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Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Thankful Linky Party

1. What are you thankful for in your classroom?  Moving up to fourth grade with the BEST group of students who are LOVING reading this year! I love my rock stars!

2. What persons are you most thankful for?  My supporting husband, Gregg, and my beautiful daughters, Hannah and Emma.

3. What 3 blogs are you most thankful for?  There are way too many!  I am addicted to stalking.  I picked three that have some great printables.

4. What guilty pleasure are you most thankful for?  Showtime TV shows like Dexter, Weeds, and The Big C.

5. What are you most thankful for? I am thankful for the experiences and opportunities that I have had in my life. There have been many ups and downs and I have grown as a person because of it all. Thanks to all the people who have a special part of my extended family, my colleagues, my students and good friends! 

Sunday, November 20, 2011

The Battle of the Five Paragraph Essay

YEAH...we did it.  My class wrote their first five paragraph essay and there were no tears...including mine!  I am so proud of my fourth graders.

The first lesson that I did with the kids was discuss  narrative vs. expository writing.  We created a great anchor chart for the room.

Then, the children brainstormed memorable events.  We talked about different feelings to think about memories and memorable events in their lives. (ex. happy, scared, sad, nervous, etc.)  We also talked about narrowing down the topics. (ex. trip to Disney vs. ride on Space Mountain)  They choose an idea and I had them draw a detailed picture that helps tell the story.  I wanted a visual for their memory.  We had read a story called "Family Pictures" in our basal.  The book had great illustration that told stories.  I also read "Tar Beach" which is a personal narrative.  We talked about the story quilts of Faith Ringold.  I had the students draw a quilt border on their illustrations.

Next, we did a mini-lesson on great beginnings using ideas from empowering writers and a unit from Rundee's Room on TPT (has great posters and resources).  We made another anchor chart.  The kids wrote their great beginnings on a Four Square graphic organizer in the center of the paper.  The children used a piece of white drawing paper to create a four square.  
The Comprehensive Narrative Writing Guide: All the Skills You Need to Teach Good Writing (Empowering Writers)

The next step was writing a major event from the beginning, middle and end on the four square.  Then we went back and added details under each major event using bulleted ideas.  After that the children wrote their feeling for the closing  in the fourth box.

Four Square Writing Method: A Unique Approach to Teaching Basic Writing Skills for Grades 4-6
Once the organizer was complete we added a transition word to each box and circled it.  There are many lists of transition words on the web and some ideas in the "Four Square" book.  I also modeled how to add details to the introduction and conclusion. The intro might include who, what, where, and when.  The ending could have thoughts, connection, hopes, etc. 

The children had no problems taking their four square graphic organizers and putting them into paragraphs on paper.  They still need reminders about indenting on a new line  when starting a new paragraph.

The revising and editing process involved making an anchor chart.  I had them using two different colored pens for this step.  Revising is blue and editing is green.  They completed this process with a buddy and then by themselves.  I did the final conference in red.  My anchor chart was a mess so I typed up one for the room.  The font is teachers's pet and is size 48 if you would like to make your own.

Click on the images on the left to download:

My children copied over their stories and added creative catchy titles.  They will be saved in a hard cover portfolio book along with their illustrations. 

We spent about 2-3 weeks on our personal narratives.

Now on to the next piece... 
Expository writing here we come!!!!!

Friday, November 11, 2011


I had a post all planned out to work on this weekend and I forgot my camera at school! Too many things to bring home over the long week-end! I am going with Plan B...which I really didn't have until I was going through pictures on my computer and thought of...PINTEREST!    

I became a blogger in September after discovering Pinterest this past summer.  Many of the posts on Pinterest come from great teaching blogs.  I have become inspired daily to try new ideas, lessons, books, management techniques and so much more. 

Here are a few of my copy cat projects.



Saturday, November 5, 2011

Homework Bags

One of my goals in September was to get my students to master their multiplication facts (12's).  I taught third grade for 19 years and moved up to fourth this year.  Many third graders haven't mastered their facts and lose them over the summer.  I had some of the same students from last year and I had to come up with new ideas that would motivate them too.  I came up with the Homework Bag.  Every child gets the bag once a week.  The children have assigned nights and if it is forgotten at home, I have a back-up.  They have been very responsible.

I found the perfect sized canvas bag at the dollar tree.  I bought six bags and a set of flash cards for each.  I added a deck of Every Day math cards for the card games they have learned in class.  I added a couple of things every week to the bags focusing on a specific times table.  ex.  "I have/who has," memory cards, flip books, etc. I also added a few games that covered all the facts.  The bags started getting very full, so I emptied them out a few weeks ago and now let the children pick out what they want to work on.  I am now adding activities that cover other math standards and subject areas.   I found flip books at the Dollar Tree for states and capitols.

As of November 1st, I can proudly state that I have 14 out of 22 students who have passed their fact quizzes.  (I give 50 problems in 4 minutes)  They love getting their stars on their VIP passes(earlier post).  I also have a special award for the Extreme VIP's.  They have been working on multiplying 3 factors.  I have 3 students who have accomplished that feat. (I am not sure if I could do it)

Here is one of the kids favorite games in the HW Bags: Multiplication Boom
 *to play the children take turns drawing facts until someone gets a bomb

Start saving Crystal Light containers- Target had some round cans for their brand
Cover cans with red paper
Add labels and cover with contact paper...I used Packing Tape
Poke hole in cover and add a piece of jute
Print sheet of booms for each can
Print sheets of facts for each can. 

Click the images below for links to print:


Click on the image to for the link to site for flashcards:

Printable Multiplication Flashcards

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

The Book Whisperer

Pumpkins on 10/22
Pumpkins on 10/31

 We got hit with a very early north-eastern snowstorm on Saturday night.  It left us with a foot of snow, lots of trees down,  no power and two days off of school!  We were fortunate not to have any major damage. 

I took advantage of no electricity and finally got to read my copy of "The Book Whisperer."  I could not put it down.  As I read, it made me really think about better ways that I can motivate my children to become independent readers.  Things are going to change in Room 210...I want to be a BOOK WHISPERER!

Things that I am going to change ASAP!!!!

1.  Set a Book Challenge- I loved Donalyn Miller's idea of challenging the children to read a set number of books with genre guidelines.  I had to modify her goals to meet the needs of my class and we are starting in November.  I typed up a sheet where they can keep track of this.

2.  No more whole group reading of a story- I will have my grade level and above students read the weekly story independently or with a partner.  I will sit with my at-risk readers and work with them in a small group, and guide them with the story.  This will give more time to my Daily Five routine.

3.  Start a weekly Reading Notebook- Students will write letters to me once a week in a journal to reflect on their independent reading. I like the fact that it creates accountability for the kids.   I will respond back weekly...I hope!

4.  I will  read all books that I put out on my shelves so that I can recommend them to children.  I want to match books with readers.  I am new to fourth grade and need to become aware of current authors, series and texts.

5.  I will become a better role model and make more time for reading!