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Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {Interactive Notebooks}

It's time for another edition of Tried It Tuesday!  I love all the ideas of things "tried" that teachers share each week!  Posts can be about things tried in the classroom or at home!  
My Tried It:
Interactive Notebooks
This year I have completely changed how my students organize their writing journals.  After spending a lot of time reading posts this summer about interactive journals, I purchased some amazing products (during the TPT back to school sale of course!) for transforming my students' journals in ELA this year.  Here are some of the most helpful resources for interactive notebooks that I purchased.
Just look at the amazing Table of Contents for this Interactive Reading Notebook by I'm Lovin Lit!  It aligns to the Common Core for grades 4-8.  I love that this resource has above and beyond what I will need for teaching 4th grade.  
On Saturday, I wrote a post about using her figurative language student pages for similes here.
I love how this product also has editable templates for the interactive lessons!  I edited this template in Powerpoint to include the six types of figurative language that I want my 4th graders to learn.  It was so easy to customize it for my class.  Under each strip, we are recording the definition.  Then, each example of figurative language has its own separate page in the notebook with a further example and song lyrics that incorporate the figurative language.
Students color coded each strip to match the figurative language posters that I purchased from I'm Lovin Lit to display in my room.  This poster set actually included 57 posters on various topics!
I also invested in the Interactive Writing Notebooks but am still exploring this huge resource!

Another set of interactive resources I purchased was the 4th grade Interactive Reading Notebook and 4th Grade Interactive Language Notebook by Nicole Shelby.

 This is the table of contents for the reading notebook:

 I forgot to take pictures of the activities we have used from the reading notebook, but will add some later.  I haven't used the language notebook resources yet.

One more resource that I have tried is the Interactive Language Arts Notebook companion to mentor sentences.  See a detailed post here about how I have incorporated mentor sentences in my classroom.  I also show how I have divided my students' journals into two sections.  The front of the journal is for reading/writing notes and written responses to reading and on demand writing prompts.  The back of the journal is for grammar notes and mentor sentences.  The students use the beginning of the journals for two separate Table of Contents, one for the front and one for the back.
Here are some pictures of the foldable for singular and plural possessives from my students' notebooks.

What is my favorite part of using interactive journals this year?  Students are really taking ownership of their journals and using them as a resource!  They take them out to look up information at random times.  I love that!  The interactive piece really seems to stick with them.  
What is something that I wish I could change?  Time!  The time it takes to cut and glue is getting BETTER but it takes f.o.r.e.v.e.r. those first couple weeks!  It has only been seven weeks and there has been such an improvement.  Following directions is also getting better but I still often have that one student in each class who will not listen to directions and cut the paper wrong, therefore, having to start over.  The time is definitely worth it when I see students using their notebooks though!  If you are trying it for the first time, persevere.  

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Spark Student Motivation {Figurative Language}

I am all bundled up this Saturday afternoon and the furnace has been running.  We are sure feeling the change of seasons here in New York.  Thursday was a white knuckled drive to work with the roads completely covered with wet, slushy snow.  My van did not have snow tires yet and I had to "creep" all the way.  My three year old said, "It's bumpy, Mommy."  That is because the van was not stopping and I had to pump the brakes and everything was shaking!  The snow tires went on Friday. :)

On Wednesday, I wrote about the introduction to poetry in my classroom and today I added some pictures to that post from my students' journals.  They wrote down their "thoughts about poetry".
While I was taking pictures of that page in a few journals, I also snapped some pictures of an activity we did this week to begin figurative language.

I am linking up with the amazing, Joanne, at Head Over Heels for Teaching to share this strategy for motivating students when learning figurative language.
This year I purchased several interactive reading and language notebook resources on TpT, including this Interactive Reading Literature Notebook for the Common Core by I'm Lovin' Lit.
This resource is jam packed with 160 pages of tools for teaching literary elements!!  I absolutely LOVE the pages for the lessons on figurative language.  The lesson incorporates song lyrics for each type of figurative language.  Music is such a wonderful motivator!  Here are a couple pics of the  journal page for simile using song lyrics to "Mean" by Taylor Swift.

It was so neat to have my students zero right in on those lyrics and pick out the similes.  We highlighted the similes in the lyrics and then wrote what two things the simile is comparing in the margin.  These directions are stated clearly in this product download and there are pictures included for teachers too!

We listened to this verse of the song a couple times (the whole song once as well) and the students just loved it!  I can't wait for next week when we discuss other types of figurative language and use more pages from this interactive journal.  I know the students will be so excited each time they get new set of lyrics.  

I have some more ideas to share with you about activities I have tried for the first time this year using interactive journals.  Check back on Tuesday to see some more ideas I have tried with interactive journals! :)  It's a work in progress but I plan on sharing what I have learned about interactive journals in blog posts throughout the year.  
Have a great weekend everyone!  Stay warm!! :)

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Workshop Wednesday {Reading Tricks and Treats!}

I am linking up on this hump day with my BBB, Jivey, at Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesday!  This week's topic is Reading Workshop Tricks and Treats.
We recently started working on our poetry unit.
My ELA classes are reading Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.
Before we begin reading the novel, I have the students write some quick thoughts in their journal about poetry.  They can write anything that comes to mind when they hear the word "poetry".  I wish I had taken pictures of what they wrote because some were hysterical!  I will try to add pictures of this to my post tomorrow.  Here are some pictures of their thoughts:

Overall, they knew very little about poetry just like the main character in the novel, Jack (although they hadn't read about Jack yet).

Since fourth graders have such little background knowledge about poetry, I try to expose them to as much "fun" poetry as possible.  I spread out many poetry books on my back table and read from them as well as have students borrow the books to explore themselves.  Today, my students had to choose a couple of poetry books to read when they were at "read to self" or "read to someone" center time.  We only got through one center today and I have four stations, so tomorrow the other two groups who were at "work on writing" and "word work" will do read to self and read to someone.  

Here is a picture of some of the books at the end of the day today after they had been sifted through many times:
I gave each student a mini post-it note and had them stick it on a page of a poem that they like (name written on post-it).  I will photocopy that poem for them and they will try to memorize it to recite to the class.  We will recite our poems for a fun activity on Halloween.  It will be a "trial run" and students will be allowed to use their copy if they need to when reciting (most students will actually memorize it!).  After this "trial run", students will choose another poem and then be given about a week to memorize it.  We will have another poem reciting day.  See the post-it notes sticking out of the books in the picture below?
When I first started this years ago, I wasn't sure what to expect.  Could the students really memorize the poem?  If they can memorize words to songs so easily, why not poems?  I found out that they ABSOLUTELY CAN memorize poems and they love it!  They are so proud to choose a poem and then be able to show off how they have memorized it.  We practice using the right expression, volume, and tone.  It is so much fun that the students slowly start changing their attitudes about poetry.  

It is my hope that when my students see poems, they will think that this is something they CAN read and understand.  Actually "liking" poetry is half the battle and if I can get my students comfortable with different styles, it may just allow their minds to work more freely instead of "shutting down".  
I think I can...I think I can...goes a long way!!

Be sure to check out more Reading Tricks and Treats at Ideas by Jivey!

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Tried It Tuesday {VocabularySpelling City}

Wow!!  Time is just flying by!  Before I know it, Tuesday is here again each week.  I only blogged one other time since last Tuesday:(.  Sometimes I feel like I am just drowning in work (I know you can relate!).  I am still fighting sickness and my voice is STILL not back completely.  Not being able to sing along to my favorite songs is sure getting old!  Haha!!  
My Tried It:
Vocabulary Spelling City.com
I know that Spelling City has been around awhile (2008) but I finally got around to trying it out!  I downloaded the app (free trial version) on my four classroom iPads to use as an option at word work time.  The students have just LOVED it, however, they are not allowed to use the app each word work time (believe me, they would if they could!).

The "free version" has PLENTY for the students to do!  They were truly engaged the entire time at the center.  It was also super easy to set up an account and add my own spelling lists.

This is an overview of what free members can access:

The part that I was most impressed with once I started looking around the site more was the Vocabulary components that they have added.  In 2011, the site became VocabularySpellingCity to reflect the addition of significant vocabulary capabilities.  In 2011-2012, the site added writing practice activities as well (premium members only)!  There are so many options for free members as well though.  This screenshot shows how I can import different vocabulary lists for content areas.  There are vocabulary lists for math (grouped by standards), science, social studies, and more.
There are also these links to Language Arts lessons with free printables like these links for figurative language.  

I clicked on "figurative language" and then "enrichment lessons" and there are lesson activities with resources like this one:

 When I click on "Sample Word Lists", I can import word lists for figurative language into my Spelling City account too (free version!).  I never realized how much this website had to offer!
I would love for you to comment about how you use VocabularySpellingCity!
Also, do you have any app suggestions for my iPads and ELA center time?  I have four iPads and would also love suggestions for group projects if one comes to mind that you have tried.  
Thanks, friends!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Five for Friday {October 18, 2013}

I am linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday to share some highlights of my week.  We had Monday off from school but those shortest weeks always seem the longest!

 I am slowly getting into the groove of organizing three blocks of ELA classes.  We are departmentalized this year and I teach three 80 minute blocks of ELA.  I finally cleared out this organizer to make room for each block to have its own shelf.  In the folders are papers for each block (they are packed full of grading to do this weekend...ugh!) and I have a clipboard for conferencing with individual students during each block's Daily 4 rotations.

This week we finally started Daily 5 (4) centers with students at different stations.  The first five weeks of school were spent training Read to Self, Read to Someone, Work on Writing, and Word Work as a whole class.  Those weeks flew by and it is always a breath of fresh air when I can let the students work freely on different tasks and I can begin individual conferences on a regular basis.  The students did an amazing job!!!  A reading specialist pushes in for 30 minutes of each block and I save that time for rotations to allow for more individualized conferencing and instruction.  Here is what my calendar looks like on the front of Block One's clipboard.  There are two columns for two different teachers conferencing.
Right now, I am keeping these D5 sheets (copied front and back) under the calendars on the clipboard.  I am placing the sheets that my reading specialist will need for her conferences that day on her clipboard.  She has one clipboard that she uses throughout the day.  We can easily see the notes from the teacher that met with the student last time.  Last year I had a binder with a section for each student but it was too cumbersome to carry around.  I like carrying around the clipboard and the ease of finding the sheet for each student by placing the students who I intend on conferencing with that day at the top of the pile.
 For now, the students are assigned to their center topic but have their choice of the activity at Word Work and Work on Writing.  When I put this up today on my SMART board, the students were SO excited to see their center assignment.  One girl was doing a little dance at her seat and said in the sweetest voice, "I am so excited that I get to read to self today!"  It just gives me the warm fuzzies. :)
I use this simple tracking sheet for students to write down their Word Work and Work on Writing tasks.   They also record a little note if they need to go back and finish it later.  
You can download it here as a freebie
We are starting our poetry unit next week and reading Love That Dog by Sharon Creech.  The students started making predictions about the book.  Each student made their own prediction and then the groups placed their post it notes on one group handout.  The groups discussed their predictions.  The handout is from this pack that I purchased during last weekend's TPT sales.
My daughter was so proud to earn her yellow stripe belt at karate last night!  It was a surprise and she was SO excited.  I am in the same class as a combo class for adults and children about 5 and up.  She was presented the belt at the end of class in front of everyone and it was so neat to witness it in class!

I love this time of the year and we have had gorgeous weather the past few weeks in NY (knock on wood!).  Here is a picture of a little hike we went on last weekend with the kiddos.  I am probably my most relaxed in the woods and this is definitely one of my favorite ways to spend time.  
The stillness, smell, and beauty just captures me every time!

Happy weekend everyone!!