Friday, September 26, 2014

Five for Friday: September 26

If you read the blog regularly, you know that I spent a good chunk of last week in training for Capturing Kids Hearts. This week I started implementing a few of the core components. The picture below is our awesome class contract. The kids did an AMAZING job using the four guiding questions to create our contract on how we are going to treat each other. I am working to create a larger copy for the kids to sign. Unfortunately the lamination machine is down on campus, so I haven't quite gotten there yet. 

We are also wrapping up each day by sitting down together to check in on how we are doing on the contract. I have to say my kids are so honest, and they are hitting the nail on the head each day on where we still have room to grow. It is so much better than listening to me say it! If you don't know anything about the Capturing Kids' Hearts model, check it out here! I may just be a convert.

Hooray for! I have had two projects funded this school year, and I am so unbelievably grateful. One of the projects is my class set of yoga balls, and the other was a pair of iPads. I cannot tell you how much I love having the iPads. I am using them for small group intervention, individual intervention, and for some data tracking. I also love that the majority of the programs I use are available as apps. So far we've used Raz-Kids and IXL the most, but 

My favorite use has been as an alternative to the cumbersome old laptops when kids come back from being pulled and only have 10 minutes to work. Instead of time wasted, we are getting those 10 minutes back. They are a total lifesaver, and the kids think they are a blast to use!

Conference time! It is hard to believe it is already here. This year I am taking a different approach to conferences. First off, I have not scheduled more than 2 per day. It is just too hard at 8 months pregnant. I also simplified my conference sheet and made it a PDF form. It has saved me a ton of time, and I think it is much more approachable for parents. I still bring out the student's portfolio, but I used to include a ton of data on the sheet. Now I focus on getting the qualitative data on the form and sharing the quantitative data verbally. Want a copy of my new format? Click the picture below to get it free!

Super excited to be starting a new online book study with some blogging buddies on a topic that I would love to improve in...grading. I hate grading with a passion. I feel like it takes FOREVER and doesn't truly reflect whether the child is really "getting it" independently. Therefore, I am super excited to start reading the book Grading Smarter, Not Harder: Assessment Strategies That Motivate Kids and Help Them Learn. I am hoping, by the end of the book club that I can be a little more purposeful in my grading practices. 

Fall TV is finally here!! When we put Little Bean down to bed, Mr. D and I tend to take out our laptops and work while watching a show or two. The past couple weeks have been pretty pitiful, but this week that all changes because my favorite shows come back. Did somebody say Scandal? Yes, please? 

Happy Friday,

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Five for Funday

So I had every intention of finishing my post for the Five for Friday linky party on Friday. However, I was out three days this week at a training, our beginning of year assessment data is due in a week, and I have yet to get conference prep done for conferences that start this needless to say it did not happen. However, I am happy to be linking up now, and doesn't Funday sound exciting!

Fall is coming! I could not be more excited for my favorite season to finally arrive. I love the weather, the delicious food, and the chance to bust out the warmer clothes without sweating half-to-death, but my favorite thing about fall is PUMPKIN SPICE SEASON!! I was at a training this week, and I got to go to Baskin Robbins on my lunch. OMG! They have the best pumpkin cheesecake ice cream. If you love pumpkin, RUN don't want. It is that good!

So I was out of the classroom this week at a three day Capturing Kids Hearts training with some colleagues (hence the delicious ice cream). While a lot of it was a review of my days in psychology, it was a great reminder to slow down and really focus on building relationships. I feel like I have a pretty good class climate, and my kids really become a family over the year...but there is always room for growth. I'll be sharing more about our implementation as I begin to implement the components, but for now here's a sneak peek video from a district in our area to give you some insight into the program.

I mentioned in my Science Saturday post last week that we were researching different science careers using the cool Science A-Z career sheets. The final posters were turned in while I was gone, and I am so impressed with their hard work and creativity. Here's a peek at a few of the careers my students investigated. I modeled a poster for them and outlined the requirements. They took it from there! 

We had a blast with Celebrate Freedom Week this week. Unfortunately, due to being out for three days, I didn't get to do all the lessons I usually do (including a birthday party for the Constitution where we make mini-apple pies). However, we still had a blast learning about the Preamble and why the Constitution is important. I love using We the Kids as a way to introduce the big vocabulary and what it means. 

I also love using the Preamble song from School House Rock...needless to say, I've been singing School House Rock all weekend. I dare you to listen to this song and NOT have it stuck in your head. 

With only 8 more weeks until her little sister arrives, I've been enjoying every spare minute I can with this cutie pie. Yesterday, she and daddy cleaned the car (ok, she just pretended to drive the whole time) and we visited a new bakery in town only to discover they sell ENORMOUS cookies. Of course, Little Bean only got a few bites, but I am pretty sure the cookie was larger than her. It was great to just be together. Hard to believe that in a few short weeks there will be four of us! Not sure I am quite ready for it.

So there you have it! I am working on a Peek at My Week. However, I am not sure if I will finish it before the week actually begins. I've got to get working on the conference forms for the 7 conferences I have this week...YIKES!!

Happy Sunday,

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Science Saturday: Science Careers

Welcome back for another week of Science Saturday! This week I am going to share my second unit of the year. As I said last time, it is a very short one (which is why I am doing two Science Saturdays this month). However, I think it is great for giving students a background into some career options in the the STEM areas, which is a big push. My biggest resource for this unit is Science A-Z.

If you haven't read of it, I totally recommend giving it a try. They offer a free 14-day trial, and there are so many great games, videos, and differentiated science resources that will cover the whole year.

Here's the overview of the unit:

Days 1 & 2: Scientists in History
These first few days I focus on students learning about some scientists from the past. Depending on time, we watch one of the Animated Classics on some of the big scientists (Franklin, Curie, Bell, and more). However, I always start with finding out about more about who my students already know about. We create a big list as a class, but the students must be able to tell me a little about that person's contribution to get that person added to our list. Sometimes the list is HUGE, but many years it is 5-6 scientists long. This is my favorite because I show my students the stack of scientists trading cards (Science A-Z) and they are shocked there are so many scientists. I typically give them some time to explore these in groups before we begin our next activity because there are truly SO many!

Eventually, each student ends up with a scientist and a partner in the class. Their job is to compare and contrast the two scientists using a Venn diagram foldable. I push them to go deep and really think about connections between their scientists, which often come from very different fields and time periods. It typically takes the kids 20 or more minutes to get beyond the shallow connections (they're both men, they both did something in science, etc.) and into something deeper (they both developed inventions that improved people's heath, they both worked in chemistry, etc.). However, with some guidance, they get there.

Days 3 & 4: Science Careers
Once the students know a bit more about some of the big names of science, I like them to get to know more about potential careers they could have. I love using these articles from Science A-Z (have I mentioned how much I love this site?) because they come in a variety of reading levels and cover a broad range of different careers so all my students are able to find at least one that appeals to them.

As they read they focus on three key things: what the job entails, what education is needed for the career, and who might enjoy this type of job.  They use these important details to help them share information about this career with their classmates. Depending on if we have access to our grade level laptops these days, my students either create a poster in their science journals, an index trading card, or use the ReadWriteThink trading card maker.

On the last day we share our final product, and students get to vote on which career seems most interesting to them. It is great because it links up to our college awareness week, and it gives the kids something to think about as they consider college and career readiness.

Stay tuned for more installments of Science Saturday the first Saturday of the month. Next month's topic will be energy!

Have something great you use to help your students learn about scientists of the past or careers in STEM? Link up and share your ideas!

    An InLinkz Link-up

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Peek at My Week: Week 3

Happy Sunday! I have finally put the finishing touches on what we are going to be up to this week, and that means it is time for another edition of Peek at My Week.

Science: Careers & History
So if you are a regular reader, you will get more info on this (super short) unit come next Saturday. The goal is to have my students know 3-5 different science careers after we complete the unit. We are going to be making some science career trading cards...or maybe posters depending on what day we finally get to this and whether it is my laptop day. Students will also be learning about some famous scientists and their contributions. I am adding a bit of reading to this and we will be making Venn diagrams comparing and contrasting scientists.

Here's a sneak peek into my science journal for this mini-unit:

I will tell you my number one resource for this unit is the awesome scientist trading cards and science careers reading pages from Science A-Z. LOVE, love, love these resources for giving this required unit a little bit more excitement. They offer a free 14-day trial so go check it out HERE.

Reading: Fictional Genres
We are still working to build our stamina as readers, but I've also been working in mini-lessons comparing fiction and nonfiction. This week we are going to begin delving into the specifics of genres under these umbrellas. We will be discussing one genre each day and examining a sample of the genre. As I read, the kids will be able to use their reading journals to make notes of how this book fits the genre. I will also work in some discussion about fictional elements (characters, setting, plot, etc.)...gotta use our time wisely, right?

Here are a few of my favorites (introduced to me by my team at my former those ladies!):

Science Fiction: Space Case (Puffin Pied Piper)

Historical Fiction: The Rag Coat

Mystery: Encyclopedia Brown, Boy Detective

Fantasy: Possum Magic (Voyager Books)

I am planning to continue using my genre unit by printing out the small matching cards to allow my students to have a formal definition in their journals for later reflection. I will later use these cards (laminated and in color) as a matching station to let my students practice matching genres and definitions before we take our genre quiz.

Writing: Personal Narratives- Focusing in on Small Moments (Lucy Calkins)
This is a favorite of mine. I bring in a watermelon and we cut it open to explore. This visual helps me connect my students to the idea of seed stories being all those tiny moments inside of a larger experience (plus the kids love a slice of juicy watermelon while they brainstorm).

After this engage activity, I have my students work to sort a set of ideas into seeds and watermelons with a small group. This leads to great discussion. As they make progress toward a better understanding of the difference between a seed and watermelon idea., I have them sort a set of ideas themselves. The goal is to scaffold them into thinking about their own ideas and evaluating whether they are seeds or watermelons.

Want to learn more about these activities? Click the image to get your copy.

We will also begin our grammar interactive notebook by reviewing nouns. This should be relatively simple review for most of them, but I need it to build on for our sentences and paragraphs unit. I am using this GREAT interactive notebook from Nicole Shelby. 

Math: Multiplication
So we are going to delve into multiplication this week. I will be teaching the conceptual background and a few different strategies, but the kids will really be focusing in on their 5's and 10's facts. We are also officially beginning our math stations.

Here are our three stations for this week:

Station 1: Addition with Regrouping
Students will have a station activity and a game at this spot. The first is a freebie I posted a few months back. The other is a great game that is just $3.00! You can get both by clicking the images below.

Station 2: Place Value
This station will be a sort and match game on the basics of place value. I just want to keep the concepts fresh in my students minds until we delve back into it in a few weeks. 

Station 3: Fact Fluency & Multiplication of 5's and 10's
My kiddos were introduced to last week during our computer time. They will be using this again this week to continue to build their math fact fluency. In addition, we are going to begin working on our multiplication facts using this great FREE game Slides & Ladders. Get it by clicking the image below.

We will also be finalizing our Genius Hour projects on Friday morning. I was inspired by the blog Runde's Room to try this out for our first 8 weeks of enrichment time. I am new to this process, but I am very excited at the prospects. I'll be posting more about it as time goes on, and we get to our work. 

Hope you have a wonderful week! 

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Science Saturday: Science Safety & Tools

This is officially my very first Science Saturday post. I'm super excited to share what we've been working on for our very first science unit. Our focus is on the basics- science safety, tools, and careers. It's a short unit (only a week), but it is one of my very favorite ones. Here's an outline of our week:

Day 1: Setting Up Journals
Here's a quick peek into how I set up my science journals. Our entire campus utilizes journals so it doesn't take a ton of explanation besides the little individualized stylings that I use in my room. My journal is divided into three tabs: lessons, experiments, and vocabulary. This is a new twist I am trying out this year to help these journals be a little more organized.

Day 2: We are Scientists
I love this lesson....really, seriously love it! I read it on a chat board years ago, which I cannot seem to locate (if this is your lesson, let me know so I can give you credit!). It works so perfectly to connect the rest of the week, and it is super simple. All you need are envelopes with a small hand mirror in each, and it really stick with the kids. The day begins with the question, "What is a scientist?" I elaborate by adding what do they look like, what might they wear, where would I find them. I try to really get them to think deeply about their preconceived notions.

After my students brainstorm independently for about 3-5 minutes under their top flap, I put them into small groups to share for another 5 minutes or so. Finally, I bring them together to share what they wrote. I create a class list either on a board or chart paper to track their answers. They can add to their flap if something strikes them.

After we do this, I tell them I have the complete full answer sealed in an envelope for each group. I let them know they will get to see this answer, but they'll need to keep it a secret from the other groups. Then I hand each group an envelope.

When the kids first open their "answer", I often get a lot of confused looks. They check the back of the mirror and the sides, and sometimes even need guidance to get to the idea of looking into the mirror. However, at least one student in each group ends up making the connection and the word quickly spreads. WE ARE SCIENTISTS!

I wrap up the lesson by having students reflect on this new understanding under the after flap. I provide some guiding questions to help them write this second flap. They need to tell me how their idea of what a scientist is changed because of this activity and whether the answer surprised them.

I conclude the lesson by giving a few students a chance to share out. Then I let them know as scientists we have certain responsibilities to follow science safety rules, follow the scientific method, and use tools correctly. This becomes the focus for the rest of our week!

Day 3: Science Safety
I begin by connecting with yesterday's lesson that we are all scientists in our class and reminding them that, as scientists, we are required to follow science safety rules.

Depending on my class, I use one of two videos. The first is a cartoon, and the kids find it really entertaining. However, I personally love the second one, and I use it those years I have a more musically oriented class because it is a rock opera version with muppet-like creatures.

Then my class cuts and glues this easy foldable into their journal, and we sort and record the science safety rules by sense. I feel like using the senses is a really approachable way to address safety rules, and my kids seem to really pick up on the point this way. We discuss each one as we go and why it is a rule.

Finally, my students are ready to sign their safety contract, and they glue it to the front cover of their journal. I use this as a reminder when I see students not obeying lab safety rules.

If time allows, I also have a printable that is an illustration of a science lab with lots of safety violations. Their job is to find and color ONLY the things that are not ok in the lab. Many years I never get to this though because we are having such a great conversation about the safety rules and why they are in place.

Days 4 & 5: Science Tools
This year I am planning to do something a little different to help the students get a better grasp on science tools, their names, and uses. I have created a few stations that the kids will complete to get better acquainted with the main tools and how they work.

So there you have it, a quick look into my first unit in science. Our next unit (well mini-unit, really) focuses on science careers and famous scientists. It is only four days, so it is another quick one before we head into our study of energy. However, I have lots of great resources and ideas so stay tuned for the next Science Saturday (next week). After these two shorties, Science Saturday will begin as a monthly Linky Party on the first Saturday of the get ready to share those great science resources.

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