Apr 20, 2014

The Other Side and Freedom Summer {Social Studies Mentor Text Linky}

Hi Everybody and Happy EASTER!  I'm dropping in for a quick link up with the ladies from Collaboration Cuties to talk about 2 Social Studies Mentor Texts this week.

The 2 books that I've selected today go hand in hand if you are interested in integrating Social Studies into your ELA instruction.

The Other Side is about 2 little girls who live on opposite sides of a fence.  They watch each other and want to play together but their parents don't think that it's a good idea.  

In contrast to The Other Side, Freedom Summer is about 2 little boys.  One little boy's mother works cleaning the home of the other family.  They spend lots of time together playing often because the family welcomes the son of the housekeeper into their home and encourages their friendship.

Both stories are written about a time in history when the mixing of cultures and races was frowned upon by many, but these stories offer such interesting differing points of view on the topic that they beg to be discussed!
Imagine the reading lessons and topics that can be pulled from such interesting books!  They offer opportunities for many comparing and contrasting lessons, as well as strong point of views and, because they are so beautifully written, all literary standards could be discussed while sharing these books.  These are "must reads" for a civil rights movement study.

HOP on over to Collaboration Cuties and check out a few other Social Studies Mentor Texts this week and enjoy your day with your families!  Happy Easter! :)

Apr 13, 2014

Books, Books, and more Books! :)

Spring Break has been wonderful!  You have to know that I have been on break, or there is no way I would have found time to blog.  Haha!  Sorry about that...I am trying to get back into the swing of things and have finally completed a full year of building and integrating my own ELA/Social Studies program AND... just might see to it that I have some blogging time on my hands again! YAY!  Today I'm linking up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings to share "A Peek at my Week!"

This past week I spent a lot of time organizing a year's worth of curriculum and decided to share one of my favorite resources from the year!  KIDCAPS! Having time to reflect on what I've been teaching, I realized just how much I have used and loved these books all year long.  This week, I will begin reviewing all 8 of my previous units to gear up for our final unit, The ABCs of American History from 1865-Present Day.

The unit we are wrapping up is a narrative unit.  When teaching literary standards, I love short stories because you get the big picture, from start to finish in one sitting.   It allows you to cover multiple standards quickly.  Since testing is coming up, multiple standards quickly is a big goal for me...isn't it always?

This particular series of informational texts starts with a NARRATIVE INTRODUCTION that grabs students from the word go!  Each book is then packed with informational text that explains some not-so-kid- friendly topics, in kid-friendly ways.  For example, this series addresses each war in American History from the Civil War to our current situation in Afghanistan.   Kid friendly materials on Afghanistan is not something that is easy to come by and because this series uses both narrative and informational text structures to teach about historical topics, these books are a WIN-WIN no matter what ELA standards you are teaching!

Because I plan to review literary standards and social studies topics together this week, (that's just what I do) some kid-friendly narrative nonfiction short stories are just what I need!

I typically retype and credit the KidCaps narrative so that I can highlight some key terms, figurative language, plot points, etc. and then print on card stock with a few pics, to file away in my unit binders for next year. Here's a little taste of one of the narratives I'll be using this week.  By the time I finish this story, I am certain my students will never forget what happened in Normandy, France!

adapted from: America in World War II-KidCaps
So, you see why I've been a bit MIA in blog world this year!  I have been researching, organizing, typing, reading, and planning like a crazy lady!  I have had a blast and have learned so much about American History as well as the ELA Common Core State standards that I don't regret a moment of the work, but I sure have missed my blogging buddies!

Thanks for taking a moment to let me share "A Peek at my Week!"  I hope you can find some KidCaps to assist you as you integrate your content area topics into your ELA classrooms!

Hop over and take a PEEK at the weekly plans of a few teacher friends over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings! Maybe you'll find something else you can incorporate into your week!  

Feb 9, 2014

World War II~ A Peek at my Week

Hi Teacher Friends!  Apparently I am going to be much more of a SUMMERTIME blogger than most!  I don't know how you guys do it.  Although I would love to say that I have kept you guys updated on the happenings in my room this year, I just haven't been able to find the time to blog since the fall! BUT...I'm here today to link up with my sweet bloggy friend Jennifer over at Mrs. Laffin's Laughings.  Every once in a while she checks in with me when I take a blogging break to make sure I'm still alive, so today I thought I'd give her a PEEK AT MY WEEK!

If you've read my blog before, you know that I am "ALL IN" when it comes to the integration of Social Studies into my ELA Workshop!  I find that it opens up so many opportunities and allows me to spend more time on everything rather than little time in chunks on different topics.

This week I will be using some great picture books to spark both literary discussions as well as discussions about World War II.  I will also use these as leads for quick writes in my classroom so that we make sure we are writing ALL THE TIME!

Star of Fear, Star of Hope is a wonderful look at Holocaust through the eyes of children.

Baseball Saved Us will give us a look inside a Japanese internment camp after the attack on Pearl Harbor through the eyes of a little boy.

One Thousand Tracings tells a touching true story of a family in America that has friends in Germany after the war.  This family and their friends learn a great deal about friendship through the tracing of footprints found in an attic.

My students will get a look at the war through the eyes of a few soldiers by sharing letters from the collection Letters Home.  This book has actual envelopes with removable letters that we will use for many ELA Common Core Standards this week.

And last but not least, to begin our research of the Tuskegee Airmen, I will read Wind Flyers.  By the way, did you know that Robin Roberts' (from Good Morning America) father was a member of this prestigious group?  Love her!

If you are interested in a few articles to use on World War II, The Sweetest Thing has some great Multi-Leveled Texts available at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Yes, I teach fifth grade.  And yes, my students read lots of lots of chapter books independently for our conferences, but there is so much inspiration just waiting to be found in a picture book...no matter how old you are!  

Each and every picture book out there holds the keys for discussion for lots and lots of Common Core Standards!  What do you plan to read this week?  Do you have any suggestions for my World War II collection?  

Sep 21, 2013

Celebrating Authors

Happy Saturday Teacher Friends!  I wanted to check in with a quick post today to tell you about a wonderful experience my class and I shared yesterday with our parents.  I think it had a big impact on my kiddos, but was super simple on the teacher end, so I thought it might be something you could use in the future.

For the past month, my students and I have been reading and writing about reconstruction using any types of materials we could get our hands on.  Although we still took the traditional Social Studies tests, and still had traditional notes to study, pretty much everything else we did for our unit was totally woven into our reading and writing stations and small group lessons.  There was a learning curve for all of us because this was the first time my students or I had experimented with fully integrated content material.

I have to admit that after we got our feet wet, we jumped in head first!  It is truly a wonderful way to explore the events that have occurred throughout history.  Yesterday,we had a celebration to wrap it all up!

The focus of this ELA/SS unit was OPINION WRITING and RECONSTRUCTION.  Because our opinions play a huge roll in the point of view and perspective we take when we write, we worked A LOT on point of view.  Also, because voice is so important in opinion writing, I chose a task that allowed us to weave VOICE into the lessons as well.

Our culminating writing task was this:  Each student will write 2 letters representing the opposing points of views of the issues that existed during the RECONSTRUCTION ERA.  The students will first take the stance of a FREEDMAN and write to their grandchild explaining what reconstruction was like from their point of view.  The student's second letter will also be written to their grandchild, and will take the stance of either an EX-CONFEDERATE GENERAL, or a member of the SOUTHERN ELITE, and will tell the story of reconstruction from their opposing point of view.

Because the letters were written to their grandchildren, the students were able to experiment with voice in some truly amazing ways.  :)  There were a lot of "sugar dumplings" and "honey pies" addressed in their letters.  They were required to explain their points of view on at least 3 different issues, and give at least 3 details about those issues to prove they knew their facts about the topics.  We were all quite pleased with the final products, and although they were very NERVOUS, they were excited to share their work.

So, onto our celebration!  We invited the parents and drew numbers for our celebration groups.  Each student drew a number 1-5 to select their celebration table.  Once there, each student took 5 sticky notes, and each parent that was attending took 5 sticky notes as well.  Each student stood to read their letters, and then waited as every member of their group, including the parents, wrote sticky notes of praise about their writing.  The sticky notes were added to their "Walls of Fame," (see below) and their walls of fame will be added to their writing portfolios for safe keeping!

I plan to have a celebration at the culmination of each unit.  By the end of year, each student will have 9 WALLS OF FAME in their portfolios.

Benefits that I noticed right away:
  • The students had an opportunity to share their writing and practice public speaking in a safe setting with an authentic audience.  
  • The students heard other writing models, and were able to mentally compare their work to the work of their peers.  This should help with future pieces.  
  • Their sweet faces simply lit up when they received their sticky notes of praise about their work. :)
  • They are now aware that we are working toward these celebrations throughout each unit.  The awareness that their work will be shared in this setting should be quite motivating as they gather their research.
On the teacher side of things:
  • The students shared in groups of five, so I simply rotated the room and listened a bit to each group. Knowing we had a few parents at each group to keep things moving along, I was free to observe all the celebrations.
  • The white table cloths were a simple touch that made the experience special for my kiddos.  :)
  • Other than organizing the materials, there was little work on my end.   Now that the kids and parents are trained, the celebrations should almost host themselves in the future! ;)
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Sep 2, 2013

Building a Firm Foundation for a Literacy Workshop

Hello, hello, hello!  Thanks for all the sweet emails checking on me! I took the month of August off from blogging simply to get my feet on the ground for the new school year!  We are off and running and had the GRAND OPENING of our workshop this week.  My little workers were trained and ready! :)
Vista Print!  Amazing :)
In case you are wondering why on Earth I would need such a large sign, let me explain. I make a huge deal about training my students for their "jobs" in our workshop before we can begin. I always ask a student to name a place they might work. This year, I got BURGER KING!  I guess that's what I get for asking, but it did work perfectly for my analogy. ;). I then proceeded to explain that I certainly wouldn't want to eat a whopper by a man that wasn't properly trained!  I proceeded to explain that we would use the first 5 days of class to "train" for the jobs in our workshop, referring back to the whopper analogy way more times than necessary over the week, for effect. ;)

A few things we did during our "training":

Reading is Thinking!  Believe it or not, kids can actually make it all the way to fifth grade by just calling the words on the page and not digging in any dipper!  Lesson #1 for building a FIRM FOUNDATION is understanding that reading only occurs when you mix the WORDS ON THE PAGE with the THOUGHTS in your head!

Lesson #2 is always a brief introduction to the Six Plus One Traits of Writing.  I like to give this brief intro so that my students and I have a common language right away to use when we discuss their writing, or the writing of others we find along the way.

Another important part of sharing a common language for writing is knowing that there is a difference between revising and editing.  Many kids think that checking over their writing means making sure they don't have any grammatical mistakes.  I want them to understand during the first week, that writing is more than GRAMMAR in our classroom!

One of my all time favorite lessons to teach involves these glasses!  It is important to me that my students know that there is more than one type of reading required in our WORKSHOP.  Each and everyday they will be required to read for pleasure with a book of their own choosing, where they can kick back and simply enjoy a good read!  Other times, they will need a pencil in hand for serious close reading of a text that requires digging in, making notes, rereading, and responding to the informational text they have been assigned.

While doing our close reading, I like to set my students up with a model for how to respond to informational discussion questions.  I found this fabulous APE model some time ago on the internet.  Not sure where it came from but it is wonderful!  I made labels with the model for my students to add to the Literacy Notebooks for future reference, and made an anchor chart for the wall.
A-  Refer to what you are ASKED
P- List PROOF from the text as evidence
E- EXPLAIN your answer thoroughly

And last but not least, I want my students to understand the "WHY" behind why I often give them Social Studies documents to read and analyze during our Literacy Workshop.  Okay, let's face facts, I am responsible for our state's social studies standards.  I posted a few weeks back about my Social Studies Story Board, and it is working beautifully with one exception.  I was planning to use incomplete notes that come straight from our support documents as part of their reading material.  Then it occurred to me, that I really didn't understand the "WHY" behind why the blanks in the notes were needed.  If my goal is for my students to comprehend the text as they read it, why did I feel the need to leave holes in the text for them to fill.  In the hopes of getting away from the traditional Social Studies textbook and notes to memorize, why did I need this traditional method?  So, out the window it went!  And if "because we always have" wasn't a good enough reason for me to teach that way, I certainly don't think that it is a good enough reason for kids to understand why they needed learn that way.

So, we are taking a different route this year!  We will be using EDMODO to view and reflect on videos, we will be reading lots of lots of historical fiction, primary and secondary sources, and talking about how we feel about what happened in HISTORY, rather than reading the notes and hoping for some memorization!

I opened my first Social Studies lesson with this video!  I think they totally got the "WHY" behind why we learn HISTORY!

So that's it!  Our first week in a nutshell!  I truly believe that you can't effectively teach until you have a full foundation of what is expected, along with a clear understanding of why what you are teaching is important. Take the time to build a firm foundation in your classroom and you will be off to a terrific year!

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Aug 4, 2013

Building Ideas from "Nothing" :) Creative Writing Mentor Text

Happy Sunday Friends!  Today I'm linking up with Collaboration Cuties to share a mentor text with you.  As many of you might know, I focus a great deal of 6+1 Traits of Writing in my classroom.  It allows me to share a common language with my students that makes conferring and mini-lessons flow more smoothly for us.

I like to introduce each trait with a picture book.  For the traits of IDEAS, I like to use Nothing Good Ever Happens on 90th Street.

I am fortunate that our school has purchased Trait Crates from Scholastic.  These crates are packed full of wonderful picture books and ideas to teach each trait.  This particular book is included in the crate and, although this particular lesson is not included, there are several wonderful ideas packed right in.  
pic from Scholastic

As the story goes, Eva is sitting on her front stoop.  She has a writing assignment to complete and she can't think of anything interesting that happens in her little world.  With the help of some neighbors, she realizes that things might be a bit more interesting that she originally thought.

My take on the story is to focus on the fact that Eva wasn't looking closely enough to observe all the details that are around her each day.  I use this focus and build a lesson that models and teaches students to dig deeply and creatively into their topics to find ideas for their writing.  The details are there, we just have to open our minds and notice them!

After a read aloud and a mini-lesson on digging and creating details, we take a tour of our school.  We observe the day to day activities through our newly trained critical eyes.  :)  We look for the details that we've been missing, and make notes to prepare for a creative writing assignment.

Here's our Assignment Card.  Feel free to download if you are interested.  It is in ppt form and you may make adjustments to fit your needs.  :)
I hope this is a lesson and read aloud that you can use.  It is appropriate for any grade level, although adjustments to the lesson may be needed in order to meet the needs of varied age groups and writing abilities.

Thanks for reading and enjoy your Sunday.  Make sure to click over and see the fabulous mentor texts that are being linked up at Collaboration Cuties today!

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Aug 2, 2013

Five for Friday! It's been a busy week. :)

By the time you read this, I'll probably be on my way to have lots of fun with collaborate with lots of fabulous blogger friends! ;)  Can't wait ladies!

Yay for the Carolina Blogger Meet-Up!  


Now for a quick "Five for Friday" with DOODLE BUGS TEACHING!

Beth has been contacted via email!  Congratulations Beth and thanks for following!

Okay, I couldn't hold off any longer! I'm diving into INSTAGRAM. :) A big SHOUT OUT goes to Rachel at THE TATTOOED TEACHER for the tutorial for this cute doodle button. Feel free to click and follow...I'm a little behind, but I plan to figure it out!

My family and I spent several days in a sweet little cabin in Tennessee. My youngest is our big kidder! Can't you tell? ;). Here's trying to break out of the shell. :)

My room is starting to look like a classroom again. :) I always get so excited this time of year. My sweet hubby salvaged this book shelf. I'm not quit ready for a big reveal, but I'm getting there!  I'm loving all the classrooms that are being posted, so I hope to join y'all soon. :)

Last but not least, I just want to take a second to say a big thank you to all teachers out there!  I've added a quick little dedication to my side bar to make sure everyone knows how much I appreciate the wonderful community that exists between educators!  I am your biggest fan, and I love learning from each and every one of you!  Here's to wishing each of you a fabulous school year!

Click over and check out the first Five for Friday of the school year!

Enjoy your weekend!
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