Friday, September 5, 2014

Start The Day With Something Positive!!

School is in full swing and life is busy...this will be a quick post!

I try to include a positive or motivational book or video into my classroom routine each day.  The following links lead to great videos...

Kid President

Kid President on You Tube inspirational videos 

Life Vest Inside...Kindness Boomerang

7 Habits of Highly Effective Kids (great music video...I use this every day!!)

Monday, July 21, 2014

Book A Day Challenge...Book #9

Book of The Day...
Fandango Stew, this book is an "Old West" spin on Stone Soup...and I am so excited to use it in class. Stone Soup is one of our stories in Treasures...last year we read different versions of the Stone Soup and compared and contrasted, wrote "the rest of the story"...but Fandango Stew has the potential to lead us to even more!! Our story in treasures is set in China, Fandango Stew in the Old West...this will give us a wonderful opportunity to tie in social studies. I'm also exited about the opportunity to tie math and story problems into the making of our very own stew.
This is going to be a great read aloud...can't wait to pull out my "cowboy" voice for this fun story!!

Happy Reading...Jennifer

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Book A Day Challenge...Book #8

Today's book...Hey You C'mere a Poetry Slam (by Elizabeth Swados)

Hey You! C'mere

What a great collection of poetry that kids can relate to! Poems in this collection cover everything from emotions, to silly names. I think my favorite poem may be the intro...where we are told that poems are everywhere skateboards, shoes, sky...

I'm hoping to carve out a little time for "a poem a day", I'm happy to have added Hey You C'mere to my collection!

This book will be used to introduce my class to poetry and invite them to think about the world around them...the things they see poetry in. Students will then create a poem and art project to go with it. I would love to incorporate digital word art into this project!!

Read a poem today!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

The Book a Day Challenge...Day 7 I'm falling behind!! I'll try to double up sometime in the next few days.

I don't have a picture book, or fun chapter book today, but a PD book...and I'm so excited about it!!  As I was teaching my 3rd graders last year I realized many of them did not possess real number sense.  A presenter at a work shop suggest this book to me: Number Talks Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies (by Sherry Parrish). My first thought was...just what I need a book on mental math. As I have begun reading the book I realize that this method is not so much about being able to do math quickly in your head...but understanding numbers so that you can take them apart and put them back's about teaching children more than a set of rules with which to solve a problem...but teaching them to explore and understand a variety of solutions. A great deal of importance is placed on the understanding of place value and truly understanding how to break a number down.  A "Number Talk" usually lasts for 5-15 minutes so adding them to a daily routine is totally doable. I am just on chapter 3...and so excited about the things I've learned so far!!!

Number Talks: Helping Children Build Mental Math and Computation Strategies, Updated with Common Core Connections, Grades K-5

Happy Reading,

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

The Book A Day Challenge...Day 6

I'm a day or two behind...hopefully I can double up in a day or two!

I admit this book is not new to me...My grandmother gave my oldest daughter a copy of The Quilt Makers Gift on her 5th birthday 12 year ago...but  I thought it would qualify as a new book discovery because I just bought a digital copy on Storia.  (If you've never used Storia give it a try, it is a digital book division of scholastic. I haven't been able to find all of the titles that I want, but I have been extremely happy with the books I have purchased.)  This book has the most wonderful story and is beautifully illustrated.  The Quilt Maker would only make quilts for the poor, but the Greedy King was desperate for one of her quilts. The Greedy King goes to great lengths try to get her to give him one of her quilts, but the Quilt Maker's one requirement is that he share his belongings with the poor.  How could he ever part with his things? Will this Greedy King ever get a quilt?

With this book you could cover many subject areas...Reading, Writing, Citizenship, Social Studies/History, Math, Art, and even a little science if you wanted too. 

I will give just a few general ideas that I'm hoping to use this year...

Reading, Writing, and Citizenship:
1. Compare and Contrast the characteristics of the Quilt Maker and the Greedy King
2. Brain storm things you are good at. How can you use those things to help others?
3. Can "things"  really make you happy?
4. Why did giving his belongings away make the king happy?
5.  Why did the Quilt Maker help others when she needed help herself (i.e. the bear and sparrow).

History of Quilts
Quilts have a very rich and full of history.  The different quilt patterns have different meanings and may have even been important to the underground railroad.
National Museum of American History (National Quilt Collection)

The study of quilts lends itself to all kids of real life math applications like geometry, symmetry, area, measurement...
Color choice in quilts is important for showing depth and design.
Students could plan and create a paper quilt (if time was available creating a cloth quilt would be amazing)

Science could be incorporated by pulling in the bear from the story and talking about hibernation.

Other books to read might be "The Keeping Quilt" or  "Sweet Clare and the Freedom Quilt". 

Enjoy a good book,

#bookaday...Teachers for Teachers

Sunday, July 6, 2014

The Book A Day Challenge...Day 5

What If You Had Animal Hair!? (by Sandra Markle)
What If You Had Animal Hair?

Today's book was a favorite at my school's Book Fair, and why not?  Kids love learning about animals, and imagining themselves with animal hair is a pretty interesting spin!!  In What If You Had Animal Hair an illustration of the animal and characteristics of that animal's hair are given on one page...on the opposite page there is an illustration of  a child with that animal's hair.  Did you know that the artic fox's hair changes colors with the seasons?  Imagine that...You'd never get tired of your hair color! For more interesting facts take a look at What If You Had Animal Hair.

After reading the book students could choose an animal from the book and create a picture of themselves with "animal hair" the activity would continue with a written description of the characteristics of the animal's hair. 

The activity could be taken one step further by allowing students to research other details about the animal: habitat, diet...

Students could create a class book or hall display taking a look at habitats..."What if I lived in an animals home?"

There are many options for research and learning with this book.

I love that What If You Had Animal Hair could be used to tie reading and science together!!

Another book by this author is What If You Had Animal Teeth
What If You Had Animal Teeth?

For more info on the #bookaday challenge....Teachers for Teachers

Saturday, July 5, 2014

The Book A Day Challenge...Day 4

Today I am sharing a book that my 16 year old daughter recommended.  This is a picture book that one of her high school teachers shared with her class. 

There by Marie-Louise Fitzpatric
This book has the ability to speak to all ages. A small child is starting on a journey but wonders how long it will take to get there?...where is she going?...what will she see?...will the journey change her?

We are all on a journey and this book opens the door for talking about the choices we make, the goals we set, the paths we choose to follow. One of my favorite pages says:
Will there be dragons?
Will they be really fierce?
Do you know how to tame dragons?
I do.
You look them right in the eye and count to ten,
then they just fly away.
How many times do we set off on a journey and face "dragons"...fear is real for all of us, talking to students about this could be very empowering for them.

In the final pages of the book she decides
"I won't go today"
"I've got lots to do."
"I'll go there tomorrow"
This can open up a great discussion...sometimes we have goals that we are excited to meet, but we have to first take care of today and the task at hand before we can move forward. Getting THERE is a process!!

First Day of School Reading
No matter the grade this would be an interesting book to start the year off with.  For the younger set the discussion could be more short term:
What are our goals this school year?
How will we change this year?
Older students can discuss those topics as well, but can be lead to think farther into the future
How will our choices today effect us in the future?
Will we be afraid?
How will we handle fear?
The list could go on and on!!

Setting Goals and writing about them:
Individuals or the class (depending on the age) can set a goal and using a web or other organizational method can come up with ways to meet that goal.  They might then take it a step further and write about their goal and how they plan to meet it.

Class Book:
Students can predict what they will look like in the future, and what they will have learned (whether it be at the end of the school year, end of high school, or as an adult) and create a picture and write about their future selves. Pages could be compiled into a class book, it would be fun to look back at the book as the year progresses and see what goals have been met or even exceeded!

This book has the potential of taking a class on a wonderful journey of self discovery!! There are so many philosophical questions that can be asked, and so many symbolisms to be found in this book...

Helpful Links:
There (Marie-Louise Fitzpatric)
Teaching Children Philosophy

Book A Day Challenge:

Friday, July 4, 2014

The Book A Day Challenge...Day 3

Happy 4th of July!!

This post will be brief...I have baked beans to make, fire works to buy...

The Flag We Love
This book takes the reader on a journey though history telling how our flag came to be and how it has played an important part in our history.  Every morning we say the pledge of allegiance...but do we stop to explain to our students what our flag is all about...what it stands for.  This book will help teachers do just that, giving dates and moments in history when our flag was present to remind us what we stand for!
The Flag We Love
Have a wonderful 4th,

(Join The Book A Day Challenge Teachers for Teachers)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

The Book A Day Challenge...Day 2

This is my post for Day 2 of the #bookaday challenge. Check out the details...Teachers for Teachers

No one really ever outgrows a good picture book. I have 3 children the oldest is a senior in high school and the younger 2 are in first and second grade...but when it's time to read a bed time story all 3 show up.  I've heard countless adults talk of their secret love for "Reading Rainbow".  Picture books have the ability to reach a wide audience at different levels, what a 3 year old takes from a story may be far different than the deeper meaning a young adolescent or even an adult could take away. 

The Snatchabook (by Helen Docherty and Thomas Docherty)
I am in storybook love!!!  This is the sweetest rhyming book ever, with so many learning and teaching opportunities.  All of the storybooks in Burrow Down are disappearing, but why?  Books don't just disappear, or do they?  Could it be a thief? One little Bunny sets out to solve this mystery!
Who could be taking the stories...a little "snachabook"...all because he can not read and has no one to read to him. (I'm sorry if I've given away to much of the story but for the sake of understanding the following ideas you needed to know some details.)

Book Buddies
This would be a wonderful way to introduce the idea of Book Buddies, Reading 3rd graders will be reading to first graders 2-4 times each month.  I plan to kick off our program with this book. We will discuss how much we all love to read story books and how important it is to share the love of reading with others!  What a great way to talk about spreading kindness!!

Making Predictions
The title of this story is fun and sparks your interest, what can we learn about the book from the title, what will the story be about? What is the meaning of the word snatch...? Students could discuss, draw,  and /or write about their predictions.

Design your own "snatchabook"
Students would create a "snatchabook" maybe even name it and make clothes for it....but most of all make a book for your "snatchabook" to hold.  Making the book could be as simple as decorating a little book cover with the title of the student's favorite book, or students could create original stories to be displayed with their "snatchabook".

PJ's and Stories
A fun conclusion to a study on this book would be PJ day and bring your favorite book to school day. Students could camp out under desks and tables wearing their PJ's and sharing their favorite books with friends!!

There are so many ways this book could be used!!  If you get the chance read the book and share your ideas!


Wednesday, July 2, 2014

The Book A Day Challenge...Day 1

Thank you Tammy and Clare of  Teachers for Teachers for sharing information regarding the "Book A Day Challenge", and thank you Donnalyn Miller of  Nerdy Book Club  for setting such a lofty goal and wonderful challenge for teachers and readers everywhere!! Participants are encouraged to post on Facebook, Twitter, blogs...whatever social media you use...#bookaday!

I can't wait to get started reading and sharing, but most of all I'm excited to hear from others about the great books they are reading and the ideas and inspirations they take away from books.

Book #1...My Name is Not Alexander

My daughter chose this book at the bookstore sometime in February, but we brought it home and somehow never read it.  I'm so glad I took time to read it for this challenge.  My Name Is Not Alexander is about a little boy who imagines he is everyone from Teddy Roosevelt to his own Father.  One of my favorite things about this book is the positive message it sends of greatness.  Whether the boy is imagining that he is Jackie Robinson, his dad, or finally himself he speaks of  greatness. Needless stay this book would be a wonderful springboard into famous people from history.  The boy speaks of Teddy Roosevelt, Thomas Alva Edison, Fred Astaire, Jackie Robinson, his Father and Himself...there is brief write up of each on the final pages of the book.

What's Great About Me
Students could create a self portrait and write a paragraph sharing what makes them great.  It might be fun to leave the names off and let classmates guess who is who.

What's Great About (someone you love)
Just as Alexander saw the greatness in his father, encourage students to recognize the greatness of someone important to them and write about it.  Students could even share what they've written with their someone.

I AM (famous person's name)
students write in the format of the book My Name is Not Alexander and tell about the historical person they choose to be, then illustrate.  Pages could be put together for a class book. 

Oral Report On A Famous Historical Figure
Students dress in character and share their report with the class, make poster board costume with cut out for face, or make a bottle bobble head to go with it.  Fun Biography ideas...Biographies on Pinterest

(There is also a "sister" book to this one. The title is...My Name is Not Isabella.)

My Name Is Not Alexander
A great book full of opportunities for learning!!

Happy Reading,

Monday, May 26, 2014

Reflections On Third Grade

When I decided to go back to teaching I just assumed I would be teaching Kindergarten or First Grade...I love the little ones...and my teaching philosophies are Early Childhood through and through.  I prayed about where I would be teaching, I prayed that God would reveal to me where I could do the best work for him.  Imagine  my  surprise when God led me to a low income school, with low test scores to teach 3rd grade.

Of all my years in school 3rd grade was my least favorite.  It was the year I decided I wasn't very smart...those multiplication tables seemed impossible to learn, and my teacher didn't like me very much.  Maybe that's why I was led to teach 3rd grade.  I understood my students, I got that it wasn't easy for them...I could relate.  I also knew something else...I wasn't stupid as a third grader and neither was my class of 3rd graders.  Struggling yes...but not stupid...they just needed someone to help them understand math in another way, they needed to learn and understand number sense with hands on experience and exploration!!

When I was in school we got to write stories on special occasions with our spelling words...if we were lucky...too bad for me because writing was the one thing I was good at!! I believe writing is important, that writers are readers and readers are writers (not to mention students will need to be writers as we transition to Common Core), so my class has done a lot of writing this year.  When my kiddos came to my class some of them struggled to write just one sentence, and many of those who could write more ran everything together in one long string of words...I had my work cut our for me!!I had my students writing every day whether it was a journal entry or  a story summary and as they became more confident I required more of them.  Finally my students were able to brain storm and make a plan for their writing, writing a rough draft and then a final draft (that was always displayed proudly in the hall).   I am so proud of how far they've come...their writing is perhaps not what it should be...but they worked so hard and have improved so much!!

I have often wondered how my students came to be so far behind, was it the fault of previous teachers, pore home life, lack of rest, lack of motivation...  While I am tempted to blame previous teaching I realize there is something bigger at play.  My students started Kindergarten at a disadvantage. Many of their more affluent piers were enrolled in PreK and Mother's Day Out programs, entering Kindergarten armed with the skills of letter and sound recognition, the ability to cut and color in the lines, to write their name, and maybe even read a few words...but many of my 3rd graders started Kindergarten not possessing even those basic skills.  Years ago...when I was teaching my first Kindergarten class it was acceptable for students to come to school without these skills, my job was to introduce and teaching letter and sound recognition...but that is no longer the case. 

The big question is this:  How do we as teachers make up for lost time?? How do we keep up with curriculum calendars, common core, or state standards when students have started out so far behind.  Yes, yes...we have reading interventions, small groups, and tutoring, but what do you do when that is not enough??  I would often considered these things as I taught my 3rd graders.  Sometimes I felt that their past teachers had been so busy teaching the curriculum calendar that they didn't stop to check for understand...but how can I blame them...we are after all evaluated on following district and state standards.  As the year went by I began to realize that my students had gaping holes in their understanding and knowledge of everything from phonics to math...I did my best to keep up with curriculum calendars...while stopping to fill in the gaps.  I hope it was enough, next year I have plans to do even more to fill in those gaps, but that can be a challenge when you are trying to prepare them for the 3rd grade test.  I am happy to say our test scores came up this year, and plans are in place to make our third grade team even more effective next year.

Monday, May 12, 2014

Am I a Teacher or a Tester?

I've been busy...hence the lack of posts on my blog.  I've been busy preparing my 3rd graders for state testing.  I don't believe in teaching to the test.  I believe in teaching my students to be problem solvers, to investigate and understand the world around them.  Don't get me wrong, I understand that students need to be able to read and there is most certainly a need for evaluation, but at what cost.

Students who did not pass the state test will not be able to pass on to fourth grade unless they fall into an area of exemption;  for this reason teachers have had to give 6 other tests for portfolios, to be presented to build a case, for a student who should go on to fourth grade but did not do well on the state test.  How crazy is that...testing for protection against the test!!!

Sometimes I feel like all I do is test...and guess that testing is over...I get to give my 3rd graders a "trial test" so that the state can test next year's test!!! You heard me right we're testing the test.

I'm beginning to wonder if I am a teacher or a tester!!