June 2012Tales from Outside the Classroom: June 2012

Blog Swap & Hop

Today is the day.  Blog Swap and Hop day!  I know you all will love this fabulous post by Nicole.  I'm posting over at Ms. Preppy's Blog.  After you check out these test prep strategies, hop on over and check out my post about organization.  Then, hop through the rest of the guest posts!  The links are on the bottom!

Hey there!  This is Nicole from Teaching With Style!  I teach 3rd grade in Portland, Oregon.  3rd grade is the first testing year in Oregon, so I had the pleasure of getting my little cherubs ready to take a computerized, standardized test.  It was hard!  I had to brush up on test prep strategies so much this year!  Here are the top 5 strategies that worked really well with my class:

1.  Songs, poems, and chants.  And a lot of them!  My students loved this.  If there was music to go along with it, even better!  I found a couple good sites that you can listen to or download:
2.  Summarizing.  The main comprehension strategy that my grade level focused on for this year was summarizing.  If students can correctly summarize, they can tell you the main idea and details, they can pin point the most important event, they can sequence events in correct order, and they can give you a retell with other story elements like character and setting.  By focusing on summarizing, and summarizing well, students were better able to analyze the stories and articles read and answer questions about them.  
photo of summarizing teaching with style
Example of students finding character traits in an article after it was summarized as a whole group.
3.  Computer games.  In order to learn how to take a test on the computer, kids have to practice on the computer!  
  • Study Island - A paid program, but it correlates to state standards and to Common Core standards.  Kids take a pre-test in either math or reading, then they play educational games and answer multiple choice questions to earn "blue ribbons" in each category.  It is motivating, fun, and helps them get ready for the computerized format.
  • Xtra Math - This one is a free test prep program.  I didn't use it too much in the classroom, but I did put it on my newsletters as options for kids to do at home.
  • Kids' Place and Edu Place Test Prep Practice - these are by Houghton Mifflin (our reading adoption) and you can choose your grade and the standard in order to find practice tests and other activities.
4.  Nonfiction Reading.  My district's reading adoption has a real lack of nonfiction text for students to read, so I needed to heavily supplement in that area.  Here is what I used:
  • Time For Kids - I got a subscription through Donorschoose.org that was a tremenous help to my teaching.  They have online quizes and extra activities and articles to use for lessons.  It's great!
  • DOGO News - a great resource for free online articles written for kids.
  • Comprehension Toolkit - My school was able to purchase one 3-6 kit for my grade level to share.  It was an invaluable resource for teaching with nonfiction.  At $132, it is an investment, but the lessons really are fabulous.
5.  Vocabulary.  A group of teachers at my school read Marzano's Building Academic Vocabulary last summer.   In this book, Dr. Marzano says that children in poverty need explicit instruction in vocabulary.  I found that math vocabulary is the toughest to teach, especially to my ELLs and students who live in poverty.  These words are usually highly technical and require specific background knowledge.  In my classroom, I print about 40 vocabulary sheets and bind them into a math journal.  The students keep them all year and we add to it, depending on what we are learning in math.  The words might be geometry, measurement, or even basic operation related.  
Here is an exclusive freebie for you!  I hope you are able to use this in your classroom, as well.

Thank you so much, Tessa, for hosting me!  How else do you help students prepare for assessments?

Graphic Organizers for Reading

I am so excited that I had the opportunity to review Laura Candler's Graphic Organizers for Reading.  She has aligned the organizers with the Common Core State Standards.  I have to say that I was excited about this book after I looked at it.  The graphic organizers are easy to use, she offers practical tips and suggestions, and the layout makes a teachers' job easy.

Probably my favorite feature is the first chapter itself.  It starts out with ideas on how you can use the graphic organizers with minilessons for your students.  Then comes the best part!  Laura has laid out the CCSS by grade level, for both fiction and nonfiction, and then tells you which organizers you can use to help you teach that standard.  There's even a hyperlink so you can go directly to that organizer!  She has made it so easy to use!

The book includes some multi-purpose organizers as well as organizers that are laid out for fiction and non-fiction use.  Laura provides step by step minilessons that you can use with your students.  The multi-purpose organizers also give examples to help you internalize how they can best be used.  Because they aren't as well known, I love that I can see them "in action" a bit to help us visual learners!  

I think this book is a great addition to any teacher's repertoire.  It's perfect for working with comprehension skills.  I think it would also be a great resource to use during content area teaching to help students disseminate and understand the information they are reading.  If you want to find out more information about this book you can check out the site created especially for it: http://graphicorganizersforreading.weebly.com

Thank you to Laura for letting me review this awesome book!

Wild about Teaching

Yesterday, the sweet Lacey from Wild about Teaching let me talk about Fluency over at her blog.  Go check it out here  and you can find out how you can download this cute baseball themed game.

Blog Swap & Hop

Next Saturday, some friends and I are participating in a Blog Swap and Hop.  We're all switching blogs for the day!  There'll be a guest here while I'm posting somewhere else.  You'll be able to hop through to check them all out.  I'm sure there'll be some great freebies for you to grab as well.  Check out the great bloggers who are participating:

We can't wait for the party!

New and Free Frames

I'm still in clip art land.  I spent my evening creating these cuties.  You can get them for yourself by clicking the picture to head to my TpT store.  They're only $2!
I love the way they turned out!  It's only making my current obsession over making more even worse.  

As I was going through my files this morning, I found these frames I created a few months back as I was just playing around.  They aren't my favorite and I can definitely tell they're an early work.  I decided to put them all up here for you for free.  They're free for personal or commercial use.  If you use them commercially,  I ask that you give me credit (to help show others that I have clip art to offer) but it's not mandatory and I'm certainly not going to start policing it.

I know that many of my readers are more interested in reading about teaching, and not so much interested in my clip art dabblings.  I promise to have a teaching post soon!  In fact, I need to link up to this week's Daily 5 book study, so that'll be on it's way.

Free frames

Today I was playing around and creating some frames and I thought I'd share them all with you.  They are all 300 dpi png files.  Feel free to save them and use them in your projects.  Credit is appreciated, but not required.

Giveaways and Name Plates

Have you checked out the other bloggers that are participating in Fishing for Ideas?
We're all running the promotion a bit differently.  I'm offering 20% off my Teacher's Notebook shop from until the 20th.  Check out the other promotions below.

I've been super busy, and I'm going to be super busy for the rest of the month.  My posts are probably going to be quick ones, but I have a few surprised up my sleeve.  I was out of town this weekend but when I came back I put together these bug themed name plates.  The name plates I wanted to create weren't working out the way I wanted, so I put these together.  Lucky for you, they are free.  Click on any of the pictures below to download them for free from my TpT store.

Woohoo Tuesday?

Woohoo Wednesday Tuesday

Okay, so I know today isn't Wednesday, but I'm impatient.  I wanted to write about this now and not tomorrow.  And I know I could schedule the post, but that's no fun when you are excited to share something!

Last night, after I went to bed and couldn't stay up and wait anymore, I sold my 1,000th product on TpT.  WHAT?  That's crazy!  I have only had my store for about 6 months and have only had my blog for 5.  I never dreamed I would see so much success.  I'm encouraged by all of your supportive comments here and in my store.  I've met some wonderful bloggers that I'm excited to chat with.  And I'm so excited that I'm able to put my creativity to use in different ways.  

So THANK YOU.  From the bottom of my heart, thank you!  I appreciate all of your support.  It blows me away that my items are in 1,000 classrooms- and I can't even begin to think about how many classrooms my freebies are in!  THANK YOU!  I decided to put together a fun way to show my thanks for all of you.  Today, and through the rest of this week, I'm having random giveaways on my Facebook page.  I've enlisted some help from some of those wonderful bloggers I mentioned before so there are some fantastic goodies.  Check back often so you don't miss out!

I've also joined a group of fabulous bloggers and we're putting together some fun for next week!  Here's our group pinboard.
We're all running the promotion a bit differently.  I'm offering 20% off my Teacher's Notebook shop from June 14-20th.  Stay tuned for more information as that week goes on.  Check out the other promotions below.

Clock Partners and Clock Clip Art

Have you heard of clock partners?  It's a great management strategy to partner your students up quickly.  However, I modify it to help with differentiation.
(Click on the picture to download)
Here's how it works:
Students take their page, walk around the room and find 12 different partners.  They each write their partner's name on the same line.  If I'm partnering with you at 12, I write my name on your page at 12, and you write your name on my page at 12.  You can help control this by only allowing them to get 1 partner at a time.  Throughout the year, as you want students to partner up, you announce that they need to find their "4 o'clock partner" for example.  This keeps feelings from being hurt, time being wasted, and allows you to change up who students are working with.

How I modify it:
I give students some of their matches.  For example, I might make the 3 o'clock partner a student who reads at the same or similar level.  Then, I might make the 9 o'clock partner a student who reads at a higher or lower level.  Then, when I want students to partner up to read, I can quickly partner them up.  I recommend writing these partnerships on the clocks before you distribute them and keeping a master list for yourself.  You can even use it to make a quick reading group if you use more than one time.  For example, you could make the 3 and 4 similar reading levels.  If you use those same three students as 3 and 4 for each other, you can ask them to meet with both partners and you've made a small group of 3.  Here's a sample way I've arranged the partners.

12- similar math ability
1- similar reading ability
2- similar reading ability
3- similar reading ability
4- free choice
5- free choice
6- different math ability
7- free choice
8- different reading ability
9- different reading ability
10- free choice
11- free choice

Students still have some choices in who their partners are for times when you don't need the partners to be a specific ability level.  For reading, I include the same skill on more than one time so students aren't matched with the same person too often.

I would recommend starting out the first day of school by having students find their 12 partners.  This is a great way for them to get to meet each other, learn each other's names, and get the structure and procedures established.  After you do your beginning of the year assessment, you match students based on abilities and allow them to fill in the extra slots with their choice of partners.  I'd change things up at least one more time throughout the year just to keep things fresh.  You can download a copy of the form by clicking the picture above.

I was trying to find a clock I liked to create the page but I didn't have much luck.  So, I created it myself! I think it turned out super cute so I decided to sell some in my TpT store.  Click on the pictures below to head on over to my store to by them for yourself.

Hip Hip Hooray! 15 Days of K!

I'm Day 9 of Hip Hip Hooray!  15 Days of K!  over at Mrs. Lirette's Learning Detectives.  Click on the picture to head on over to see my post on phonemic awareness and get some freebies for phoneme segmentation and blending.

Random Awesomeness

I've had a lot going on the last couple weeks that I need to fill you in on.  This post is going to go through most of them.  Prepare yourselves now for the thought hopping!

First, I'm over at Classroom DIY today showing you how to make some cute picnic centers.  I used items I got from the Dollar Spot at Target.  Um, yeah, I'm definitely one of those people that gets sucked into that section. How is it possible to spend over a half hour going through such a small place?  I digress.  I also created these cute hot dogs that practice the "not" contractions.  Click on the picture below to read more about it and download yours.
Have you checked out the 15 Days of K over at Mrs. Lirette's Learning Detectives?  She's featuring some great guest bloggers who are sharing some great tips for kindergarten- and can be applied in other primary grades as well.  You should definitely head over there if you haven't checked it out yet.  Saturday would be a fantastic day to go- hint, hint. :)
I'm participating in some professional development through blogs this summer.  I'm excited because I've never done anything like this before!  I'm participating in Mrs. Wills Kindergarten's book study of "In Pictures and in Words".  I'm just waiting for my book to arrive!  You can check out more information on the book study by going here or you can get the book by clicking the picture below.
I'm also helping to host a Daily 5 book study.  I read the Daily 5 a few years ago and have helped some of my teachers implement it in their classrooms.  I'm excited to go through it again and get some new ideas through other blogs.  You can find more information on the book study by clicking the picture below.  Hurry, though!  We begin next week!
If you don't have a copy of the Daily 5 yet (wait, what?!?) click the image below to buy it NOW!  It will change your life!  Okay, maybe only your reading block, but trust me, you want to.
I have at least two other books to get read as well.  I have pretty much taken a professional reading break since I finished my masters program last spring and I'm ready to get back into it!  Did I mention that I only officially get off the month of July because of my position?  I'm totally okay with working through June to get stuff ready for the next year.  I actually enjoy the planning and big picture stuff.  But, I always think I'm going to be able to get so much more done in the summer than I'm going to be able to.  I have big hopes!  Stay tuned!