Sunday, January 20, 2013

Text to Screen

Every six week term, I try to get my students to read at least 5 books at their reading level. In theory, they're supposed to take an AR test on each one and blog about two of them. This term, I decided to create a new requirement for my fourth graders: one of the books has to have been made into a movie, and they need to watch said movie after they've finished reading the book.

You see, I'm looking for another way to assess this standard:
RL.4.7 Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions from the text.
In the past, I've done read-alouds or a class novel, and we'd watch the movie when we finished. There were always some problems with that system, though.
1. Invariably, someone had either a) already seen the movie, b) already read the book, or c) done both, so they probably weren't getting as much out of the experience.
2. It really limited our options because I'd have to pick a short book that I knew I'd be able to get through in the six weeks or I'd need to choose one that I had 25+ copies of.
3. The movie watching ate up a lot of class time and always seemed to get interrupted because I wouldn't have a block long enough to watch it or there'd be a fire drill or something.

This year, I decided there had to be a better way. Armed with our new Common Core standards and a vision for what I'd want my readers to accomplish on their own, I set out to design some activities they could complete with any book they chose. I think I've finally done it.

This file, which is now available at my TpT store for an introductory price of $5.00, includes 8 different activities for grades 4-6 that can be used with any book that has been made into a movie. In this file, you will find:
  • A resource guide to find books that have been made into movies.
  • 8 engaging, higher-level thinking activities that align with CCSS:
    • Compare and Contrast with a Venn diagram
    • Off the Page - trace characters, events, and settings from the movie back to the original text
    • Visualizing Setting & Characters - what happens when our mental image doesn't match the movie?
    • Cut! - Analyze what got left out of the movie and why
    • Interview the Director - develop questions you'd ask the director and share the rationale for asking those questions
    • Casting Agent - evaluate the actors chosen to play different characters
    • Red Carpet - create an award for the movie, for better or worse
    • Direct Your Own Remake - if you could do it all over, what would you change and why?
  • Assessment checklists for grades 4, 5, and 6 that identifies the various CCSS that could be assessed at each grade level based on the activities in this file. 
In the meantime, I've disappeared from the blogosphere for a little while, which puts me woefully behind on my New Year's Resolutions of blogging more. Since my last post less than a couple weeks ago, I've applied to a doctoral program in educational leadership, acquired a student teacher who will be with me for 9 weeks, worked on my early childhood math endorsement, went on my first movie date in over a year with my husband (having a baby really slowed us down on the movie-going), and celebrated three birthdays in my family, including my husband's. So I really wasn't just sitting around watching Real Housewives or eating Ben & Jerry's -- I promise. But this week, I will do better with blogging. Honest!

How are you addressing RL.7 in your classroom? I'd love to hear about it in the comments!

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Free Lesson Planning Resources

In ELA this term, we're studying poetry and figurative language. I have a few resources for this that I've used in the past, but I always spend some time at the start of a new unit exploring what's available online to see if it sparks my interest. There are two free sites that I always start with:

Thinkfinity - This site, sponsored by Verizon, allows you to search several different websites at once by keyword or state standard to find lesson plans or resources rather than going to each site individually.

I really like a lot of these sites individually -- especially readwritethink for reading and writing, and Illuminations for math, and I'm always curious to see what hits I'll pull up from the other sites. I've found some great lessons from this site, and if you're not already using it, I highly recommend it.

My newest favorite site, however, has to be The Teaching Channel. I could spend hours watching the videos of the fantastic teachers there! I like how so much of the site is aligned to Common Core, and they have a lot of supporting resources to accompany the videos.

Here's a great video that I found that's inspiring my poetry unit, for example!

It's a very classroom tech-friendly site, and the content is growing rapidly. I also like how professional the videos are, so I feel like I'm watching high quality documentaries that would justify all of the time I've been checking out the upper elementary classrooms there. Honestly, it's a fantastic resource, and if you haven't visited it yet, I highly encourage you to check it out. No, really...I insist! You won't regret it -- ample fodder for great pins on Pinterest! :)

Of course, I also find lots of inspiration from Pinterest and TpT as well, but I thought I'd share these potentially less well-known resources.

What resources are your "must visit" sites when you start a new unit? I'd love to hear about your finds in the comments!

Saturday, January 5, 2013

Busy Weekend & Bathroom Break Freebie

I feel like my two days with students last week were really just a warm-up to what comes next. Monday will start our first real week of the new term, and that's when I'm planning to implement some new strategies and policies in the classroom. I'm thinking about revamping a lot of what I do in my reading and writing block (more on that later), but I'm also going to be cracking down more on students who abuse privileges. For example, we have several scheduled bathroom breaks throughout the day: before school (we start at 7:45), between reading & math at 9:30, before recess at 11:40, after lunch at 12:30, and if needed, right before dismissal at 2:30. Despite these opportunities, I still have students who ask to go multiple times throughout the day. They always insist that it's an "emergency," and while I'm highly skeptical that we share the same definition of that term, I've seen too many accidents among fourth graders over the last couple years to question it. Surely, though, the students are taking advantage of my relaxed policy, and some of them are missing out on valuable instructional time because of it.

I recently saw Stephanie's post over at Teaching in Room 6 about Managing the Bathroom, and it was a real flash of genius. I, too, have a classroom economy in place, and the idea of selling the students additional bathroom passes seemed like a brilliant idea. I know many of my students will buy them just in case, and it will definitely curtail some of my frequent bathroom/water fountain visitors. (If students have a genuine medical issue, this policy won't apply to them.)

I introduced the item before opening my class store yesterday, and not surprisingly, it was met with some controversy. My frequent bathroom-goers were outraged that I would make them buy a pass, but many of my other students spoke up in defense of the policy. In the end, the nay-sayers gave in, and several orders for bathroom passes were placed once the students started shopping.

I wasn't quite on my game enough to make and order the bathroom passes through VistaPrint like Stephanie did, so I made my own this morning, and I'm sharing them as a freebie. Click the image below (or click here) to get the passes from my Google Drive.

In other developments, I think the rest of this weekend is going to be spent getting organized for this term. I'm starting several new units, and I really want to map it all out and plan as much as I can so that I'm not rushing around doing everything at the last minute. I also have lots of thank you cards to write because my class spoiled me tremendously before the break.

What new policies or routines are you excited about implementing this year?

Friday, January 4, 2013

Multiplying Fractions

I had a two-day week with my students this week, and while it was hard for me to go back for such a short week, it was a great couple of days. It was one of those weeks where I felt reasonably well-organized, but also where my lessons were going well. This was especially true in math where I started my unit on multiplying fractions.

Multiplying fractions is one of those topics that I was pretty nervous about teaching just because I think that it's conceptually challenging for students. The idea that multiplication can make a number smaller does not compute for a lot of kids (and even some teachers, e.g., myself a couple of years ago). Add to that the fact that none of the teaching resources for my grade level include any mention of multiplying fractions because they were all written and purchased pre-Common Core, and I worried this unit could be a disaster. As a result, I scavenged as many resources as I could find and cobbled together some lesson plans.

First, I purchased the Marilyn Burns book Lessons for Multiplying and Dividing Fractions from her Teaching Arithmetic series.
I'd used some of the previous fraction books in the series for the other fraction standards, and I'd found them really helpful. I figured this would be a good addition to my collection. While it doesn't have a lot for the fourth grade standard (it goes far beyond the scope of what's expected for fourth graders), the foundational lessons are excellent.

On Thursday, we did the first lesson in the book. In this lesson, students worked in small groups (4-5 students) to brainstorm as many factual statements as they could about multiplication. We reviewed the difference between facts and opinions, and I gave the students less than 10 minutes to make their lists. I was blown away by what they were able to come up with! In the end, they had almost all of the statements Marilyn suggested. (Notice how I called Marilyn Burns by her first name there? As if she and I are friends? HA!) They even had a few that she hadn't mentioned such as an even number times anything will be an even number or the various symbols that can be used for multiplication. In the end, we had this list (which is a slightly modified version of the one she suggested):

During this first day, we didn't discuss fractions at all -- it was entirely about whole numbers. We gave examples for each one, and that discussion plus a pre-test took up almost all of our instructional time. I was so impressed, though, that my students were able to come up with all of the statements from her book except for the one related to the distributive property. It made me feel like I'd really been productive in the fall.

Today, we revisited this anchor chart, and we talked again about each statement to see how it applied to multiplying fractions. I modeled doing multiplication as repeated addition of fractions (which they quickly understood), showed them how to use arrays with fraction multiplication, and spent a lot of time talking about the distributive property and breaking numbers apart. For example if you're multiplying 6 * 1/2, you could think of the 6 as being 2+2+2 so that you're solving 2 * 1/2 + 2 * 1/2 + 2 * 1/2 = 3. I really think it was the first time that the notion of breaking numbers apart like that ever made sense to some of them. Finally, we talked about #6 on the chart and how the product is smaller when you're working with a fraction that's less than 1.

Students worked on some problems independently after our lesson, and I can honestly say that every student had at least one strategy that they were able to use consistently to solve. Some students figured out the standard algorithm right away, while others took a lot of comfort in repeated addition for now. There are definitely some students who will need a bit more help next week, but we're much farther along in this process than I'd expected. I think they're getting the conceptual understanding, and that's clutch. I'm so excited!

Next week, we'll talk about estimating answers and connect multiplication to finding a fraction of a set.

What strategies are working best for you as you teach the new fraction standards in Common Core?

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Paper Slide Shows

When I talk about working in a class with 1:1 iPads, I frequently hear from other teachers about only having 1-2 iPads for the entire class -- if that many! I really do understand the challenges of having limited technology access -- it has been long since I've been there myself. Today I want to share a great classroom activity that can be done with only one iPad: making Paper Slide Shows.

A paper slide show is a video in which all of the images are either printed or created on paper before the movie is filmed. It works well for individual students, but ideally they can be made in groups of 2-3 students so that the work can be shared among the group. Students choose a topic, storyboard, write a script, design slides, and rehearse, and then when they've finished all of that, they can use the iPad to film their slide show. Paper slide shows are shot in one take, so there's no editing. If the students mess up during filming, they simply start it over. As a result, it's a really easy activity for students (and teachers) who have less iPad experience or who aren't very comfortable using camera apps.

To better explain how to make a paper slide show, I decided to make a paper slide show.

I filmed my paper slide using iMovie, but you could also use the camera app if you switch it to video and have a way to transfer the file to a computer or YouTube. The file size tends to be too large to email, and YouTube is blocked at my school, so I usually upload content to Vimeo instead.

Here's an example of a finished paper slide show created by my students earlier this year. I asked students to make a video explaining a simple machine, and these students chose to teach about a lever.

 We've also done paper slide shows on different battles in the American Revolution. Students worked in small groups to research their particular battle, and then they organized their research into slides with a script. Those turned out pretty well, too.

Have you ever made a paper slide show with your students or are you planning to do one? I'd love to hear about it in the comments section! 

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Bump It Up

A while back, I was contacted by a teacher named Sheena about creating a custom order bulletin board for her. I agreed, but when she described what she was looking for, I was really curious. She wanted the title "Bump It Up," some arrows, and a few subheadings saying various things. I was dying to know what it was about, so I emailed her back asking more about it. Fortunately, she was happy to share!

According to Sheena:
The "Bump It Up" board is used to provide students a hands-on opportunity to "bump up" their work. When beginning an assessment piece, you create the learning goal (what students will be able to do) and the success criteria (how they will get there).  I create these things with my students so that it is in their language.  Sometimes I even have them write it out and post the charts they came up with.  In groups, they then create a quick piece that is a level 1, 2, 3, 4.  We use sticky notes and the success criteria to decide what made the piece a level 1, 2, 3, 4.  This board is then displayed as a starting piece for students to refer to as they create their own individual assessment piece on the topic. After I assess their work, I then choose a level 1, 2, 3, 4 and copy this piece without the students' names.  Then I place these pieces in the appropriate places on the board.  The students refer to this throughout the year and see how they can bump their work up to the next level.

The next time around, you can give them examples you have created and have them decide the level and place on the board before going to the final step of using their own work.

At first I was a little worried about the level 1/2's and how they would react to their work being posted, but they actually become very open about it as we always discuss the importance of trying our best and then growing from there.
 Here are a few pictures of how it looks in her class.

Isn't that a fabulous idea?! I'm so thankful for Sheena for sharing that with me. And to say Happy New Year to you, I'm offering it as a freebie this week at Teachers Pay Teachers.

Sheena originally contacted me to make this board after purchasing one of my products on TpT. If you have an idea for a product that you'd like for your classroom, now you can feel free to contact me via my new "custom orders" page. There you can describe what you're looking for and get a quote for how much I'd charge to make it.

Happy New Year!

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

New Year's Resolutions!

Happy 2013 Everyone!

I love New Year's Day. Much like the first day of school, there's something exciting about the promise of a fresh start and a clean slate. I typically tackle some New Year's Resolutions every year, and some years are more productive than others. I've found that when I'm most successful with my resolutions, it's because they're ones that I'm really motivated to achieve. In addition, the resolutions are specific, realistic, and measurable so I can track my progress along the way. I'm using that premise to guide my resolutions this year, and I have to say, I'm excited to share them.

My resolutions fall into three major categories: blogging, teaching, and personal/health.

Blogging Resolutions


1. I will average 5 original blog posts per week. I've actually been thinking about this one for a while. I've purchased a planner just for blogging, and I've been mapping out ideas for blog posts. I've wanted to do more writing, and I feel like I've finally got enough figured out and settled down in the rest of my life that I can dedicate myself to this goal.

2. I will build up to 500 followers or more on this blog.  I'm reviewing the videos and resources over at Teaching Blog Traffic School, and I'm hoping that (along with more frequent posts) will help me develop strategies to reach more teachers. (Are you already following my blog? If not, could you help me out?)

Teaching Resolutions


1. I will enter at least one grade per subject in the online gradebook each week. I'm really bad about using our district's online grade book, and I know I'm not alone in that category. The system is not terribly user-friendly, and I usually put off all of my interactions with it until the end of the term when I'm scrambling to finish report cards. I've blogged about my grading issues in the past, and while I've gotten better about it, I still have some serious room for improvement.

2. I will document my work every day. I've realized that I need to work smarter, especially since I'm not likely to change grade levels or curriculum standards any time soon. I'm inconsistent about writing detailed lesson plans in advance, but I could do more to write down what we accomplish each day, what resources we use, what works, what doesn't, etc. so I have something more to build off of next year. I can use quick notes and photographs to help with that, and that can help me get more organized and help with my blogging goals as well.

Personal/Health Resolutions


1. I will lose 50 pounds this year. This is a big one, but I think losing about a pound a week is reasonable. I had been doing really well with weight loss a couple of years ago, but then I started a new job and had a beautiful baby girl, and all of my progress was lost (and then some). I'm pretty tired of my clothes not fitting right, and I know I'd feel a lot better if I was working out consistently and eating better.

2. I will eliminate most processed foods from my diet, especially soda. My daughter's food allergies forced us to rethink a lot of the food we were eating last year, and I found that when I was actually cooking meals without using processed foods, the meals were tastier and healthier. In addition, when I was really losing weight, I was drinking lots of water instead of soda. I suspect that good changes in this category will help me with the weight loss resolution as well.

I'm linking up with Jen at The Teachers' Cauldron for these resolutions. If you haven't already joined in on her linky party, click the image below and make your way over! There are TONS of teachers linking up, and it's a great way to find some new blogs! (That's what I'll be doing!)

Now that I've shared my New Year's Resolutions, I'd love to hear about yours! What are your goals for 2013? Let's cheer each other on to make this year the most successful one for teachers yet!
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