28 October 2012

Giveaway Reminder

Don't forget...
Click on the picture above to go to the giveaway!

Unraveling the Elements of Plot

We have learned about characters, setting, and conflict, what is the next natural thing to study?  Plot!  So that is where our learning adventure took us next!

After we spent a couple of days learning about the elements of plot and completed guided practice of identifying plot elements within a book, it was time to put our knowledge into practice.  I gathered some of my favorite books of varying complexity that also have a good plot structure.  Then I matched the books with pairs of students.  While students were finishing reading their books, I gave them the plot diagram below...

This was a rough draft of an bigger version that would come later.  Students worked again with their partner to identify the exposition, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution in their text.  I love hearing them discuss and being able to base their ideas on evidence from the text!

When they were finished, I conferenced with the partners about their diagram.  For some we had to make a few tiny adjustments, and others were sent back to give more than one event in the rising or falling action.  But once all parties were satisfied with their diagram, I gave the group a large piece of chart paper to create a large illustrated version of their diagram.  And boy did they have fun and get creative...

I was impressed with their work and better yet they learned a lot too!  Success!
Below are the items that I use to teach the elements of plot.  If you would like to get them for yourself...simply click on the button of the store of your choosing!



23 October 2012

Update - The Gift of Literature and Giveaway

I was contacted by
to review one of their new personalized children's books.
After browsing the items on their website, I jumped at the chance!  They have an amazing selection for a wide variety of ages and a variety of occasions!  Not only do they have personalized children's books, but they also have other personalized gifts: placements, coloring books, and even puzzles!
I was sent a copy of this title personalized for my nephew.
There is SO much detail that goes into the creation of the book!  Not only do they include the child's name, but they also consider if the book is for a girl or a boy, and where the child lives.  You are also able to add your own personalization inside the front cover...creating a book that a child can treasure for years!
Look at how adorable the pictures are!  And the text reminds me of Dr. Seuss.
Although my nephew just turned a year old...I can't wait to give him his book for Christmas.
Speaking of Christmas, you can also get books personalized for the holidays!  Their personalized coloring books and placemats would make great stocking stuffers.  Have more than one child in your life to buy for?  You can receive discounts on the personalized placemats for multiple purchases...
This definitely makes gift buying easier for purchasing gifts for grandchildren, nieces, nephews, cousins, and all your friends' children!
Check out more information about ISeeMe! and their books...
 or click here to check how to get your  My Very Own Name Personalized Storybook.
Guess what!  Now only did I get a personalized book for my nephew, but I got a personalized book for you too!  Check out the Rafflecopter below to enter:
Congratulations Susan Fletcher! 
You will be receiving an email very soon about your book!

20 October 2012

Working with Fiction Text Elements

During the past few weeks we have doing a LOT of work with elements of fiction texts.  You know, setting, characters, conflict, plot, and theme...whew!  My class loves to discuss and debate, so we had a lot of good discussion surrounding how these elements affect the text we are reading.  I wanted to share with you two resources I used to help me out with my lessons...

Have you heard of ReadWorks.org???  Oh My Goodness!  What an awesome resource this is...especially for a teacher implementing her first year of Common Core like me!  
There are lesson plans on ReadWorks.org for every grade level...with the graphic organizers (which I sometimes had to make cuter, of course!) and even a graphic organizer filled out for the teacher, if needed.  They also provide you with extra passages for practice or assessment.
And want to know the best part about this resource...it is TOTALLY FREE!  WOWEEE!  (You do have to complete a free register to use some of the resources...)
I created some resources of my own...
As we learned and discussed each element of fiction, I had an anchor chart to accompany it.  For example, here is my anchor chart for characters...
So my students always have a record of this information at hand, we recorded the definition and other information in a flipbook stored in our reading notebook...

These helped my students, when we read a text, to be able to take part in a higher level of discussion involving characters, setting, themes, conflicts, etc.
If you are interested in getting your own copies of the resources I created, simply click on the links for the store of your choosing. 
You can get just the anchor charts...
Or you can get only the flipbook... 
Or maybe you would like to get them both!

More fun Elements of Fiction Texts to come...I will share with you in the future how we tackled just plot in the near future!

15 October 2012

Whoohoo...I've been Boo'ed!

Thanks to sweet Laura at
I've been boo'ed!
Here's how to play. Choose a fellow blogger that has MORE followers, another that has about the SAME number of followers, and last, someone that has LESS followers.
Lastly, leave them some love by offering them a goody from your store as their "treat."
Let me just say it is so hard to pick just three blogs to appreciate!  I get so many great ideas from so many of you bloggers out there that I wish I could boo you all!
For the blogger that has more followers than I do...
I am always excited to see Kristen's blog posts in my inbox because I know there is a new great idea coming my way...and it is usually cute and colorful too!
For a blogger that has about the same followers as I do...
I Want to be a Super Teacher
 1.  I love the name of her blog...because who doesn't want to be a super teacher???  (Well maybe if I could be the princess teacher, I would be pretty happy too!) 
2.  She has some totally awesome and cute ideas!
And, to the blogger(s) that have less followers than I do...
They have 2 bloggers for the price of 1...which means twice as many ideas!  Go follow Emily & Antoinette!
Let me know what "treat" you want ladies...check out my store, send me a message, and I will send it your way!

14 October 2012

Accountability for At-Home Reading

In my last post, I went over how I provide incentives for at-home practice in reading and math.  I mentioned my reading requirements, so I thought I should probably share those with you!

When I taught second grade, holding students accountable for required at-home reading was easy.  After meeting with each child daily in a guided reading group, I would send home the book we used as a "baggy" book.  A recording sheet would be kept in the child's baggy, and, after the child read the book with a parent or guardian, it would be recorded on the sheet and initialed by the adult.

When I moved to upper grades, things were different.  I don't always get meet with a child in a guided reading group daily.  Reading conferences are more common practice in my reading workshop.  So, instead of sending home a book for each child to read, my requirements became based on minutes reading. 

For the first couple of years, my accountability system was the honor system.  By signing their child's assignment book, parents were saying their child completed his or her nightly reading.  But when talking with the child, this became less and less true.  I needed a separate document...so I created a reading contract.

At the beginning of the year, I send home a document with this information...

Source: usd343.net via Jessica on Pinterest

Pretty powerful information...and quite eye opening for some parents!  Attached to that that document is our first reading contract of the year.  My school system is on a 9-weeks grading period, so here is the contract I use...

But I know some of you maybe on a 6-week grading period, so I created one for you too (you're welcome!)...
As you can see, there is a space for each week of the grading period. Students record the title of the book they read. (This lets me make sure they are doing "just right" reading!). Then they record the amount of time they read...knowing that 20 minutes is the minimum! Then they get a parent to initial. Then I check the contract on Friday mornings. (With 28 students in my class I could fathom trying to check these off each morning...it would take forever!)
Now has this solved all the problems...of course not!  But if students don't get their contract signed, they receive the same penalty as not completing math or science or social studies homework.  I also know the parent may not really know if their child has read or not.  I have had a parent that went ahead and initialed every night of the grading period on the first night her son brought his reading contract home (Hello!?! Did she think I wouldn't notice!)  Some children can't seem to pin their parents down to sign it because they work late or go to night school, and I work with these students.  But this also shows my parents and students that I am serious about reading at-home.

This is what works for me, but I know there are other ways.  How you hold your students accountable for their at-home reading?

09 October 2012

Making Homework More Appealling

So, I think I may have told you that I use these Caught You Being Good coins (if not, now you know...) for positive reinforcement in my classroom.
Do you like these coins? 
Click on the picture to go to Oriental Trading Company to get some for yourself!

My students can earn these in many ways...good behavior... classroom jobs...and for completing some voluntary extra at-home study! 

One way my students can earn extra coins is through completing math fact practice at home through the Math Stars program.
Students can earn one coin for twenty minutes of math fact practice (flashcards, math app on an iPad/Phone/Pod, online practice, or timed-tests packet) on Monday through Thursday and two coins for practice on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

Another way to earn extra coins is through Read to Succeed.
I require my students to read 20 minutes as part of homework on Monday through Thursday.  But, I will reward students who read beyond that time.  Like Math Stars, students can earn one coin for an additional 20 minutes on Monday through Thursday.  They can also earn two coins for reading at least 20 minutes on Friday, Saturday, or Sunday.

My students rack up the coins with these two programs.  But so can you!  Surprise! 

Below you will find copies of these bookmarks in color and black and white. 

You can use my rules or set up your own...but having a reward of some sort will cause more students to want to participate!

What incentives do you provide your students?  I would love to hear about them!

06 October 2012

Multiplication Madness

Math happens to be one of my favorite subjects to teach...mostly because I have learned so many fun new ways to teach and practice math that wasn't part of my own math education.  And since I just used this resource in my classroom, I thought I would share it with you.
We have just finished up multi-digit multiplication.  Due to implementing the Common Core this year, this topic was moved from a midyear topic to the beginning of the year in my school system's instructional calendar.  Eeek!  It is difficult enough at this time of year to get 4th graders to remember to put their names on their papers let alone the steps and procedures in long-multiplication!  So this means lots of practice, practice, practice but I'm not one to tell my students to pull out the practice book or copy a packet of worksheets.  I think it is more fun to play some games instead!
So while I work with small groups of students...guiding some practice or enriching others...the rest will complete practice in other ways...on iPods or task cards or games.  Multiplication Three-in-a-Row is one of the games my students played this week.
Multiplication Three-in-a-Row is similar to tic-tac-toe, but there are no x's or o's.  Played with two to three players, one player will choose one number from box A and another number from box B.  They will then multiply these numbers.  The opponent will check the player's multiplication on a calculator.  If the player is correct, he or she can place a marker on the board.  If incorrect, then no marker can be placed.  Then it is the opponent's turn.
Now is when the math thinking and strategy gets a little more interesting!  The "brighter" math thinker will use some estimation to help them find the products that will make three-in-a-row.  Those that do not figure out that strategy right away will randomly pick numbers from the boxes hoping to make the product they need.  Either way, they are getting the multiplication practice they need!
You can get your own copy of Multiplication Three-in-a Row for free!  Click on the icon of your favorite teacher resource website below to download two game boards: one gameboard multiplying a 1-digit by a multi-digit number and another game board multiplying a multi-digit number by a multi-digit number.

Enjoy and happy multiplying!

03 October 2012

Currently...It's October!

Oh my goodness!  No way it is already October!  This means it is time to link up to
for another month of Currently!  So here goes mine...
I am SO loving my class this year!  I am loaded with gifted students this year...13 out of 28!  They are sweet as can be...and VERY eager to learn!  So eager in fact, I am a bit behind on my school system's instruction calendar...but how can you deny students' desire to gain a deeper understanding!  I am having difficulty doing so!  (Holy exclamation points Batman...can you tell me class excites me???)
I would prove to you my need for a magic desk fairy...but the magic desk fairy is so necessary that I am embarrassed and choose to be in denial instead.  Just imagine the Alps...substitute the snow for papers...and now you have a good idea of what I'm dealing with!  But with a furlough day coming up and not a lot of free time, the Alps will be quickly turning into the Himalayas in no time!
Right now in my classroom, I am reading aloud Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.  Unlike previous years, before starting Percy Jackson, we prepared by reading many greek myths before I started this read aloud.  I am loving this year how my students "get" all the references in the book.  Fabulous...you should hear the connections we are making!

01 October 2012

Let's get ORGANIZED!

Nothing drives me more crazy then to have a student open his or her bookbag and see it stuffed with papers...notes to parents, graded papers, flyers!  Argh!!!!  So much communication going down the tubes!

In order to combat this I have a organizing tool that I give my students the first day I meet them.  I call it a D.O.T. book.  D.O.T. Book stands for Daily Organizing Tool.  This is where everything my students could ever need (classroom management-wise) is located.  It is my pride and joy! (Please forgive the glares on the pictures...)

I've spent a oodles of time getting this baby perfect...this year I did a redesign and discovered the joy of  FREE(!!!!) Vistaprint flyers...boy did my wallet and printer thank me!

My D.O.T. Book has several different parts... first the homework pocket and overview....
Then a money pocket for any kind of money...ice cream money, lunch money, bookfair money, fieldtrip money (I think you get the idea!) that students may need to bring in...a special pocket for important notes home (like conduct sheet, notes, and other fliers)....you can also see the assignment/agenda book that my school buys for each student (very nice!)...
a parent communication section...
the classroom handbook...

and finally a homework helpers section...
 with a place to store our study cards for science and social studies vocabulary...
Getting these takes a lot of upfront cost on my part...but I look for the deals and find the absolute lowest cost to purchase all these supplies.  And what makes this worth it is my parents love it!  It really helps to get the kids organized for their fourth grade year, and some of them even duplicated it again for their child the next year too!
Do you want your own copy of the D.O.T. Book?  When I updated my D.O.T. Book, I made it fully editable for you too!  All you need to do is change the information as you need, print, and, voila, you have your own D.O.T. Book.
You can get your own copy at Teacher's Notebook right now!  I hope to have the updated version loaded at TeachersPayTeachers by the end of the week!  Enjoy!


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