Monday, July 27, 2015

Word Nerds: Chapter 8 & Epilogue


Chapter 8 is all about assessing. Let me start off with the quote that started the chapter!
As teachers, I think we sometimes get caught up in the hustle of teaching, assessing, and giving grades that we often times forget the true meaning of assessing. I know I am guilty of this. It's a super busy time of the year, you grade the weekly assessment (I'll talk more about this in a minute), get your data/students together you want to meet with, then something comes up the following Monday and your reteaching groups gets pushed each day until you totally forget about it. It's not Friday again, you finally remember, but it's a little too late to get that group together. Before you know it, you are two weeks behind. Does this sound familiar?!? Please tell me I'm not the only one!

As teachers we have great and powerful intentions, but sometimes the to-dos get the best of us! This quote is something I'm going to place very near to my desk. It's something that I DON'T want to forget!

This chapter has also made me really think about the assessments I give in my own classroom, not just with vocabulary instruction. Every week I give an in-depth reading comprehension/skill assessment based on a skill we worked on as well as some from the past. The passages are usually 1-1.5 pages and the questions have at least 3 constructed response answers. It takes my students any where from 45 minutes to over an hour to complete. Is this what is best for my students?

This year, I'm going to try and do things a lot differently. My ELA time will be cut into almost half the time I had last year! I'm really going to try and make as many things work together as possible. Most of my reading assessments will come from my class novel we are reading. I'll talk more about this later! I just wanted you to know that chapter 8 had me reflecting on ALL forms of assessment, not just vocabulary!

The remainder of the chapter was really about different types of formative assessments (during learning, to inform) that I already use in my classroom. Here are some that were mentioned and explained:

  • Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down
  • Observations (very useful & important)
  • Analyzing Student Work
  • Teacher Questioning (focusing on student response)
  • Student-Generated Questions
I'm going to end the post with two more quotes I found useful!
 This again goes along with what I was saying before. We need to slow down and really focus on what our students NEED from us!
One of my professional goals a few years ago was giving my students effective feedback. To improve/meet this goal, I read a PL book, How to Give Your Students Effective Feedback. It's a great read to anyone who is interested in this area. It goes right along with this quote. Our feedback needs to be two things! #1: it needs to be timely (ASAP) and #2: it needs to be effective. Your feedback should provide and describe a way they can be a better student or specifically stating what they did well on. Here's what the cover looks like if you are interested.
When we give our students feedback throughout the learning process, we are assessing what they know AND teaching at the same time... how awesome is that?

I would personally like to thank Leslie Ann from Life in Fifth Grade for motivating me to finally read *and finish* this wonderful PL book! I can't wait to take everything I learned back to my classroom. I desperately needed some direction in vocabulary instruction... I finally have it! :)

Sunday, July 26, 2015

BTS in a FLASH {Week 1}: Teacher Faves

Hi everyone! Today I'm linking up with Courtney from Ramona Recommends, Layla from Fancy Free in Fourth, and Jamie from Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher! I'm going to be sharing some of my favorite things. Since my entire world revolves around my passion for teaching, all of these are teaching related!

Here are the directions just in case you want to join in on the fun!

Here are mine!

Let us start this post off the same way I MUST start my day! With a cup of coffee. This picture also shows another favorite... my deck. I LOVE sitting out here and relaxing. 

 I know I'm not the only one who totally swoons over anything that can be used to organize! This utensil caddy that I scored from Target a few years back has been great to store markers, highlighters, pens, and pencils for my small group table.... LOVE!
 If you are a regular reader here or follow me on Instagram, then you have seen this picture before. Call me crazy, but nothing makes this teacher heart happier than having my focus board complete each morning :)
This picture shows two of my absolute faves.. Mr. Sketch Markers & anchor charts. I create my anchor charts at the end of the school day when my students have went home. I sit at my table, get my supplies ready, turn the lights down and music up, and create! I usually try to do this on Fridays for the next week. It's a great stress reliever for the end of the week :)

Last but not least is my *slight* (I'm being modest here) obsession with pens. Here are a few of my favorites (in order)!

What are some of your favorite things?? Add your own and link up and share!


Saturday, July 25, 2015

Word Nerds: Chapter 7

Y'all, we are almost at the end of this wonderful book! Just in time for me to go back into my classroom and get some things done. 

Chapter 7 is all about Spreading Vocabulary Wings. I really liked the section on morphology study. Last year, my upper class didn't have a spelling list. Instead, they had 10 morphology words that we would study for 2 weeks then have an assessment over them. This worked really well and the students really learned the meanings of some of these prefixes, suffixes, and roots. I would hear them using what they knew about the parts of words to decode the meaning of other words... it was great! But in reality, they didn't need to know all of the parts we studied because it was a lot! Over the summer, all the 5th grade ELA teachers in my county came together and chose morphology words that we felt our students needed to know. This list is are the words I'm going to focus on this year. There are no more than 10 for each quarter. This will save me a *HUGE* amount of time.

As you can imagine, I was overly excited about the Crystal Ball Words in chapter 7. I loved the layout of the graphic organizer and how they can discover new words from a single prefix, suffix, or root word. It's such a powerful way to look at morphology. I plan on using this format but of course I'm going to cutesy it up a bit!

This chapter is on my favorites list because it goes on to give year another graphic organizer that can be used for inferring the meaning of vocabulary. It's organized by Clues from the Text//What I already Know//My Inference or Conclusion. This is similar to what I have used in the past when we are talking about drawing conclusions.
What are some activities you use in your own classroom to help teach vocabulary in context and morphology? I'd love to hear about them!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Planning Now for Later

I can't believe that school starts back for me {pre-planning} in just a short amount of time. After next week, this gal will be going at it full-force! One of the mistakes I have made in the past was not planning my quarters out. What in the world was I thinking?!? Last year, I did this well before it was time to go back, and it was such a life saver! Right now I have my year divided by quarter and the standards I am going to teach in each quarter laid out.
This part was actually easy because of our county curriculum map. We have a curriculum map for each grade and subject area. We met our first week out of school and the hard work was pretty much already done for me! Now all I had to do was plan it out by weeks.
So, the first novels I work with are The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg with my two lower classes and Elijah of Buxton for my two upper classes. 

Last year was my first time reading both. If you have never read these books, they are a must! Homer P. Figg is hilarious with great character development. It's about a young boy who is in search of his older brother who was taken unlawfully and forced to enter the Civil War. Elijah is one of my favorite books! It's slow to start but SO worth it in the end. I actually had my students finish a chapter because it was so emotional. There is a real deep meaning to the story so you have to be careful of the students you read it to. It's about a young boy who is in search for something important but learns life lessons along the way. My students LOVED this book, and it's one they wouldn't read on their own.

The last book we will read in 1st quarter is the classic Hatchet. It's obvious that ALL students love this book! Hatchet is a great book to teach all of the story elements as well as figurative language.

Okay... enough book talk! Here's how my quarter is going to look and what skills I'm going to be teaching!
What do you normally teach the first few weeks of school?

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Word Nerds: Chapter 6

Only a few more chapters and I will be done with this book! It's such an easy read. If you haven't read it... you totally should! I let it sit on my shelf for way too long! I don't have any fun pictures for this one... sorry!
Chapter 6 was all about tha' party! There were some really fun ideas on how to motivate your students to study and be prepared for the assessment. Let me mention here that I REALLY love how this book has a focus on low-income students. Over 60% of my students are at or below the poverty line. I would estimate that about 75% of them live with someone other than their biological mom or dad. Only a very small percentage still live with both parents. When these kids come to school, they are already at a disadvantage. It is our responsibility as parents to ensure these kids get exactly what they need! With that said, a lot of the Celebrate to Validate activities involve social interaction. This is a great way to get these students speaking and acting appropriately in various social situations.

Also, one of the major problems I have in my classroom is the lack of completing homework and studying for tests. The celebration activities are a great way to motivate these students. Who wants to come to class unprepared while everyone else is having a good time? Not me!

Before we go into some of my favorites, let me add that these are GREAT ways to *review* the information {not in a boring way} before an assessment. What a great way to study!!

Some of these I liked more than others. Some just fit my personality :)

  • Block Party- students role play as their word and introduce themselves as their word. Basically, it's a neighborhood social and everyone has a part! Light refreshments are served (cookies, punch) just like a block party!
  • Welcome Words!- this is another social activity where students role play as their words. They go around and introduce/talk to as many other words as possible.
  • Jeopardy/ Deal or No Deal- this is pretty self explanatory. Who doesn't like playing game shows? This type of review works for anything! I do like how the students came up with the game questions.
Another one I really like {because I like to dance} is the dance party. Who doesn't like to dance?!?

The next chapter is Spreading Vocabulary Wings. You are really going to love it! It has a great idea for morphology :)

Monday, July 20, 2015

Word Nerds: Chapter 5

Chapter 5 was packed full of different activities you can do in your classroom other than the boring write the definition and use your word correctly in a sentence! They were all great ideas, but some of them I liked more than the others.

Here are some I am planning on using in my classroom this year!
  • Scramble! {or human concept map}: Have students pair up with some type of connection to each other's word. When the teacher says "scramble!" you mix it up!
  • Word Charades: Act out {with or without words} a skit that portrays your word... my 5th graders will love this!
  • Vocabulary Rap: Students create a rap about their word to help them and others remember the word.

Vocabulary Rap is probably one of my favorites that was mentioned. I am most remembered by my students as the teacher who would sing some crazy stuff! I sing songs, I make up songs, I act silly! It's fun and it gives the students a chance to see that you are human and can have fun! Too many students are afraid of their teachers! LOL  Although... my singing may scare them :)

I love that this book mentioned Flocabulary.com! I am {IN LOVE} with this site and have requested a year subscription for all my students! It's great for ALL subjects... not just ELA. The best thing is that the raps are totally cool (not corny) and the students love them... and remember them!

I also love that this chapter did a small focus on speaking & listening. This is a goal I've had since last year. I want to focus on our Speaking & Listening standards more than what we have in the past. I want to remind my students DAILY that the way they speak & listen is important.

I have created these cute and easy posters for your classroom that can be printed on bright paper and hung on the wall. I can't wait to get mine up!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Word Nerds: Chapters 3 & 4


Today I'm combining chapters 3 and 4. I didn't have much to take away from these two, but I did like the introduction lesson they gave in chapter 3.

My favorite was how Leslie used cloze sentences to have her fifth grade students predict which word would fit with which sentence based on their schema and context. I also liked how she mentioned that sometimes they would get to the last sentence and realize the word wouldn't fit. They would then have to go back and rework the words. She reiterates over and over how great this strategy is for test taking... and I totally agree!

In chapter 4, she mentions the use of vocabulary badges which is a great idea! She suggested using the words and their meaning to have students line up, answer random questions, etc. I like this idea, but I still haven't decided if it is something I'm going to use in my own classroom. If this is something you are interested in, you need to check out Leslie Ann's post and her adorable badges. I saw her badges, but I haven't read her chapter 4 post! I'm going to check that out now! :)

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

My Literacy Schedule

Let me tell you, moving from teaching 2 classes and having over 2 hours for each to teaching 4 classes with only 70 minutes for each has been stressful. I've been brainstorming all summer how I'm going to get it all done. I honestly am still not 100% sure, but I have started having some type of idea.
Notice the BIG purple writing at the bottom... yeah... I'm still trying to figure that out!

There are certain things that I absolutely will not do away with like independent reading, read alouds, and seat work. I introduced seat work last year about half way, and it totally saved my sanity. 

I NEVER had an issue with students getting busy right away. They use the entire passage all week and do different things to their writing each day. Some weeks are literary and some are informational. They were always eager to see what type of passage they were getting on Mondays. You can check it out here.

I'm still working on how everything is going to work and how much time I'm going to devote to each part (read alouds, mini-lessons, writing, grammar, independent reading).

  • Seat work (7 minutes, set timer)
  • Vocabulary (most on Monday)
  • Read aloud 
  • Reading Skill (linked with read aloud)

  • Grammar (Day 1 (Tues.): Intro/Anchor; Day 2 (Wed.): Practice; Day 3 (Thurs.): Individual/Group (as needed)

  • Writing (Day 1: Anchor/Mentor Text/Model; Day 2: Practice)
  • Informational Writing will be done mostly in science & social studies

  • Continue to assess reading skills on Friday (bi-weekly)
  • Spelling/vocabulary Assessments (bi-weekly/alternate weeks)
  • Vocabulary Cycle: 10 days, 2 weeks
  • Grammar (Tues/Wed/Thurs)
  • Writing (Thurs/Fri)
And the question still lingers...


This is something I will still need to think about. Do you all have any questions about my schedule or when I'm going to do certain things? Comment below and I'll answer them.

Monday, July 13, 2015

Vocabulary Routine {Based off Word Nerds}


If you have missed my Word Nerds post, be sure to click here. Trust me, you don't want to miss out! Especially on the post from yesterday! Chapter 2 really got my gears turning in terms of vocabulary instruction. You can read that post here.

In my chapter 2 post, I promised to go into more detail today about what my plans are for vocabulary instruction based on Word Nerds. Keep in mind that these plans may change! I'm only on chapter 3 :)

Remember this picture from my post yesterday, Instagram, and Facebook?

It has received so many shares and likes {which I love, by the way}! First, let me tell you what my classes and schedule are like. Here are a few things you should know!

  • I teach ELA to the entire 5th grade
  • I teach 4 classes of ELA
  • I have an advanced gifted class, an upper average class, lower average class, and a co-teaching special needs class
  • I only have 70 minutes to teach reading, writing, grammar, and vocabulary
I know, I feel the same way! How am I going to make all this work? I'm really not sure, but I have something in the works that I will be sharing soon!

Here are my plans for vocabulary instruction. I'll try to present it in a way that makes sense! To be honest, I was just writing things as they came to me.
 Since time is of the essence this year, I am pretty much going to be teaching everything through my read alouds. Last year, read alouds were just a time for the students to come together, relax, and listen to a great story. We are going to be working with these novels this year and that is where my vocabulary will come from!

Have you ever read either one of these books? They are both excellent. I still haven't decided what to do about the 2 different texts. Elijah is a more mature book for my upper 2 classes and Homer P. Figg is easier to follow for my lower 2 classes. I really don't want to do the work for two books at a time, but I really want to keep the two separate... decisions!!!

 Most of our vocabulary instruction will come on Mondays. We will still work on vocabulary through the next 2 weeks (my cycle will be 2 weeks meaning we test bi-weekly) but most will be finished by our very first day, so students can work with these words and use them. The handout mentioned here will be similar to the teacher example they have on pg. 33, but mine will be for the students :)

Please note, the text should read, "Before **our** read aloud"
Last year, we studied morphology HARD! We had 10 words that we worked on for 2 weeks and then the students had a quiz. This summer, all the 5th grade ELA teachers in the county came together and chose 5th grade morphology words that we felt our students needed to study. There are only 12-15 per quarter, so they will be included in our vocabulary study. I will include around 3 words per cycle.

There you have it! I can't wait to read chapter 3 to gain more insight and other great ideas!

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Word Nerds: Ch. 2... WOW!!

I don't know what it was about chapter 2, but it has really inspired me. It may be that I finally sat down and paced out my year and focused on a weekly plan for my 1st quarter. I'm really not sure but WOW!! Here are some take aways I got from chapter 2.
This was something I feel like I'm already doing. However, it WAS something I had an issue with! I'm a control freak! I have a certain way I like things, and I like for them to stay that way. When I first started teaching, I had all the supplies hidden in a closet and expected the students to use them ONLY when they asked. After a few years of teaching, I finally decided that I wanted my students to feel a sense of community in my classroom. It's a very laid back atmosphere where anything goes! Now, my supplies are by my front door in labeled containers.

Ummm... hello?!? Do you really need any other rules? These three, simple rules cover the basics to have a class of students ready to learn!

I've always done this. This aligns with the number of multiple exposures students need in order to reach mastery. If they are using and reading it... they are learning it! I try to keep the really BIG ideas up all year.

This was something I was guilty of. I knew we needed to be working with Tier 2 words more, but there wasn't enough time. This year I have even less time because I'm teaching 4 classes instead of 2! But I'm going to make it work!

I'm going to be working on some cute posters/student handouts for these. We will have these posted in kid-friendly terms and the students will have a handout in their binder. I want them to know the standards!

I am all about routines! This part of the book is where a huge bulb went off in my head! If you follow me on Instagram then you probably saw this picture!
I was like... perfect! This is a plan I have right now! Keep in mind, I have not read ahead. I am just on chapter 3. Some things I have in mind may change a bit. I'll be sharing that post tomorrow! You don't want to miss it! How in the world will I fit vocabulary in a 70 minute Reading/ELA block? FIND OUT!

Don't forget to go check out what Ms. Leslie Ann has to say over on Life in Fifth Grade. She's a chapter ahead of me, so I try not to read hers until I have mine done! However, her post on Instagram kind of gave away some things she's planning on doing in her class. They look very similar to what I shared here... great minds DO think alike!