Aug 5, 2014

ELA/SS Integration GIVE-AWAY!

Hi teacher friends!  I'm popping in today to share a great GIVE-AWAY that I simply couldn't live without.

My dear friend Lauren, from The Sweetest Thing just completed a bundle of Nonfiction Leveled Passages that is fabulous.  The bundle covers Native Americans and Early Explorers through the Civil War and one lucky winner will receive the entire BUNDLE!

If you are looking for a little later time period in history, she also has a bundle that picks up from Reconstruction and carries you and your students all the way to present day!

These articles are fabulous for any activities you are looking for to integrate Social Studies into your ELA program.  They are lexiled and very informative.  I use these in small groups, workstations, and occasionally for research and reference.

If you are interested in jumping into the GIVE-AWAY, please complete the form below.  My husband will choose a random number response and I will send you a link to the first bundle!  That's it...very simple.  :) Give it a try.   Also if you would, please leave a comment of how you might use these in your classroom so that others can share your ideas too and follow this blog so that you can see who WINS!  THANKS and GOOD LUCK!

(I will be the only one that sees your name and email address and I will send out the winning link on FRIDAY.)  No worries.  :)

Aug 1, 2014

Fun Fridays CAN be PRODUCTIVE in an ELA/SS Classroom!

I have a FUN plan for FUN FRIDAYS this year.  In the past, I have struggled with how to make FUN FRIDAYS productive, and yet still allow FRIDAYS to be something that is looked forward to and celebrated, while I meet with my small groups to wrap up the week. There is a fine-line somewhere between the fun and productive and I am determined to find that line and jump on it.  I hope that my colleague/friend and I have found it.

My rotation system for our work stations runs on a 4 day rotation for a number of reasons.  
  • First, we are always missing a day for something during the week and I need a little wiggle room!
  • Secondly, rarely is everyone in my class present everyday during every week!
  • Thirdly, my students never work at the same pace!
  • I need a wrap up day.
  • And lastly, and quite possibly the reason I stuck with a 4 day rotation system, was that it simply works well for me and I couldn't come to terms with any other system.
This 4 day system means that Fridays seem to be free- sometimes for -some students.  Not all students, and not all weeks, but never-the-less, I need something PRODUCTIVE for those high achievers that not only attend school everyday, but also finish their work ON-TIME every week. :)  I don't want to ASSIGN work to these kids.  That doesn't seem quite fair...plus who would strive to finish their work if that were the case. Because of this, I need something that is PRODUCTIVE and MOTIVATING that they will look forward to, and strive to earn the right to participate in should the FUN time present itself!

Here's our plan!

My sweet friend created this TIC-TAC-TOE board for our students.
I know...TIC-TAC-TOE activity boards aren't necessarily novel ideas, but my students will file their "projects" in FUN-TASTIC Portfolios for the end of the year.  They will end up with a creative timeline of their own activities that will walk them through the study of American History, and...their study will be based on BOOKS!  Is there anything better for our students to do with their spare time when they've accomplished all their work??

It's a WIN-WIN-WIN-WIN!
They get the freedom to choose fun activities!
They are doing PRODUCTIVE READING activities!
AND, they are reviewing our Social Studies unit as they work!
They file it themselves in their FUN-TASTIC portfolios which means no extra work for me!

We will use the same filing system that we use for our WRITING PORTFOLIOS.


It is a self-pacing, early finisher option that leads to a big reward, but doesn't prompt pressure for the students that just can't seem to make it to the finish line each week.
 Hope you can use this idea in your classroom!

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Jul 22, 2014

PIC-TORY {A Close "Reading" Strategy for Social Studies}

While riding with my family to and from DC (8 hours for us), we decided to make the most of this educational trip and download an audio book about American History. YAY! (Okay, I decided!:) )

My search led me to: 
We downloaded the app and book...and off we went!


While listening to the book, I kept tapping the icon replay the previous 30 seconds, and of course, this led the teacher in me to think about how I could use this to teach the IMPORTANCE of RE-READING.  

The more I listened, the more I realized how many new details I was picking up as I replayed each section and the nerd in me wanted to take notes!   How fun would it be to draw what I learning so I could remember it?!  

SO....the strategy of PIC-TORY was born!

Here are my thoughts.
  1. Each student will set up a page in their notebook for our "game." ;)
  2. I will play a bookmarked section of the story once for my students to draw and label what they hear on their first "read." 
  3. I will then replay the section a few more times asking my students to add details to their picture each time they notice something new in the text.  
  4. At the end, we will see just how many details they picked up!  :)
The end result should be a personal anchor chart that shows the comprehension of an historical text!  Lots of standards, strategies, and skills all tied together in a fun way.

Hope you can use this strategy!


Jul 5, 2014

Author Celebrations and STRESS-FREE Portfolios

I've blogged before about AUTHOR CELEBRATIONS.  You can read about them here if you would like more information.  :)  Here's the short version so we can get to the STRESS-FREE PORTFOLIOS.

We spend about a month on each of our ELA/SS integrated units/topics.  During our units, we compile information through picture books, short stories, articles, research, etc. as we work toward a culminating project.  This project is a demonstration of all our work and learning throughout the entire unit!  At the end, we want to celebrate this project with an authentic audience and special guests!  We use sticky notes and "Walls of Fame" to celebrate and interact with the audience!  It truly is a wonderful experience for the kids and their parents. :)

Here's the beauty of this celebration.  I. JUST. WATCH!  That's right...our guests and students do all the work, and my students do all the filing!  It's a beautiful system in which my students take the lead!  



What makes this so simple is our FILING and PORTFOLIO procedures!

I teach 2 blocks of students.  So I need 2 class sets of files.  Each class gets a different color folder.  I use hanging files with numbered folders, so that I don't have to make new folders each year.  

For example, hanging file #19 has a red 19 folder and a manila 19 folder.  Block one is red, block 2 is manila.  I have a set of drafting file bins and a set of portfolio file bins.  During the unit, my students save their outlines, research, rough drafts, etc. in their drafting folders, filed in the DRAFTING BINS.  They do all the filing and take all the responsibility.

After the Author Celebration, my students pull their portfolio folders from the PORTFOLIO bins, hole punch their projects, add them to their portfolio rings, along with their "Walls of Fame," and file it away for safe keeping along with all their other projects and "Walls of Fame" from previous units.  

Other than training my students and grading their projects, they take all the responsibility and do all the work!

A couple of tips for the set up:
  • I use 2 small filing bins for our drafting folders.  Students numbered 1-13 go to a bin on one side of the room, and students numbered  14-26 go to the other side of the room.  That way there is less traffic at the bins.  :)  Small bins work well for drafting folders because there is only one project's worth of papers in that folder at a time.  I can still get 26 folders in a bin.   BUT, because there is only one class in my room at a time, I only have 13 students using each bin during a class period, so very little waiting in line...I hope that makes sense. :)
  • I use 2 LARGE filing bins for our portfolios because they will contain at least 8 projects, and 8 "Walls of Fame" before the end of the school year.  Those get rather full.  I do however, use the same system of splitting the class into bins on different sides of the room to help with traffic flow.  

That's it!  I hope you can use Author Celebrations in your classrooms and I hope our system of DRAFTING FOLDERS and filing PORTFOLIOS makes life a little easier for you!

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Jul 4, 2014

You Don't have to Teach Grammar in ISOLATION...There's another WAY!

As teachers, there is never enough time in our day!   I try to combine lessons as much as possible and get as much "bang for my buck" with each activity as I can.

I read a lot of picture books to integrate Social Studies into my ELA lessons.  Thanks to Ideas by Jivey and Collaboration Cuties, (These ladies have some fabulous sets all ready to go with texts they've chosen.) I have started using this process after reading a picture book to my class.  We pick a sentence or paragraph from the text that we love!  This really makes the kids look at the text. ;)  Then we follow the following steps.



It takes a lot of MODELING for kids to pick up on the grammar techniques and skills used by the author, but they eventually start to notice some pretty cool things!  I stop after each STEP to model my own thinking, but I eventually have my students doing the steps alone.  This gives me a chance to share "what I noticed, how I would make it better, and then what I learned myself.  During these little "stops," I can throw in any grammar skills I was hoping they might have noticed on their own if they missed them!  Just like magic, when we do our next MODEL TEXT, they look for the things that I pointed out to them using the previous picture book!  (Another great resource for this concept is The Writing Thief by Ruth Culham.  She offers some wonderful suggestions.)

So I get reading standards, writing standards, language standards, and even social studies standards from one book by the time we're done with it!  Hope you can use this task card.  If you are interested, click on image of the card itself or GRAB IT HERE!


Here's a sample from a student's notebook using a sentence from The Butter Battle Book by Dr. Seuss.  Yes, I love Dr. Seuss, even in especially in the upper elementary grades!  If you are interested, you can read more about how I use Seuss HERE. :)
Thanks for reading!


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Jul 2, 2014

"Stuffing Turkeys" during a Social Studies and ELA Literacy Block

I must admit, I did not come up with this name.  A sweet student started calling one of our small group activities "STUFFING TURKEYS," and because I'm a bit crazy like that, I asked her why?.  Here's the answer I got...

"You are always making us pull the facts out of one side of the paper and stuff them into the other.  When we don't have enough facts, you tell us to keep stuffing our work space until we have addressed every single fact from the article. So we have to keep re-reading it until we have stuffed enough facts into the box to make you happy with our PLUMP TURKEYS, so we call them TURKEYS!"  WORKS FOR ME!

Here's a sample of a PLUMP TURKEY!

A few things to notice:
BLACK ARROW: The kids must draw lines to separate the sections or paragraphs to show me where exactly they are pulling the facts from.  That way I know if they pulled each and every fact!

RED ARROW:  The kids are allowed to use texts, but it shouldn't be the text from the article.  Someone already wrote that.  It has to be something in their own words that reiterates the facts.  

BLUE ARROW:  The kids may use pictures.  This particular child drew Sputnik in outer space and a very happy member of the Soviet Union celebrating.  I bet she will never forget which country had the first visit to outer space!

We often "stuff turkeys" at the beginning of each unit using our GUIDING TEXT.  Once my students have pulled all the facts out of our overview of the unit, they are ready to dive deeply into exploration of the topics related to that unit!  It's a win-win for all of us.  I get CLOSE-READING from my students, they get a great preview and background knowledge at the beginning of our unit!


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Jul 1, 2014

Guiding Text for ELA/Social Studies Integration

What the heck is a GUIDING TEXT?  Frankly, I'm not sure "GUIDING TEXTS" is the best name for this document, but this seems to be what  I always end up calling it!  Yes, it's our NOTES.  It's our "story." It's our social studies facts.  It's lots of things in my room!  It's even a resource for "TURKEYS"...long story for another day!

But at the end of  the day...it feels like it "guides" everything we do, so it has become our "GUIDING TEXT."  Feel free to suggest a new name in the comments.  I'm open to suggestions. :)  Here's what it is, and what we do with it!

Our guiding texts is a condensed version of everything we cover during an integrated ELA/SS unit.  It gives us a nice starting point in the room.  It gives the parent's a nice resource for studying, and it gives me something to build our unit around.

It includes most of our vocabulary. (Some of our vocabulary is covered at a Word Work Station where my students work with affixes and roots.) It includes all of our Social Studies facts, and a few of our reading skills.  It also provides a tremendous resource for my students when they are working on their CULMINATING PROJECT at the end of each unit.

You see...it guides our integration.  :)  From here I choose articles, primary and secondary sources, stories, and picture books to use as I teach my ELA standards and  I get to "kill two birds with one stone," so to speak!  By the time we've read and analyzed approximately 4 weeks of additional texts based on these topics, we have more than covered our social studies lessons!  And, in the eyes of my parents, these are great notes for the kids to study when it is time for a social studies test.  My parents and kids always know they can find these near the TAB in the Workshop Notebooks. :)

It's actually a very easy way to teach social studies and a great way to buy more reading time for you and your students! ;)

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