Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Revising Strategy - Cut and Grow

There is something that I must admit.


I never liked writing when I was in school. And will admit that I have never been a good writing teacher. This year one of my goals was to become much better in preparing my fifth graders for wiring in middle school.

Over the summer I did a lot of reading and research on writer's workshop and I've taught so much more writing than ever before. I can already see growth in my students' writing. Although I am still not 100% comfortable with teaching writing, I know I am doing much more for my students in writing than I ever have before.

There is another confession to make.....

Until recently, I didn't know the difference between revising and editing.

Yep that's right. I went all the way through elementary, middle, and high school as well as college and grad school and 9 years of teaching without ever knowing the true difference between the two. I never truly understood the difference until this past summer.

The difference is so simple, I can't believe I hadn't learned by now.

Revise - Improving one's writing
Edit - Fixing one's writing

Last week I introduced the following anchor chart to my students. This visual helped them better understand the two concepts. I still need to teach several mini lessons on revising and editing, but I know this chart will continue to help them distinguish between revising and editing more easily.

I posted previously about a workshop I attended last summer. The workshop was presented by Margarita Calderon and provided reading and writing strategies to help English Language Learners, ELLs, better grasp the English language.

One of the strategies was called Cut and Grow. This strategy is a revising strategy that teaches students how to substitute sentences in their writing. Basically the writer selects a sentence in their paper that they would like to improve. They then get scissors and cut the selected sentence out of the paper. They then tape the top half of their paper onto a piece of construction paper and create an improved sentence to write on the construction paper. Once the sentence is written, they attach the rest of their paper.

This method provides a visual of how to substitute one sentence for another. This is valuable for ELLs because they can actually see their paper actually grow. The best part is that it can be done multiple times to show students that they can always continue to improve their writing.

Below are some examples from my classroom. Most of my students love cut and grow because they think they are doing an art project. (I meant to take pictures before I helped edit their papers, but I forgot so you will see my corrections in blue ink.)

Also, we were working on essays about Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. I know it is too early in the year, but my district always has an essay contest each year on Dr. King that have to be written early so they can do the awards banquet in January in celebration of his birthday.

These are by no means perfect, but I am so proud of my students' writing and the growth they have shown.

Using cut and grow to teach revising has worked wonders with my students. It is also the best strategy that I've learned to teach kids to do this.

What revising and editing strategies do you use in your classroom?

Friday, October 19, 2012

Viewing a Story from Multiple Perspectives

I can't believe that I haven't blogged in almost 3 weeks. But the month of October is always super hectic. Things haven't really slowed down, but I wanted to share something that my students have been doing in class.

Let me start by saying that I'm not usually into creating profits that require a lot cutting and glueing. I kinda feel as if they aren't necessary and take way to much time for the students to complete the work. However, this year I set a few goals and one of them was to allow my students more opportunities to be creative. I have done a pretty good hub with this so far, but I am right about the time it takes to complete products such as this.

Anyway, the Common Core emphasizes how important it is to use the same text for multiple reasons to help children build a deeper understanding of the text. So, we read the story Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters for the third time this school year. Here is what we did when we read it the first time.

Well, we have been learning about author's point of view. After learning the difference between first and third person points of view, we then went into a discussion about how changing the narrator would change the story. This required my scholars to really do some deep thinking. I'm sure many of them had never thought about anything similar to this.

After I reread Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters, I had them think about how the story would differ if it was told from the point of view of one of the 4 main characters: Mufaro, Manyara, Nyasha, or Nyoka. After a quick think, pair, share, I gave them the assignment.

Select two of the characters and retell the story from both characters' point of view, paying close attention to how the two stories would be different.

Then came the artsy part. We created hand lenses so it looked like the reader was viewing the two stories through them. Here is the final product.

Even though it took many of them several days to complete, it was a valuable activity for my class.

I knew that I would be hanging this product out in the hall, which means it had to be edited. (At my school, all work displayed in the hall must be edited and represent the students' best work.) This meant that I had to edit all of them, which took me forever. Here is a list of common errors that my scholars made:

- Using capital letters in the middle of sentences
- Beginning sentences with lowercase letters
- Using a lowercase I when writing the word
- Subject/verb agreement
- Lack of periods

How do you teach conventions in your classroom? How do you hold your students accountable for using proper conventions?

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Caught in a Web of Good Books

I hate changing bulletin boards!! In my opinion it is the worst part of teaching. At my school, we have to change our hallway bulletin boards by the last day of the month, so I have been thinking about what I could put on mine all week. I didn't really have any products planned for this week that would look good on the board so I had no idea of what I would do.

Well, that was until last night. I was scrolling through the pins on pinterest and saw a picture of a bulletin board with a spider web and spiders that read, "Tangled up in the webs of books!" (I didn't pin it so I don't have the website to link to it.) This board was for a school library. I liked the concept, but I still had to think of some kind of work that I could put on the board.

When I walked into my room today, I saw my wall that read, "Book Recommendations". (I haven't had the chance to start using this board yet.) But when I saw it I came up with an idea. Earlier this school year, someone created a post that showed pictures of their students peering over the cover of a book. They had created a book jacket of their favorite books. (Once again, I don't have the link to share.) I knew that I could combine the two ideas.

So during writing today, I had my students write a brief summary/description of a book that they have read this year; similar to what you would find on the back of a book. They also added a statement explaining why they would recommend this book. After they finished writing, I did a quick edit. I don't usually do that, but unfortunately there isn't enough time for them to peer edit. Tomorrow they complete the book jacket.

Here is the example that I made.

Skeleton Man by Joseph Bruchac is one of my favorite books. I use it for a read aloud every October. I will be starting next week. My students always love it and usually talk about it for the rest of the year.

Here is the bulletin board with just my book on it. Work in progress.

I did one so I can show my students an example. I will be adding the student products tomorrow as they finish them. I will take mine off the board in the morning.

Here is a close up of the title of the board.

We are required to include the Common Core State Standard on anything we place in the hallway. Here are the ones that connect to this activity.

Here is the final board from 2 different views.

Here are a few close ups of the student work.

My scholars loved this activity. I think I will make it a work on writing choice.

How do you feel about bulletin boards? How often are you required to change yours? What is currently on your bulletin board?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Glogster Edu

This summer I was introduced to Glogster at a workshop. It is basically a digital poster board on which you can post pictures, text, video, and audio images. It can be used for almost anything. Later in the year, I plan to allow my students to create projects using this program. I know they will really enjoy using Glogster to demonstrate their learning.

To introduce Glogster to my students, I have created a glog for the last four days to use during my literacy block. I created the glogs as a guide to the lesson, (a digital lesson plan.) The great thing about this web tool is that I can now give my scholars the website of the glog and they can revisit the lesson at home with their parents. Today was the third day I used the glog and the first day I sent the website home with my scholars. They were excited about writing the website down so I hope some of them will go home and view it.

I think my parents will enjoy this option because now they can see into the classroom and they can actually have a discussion with their children about the day.

You can find today's glog here.

Here is my glog for tomorrow. We are talking about making inferences for the first time. We will be looking back into the text we read today and make inferences. Students will complete a graphic organizer with the concept of schema + text evidence = inference. I am excited about my lesson tomorrow.

You can find this glog here.

I also told my scholars today that I would have tomorrow's glog completed by 6:00 tonight so hopefullly some of them will preview it which will help them be better prepared for tomorrow's lesson.

My ultimate goal is to teach my students how to use glogster by the end of October so that they will have access to it and will be able to create various products throughout the year.

Have you every used glogster? If so, how do you use it and how do your students feel about using it?

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Anchor Chart Preview and Math Strategies

This week I decided to created my reading anchor charts before hand. This will save me some class time. Here they are:

We have been discussing putting in full effort. I saw this chart on pinterest and think it is a good way for my scholars to rate the amount of effort they are putting forth.

This was another pinterest find. We have been talking a lot about working in groups and learning from our classmates. Scholars will be able to refer to this chart from now on. They will also be able to evaluate how well they did based off of the chart.

We will then decide what a group discussion should look and sound in our classroom and complete this chart.

The last two weeks we have been monitoring our thinking while reading and writing down what we are thinking, so this week I will introduce the word schema as a word that people in college use. My scholars will get a kick out of that.

Our comprehension skills this week are making inferences and point of view. Here are the two anchor charts that I will use for them.

Finally, here are 4 sentence starters that I will introduce to my scholars this week. I have a bulletin board dedicated to sentence starters. These will be added to the board.

I have never premade anchor charts before. I usually make them in front of the class, but they usually end up being a little sloppy and it takes more time. I will see how thus works out. I do like the fact that I was able to plan the chart out and I didn't have 21 pairs of eyes watching me as I made them.

What anchor charts are you using on your classroom this week?

Below are the different multiplication and division strategies I teach. So far we have learned unmarked array and bowtie, a way of decomposing numbers. I still need to teach partial product, which I will teach tomorrow. Now that we have multiple strategies, I require my students to use at least 2. The second way is to check their work.

For division, I teach chunking, multiple towers, and clusters. Once we learn all the strategies, they can use the one they are most comfortable, but they must then check their work using multiplication.

I teach these multiplication and division strategies because they help students see the parts of numbers and are therefore able to explain how and why the strategy works. This is exactly why I don't teach the traditional methods for multiplication and division. They don't show the place value in the numbers and therefore students aren't able to explain the math behind them.

How do you teach multiplication and division in your classroom?

Thursday, September 13, 2012


Have you ever used a Voki? I love them. This amazing web tool is basically an online avatar that can be used in various ways in the classroom. I first learned about Voki a few years ago, but I haven't used it very often. One of my goals this year is to use more technology in the classroom and provide more opportunities for my students to use it as well. I figured Voki was a good place to start.

I know my students many of my students have used Voki in the past, but some haven't so I think this will be a great way to get them used to using a web tool.

Here is my plan: I have found that my students are struggling with following oral instructions which is crucial if they are going to be successful this school year, so instead of writing their morning insructions on the board in the morning, I will write a message telling them to play the Voki when they come in. They can push play on the Smartboard as many times as necessary. And I won't have to give the instructions.

Here is the Voki I created for tomorrow.

Later in the day, I will show students how to create a Voki. It is super simple! Kids love the fact that they can create their own characters. Luckily, my class goes to computer lab on Fridays, so when they go to the lab they will create their own Voki giving directions for the class to do something. Next week, we will play their Vokis periodically and see if the class can follow the directions perfectly on the first try. I think we will keep track and I will award points toward a class reward. This activity will kill two birds with one stone. We will practice following directions and they will get experience with using Vokis. I think my students will love it!! Check out voki.com for more information.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Inner Conversations

Last week, our reading strategy was following your inner conversation by leaving tracks. We discussed the importance of thinking about their reading and then writing those thoughts down (leaving tracks). Leaving tracks during reading was compared to animals leaving tracks in the snow. Even though the animal may be gone, you can tell what animal was there by looking at the tracks. In reading, we write notes to track our thinking and after we are finished we can remember what we read by reading the notes. Therefore, we "leave tracks" of our thinking.

Throughout the week, we did read alouds, partner reading, and independent reading where the students practiced leaving tracks. On Friday, we did a culminating activity. I read the book Mufaro's Beautiful Daughters by John Steptoe. While I read, they left tracks of their thinking in their reading notebooks. After we finished, my scholars discussed the book in small groups. To work on conversational skills we use sentence starters. Our sentence starters for the week were I think, I believe, In my opinion, I wonder, I agree because, and I disagree because. (I love hearing children using these sentence starters.) After the discussions, my scholars created thought bubbles with their thoughts about the book. These were the track they wrote while I was reading the book. They then drew a self portrait and created a poster with the thought bubble coming from their self portrait. They turned out great!

Here are pictures of some of them.

Thursday, September 6, 2012


How do you feel about missing a day of school and needing a substitute? Well I hate it!! It takes way too much time to plan and usually it all doesn't get completed. I always feel as though a day with a sub is a wasted day for my scholars.

Well, I am sad to say that today was my first day out of school this year. That's right I needed a sub on the 8th day of school.

No, I'm not sick. In fact unless I was on my death bed, I would have been at school. I would be much more productive at 50% than most subs are at their best. (I know that there are some really good subs out there. I just haven't encountered many of them.)

Anyway, I had to go to day 1 of a workshop today and day 2 is next Tuesday, the 11th day of school. I was chosen to be a Professional Development Master Teacher, PDMT, in my district and this workshop was required for all new PDMTs were required to attend. Although I really did not want to go, the workshop turned out to be really beneficial. The name of the workshop was Supportive Interactions. It was focused on helping us be better coaches for other teachers. I really think it was time well spent.

I am just hoping that my students had a good day. With it being so early in the year and all procedures not completely set yet, I'm concerned about how they did. I guess I will see tomorrow.

I hate returning to school after a sub. There are so many unknowns. Did the kids have a productive day? Did the behave? Was the sub attentive and helpful to the students? Was my room left a mess? So obviously I was hesitant to return to my room. I was happy to learn that yesterday wasn't a complete waste of time. My students got most of there work done and the sub seemed to be very helpful to them. She left me a great note about the day, which I always appreciate. My students were very talkative, but there were no major behavior problems. Even though I hate missing, I am thankful that they had a pretty good day.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Daily Five Day 5

And then there were 21. In my posts last week I mentioned that I only had 14 students. This was due to students not showing up the first few days of school. Well this was true on Thursday morning, but by lunch on Thursday I had 17, by lunch on Friday I had 18, and by 9:30 today I had 21. Yep that's right 7 new students in the last three days of school. They started school late for various reasons; 1 had her tonsils taken out, 2 moved within the city and changed schools, 1 was stranded in New York, 1 was with her father up north for the summer, 1 moved from out of state, and I'm not sure about the other 2. I was lucky in the fact that none of them will be major behavior problems. My struggle at this point is that we have completely delved into the curriculum and I am struggling to catch all of these students up with the pretests we completed last week. I guess that will get finished as the week progresses.

Anyway, I am enjoying my students thus far. I have a good mix, and I think it will be a great school year.

I have one question!! How have I not heard of daily 5 before now? Implementing the Daily 5 structure is really going to make me a better teacher. I will have so much time to meet with students individually and in small groups and my scholars will be so independent. We have built stamina for read to self up to 10 minutes and work on writing to 5 minutes. My scholars are staying focused during mini lessons because they know it will only last about 10 minutes and then they will be able to work on their own. I am seeing how this will make it so much easier to differentiate instruction, which is my focus this school year. I can't believe it has taken me so long to hear about Daily 5, but I know that after the last 5 days I will be using this structure for the rest of my teaching career. My scholars are eager to continue to build stamina. I have never had a class so eager to do silent sustained reading. I look forward to seeing how this eagerness continues to develop over the next few weeks.

Are you using Daily 5 in your classroom? How is the process of building stamina going for you?

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Book Shopping

I love Daily 5!! Today was my second day introducing D5 and it went amazingly well today too. My scholars have built their stamina to seven minutes and are begging for more reading time. I'm loving it. Tomorrow I will introduce the cafe lesson tune into interesting words and my scholars will be able to pick their own spot to read to self. I am extremely excited to see how that goes.

I also taught my scholars how to use ourclassroom library. We discussed the various sections, the importance of keeping it neat and organized, how to check out and return books, and our one weekly shopping day. After this discussion, my scholars were super excited to "shop" for books. Even my most challenging students were eager to pick out books to fill their baskets. Check out the picture of the full book baskets.

You can also see the check out cards in that picture. As they shop for books, scholars will write the book title and bin/shelf number where they got the book from. This will make returning book easier because they wrote down exactly where each book belongs. Here is a better pic.

(Please ignore the handwriting.)

I wish I had remembered to take pictures of my scholars actually shopping for books, but I forgot. I hope this excitement about books and reading lasts all year!!

How do you have students check out books from the classroom library?

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Daily 5 Day 1!!

14? 14? Really only 14 students. 7 students did not show up. I thought for sure I would have more students enroll today but I was wrong. I still have only 14 students. I guess they will wait until after Labor Day to start.

Anyway I still had to go on with my plans for the week which included starting Daily 5 today, which was day 2 for students. When I read Daily 5 and The Cafe Book this summer, I was a little confused as to how to begin them both simultaneously, but one of my collegues found a Daily 5 for Dummies and shared it with me. If I knew the link I would share it. I think she just Googled it and found it. I definitely recommend using it. It is helping me see how they flow together.

Even though I knew that I wanted to implement D5 and cafe, I was nervous to start because it was different than anything I had ever done. But it was a huge success. We started by creating an anchor chart for how to come and sit on the carpet, (our mini lesson location). The students modeled the right and wrong way to do it. They got a big kick out of doing it the wrong way.

Then I introduced read to self and we created the i-chart for that. My scholars did a great job of telling what they should do, but struggled with what I should be doing. They truly thought that I should be using the computer or grading papers. (This makes me wonder what other teachers do in their classrooms.) After I got them away from those ideas, we eventually came up with some much better choices. We modeled the right and wrong way to read to self and referee back to the i-chart.

It was then time for the class to practice. I followed the sister's advice and placed students around the room and I I'm glad I did. This allowed me to show my scholars exactly the places in the room they were allowed to sit. After 3 minutes, we stopped, returned to the carpet and discussed how we did, referring back to the i-chart. My scholars were not satisfied with 3 minutes and wanted to read more. (I have never had students beg to read.) I loved it. We practiced for another 3 minutes and reviewed what we did. Marvelous!!

According to the D5 for Dummies I should have also introduced Check for Understanding from the Cafe Book, but I didn't have enough time so I will start my literacy block tomorrow with that and review read to self.

If D5 goes this well the rest of the year, I know I will have a lot of time to work with my scholars in small groups and individually which means they will show a large amount of growth. I am so excited!!

Are you using Daily 5 this school year? How did your first lesson go?

Monday, August 27, 2012

I Survived!!

Today marked my 10th first day as a teacher and I survived. Time really flies. I can't believe that I've been out of college for almost 10 years.

No matter how many times I've done this, I never feel fully prepared and today was no different. I started feeling sick during open house on Friday and despite sleeping for almost 15 hours Saturday night/half the day Sunday and doing all I could to get rid of my cold, I still felt awful today. So my philosophy was "Fake it, til I make it." To be completely honest, I wasn't super excited about today, but I made it through, I survived.

Today was actually a pretty good day. It went really smoothly. I had actually over planned so there was no lapse in time. I did however lose track of time at the end of the day and had to rush my students to get packed up on time. But I am almost always running late so that wasn't too out of the ordinary.

The only downfall of the day was that I only had 14 of the 21 students on my roster show up. I work at a very transient school so missing 7 students on the first day is always possible. I would usually be happy about having only 14 but all of my teammates had at least 18 of their students show up which means that every new fifth grader that gets enrolled will be assigned to my room so I will be constantly reintroducing rules and procedures, which I hate. I will just have to see how the next few days go.

I'm feeling a little better tonight and hopefully I'll feel even better tomorrow. 1 day down, 179 to go.

How was your first day of school?

Friday, August 24, 2012

School Starts Monday!!! Classroom pictutes

The time has finally come. After 7 days of trainings, meetings, and working in my room, we had open house today and school officially starts on Monday! I must say that I am extremely excited for this school year. I have been to more professional development sessions and read more professional books this summer than ever. I have also spent countless hours on pinterest an reading blogs. Because of all of this, I know that I will be a much better teacher this year.

But best of all, my room is finally finished. Here it is.

Let's start with pictures of the entire classroom.

Add caption

View from my desk area looking toward back of room.

View from back door looking toward front of room.

View from door looking across back of room.

Now some close up pics.

Smartboard and white board - I love my smartboard. I don't know what I would do without it.

Storage cabinets under back counter. Book recommendations and pocket charts for word work activities

Computer and file cabinet in back right corner of room

Second student computer and book baskets

More cabinets under back counter, sink, cubbies will hold paper products

Art cart with student center - 3 hole punch, stapler, paper clips, tape, homework trays

Behind door - reminders board, job assignments pockets, where are you going dry erase board

Shelves above back counter - dictionaries, encyclopedias, reading materials, data binders

Math shelf

Classroom library - I have already written a post about my classroom library.

You can see the bottom of the Reading Cafe and Writing Voices boards. I forgot to get pictures of those.

Accelerated Reader Goal Chart - students will set a point goal and move along based on the percentage toward their goal

Check out this other post about the Nifty Thrifty Fifty chart.

Well that's my room. My scholars start on Monday. I can't wait to get this year started.