Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Books, Books, Books Part 2 - How to Level Your Books

In Part 1 of my blog series, I went a little into the background of my classroom library and why it changed. I went from cringing when my new books were being read, to LOVING to watch my kids devour them, even if they then became “gently loved” and damaged. The bottom line is, if you want your kids to grow as readers, then they need to read, and those books need to be on their level. The first place to start with building a classroom library is to level your books.

Now this task can be very time consuming and sometimes a difficult one. Before you can start this process, you need to decide which way you are going to level your books. Are you going to use the Lexile level, the Guided Reading level, or grade level equivalent?   A quick google search of guided reading conversion chart brings up a plethora to choose from.  

There are a couple of different sites that you can use to find levels on your books. I used Scholastic Book Wizard and AR Bookfinder. These two sites are the biggest free ones to use. There are a couple other sites or apps you can use, but you had to pay for those. Now here’s where it gets difficult. After you decide which system you are going to use to level your books, you may not find it on your “chosen” website. So now what do you do? I was only using AR Bookfinder because the school I was at took AR tests, so my kiddos needed to know which books they could test on. When I couldn’t find a book level on AR, I would jump to Scholastic. So I had to use multiple websites to look up some books. Now it gets even more difficult!! Something in me said to check it out on both sites…. big mistake! Each website had different information!! So now what do I do? I decided I couldn’t label a book one level, if it could be too easy or too hard. So, I chose to start all over. I looked at several different conversion charts I found on the internet, and decided to come up with my own, converging the ones I found useful in my classroom. When I came across books that weren't the same, I'd error on the high sided one, just to be safe. I made each grade level a different color to help me monitor my students choices by just glancing at the sticker color in the corner. 

My old library was organized by genres, but that wasn’t working in my current classroom, because my students would choose whatever books they saw that looked good, no matter what the sticker said. So I decided that it would be better to organize them by their Guided Reading level. I know that this isn’t going to solve the problem completely, but it cut down on it. The funny thing is that in fixing one problem, I created a new one. My students would take two books, peel off the sticker of the one that they could have, and trade it with the book of one they couldn’t.  It drove me crazy. I had to have a “come to Jesus talk” with my kids several times, and finally had to start making kids who checked out books (more on that later) with stickers that were switched miss recess, and the problem took care of itself. I could tell which stickers were tampered with because the edges were messed up, but I never told them that.

Now I am not by any means claiming that my way is perfect, correct, or fool proof, but it’s what works for my classroom. That is the key to any classroom, finding what works for you and your students.

Please check back for Part 3 of my series where I will wrap up how I keep track of my books, how my kids check them out, and the overall look of my classroom library. Thanks for reading!

 Great adventure awaits you!

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Books, Books, Books Part 1 - I think I have a problem!

I have a book problem. I buy them constantly - at the store, from Facebook groups, yard sales, you name it, if I see a good one, I’m buying it! I’ll take all the FREE ones I can get too! There is no shame in my game! I buy not just for my classroom, but for my own kids too. (You know where they end up anyways once they are done with them...wink, wink!) You can never have too many books? Right? Right? Riigghtt???

I started out in 5th grade, and didn’t have a whole lot of money to spend on books, so I did what I could. And you know what, they read them! And then the pages started falling out and covers got ripped and bent, and I was so upset. My precious books! And you know you can never tape a page back into the right spot once its fallen out! I fixed them, and moved on, all first-year teacher happy.

The next year I moved to 1st grade and packed away those older books, and started collecting more age appropriate ones. I remembered the problem I had the year before, and if 5th graders couldn’t take care of the books, then 1st graders couldn’t! So, there they sat, looking all shiny and glossy on the shelf. Sure, I’d let them borrow one every once and awhile, but never keep them long. I didn’t know any better.

A friend was our reading specialist, so her and an aide went through the books I had and leveled and sorted them for me. They sorted the books by genre, then leveled them using guided reading I think. Seeing them in boxes with cute labels I had made (pre-pinterest or TpT) made my teacher heart happy. I stuck with this system for all my 1st grade years. I even started leveling my kids using DRA (I think), and only letting them pick certain books.

Then we decided to move back to Michigan after 8 years of living in Florida. I took a job teaching 2nd grade, and after that year, I decided that system just wasn’t what I needed anymore. So, I sat down and figured out what I wanted it to look like and how it could be functional.

I had so many books, and no way to track them, so they “grew legs and walked out my door”, and I never knew who had touched it. My kids weren’t sticking to the levels on their cards, because they saw “better” books in the same genre tub, and didn’t “pay attention” to the level on it. These were my top problems, so how was I going to fix it? I started by packing up my books in boxes and bringing them home for the summer!

I hope that you will join me next time as I walk through my classroom library, and how I set it up! Until then, please share with me…..

Do you have a classroom library problem? Which problem do you have?
         a)     I have too many books and nowhere to put them.
         b)     I don’t know how to sort or label them.
         c)      How do I level them?
         d)     I don’t even know where to begin…..

 Great adventure awaits you

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Non-Fiction Fun - Summer Stash Blog Hop

It’s Wednesday and time for anther blog hop with Minute Mommy. This week we are talking about nonfiction books. And in tune with my book choices from last week, I am again picking Fall books! We are coming up on my favorite time of the year! Can you tell?? Don’t curse me yet, I am NOT wishing summer away, as it is going fast enough on its own.

Can you take field trips? Do they have to be “tied” to something that you are teaching? That is the great thing about this time of year, you can easily tie in what you are teaching to a field trip! At the end of September/beginning of October we start teaching nonfiction. We talk about the basic things to look for in nonfiction books, make anchor charts, and all that good stuff. We apply what we have learned to the books we are reading. Fall is perfect to teach nonfiction, not only for reading, but you can get in Science and life cycles too! So if you choose to read books about apples, and then a little later – pumpkins, you can take a field trip to an orchard that has both! And then you are fulfilling your need to be standard based.

You can use any books you have available to you. The ones in the picture are a few of the ones that I have in my classroom. There are PAGES of books about pumpkins and apples if you search it on Scholastic, Barnes & Noble or Amazon. It all depends on the grade level you teach and what you want to use it for. I've created a quick FREEBIE below to use with any apple and pumpkin book!

Now hop on over to Just Add Students and see what nonfiction books she's picked out!

 Hop hosted by Minute Mommy!

 Sorry for such a short post today, I am fighting a migraine, and it's bed time!

Great adventures await you!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Summer Book Stash Blog Hop - Seasonal Books

I am back this week with the Book Stash Blog Hop! It was so much fun last Wednesday hopping around and seeing all the different books that other teachers use to teach character education. I even picked up a few new book ideas myself.

This week we are talking about our favorite seasonal books. The two holidays I picked, just happen to be my favorite – Halloween and Christmas! So, keep reading to pick up a  Halloween FREEBIE!

I am sure you have heard of The Little Old Lady Who Wasn’t Afraid of Anything, by Linda Williams. It is a cute story about a little old lady walking through the forest and pieces of clothing follow her, but she isn’t afraid. They follow her home and assemble to make a “scarecrow” with a pumpkin head. She ends up putting him in her garden to scare away the birds. I love reading this story with my kids because of the onomatopoeia that is woven throughout. Each piece of clothing makes an appropriate sound, "the boots went clomp, clomp". My students love to get up and act these out! After reading the story we usually do a sequencing activity and then a fun craftivity of making the scarecrow, in which the kids glue their own faces on the pumpkin! A quick Pinterest search pulls up hundreds of activities to do with this story. 

My second Halloween story is Halloween Sky Ride, by Elizabeth Spurr. This is a cute rhyming story about a witch on her way to a party, and along the way picks up some friends who need help. This is great for a sequencing activity or you could do a writing activity and change the characters that Witch Mildred picks up. Now click the link below, to pick up a worksheet to go along with it!

Now on to my other favorite holiday, Christmas! I love using this gingerbread man unit the last couple weeks before Christmas vacation because both the kids and I need a fun break. These still align with curriculum, and now because you did something academic, you can do something crazy - like make a gingerbread man, or frost and eat one!

I like how the books mostly stay true to the original story, but each take their own little twists. In The Gingerbread Girl, the main character is obviously a girl, while in The Gingerbread Cowboy, he is a cowboy. The only story out of the pictured versions that is really different and doesn’t really follow with the original story is The Gingerbread Pirates. But who doesn’t love doing pirate voices!? The Gingerbread Baby and The Gingerbread Friends, do follow the basic outline of the story, with little changes. These stories lend themselves so well to comparing and contrasting, because there are a lot of similarities, but still some differences. Click the picture below to check out my 2 week long gingerbread man theme unit – You’ll Never Catch Me.

Now seeing that this is a hop, bounce on over to the next blog and see what great seasonal books they have in store for you at Inside and Out with Karen and Kelie!

I hope you are enjoying your day!

Great adventures await you!

Shout out to Minute Mommy for organizing this hop!

Monday, July 4, 2016

Guided Math in Action - Chapter 2

Happy Independence Day! I hope that you are enjoying the holiday with great people!

Chapter 2: Guided Math in a Numerate Environment was mostly the breakdown of each part of a guided math schedule, and a brief description of each. The important thing to remember is that students need to be engaged in independent activities that are meaningful. Talking about math out loud and a student’s reasoning behind their thinking is very important to guided math. Which brings me to another important point Chapter 2 makes, that talking about math vocabulary, both new and old is extremely important. How can a student explain their thinking without the proper background vocabulary to do so?

Here is an example of what the book says a guided math period should contain: 

5-10 minutes *each - calendar, problem/number of the day, math strategy practice
10-12 minutes *each - whole class less/mini lesson, journal/share time
12-15 minutes - (1-3) rotations of math centers/guided math group

So if you do the math, on the low end of the minute spectrum, your math block would be about 70 minutes long. If it was on the long end, it would be about 100 minutes. I have kind of brainstormed how I could cut this time down a bit. Seeing the first month or so would be teaching procedures and how things would work, I would take this time to teach "how to" do the calendar and problem/number of the day. Then when they are independent, these will become a "center" to go to instead of a whole group time. 

Okay, let's break down the sections guided math contains.

Calendar & Word/Number Problem of the Day
It is recommended that students have their own calendar folders, where they each keep their own individual calendar with different activities that go with it. These can also be individualized based upon the students level of expertise. Number of the day is the students taking the given number and showing it different ways: drawing base ten blocks, addition and/or subtraction problems, tally marks, show it in word form, money, or any way that the students can represent the number. 

Whole Class Mini Lesson
This time is a great time to bring in a different way of learning, for example: watching a video clip or reading a book about that days topic. You could teach a song or make an anchor chart about that skill, play a game or introduce a new skill. This would also be a great time to review and or introduce math vocabulary.  

Number Talks and Energizers
Number talks and energizers can be done whole group or during your small group time. You are talking about different strategies or the different ways to model a problem. Energizers help to build fluency. They give an example of a game called "I'm Thinking of a Number". In this game the teacher thinks of a number and the students ask math questions to try to arrive at that number. For example: is the number larger than 50?

Rotations/Math Centers
During this time the teacher is pulling small groups and the rest of the class is working on independent math centers. Here they said that a rotation should only last as long as the age of the student, plus a few minutes. You would do 1-3 rotations based on the amount of time you have for your math block. They also make note to make sure you are seeing your expert groups too!

They stress to not skip this part of your day, because it brings closure to the math time. It also allows for some sharing about what a student did that day at a particular center.

Reflection Questions
1. In what ways do you give students an opportunity to think flexibly about numbers throughout the year? I currently do math whole group, and stick to a worksheet, so that doesn't leave a whole lot of room to think flexibly. We talk about numbers pertaining to what we are learning, but there is no freedom in that. 
2. Do you use a variety of instructional strategies to launch discussions about your current unit of study? The way that math time is run (see above) does not really give students the time to think and explore. 
3. The end of your math period, how do you summarize the learning? Do you write in a class journal to document key takeaways? No, I usually do not summarize our learning for the day. We usually just move right on to the next subject. I also have never used a math journal. I have bought them, with the good intentions of trying them out, but never followed through.

Sitting here just reading my reflection question answers makes me feel terrible. I am missing out on some great math opportunities in my classroom. But I am not just keeping on, here I am on summer vacation reading and learning something new, so that feeling of terrible is going away a little.

I already have several ideas brewing in my head about how I can make this work. My biggest hurdle is going to be student behavior during centers. But I think that if I take that first month and build stamina and hammer procedures and expectations, make my "centers" engaging and keep the time frame on the shorter end, we will be okay!

Thank you for reading! I hope you will stick with me for the whole book, I'm planning a guided math freebie for the end!

Great adventures await you!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Schools Out Blog Blowout!

I'm teaming up with Kovescence of the Mind and several other teacher bloggers for a Summer Blog Hop! Check out my post and then "hop" on over to the next fabulous blogger for fun, FREEBIES and a chance to win a $100 TpT gift card!!

I'm reading and blogging about three different teacher books this summer, in hopes of expanding my teaching style in the fall. The one that I am most excited to finish is Positive Discipline in the Classroom. It’s all about changing how you approach your students and how you can help them become independent, self-aware learners! And ultimately, isn’t that what we all want!?!

To offer my appreciation for what you do “in the trenches” every day, and for taking the time to read my fledgling blog, I am offering you my “Chewy” Plural Noun Sort for FREE! Grab it today it will only be free till next Saturday (7/9/16). Click the picture above!

Would you like a $100 gift card to TpT? Follow on me on Facebook (Adventures in the Mitten) for a change to win!

Now click that link above to "hop" on over to The Vivacious Teacher to see what goodies she has in store!

Great adventures await you!

School's Out Blog Blowout

Friday, July 1, 2016

It's still Friday, right?!

I'm really late tonight with my foodie post. I went to the doctor for a sinus infection, then to Kohl's which turned into "Back to School" shopping for my son. I figured I'll pick up a few things here and there, and then I am not buying everything all at once come August! Then it was groceries, which was mistake given the HUGE crowd at Meijer. I finished up my blog post for tomorrow (I promise, you'll want to check it out), and now finally sitting down for today's post. Luckily it's a meal I have made hundreds of times. It's T's "favorite pasta".

This recipe is originally from The Cheese Pusher, and of course I found it on Pinterest. It is another chicken and pasta dish, which is basically what we eat here, because it is something my kids will eat without complaining. I’ll try to do something beef next week.

Creamy Garlic Pasta

I have turned this into a “one pot” meal. As with last week’s post I cook my veggies on the side, because my family likes them soft. So I start my cooking with cutting up my broccoli and putting it on my steamer.

Then I put about 1-2 T of oil in the pan, cut up my chicken and pan fry it with a little garlic and onion powder. While the chicken is cooking, dice up 2-3 cloves of garlic. When it’s finished, I put the chicken in a bowl off to the side.

Add 2 t of olive oil to the pan and sauté the diced up garlic. Then add 2 T of butter and melt. I skip the olive oil part (I occasionally count caloriesJ), and just sauté the garlic straight in the butter. The pan is already messy from the chicken.

Add 3 C of chicken broth and bring to a boil. Put in 8 oz. of angel hair pasta, and continue to boil, but turn down the heat.

 While the pasta is boiling you want to take a block of parmesan cheese and grate it until you have 1 C. I like to make it an overflowing cup. Occasionally stir the pasta! You want to cook the pasta until there almost no liquid left. If you have too much liquid left you have a runny pasta sauce, if you let the noodles absorb it all, it’s an almost sticky pasta sauce.

Throw in the grated parmesan cheese and stir until all the cheese is melted. Add ¾ C of heavy whipping cream and mix together. Return the chicken to the pasta, and serve, but don' forget that broccoli!

I hope you enjoy this quick and simple dish. It is super tasty, and a weekly family favorite!

Great adventure awaits you!