Saturday, March 29, 2014

I Choose to be Happy!

This week was..awful. I mean, terrible,horrible, no-good, very bad, awful. Stomach bugs ran rampant, paperwork was flowing out of my ears and deadlines for EVERYTHING crept up on me. My even got a neck spasm from stress...BUT, I am going to choose to share the things that made me smile this week. :) 

1. I bought my plane ticket for my girls trip to Myrtle Beach this summer. Lookout Pawley's Island, a few of us are taking over! I can't wait to spend some time laying on the beach (and by the pool) and hanging with my besties. 
This is where we are staying. Yes, please. 

Sidenote: I got this email from the owners and it totally cracked me up. I gotta make my handwriting into a font and cash in on this! :) 

2. One of my students stapled his paper like this. Because of the ridiculousness, I started laughing and had to take a picture. He didn't even do it to be funny. He is just that ridiculous without trying. Several of my kids (especially the ones who I looped up to 5th grade with) were laughing too because I am usually so organized with everything in a certain order and everything has a procedure, etc. but this week we were all just a little "off".  :) This mis-stapled paper basically summed up class this week. haha

3. We had our district-wide technology fair and I took Jackson with me. He snuggled up to my dear friend Danna and it was so precious! 

4. Speaking of Jackson, (and due to last minute change of plans), we went to the Spring carnival at my school today and enjoyed the sunshine with one of my besties who I happen to also teach with, Carrie and Mateo (aka Jackson's future bff). The weather was wonderful, I didn't have any responsibilities and it was so fun! 

He is just too cool for his mom's shenanigans. 
5. This video made my day. I love Frozen and the song Let It Go. You HAVE to watch it. It is just too darn perfect for all of us who will be administering STAAR next week. 

Alright, this is probably it for me before Tuesday. If you think about it, pray for all the teachers and kids in Texas on Tuesday and Wednesday as they take the super stressful state assessments. (Specifically the little darlings in room 409 and 410 at Elliott!) 
Have a great weekend! 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

It's Almost Here...

So we are only one week away from the STAAR test and honestly, there isn't much more I can do...which is both a freeing and a terrifying feeling. The next week will be spent "putting into practice" our knowledge of the content + test taking strategies I've taught. My students made 2 foldables to remind them of important strategies to use so I thought I'd share them :) I wish I could say that they are completely original wonderful ideas BUT everyone knows teachers are the best at taking someone else's ideas and making them work in their own classroom. However, I am not going to steal someone else's fabulous ideas without giving them credit--the first foldable's contents came courtesy of some Pinterest searching which led me to The Savvy School Counselor.  She wrote this post about test taking tips for new test takers but I think it's totally acceptable to review these tips with "experienced" test takers. I chose the parts I liked and added in the RELAX acronym (thank you, Pinterest) to make this useful little thing: 

So Monday we made the generic test-taking strategies and then Tuesday we made a foldable with strategies specifically for Reading. I found this little gem FOR FREE on TpT. Even though it says its for the Common Core, it totally fits our TEKS. 

We used this little tool to anticipate what kind of questions might be on a few practice passages we read and that's what we'll be doing this week too. I'm not really into test prep but sometimes, you gotta do what ya gotta do. :) Let me know what kind of test taking strategies you teach your little darlings--in Texas if our students don't pass, they have to test another round in May so I (hopefully won't but might) be looking for more tips for some of my kids. 
Have a great week! 

Monday, March 17, 2014

Mentor Monday: Texts for Teaching Writing

I love that this week's Mentor Monday is about texts we use to teach writing. I was literally JUST talking about this with my aunt (who is a 4th grade teacher) in Texarkana. I shared my zillion "mentor texts to use" documents with her, but when I think of my favorite mentor texts to use, it has to be pretty much any Patricia Polacco book. She is just such a phenomenal writer. I love reading her books that are reflective of actual events in her life... (Bonus: one of the standards in Texas is
 TEK 4.7A  Identify similarities and differences between the events and characters' experiences in a fictional work and the actual events and experiences described in an author’s biography or autobiography)  Hello?! A mentor text for writing AND reading [I use these as an example of a "fictionalized autobiography"]?! I'm a fan.

I usually use her books when teaching my kids to write narratives. She writes such vivid descriptions of these seemingly small moments in her life that left an impact...perfect for teaching narrative writing. AND she truly paints a picture in her readers' heads. Love it. Here are a few of my favorites: 

This is my first year to NOT teach 4th grade writing which means my kids aren't formally assessed by the state in Writing. While I LOVED teaching writing, I don't miss the added pressure of a 2nd test :) Can't wait to see the other suggested mentor texts on this linky party! 

Friday, March 14, 2014

Five for Friday {Linky} Spring Break Edition

I haven't posted in a while because the week before Spring Break was chaotic and then Spring Break was here! These last 2 weeks have FLOWN by. Here's a super brief summary 5forFriday style of what I've been up to..

Our last week before Spring Break was only 4 days, thanks to a "snow" day. Then we had Open House on Thursday night and my grade level planning day on Friday. The week blew past with several things not getting accomplished on my to-do list. It was kind of a bummer. I had every intention of doing some reader's theaters to let my kids analyze drama before the break (something that would keep them AND ME entertained!) but being out of the classroom for 2 days didn't allow for that. Hopefully we will find time in the coming weeks but we have officially hit the home stretch before our state testing (only 2 more weeks) and it's time to put the pedal to the metal. [In TX, 5th graders have to pass to go to the next grade level so it's a ton of pressure for the kids and teachers but I am trying to stay positive! We haven't done much "test prep" in a benchmark and that's it...because I wanted to make sure I taught the content as in depth as possible.] Anyway, that brings me to #2
I decided when we get back to school Monday, I'm going to teach some "test taking strategies". I looked all over Pinterest and TpT for a collection of strategies I liked and I compiled them to make this foldable. 
I used pieces of this pin from the Savvy School Counselor and the RELAX acronym I found here. I plan to go over general strategies on Monday and then on Tuesday, my kids are going to make an accordion foldable using tips found in this awesome download I got for free from TPT. Then we will spend the rest of the week in stations called "Put It Into Practice" for fiction, nonfiction and poetry texts. If it goes well I'll give more details later :)

One of the things I started within the last 2 weeks was a book study lead by one of the coordinators in our district. We are reading Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. It's very interesting so far. My principal is actually going to have our entire faculty read it over the summer. The basic premise [so far] is that people have to choose their mindset. A fixed mindset is when you believe you have reached your "peak"...whatever ability you have (intellectual, creative, athletic, etc.) can't be improved...a sort of "it is what it is" take on life. But a growth mindset is when you believe your basic qualities can be cultivated through effort. If we teach our students that their is purpose to their failures, that it's totally okay (and even) encouraged to not experience success immediately, then they learn to always seek more. We need our kids to know that their intelligence and abilities don't ever "max out" and we as teachers need to show them the "goodness in failure" (to take a line from my friend, Demesha). Anyway, it's worth a read!  

I love, I mean LOVE, jewelry. Specifically Stella & Dot jewelry. I got this package in the mail and it made my whole week before Spring Break happier. 

We made the drive to Cincinnati...all 16 hours of it. Jackson was over it on the way after we hit Tennessee which was only 7 hours in...yay. Then when we arrived, we grabbed dinner and went to my sister-in-law's house, where my hubs and I promptly BOTH became super ill. As in stomach viruses and food poisoning. Mine was over in 24 hours and my poor hubs endured almost 48 hours before we took him to the doctor and got some medicine. I am so thankful that my in-laws took care of Jackson while we were down for the count. Then, (praise the Lord!) Jackson was AWESOME on the way home. He didn't cry until the last 30 minutes but I can handle that! All in all, not the best trip to Ohio we've ever had BUT J got to meet his great-Gram and I think everyone else was spared our near brush with death virus.

So, there you have it...a super brief summary of the last 2 weeks. I hoping for a more restful rest of my Spring Break because, thanks to all the ridiculous snow days, there are no more little breaks until Memorial Day. (uh, what?!) Happy Friday!

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Mentor Monday (or Thursday Night..whatever)-Analyzing Characters

Due to my Spring Break hiatus, I am trying to catch up...but that's because I couldn't miss this Mentor Text Monday! I'm pretty sure there are a zillion books you could use for when teaching students to analyze characters. In 5th grade, my kids have to be able to identify character traits, relationships and conflicts...that includes noting how and why characters change. Well, I have used several books to teach and reteach and reteach this (because sometimes, it just doesn't stick or another example is even better!) Here are a few books I use for teaching character:

Julius Baby of the World by Kevin Henkes
Not only is it hilarious, students can see how Lily goes from thinking her brother is "disgusting" to being fiercely protective of him. And of course, kids can make lots of connections to this book!Somebody Loves You, Mr. Hatch

Here is a summary: 
The main character in the picture book is a very lonely man, Mr. Hatch. The story begins with a description of Mr. Hatch's lonely daily life. He lives alone, barely knows or talks to anyone, works all day in a shoelace factory, buys a fresh turkey wing for supper each day, eats, takes a shower, and goes to bed. In his neighborhood and at work people say the same thing about Mr. Hatch, "He keeps to himself." Mr. Hatch's loneliness is illustrated with drab colors and by the way in which the artist depicts him: shoulders slumped, head down, manner subdued.
All of this changes when the postman brings Mr. Hatch a huge, heart shaped box of chocolates along with a card that says, "Somebody loves you." Mr. Hatch is so happy he does a little dance. Because he thinks he might meet his secret admirer, Mr. Hatch puts on a colorful tie and some old aftershave. He takes the box of chocolates to work to share. He even talks to Mr. Smith at his newspaper stand, notices he looks sick, and offers to watch the newsstand while Mr. Smith goes to the doctor's office. Mr. Hatch continues to talk to others, to help those in need, and to share with his neighbors. In fact, Mr. Hatch bakes brownies and holds an impromptu picnic for his neighbors at which he plays his old harmonica for them. His neighbors enjoy being with Mr. Hatch and like him very much. The more Mr. Hatch is friendly and kind to his neighbors, the more they reciprocate. When the postman tells Mr. Hatch that the candy had been delivered to his house by mistake and that he doesn't have a secret admirer, Mr. Hatch becomes withdrawn again. The postman tells the neighbors what has happened. The neighbors get together and throw a big surprise party for Mr. Hatch, complete with candy, a new harmonica, and a big sign that said, "Everybody loves Mr. Hatch."

This book is so sweet. It is great for character changes...and bonus! If you go to Storyline Online, it can be read to your students :) 

And last, but of course NOT least, I always always always use 
Yes, I use the Little Golden Book version, (I still have mine from when I was a kid) because it is short enough to read in one mini-lesson but I have several version to choose from. :)

For more info on how to use this timeless story, see this post!

Those are my go-to books for characters but there are sooo many more I love to use too! Can't wait to see what everyone else has been using! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Mentor Monday: Making Predictions {Linky Party}

Today we have ANOTHER "snow" day. In Texas. In March. 4 days before SPRING break. As in know, flowers blooming, sunshine and a few thunderstorms? Oh well, at least it gave me time to write a new post! 

I'm linking up with The Reading Tutor/OG for her weekly Mentor Text linky party. Let me just say, I LOVE finding new mentor texts. I don't know how people teach without using mentor texts. Almost all of my time on Pinterest is spent sifting through page after page of suggested mentor texts, checking to see if I own it, if my school library has it, or how much it costs on Amazon. So, I am excited to link up and see what everyone else suggests! 

Alright, so on to today's Mentor Monday topic: Making Predictions. In 5th grade (in Texas), this skill best pairs with our TEKS that focuses on foreshadowing (5.6A). Our students have (hopefully!) been taught to make predictions before reading a text since they were in kindergarten and that has progressed to making predictions during reading. By the time these little darlings make it to 5th grade, I am hoping their predictions have a little more evidence from the text to support in, certain words or things the narrator or characters say that foreshadow future events. 

One fabulous picture book for this is: 
Here is the summary from GoodReads
Glenda and Horace Pork-Fowler are a goose and a hog of large proportions, with appetites to match. So naturally, when they receive an invitation for a weekend of free gourmet food at Eatum Hall, Dr. Hunter's new inn, they don't hesitate to pack their bags. It's a bit curious that there's no one to greet them at the gloomy inn, and their absent owner does have an odd fondness for artwork depicting wolves. Still, the unfailingly cheerful couple are more than content to eat their way from feast to feast, disappointed only to learn that they'll miss the pie-eating festival on the day they leave. Or will they?

With graphic artwork that pops off the page, this tongue-in-cheek tale will delight readers of all ages, from fans of Wallace and Gromit and Berkeley Breathed to children who will love discovering the illustrator's many sight gags — and being in on the joke.

I love to read it and hear my kids making their own predictions or talking to the characters, warning them of what [might] be coming. Since my kids are upper elementary, they have more experience with making predictions so they don't need as much prompting. BUT, after they have made their predictions, we talk about the text clues that can be used to understand what events are being foreshadowed. (See? I told you these skills work hand in hand!) 

Anyway, check it out. I can't wait to see the rest of the suggested mentor texts! (I had this fabulous idea-to keep one of my overly active reading groups busy allow one of my reading groups to compile a "Books Mrs. A Must Use" list of picture books for teaching specific skills. Yes, cheap labor for making my own mentor text list...I've got no shame.) Hopefully I can use some of these books that my students have suggested on future Mentor Monday posts! 
Have a fabulous week!! It's almost Spring Break :) 
Now, I know you are thinking, "Where is the snow?You cancelled for THAT?! We'll, I'm wondering too. But I promise that last night when they cancelled school, roads were all iced over and bridges were just plain ridiculous. And yes, Texans are wimps in cold weather. Talk to us when we hit the triple digits later on this year. :)  

Saturday, March 1, 2014

Currently March--My very first Currently!

I have admired and followed Farley's blog for, probably, 2 years now. I think she and I could potentially be besties due to our shared love of the ... and !!! Anyway, she hosts linky parties each month and I'm linking up for my very first one! 

Listening: We are in Clarksville, TX to visit my grandparents (Jackson's GREAT grandparents). They live on a farm and have a bazillion cows (or at least a couple hundred) and we love coming to visit. Both of my parents grew up in Cville so it seems like they know everyone here. As we sit in the living room, my Gramps has Fox News on in the living room and they are playing with/talking to Jackson. Adam (my hilarious "baby" brother....ok, he's almost 20 but he's still MY baby brother) is making sarcastic remarks about everything and it is cracking me up. 

Loving: I am practically a newborn in the blogging world, but my oh-so-connected friend Andrea Keller is the most tech-savvy person I know. She knows people all over the world, has a bajillion ideas for integrating technology in the classroom and is just all around AMAZING. AND SHE tweeted and Facebooked my little ole blog to all her blogging/teaching/technology friends. 'Preciate it, Busy Bee :)

Thinking: Next Sunday we are headed to Cincy to see my hubby's family. It's a long trip anyway but we've never attempted it with a BABY. I hope J makes the trip easily...Once we are there it won't be an issue because J will be around fam who will marvel in his cuteness and give him lots of attention..but the car ride...yikes.

Wanting: need I say more? 

Needing: People. I hate working out...unless it's playing volleyball. But since I get to play volleyball never these days, I've got to figure something out. Summer is approaching and I plan on teaching baby J that during the summer, all we do is swim and lay by a pool reading. 

????: Any guesses...? :) 

A [Late] Five for Friday

I'm a little late with this 5forFriday, but that is about par for the course this week! It has been a ridiculously crazy week.I'm so thankful, and a little terrified that Spring Break is only 1 week away. [More on that later] One day my 5forFriday will revolve around school work, but when I try to remember what the heck I taught this week, I am drawing a blank. That's how this week was...{seriously}.

 On Monday afternoon I went to a training about teaching students to revise & edit! [Now before you roll your eyes and think BooooooRinG...] The training was lead by one of the AMAZING coordinators in Irving-Jennifer Burchfiel. [Funny side note: she taught 1st grade at my elementary school when I was in first grade and she still looks the EXACT's like she never ages.] Anyway, JB is one of my favorite presenters because she gives USEFUL tips and strategies that are NEW [as in, not the same ole, same ole] and that can be easily implemented the next day. So instead of watching the clock the whole time, I was engaged and it made me miss teaching Writing in 4th grade [for one hot second...then I remembered how nice it is to only have one STAAR test..:)]
I have been reading one of my favorite books of ALL TIME, The Phantom Tollbooth, to my kids everyday. They love it. Well, we finished the book and are starting to read the play. I'm sure I will regret this later, but my partner teacher and I are considering doing a school play with this book. [super fun, but a ton of work...] 

My son rolled over twice this week...once for MY dad and once for my hubby. I never really understood what people meant when they said "it [time] will fly by" but now, I can't really remember anything in my personal life that didn't revolve around Jackson. [And I'm okay with that!] 
We had our very last Destination Imagination meeting this week--kind of bittersweet. I SO need the extra time I now have, but it is super fun to watch my kids problem-solve and work together for a common goal. DI should be a class in school (one day, when I rule the world)

5 Days until Spring Break. 15 days until STAAR testing.
That's all I'm sayin'....

This weekend we are in Clarksville (Texas) visiting my grandparents. I love being able to escape to see family and to hang out in the country. I am totally a city girl, but sometimes the break from the chaos is sooo necessary.