar Photo Club 
*(Other photos credited in those specific products or blog posts.)