Thursday, April 16, 2015

The Reading Game - A Review

A while back amidst the falling snow and freezing temperatures I told you about my Top Ten booths from the EdExpo. My #8 (no particular order) was for a company called The Reading Game run by Erika Bird and her father. Erika has such a great personality and was so easy to talk to she just drew myself and Felicia into her booth to see what she had in store.

Once she began displaying the game cards and materials and shared a quick version of the procedures my little brain was immediately thinking of those students in my class that would most benefit from this. I was telling Erika about one of my students that is reading on a First Grade level in Fourth Grade and how I thought this program would help solidify her sight word vocabulary. Erika offered to send me the game FOR FREE if I'd blog about it.


I did a little dance when I opened that package that arrived not too long after the Expo and had to jump right in. I called J (my student) over and started sharing the cards with her from set 1.

There is a set of color coded cards (six sets of cards in all) that introduce 5 new words at a time. Each set gets progressively harder. The cards are laid down in a Memory Game style and students flip cards over trying to make a match. They need to say the word on the card as they flip them over each time to help fast recall. J and I were playing and she was struggling a bit with some of the words from set 1. One of the boys in my class wondered over to see what we were doing. As J struggled he calmly pointed out letters and reminded her of the sounds.

I had such a huge smile on my face.

Once J could recognize the words and read them without trouble (we played several rounds) I pulled out the first book that incorporates the words introduced in set 1. After my initial read through I thought some of the sentences would prove difficult for J - there were complex sentences and such throughout the story. She did very well with it and wanted to move on. I call that a success!

I can't wait to share this with my colleague next door who just received a Non-English speaking student from Honduras. I'm very interested to see how it goes with her.

Thanks again Erika for the generous opportunity to try out this game!

Wednesday, March 04, 2015

Top Ten from Ed Expo 2015

I just got a surprise in the mail today. More about that in another post. But it reminded me that I haven't posted my top ten FAVS from the selling floor at this year's #edexpo2015.

In no certain order, here goes:

1. Redispace from Pathways - not only were they giving away samples of great pencil grips. They also had these European inspired composition notebooks that have pages filled with graph paper. This way students learn to write their letters in each box and properly space out their words, rather than these sloppy messes I've been seeing in my classroom lately.

2. Goldiblocks - a super cool Kickstarter project that finds a way to engage girls in engineering pursuits. You go, Girl!

3, Capstone - this leading distributor of educational literature has a brand new list of titles that perfectly meshes with my curriculum.  Almost every book I looked at elicited an "OOOH."

4, Essentials - Great writing titles to help kids understand the different genres and their nuances.  LOVE the Stella Writes series.

5. Kagan - if you aren't already familiar with this fun product line for the classroom, go check it out.

6. The Pencil Grip - they had so many different and progressive grips for kids I couldn't stop playing with them all.

7. Roylco - they had this super cool lightbox that students could play with color combinations, look at x-rays, and even a moving one that could seriously change my lessons on erosion.

8. The Reading Game - a great set of vocabulary sight words that builds into a child reading a correlated story independently.

9. Say It - a fun card game where students create stories from random
phrase cards.

10. Learn in Style - super fun multiplication wrist bands to help friends remember their facts.

I'm still trying to track down what the official top ten were from the entire expo.

Anyone know?

Leave me a comment~!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Edexpo 2015- Guest Blogger

Sometimes things just fall into place. 3PM on Saturday I just happened to catch a post from the GA Bloggers about a meet up. Not sure how I missed this in the first place, but okay. We met downtown at the Hyatt Regency Atlanta with about 50 other bloggers from around the country.

Turns out they are in town for an Educational Market Expo. They had been invited by the incredible Sherron to attend as guest bloggers at this dealer and exhibitor exclusive event. HOW do I miss these opportunities?? I wanted in!

I got up at the monkey butt of dawn and drove down to the Ga World Congress Center to see if by chance they had any open slots for people who didn't show up. My newest blogging buddy, Felicia McAtwell, already had an invitation but wasn't able to register yesterday, so I waited for to ride on her coattails if possible. The registrars were more than accommodating and I had a bonafide name badge and entrance to all the goodies within minutes.

I then spent the next eight hours walking up and down the aisles of the brightest, newest, most exciting products available in the educational market today. Oh, it was awesome.

Sherron asked us to list our ten best products witnessed during the event so they could announce the 'Best in Show' on Tuesday. Here's my list in no particular order:
  1. Redispace composition notebooks from Pathways
  2. Goldiblocks - engineering toys for girls
  3. Capstone - their newest list of non-fiction was so spot on with my curriculum it was scary
  4. Stella Writes series from Essential - perfect for different writing genres
  5. Kagan - classroom management tools
  6. Pencil Grip People - so many of my students have weird motor skills this year
  7. Roylco Light box - just fun idea
  8. Reading Game - sort of a memory match to build vocabulary then move to reading context
  9. Say It - fun party game
  10. Learn in Style - multiplication wristbands, better than flashcards

I will be sharing more reviews of specific items later. I just couldn't believe how awesome this weekend turned out to be and had to share!

Sunday, January 25, 2015

R.A.C.E.S. booklet

Sitting in staff development classes is kind of a conundrum. The information is usually good, but if you're like me your mind is thinking of all the OTHER things you could be doing right now. As the county guy was hitting us with the scoring guide associated with the upcoming GA Milestones test, my brain was thinking, "How on Earth am I going to get my students used to this test formatting?" It's so different than the CRCT with all of its multiple choice questions. That in and of itself has its issues. But this new format asks students to write comprehensive essays in the FOURTH GRADE! I'm still struggling to get them to remember to put capitals and  punctuation, forget paragraphing.

Since my other lesson on Close Reading slowed the process down for students, I began to think how we could do that again with another article. The county guy shared (another) acronym to use with students in helping them prepare for these essays.

This sparked an idea to create a booklet for my students that broke down the process for them. We have this time during our morning schedule called DBQ (Document Based Questions) that I could use to have them conduct this lesson.

It starts with them reading an article I wrote about using electronics in school and how it helps improve your academics. There is a question after the article that asks what they think the main idea would be. So they brainstormed some ideas for what it might be for this article. We shared in class and looked for a common theme amongst them all.

Now I 'sound the gun' and they are off to the RACES! There's a page for each of the letters of the acronym as students build up their response to the question.  Citing evidence and explaining how it fits with the main idea puts meat on their essay bones.

The final day (or two) has them writing the essay with an introduction, their answer, evidence and reasoning behind it. They cap it off with their conclusive summary and we are done.

Right now, we have gotten up to the 'E' page. I'm happy with what I'm seeing them produce. Hopefully we are well on our way to preparing to knock out that essay come testing time.

Oh, you can find this booklet at my TpT store. Hopefully you can get some good practice out of it as well.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Author is Coming! The Author is Coming!

I am so very excited! My good friend from college has managed to become an oft published author in the 20 or so years since we've graduated. I am so proud of Kristine Asselin , and yes, slightly jealous. With the upcoming release of her first YA novel, Anyway you Slice It, I thought it would be cool to have her come visit my school and talk to the kids about her process.

And she said YES!!


It took some finagling with my school's media specialist, emails and about 19 phone calls on Kris's part to other schools to secure two elementary sites for her to visit while she is down here. I mean why fly for three hours and only visit one school when you can grab two?
Right now Kris has a ton of non-fiction titles available through Amazon, Capstone, Barnes and Nobles, and even Walmart online. I love that so many of them fit perfectly with my Fourth Grade curriculum. I've managed to acquire some great titles.
The first one I bought was this:
I use it to start off every year. As it addresses how our great nation began. It's a perfect way to lead into our unit on Native Americans and how they arrived here 12,000 years ago. I can also see how their minds open up to new ideas as we take what they THOUGHT they knew about who discovered America and add new knowledge to their memory banks.

We also cover the Solar System each year and the students can't get enough of books that show actual photographs of stars and celestial bodies light years away. Shouts of "Look" and "Wow" always follow sharing this book. Kris also has a title just on the Sun that I want to pick up soon, so I can have her autograph them for me.

Later in the year we move into our unit on the American Revolution and what better way to start it off  than with something cool.

The boys especially think this title is way cool. It has great information about the War for Independence that we can't find in the history text. Such as the fact that arrows were much more accurate and deadly than the guns they had at that time.

Once our nation was established they needed to create a governing body. I always find this such an obscure section of history to teach to 9 year olds, but this book helps:

It adds some spice into a very dry curriculum. It has taken the information and presented it in a straightforward manner that the kids can easily understand.  This title has been reviewed for the School Library Journal, and Hornbook.

Kris is going to be conducting five sessions working with our Fourth and Fifth graders on writing informational pieces in her talk titled: Just the Facts, Ma'am. She has designed a couple of other great presentations that you can take a look at on her website. If you're interested in having her at your school let me know, I can put in a good word for ya!

Sunday, January 18, 2015

Close Reading - A Beginning Lesson

 We've been doing a lot of staff development training at my school about Close Reading. Having more exposure and scenarios to draw from, it's starting to make more sense now. Getting the students to dig deeper into their understanding of a piece helps them practice picking out details and responding in much more elaborate ways.
I've tried the strategies of having interact with pieces for the past two years now. As they read a new piece they highlight certain information throughout. I have them draw a box around any key vocabulary, underline main ideas, put question marks next to statements that confuse them, and to draw a 'cloud' around any words they don't understand.
I've now learned to slow them down. Have them pick things out piece by piece and read with a purpose rather than try to make them accomplish it all in one go. We read an article from the Chicago Tribune about bullying through independently once just to get the 'flow.' It can be found on the Georgia Department of Education website in the Third Grade packet.

Then I had them write down what they thought the main idea of the WHOLE piece was about. We had talked about not picking out details from one section, but really thinking about what all of the information was saying together. I drew this chart and had the first student come up and read out his sticky note. Then he placed it in Quadrant One of the chart. Student two came up and read her sticky note, thought whether hers was similar Student One or did it warrant placing it in another Quadrant. We went on from there until all the stickies were on the chart. Not one of the ideas shared was wrong as to what the main idea could be. That was interesting.
By the end it was quite clear what the majority of the class thought the main idea of the piece was.
In the next lesson, a Second Read if you will, the piece was broken down into smaller sections already so we looked at each and discussed what we thought was the main idea of those. Once we had all of the section main ideas, we thought about how each were used to help out the overall main idea and wrote out explanation sentences.
For the Third Read, I set the purpose to be looking for the author's opinion. What words did they use to let the reader know how they felt about bullying. Students responded in the margins as to whether they agreed or disagreed with the author's opinion. Then we used this information to write a constructed response sharing our opinion as to whether we agreed or disagreed with the author.
Having the students go through the piece more than once with a set purpose allows them to focus on one big idea at a time rather than asking them to comprehend everything about it.  
Next week I'll be sharing a booklet I made with another Close Reading strategy. I'll have more to share once we've worked through that.
But for now I am pleased to see them thinking and paying attention to the passage in a more aggressive manner. That's sure going to be helpful come testing time.

Saturday, January 03, 2015

Currently - January 2015

Starting the year off right. Joining up with Farley from Oh Boy, Fourth Grade for her awesome Currently blog linkie.

She's added in some rules, so make sure you read the fine print!

Okay, I'll just tell you:
- Once you link up your blog you go to the two blogs who linked up before you and leave MEANINGFUL comments ***Great idea for finding new blogs!***
- Visit the blog that links up AFTER you and leave some love
- You must link directly to your blog post for the January Currently, not to a store or something

So here's my first CURRENTLY board of 2015:

Listening: This is my newest addiction. I can learn right along with them.

Loving: It's only one more day, but I need it! Traveling across the country and visiting for the holidays takes it out of me.

Thinking: I finally have time to work on some new stuff and where is that extended text I need for it? Sitting on my desk at school. AAAHHH!

Wanting: My prime rib and bean soup has been cooking all day. It's time I ate me some!

Needing: Money, it always comes down to money. If you have any hanging around, would you send it my way? Please?

Yes: I've gotten so far away from the routine that helped me lose all that weight. Time to get back on it.

Maybe: I'm halfway through my supernatural thriller, Temple Hall. The outline is complete. I just gotta dig in and finish it.

I wish: My family is increasingly spread out every year. Wish I could get them all in one place. We've already set up some time throughout 2015 when we can get together. But it's usually only one or two other people at a time.

How's your January shaping up?