Monday, February 24, 2014

Peek at My Week {Feb. 24}

Hi Friends!  Just thought I'd peek out from the avalanche of papers I am trying to get scored before report cards and conferences next week and give you 

It is going to be a topsy turvy kind of a week as we try to wrap up multiple end of the trimester projects and get ready for our Genius Hour presentation on Friday.

In Social Studies we are in the middle of our Civil War simulation.  In our current episode students are going into battle for the first time.  Each student has been randomly assigned to either the North or the South, as well as, a specific regiment.  For each day's episode they have to make decisions pertaining to the events of the day.  Depending what each group decides to do and how their roll of the die turns out different things can happen to them.  For example they may be injured and lose a limb or die from disease.  At the end of each day's events students write a journal entry describing their trials as a solider.  This is our second simulation of the year (we did the American Revolution earlier in the year) and the students LOVE them!  I also have the Pioneers simulation which is similar to the Oregon Trail.  The books says it should take 5 days to complete the simulation but it usually takes me around 7 class period because  I try to add extra bits like short video clips, pictures or other resources to help make it even more real to the students.  If you are looking for fun way to engage students while studying our country's history I highly recommend you look into these simulations.

We are continuing to work on long division in math.  Slow and steady seems to be the key on this topic with my group.  They  really enjoyed putting together the first part of our Division Lap books (see last week's post) and we will be adding more to that this week also.

In writing we are finishing up our descriptive writing.  To wrap this up, we are doing a partner project incorporating a little art.  To begin with, each student had to draw a monster of their own creation (They could not draw a monster that already exists from games or TV) and they had to keep it secret from anyone around them.  The next step is to write a detailed description of their creation which they will give to their partner who then will try to draw their monster.  After each partner has drawn the monsters based on the descriptions, they will compare their drawing with the original picture.  I hope to post some pictures of the comparisons when we are done.

On Friday we will be hosting our first Genius Hour presentation for our families.  I am planning another post on that topic when we finish up :o)

Well, that's my week for the most part.  Now back to those papers that need correcting.  Be sure to link up with Jennifer at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings and see what others are up to for the week.  Have a great week!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Genius Hour Part 1..{Tried it Tuesday}

Hey all! It's Tuesday so that means its time to link up with Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper for her Tried It Tuesday linky.  Before I start this post, I want to let you know that this post will be part of 3 posts I am planning to write up about Genius Hour and how it is working in our classroom.  I hope you will check back to read the others as they come out.  Without further ado, here's my...

Genius Hour...
  To give you a little background, Genius Hour is the educational equivalent to Google and Apple's 20 percent time, time where employees are allowed to use 20 percent of their work week on a project that they are passionate about.  A couple of the ideas that have come out of 20 Percent time are Gmail and Google+.  In the classroom setting, students are allowed to use 20 percent (about an hour a week) to devote to a project that they are passionate about.  They come up with the project idea, what research they need to do, and a plan for how they are going to complete it.  When they are done they share out with the class.  Students are encouraged to be creative and they are motivated by the power they have over their own learning.  Where did I learn of this intriguing idea you ask?

While blog stalking and doing what I consider as my own personal-PD over the summer, I stumbled on the idea of Genius Hour at Joy Kirr's Genius Hour LiveBinder.  It has a TON of resources about this idea and over course leads you to other teachers who are trying this phenomenal concept in their classrooms as well.  After looking at these resources and those found at  all I could think was AMAZING!  I want to try this!! I knew I wouldn't be ready for anything like this in the fall but I kept the idea in my head and stored resources in my Dropbox as I came across them.  Of course one part of me thought I had to be crazy--most of the project ideas were done by middle and high school students, but I did find a few elementary examples.  The next hurdle was how do I justify this time away from the curriculum and all that I have to teach.  I decided this fit in perfectly with the student centered classroom and project based learning.  Plus students would be researching and presenting all which are part of the Common Core!  Finally over Christmas break, I decided my fourth graders were definitely up to the challenge (even as I wondered if I was), so I tackled the next steps to get it launched in my classroom.  Stay with me to see how it's been going in my classroom. :o)

After break, I told the class we were going to try something special.  I wanted to build some suspense so I gave them little hints off and on during the week.  I had them create a "Me Map" which was a cluster web about them.  Each of their bubbles had to answer one of three questions: What is something you LOVE? What is something you are GOOD at? What is something you are INTERESTED IN or WANT TO LEARN ABOUT?  One day I had them write about what class they would take if they could learn about anything. And my last tantalizing questions for them were: "Has any teacher ever let you choose what you wanted to learn?  What would you do if a teacher allowed you to learn whatever you wanted?"
On the day of the launch I used an approach I got from Runde's Room and her post about getting Genius Hour started in her classroom.  I gave each student two sticky notes. On the first sticky note I had them look over their ME Maps and write down one thing they thought they were really interested in.  Then we watched the following video from about what Genius Hour is. (This video is actually for teachers who want to know more, but I felt like my fourth graders would get the idea).
After we watched the video I asked the students to think about what they had written on their first sticky note.  Would that subject be a good topic for a Genius Hour project?  Could they think of a project that would fit with that idea?  On the second note I had them write down what they thought would be a good topic for a project that they could come up with, then they added the other note to our board. (I did tell them they could write the same topic down if they thought it still fit.)
After all the sticky notes were on the board, I explained that for the next few weeks they were going to be allowed to work on a project of their own,  a project that they thought up, were interested in and were 100 percent in charge of.  Oh the whispers and grins!!!  The only thing guidelines I insisted on were these four things: 
1)They had to do some research on their topic (learning something new) 
2) They had to create a product to share  
3) They had to present their project 
4) They had to have their parents approval also (I knew some of this work would have to be done from home so wanted to be sure they were going to have that support.) 
At the end of the first session their homework was to brainstorm two research questions and a possible project for each topic that they would bring to me for approval for next week's Genius Hour.

Genius Hour Session 2:  The students brought in their ideas and questions.  I was SO impressed by some of the things they came up with.  I spoke with each student individually to make sure they had an inquiry question and to get an idea of what types of projects we'd have going.  Here are some of the questions and projects they proposed:
  • What would make the perfect outfit? (outfit design-ended up making the perfect outfit for her American Girl Doll)
  • How did the Native Americans build a longhouse? (building a longhouse model)
  • What would be the best design for the ideal city? (make a model city with legos)
  • How do you make a fashion bag? (sewing a bag)
  • What do you have to do to become an NFL player? (poster with pictures and articles about how to be an NFL player)
  • What are some of the most common sea animals? (Diorama of the ocean)
  • What are some good recipes for kids in the kitchen? (Cookbook with kid friendly recipes)
  • Who is Paul Rhodes and why is he a good coach? (Poster)
  • How do I learn to draw? (a sketch book for self taught drawing)
  • How to design a model car? (build a model car from wood)
  • How do you train a rat to follow a maze? (He was going to bring in a pet and the maze but his parents vetoed this idea-I hate rats so that was fine with me LOL)
  • How can you build a lava lamp? (building a lava lamp)
  • What is the best dance costume? (poster with costume comparisons- what they are made out of and what kind works best for which types of dances)
  • Animal research on penguins- animal report
  • What are some of the most unusual animals? (An A to Z animal book)
  • How do you put together an outfit? (poster with different outfits for different occasions)
  • Who is Slenderman? (poster telling about the game)
  • How to make a movie? (they are the videographers of our project time :o))
We have had two more work sessions for our Genius Hour projects.  The students are so motivated and engaged in their projects....I honestly don't think some of them realize they are LEARNING!!  I am going to leave you with a few pictures from our work sessions up to this point.

Well, that's a quick peek at our Genius Hour adventure so far.  I hope you found it interesting and will check back later for Parts 2 and 3 to find out more.
What have you tried lately?

Monday, February 17, 2014

Peek at My Week {Feb. 17}....

Happy Monday all!  Thought since I had some extra time today I'd post a quick Peek at My Week and link up with Jennifer over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her weekly linky:
(It has been a bit since I've been able to link up here...not that my week's haven't been ultra exciting between snow days and state testing.)  Anyway... here's
This week will be a short week for me for a couple reasons: 
Today was a snow day.  Yep our seventh for the school year.  As of today we are now getting out in June :'o(  This is the fifth grade door where staff usually comes in.  That drift was to my knees this afternoon when I went in.  When I came back out an hour later my footprints were already filling in.  Guess we'll see what happens tomorrow morning.
My son Jason is the 220 weight wrestler.  The team made it for State Duals which begin on Wednesday in Des Moines, so we are heading down to watch.  He was a district qualifier this year as well. He placed third since they only take the top 2 places at each weight, he doesn't get to wrestle for the individual state tournament.  All the boys have done an outstanding job this season.  I am looking forward to seeing them in the big arena.  Best wishes to all of them!!!

So what will be going on in my classroom while I'm am missing this week you ask?  Here is a quick look:
Students will be taking part in the first lesson of the Junior Achievement: Regions unit taught by one of our community members.  This is an awesome program that brings business people into the classroom to teach for five lessons.  In fourth grade the unit is on Regions which ties in great with our social studies.  Students learn about products, supply and demand, using the resources and running a business.
We are also going to be digging into our historical fiction novel units this week.  Since we are also studying the Civil War in social studies at this time, I try to use books that fit this time period as well.  My high and on level students will begin reading Freedom Crossing by Margaret Goff Clark.  It is a great story about the Underground Railroad.  I love how students can really see that Laura is a dynamic character as her views change throughout the course of the story.  My two lower groups will be reading a couple shorter books- A. Lincoln and Me and Follow the Drinking Gourd.  We will be working on summarizing as well as identifying why these books fit the historical fiction genre.

In math we are backing up a bit to "restart" division.  I don't like the way our series Every Day Math jumps into long division.  Most of students were confused last week when we tried it, so we are going to back up and try again (Kind of like getting around in the snow today LOL).  We are going to use Elizabeth from Fun in 4B's awesome Common Core Division Lapbook. Check it out at her TPT store.  I think it is going to make a HUGE difference to my kids!  Plus it will provide a great resource for the rest of the unit and later.
Well, that's a peek at my week.  What's going on in yours?

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

Project Groundhog {Tried it Tuesday}

Good morning all!  We are starting late today due to some extra chilly temperatures, so I thought I'd get my post done for Holly's weekly Tried It Tuesday link up over at Fourth Grade Flipper before I head out to school.  Have you tried something new lately that you want to share?  If so, be sure to head on over and link up.  I come away each week with at least one new idea I want to try out in my room.
Last week my students and I joined Project Groundhog 2014, an online project run by first grade teacher Bill Jameson.  This annual project has students predicting, researching, gathering and graphing data based on the weather folklore of whether or not the groundhog can predict the comping of Spring. (I for one hope old Phil is wrong and Winter will soon give up its hold...not sure I can take 6 more weeks of this.)  For the project, Bill teams up different classrooms around the USA and Canada.  There are 7 schools on our team this year. We are participating with schools from New Mexico, Canada, Texas, Vermont, and Alaska.  My students will track the temperature and sky conditions each day from February 3 to March 21.  We are graphing the daily temperature, then finding the average at the end of the week along with the range for the week.  On Monday each classroom inputs their average temperature for the week so we are able to graph the averages of our team to see how the locations compare.  This week our team had temperatures ranging from -18°C to 4°C (We had the second lowest temp for the week with -13°C/ 9°F!) One of the hardest parts for us is the conversion from Fahrenheit to Celsius.  There's a handy dandy web tool that does it, but the mindset isn't there.
In addition to monitoring the temperature and sky conditions each week, classes have a challenge to complete as well.  Last week we had to put together a short community description to share with the rest of the team.  It is really interesting find out more about some far off places.  We were certainly jealous of the warm temperatures reported in New Mexico and Texas but thankful we weren't in Canada!
While it is too late for you to join up with Project Groundhog this year, you may want to put it on your calendar so you can join in next year.  It is a fun easy to do project that I know your students will enjoy.  Be sure to head over to Fourth Grade Flipper to see what others have tried.  Have a great week!

Monday, February 3, 2014

Currently...It's February!

WOW! I can't believe how fast the month of January flew by!  It felt like we spent very little time at school between the bitter cold/snow days.
It's that time again...time to link up with Farley over at Oh By Fourth Grade for her FABULOUS monthly linky.  Here's mine:
 Listening- the boys' video game- lots of shooting going on :(  Thank goodness they are getting along-it has been a rough week or so...too much time spent indoors and in each other's company.  
Loving- a full week of school.  While that may seem odd to some....we haven't had a full week of school since the week before Christmas.  Between the snow falling and bitter temperatures from not 1 but 2 polar vortex, we have missed 6 days of school.  Hopefully they are correct on the track of the latest snow storm and we'll only be getting 1-3 inches which we can handle. (Not that I want to, but it beats the 6-8 inches south of us.)
Thinking- we start IA Assessments on Wednesday, so I need to move things around to accommodate the testing block.  6 days of testing- SOOO not looking forward to it.  Crossing my fingers and toes that Mother Nature plays nice for while as we are already off schedule.
Wanting-  One of my teammates gave me season 1 of the TV series Downton Abby last week on one of our snow days.  Totally hooked me!  I've been frantically trying to cram seasons 1-4 in as season 5 is airing on TV right now.  Only 3 more episodes of season 4 to go then the 3 I've missed of the new season. LOVE IT!
Needing to get those animal reports corrected.  I hate checking writing! Enough said!!
Truths: Can't live without my Dr. Pepper. Most days its 2-3 cans.  Trying to cut back but so far am not finding the right motivation.  I am planning a trip to Ireland in 2015.  I have always wanted to go so am making it my 45th birthday present to myself.  FIB- Love winter-haha haha who does that?  This winter has provided me with plenty of valid reasons for why it is not my favorite!
Now it's your turn.  Head over to Farley's to check out what everyone is up to and link up yourself!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Tunes Tuesday {Tried it Tuesday linky}

Happy Tuesday everyone!  I am happy to link up with Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper for her weekly Tried It Tuesday linky.  I LOVE this link.  I have found some great ideas that I have either already pushed into my classroom or put in the try it later folder.  You have to check it out!

I must admit it is a bit hard to try things when we keep having SNOW/COLD days!  Today is number 6!  I am so hoping that January will end and all this super cold nastiness will fade away with it.  Oh well, can't change it so I guess I'll just have to go with it.  Anyway, here's my

Last week I tried out Tunes Tuesday, an idea I read about over at Nick's Sweet Rhyme and Pure Reason this past summer. You can check his post out here.  Tunes Tuesday is a way to incorporate music into your grammar lessons.  
Want a copy?
Here's how it worked in my room.  We've been reviewing parts of speech lately. I felt like most had a good handle on nouns, so  I chose the song "Hall of Fame" by the Script.  I love this song and it has such a powerful message, plus it is FULL of nouns.  For this activity students gets copy of the lyrics and are to highlight all the examples of nouns they could find.  You can simply play the song or show the video (if it is kid appropriate-Why is that so hard?)  I really like the official video for this song, but I ended up choosing this one because it showed a variety of people reaching their goals and tied into the Olympics.  We played the video through once.  After we watched the video, we played the song one more time while the students highlighted the nouns in the lyrics.  

My students all seemed to enjoy this activity.  It was funny to listen to them as the song started.  Comments like "Hey, I know this song" or "This one is on the radio" were plentiful.  They never know what music I am going to play- they have heard a lot of songs that they've never heard of, so I think they were pleasantly surprised to hear something familiar. :-)  Some even chose to sing along.  What's that quote-"Whistle while you work..."  it surely does make a task sweeter.

We are going to try to make this a weekly thing in our room for the remainder of the year.  (This week it will be Tunes Thursday-since we are home today.) When Nick did his link up in July people shared songs for all kinds of language arts skills- figurative language, verbs, similes and metaphors, pronouns and more.  If you want to try Tunes Tuesday in your own room I definitely recommend you visit Nick's blog it is worth it!

That's my Tried it Tuesday.  Head over to Holly's to link up your new ideas and see what other's have been up too.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Indoor Recess turned Dance Party...Tried it Tuesday

I am excited to link up with Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper for her weekly Tried it Tuesday Link up.
Winter weather in Iowa...cold temps (anywhere between 32 above to lately -20), blustery winds, stinging snow in your face, icy sidewalks and playground equipment all add up to the dreaded INDOOR RECESS!  Needless to say we have been experiencing A LOT of indoor recess time since Christmas break.  I think in the 9 days we've been back to school we've only gotten to play outdoors 2 of the days.  (We don't go outside unless the temperature is 10 counting windchill.) Needless to say being cooped up all day in the classroom with the same old boring recess games day after day was leading to some misbehavior and malcontent.  Where I am I going with this seemly endless rant you ask? Why to my Tried it Tuesday... this one was a success!

So after a week's worth of indoor recess my fourth graders were definitely feeling the cramped conditions and lack of bracingly fresh air one finds in Iowa this time of year.  They'd played all the games, gone through a ream of white paper for "art projects" and were generally acting restless.  What's a teacher to do? I couldn't take them outside, the gym was busy with classes during our recess times, so we couldn't go there to run off some steam.  Enter Just Dance.  

Thursday night while reading through my Bloglovin feed (yes, I know I was supposed to be checking math papers but I just couldn't...don't tell, but they are still in my bag :/) when I came across another teacher's use of some musical Sesame Street videos (I am at a loss right now about who's blog I read it on...I sincerely was an awesome idea).  So anyway I'm listening to a few of those when my lovely daughter Jenavieve asks me just what it was I was doing.  I told her I was looking for musical videos to use in class to which she gives me a look and says "Not those ones I hope."  You have to love preteens don't you?  She decided I needed help. Together we searched through Youtube and found several Just Dance videos that we thought my fourth graders would enjoy.  I created an Indoor Recess playlist and the rest they say is history.  
(Sorry for the blurriness...they were dancing. hehehe)
During the first recess I projected the first song on the whiteboard.  There were a few twitters and giggles and one lone student braved the crowd and started to dance.  That's all it took.  By the end of the recess about 7 of my lovelies were dancing along-even some of my hard core boys!  They all wanted to know if they could do it again during the lunch recess.  During the second recess there were only 6 students NOT dancing!  We even had a few of the paras dance along as they wondered through to check on us :) It was great!  

Well, that's my Tried it Tuesday.  What new things have you tried? Head over to Fourth Grade Flipper and link up your own. Be sure to check out some of the other great ideas as well.  Have a great week and if you are in the Midwest...hope you stay warm.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

A Day Our Way - An Adventure in Fourth Grade

I think this might be a record for me...3 posts in one week since school started in August!  I really am trying to keep to my blogging resolution so far so good. (I've actually done even better than I thought hehe)

Well anyway as I was reading through my blog feed tonight I came across this awesome linky being held over at Where the Wild Things Learn and I just had to take part!  What's so great about it?  Its all about SCHEDULES!
Yeah! Ok I know not everyone gets as thrilled about working out their daily schedule as I do, but I love when things flow nicely from one subject to another ---all is then right with the world.  (At least until someone comes along and asks to change it or deviate from it for the day, or Mother Natures whips up some wind to cause drifting and blowing so school lets out an hour early.......grrrr.  But flexibility is one of the teacher bylaws right? Seriously, I'm not that obsessed with my schedule {Wellllll maybe a little}
Anyway here is a peek at a typical day in our classroom followed by a bit of explanation.
8:15 - 8:30 - Students are allowed into the classrooms.  I post a morning message with the tasks that students need to work on before the bell rings at 8:30.  I feel pretty fortunate that most of my students are in the room right at 8:15 so they can get settled and are prepared to hit the ground running when the bell rings.  My bell work usually consists of turning in homework, getting reading materials ready, sharpening pencils, silent reading or starting on the day's daily language or vocabulary assignment.
8:30 - 8:45 The leader starts the class with the pledge.  I do a visual for attendance while they are doing that.  We have morning announcements which is a positive message dealing with Character Counts.  I expect students to give those announcements their full attention-it's amazing how those announcements can sometimes lead to some teachable moment later in the day.  Following those, we do a Status of the Class.  The students have to tell me the title of the book they are reading along with the page they are on.  It is a great accountability piece plus kids hear TONS of great titles through the year that peak their interests. 
8:45 - 10:20 Literacy Block/Daily 4.  I usually start with a mini-lesson.  Lessons might be reading or writing oriented depending on what we are working on.  After the lesson we break into our Daily 4 rotations.  Each rotation is 15 to 20 minutes long depending on how long our mini-lesson was.  Last year I gave the kids free choice. They were able to pick what they wanted to do each rotation as long as they got all 4 things done.  This year I set the rotations because I have a large group who leaves me at 9:30 to go to the resource room and it just didn't work as well.  I am fortunate enough to have two paraprofessionals come in at this time to help out also. (A third of my students have IEPs)

Word Work- Students work on spelling and vocabulary activities.  Some use our classroom computers to get on SpellingCity while others work on activities at their seat or with a partner.  On Friday they all take their spelling test on Spelling City.  I love this feature.  The computer grades it instantly and I don't have to!  At the end of the day I can pull it up and record the scores in my grade book.  No piles of paper, no fuss=bonus Friday time for me!
Work on Writing- I usually put up a list of things students need to be working on during this round.  They do a daily grammar practice and a daily geography (if we are doing Social Studies) I include the geography here because I expect the students to write their answers in complete sentences.  We take time each Monday to highlight key words from the question that should be in their answers.  They also have some type of writing project or writing Bingo they work on.
Read to Self- that one seems pretty self-explanatory doesn't it. :-)
Meet with the Teacher-  This one of the four rotations varies the most.  Sometimes I am meeting with groups for guided reading but other times I am doing individual conferences.  I wish I could say there was some method to how it all shakes out, but it really depends on the kids and what we are working on.  I have to admit I like the individual conferencing better than small groups because I get a better fit with the students.  We set goals for our reading, work on reading strategies or writing things.  Some days I just float so I am available for whatever this kids might need.
10:20 - 10:35 Recess.  A blessed break to get ready for science/social studies or I use it for reteaching time for those who are struggling.
10:40 -11:32 Science/Social Studies.  I alternate between these two subjects by unit.  I try to make it work out about every 4-6 weeks.  So far so good this year.  All of my teammates do both science and social studies at the same time, but I don't feel like I give each subject the importance it should get with a shorter time period.  We just switched back to Social Studies after the break and my kids are chomping at the bit for our next historical simulation.  By the time we are done with this unit they'll be rearing to go for some science experiments again. :-)
11:36-12:15 Lunch/Recess.  This is prep time for me.  Sometimes I invite the students to eat lunch in the classroom for a little time to connect in a different way.  Many days its a chance to sit down, breathe deep and regroup for the afternoon.  Thankfully this is duty free time for us.
12:20 - 12:50 Math or Reading intervention time (Wednesdays-Art).  Monday and Tuesday we have math intervention.  Some of the students go to other teachers for intensive work on math while the majority of the class stays and works on extra math with me.  During this math group time, students work on Accelerated Math or problem solving. A para and myself work one-on-one with students or in small groups.  Every other Wednesday we have an early dismissal for professional development, so the Wednesday that we don't get out early we do an art activity.  Unfortunately we do not have an art teacher, so it is up to me to come up with an art lesson... I should probably tell you I struggle to draw stick people most days. This is a tough one for me!  All I can say is thank heavens for all of my blogging friends who are artistic and willing to share lessons even a challenged artist like me can follow!  Thursday and Friday we have reading intervention which works the same way as math.  We had to implement this a few years ago because we were on the Watch List and SINA for reading and math.  Thankfully our interventions paid off and we are no longer on the list but we continue to maintain these arrangements because it is effective with our students.
12:50 - 2:00 Math.  We start our math time by discussing the nightly mini-math homework.  I use Evan-Moore's Daily Math and Problem Solvers.  We have some great discussions about the different ways students go about solving some of the tougher problems.  I think it's important that they learn there is more than one way to solve problems.  After the mini-math we do a whole group lesson then students work independently or in small groups with the resource teacher and I. (She comes in to support/co-teacher during math).  I am hoping the switch to a Daily 4 model for math next week to allow for some more differentiation. (I'll have to write a separate post to let you know how that goes.)
2:00 -2:15 Writer's Workshop/Study period/Read Aloud.  This 15 minutes is the jack of all things in our day.  If we have more we need to do for a writing lesson it is Writer's Workshop time.  If our day was interrupted somehow or I know I have students who need additional time on an assignment it becomes a study period.  If everything is peachy than it is read aloud time.
2:20  3:00 Specials.  We run on a six day cycle, so the students go to P.E. Music or Guidance at this time. (On day 3 Media is at 1:40 so that all the fourth grade teachers can have a common planning time.)  This is prep time for me.  Some days it is used to meet with the resource teacher to discuss students or future plans, but most days it's my time to plan or check papers.
3:00 - 3:15 Prepare for Dismissal.  Students fill out their Mustangs (agenda/homework binders) and straighten their seating areas.  We finish up the day with our read aloud before dismissing at 3:15.  After the kids are gone (last ones are out the door at 3:25) it is more prep time for me.

One additional part of our day on Fridays is Walking for Wellness.  Each week we take all the fourth graders out to walk on the track for 15 minutes before the first recess.  Unfortunately Iowa weather makes it a bit difficult to do that come winter, so we have to get out and walk when the weather permits.

Well, that's a day in my classroom.  What does your's look like?  Be sure to visit Where the Wild Things Learn to check our how other people spend their days.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Editing with GoogleDocs- Tried It Tuesday

Happy Tuesday all!  I'm late getting to the Holly's party over at Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried It Tuesday but I did want to share my newest experience with GoogleDocs and student writing.  So here's my

This week my students are finishing up our work on expository writing.  Each student has researched an animal and is writing a research report.  We've talked about taking notes, webbing, topic and concluding sentences, citing sources and tied in the traits of organization and sentence fluency.  Now we are down to the final revisions before publishing them to our classroom website.  Throughout the writing process, I have met with students to talk about fix-its and corrections and in the process, we have covered their rough drafts with post-it notes and ink.  Having gone this route before, I knew that despite all the notes and conversations their final typed copies would still need work.  Enter GoogleDocs :-) 

A few years ago my district went "Google" in preparation for going 1:1.  All the students k-12 have Google accounts (although only 9-12 is actually 1:1).  Needless to say I don't use the tools as efficiently or as effectively as I'd like, but I'm always attempting to find more ways to use them with the kids.  

So when it came down to the final stage of this writing project I decided to try making digital comments on the students reports as they shared them with me.
The areas where they need to make corrections are highlighted, so they can go right to the issue and make the change.  Once they have corrected things they can resolve the comment and it will go away.  They will be responsible for making the corrections I've noted, instead of me acting as their sole editor.

The kids think it is pretty cool to get comments from me this way.  Next time I want to try having the peer editing done this way too.  That way I can see what types of things they are catching in their own writing. 

Well, that's my tried it for this week.  What have you tried out lately?  Head over to Fourth Grade Flipper to see the other great ideas.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Peek at My Week {1-13-14}

I am super excited to link up with Jennifer over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for her Peek at my Week linky.  So far so good on my blogging resolution-I have surpassed my one post per week and 5 weekly comments goals!  It probably helped that we only had school 2 1/2 days last week thanks to Mother Nature and the polar vortex hanging over the MidWest.  Sure hope I never see another one of those!!

Any-whooo.  I am looking forward to a full week.  It will be a busy one.

Monday and Wednesday we are running shortened schedules. We have an S.K.A.T.E. anti-bullying assembly Monday afternoon and professional development on Wednesday.

We are wrapping up our animal research reports.  Most of the class is in great shape, so we should be able to publish them on post them to our classroom website on Friday.  I have decided to abandon our classroom blog (poor thing hasn't gotten any action this year with everything else going on) and will be posting our reports to the class website.  Not 100% how I want to put them up, but still have time to play with it a little.

We'll be starting our new Social Studies unit on the Southeast.  I am excited for the kids to try our the new foldables I created to put in their notebooks.  Crossing my fingers they will work as well as my example.

Over course the dreaded part of my week will be starting our Winter Fountas and Pinnell testing.  It takes so long and I hate losing the instructional time especially this time of year.  Oh well.  While I am busy with the testing, students who would normally be meeting with me will be working on the task cards for author's purpose and informational text from Rachel Lynette .  This is a good time for them to work on these two areas before Iowa Assessments next month.

Friday we will be holding session two of our Genius Hour.  I am super excited about this new project time!  The class is to have their two inquiry questions and possible project ideas for approval.  I can't wait to see what they come up with.

Well, that's my school week.  On the home front things look relatively quiet only one wrestling meet for the week.  Here's to warmer temperatures, less winter yuck and regular routines!  Have a great week!

Sunday, January 12, 2014

One Little Word Project

What a week!  After a wonderful two week winter break, we ended up with a two day extension thanks to some extremely cold weather, we ended the week with an early dismissal on Friday thanks to another dose of winter wonderfulness.  Despite only being in class for 2 and a half days we did manage to tackle and complete our One Little Word Project.  The kids really had a positive response to this project and choose great words for their year.

To get this project started I shared the book The Quilt maker's Gift by Jeff Brumbeau and Gail De Marcken. I asked the students to think about words they thought would define the king and the quilt maker's lives.  They came up with words like magical and generous for the quilt maker and greedy, selfish and mean for the king.  Next we talked about how the quilt maker made a difference in many people's lives, especially the king's so they determined that a couple good words for both by the end of the story were give or share.
Next I had my students look at our verbs list in their reading/writing notebooks.  I asked them to think about what they could do to make this year different.  After they checked out that list I told them I wanted them to pick one word that they could focus on for 2014.  To help them stay away from "weak" words like "nice" and "fun" we talked about the fact that this is the time people set new goals or resolutions for this year, so they should try to find a word that really meant something to them. I then shared the presentation that Jennifer over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings {check out her post} created to share with her class.  It was great-as they were watching, you could literally see the light bulbs above their heads turn on as the idea starting to sink in.  To end this initial lesson I had the students write down 5 words that thought might be good for their one little word and I told them we would return to it the next day to finalize their word after they had a longer chance to think about it.

Day two of this project I had the students pull out their sticky note with their 5 words and we watched the Pep Talk from Kid President.  We had actually watched this video earlier in the year, but I felt like it was a good message to get them to think about how they could be awesome. (Plus it fit in with the my launch of Genius Hour (I'm planning to do a few posts on that topic later) that I had planned for the end of the week).  After viewing the video I had the class do a quick group share with their words--I knew I had a few students who could use a little inspiration from their peers before they made their final decision.  Next came the creative element---(we don't have an art teacher in my district any more so it is up to the classroom teachers to come up with art activities--thank God for the blogging community and all the artsy teachers out there or I would be in BIG trouble), so using Jennifer's idea again, students created a little word art with their One Little Word.  To finish up the project students had to write how the word they chose could be applied to their school life as well as their everyday life.  I have to say I was very impressed by some of the deep thinking many of my students put into this activity.  Here is a little video clip showing our finished project. Enjoy!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Tried It Tuesday

Brrr! It's another freezing morning here in central Iowa!  I cannot remember a winter that has been this cold for such a stretch of time.  I can quite honestly say I have already started praying for Spring or that someone will hand me a ticket to a warm tropical getaway!

In the spirit of sticking to my New Year blogging resolution,  I thought I'd try to link up with Holly over at Fourth Grade Flipper for
One of the new things I have tried out this year is and I have to say I love it!  In the past I have always created my own planning sheets using  Excel.  Last year I kept all my plans in one excel workbook with a tab for each month.  It worked nicely, but I still had to do a lot of copy and pasting each week.  We run on a 6 day cycle so everyday is a little different.  Needless to say I am always looking for a way to make my lesson planning more efficient and less painful. :)

I read a post this summer from someone else who was thinking about trying so I headed over to the site to check it out myself.  At first I was a bit skeptical about how easy it would be to use and if in reality I would use it.  I have experimented with online planners before without a lot of success and they can be pretty costly, so I held off on doing the trial until school actually started so I could see if this one would be any different.  Let me just say- this one is a keeper!

 Here are some of the reasons I particularly like this planner:

1. It's not as costly as many- it only costs $12 a year!  I know money isn't everything, but I spend a lot of my own money on school things.  I try to make sure I get the most bang for my buck wherever I can.
2.  It is super user friendly. The site offers several video tutorials to help you get started.
3. I like that I can set up my lesson blocks in the template then just add the specifics when I do  my weekly planning- no more typing it over and over or copying and pasting.
4. I can code the day's lesson with the standard code for the Common Core- at the end of the year, I can print a report that shows all the skill codes I taught which will make filling out my ICAT so much easier plus it's provides an artifact for my principal.
5. I can quickly adjust my plans either to extend a lesson or bump it to the next day.  Snow days or other events no longer make my plans look like a toddler scribbled on them LOL.
6. Another nice feature that I don't use a lot but does come in handy is that you can print your lessons out either for the day or by the week.  An emergency came up this fall that had me running out the door  with no time to lay out my usual sub sheets- all I did was print the day's plan and they were able to move on without me.
7.  You can also share your plans with other teachers.  Right now, I am the only one in my team using this so, I don't use this feature but think it would be great when team teaching.
8.  Lastly, I love that my planner is with me all time and it isn't an extra something in my bag.

Well that's my Tried it Tuesday.  If you are looking for an online planner, you'll want to check this one out yourself.  Have a great week!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Cold Day...Monday Made It-January

Can you say frigid?  Well, I can honestly say even that adjective is not adequate in describing today's temperatures in central Iowa.  When I got up this morning the windchill was a grand -51.  Yes, that is a negative sign :(  Needless to say we did not have school and won't tomorrow due to this lovely (yep-that was some sarcasm) winter weather.  I didn't mind the first snow day or even the second-they extended our winter break, but tomorrow will be our third day and it is only January 6.  I don't want to be in school in July, so I REALLY hope Mother Nature takes pity on us and sends Spring soon.   I am ready to head back to work and my children are a quite tired of being cooped up in the house in each other's company, so they need to go back to school too.  Ok, no more whining about winter. On to the more important stuff.

Since today was a free day and I was in the mood for school, I jumped on a couple projects that have been bubbling in my mind for a bit.  Knowing that it was Monday and I could link up with Tara over at Fourth Grade Frolics for Monday Made It was also inspiration for my craftiness :)  So here's a couple of the projects I got done today.

Monday Made It #1: Homemade Broccoli Cheddar Soup and baguettes. Yumm!  Who can resist a hot bowl of soup on a cold winter day? Not me!  I'd recently pinned a copycat recipe for Panera's Cheddar Broccoli soup and decided today was the day to test it out.  You can't have homemade soup without fresh bread so I decided to try my hand at baguettes while I was at it.  Both turned out tasty, though the bread wasn't as pretty as Panera's LOL.  I love the smell of fresh bread baking!!

Monday Made It #2: Math Daily 4
Last week I read a post by Tina over at Mrs. Croft's Classroom about how she does her math workshop.  I really liked her set up and got to thinking about how it might help me solve a few problems in my own math block. We switched to Everyday Math last year and all I can say is I am not really a fan.  I feel like my high kids are being held back and my low kids aren't getting enough practice.  Before this switch we had been doing more mastery teaching and I felt like my students really knew their math when they left my room.  Anyway, after reading Tina's post I thought I could work at putting something similar in place in my classroom.  We already do the Daily 4 in reading, so the kids are familiar with the concept of rotations.  In order to hit the ground running with this, I put together my rotations board.  I plan to introduce each rotation (Meet with the Teacher, At your seat, Technology, and Hands On) one at a time and practice them just like we did with the Daily 4 in reading.  We'll make our I can charts to go along with each one.  I am really excited to try this out.  I'll try to come back and write up a post or two about how it goes.

Monday Made It #3- States and Capitals Foldable for Social Studies Notebook
This year I am trying to use an interactive notebook for Social Studies.  I have one that I feel pretty good about for science and thought it would be a good concept to put in place for Social Studies too. Unfortunately it hasn't been going very well.  Since I alternate between science and social studies and I knew I'd be starting a new SS unit after break, I've been trying to figure out how I could make a foldable that students could put in their notebooks to help them with the states and capitals.  I FINALLY got something to work and I must say I am pretty pleased with how it came out.  Each page has a spot for the state name, capital and abbreviation.  I filled in some of the information but students will have to fill in the rest.  They will also color the in the state on the map to help them work on state locations.  We always make a set of flash cards for each region, but I think having the information in their notebooks will be helpful too (especially for my young ones who are organizationally challenged LOL).  Once I figured out the set for our current region of study it was easy to put together ones for the rest of the regions.

Monday Made It #4 New Reading Daily 4 chart
After making the chart for the math rotations, I decided I needed to revise my reading rotation chart to make them match up a little better.  You'll notice a few blank spots on the dog Faolan  decided he should help and managed to snag a few pieces while I was switching the laundry.  I'll have to do a reprint but thought I'd better pick it up and play with the puppy before he chewed up something else.

Overall it was a pretty productive day.  Now it think its time for bed.  I hope all my blogging friends are staying warm...anyone in the warmer states if you could send a little heat this way  that would be great!

Thursday, January 2, 2014


It's the start of a new year, the start of a new month so that means it is time to link up with Farely at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for a new currently.
I love reading what everyone is up seems like many of us are doing the same things..lounging in our pjs, relaxing and enjoying family time.

So, here's mine.
Listening- the kids are with their dad so it is really quiet here.  Oh how I adore my children, but a day of quiet is a blessing too.
Loving that we had 2 full weeks of vacation (plus an extra day because we had a snow day to kick it off)  I really needed this time to reboot.
Thinking about lesson plans.  After blog hopping yesterday I am getting the itch to put together some new lessons.  I want to go back with as much put together as I can so I don't feel like I'm drowning half-way through January.
Wanting to stay in my warm jammies and blanket- Man is it freezing here!  We are having extremely cold temperatures (-17 for tomorrow) and I am not a fan!!!
Needing to straighten the house and organize.  My oldest daughter was home from college so we had to do some shuffling of space. Now I need to regroup and finish putting away the Christmas things.
Memory- the best memory of this Christmas was a visit from my brother and his family.  It was a complete surprise!  They haven't been home in almost 5 years so it was especially wonderful to see them all. He and my dad made the arrangements and kept is a surprise until they walked in on the Friday night before Christmas.  It was awesome!
Well, that's my currently.  Now I think I'll turn up some tunes (nobody is here to tell me to turn it down or harass me for my listening choices haha), get dressed and get busy- doing what I'm not exactly sure, but I'm sure I can figure out something. Smiles to all!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

1 For Me, Resolutions, and a Return...(I hope)

Happy New Year friends!!!  I can't believe that it is 2014- I swear every year goes faster.  This year has flown by the fastest yet!!!  As I sit here reading all the posts written by my blogging buddies I am in awe of all the wonderful things everyone is up to in their classrooms and with their families.  A part of me is feeling a bit lost-it seems I haven't quite accomplished all that I thought I could this year.  I admit I was feeling a bit down in the dumps about it.  However, a post by one of my favorite bloggers lifted me up and made me remember we aren't alone and that we all struggle at times whether it is personally or professionally.  I want to give a shout out to Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics for giving me that boost I needed and creating the 1 for ME linky.

For 2014 I hope to remember my inner Princess Warrior outside of my classroom.  In my classroom I feel confident, competent and a host of other words that as I think them make me feel like I am blowing my own horn a bit too loudly. Reflecting over this past year I look with pride on my professional life-I've accomplished a lot, my students have grown, and I know I am respected by my peers.  Outside of the classroom I lose some of that.  Don't get me wrong, my home is well cared for, my kids are happy and healthy but there is very little ME outside of school or family.  Since my divorce 3 years ago, I live for school and for my kids.  It is time to put me out there again...not me the teacher or me the mom but me the person.  I want to try to do at least one thing each month for me that is not connected to school or my kids, maybe try a new hobby, take a class unrelated to teaching, get creative, who knows what.  Here's to making 2014 a little more ME friendly.

That leads me to my resolutions for this year. I've linked up with A Peach for the Teach for the 2014 Resolutions and Diane over at Fifth in the Middle for my blogging resolutions. If you want to share your goals for the new year jump on in.   I think my resolutions are pretty clear, so I won't take the time to go in-depth with them (this post will be a book if I don't sign off soon :)

Wishing all of you a Happy New Year and many blessing to come in 2014!