Thursday, November 21, 2013

Frindle - Novel Study

This year was the first time I tried an extended text as a read aloud. Extended text involves a lot of very close reading and asking the students to do more than just listen to the story or ask questions. It delves deeper into the text and the nuances of the novel, revealing more depth and meaning behind the text. The students need to do some serious thinking and interaction with the novel (insert groans and sighs from them here) but they come out on the other end understanding so much more.

Our first foray into this was Elizabeth George Banks's, Sign of the Beaver. I am ashamed to say I had never read it before. Once I did I really enjoyed it. It took us about three weeks to get through the entire novel. We did so many different activities that I pulled off of TpT for free that it got my brain thinking.

Our next novel was to be a little fun book by Andrew Clements. Scholastic had a sale on it in September for $1 so I bought the class their very own book. Now I could get them to do even more delving, this time with a highlighter! We've only read chapters one and two but already they are noticing things on their own and predicting about events to come. They love reading it and don't want me to stop.

As I was reading through it again for ideas, I started putting together a plan for what I wanted to teach. Well, that plan turned into an entire set of activities that I could use just from this short 135 page book. I worked on it over several days and finally had a product to put out for y'all to enjoy along with me.

But I had to know if it would actually work in a regular classroom, so I started using the activities in my classroom to get a feel for them.

And wouldn't you know it; they already noticed a mistake on one of the sheets. As we were going through the character sketch for Mrs. Granger, they saw that the textboxes actually referred to her as a 'he'. That's what i get for reusing a previous sheet. Don't worry. I already went back, fixed it, and  reloaded it.

I can't wait to try some of the other activities as well. So keep an eye out for further posts on this subject!

Oh, you can grab the Frindle Novel Study right here.

October S.L.A.N.T. Reveal

I am so SO so late in blogging about this. I hope Susan forgives me. I mentioned before in this post 
that I had joined in the SLANT bandwagon. I had absolutely no idea what to expect or what others were sending out in their care packages around the world. But when I heard it was a little SPOOKY themed, I was all over it.

I sent my contribution all the way to Australia and eagerly awaited my little box. Then suddenly it was here.

I was given the amazing and super friendly Susan from here as my buddy. She contacted me almost as soon as the list was out to introduce herself. She also completely made my day when she revealed that she was already a follower of my blog. It's still fascinates me that people actually read my ramblings. To have someone reference it makes me feel like a ROCK STAR!

And the happiness only continued when I opened that little puppy. Everything I pulled out, from the set of ghoulish drinking goblets, to the scented pens, to the hamburger socks. Yep, I said hamburger socks. I can't wait to strut through the halls of school with those on!

Thanks, Susan. You are wonderful!

Monday, November 11, 2013

Thursday Tutorial - Recycled Science Projects

When I was teaching Third Grade we always did this recyclable materials project since it went with the curriculum. We would often adopt the motto of 'Go Green' to cut down on paper waste and reuse materials. It's a great lesson for students to learn and I kind of missed that piece when I moved to Fourth.

But that shouldn't mean that students can't be exposed to the idea of recycling to help their environment, does it? This year, as I was printing out the directions for our Solar System project, I realized I could totally slip a little recycling in when it had never been before. I found the part in the parent instructions that told them not to think they had to spend a ton of money to recreate the planets and such and added in more suggestions about using recycled materials. I had crumpled up newspapers, bottle caps, and rolled up socks as ideas for making the solar system.

Some of my kids surprised me when they started complaining they didn't know how to create this project, or they didn't have anything recyclable at home. Are you kidding me??? We talked and discussed as a class and we heard from some of the those that had already started what they were finding to use in their projects.

The due date arrived for turning in this assignment and I was blown away. They really did an awesome job with this and reused a bunch of odds and ends to recreate the solar system. With a little forward thinking, we can all help save our planet, the third from the Sun.

Wednesday Writing - PenPal Replies

Whoo wee! You should have seen how excited my kiddos were when I told them our Penpals from New York have written back.

Okay, well, you can see a picture here:

I had paired up with Jessica Ivey and Holly (Fourth Grade Flipper) as part of a project to get my students to write more often.

Jessica was telling me that her class has been asking about the return penpal letters ever since we sent the first batch off. Mine? Not so much. No one really seemed to be thinking about them or wondering at all what was going on up North.

But as soon as they heard what was in the package I was holding, their excitement really shone through. Totally made me smile to hand out these great colorful letters and all the fun gifts that Holly's students sent us. We had only two pouty faces because their penpal hadn't sent them anything extra. But I gave them the old 'Kill em with kindness' speech and they quieted down.

Mine immediately wanted to write back and send their pals gifts. I can't reveal what they are sending because that would just plain spoil the surprise! So be on the lookout Penpals!

We even got some tattoos that were super cool!

Tuesday Tried It - Weight Loss

It was someone's idea to have our school's picture day on a Friday this year. You've gotta understand. That is the one day we are allowed to wear jeans to school, but we have to wear it with spirit wear. It's not always the nicest looking outfit, but I am NOT missing a jeans day. Needless to say, I skipped pictures the first go around.

When picture retakes came through, I was ready. I got all dressed up and went right to the photographers before any of the students arrived so I wouldn't be rushed, sat right down and turned my head ever so slightly and waited. The gal behind the camera laughed and said, "You've done this before, huh?"

I got those results back recently and was a bit shocked. I have my picture from last year sitting up on my wall and as I compared the two there was a marked difference. All that working out over the past seven months has paid off. I have proof!

but I can't seem to make it turn the right way. Whaaa!

Monday Mentor - Moon Phases OREO style!

This is my third year teaching fourth grade curriculum. Help me Lord, but I look forward to making the Moon Phases out of Oreo cookies. Every time I am in Costco and spy the huge warehouse sized box of Oreos I think, "Is it time?" Finally the day arrived that I could buy that Monster box of cookies and not feel one ounce of guilt.

I lug them into the class and just watch my students eyes grow three sizes too big. As I'm explaining what we are doing I can tell they aren't listening to a thing I'm saying. All they care about is whether or not they can EAT their display. Even with all that glue stuck on it, they still want to pick the whole thing back off and stuff it down their throats.

I manage to hold them off from gorging themselves on chocolatey goodness long enough to show them how to arrange the cookies to represent the eight moon phases. We twist the tops off the Oreos carefully and use the non cream side for the New Moon. We scrape most of the cream off of the bottom into a crescent sitting on the right hand side for the Waxing Crescent. The cookies continue in this way all the way around the lunar cycle until they have the whole plate covered. This usually takes a while and requires a lot more glue than one would expect. I couldn't find my bottles of liquid glue, not sure if I tossed them during the summer move to a new room. Thankfully our art teacher is kind.

We set them on the floor out of the way to dry. I  know, torture. The next day I hand out a sheet of terms for them to cut out and label their moon phases. As I walk around with my grade book in hand, their glassed over pleading eyes beg to know if they can EAT now. Even after all the cream and the bottom halves of the cookies yesterday, they still want to gobble the rest. I give in and return to my desk to calmly enjoy my pack of 6 Oreos.

Until next year.

Sunday, November 03, 2013

Thursday Tutorial - Salute!

We played a fun game at our annual Math Night. Once a year we turn the entire school into a smorgasbord of mathematical genius. The halls are lined with tons of games based on numeracy, graphing, operations, and algebraic thinking. All of the teachers turn out for a night of frivolous number crunching.

My fourth grade partners and I set up a math game called Salute in the hall outside our rooms. There is a deck of cards set out on two desks. Children sit opposite each other and a third player becomes the 'Caller.' The players decide it they will be doing addition or multiplication. Each of the students pulls a card from the deck without looking at it. The Caller says, "Salute", and they place their card up against the forehead. The Caller than tells them the sum or the product of the two cards. Whoever can identify their card first wins the set. At the end the person with the most cards wins that round.

It's fun and silly and just a great way to practice their facts. I love watching the little kindergartners try to figure out what card they have stuck to their forehead. Fun fun.

Wednesday Writing - Spider vs. Fly

Something a little fun this week from the Writing World of FrynsTown. I completely stole the idea from Jivey, but it was just too fun to pass up. I started out by reading the poem (fable) Spider and the Fly:

The Spider and the Fly
By Mary Howitt 
Will you walk into my parlour? said the spider to the fly.
Tis the prettiest little parlour that ever you did spy,
The way into my parlour is up a winding stair,
And I've a many curious things to shew when you are there.
Oh no, no, said the little Fly, to ask me is in vain,
For who goes up your winding stair, can ne'er come down again.
I'm sure you must be weary, dear, with soaring up so high
Will you rest upon my little bed? said the Spider to the Fly.
There are pretty curtains drawn around; the sheets are fine and thin,
And if you like to rest awhile, I'll snugly tuck you in!
Oh no, no, said the little Fly, for I've often heard it said
They never, never wake again, who sleep upon your bed!
Said the cunning Spider to the Fly, Dear friend what can I do,
To prove the warm affection I 've always felt for you?
I have within my pantry, good store of all that's nice
I'm sure you're very welcome, will you please to take a slice?
Oh no, no, said the little Fly, Kind Sir, that cannot be,
I've heard what's in your pantry, and I do not wish to see!
Sweet creature! said the Spider, you're witty and you're wise,
How handsome are your gauzy wings, how brilliant are your eyes!
I've a little looking-glass upon my parlour shelf,
If you'll step in one moment, dear, you shall behold yourself.
I thank you, gentle sir, she said, for what you 're pleased to say,
And bidding you good morning now, I'll call another day.
The Spider turned him round about, and went into his den,
For well he knew the silly Fly would soon come back again
So he wove a subtle web, in a little corner sly,
And set his table ready, to dine upon the Fly.
Then he came out to his door again, and merrily did sing,
Come hither, hither, pretty Fly, with the pearl and silver wing,
Your robes are green and purple, there's a crest upon your head
Your eyes are like the diamond bright, but mine are dull as lead!
Alas, alas! How very soon this silly little Fly.
Hearing his wily, flattering words, came slowly flitting by
With buzzing wings she hung aloft, then near and nearer drew,
Thinking only of her brilliant eyes, and green and purple hue
Thinking only of her crested head, poor foolish thing!
At last,
Up jumped the cunning Spider, and fiercely held her fast.
He dragged her up his winding stair, into his dismal den,
Within his little parlour, but she ne'er came out again!
And now dear little children, who may this story read,
To idle, silly flattering words, I pray you ne'er give heed.
Unto an evil counsellor, close heart and ear and eye,
And take a lesson from this tale, of the Spider and the Fly. 
Then we read an article about how helpful a spider actually is:
Followed up by whether flies are useful:
I have them take notes on a t-chart to describe how each animal is helpful or harmful. 
Finally I give them the choice to write an opinion piece from the point of view of the spider or the fly.  They write up a thought bubble of sorts using the voice of their character and tell the other creature why they should or shouldn't be eaten. They have to use some of the information from the articles to 'prove their point'. 

When they were done I have the more brave of my students read them out loud but using a different voice. Some read like Dracula, some a cowboy, some as a Southern Belle. It gave me a chuckle to hear their arguements. 

Tuesday Tried It - Field Trips

I believe children should get out of school and experience the real world as much as they can. I think they should be exposed to culture more often. I think bringing them away from the four walls of the schoolhouse brings them further life experiences that enrich and further their education. That is why I always volunteer to head up the yearly field trip at our school.

It is not an easy endeavor. There's so much paperwork and math involved. Did I mention there is math? Ugh. Calculating how many miles and how many buses we can squeeze 225 fourth graders on is just mind boggling. Don't make me mention the idea of getting every child to bring in $8. It's like a race to the very finish to get all the money in so we can actually leave the building.

This year we went to see a production of Peter Pan and Wendy at our local theater (it is 4 miles from the school, which means 8 miles total). We took over the entire theater and displayed mostly appropriate behavior throughout the play. I liked how they made it a bit more interactive than the production we saw last year. The kids were clapping and answering questions and shouting at the stage to keep them interested. We made it back to school exhausted, but at least a little more fascinated with culture. I call that a win.

Mentor Monday - Planet Cookies

We are in the thick of it with our Planet/Stars/Moon unit. Next week will be Week 3, totally nice to have an extra week to get through all this content. I think this curriculum is fun. I learn something new every year and the kids love soaking up as much as they can with me. I learned that there is to be a replacement telescope for the Hubble sent up in 2015. It was supposed to be this year (which would have been totally cool!), but something must have happened. Another thing is that Pluto is not the only Dwarf Planet categorized in our Solar System. There are four more!
One question I had from this year was how did they manage to get a satellite through the asteroid belt to explore the Outer Planets? Pretty intelligent stuff.

The point of this post was to be about this cool thing one of my parents did for us. So I guess I'll stop babbling about Planets and talk about that now. The second student to leave us this year was going to have his last day on Friday. His mom contacted me and asked if she could bring in some cookies for the kids to decorate as a treat. Never the one to miss out on a teachable moment, I wrote back and said that would be perfect. Could she come during our Science block and we could have them decorate the cookies as planets to create a Solar System model? She agreed.

We had the BEST time. She brought so much frosting, jimmies, sprinkles, and two types of cookies. We talked about how the sugar cookies were better than the oatmeal ones for the Outer Planets because the bumpy ones looked more rocky like the Inner Planets. Content with a twist!

Friday, November 01, 2013

10% Sale - So I cheated a little.

I was feeling a little generous, must be all that sugar I've consumed in the past few days. There's a little sale going on over at my store. Check it out!  SG Store

Thanks to all those who played the BOO Game.