Apr 28, 2013

Must Read Social Studies Mentor Texts~Create your own GRAPHIC NOVEL with a Freebie :)

Hi~I'm linking up with Stacia and Amanda over at Collaboration Cuties with a Must Read Mentor Text for Social Studies. :) 
The book that I want to share with you today is Amelia Earhart: Legendary Aviator.    I do a huge graphic novel unit using parts of this resource from Teacher Created Resources found at Teachers Pay Teachers. I'll be honest, I've never been a big fan of graphic novels until this year.  But if you really dig into them, there are so many things there waiting to be learned and analyzed.  It's been one of my favorite units this year.  
During the unit, we used many books from the Graphic Library Collection that fit our Social Studies standards.  This year my students have really taken an interest in Amelia Earhart, so I was happy to start the unit with this graphic novel about her
During the unit, we studied many different literary elements that are prominent in graphic novels, working towards 2 culminating projects at the end of the study.  One was a fictional graphic novel that they created themselves focusing on the literary elements we found and studied during the unit.  A second project was a narrative nonfiction graphic novel that required some research on whatever topic they chose to use for their second graphic novel.  They simply had to find a story from history that they wanted to retell, find the information they needed from several sources, and then recreate the story in graphic novel form.  We created a rubric of several elements that needed to be included, and I gave them one copy of a very simple template to get them started.(Grab it here if you like.)  They drew the rest to create their own format.  Many of the students referred back to the Amelia Earhart graphic novel and others in the nonfiction collection to use as models for their own nonfiction pieces.

If you haven’t used graphic novels with your students, I encourage you to give them a try!  There are so many strong literary elements found in these books, and so many wonderful nonfiction graphic novels have been written, that they are easily integrated into content areas and make great jumping off points on lots of different elements of good literature. 

Plus, my kiddos eat them up… and for me, that’s what it’s all about!
Take a moment and click over to visit Collaboration Cuties to see the other Social Studies Mentor Texts that have been linked up today.  

Thanks for taking the time to stop by.  I would love to hear what you think about graphic novels and how you use them in your classrooms.  I would also love for you to connect to follow if you haven't.  I am working on my first 100 followers. :)  It's the little things that make me happy! ;)

Apr 27, 2013

Spark Student Motivation with this FREE and EASY Writing Tip!

Hi! I am linking up with Joanne for her Spark Student Motivation Saturday LinkyToday I want to share a tip to encourage fabulous writing with a strategy that is free and easy!  

 I had the honor and pleasure of attending a luncheon with Lola Schaefer a few
months ago.  She is an author of several professional books as well as many children’s book. Ms. Schaefer is also a phenomenal speaker and a huge proponent of writing inside and outside the classroom.  If you haven't seen any of her work, you should check her out!

 The greatest tip I learned from Ms. Schaefer is one that I will use for the remainder of my career. Her advice is simple, yet very effective... 

 Walk around the room and point out the good things you see in your students' writing and point those things out LOUDLY! 

 “Wow Bobby! I love how you used conjunctions to combine some of your sentences
to vary your sentence structure. This really helps your piece flow nicely. Looks great! Keep up the good work!” 

Then step back and watch the erasers start to fly as kids start to use conjunctions where they may not have originally!

If you think your kids need to use more adjectives, find someone who used adjectives and be very excited about it!

 As teachers, we often spot our students' mistakes and want to help them; but this type of help comes across as negative, even if we mean it constructively.  Students would much rather us brag on their work.  Who wouldn't?   Plus, its way more fun for us to be positive and get good results on the first try! 
Simple…yet very effective motivation! 
 Hope you can use this tip in your classroom!
Hope on over to Head Over Heels for Teaching and see some other motivational tips from some fabulous teachers.  
If you haven't connected yet, I would love for you to follow and comment with suggestions and things you do in your classrooms so that we can continue to learn from each other!  The bigger our learning network, the more we can continue to be LIFELONG LEARNERS!  
Enjoy your weekend!

Apr 26, 2013

Five for FRIDAY: Reading Campground, Close Reading, Plot Diagrams, and MORE!

Hi ALL!  I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to share FIVE FOR FRIDAY on MY BIRTHDAY!  Here is a list of 5 things that happened in our classroom this week.  I hope you had a great week too!  Happy WEEKEND! :)

#1~This week I finally got around to adding some owls to our READING CAMPGROUND and we love our OWLS! My inspiration for these cuties was provided by Teaching Fourth. We call it our campground because we read in camping chairs. I would love to have sofas in my classroom, but I am simply too limited on space and the camping chairs fold and store away nicely. Only problem, I think my sweet owls look a little like Angry Birds, but I guess they could be considered “angry owls” protecting our campground…heehee! 

#2~ My number 2 this week is our close reading chart. My chart is by no means, “how to read closely.” Close reading is most commonly defined as a close purposeful rereading. My students needed some specific directions on how and what to look for when rereading a text, so I came up with this chart to help them dig in. Feel free to grab the chart here if you think it might help your students as well. I want to reiterate that is by no means “how to read closely,” but it did give my students some focus. By the time they had completed all the steps, they had certainly reread the text closely and knew it inside and out! I even gave them a little mnemonic at the bottom of the chart to help them remember the steps in case the poster wasn't visible when they needed it…like maybe during TESTING!

#3~Number 3 this week for me was our plot diagram graphic organizers! When my students write narratives for me, I find it is helpful for them to plan their story on a plot diagram graphic organizer. If they don’t plan it out, they tend to jump right to the climax too early without building up their rising action with excitement and suspense. This visual helps them see that they need more rising action to hook their readers before giving away the climax! They did a fabulous job with their diagrams this week, and in turn their narratives turned out beautifully! :)

#4~Number 4 was a Book Talk Skype session.  We shared some of our favorites reads and got some suggestions to add to our library!  Lots of fun and highly motivating for my kiddos!

#5~Lastly, my favorite thing this week was a book that was purchased for me at the book fair. I received many books from my sweet kiddos this week (and purchased many myself ;)), but one student in particular really touched my heart. He struggles a bit financially, academically, and behaviorally, but he always works hard in my classroom. 

 Not only was the purchase a generous one for him, but he put a lot of thought into his selection. Our essential question for our current unit of study is “How do our life experiences shape who and what we become?” I wrote briefly about this autobiographical/biographical unit here if you’d like a little more information on the unit. I used this graphic, which includes Steve Jobs, as an introduction to the unit. We talked in great detail about how life experiences affect us and began by writing seed stories about an event that has affected our own lives. My students then researched other people, or interviewed someone they knew, to gather information for a seed story about someone else, hence a biographical seed story. I have a lot of books from the Who Was ... Series, but I  didn't have Steve

Jobs. Since he was such a big part of our opening discussion for our unit, this sweet child thought I might like to add Who Was Steve Jobs? to my collection.

He had enough money for one book, and he gave that book to me. Words could never express my gratitude, but I sure tried! We made a huge deal over the book and even got a “gift plate” for the front of the book for him to fill in so everyone would always know the book was from him. I don’t need the gift plate. I will never forget who gave that book to me. ;) 

Those are five of my favorite things that happened in our classroom this week. Hop on over to Doodle Bugs and link up to share some of your favorites too!  If you haven't linked up to follow yet, today's the day...It's my birthday! ;-)  

Apr 24, 2013

ELA Notebooking Updated :)

Do you use notebooking in your classroom?  I recently had a fellow ELA teacher mention to me that she struggles with helping her kids keep their notebooks organized.  If you structure your curriculum into project based learning units, problem based learning units, or any type of units,  staying organized is obviously a big deal.  The first year I implemented project based learning, I struggled with this myself.  As with anything in the classroom, you have to find a system that works best for you and your teaching style.  
I have found a system that seems to work very well for us.  At the beginning of a unit, I post an organizer that allows my students to set up their notebooks for the entire unit on day 1.  Not only does this keep us organized, it gives the kids a type of syllabus so they know what to expect in the coming weeks.  It also gives me an opportunity to explain how I plan to address our essential questions, and to get their "wheels spinning" on the topics we will be covering.  They seem to take ownership of the activities when they have goals    to accomplish, and they know that everything, absolutely everything they do will be put into their notebook, assessed, and kept for at least the remainder of the year.   

We start our notebook set-up by gluing in our unit newsletter as the cover page for the unit.  We
always glue it on the left side of the page like the cover of a book.  We tab the top so it is easy to find as a reference.  I list the topic(s) of study, the project(s) we are working toward, tests, important information, essential questions, etc.  and they get their parents to sign it so they are aware of our unit and can talk about the topics at home.    

Immediately following the newsletter, my students glue in any rubrics that will be used for their projects, and basically the meat of what we will be focusing on in our small group meetings (see post here if you are interested) for the entire unit.  If there are articles, handouts, etc. the students go ahead and glue those in on the appropriate pages based on the headings listed on set-up organizer.

Following the “meat” of the unit, we set up for all our work stations that we will be visiting over the course of several weeks.  I try to group them by topic within the set-up, such as word work, nonfiction stations, etc. but sometimes learning opportunities crop up so we fill those in as they come up on pages available at the end of the unit.    

I teach 5 units before Christmas and 5 units after.  We start new notebooks after Christmas break.  By the end of the year, each student has 2 notebooks filled with everything, I mean everything they have done in fifth grade during our literacy workshops.  If necessary, they can easily find their notes, handouts, rough drafts, word lists, articles we've read, research, etc. for reference to use with any type of assignment that may come up in later grades or simply for bragging rights.  :)  Do they keep them?  I don’t know…but I would sure like to think so!

Do you use notebooking in your classroom?  Do you have any tips or suggestions that might help me or another reader during our workshops?  I am always open for learning something new and would love for you to share your ideas with us in the comments.  I would also love for you to connect with me using any of the links on the right so that we can keep in touch.  Thanks for stopping by!

****Updating to lead you to some fabulous posts about INTERACTIVE NOTEBOOKS! Hop over and check them out 4mulaFun!
Also, I need a bit of a favor...I will continue to use interactive literacy notebooks next year but will be completely integrating our Social Curriculum into my informational text instruction. I need a lot of books to make this work the way I have planned.  If you have been reading my tweets and posts over the past week, you are all too aware that I am begging for suggestions.  ;)

Here's what I need:  My time frame is 1865 to present, which is designated by my South Carolina fifth grade SS standards.  I have set myself up for 8 units of study, with civil rights weaved throughout.  Suggestions?  Tips? Ideas? I need a book list!
1. Reconstruction
2. Westward Expansion
3. Immigration and Industrialization
4. Becoming a World Power
5. The Great Depression
6. World War II
7. The Cold War
8. Globalization
So, let me hear it!  This is your chance to tell me what to buy or beg for!  Please make suggestions of all types of texts that I could use with these units.  Please comment with a title and which unit it best belongs and I will add them to my list!

Apr 23, 2013

Hidden Revision Tool in Microsoft Word

Maybe it isn't hidden to you, but I was simply thrilled and shocked to find out that this tool had been sitting there waiting on me to use it all these years!

Flesch Kincaid is a readability tool that allows you to assess a document’s readability by giving you a reading ease and a grade level score of the text.  It simply needs to be selected within the program.  You can find the technical information about the tool here. 

The very first time I introduced this tool to my fifth graders, I modeled a very basic essay and intentionally typed short simple sentences using very simple words and projected it onto our Smartboard as I typed.  They laughed at my poor essay. :)  I then had them guess the grade level that FK would give it.  I believe on our first attempt we got a grade level score of 2.1. 

We then discussed all the different ways we could “grow up” our essay and began making revisions together.  They decided we needed conjunctions to vary our sentence structure.  We needed synonyms to help us use more vivid words, and needed more details to increase the word count.  The suggestions were pouring out of them.  They were more excited and more motivated to revise than ever before.  On our second FK check, we ended up with 11.2!  They class cheered for their essay and I wanted to for their motivation!  I'm not certain about the accuracy of the level, but I am certain that they would have done anything to get that particular level to go up, and I am certain that anything that motivates them to improve their work is something I want to use...A LOT! :)

We now run what we refer to as, “an FK” on all of our typed work and the kids strive to get the score as high as possibleThey love using this tool over and over again during the revision step of the writing process and I love the work the produce by using it!  We even add the FK score to the bottom of all our typed work as a form of “bragging rights!” :)  I even refer to the “FK” when they are hand-wring a piece, simply asking what FK do they think they would get for the piece, and how could they make that score higher.

Here’s how to set it up.

Step 1 and Step 2 ~ Click the Review tab and then the drop down menu from the Language icon.

 Step 3 ~ Select Language Preferences

 Step 4 and Step 5 ~ Select Proofing and then check the Show Readability statistics box

You are then all set to run a Flesch Kincaid Readability Test!

Step 6 and Step 7 ~ After your students have typed their documents, they simply need to click the review tab and select the Spelling & Grammar icon.  The Readability Statistics box will pop up with the following information.

I hope you can use this tool in your classrooms.  I am sure you can think of other uses for it, but it has truly been a game changer in the revision process for us!

Do you know of any tools that other teachers might be overlooking or simply haven’t been introduced to yet?  Please, please share those with us in the comments below.  If I have been overlooking this great tool all these years, I just know there is something else out there waiting for me to find it!  Also, feel free to follow me, and if you are a blogger, leave a link in a comment below and I'm come over and follow you as well.  :)  The bigger our Professional Learning Network, the more we can continue to be LIFELONG LEARNERS!  :)

Apr 21, 2013

Must Read Science Mentor Texts

Hello fellow BOOK LOVERS!  I'm linking up with Stacia and Amanda from Collaboration Cuties to share some great SCIENCE MENTOR TEXTS WITH YOU!  Click on the link below to find a list of other mentor texts that have been posted today!  Don't you just love a good list of books to add to your library?  

Several weeks ago, my school had the honor of a visit from Jerry Pallotta!  He got the kids very excited about several different types of books, but one particular series really got their attention!

Each book in his WHO WOULD WIN series sets the stage for a battle between 2 particular animals.  He hooked our kiddos by asking, "Who Would Win if _______________ were to battle?" and plugged in the names of some local rival sports teams.  :)  Believe me...they jumped right into the arms of that conversation! ;)

The books compare and contrast different physical and mental strengths and weaknesses of 2 particular animals.  At the end of each book, Mr. Pallotta predicts who would win based on the traits of the animals studied.  He spent time explaining the process he goes through to research and find facts for his books.  He even shared some drafts of different books that he has written, and talked about the importance of the writing process!  I was very impressed with what he shared with our students.

Seeing their excitement, of course I had to buy several of these books, and of course I had to ask for autographs in each! ;)  He's a great guy!

The skulls in the first pic are models he used when he talked about The Skull Alphabet Book.  I felt the need to explain why there are skulls in our school library.  You also see pages from other ABC books that he talked about in the pics as well.    :)

I kept them on the ledge of my board for several days and let them beg to read them...to build up their excitement, of course! :)  The following week the books showed up in an Informational Text Station where my kiddos had to read the books and do a bit of research on each type of animal in their chosen book to complete a Venn Diagram about the animals.  They then used their diagram to write a 4 paragraph essay with an introduction, a paragraph about their similarities, a paragraph about their differences, and a conclusion where they shared the winner of the battle with their readers!  They had a ball and when kids (and adults) enjoy their work...THE WORK ALWAYS SHOWS IT!  I wish I had some to share with you, but it's Sunday, and I don't have their notebooks on Sunday.  ;)

Apr 20, 2013

Spark Student Motivation Saturday Linky and a Bananagrams Freebie :)

Hi! I am linking up with Joanne for her Spark Student Motivation Saturday's Linky! This is my first linky, and I want to say a big THANK YOU to Joanne for being so kind to me as a new blogger! You guys are an awesome and supportive community, and you have made me feel very welcome!  You guys rock!!

This weekend, I'd like to share something very simple that I do almost every week to encourage and motivate my students to complete their assignments.  At the beginning of each week, I explain my expectations of what they need to accomplish in our literacy workshop.  We consider it a "list" of expectations.  During the week, I provide opportunities for them to visit work-stations to complete these independent or collaborative tasks.  They know that they will see one of these cards in their rotation chart on Friday!  
If they haven't met my expectations, they will visit a "Wrap it Up" Station to "wrap up" whatever needs to be finished or improved.  If they have met all the expectations, then they will visit other stations that you see listed.   Some of the activities include but are not limited to: word games on the I pods like Speed Tiles  (great game, very scrabble-like but you can play alone and it is FREE), free choice informational texts, library passes, occasional special creative assignments, etc.  

One of their favorites is Bananagrams!  I have created a special set of instructions to keep the noise level to a minimum for those students who might still be "WRAPPING IT UP."  Help yourself to our directions if you like.  :)  Our deal is very simple for this reward.  You read and follow the directions without assistance from me at these stations, simply because I will be helping students to "WRAP THINGS UP" at a small group meeting.  This gives me an additional meeting time to really work with the students who needed my help the most during the week.  

You should see how determined they are on Thursday to make sure everything has met my expectations!  They even come in early on Friday if they can to complete/improve things to make sure they get to choose the fun option of whatever card might appear in their pocket!   It is a "WIN-WIN" situation for us!  I get stellar work from them completed on time, and they get a fun activity that doesn't feel like work...Little do they know that I strategically choose their activity based on what I think they need to work on; but let's keep that our little secret! ;) SHHHHH!!!!  

What kinds of things do you do to encourage and motivate your students?  Head over to Joanne's and check out some other fabulous ideas!
Head Over Heels for Teaching

Apr 18, 2013

My Version of a Literacy Workshop...PART 2

In my previous post I told you guys about our 20 minute BOOK TALK time at the beginning of our workshop.  This is when my students read and respond in writing to a novel of their own choosing while I conference one on one with my readers.  They get additional independent reading time later in our workshop, but I find that my sweet "tweens" begin to lose their highest quality of focus after about 20 minutes, no matter how engaged they might be.  I have noticed that if they simple change locations, they can regain that optimal focus ability.  (If I keep them moving, I can eliminate behavior problems that often start to crop up when they get a little stir crazy.)  I wrap up BOOK TALK time with an app called PICK STICK.(see post here)  Students prepare themselves for a moment of public speaking about their novel by thinking in advance what they will say if selected by the app.  They know they need to tell the class the title of their book in case a classmate is interested, a little bit of details from their book as evidence of their reading, and a lot of thought from their book using thinking stems posted in the classroom as evidence of their thinking.  We also SKYPE from time to time to share our BOOK TALKS with other classes, so if you are interested in SKYPING with us, shoot me an email or a tweet and we can set that up!  We love to connect with other classes to share our books and to discover new ones for ourselves!

Today I want to talk about the structure of the rest of our time together.

I typically have a 10-15 minute mini-lesson where I share a mentor text and/or model a sample of writing that we might be working on. Then we quickly review the expectations for our workstations, the students review their agenda for the day by checking the chart, and I answer any questions they may have about their plans for workshop. When everyone is fully aware of and prepared to meet the expectations I have laid out for them, we move to our first assigned rotation via the chart. We work at that station for approximately 20 minutes, then a timer (set by me) dings and we have a 10 count to move to our next assigned station. My kiddos know that they need to be on task at all times in order to meet all the expectations in our workshop.  There is rarely a second available to waste. In the picture you see the 3 rotations. Each child simply follows his or her own row. For example, in the close-up pic, these students will go to WORD WORK, READ TO SELF CAMPGROUND, and then SMALL GROUP MEETING WITH ME. Some stations are independent, and some allow them to work together with a partner, or with a group.

If you were to walk into our classroom during these rotations, you would see a lot of different activities going on all at the same time!  I have planned for only one or two activities that involve collaboration to be simultaneously happening to control the noise level.  Even then, my workers are aware that anything above a whisper tone buys them a ticket to “workbook world.” (Which kind of explains itself I think! ;)  One trip to “workbook world” and you remember to work quietly on task for the rest of the year. :)

Here are a few examples of things 
you might see:

At our WORD WORK STATION you might see:

  • practice activities to review prefixes and suffixes 
  • practice activities to work on parts of speech 
  • other activities that focus on any type of words 
 In the picture, my reader is using an app called GRAMMAR JAMMERS…fabulous app to work on parts of speech. It plays a short video, and has a quick check game to practice that part of speech. When he is done with the assigned video and game, he will write a paragraph about anything he wants but he will need to focus on making sure he using at least 4 examples of the assigned part of speech correctly in his writing, and he will highlight those as his evidence from the station.


  • any activities that involve reading, writing, and researching different types of informational text 
We use leveled readers that align with our science or social studies standards, kid-friendly magazines, or texts that relate to our project we might be working on in our current unit.

  Our SPECIAL OCCASION STATION is a free for all! I use this station as a place to add activities that might not fit well into our other categories, but are activities that are valuable none-the- less. In the picture, I have provided post-its and biographies for the kids to research and make notes about a famous person of their choosing. This station typically has activities that relate to our projects we are working on in our unit, but sometimes the activities relate to a seasonal or community topic. 

At our WRITING STATION you might see 

  • writing related to our project for our unit 
  • free writing about anything they want (If they choose to do a free write, then they will need to make a note of a trait from 6+1 that they used to help them with their writing, or a note explaining how they improved their writing in general. 

Other stations you might see:
  • READ TO SELF CAMPGROUND (comfy chairs to read BOOK TALK books)
  • SKILLS STATION (I co-teach with a special education teacher during one of my 3 ELA blocks.  From time to time, we see a need for some remediation with some of our shared students.  This is a station that she manages and works on specific skills with any student that needs it.)

No matter what is going on in the other areas of my classroom, you will always see a SMALL GROUP MEETING happening at my SMALL GROUP table.  During SMALL GROUP, I use texts and activities related to our projects that will be due at the completion of the unit.  For example, we are currently working on an autobiographical/biographical narrative unit, and at the completion of the unit, the students will have 2 published pieces, and example of each type of narrative studied.  So, during our small group meetings, we are reading and discussing related mentor texts, researching pieces that relate to our unit, or working on writing/research skills that relate to narratives.  My units are project based and integrate research, reading, and writing Common Core standards. I meet with every student during for a SMALL GROUP MEETING everyday.

Your turn!  As I have stated in an earlier post, my workshop is always changing and growing as I learn from other teachers with similar focus and passions.  Please take a moment to tell us something you do in your workshop that I or another reader could use.  

If you blog, please leave a link with your comment and I’ll come visit and connect via Google Friend, twitter, Google +, etc. with you.  Thanks for stopping by and I hope to hear some great suggestions from you.  :)

Apr 16, 2013

My version of a Literacy Workshop...PART 1

Since my last post of my Top 3 Literacy Workshop Apps, (see below) several sweet teachers have mentioned or asked about my workshop model.  I guess maybe I should have started there with my blogging because as a teacher, my literacy workshop is what I am all about!  

I begin my class everyday with what we call BOOK TALK time. This part of my program is a culmination of many, many programs that I have read about, listened to, and learned from at conferences.  I then molded all of those together through trial and error into what I feel works best for me and my philosophy as an educator. One of my favorite writers, Donalyn Miller, author of The Book Whisperer, has been a wonderful inspiration to this part of my workshop.  She has a new book called Reading in the Wild coming out this fall and I simply can't wait to read it. Our BOOK TALK has grown, changed, and taken on a life of its own over the years.  I truly love what it has become for my students and for me.

During BOOK TALK time, I confer individually with approximately 4 kids on a weekly scheduled basis. During these 1 on 1 conferences, I review what my students have written in their notebooks relating to their novels over the past week, I help them set reading goals for our next conference, help them choose new books so that they always have a reading plan, and I simply talk about, encourage, and enjoy their books with them!  During these conferences I record as much as I can using the CONFER app mentioned in my previous post.

As an extra way of keeping track of what my students are reading for BOOK TALK, and simply as a motivator, my students get to "update" their FACEBOOK statuses as they finish their novels. They save their "update" cards in an envelope glued into the front of their BOOK TALK notebooks so that they have a running tally of how many novels they have read so far each year! You should see them sneak out their stacks to count their books from time to time. PURE JOY!  Added bonus, the FACEBOOK WALL makes a great way to advertise good books!  I even have a "LIKE" stamp, ordered from here, that either I or a friend use to "share the love" of each book on every status! 

While I am holding conferences, my other readers are steadily reading and writing about their self selected novels.  I begin the year only modeling and offering a couple of options for their written responses, however by the end of the year, when I feel they are comfortable with my expectations,  their responses are only limited to whatever their imaginations can dream up!  I make my requirements very clear from the beginning.  Their responses must show evidence of their reading through details, evidence of their thinking through reflections, and evidence of good writing, simply because that is always expected. These are assessed using a very broad rubric to allow lots of room for creativity.

All of this happens over the course of about 20 minutes. I know that this sounds like a lot for 20 minutes, but we have it worked down to a fine art to save precious reading time! When they enter my classroom, they hear quiet reading music, and they immediately report to their seats to begin reading. I tell them as I greet them at the door that I need to see their halos glowing (angle of the head when inside a book) and that their halos glow even more brightly when they have actually crawled deep inside their books are thinking about the text! I have “trained” them that looking around the room during this time, shows that they are not actually on a reading adventure, and at that point I would encourage them to let me help them choose a book that they would want to actually crawl into. It’s amazing how much time is saved when they walk straight to their seats with their WORKSHOP bag, (we’ll talk about that in a minute) and crawl straight into their books without any discussion of what is expected. My students know their assigned conference days and if it is their assigned day, they head straight to my small group table to wait as soon as they enter the room. They of course, read and write while they wait for me, but this saves us a few minutes when they are nearby and ready for the conference as soon as a I wrap it up with the kiddo in front of them.    

Another tip that has helped save time for us is our WORKSHOP bags. Gallon sized ziploc bags are perfect to hold 2 composition notebooks, a novel, and a few supplies. (The one pictured has been monogrammed and decorated with DUCT TAPE. :)) Plus, it is always packed and ready to head to any location in our workshop so that they don't have to look for, or get up for materials. Everything is packed and ready for any reading or writing task assigned, no matter where they are working inside my classroom.  

If you conserve your time and train your readers well, you can truly develop a routine that makes all this possible in a short amount of time.  They of course, have talked their way into adding more BOOK TALK time into our Workshop rotation schedule, which allows them approximately 20 more minutes to read and write about their chosen Book Talk novel.  ;) …(I just let them think it was their idea.  I had it planned all along but, mind over matter, if they think it is their idea, they will enjoy it more! ;))  I don't start the extra 20 minutes until they have built up some endurance and are actually asking for more reading time.  Then it just looks like I am giving in to their requests.  :)

That’s it for the Book Talk portion of my workshop time.   After BOOK TALK, we have about 10-15 minutes for a mini-lesson, and then 3 - 20 minute rotations that I will talk about in PART 2 of this post later this week. :)  I’ll have pictures of my rotation charts with a bit of explanation, along with information about what it is we actually do when we rotate… Information about my small groups, stations, more training and procedures, literacy notebooking information, etc.  

I would love some comments on how you do workshops in your classrooms.  I find that my workshop is always growing and changing as I learn more and more from others who use similar formats, so please share with us what you have found works well for you.  Twitter is an awesome way to connect and learn.  Feel free to use any of the connection buttons on the top right to connect further with me so we can talk more about literacy workshops and other literacy related topics.  Have a great day!

Apr 14, 2013

Apps for Literacy Workshop

Apps, Apps, Apps! How did we ever teach without APPS? Here's a rundown of my TOP 3 Classroom APPS. I tend to babble when I talk about literacy so I decided to limit myself today. :)

1.  I love the CONFER app!  I use it all day everyday in my classroom.  You can group your kids and take anecdotal notes on a entire group or on individual students.  I use it during my reading conferences to track the books my kiddos are reading, keep track of their reading goals, make notes on their thoughts and growth as readers, etc.  GREAT APP and a must have for reading teachers.  Easily customized to fit your personal teaching style.  Now for the "not so good" part.  As far as apps go, this is a biggie...$14.99.  But when you think about how much you spend on other items for your classroom and you realize how much of an asset it will be, what's $14.99 for a good teaching tool?  Feel free to pin because you are probably thinking that this is too much for an app, but trust me, when you start to notice all the times during the day that you could easily make note of something, you are going to realize how much you need this app! 

2.  Another app we, as in my students and I, love is Fotopedia!  Fotopedia is fabulous and FREE!    My students love to read and enjoy informational texts from the site and I typically have them show a bit of proof from what they learned.  An example of a task they might complete for me to show proof might be our Nonfiction Triangle.  You can grab it here.  It is simple in format, but it gets the job done, and it gives them a bit of focus so they don't get sucked into all the awesome pictures. AND trust me, the pictures are awesome!  There are several Fotopedia apps.  The one we use most often is WILD FRIENDS.

Check it out...Informational text in an engaging format that will entice your readers!

3.  As I said earlier, sometimes simple gets the job done!  I know it may sound silly coming from a fifth grade teacher, but this app truly motivates my kids!  We use STICK PICK after independent reading time EVERYDAY!  My kiddos know that they will need to share: the title of the book they are reading  in case a classmate in interested, a little bit of details from their novel to prove their comprehension, and a lot of thoughts about what they read because they know that is most important to me!  It is so cool to see how excited they get when they know the "can" is coming, and I've been using it everyday all year long, and it's APRIL!  Can you think of anything else that would hold their excitement that long?  We also use it again to close our Literacy Workshop each day.  They know that if they are "picked" they will need to tell me something they learned from one rotation of our workshop, and what reading skills they used to learn that information!  I'm telling you, the best $2.99 I have ever spent!  Truly, they love it...and I get to hold them accountable for their learning in a fun way! ;)  GREAT APP!!

I could go on and on about cool apps, but I would rather hear about the apps you love to use in your classrooms. :)  Leave an example in the comments to add to our list.  :)

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