Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Power of Positive Thinking

Hey, friends! In an attempt to finish up my 90 report cards that are due tomorrow, I am blogging...but just super fast. *pinky promise*

Last week was scrimmage week, so my 5th grade friends spent 3 days taking practice tests that mimic the 'real' KPREP that they'll take in 6 weeks. With all this scrimmaging, we had awkward pockets of time (15 minutes hear, 25 minutes there), and some students were being negative nickles. So negative, in fact, they could have made quarters or half-dollars. ;)

Inspired by Fieldcrest Elementary's School's anchor chart, we spent some of our 'spare' moments talking about ways to adjust our thinking. I introduced the chart below with the phrases on the left already written. Then, in partner pairs and as a class, we discussed how we could shift our thoughts into constructive POAs (plans of action). Here are what my friends' ideas look like!

We also discussed that when we change our thinking, we are NOT saying our feelings don't matter. We ARE saying that our feelings start with "I Statements" and contain emotion words, not "I give up." and "This is stupid.". When we make statements like "I give up.", we stop working and it hinders our success. Instead, we want to believe and say things that empower us and our friends. Here enters our class theme, "Our Words Have Tremendous Power."

Since our class conversation, it has been neat to listen to my friends suggest different way of saying something. I love when my students challenge each other and show that they are awesome humans-beings up for any challenge. *insert sentimental comment about how great 5th graders are* :)

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Students Monitoring Their Own Learning

Hi, friends! Happy Weekend. :) Today I am joining with 150 amazing teacher-bloggers to bring you simple and promotion-free ideas for your classroom. 
Today I'll be sharing about a way I include self-assessment into each of our lessons. One of the great things about fifth graders is that they are ridiculously honest about their learning. If they don't know something, they'll definitely let me know. If they have mastered something, they'll let the WHOLE class know...promise ;)

We use a 1-4 scale to gauge our learning. Below is an anchor chart we created that hangs on our wall. We quickly reference this chart before we turn in any exit slip or activity.  
Most things in 5th grade seem to work on a 4 point scale, so for my classroom it made sense to make our scale a range of 4 numbers. If you prefer a 3 or 5-number scale, go for it! After completing an activity or exit slip, students know to read our I-Can statement and then, consider how/if they've mastered the standards.

At the bottom of each activity or exit slip, students record a 1 - 4 number grid in the bottom corner of their paper and circle where they feel are in the learning process! It's a quick process and gives me great insight about the confidence levels of my friends. Using the number grid also tells students they are responsible for their own learning and they know they're being held accountable.
A 1 means that we have just introduced a brand-new topic or they are completely overwhelmed with the content. When students score themselves a 1, they are asking to be in a re-teach group during literacy centers or before school. 2s are reserved for beginning skills that still need a little more practice with a teacher or a peer. 3s are students who are comfortable with the content, can work intedependently, and are ready to be pushed. 4s are our highest level of mastery. My 4s are often partnered with 2s during Rally Coach to practice and teach!
So, there you go! A number grid is a quick and easy way to get the pulse of learning in the classroom, and it keeps students thinking about their learning. So, tell me, how do you help students monitor their learning? I would love to hear your ideas!

Also, if you enjoyed this idea, I'd love for you to connect with me on Facebook or Instagram 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. :)

Sunday, April 6, 2014

My Second Stitch Fix!

Arriving home to my Stitch Fix on the porch is becoming one of my favorite evenings of the month.  It's like a mid-week pick-me-up and fashion show all wrapped up in one box! :) These are some of the treats I found when I opened my second fix! (You may check out my first fix here.)
I'm so impressed by Stitch Fix's presentation. Simple and classy box. 
A simple blue trademark. It's like opening a birthday gift...only it comes EVERY month! :)
Eeek! I could tell that Annie (my Stitch Fix stylist) was channeling my teacher-vibes when she put together this fix. I loved the neatly stack clothes, the necklace acting as the bow. Way to go, Annie! :)

Ohmygoodness...I love this striped top, but friends, it has gold spikes....like real spikes. Like I could hurt a 5th grader with them. Yes, I could totally wear this out with friends, but I could never move past the spikes. Super cute. Way out of my comfort zone - sorry, Annie!
Annie, also include a flash from my past - a classic jean jacket. Hahahahaha. Top notch quality. But, hahahahahahaha. Completely not me. I am more of a cardigan girl. :)
This lovely navy polka-dotted top is ALL mine. It is a tad fitted, a perfect length, and looks great under my white Loft sweater. Add a simple gold necklace, and it makes me feel young and all teachery inside. ;) Since I decided to keep the blue top, my $20 styling fee for this fix when towards the cost of the top! (If you decide not to keep anything, then you lose your styling fee. If you decide to keep everything, you receive 25% off everything!)
 And this is so, so pretty. It's way different than my typical jewelry choice. I really like simple necklaces and the occasional bracelet. "Showpieces" aren't my typical style, but I have been branching out. And this, is definitely a pretty piece and the jewel tones were shouting my name! Unfortunately, I am a very petite person (read very carefully) and when I tried the necklace on, it swallowed my neck. Boo.
Well, that was Fix #2. It was an "adjustment" fix for Annie and me. We're still getting used to each other and I'm expecting to hit our groove soon. :)
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 the 3rd week in April, and I can't wait to see what it holds! :)

Saturday, April 5, 2014

On-Demand Opinion Writing {Motivating Students}

In Kentucky, 5th grade students take an On Demand test at the end of the year. This test consists of 2 writing prompts. The first prompt is a 30 minute stand-alone prompt that can be a narrative, an opinion essay, or an inform/explain piece. The second prompt is a 90 minute passage-based prompt. In this prompt, students are given 2 reading passages on similar subjects and they must respond in a 5-paragraph essay with a thesis statement, 3 main ideas, and strong supporting details.

Needless to say, we are asking A LOT of our kids. In order to be prepared for these standards and expectations we do a significant amount of writing. With the amount of writing we do, it is essential to keep my kids motivated and excited about sharing their ideas. Today I wanted to share about how I motivate and challenge my students when writing On-Demand Opinion Pieces.
This year, our most significant weakness has been including strong details to support our main ideas. In an opinion piece, we have some great main ideas, but often our paragraphs turn into one run-on sentence or a single weak detail. I found that even when I told students their 'reasons' were not strong, they didn't 'get' it.

My solution? Provide writing topics that get my friends so hot and bothered, they forget all of the conventions/techniques/strategies we've learned throughout the year. I know. I said it. Let me explain. 

Anything that gets my students in a tizzy is fair game - dress code, homework, year-round school, gender-specific schools. The most cruel prompt we've written about...
TALK ABOUT PANIC. I refused to tell them if is was true or not...these letters were the most passionate pieces I have EVER seen from my kids. They were furiously writing and some serious hand-stretching was needed! But as I walked around the classroom, I could see my evil plan was working. I was seeing a TON of words being used, but not words that made my teacher-heart happy. I saw words such as LAME, hAtE, not cool, STUPID. Again, my evil plan was working.
As the 30 minute timer sounds, I gathered the letters. I pick a few that were exceptionally fiery and read them aloud. I assume the role of the Superintendent or the Board of Education or the Principal (whoever the prompt addresses) and ask students to read a letter I hand to them (the audience). This is comical and enlightening. If the Board of Education sits in front of you, how do you call them STUPID? If the Superintendent is looking you in the eyes, how do you call his plan LAME?

{Please note - Sharing writing out loud is a well established routine in out classroom. We do not do it as a call out, but we believe great writers learn from other writers. We ALWAYS find great things in other pieces, as well as, tips for our next writing. We also know that the author of each piece is our friend and could be sitting next to us. We are kind friends.}

After calling me (the audience), lame, stupid, not cool - it starts to sink in. We refer back to the reoccurring theme in our class that for better or worse, words have tremendous power. When we use words such as lame, stupid, hate, not cool - we send a message to our reader...No longer is the piece about iPads or the prompt, it is about us. We've become so involved, so upset, we have lost focus and any power we had.

We then take a step back and think about the kind of power we want our words to have. As a class, we develop a list of words that give us (the writer) the power back -  words such as negative impact, not the best solution, disappointing, frustrated by, respectfully disagree. These words tell the reader, "I understand the opposition's line of thinking. I am a mature writer and I will use my best words/most developed thoughts to show why my opinion matters."

Friends, this shift is powerful. Students leave still believing their ideas and opinions matter, but we learn that our ideas have to be matured and refined.

Then, I hand back the prompt and their writing. I ask, "Would the audience {Superintendent, Governor, Principal, Teacher, Parent, Classmate} believe your opinion has power?" Students then take a step back and refine their ideas. The transition is fantastic and students feel like powerful, accomplished writers.
We practice LOTS of topics that students want to immediately 'jump' on...so many that we have trained ourselves to take a step back. I also know that students may be given a prompt they care nothing about (pet leash laws, memorial parades, etcs.), and we practice those too....but we do focus on the prompt where students get 'lost' in their own writing. Here are another two of our "favorite" prompts where we've been reminded on crafting our words into powerful, credible ideas.


So, what are your favorite ways to craft strong arguments and ideas in opinion pieces? Do you have a favorite prompt or technetium? If so, I would love to hear about it! Happy day, friends. :)

Friday, April 4, 2014

Augmented Reality!

Happy, happy Friday, friends!

Today I am a guest blogger at All Things Upper Elementary and shared about how we use Augmented Reality for book talks. I also included oodles of pictures from our first Book Museum! I would love for you to stop by and let me know what you think.
Oh happy day!