Sunday, March 31, 2013

Writer's Notebook- LINKY

I'm going to take a stab at another LINKY. I have only done a few of these! I'll admit, they make me feel a little out of my league, but Writer's Notebook... that is a topic near and dear to my heart. I'm joining up with Growing Firsties...

I have posted about Writer's Workshop before and you can check it out HERE. But this LINKY inspires me to post about Writer's Notebooks again!

Once again, I want to remind you that a Writer's Notebook is a place where kids put SEEDS for writing! Things that may turn into an idea later or into more well developed writing later!
I have teachers make their own Writer's Notebooks in my Leach's Literacy Trainings and their first page looks like this...

Do you have seeds for writing in your Writer's Notebook? Do you need some ideas that could bloom later into great pieces of writing?  Let's see if we can get you a few!

"Boo Boo Map"
Kids love to talk about Boo Boos and all kids have had them! "When I fell off my bike!" or "When I fell off the swing" etc. So let them list it out.  You can get band aids at the Dollar Tree (I just found this stickers on a roll for $2.00 so I bought them).

"Oh the Places I Go"
Do you ever feel like you were JUST THERE? You know... the grocery store... the dry cleaner... the post office... where do you find yourself all the time? Make a list of those things in your Writer's Notebook.  Kids can think of the places they go often... stories are hidden at those places.

"50 Reasons Why I Love You"
You know this idea! It is going around Pinterest on playing cards. 52 cards, so 52 reasons. Not as cute, but just as effective. I have a list in my notebook of 52 Reasons Why I Love Texas (I did find a set of Yellow Rose playing cards and I have plans to make the craft some day too).  What do you love? Your husband? Daughter? Son? Mother? Pick a topic and start your list of 52 Reasons.


March Madness Book Bracket

Well my basketball bracket is NOT doing so well, but look what I came across when BLOG HOPPING today (so appropriate to HOP on Easter). Thanks to Cafe 1123, the March Madness can continue! Books can fight to the death to see who comes out on top! What if we got started in APRIL and each CLASS in the school put forth a BEST/FAVORITE book that then competes via school-wide voting to see who comes out on top?!   You could call it Amazing April or wait and do May Madness? I really wish I were in a school again! I would be starting this right away! Thanks to Cafe 1123 for the great idea.

Class Dojo

I am all for things that work! I saw CLASSDOJO on display in a classroom in DC and it looked like it was working for that class, that teacher, and those students. I put it on my list to come home and check it out.  It took me four weeks, but better late than never.

The site is set up to be used for behavior management throughout the day.  However, I think the teacher I saw was only using it for behavior during Literacy Work Stations.   It was displayed on the white board throughout Stations and the teacher was adding points or taking away points while she worked with groups at the Guided Reading table.

Here is what my "fake class" looks like- and you can see who has points!  Lots of points today. No one in the negative yet! :)

Every student is an avatar- they can pick their own or for time's sake you can just assign! I actually just watched the online video and with a SECRET CODE kids can design their own. You know- one with 25 eyes!  IF you wanted to, you could have the students choose code names for their avatar rather than their own name, but let's be honest kids know who IS and who is NOT doing it right and sometimes I think we are trying to be "too nice" as a teacher to not just say it like it is.  Any way, the teacher can customize the behaviors he/she awards points for or takes points away for.  I can think of specific behaviors that are important during Work Stations!

It took me about 5 minutes to get my class set up on the computer. And then I got an email that said there is an APP for that. So I can be at the Guided Reading table awarding points to my little monters (they are actually little monsters on the site-HA!) who are out working away in Stations!

I like, like, like it and maybe you will too! Now I have to get the APP for my phone! Check it out for yourself     

If you want to hear it explained better than my post above, watch here! This is meant to explain DOJO to students                                                                                     


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Fun with Fluency Work Station

In DCPS we suggest teachers use Literacy Work Stations while they work with Guided Reading groups.  One of those stations is a Fluency Work Station. At lunch during a recent training for DCPS teachers (Day 3 of a 3 day Guided Reading Institute) a teacher came up to me with a question. As we talked through it I realized it was more than a question, it was a great blog post!

The question from the teacher:
"I have kids who are fluent readers, they don't need to work on fluency! Do they need to go to a Fluency Work Station?"  

At first I thought, OK, if they already are fluent then, no, maybe they don't need to practice fluency. Then I got to thinking about it a little more.  Just because you are a fluent reader doesn't mean you can't enjoy being fluent! So we spent some time brainstorming what kids could do when they are fluent readers at a Fluency Work Station and here is what we came up with.

What's Your Reading Identity?
We brainstormed WHO students could read as. She thought about putting some joke books out and having kids READ LIKE A COMEDIAN or perhaps some sports columns or Sports Illustrated Magazines and have kids READ LIKE A COMMENTATOR. Or to add to that put some news articles and READ IT LIKE A NEWS ANCHOR.  And of course, our favorite, picture books, READ IT LIKE A TEACHER. What are some other personas?

Fluent readers know how to PERFORM their reading! So the Fluency Work Station could have monologues for kids to practice reading and performing. Fun right?
A few good places to look to find some monologues for student use can be found on these sites: (you can search by movie here)

Motivational Speaking
Have you seen these videos? These will kick of this idea for your station! Show these, and get some topics kids are fired up about! Let them go! Persuasive writing becomes persuasive speaking!

Reader's Theater Scripts 
Sometimes we forget about Reader's Theatre, but reading and practicing over and over again is the hallmark of fluency. Gotta love the Internet, because these sites will take you to so many for FREE! File- PRINT! (The Reading Lady) (ProTeacher)
**If you ever have a LOOOOOONG URL that kids need to type into a computer and you want it to be shorter- make a TINY URL at**

You Read to Me, and I'll Read to You

You know this text right? Short Stories for two voices right? It is set up for two children to read by designating different text for each reader in different colors.   These text (there are several now) can be found on Amazon. Or a teacher can make her own. Take a picture book (Dr. Seuss work great with the rhyme and meter too) and use your highlighter tape (two colors) to assign parts for two different readers. A teacher could also print some poems and use highlighters to assign parts to kids using different color highlighters.

Here is a sample of what the text looks like in the text.
Have fun! Don't do all the work. Make a few yourself, then ask your students to make some!


Monday, March 18, 2013

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Egg-Cellent Easter

Spring is probably my 2nd favorite season in the classroom (fall is the first). The cold months can make kids and teachers a little stir crazy, but spring is hope of warmer weather and another great season called summer!

We were always in school the Friday before Easter- and then that started our week of Spring Break.  If you will be in school next week maybe you want to celebrate SPRING and EASTER like I did with a Peter Rabbit Garden Party! Peter Rabbit is not a story that many kids (at many grade levels) have ever heard or read. It is an example of complex text that stands to be read and reread.

First, no garden party is complete without guests.  The students and I used Interactive Writing (sharing the pen) to write an invitation to our stuffed bunnies (or other stuffed woodland creature) to come to Peter Rabbit's Garden Party. I made copies of the invitation and it went home the Friday before the party to parents. There were so many C-U-T-E stuffed animals in attendance at Peter's party.

No party is complete without proper snacks! Parents sent in a variety of garden veggies.  Cucumbers, carrots, beans, name it. If it could be in Mr. McGregor's garden we had it at our garden party and my little bunnies nibbled on all of it! I will admit however that veggie dip and ranch dressing helped the veggies get nibbled on a little more readily. Believe it or not, kids even tried radishes!

Entertainment that day of course was watching the movie! I've included links to the movie below!

Want to see lesson plans?

Retell the story? Here are story masks.

Want to use pictures to help kids retell the story? These could even be copied and assembled into a wordless picture book. Kids could tell or write the story themselves.
There's a lot of great language in this story to give kids practice with a complex retelling.

Love a little art project?
Could be combined with a writing task. "Would you have been like the good bunnies, Flopsy, Mopsy, and Cotton Tail? Or a bad little bunny like Peter? Why?"

Want to WATCH online? It's on YouTube, but I generated a safe link with SafeShare TV
Part ONE
Part TWO

Peter Rabbit can be read online here:

Don't be surprised if this day with Peter Rabbit doesn't get kids interested in the other works of Beatrix Potter!

What is Fluent?

Fluent reading is very important! We know that! We want our kids to be fluent and to practice to get fluent right?  We say the word a lot, but do we really teach what it means?

We read in front of our kids fluently every day, but have we ever asked them to tell us what they like about our reading or what they notice about it that makes it fluent? Bullet points! A list!

And on the flip side, have we ever been a model of a reader who was not reading fluently? Probably not right? So it is time to TEACH FLUENCY!

Pick a passage that you want to read out loud to students as a model of a reader who is NOT fluent. Tell students that you are going to be reading to them. You haven't practiced this yet and you want them to listen and describe HOW you are reading.  Read it in a "bad way". Read slowly. Read in a monotone. Read and sound out words. Read in a down right miserable way. Read a little and then pause and ask them what they think. Tell them to be honest. Write down their comments.
That is the lesson for today.

The next day, tell students you took your reading home and practiced. You want to read to them again and you want them to listen and tell you what they think about your reading this time.  Now read in your fluent way. I don't have to explain how to do that right? Read a little and then stop and ask students to tell you what they think. Write down their comments.
That is the lesson for today.

Now you have two very clear anchor charts of what it means to be fluent and not fluent!

A sample of my FLUENT and NOT FLUENT brainstorm of an anchor chart from my Reader's Notebook:

** I generally brainstorm lessons like this before I create an anchor chart in front of students- it's hard to come up with all the important points like this when you are in front of kids- so I write down my ideas first. Then I can look at this in case they don't have any ideas. **

Imagine these pages ANCHOR CHART SIZED in your classroom. More to come on some great follow-ups to these lessons and the work your students could do in a Fluency Work Station.

A great website for finding free passages to help kids practice with fluency can be found at ReadWorks

Friday, March 15, 2013

A Few Favorite Websites

I know I've been kind of "out of it" on the BLOG lately and for that I am sorry.  But I am treading water.  You should SEE my laundry pile! And I have laundry that has been washed and is in the laundry basket- but I'm not sure if it can still be considered clean it has been there so long!  My job is getting to be more and more work by the day, but I do that to myself. It is my life's work to do my best for students and teachers and therefore I am always looking for what I can to do help.  I find that my day extends well past the time I leave work. Once a teacher, always a teacher, and I am always tired! I know all of you reading this can relate.

So... here is a short but sweet BLOG post tonight. If you don't know about these two websites... fire up your endurance for some world wide web (www) fun and get to clicking!

Math Wire
My advice for navigating this website. Start a folder on your desktop and when you find a file you like- SAVE! This is a website that takes you all over the web and sometimes when you find something you won't be able to back track your way to it. File... Save! Trust me!

The Balanced Literacy Diet
This is one of my newest favorite sites! There is a lot to see and a lot to explore! Videos too. Balanced Literacy-what's not to love?

Happy Friday everyone! I know we have all earned a relaxing weekend!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Before and After

I just have to share the BEST before and AFTER ever! I recently traveled to a school in Texas to do some training on Writer's Workshop, and while I have a lot I could post about writing, I am choosing to post a school makeover instead! Walking the halls there was a lot to see... look at this bookshelf! 
This is a take a book leave a book kind of exchange! See the explanation! Why can't every school have something like this? For students... for parents.... here is the explanation of the bookshelf. 

I made it to the BEST place EVER in Denton. If you live in Texas, you need to take a road trip to the biggest, bestest USED bookstore you ever did see!  I only wish I would have had unlimited time and unlimited weight in my suitcases back to DC! I would have bought a lot more than I did. If you are from Denton, this is called the Purple Building. If you are not from Denton, Google Recycled Books. 

Take a peek at the inside.. this is the children's section... I was in heaven! 

Also on the same street were some great antique shops. But the kind where you can afford stuff! Look what I found! It took me traveling ALL the way to Texas to find it. But now it is mine! Pretty appropriate since I live a mile from the his house now! 

Another pic from the school.  How cute is that?! Better than the yellow yarn I used to use! 

So about this BEFORE and AFTER... I was walking through the halls when I saw this awesome "Get College Ready" display! Look closely... do you see the disgusting display from Ann Arbor Michigan? 

Why on EARTH would a school in Texas have an advertisement for U of M? It just didn't sit right with me. So I took care of it. Look again! BEST makeover ever!

Now if I could just get rid of the Texas Longhorns.... 

Sunday, March 10, 2013

Show and Tell from Birdville ISD

I was in Birdville ISD last month and took so many pictures of CUTE, CUTE, CUTE stuff! I am sharing that CUTENESS with you today.


My photo taking skills are not so great here, but look at those curtains! No sewing necessary. Just pinking shears to cut strips and tie on the curtain rod! Done! I love it!

This was a fantastic school wide display of writing that greeted me when I entered the school.  These are big poster frames and student work samples blown up! I love it! I wish every school had something like this!

Then in another classroom I went to, a teacher has a bulliten board dedicated to quotes from books! Kids have pinned their favorite book quotes to the wall. This teacher also has quotes all over the walls of the room! This is so Donnalyn Miller/Book Whisperer and I love it!

I just love this! I may have to do this to my office! Just because I don't have a classroom, doesn't mean I can't have an inspiring work space!

Keep the greatness going! This whole classroom had a MOVIE theme! Look at this big bulliten board. I had this board above my students cubby areas too, but look what she has done with black paper and a few red sheets.  Now it is a stage! Teachers are so clever!

Fitting with the movie theme... look her her students can get a new pencil when they need one!

More teacher genius. Look at the tension rod between two bookcases and the shower curtain clips to display her magazines in the reading corner.

I've never dones this before have you? A toothbrush drive in the month of February? I love the idea! It's so many small things and big great ideas that make me want to be back in the classroom so often! 

More brilliant ideas! How cute is this. Kids have reccommended their favorite books. I need to remember this one for Heart Day next year! 

My poor husband is going to be a BUSY man when I go back to the classroom someday! I'm going to have to have this over my door! 

Clever, cute, functional! 
Well done! 

Why didn't I think of this? 


Wednesday, March 6, 2013

March Currently

I'm a few days late, but I needed a SNOW DAY to get this done evidently. Thank you Mother Nature for the Winter Wonderland this Wednesday.

Here is my March Currently from Oh' Boy 4th Grade!

Listening: I have so much stuff on my DVR I am running out of space! Uh oh! I need DAYS to catch up. Right now, I'm trying to catch up on Idol. I gotta be honest, these girls don't sound very good if you ask me.
Loving: Snowmageddon hit us in DC! Or at least they SAID it was going to hit so we got a snow day. I haven't seen too much snow in the city on the news so far. We have this wet mixture in our back yard in Alexandria. Great packing snow for sure. The dogs don't know what to make of it- but I took pics of their cute footprints in the snow.  I'm still in my PJs. Seriously... still in my PJs and it is 3:00 in the afternoon!  I should go unpack my suitcases from my trip to South Carolina- but I don't want to.  What a gift to come home from travel to a day off.
Thinking: This girl on Idol right now really can't sing. Another girl is singing now and she is bad too! Yikes! These are the finals. How did they get this far?
Wanting: Just remembered I have some Ben and Jerry's in the deep freezer in the basement. Is it bad that I hide the "good stuff" from my husband down there? He would never walk down there to see what's in the freezer! SCORE!
Needing: There is ALWAYS laundry at this house! I don't mind washing it or drying it, but when it comes out of the dryer it just sits in baskets. I HATE folding laundry. I need to do it- I just really don't want to.
Like/Love/Hate: I really do love Motown music. What's not to like about Motown?! :) My husband is pretty awesome. He is letting me just have this day to myself and I think he's proud of me for being so lazy. I'm NOT a sit around kind of girl, but today I am.  Mean people... just smile. It's not that hard! Seriously.