Thursday, July 24, 2014

5th Grade Reading Logs & Book Series (Wild Readers Make Plans)

Happy Thursday, friends! Today marks the second-to-last week of our Reading in the Wild summer book study. If you are just joining us and missed the first week (Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read), second week (Creating a Workshop Schedule that Works for You), third week (Building an Excitement for Reading), 4th week (Curating a Classroom Library), or 5th week (Conferring: What's the Point?) make sure to check them out!

This week's hosts are Deb at Crafting Connections and Kim at Finding Joy in 6th. They are the sweetest ladies, so make sure to stop by and say, 'Hi!'
In Chapter 5, Miller focuses on the steps readers take to plan and organize their reading. Many times students have never done this, so we (as the adults) must model and guide students through this process. Modeling after Miller, our school accepts the 40 book challenge for Intermediate Students. At first  students are positive that it is not possible. One of my 5th graders actually told me, "I've never finished A book. I can't finish 40." In reality, the number 40 matters a whole lot less than the goal. Some of my students never made it to 40 books (66 of my 90 met their 40-book goal), but they did read 26 books, 30 books, 35 books in a single school year. They were so proud of themselves, and so was I. They set goals, they tracked their progress, and they made tremendous strides towards becoming life-long readers. As students finished books, they would record them on this Reading Log, along with a rating out of 5 stars. 
When conferring with students, we would often pull out this log, check their progress, and talk about any books they had finished since the last time we met. After Winter Break, we had a more formal reflection period as an entire class. Students took the time to look at the reading logs and complete this reflection form. They graphed their reading for the fall, set goals for the Spring, and told their classmates about their favorite read so far. We discussed how we've grown as readers, our favorite books, things that have surprised us about reading, and general observations. It was really neat to see how the kids' perception of a ‘reader’ has evolved. The entire conversation was so encouraging. 

Switching gears within this chapter, Miller also asks the question, "How can students' reading experiences, interests, and goals lead them to the next book, and then the next? How can unmotivated readers develop reading plans than build momentum and increase engagement?" She goes on to discuss that books in a series are a powerful tool for building "readers" in the classroom, and I completely agree! In my classroom, our Book Series shelves (see below) were the most visited. With books in a series, students are more confident because they are familiar with the characters, as well as the writer's style. While there may be many surprises within the plot, there is more predictability and safety for students. Plus, it is motivating for students to finish a book because they know another fabulous one awaits!
As you can see, we housed a lot of series and, many times, several copies of a series. My classroom library was the only library my 90 5th graders saw, so a single set of Diary of a Wimpy Kid or I Survived wouldn't cut it. Thankfully, Scholastic offers series for awesome prices and you can snag them with bonus points! Below are some of our favorite series from the year. The Lightning Thief and A Boy at War were more popular at the beginning of the year, while Alex Rider and The 39 Clues caught on in March-ish. My girls were loving The Secret Series and my struggling readers found a 'just-right' series in A Diary of a Wimpy Kid and Dork Diaries. As you start to build your libraries this year, I would definitely encourage you to check theses series out. They offer a great way to 'hook' students and naturally allow students to have a reading plan. Plus, series books are great for building a community of readers!
So, friends, how do your students make plans for their reading? How do you check-in throughout the year? I would love to hear about what works for you and your classroom! If you're a blogger, I'd love for you to link up your posts/ideas. If you're not a blogger, that's great, too! You can read/follow and comment. We want to hear your advice, thoughts, and ideas for the classroom, too. The more teachers we have joining, the more amazing our classrooms will be this fall! Next week, we will be reading Chapter 5: Wild Readers Show Preference.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

July's Stitch Fix: The Best Yet!

Hello, friends! As you know, I am a monthly subscriber to Stitch Fix, an style-at-your-door service. I have really enjoyed the pizzazz Annie (my stylist) has put into my wardrobe. Plus, I'll be honest with you - I really dislike shopping for clothes. School supplies, I love shopping. Clothes and shoes, I'd rather not. Therefore, Stitch Fix has been a fun and easy option for changing up what I'm wearing. :)

Here we are! In the note Annie included with my fix, she explained that her focus this month was some fun pieces for back to school. Wouldn't you know that this month EVERY single item fit?! And the style was so much more me. 
After unwrapping the beautiful mint scarf, I was welcomed by this adorable grey-printed top. A little loose at the bottom and a modest V-neckline, I am in LOVE with this blouse. It looks great with white Capris, tucked into a skirt, or out with black dress pants. Annie hit-the-nail-on-the-head with this one. It was a definite keep!
 Another perfect tee this navy and white-striped top would be perfect for summer...but, I have already purchased 2 tops almost identical to this through Stitch Fix. I loved that it fit, which gives me hope for the success of future fixes, but it was a top I sent back.
 When I first opened my aqua box, this gem greeted me. Friends, true confession??? I own a ridiculous number of scarves. A whole lot. Like too many. But...this Asha sacrf was SO lightweight and perfect for summer. Plus, it was super silky and laid perfectly. It was love at first sight and I couldn't say no. :)

Next up was this perfectly-fitting, navy-striped dress. Literally, I died. Perfect, perfect fit. Unfortunately, it was missing sleeves and through Stitch Fix I now already own a ton of navy stripes (as seen above). So, this was a PLEASESENDMETHISDRESSINADIFFERENTCOLORWITHSLEEVESINAUGUST pass.
The great thing about Stitch Fix (other than the fact that I don't have to go clothes shopping) is that I put any of the clothes I'm not keeping in the bag they provide, seal it, and mail it (for free)! The checkout process is online and I can leave feedback/ideas for Annie. It's super simple. The hardest part is remembering to visit the Post Office to drop of your returns!
See, I really do like these tops and have even worn them in the real world! My first training in my new school was last Tuesday (it rocked, by the way!) and so I wore this coral ditty, and then, I've worn the grey-print top with friends and most importantly, when choosing a new class plant (see picture below).
So, tell me - do you Stitch Fix? If so, leave a link to your last fix. I want to see!  If you don't use Stitch Fix yet, are you tempted to try Stitch Fix for yourself? If so, it's a simple process - all you do is sign up, complete a style profile today, and schedule your first fix. If you use my referral link to sign up (included throughout this post) I receive a credit when your first fix is shipped. My next fix is scheduled for August 8th - two days after school starts. It will be a perfect way to begin my weekend! :)

Well friends, I'll leave you with a picture of the great grey top Annie picked for me and a very special addition to my new classroom! Last year, we welcomed a bamboo plant who was later named Plantuska. This year, we're welcoming a stunning sunflower who has yet to be named. For right now, I'm calling him Sunny. So, there you go! Happy day, friends. :)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Stacks: Making Learning FUN!

Happy July, friends! I would tell you Happy (insert day of the week), but all I know it is July. So, there we go. Today I am joining with dozens of amazing teacher-bloggers to bring you simple and promotion-free ideas for your classroom.
I'm sharing about an easy and fun way to practice skills that we want to become automatic for our students. Stacks, the real-world game, can easily be channeled into learning-goodness! It's great for students of all ages, and it requires minimal supplies - Dixie Cups and Sharpies. In 5th grade, one of our favorite ways to use Stacks was to learn Greek/Latin roots and vocabulary words. In this post, you'll see our root word and prefix Stacks in action! 

On the outside bottom of the cups, I write the "question" or what I want students to solve or answer. In the picture below students are expected to define the prefix on the bottom. Then, on the inside of the cup, I write the answer.
Stacks is one of the Word Work choices students may make during our Reader's Workshop! I include directions and "I Can" statement at the center to keep students on track. 

When we're not using a set of Stacks, I keep them stacked in a large Sterilite container. I've seen some teachers store the cups in Pringles cans...BUT I've eaten maybe 10 Pringles in my entire life. So, this storage works for me!
See friends, I told you, simple! This is a low-prep but high-return workstation that kids love. This was always one of the highest-demand stations because to my friends, it was a game. Plus, if 2 partners wanted to step up the game, they would build separate towers, competing to be the first person with a complete tower!

If you teach in Primary, you might consider using stacks for...
  • Addition and subtraction facts (doubles, doubles plus one, sums to 10)
  • Sight words
  • Times and clock faces
  • Spanish/English translations
If you teach in Intermediate Land, you might use stacks for...
  • States and capitals
  • Parts of speech
  • Greek and Latin Roots
  • Practice moving from Fractions to decimals or decimals to percents
The possibilities for Stacks are endless and fun. Students love the game-feeling, and I love the urgency in which they practice/quiz each other. Have you used Stacks before? If so, what do you use them to review or practice?

If you enjoyed this idea, I'd love for you to connect with me on Teachers Pay TeachersFacebookInstagram where I share loads of pictures each week! Now, to read about dozens of other ready-to-use classroom ideas, check the link-up below! Happy reading, friends. :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Conferring using Survey Monkey: Reading in the Wild, Ch. 3

Happy Thursday, friends! Today marks the third week of our Reading in the Wild summer book study. If you are just joining us and missed the first week (Wild Readers Dedicate Time to Read), second week (Creating a Workshop Schedule that Works for You), third week (Building an Excitement for Reading), or 4th week (Curating a Classroom Library) make sure to check them out!

Our hosts for this week's study are Jennifer from Teaching to Inspire 5th, Sara from Miss V’s Busy Bees, and Alyssa from Teaching in the Fast Lane

In Reading in the Wild, Chapter 3: Wild Readers Share Books and Reading with Other Readers & Conferring: What's the Point?, Donalyn Miller shares about fostering a community of readers in the classroom, avenues for sharing books, and spends a considerable time talking about online reading communities such as Twitter, Nerdy Book Club, and Good Reads. (Please help me! I have no knowledge of online reading communities!?! Where do I learn? What are your favorites? Do your students participate in these? How? When? #solostsoconfused #noidea)

In Week 3 (Building an Excitement for Reading), I talked a lot about ways I build a community in my reading classroom. From Augmented Reality to book tournaments, building and fostering reading community is one of my favorite things to do. Therefore, today I wanted to focus on Miller's last section of Chapter 3 - Conferring: What's the Point?.

In this section, Miller relates conferring to building a relationship with a reader. She describes it less about data and more about connection. I really appreciate this sentiment. As we build relationships with our students/readers and invest in their growth, they feel respected. We can then use this relationship to set goals and have real conversations about their reading. When students feel safe, we get a true understanding of their strengths and areas of growth. Students are willing to share these because they know we (as teachers) will work tirelessly to help them move forward. With conferring relationships, students know we care.

This year conferring is not something I did as well as I should have. With 30 students in a class and 50 minute class periods (excuses, excuses - I know!), I found I was able to meet with students every 2 weeks. If I grabbed students before and after school, and in hallway transitions, I could often fit in an informal meeting on the weeks we didn't meet during our reading period. My conferring with students typically lasted 3-5 minutes, sometimes less, took place on the floor, in the student's favorite reading spot.

At the beginning of the year, the most burdensome part of conferring was the data. How do I record what I am hearing and what do I do with it? To streamline the paper and note-taking process with my 90 readers, I created a survey using Survey Monkey. When I conferred with students, I brought my iPad and completed the survey after I met with students. I never wanted students to feel that they didn't have my full attention during our book talks, so I would take 30 seconds or so to fill our the form after we finished. Sometimes I would be able to answer every question, sometimes I wouldn't. It all depended on the student, what they were reading, and his/her needs.

All of the results of my Survey Monkey fed into an Excel document, so I was able to sort and print the notes at the end of each week. From there, I could include the notes in my data binder from which I could pull during ARCs, parent meetings, or when lesson planning. (Note - Survey Monkey only allows you to store data up to 100 respondents, so I did purchase a subscription.)
For easy-access to the survey, I saved it as an icon on my iPad's home screen. This made it simple to pull up the survey and ensures I do not have to saw an Internet URL or search the web for every conference. If you're not sure how to turn a URL into an iPad icon, check out my picture tutorial here.

Once I found a method for conferring with students and recording notes, I found myself more motivated to find time to confer. Being an organizationally-minded person, the Survey Monkey helped me focus my thoughts and focus my attention on the students (not note-taking) during our conferences together. I really like Miller's suggestion of recording the conferences and listening to the footage later, but honestly, that's SUPER hard-core, and I am not that advanced in my conferring...yet!

My take-aways from this chapter:
  • Figure out the who/what/when/where/why of online reading communities (HELP!)
  • Find a spot for a Reading Graffiti Wall in my new classroom. So. Cool.
  • I must be more consistent in my conferring, and I must remember conferring is more about building a relationship than collecting data.
So, please tell me, are you a part of an online reading community? How do you introduce your students to online reading communities? Do you find it difficult to carve out time for conferring? What tips/tricks do you have for me and other teachers? Please share by linking up your posts/ideas. If you're not a blogger, that's great, too! You can read/follow and comment. We want to hear your advice, thoughts, and ideas for the classroom, too. The more teachers we have joining, the more amazing our classrooms will be this fall! Next week, we will be reading Chapter 4:  Wild Readers Have Plans.
An InLinkz Link-up

Sunday, July 13, 2014

When in Vegas: SDE and TpT Conferences

Happy Sunday, friends! After a wonderful week in Vegas meeting the most wonderful friends and teachers, I am safely back in Kentucky. The past few days have been a whirlwind of learning and friends, and a week in which the blogging and TpT world became a whole lot more real. It was really the best kind of week! :)
My purpose in going to Las Vegas was two-fold. Tuesday through Thursday, I attended SDE: Differentiated Instruction conference and on Friday I attended the inaugural Teachers Pay Teachers conference! I'm going to share pictures below but have other posts planned to share about what I specifically learned. :) 
One of my favorite SDE sessions was Jim Grant's "What Extraordinary Teachers Do Everyday." We laughed the entire time, and I left so excited to greet my new groups of students. 
Talking about Remind 101 and an awesome Writing Workshop model, I was able to meet and learn from Erin Klein. She was so genuine. Including so many students samples and pictures that I could truly see her writing workshop ideas. Loved it!
Another highlight of the week was attending a fabulous Creative Brainstorming session with Dave Burgess. He was so full of energy and reminded me a lot of Ron Clark (one of my favorite teacher-icons). I was so impressed by Dave that I ordered his book, Teaching Like a Pirate 10 minutes into his session. ;) His session included fantastic ideas about getting kids amped up and engaged in learning. Wow, wow, wow!
On the 5th floor of the conference center were over 100 vendors and education companies. From Lakeshore to Learning A-Z, there was so much goodness in one room. After ogling all of the amazing resources and not purchasing anything for 3 WHOLE DAYS, I broke down. I am now the happy owner of 25 sit spots! They were on sale and in neon colors, so I just couldn't resist any longer. I cannot wait to put them to use this August! :)

As a teacher-blogger, so much of my world and my friendships are virtual. From Facebook groups to text messages to blog comments, we very rarely have the opportunity to meet each other face-to-face. This December I had the blessing to attend the Nashvegas Blogger Meet-up and met the amazing Sarah (A Rocky Top Teacher). My second night in Vegas we were able to reunite and catch-up with one another. I also met Nicole (All Things Apple in 2nd Grade) who is only a hop and a skip away from me, in Indiana. We are planning a Teacher-Marathon Run/Meet-up in the future, and I cannot wait! These ladies are so, so sweet, and fantastic teachers. It was so sweet to be able to talk and hug in person. :)

Hosted by the lovely ladies of Blog Hoppin' the #2014vegasmeetup was a smashing success. Over 600 bloggers and teachers came together to meet one another and chat. It was such a fun evening and my cheeks hurt after Molly and I left. Before the shindig began we had the chance to meet Hope (Second Grade Shenanigans) and talk about the amazing Ron Clark Academy. I am definitely jealous of her upcoming adventure teaching 5th/6th grade ELA at the Ron Clark Academy! She was so kind and easy to talk, too. Hope was definitely one of the favorite teachers I met this week. Also featured below is the amazing Amy (Teachers Pay Teachers), Mandy (Mandy's Tips for Teachers), Jenny (Luckeyfrog's Lilypad), Vicki (Teaching and Much Moore), and Molly (Lessons with Laughter).
At the #2014vegasmeetup, there were so many teaching goodies that we were given by Scentos, Creative Teaching Press, and GoNoodle. A huge shout-out goes out to their awesome donations. All of this goodness made it back to Kentucky with me and will be put to great use in the coming months!
Greeting us upon registration Thursday, was the TpT Way - a perfect explanation of what we, teacher bloggers/sellers, are all about! My favorite: "We are TpT Sellers and we are changing the rules." #preach #yesweare #gametime
The best part of the TpT conference was the chance to meet in-person the friends and bloggers I had met in the cyber-world. It was a wonderful 2 hours of talking and eating and picture-taking and idea-swapping and talking and SO much laughing. The entire trip was worth these 2 hours! Shout-out to these amazing bloggers below - Holly (4th Grade Flipper), Joanna (Head Over Heels for Teaching), Jessica (Joy in the Journey), Rosie, Kelly Anne (Appleslices), Molly (Lessons with Laughter), THE Deanna Jump (Mrs. Jump's Class), and Cara Carroll (The First Grade Parade).
At the mixer held by Courtney (Ramonna Recommends) and Kristen (Easy Teaching Tools) I was able to meet some of my favorite upper-elementary teacher/bloggers. They were so super sweet and so full of energy. After meeting them, I would love to go visit their amazing classrooms!
There were so many highlights, but the sweetest moment was thanking Paul for changing our teaching world. He has created a community of teachers who feel more connected, more powerful, more respected, and better equipped to change the lives of children. I am so grateful for Paul and his endeavor!
Well friends, it was a fabulous week full of amazing friends and learning! I cannot wait to share with you all of my learning throughout the next few weeks. Leaving Las Vegas, I came away with a notebook full of ideas and tidbits. This year is going to be wonderful!!! Talk to you soon. :)