Thursday, January 30, 2014

Abstract Noun Poetry

I first saw this over at All Things Upper Elementary and thought it would be a wonderful idea-and a fairly quick time filler if I needed one!

Well, on Monday I needed one! We were going to exchange our Snowflake How-To's and see how well they wrote their directions...

...but I had 4 kids out and 1 sent home for a total of 5 missing! Plus, I would have 3 leave for Gifted and Talented halfway through.

So our How-To's have been postponed until next week :)

We have about an hour forty-five for Writing once a week (we don't choose to switch reading groups on that day-making it easier to do some longer lessons-otherwise it is squeezed into our half-hour whole group-along with everything else!).

I split the time in half-having the kids work on finishing their How-To's (some were so close!) or freewriting (which turned into comic writing!), and then the rest of the time was poetry!

First, we talked about abstract nouns-things you can't touch-mostly feelings.

Then, we got a little deeper with our feelings (with some significant help from me! ;)

After we came up with the list, I told them that they had to pick a word to write a poem on- and it did have to be one that was on the board!

I modeled how to do with with one of my favorite words-and one that I think describes me fairly well! (They did help a little-I like to ask their opinions!).

Then they got to work!

A few had questions about if they and a friend picked the same word-and I told them it would be fine because they would come up with different poems because they saw that word differently. (We had a lot of  'luck'!).

I also made it a requirement that they had to use at least one type of figurative language in their poem-just to make it more interesting!

They turned out great! I was impressed with some of them-I loved reading what they thought of the word they picked.
This is one of my LD kids-who struggles with writing! (and reading). It says: Luck Smells like a wild clover after a rainfall. Tastes like gold out of a fresh stream. Sounds like sweet music in the olden times. Feels like a colorful rainbow going through the sky. Lives in a King of true heart. How awesome is that!!

So, an excellent lesson/review as well as being creative-go for it!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Workshop Wednesday: Historical Fiction

Happy Wednesday!

Time to link up with Jivey! :)
This week we are talking about using Historical Fiction in our Reading block!

Well, I have a TON of American History, World History, Biographies and Historical Fiction books in my library-free for the kids to pick from! (This group really likes biographies-they've been going through them like crazy!) (Plus, I love history as well-I just can't resist! ;)

Our wonderful, awesome, amazing literacy series (can you sense the sarcasm?) alternates every other unit (2 themes per unit) with a Social Studies one (the other one is Science-those are way more cool and interesting!).

We have:
American Journeys (all about immigration and the American Dream)
 and Across the USA (about the different regions and how the land affects them)
as well as The Early Americas (the Native Americans and the Explorers) and Buyers and Sellers (economics, yay!).

However, I like to throw in a Scholastic News now and again, as well as an article about a topic we're studying (see yesterday's post for information!)

Right now, we are working on an Explorer project-where each student picked an explorer and is researching them. They'll have to create a powerpoint to go along with it-I think they like that part the most!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Understand This!

Recently we have been practicing monitoring our understanding while we read. (See here for my post last year-and a freebie!)

Sometime tricky because some of my friends think they know everything, and don't have anything to understand. (We're working on that!)

Of course, the first thing we did was to have a discussion on what monitoring our understanding means...and how it can help us!

Which led to the creation of an anchor chart...

The first day, we practiced in partners using picture books (mostly pulled from my Mentor Text bin).

The results .

I really wanted to find something that the kids maybe knew a little something about, but would have to stop and think about what was going on.

I figured that they would do better with NonFiction, but wanted something kind of short, so I went on the hunt for some NonFiction articles.

I remember Erin having a good post about it-so I went on the hunt for that. I also loved the NatGeo Explorer Magazine (Pathfinder) when I had it in my last district, and wanted to see if I could get something off that.

I had success with both!

I modeled the skill and strategy with an article from Achieve 3000, making sure that all the kids had a copy so they could follow along. (see I'm Lovin Lit here for more information on this wonderful site).

I picked an article which I had no idea what it was on or about...I wanted to show the kids a 'true' experience...

I stopped and modeled, using some of the kids questions as a guide, and we discussed the answers together. I also showed them how they could use more than one skill to help them understand what is going on.

Then, I gave the kids the penguin article from NatGeo, and had them read in partners (but work independently).

The results were much better this time!

I was really impressed with some of their thinking-and how they came up with it!

Of course, these are the better examples-not all of them were this good...but they all scored a partially proficient or higher! (out of 1-4, most of them got a 2 or higher...these were a 3)
We'll definitely be practicing more strategies with NonFiction Articles-I love how they can be grade appropriate- but a 'shorter' read and still complex enough to practice our skills!

Smiles and Sunshine (lots of warm sunshine, please!)

Monday, January 20, 2014


We've recently starting to learn about synthesizing information and how it can make you a better reader.

A very tricky skill, and, in my opinion, introduced too soon in the series (I mean, it comes before monitoring understanding and questioning!).

But we seem to be doing a little better this year, probably because I've taught it before, and my desire to have the kids practice the skill in partners with picture books before we ever get to grade level reading!

I started off by introducing the skill and explaining what it means (sometimes a little tricky when I don't completely understand it myself!).

We created an anchor chart together and talk about how each time you read, you get more schema and understanding about a topic-what synthesizing is!

The first day, I had them work in partners with a set of picture books (Normally I would have them work alone, but because of the trickiness, I started them out in partners).

They use an organizer that I created (of course! ;), and went through the steps.

The next day, I had them work in partners with a set of nonfiction books. I had them read it together, but some partners choose to do the organizer alone. Their synthesis sheets turned out much better with the nonfiction books!

Now, we were finally ready for grade level reading and independent work! They have been doing much better than last year's class, and I hope this tricky skill has become easier for them!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Day Our Way: Smiles and Sunshine

Amelia over at

Where the Wild Things Learn
is having a very fun linky about our days!

This is my day!
 The kids start coming in at 8:25. Depending on the day, I'll have some at Band or Chorus, or pulled for Wilson Work. Plus, kids trickle in (especially those at breakfast!).

For Morning Work, I use:
5-A-Day Common Core Language Review {4th Grade}


Common Core Daily Math for 4th Grade - January Edition

We also do work in our Handwriting Book.

At 9, we start our day. We flip flop between Science and Social Studies.

Right now, we are working on Explorers in Social Studies.
From last year-I have 5 crews this year!
I've introduced our Crew Project-and the kids are really excited!

We switch for Science, so my kids will be learning about weather while I teach Weathering and Erosion, States of Matter to another class.

Around 9:45, we start Math!

I always start out with my calendar:

Common Core-Aligned SMART Board Math Calendar for Grades 4-5
Which is WELL worth the money-even my principal likes it! (He said I had an 'unusual lesson design' in my last eval-because I did calendar first and it reviews all sorts of things!)

Then we move onto the lesson in our books:
Right now, we are learning how to do double-digit multiplication (learning the partial products first!). So far, so good!

Then I sent the kids to specials to run around like a crazy person setting things up for the afternoon :)

After they come back, we work on Mentor Sentences and Spelling.

Following Mentor Sentence fun (which they and I LOVE!), I send them off for lunch and recess!

We don't have lunch duty, and the amount of time we spend at recess duty varies from day to day. Sometimes I only have a 20 minute lunch, sometimes a  30 minute, and sometimes the full 40!

When Lunch/Recess is done, our entire afternoon is spent on Literacy.

We do about a half hour of Whole Group Instruction, before doing three rotations of Small Groups.

I like to pull out the picture books whenever possible, and always use my fun organizers!
Right now, I have three Guided Reading Groups (we share our kids for that!), a Q, R and T!

T is reading Percy Jackson
R is reading a nonfiction Dolphin book and
Q is reading mystery book.

The other students are working on their Literacy Centers
 or finishing their reading group work!

At 2:45 the pick-ups/walkers get ready, and they're dismissed at 2:50.

Bus friends get shoved out the door walked to the gym at 2:55-and we're free!

A very busy day that flies by!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Workshop Wednesurday: Seasonal Writing

Happy (Wednes)urday!

I'm linking up with Jivey for her Workshop Wednesday (on a Thursday)...because someone forgot to take pictures yesterday ::looks around room innocently::

One of my favorite 'Winter' writings is combined with a tricky subject-How To writing!

Except we do How To Make a Snowflake!

I use 3rd Grade Thoughts Packet to help.
How To Make a Snowflake: Functional Writing & Transition/L
The kids always enjoy it, and my favorite part is having them give their paper to a friend to see how well they wrote their snowflakes turn out the same?

I always start out by modeling the first few steps...then it is up to them!

It's always hilarious comparing the two snowflakes side by side-the kids realize how specific they need to be!

Another one of my favorite Winter activities is to read Snowflake Bentley  and then do Snow Similes! (I got this so long ago that I forget where it came from...but it's a very fun activity to do!)

I left that for the sub to do one Friday while I was enjoying Lucy Calkins :) - the kids told me they liked it!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Lucy Calkins

Guess what I did last Friday?

I met Lucy Calkins!

She came up to do a workshop on the Common Core...

...and it was AMAZING!

She sat next to me and shook my hand-I felt like a fangirl! :)

There was a ton of great information-I took four pages of notes.

She was a great speaker-inspirational, funny and full of wonderful information.

We even got some goodies!

A copy of her Pathways to Common Core book, with an accompanying CD that has a load of great videos, and the people who hosted it gave us a cute totebag-another one to add to my collection!

She has a great website with The Teacher's College (The Reading and Writing Project) that has videos galore. There are even some free Performance Assessments for each grade!

If you ever get a chance to see her-go!

Now, if only we could convince our district to get her Units of Study...

Smiles and Sunshine,

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Visualizing Pirate Fun

Well, hello there!

I've been suffering from an extreme case of laziness (must be something to do with the weather ;), as well as some uninspired (repeating stuff from last year that I've already shared!) days.

But, some fun things have popped up that I'd love to share with you!

I first got this idea from 4th Grade Frolics, and I've taught it three times-with a thumbs up from the kids each time! I even used a modified version of it for my formal observation last year-and got an administrator thumbs up as well!

First, I hand out a blank piece of paper to each students and have them fold it into fourths.

Then, I start reading a story.

BUT, I have the book hidden in a folder, so they can see the cover, and I don't show them the pictures.

I have previously marked four spots in the book where I stop and give the students an opportunity to draw what they are seeing when I read.

I tell them that these are only sketches, no need to create a Picasso!

After, I have them bring their drawings to the rug, and I read the book again, this time showing the pictures. We stop at each of the four points and discuss the pictures that they had drawn and what they were thinking when they drew it.

I really like that part, because some of the kids realize how good adjectives and descriptive words can really help the reader see what the author is trying to talk about.

For my observation last year, I read a short passage and had the kids draw their sketch on a sticky note and put it on their crabs (my show what you know board). This was only one part of a four part lesson, but it worked just as well!

Smiles and Sunshine,