Sunday, October 19, 2014

Writing Mini Lesson 1- Brainstorming for Interactive Notebooks

Hello all!  It is a crisp fall morning here in the Carolinas and boy does it feel good to get away from the heat!  This will be good for my hot flashes too!  Ha!  I apologize for my absence here.  I've missed younz'all!  (yes that is a combo of Pittsburgh and the south).  For any newcomers out there, I mainly blog about writing but throw in some Social Studies and organizing tips along the way!  I am a northerner living in the south.  My southern friends crack me up daily with their sayings and expressions so of course after living here for fifteen years, I've picked some of them up.  I put a little Pittsburgh twist to them though.  Ha!  I am planning out a series of writing workshop mini lessons for my blog.  This is the first of many!!!!! So if you need ideas, follow along!  The first one is about brainstorming for the year.  This will give students ideas throughout the year whenever they are in a rut and can't think of what to write about in their notebook.  Enjoy and see ya next time for writing mini lesson 2- Paragraph writing- Complete Sentences!  ROCK 'N' WRITE!
Writing Discussion and Brainstorming

As a whole group, discuss the following questions and write on a chart.  What do writers do?  Why are writing notebooks important?  (write thoughts, share stories, resource, personal)

Brainstorming Ideas:
Here are some things you may add to your idea’s section of your notebook.  This will set the stage for the year and give them a place to go to find things to write about.  I would suggest to either do an Interest Inventory or the following:

1.Heart:  Have students cut out the heart and fill it with words that tell what they love.  Use the poster to help them think of ideas.

2.Question Mark:  Have students cut out the question mark and have them fill it with things that want to know.

3.House-  List family members.  Don’t limit it to members who live with them!  Around the house, list things that their family does together…weekends, summer, mornings, evenings…etc.

4.I-  This is a page where they can tell more about themselves.  “I am”

5.Trace hand.-  Use the hand or have students trace their hand.  List a feeling on each finger and one on palm.  Write examples of when they felt that way.  Use the Feelings Poster.

6.Treasure Map- Draw a picture of their yard or favorite place.  Mark an x by a place where they have a favorite memory.



There are two columns for tracking. “First” and “Second”. If they retest or you decide to reteach the whole class, they can record their second score. I like to give them their percentages except on the bigger writing pieces that have rubrics. Then I have them write down their rubric number 5, 3, or 1. They can easily see their strengths and weaknesses which is helpful when they develop their goals for their next writing piece.   CLICK HERE to get the page below.  I have others for Opinion Writing and Informative Writing!  They will be later in the mini lesson series!

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Teaching Techniques for Writing

Techniques for Teaching Writing

In order to have an effective writing program, it is important to use a variety of teaching techniques.

Modeled Writing
Use the think-aloud strategy-  Talk aloud as you are writing so students can hear your thought process.  Link to their prior knowledge.  Use the resources around the room.

Work with the students on a piece of writing.  Collaborate with students and scribe for them.  You may use this technique in large or small group settings.  It is very effective in all subject areas.  Always display the finished product in the class so students can use it as a resource.

This technique is similar to shared writing except the teacher and students share the pen.  It is helpful for reluctant writers!

Small-group setting then apply the skill through independent writing.  It is used for reteaching skills previously taught to students who are struggling with that particular skill.  This skill works well across the curriculum.

Students work with a partner or group of students to create a piece of writing together.


Students write on their own.  It may be teacher-selected or chosen by the student.  Keep in mind that independent writing should follow a lesson on a skill.   It should not always be comprised of going through the whole writing process.  This allows them to develop their writing skills, take risks, and be creative.

Monday, September 29, 2014

Hall Display to Last through the Year!

Boy oh boy has it been a busy beginning of the year!  Our school got ipads this year and every single second I am not teaching, I am working on that ipad to find amazing resources for my kiddos.  Overwhelmed?  That's an understatement!  And I love technology!  I just feel like I am starting over in a new grade or new school or something.  Ok, enough of my complaining.  I see the violins coming out.

Check this out!  My grade level was brainstorming ideas to put out in the hall for back to school.  In addition we were talking about putting up a background paper with the students name or something to keep up for the year where we can add their current papers.  With all kinds of nifty ideas throwing around this is what we decided.

1.  I used Whimsey Workshop clipart of a boy and girl and I erased part of their head so students could form their own.



2.  Then I added a cute frame and space to write an acrostic poem.  Students had to draw and color themselves and write an acrostic poem using their name.

3.  Then we took pictures of the kids and pasted them on a short piece of paper.  Students had to brainstorm numbers and words that represented them.

4.  We glued both pieces of work onto a long 12 X 18 piece of construction paper and laminated.

5.  Next we took four paperclips and put them a 1/4 inch above and inside each corner.  That way we can add current papers.  We taped the back to keep them in place.

6.  Last we put them up in the hall!

This is what it looks like when you add a new assignment:

When we take the assignment down and don't have a current paper to put in the hall, it will still look decorated!  Genius right?  I love looking at their drawings of themselves and comparing it to their actual photo.  I have some artists in here!  Toats Adorbs.  What does that mean?  That is my teenager's language for totally adorable!  What do you put in the hall at the beginning of the year?

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Blast Off Giveaway!

Three... two... one.... BLASTOFF!

I am thrilled to be officially launching a new collaborative blog today!  We are 12 Upper elementary educators with a wide variety of expertise.  We hope you will visit often to take a peek at the snapshots taking place in our classrooms (and to see what you might want to bring into your classroom)!

Go to UPPER ELEMENTARY SNAPSHOTS.  We invite you to take a look around!

...Check out our freebie page to find some resources to use in your classroom!
...Follow our Pinterest board and Facebook page to see more daily snapshots!
...Keep reading to see our first two blog posts!

Finally, don't forget to enter our first giveaway for the opportunity to win oodles of useful upper elementary resources!

Thanks for stopping by!   Rock it out!

Friday, September 26, 2014

Using Notability App

NOTABILITY AND IPAD GIVEAWAY!!!!  Do you want to learn about Notability and enter to win an iPad mini?  This is for you!!!  My rockin Lesson Deli girls have teamed up to offer not only 16 incredible apps, but their expertise to go along with it!  Oh and let's not forget that since we are talking techie, we are raffling off an iPad mini so you can see what these apps can do for you and your classroom!  

Are you familiar with Notability?  If not, you need to check it out!
Notability is awesome to use in the classroom.  I teach 4th grade and this is our first year with 1:1 technology.  All my students have an iPad.  Reluctant at first, I decided just to dive into it and try things out.  We had a few bumps along the way but the app is amazing!  Students can take notes, record, upload pictures and documents, draw, write, make text boxes, highlight, etc etc.  I either email or place a document in my dropbox.  Student upload it into Notability.  Once it is in there, they can manipulate it.  I especially like that they can take notes and highlight text.  Our latest upload was a Native American chart.  Students create a text box in each box of the chart and write their notes.  Some liked writing instead.  They would zoom in to write so they could fit it all in the box.  Some change their screen to black and write with light color (I didn't even show them that tool!)  They are so excited about using the iPads that they explore on their own.

How did we manage the notes?  We created "DIVIDERS" for each subject.  Then we created "SUBJECTS" for each divider.  For example, under Social Studies, we have a subject for Native Americans.  They can create as many notes as we need and label each one.  It has been a fantastic tool for our first work.  I send them the .pdf and they can write answers directly on it.  Now I haven't felt completely comfortable in grading so if I am grading something, I may have them read and manipulate text on Notability but provide an answer sheet for their answers.  This chart you see above is going to be used for an open notes test on Native Americans.  It is saving us paper and engaging the students!  Now that you are excited to see what Notability to do for you and your class, enter our contest and win an iPad mini!  

See all the other amazing Lesson Deli blogs and their favorite apps below!

What is your favorite app????

Sunday, August 24, 2014

10 Best Organizing Tips for the Classroom

Although I've been teaching for a bajillion years, I still find that the littlest organizing tip goes a long way!   I am going to mix a few of my all time favorites with some of my new found treasures!  This is going to make my classroom run as smooth as silk!

1.  Class Mailboxes-  I have used these for years and they are best!  I assign each student a number in alphabetical order.  When turning in papers, I have students place the assignment in their mail slot and I can quickly check to see who didn't turn one in.  Then I can collect them in number order which makes it easy for entering grades!  Oh yeah!  I'm doing the happy dance.

I also have a mailbox.  This is used for student notes as well as lunch money, bus notes. and other important information.  In the past, students put them on my desk, but if you saw my desk, you would see why I needed a new plan!  After misplacing a few items, it was time for a change!  I got this adorable designed box from Kirklands for 50% off and added a label to it.

2.  Door Window Shade-  Erin across the hall found this on Pinterest this year!  Another colleague, Meredith, made the shade for all of us.  Then we bought dowels, hooks, and ribbon at Walmart.  This is super effective for Lockdowns!  All you have to do is pull the bow and the shade falls down!  LOVE it!

3.  Leaving the Room Sign-  Also on the inside of my door, I posted this sign.  I laminated the colorful section and made copies of the signing part.  Then I tied a string to a pen and taped it to the door.  When students leave the room, they need to sign out.  Then when they return, they cross it off.  This is especially effective if we have a fire drill.  I can quickly check the list as we are lining up!  Although I usually remember who is out, there is always a panic as I'm counting heads and checking my clipboard for students at a quick second.

4.  Class Library- To keep order for my class books, I bought these baskets and labeled chapter books according to their genre.  I also place color-coded dots on the books with a letter so they can easily be placed back in the correct basket.  For example- M- Mystery.  Below there are fiction picture books on one side and nonfiction picture books on the other side.

5.  Daily Lessons-  This is one of my favorite organizing tips of all time!  My partner, Roberta, found it at Ikea in the children's department.  I can place all the worksheets, plans, even books needed in these bins for each day of the week.  Below the days of the week, I place extra lessons or lessons coming in the future for my subjects.  Boy oh boy does this keep me organized!!!!!

 6.  Jobs-  I have two classes.  I assign two students from each class to a job.  That way, if they are absent or out of the room, there is someone to perform the job.  I have two students from each class on vacation.  I allow them to sit back and watch others work!  (I even allow them to put their feet up, ha!)  My jobs include:  Geek Squad, Teacher Assistant, Cafe Team, Clean Team, Pencil Team, Board Team, Library Team, Cubbie Team, Library Team, Chairs Team, Floor Team, Supplies Team.  There is a description of their job duties on the chart.  I have students on the same job for the whole month.  That way I can keep track of their duties!   Then we rotate!

Another team job, I place 4 different colors on the desks.  Below, you will see a pink cloud.  That is the color who will be the group helper for the day or week or month.  I move them whenever I feel like it!

7.  Missing Work Board-  MIA- Missing/Incomplete Assignments.  I place this on the white board so I can write names under it.  No Names- I clip any no names to this board.  Absent- If they are absent, I clip their work.  Incomplete work- I clip it.  In the middle there is a "Look What I Did" board.  I found this at Kirklands and although it doesn't go with the missing assignments, it was a space on the wall so I will highlight some Rockin Work!

This is a photo frame with magnets on the back and bow in corner.

I created the No Name and Absent Boards by painting an art canvas from Michaels and hot glued the clothespins!  Then I hot glued them to the wall.

Below to the left is where I place incomplete work.  I took an old white board and covered it with wrapping paper!  To the right, I place extra worksheets incase a student messes up or loses work.

8.  Cover Ups-  I have so many supplies and books and materials I have collected over the years and it looks just messy messy messy!  So, I took the same curtains I purchased from Target for $19.99 for my windows and cut them to fit my tables and counters to cover up all the messes.  I didn't sew- oh no.  I hot glued them and they look professionally sewn!  Then I hot glued them to the tables and counters!  Yes, I am a hot mess!  I mean a hot glue crazy woman!

Mess #1

Mess #2

Mess #3

Fixed Mess #1

Fixed Mess #2

Fixed Mess #3

9.  Collect Items-  This is especially useful at the beginning of the year when I am collecting class supplies!  I place bins and signs and they go at it!  Of course if it was something I had to track, I would do it with a list instead of this way.  It saved us lots of time that first day!

10.  Group Supplies-  I found these at Walmart and they are perfect!  Each group has markers, color pens, colored pencils, a tape dispenser, glue sticks, and scissors.  I have rules for the supplies!  Markers need to be facing up to see the color.  If a lid is missing, throw it away and get a new one from the class supply.  Pencils are to placed point down to see the colors.  Keep them sharpened and the bins neat!

I hope these classroom organization tips help you this year!  If you have any tips that work well for you, please share!  I would love to see what else I can do to make my job easier!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

A Few of My Favorite Things

Can you believe that it is time to welcome students through the door?  I had Meet the Teacher last night and got to see all those sweet faces!  I think I am finally ready but have one more day to work on little things.  In preparing for the coming weeks, I am super excited to share a few products that I came across.

First off, if you believe in Project-Based Learning, you need to skip on over to Plan a Field Trip from Performing in Fifth Grade.  She has several projects with different themes and even has a bundle of all her Project-Based Learning products.  This stretches students' minds and helps them explore their creativity.  LOVE IT!

Second, Teacher Next Door has an amazing Inference Bundle!  She uses Literature and Informational Text.  It is geared towards 4th-5th.  There are worksheets, task cards, posters, games and activities!  You get 124 pages of great resources for only $9!  Seriously?  You can't beat that!  This skill can be tough for elementary students and this will certainly help!  Inference Bundle

Next, I start off the year with Geography and Teaching Ideas 4 U has a fabulous interactive notebook for United States Geography.  It is for 5th grade but I can certainly tweak it for 4th.  Geography includes territories, latitude/longitude, regions, waterways, plains, etc, etc.  Can you believe you get all of this for only $4?

And to go along with interactive notebooking, my grade level just planned for the first couple weeks in Interactive Writing Notebooks.  Super Excited.  Last year, it was a huge hit with amazing results.  It is very teacher-friendly and walks you through Narrative-Opinion-Informative writing with tons and tons of mini-lessons!  Interactive Writing Notebooks

Now that you've heard about my favorite things, take advantage of TPT sale tomorrow!  

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