Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Classroom Art Inspiration... The Best Resource

Hi All!  I just wanted to write a quick post about one of my favorite places to go for art inspiration:  Blick Art Supplies online!  If you have never visited their website and clicked on "for educators" you are missing out.

They have collected pages and pages of art lessons for educators.  The lessons are not only in printable pdf format, but they many of them also have video tutorials included.  Such a bonus!  Here in an example from the website:
The lessons are organized by grade level and there are many multi-cultural projects included.

A couple of years ago, for our school auction art project, my class used the above lesson to create "hand sculptures"

Each student designed and created their own hand sculpture using tissue paper pulp.  

I took the hands and arranged them into circles for this sculpture:

The piece was very popular at the auction!  I think it was because each individual child was represented by their hand.  

I am a firm believer in art integration and art education and the Blick website  is a great resource for educators and no, they are not paying me to say this.  I just wanted to share some are inspiration with you. 

Looking for more art inspiration?  Follow my Pinterest boards:

Thank you for visiting!

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Engaging Students in Read Aloud

Interactive Read Aloud is a great way to add discussion and engagement to your elementary ELA classroom.

Do you read aloud to your students?  Most of us do.  Reading aloud to your students is a great way to model good reading and share books that may be beyond the reading level of the class you are teaching.  Traditionally, read aloud consisted of the teacher with a book in her/his hand and the students sitting quietly listening to the story.  If this is how you are doing read aloud, you are missing out on a HUGE teaching opportunity!
I wanted to use this post to share with you something new I have been doing in my class this year with my read aloud time.  I have always taken the time each day to read aloud to my students.  I teach 4th and 5th graders and find that time to be invaluable!  Through read aloud I am able to model for my students fluency, thinking while reading, and so much more.

I have always chosen the books I will be sharing with the class so that students are exposed to literature that they might not choose themselves or are not able to read on their own.

The students listened while I read.  I would think aloud, stop to ask questions, let students share their ideas, but mostly it was just me reading to them and them listening.  It was good, but it lacked something.

This summer I read this book...

and it was like I had found the ANSWER.  THIS was exactly how I had always wanted my reading workshop to run.

Now, I'm going to be honest and tell you that I don't have it all going smoothly yet, but the one thing that is working out BRILLIANTLY is my interactive read-aloud time.

At the beginning of the year... when the Back-to-School sales were going on, I purchased each of my students a reading journal.
I covered each one with colored paper (except the fun black and white ones) and but labels with student names on them.  Each journal was then divided into three sections: mini-lessons, read aloud, and reading response.

The mini-lesson section is used for taking notes and practicing strategies that aide comprehension.  For example,  I taught my students how to make a quick sketch chart to keep track of the sequence of events in a story.

Another strategy I shared with students is "story mapping".  Students draw a map of the setting of a story and then write in events that happened in each part of the setting.   Here is an example from Dexter the Tough:

Students then take these strategies and use them with their own independent reading books.  Here is a story map a student drew in her "Reading Response" journal sections while reading The Tale of Despereaux:

Back to read aloud.  One of the major changes I have made is that, when possible, each of my students has a copy of the book in his/her hand.  I am reading aloud, but my students are reading along with me.  Another big change is that I bring all of my students to the carpet and we sit in a discussion circle.  Students bring their book, their journal, and a pencil.  During the reading, we stop to discuss confusing parts of the story, make predictions, chart ideas and clues as to what is happening in the story.  

Here is the plot anchor chart we created and filled out while reading Dexter the Tough:
This has been the most valuable change I have made to my teaching this year!  Even though I do all of the reading, my students are now engaged in the text, raising their hands to share ideas, predictions and observations.  It is truly interactive.  

I find I am doing most of my teaching through the read aloud now.  We just finished a unit on recognizing and understanding figurative language and I am able to support that new learning during this 15-20 minute block of time.  

Using interactive read aloud with my class has allowed me to really engage all of my students in the books we read.  We get to be involved in each other's thinking processes and insights and my students still get to hear fluent reading being modeled.  Read aloud has become my students' favorite part of the day!  It is a win-win for all of us!  

We just recently started reading "When I Reach You" as our read-aloud.  In my next blog post I'll be sharing some of the AMAZING thinking and connections I am hearing from my students.  Goose-bump moments I call them.  

Is there anything you have done differently this year that you are excited about?  If so, I'd love to hear about it!  Please comment below! 

Thank you for visiting!  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Putting a Little "POP" into Figurative Language

If you've been following my blog at all, you have probably noticed that my class has been learning about figurative language!  We are about to start literature circles in a couple of weeks and one of the task is "Figurative Language Finder".  Not only that, but part of the CCSS for 4th grade (and others) is to be able to understand and recognize basic figurative language like similes and idioms.

When we first started, my students didn't really understand what figurative language is.  I was a little surprised, but really excited to introduce it to them!  I love working with language, and sharing it with my students makes my heart happy!

We started out the unit with alliteration and onomatopoeia.  If you missed my posts on these two lessons, you can click the links to see some of the fun and creative activities my students participated in.

The next two lessons were on similes and metaphors.  Most students catch on to similes really quickly, but metaphors can be a bit tricky!

As an art integration component for this unit I had my students create pop up books using the similes and metaphors they created during these lessons.
This is part of the activity that my students worked on in preparation for their pop-up books.  CLICK HERE to download this sheet!

My students were so excited to do pop-up books!  They got to be creative, yet they had to write out their sentences, revise,  and edit.  Before I handed them blank booklets, they had to plan out the pages of their book using a template and then check it in with me.

A planning template had to be completed and checked in with me before the student got their blank "pop-up book".  

The books are turning out GREAT!  They are all so different, yet they are a wonderful way to see which students are understanding the concepts of similes and metaphors and which students need more support.

Another thing I am loving about this unit, and this activity in particular, is that all of my students are feeling successful.  I have a wide range of ability levels in my classroom and they are all proud of their pages.  I have 33 students and every time one of them finishes a page they run up to me for me to take a picture of it.  That makes my day!

The next steps for this unit are idioms and personification!  I have an Idiom Quick Draw game planned for idioms and for personification, students will put all six literary devices together in a writing piece.  For the writing, the plan is to have students write from the point of view of an animal or an object.  These are sure to be fun to read!
These are the guidelines for the final writing activity. 

This unit has been a lot of fun, not only for my students, but also for me to teach.  If you are interested in taking look at the entire unit, you can find it here in my TpT store. The preview has the entire table of contents and a unit overview.  
Psssst...   The first 10 purchasers of this unit also get the below Scoot and Sort for free!  The unit is $5, the scoot is $3...  that means you are really getting the unit for $2!  CRAZY!

As  a supplement to the unit, I also have available this scoot and sort.  It can be used as a whole class scoot activity or a literacy center sort.   
Thank you for visiting!!!  I hope that you are all staying safe and warm, especially my east coast friends.
Come back and see me soon!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Integrating Art in the Science Classroom

Kids love art.  Kids love science...  Kids REALLY love when they get to use ART in the science classroom!

One of the ways I have integrated art into my science curriculum is to give "mini microscopes" to my students in the form of jeweler's loupes!  It is a fun, inexpensive way to bring the magnified world into view!

Currently, my students are involved in a study of rocks and fossils as part of a larger Earth science unit.  

Students were asked to bring a rock from home for their first rock investigation.  There were a lot of different rocks on display!
My students thought this one looked like a "butt".  Great simile!  Gotta love 4th graders!

Students then used their jewelers loupes to look closely for evidence of what type of rock they had: igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary.  They started out by just writing their observations and analogies.

 On the second day, they started sketching their rocks while still adding to their analogy list.

The second sketch was a "magnified" view of a section of their rock.
At the end of the second day, they wrote which type of rock they thought they had and their "evidence" for coming to that conclusion.

This lesson could branch into a language arts lesson, possibly a poem about their rock or a descriptive paragraph.

If you have never thought about using jeweler's loupes in your classroom you can get more information here:  The Private Eye.

I'm always on the look out for great ideas that will motive my students and integrate the arts into my science curriculum.  Using loupes for close observation has been a true winner!  The possibilities are endless!  I'll be sharing more ideas as the year progresses.  Be sure to subscribe so that I can share these ideas with you!

Do you have a great idea for integrating the arts into your science curriculum?  If so, I'd love to hear it!  Please leave a comment below!

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Do You Scoot?

I had never heard of a scoot before my foray into TpT world.
I'm sure I've done scoots,
                          but is a scoot by any other name
                                                                   really a scoot?
Maybe not!

In math, my students have been struggling with the concept of fractions...  you know, denominators, numerators, equivalent fractions, etc.  and the students I am working with are kiddos who, in most cases, don't like math because it is difficult for them.

I was looking for a fun way for them to consistently practice the basic idea of naming fractions.  I decided to give scooting a try!
Find this product at my TpT store!
Since this was my first time using this strategy with my class I drew arrows on sticky notes and placed them on each table to show students where they needed to scoot to.
Students got about 20 seconds for each task and when the timer went off they "scooted" to their next seat.
There was a lot of pencil tapping and feet shuffling, but EVERY single one of my students was on task!!!  This was like a miracle!
Things got a little shaking around scoot 20 when a student left to go to the restroom and the kiddos got a little out of order, but we practiced the life skill of flexibility and kept on scooting!
During the scooting I heard comments like, "This is fun!" and at the end of the period, one of my more struggling students came to me to say that she, "thinks she is starting to understand fractions"!!  That makes my heart happy!

I love when something as simple as a scoot helps students solidify a skill they are struggling with (sorry about all of the s's).

Because this strategy was so simple and easy to implement, I'm excited to integrate it into other areas of my curriculum!

Do you scoot in your classroom?  If so, I would love to hear how!

Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Integrating Social Studies and ELA with Lewis and Clark Biographies

Can you imagine setting off across the country with no telephone, no GPS, no map, NO CELL PHONE?   ... and imagine that the place you were heading into was virtually unknown.

How about if you were a 15-16 year old girl with a brand new baby?  Scary, right?

 I always think about that when I start teaching my students about Lewis and Clark.  What a wonderful testament to courage and persistence.

Now, I know there is a lot of talk and controversy surrounding the Common Core out there and I'm not here to get into a debate...  I do, however, like the flexibility that the ELA CCSS's give me in integrating social studies and science into my language arts units.

A great way to do that is to use biographies!

 Last year, I was fortunate enough to be able to buy a half class set of Lewis and Clark biographies and a half class set of Sacagawea biographies.  Luckily, this was around Winter Break, so I had time to read both of the books and create "foldables" with customized vocabulary and comprehension questions.  It was a big task, but the results have been very successful.  

This year I "revamped" both of the foldables into complete units which I've put on my TpT store.  The units includes a vocabulary test and essay assessment which I will be using with my class this year.
Unit available at my TpT store!  
This week my students were working on their 4th foldable.  
I was so impressed by the tone of the room.  Students had dictionaries out, were flipping through their biographies looking for answers and one group was debating the best way to hunt buffalo!   
 It made my heart swell with pride for them. 
I love it when that happens!  Has this happened for you lately?  If so, tell me about it in the comment section below.  I'd love to hear about your "heart swelling" moments with your class.  

*I moved this post from my old blog, Living a Teaching Life, to this one.*

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Would You Rather... Opinion Writing

*I moved this post from my old blog, Living a Teaching Life, to this one.*
Inspire even the most reluctant writers with this engaging opinion writing unit.

Where do venomous jellyfish, vomiting wild dogs, trampling hippos, and cold blooded pythons come together?  In my classroom of course!

I love getting my students excited about learning and what better way to inspire them, then to give them choices and a little bit of "grossness"

That is what I did with my new opinion writing unit, "Would You Rather... Opinion Writing"

Complete 4 week, 50 page unit is for sale in my TpT store..

Every day was a new and exciting question for student to share their opinions on...  "Would you rather wrestle a black bear or an alligator?", "Would you rather have a pet chimpanzee or python?"  After students had a chance to express their opinions in groups, we used the mentor text "This or That Animal Debate" to learn more about the topics.

Great book with small, two page spreads about each of the topics. 
For each "Would you rather..." question, students filled out organizers, planning out their opinions and supporting reasons with me modeling and guiding each step of the way.

Just a small sample of the 50 page unit.  
Then came the big day!  Students got to choose which one of the questions they wanted to write their essay on.  Even my most reluctant writers were excited to share their opinions on these topics!

Working their way through the writing process, students learned how to hook their readers,  choosing transitions, and ways to end an essay.
Unit comes with posters, student forms, checklist, and CCSS writing scoring rubric.
In the end, students had a chance to share their amazing writing with the class and we displayed all of their essays in the hall for other students, parents, and staff to enjoy.

If you would like to see more of my "Would You Rather... Opinion Writing Unit"  Please visit my TpT store for full preview, product description, table of contents, and thumbnails.

Happy New Year and Happy Writing!