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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Jul 28, 2013

Google's Newspaper Archives {Social Studies Mentor Text}

I do love Sundays! A day with my church, my family, and Collaboration Cuties Mentor Text Linky Parties! A perfect day!

Do you use Google News in your classroom?  Google has a collection of primary sources that is phenomenal!  They have an entire newspaper archive that is easy to zoom in for individual close reading, or for display for shared reading.   You can also zoom out to get the big picture of the older newspapers.  This gives an authentic feeling of the time period you are reading about.  Original advertisements, editorials, articles, fashion, etc. are right there waiting for you!

If you haven't explored Google's newspaper archives to research articles for your time period, you can start here!  I must warn you, you can get lost in all the details of history. It is truly fascinating!
Pic from Google images
An example of how I use Google News is as an accompanying piece to HISTORICAL FICTION.  Are you familiar with Forty Acres and a Maybe a Mule?  If you know your history, you are aware that forty acres and a mule was a promise that was made and never actually fulfilled in American History.  What a fabulous opportunity to pull in informational text pieces to test the validity of facts in an historical fiction novel. If we can get our students hooked on the characters and emotions of a novel, and then give them the primary sources that either relate or conflict with it, they can make better connections to the facts that we want them to learn.  Those connections will allow them to actually apply the facts to something that is familiar to them, rather than simply memorize the facts because that is what is expected.

We will read Forty Acres and Maybe a Mule as a shared novel study during our Reconstruction unit.  When we reach a point in the novel that spurs interest in the conflicting or related historical facts we are studying, we will put the novel on hold to address those interest through informational texts and research. Those informational texts, will then be our shared reading for a few days.

In the archives of Google News, I found a wonderful article written by Roy Grimes for the Victoria Advocate in 1964 titled, Forty Acres and a Mule.  He explains the confusion behind the concept that has been misunderstood for many years.

Another article I will use, provided by Buffalo News, is Broken Promises: The truth behind '40 acres and a mule.'  This editorial offers yet another intriguing opportunity to pull in informational text standards that you might be focusing for your particular lesson.

Today is SOCIAL STUDIES day over at Collaboration Cuties, so if this particular piece of historical fiction doesn't address a time period that you cover in your classroom, I'm sure you can find a fabulous option linked up for the party over there!  After you find the perfect book, take a look at Google News and see if you can find a few primary sources to go with it!

Thanks for reading!



This is a SIMPLE "2 CLICK" GIVE-AWAY for all my Bloglovin' Followers!  $20 to TARGET. I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

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If you're a blogger and you blog about this little give-away, there's something extra from STARBUCKS in it for you to help jump start your first day of school!  Email me a link to your post and I'll email you a little treat!

Papers by Collaboration Cuties :)

Good luck and thanks for following!

Jul 23, 2013

A Visual Reminder to Read Critically

These are our READING GLASSES!  I use one pair to demonstrate recreational reading, and one to demonstrate CRITICAL reading. :). Recreational reading and critical reading truly do require very different methods of attack and do not need to be "viewed" through the same eyes.  I like to give my readers a visual to solidify the differences between the strategies used for these types of texts.  Can you guess which works best with each type of reading?

I teach fifth grade, and although you might think glasses without a lens are a bit silly, these work beautifully as visual reminders of how I want my students to read.

I model these pink beauties while reading silly poems, or maybe just a fun novel. When introducing the glasses the first time, I explain that these colorful glasses are for fun reading when you can kick back, put your feet up, and relax!  Stress-free reading time!  It is my goal that my students truly see reading as a pleasure and this is just one more opportunity to point out that pleasure reading is a big deal in my world.

Now these glasses have a very serious job. These glasses are for when you need to read CLOSELY with a pencil in hand. These glasses work well when re-reading several times is necessary to fully absorb the text. This particular cutie-pie is reading a Social Studies comic book. :)  I have several pairs of these CRITICAL READING GLASSES at my small group table, and my big kids earn them by showing lots of evidence of CLOSE reading. :)  Even big kids, including boys, love this stuff!

Now, before you go...

I have had so much fun blogging this summer, that I want to do one last give away to help you get started on  a project you might need for your classroom.  :) 

This is a SIMPLE "2 CLICK" GIVE-AWAY for all my Bloglovin' Followers!  $20 to TARGET. I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

Follow on Bloglovin 
If you're a blogger and you blog about this little give-away, there's something extra from STARBUCKS in it for you to help jump start your first day of school!  Email me a link to your post and I'll email you a little treat!

Papers by Collaboration Cuties :)

Good luck and thanks for following!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jul 22, 2013

Social Studies Story Board {Monday Made-It}

History is one long story filled with many characters and details, right? I sure do love to tell a story! :). For this week's MONDAY MADE-IT, I've made a SOCIAL STUDIES Story Board.

First let me explain the "WHY" I made it, then, if you're sold on the idea, you can stick around for the "HOW" I made it, part of my post. :)


When starting a content area unit, I like to introduce the important names and vocabulary right from the start to avoid any frustration that might come up when reading a text. I am a firm believer that vocabulary is learned and retained best in context when it is relevant to the learner. So here's how I plan to set this up.

I will display all the necessary words, names, dates, etc. on our Story Board at the opening of our unit.  My students will receive a copy of incomplete notes that address the framework of our unit, including all terms, dates, names, etc. intentionally left blank. These notes will give them an overview of the time period and will address all the facts and details that our state standards requires my students to know.

I will then dim the lights for effect, and tell them the brief story, as dramatically as I possibly can, in time period costume, (okay, maybe just a hat) of our selected moments in history.  As I tell the story, I will make sure to hit all the important vocabulary words, names, etc, that we have intentionally left blank in the student copies.    My students will refer to our story board for reference, spelling, reassurance, etc. and complete the empty portions of the notes in their notebooks, thus hitting all the required names and vocabulary for the unit. This BRIEF introduction should give them the BACKGROUND KNOWLEDGE and INTEREST to BEGIN the unit of study with ENTHUSIASM and CONFIDENCE. :)


Once we've covered the bare bone facts of the time period, and we've sparked our interest in the topics at hand, we'll begin diving into PRIMARY SOURCES, PICTURE BOOKS, NOVEL STUDIES, etc. to cover our ELA COMMON CORE STANDARDS, and to further deepen our knowledge of the topics that were introduced. As we cover each artifact during our study, we will add it to our story display board for reference.  The words, names, pictures, etc. will be displayed and readily available throughout the unit for revisits, inspiration for writing, reference, etc.

At the completion of each unit, I'll move our artifacts to a large timeline display that will wrap around one half of our classroom along the edge of the ceiling. Shhhh...please don't tell the Fire Marshall my plan.  Our timeline is still in progress.  We'll save that for another Monday MADE-IT post. :)

Thanks for reading and don't forget to click over and visit Tara to see what else your blogging friends have made this week.


I believe in our Social Studies Story Board so much, and I have had so much fun blogging this summer, that I want to do one last give away to help you get started on your own story board, or any other project you might need for your classroom.  :)

This is a SIMPLE "2 CLICK" GIVE-AWAY for all my Bloglovin Followers!  $20 to TARGET. I've said it before, and I'll say it again...

Follow on Bloglovin 
If you're a blogger and you blog about this little give-away, there's something extra from Starbucks in it for you to help jump start your first day of school!  Email me a link to your post and I'll email you a little treat!

Papers by Collaboration Cuties :)

Good luck and thanks for following!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Jul 21, 2013

Taking Atlanta By Storm :)

What happens when 9 bloggers plan a meet up in Atlanta?  Lots of good food, good conversation, and of course, good shopping!  Truly a wonderful day! :)

Here's the roll call from lunch:

From left to right:
Brandee (me)- Creating Lifelong Learners
Stacia & Amanda - Collaboration Cuties
Alison - Eberopolis
Elizabeth - Fun In Room 4B

Of course, there were fabulous decorations and treats.  What do you expect from a group of teachers?  :)

Pics from Google

And then there was the shopping, and more shopping, and more shopping!  This was my first trip to IKEA.  I was surprised to say the least!

Luckily, there was still enough room left in the car for us to ride home!

It was an absolute pleasure meeting, and spending the day with a group of ladies that share such a strong passion for education.  If you are ever close enough to join in on a Blogger Meet-up, I strongly encourage you to make the trip!

Have a wonderful day!
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