Sunday, May 26, 2013

Tornado Relief

It's difficult to word posts like this, tragedy, no matter how close or far, or how great, is heart-wrenching. The stories and images from the Oklahoma devastation, especially from the schools, were extremely difficult to watch and weighed on my heart. Although we may feel powerless, and unable to help, donating to those organizations that spring into action is what truly and immediately helps our neighbors. 

I'm so happy that the TpT community has risen up (yet again) to help out. I was too late (and out of the loop) to donate to the bundles (bundle 1, bundle 2), but on Monday (tomorrow) everything in my store is 10% off and 100% of the sales will be donated to the Red Cross. 

Monday, May 20, 2013

Wonderopolis Trifold

I'm sitting at the computer, working on my end-of-year slideshow (which is already very long and a fraction of the way complete), and falling asleep. So, why not head over to blogger and write a post, I tell myself...makes sense!

I had been meaning to write this post for a couple of weeks. It's not like I've been busy with piles of grading, lesson planning, and year end tasks! This will really be a short post as the photos will be explanation enough.

All year long I have been following Wonderopolis on my news feeder. {Quick aside...I was a loyal Google Reader user until they announced that they will be ending the service this July. I tried out Feedly and I LOVE LOVE it!} I knew that I wanted to use Wonderopolis in my classroom, but didn't get around to creating something until this quarter. Last month I took a district PD course on CCSS ELA - specifically close reading. In this class we had to analyze text for complexity. While I am still not  totally comfortable gauging exemplar text, I have a better understanding of it. The Wonderopolis posts that I have read are clearly complex text! Perfect!

I started by making a one page sheet with a Frayer Model graphic organizer and tried it out. Insert "wah-wah-wah" deflated sound here. It wasn't anything special. Then I started fiddling around with placement and inspiration hit! Why not a trifold brochure type page?! It's perfect for students to fold and be able to fit in that limited table space next to the computer keyboard. Plus they can focus on each task and not be distracted by the other tasks in the trifold.

We used Wonder of the Day #935 (Who Wrote the Pledge of Allegiance?) for our first go. Here is a shot from a few different students' work. You can get an idea of what they did for each of the 6 tasks.


 Great question! Also - hilarious spelling of astronaut! ;)

 Obviously students would get better at using the trifold every time, but I was pretty impressed with their first try. We are still working on our second one, question #873, What is a Solar Storm? There are so many wonders on a variety of topics, they are almost at question #1000! I WONDER what that one will be?

Did I mention that my trifold is free? Totally FREE? Well it is! Go get it! 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Class Dojo Update

It's been just over two weeks since I started using Class Dojo with my class and I am LOVING it! I am having trouble finding the words to express how wonderful a tool it really is, but I'll try.

  • At first the students would look at the screen every time they heard the sounds of class points that were given, it was a bit of a distraction, but now some may glance, but they immediately return to their work. 
  • I've tied it in to my classroom economy. Prior to Class Dojo students would receive fines for a variety of reasons, now I just award a negative "bubble". With my previous system students had to pay for the fines they received, with Class Dojo I am giving them the ability to get rid of the fines by earned positive "bubbles". At the end of the day any negatives result in fines. This has been stellar for my struggling students - I think they think of it like video game achievements - they want to earn more! 
  • The data tracking tools are wonderful! At the end of the day students look at "bubbles" earned as well as the percent of positive behavior for the day. I show them their previous day's "bubbles" at the start of each day so that they can make a goal for the new day. Then I reset the "bubbles" for the new day. 
  • We've been using the trendspotter tools to track the behavior of the entire class too - there has been a lot of talk of teamwork and I've been giving teamwork points to the whole class as well. 
Last week our behavior was improving everyday and Wednesday was one of the most productive days of the year! And then in went south. I think they were a bit burnt out on some of the big projects we had been working on, and by Friday we had a sad 69% positive. 

At the start of this past week I showed the class the trendspotter graph and we talked about how we could work together to how improvement. I had to explain to them a few times that each negative "bubble" brought the whole class percent down. This strategy paid off...look at how they did this week...

We improved every single day and finished the week with an amazing 92% positive! The students were all very proud (their teacher was too)!

I'm still piloting Class Dojo (and will be for the last 7 days of school!!!!!) but at this point I am certain I will be using it again next year. It has been easier for me (I love being able to use it on my phone too) and has had wonderful results.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Volunteer Gifts

The art curriculum in our district is not taught by teachers, instead we have parent volunteers come in and teach monthly lessons. This year I had two wonderful moms who did an amazing job with my class! This week was our last lesson. I put together a Pinterest inspired thank you card/gift for them. 

It was really easy to put together. I just traced some petals onto colorful cardstock and the kids wrote a lovely thank you note and cut them out. Then I threaded them onto a large flower brad, swirled them around, and hot glued them onto some wooden dowels. Easy peasy!

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Tried It Tuesday - Linking Cubes for Math Practice

Today I'm inking up with Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried it Tuesday. 

A few days ago Nick, over at Sweet Rhyme Pure Reason posted something he does for Spark Student Motivation Saturdays, and I knew that it was perfect for my math intervention class. I love things that are fast, easy, free, and MOTIVATE!

When I give math assessments we always review the concept(s) first. I have a great little game that we play.  It forces students to work together as a team which helps my students who "get it" re-teach those that are still struggling (post for another day?). Anyhow, I saw Nick's post about giving students unifix/linking cubes when they get an answer correct while doing math practice and had to try it out. As students get correct answers they get more cubes they are able to start building with them.

We have been working on multiplying decimals, so each student pulled out a white board and I explained that they would get cubes for correct answers and we started. I gave 2+ cubes per correct answer because it takes my intervention kiddos longer to complete problems, and I wanted them to be able to build too.

Students who already received cubes did two things while waiting for the next problem. They either helped the other kids at their table or they began to build. They weren't waiting too long though until the next problem was up. This also gave me an opportunity to work one-on-one with those few students who still needed some support.

After about 8 problems I told them we only had time for one or two and they were devastated, they wanted to practice the whole class period! Here are some of their creations....

There are so many advantages to doing this! I can instantly see, based on how many cubes students have, who is "getting it" and who is still struggling. Then I can make sure to spend more time with those that don't have many cubes, or I can pair them up with a peer tutor. The students really wanted more cubes and they were motivated to keep going, it was much better than groaning about practice. Building is also a great way for students to be creative and use another part of their brains! I will definitely be using this in the future. Thanks for sharing your great idea Nick! 

Monday, May 13, 2013

Mother's Day

Last week I was called "mom" by the majority of my class. For some reason I've been called "mom" more this year than any year previous, maybe because I'm getting older I'm more mom-like now. I think it is cute and the kids are less embarrassed when I make it a joke and call them "son" or "daughter" in return. One of the girls told me that she even called her dad Ms. W one day! Although I am not a mother I am mom to fur babies and during the school-day I am mom to my 5th graders. That's just the way I like it!

We've been working on writing some amazing poetry so one of the other 5th grade teachers came up with a really cute idea to make a paper bag scrapbook and fill it with poems written by the kids especially for their moms. It took a lot of time, but since we tied it in to poetry writing we could get away with it. It was worth it because many of the students came to school today talking about how their moms loved their gifts and I even had a mom write me a note of thanks.

To make the book we took 4 paper bags and folded them in half. This allowed the students to have 8 pages and 4 pockets. Inside the pockets the students placed a card with an original poem on it. On the first three pages of the book we were inspired by a pin from Brilliant Beginnings Preschool and did the adorable "Mom,  I love pieces". Then they had the freedom to be creative and they added poetry/art/quotes to the outside of many of the paper bag pages. A couple of hole punches, half of an 12"x12" scrapbook paper, and a piece of ribbon bound it all together. My photos do not capture the greatness of their work. 

My mom came down for the weekend and we had a lovely time. I cooked delicious Persian food for my family and we made sure to appreciate my mom and sister, two incredibly amazing mothers! I hope that Mother's Day was special for you and the mother's in your life. 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Teacher Appreciation Day/Week

Teacher appreciation week starts to bring up the bittersweet feelings that come with the end of another school year. I have had a great set of students this year, talkative, but sweet and fun. I did briefly discuss with the principal the possibility of looping up with them next year, but it wasn't in the cards. I'm not ready to send them off yet! Luckily I still have 17 school days to enjoy with them. It will be a sad good-bye, but I'm also excited about finishing the year strong and I'm excited about the big trip that we'll be taking! 

We have been so lucky at our school to have an amazing PTO who completely SPOIL us! This week we are being provided lunch EVERY DAY! It's so nice not to have to worry about packing lunches each day and it's less grocery shopping that needed to be done. My lunch bag is hidden away and my appetite is ready! And as an added bonus, the PTO always remembers a delicious vegetarian option for me!

I wish I could share these lunches with my bloggy teacher friends, but I'll have to resort to offering a sale in my little shop. Stop by on May 7-8 for 20% off (plus an additional 10% with code TAD13) everything in the shop! Loads of TpT sellers are participating in the sale, so it is a great time to get all the goodies you've been eyeing! 

Need some ideas on what to buy from my shop? 

My Off Limits game is a blast (my class loves it!) and it is a great way for students to work on description, synonyms/antonyms, etc. Perfect for the end of the year!

Stocking up for next year? Planning on starting/improving data tracking like I am? Try one of my Wheel of Common Core Math sets. A great tool for students to show off their master of all CCSS math concepts. I've got them for K-8, and 5th grade is free

There are some other goodies in my shop, including my best sellers: Calendar Math for Upper Grades, American Revolution Lapbook, and Read and Respond Booklet

I'd love to know what you are loading your carts up with! I haven't even had a chance to start loading up mine, so please share!

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Class Dojo - Tried It Tuesday {on Thursday}

I've been "hearing" about Class Dojo, a free behavior management tool, through Pinterest and kind of filed that into a far away corner of my stuffed brain. Last night I stumbled on it again and decided to check it out. I just wanted to know what it was all about, I wasn't expecting to immediately sign up for it and try it out today! Class Dojo is probably old news to a lot of you, but it was so fun and worked really well!

It took only about 20 minutes for me to understand how it works and get my class set up. Basically you can set up a class with student avatars. You can give positive awards and negative awards for different behaviors. Class Dojo keeps track of how many each student earns or loses during the school day and then tracks the data. This data can be shared with students and parents! The dojo can be displayed and teachers can connect with their mobile device (Android or Apple) to remotely give awards. So not only does that allow teachers to move about the room and give awards, but they can be given outside of the classroom, like in specials or at recess.

This morning I didn't tell my class what it was, they just suddenly saw monsters on the board with their student numbers (I used student numbers instead of names because of FERPA privacy). Several students walked up to the board to get a closer look. As they were up there discussing what it was I began to give "awards" to those students who stayed in their seats and were on task. I did this from the opposite end of the room with my phone. Suddenly they began to hearing the dinging and see the message on the board that someone had gotten an award for being on task. The lightbulbs went off and those at the board realized that there were not on task and went straight to their seats and got started.

This continued further into the morning as students continued to work hard and hear dings as students received awards. The first negative award came and they quickly realized what the new buzz sound was. I refused to answer their questions and asked them to wait a bit until I explained what it was (I was already hearing students discuss the avatars). Finally I showed them the student video and gave them a quick overview of what I was doing. Basically I told them that it was something I had heard about and wanted to try out in class. If it worked with them in the final weeks of school I may use it for all of next year. And, I explained that they could get to customize their avatar. I sent home the student codes and within an hour of school being out I already noticed that many students had logged in and changed their avatar!

At first thought I figured that it would be a lot of work and a bit cumbersome. I was so wrong! I was having just as much fun as the kids! I wanted to give those awards often! Sometimes I gave the awards straight from the computer (I don't have a smartboard) and sometimes I used my phone (while I was around the room). The most exciting part of today was the amount of work my students accomplished and the comments about how the day went quickly yet they felt like they go so much done! Guess which teacher will be using Class Dojo again tomorrow? Who else is using Class Dojo? Tips? Advice? Hated it? Loved it?

I hope FourthGradeFlipper allows me to post this as my Tried it Tuesday Thursday! Class Dojo seems to be gaining popularity this week! Go check out the other Class Dojo posts! 


Wednesday, May 1, 2013

States and Capitols

Have you every assigned something to your students that you yourself did not know? It's been challenging switching my mind from 6th grade subjects to 5th grade this year. One of the expectations is that students know all of the states and their capitols. I'm embarrassed to say that, up until just now, I had forgotten about a dozen capitols. But good old sporcle helped me re-learn the ones I had forgotten. That, and this wonderful song that my class is IN LOVE with.

We've been listening to it a couple of times a day and I KNOW that they are watching it at home because they are blowing me away with how quickly they are memorizing it! I wish this catchy tune was around when I was a kid. And please don't tell anyone that I've had this on repeat in may car this evening. I want to be able to sing it too!