Monday, October 28, 2013

Don't Be A Hallo-weenie!!! Tips for Surviving the Halloween week and a Freebie! !

We all know that one teacher who HATES Halloween. Don't get me wrong - I don't love the jacked up kiddos that invade my classroom this week, but I LOVE Halloween. I learned a few years ago - if you can't beat them - join them! I theme things in my room around Halloween and put all that energy to good use!! This is my 5th year at my current school, and my seventh year teaching, and I have put together some survival skills for surviving the week of Halloween and the day(s) after!

1) The Candy Man..........The first two years, I thought I would never get through all the candy days that followed Halloween. I didn't want any candy in the classroom, but at the end of the day I would find candy wrappers all over the room! They were sneaking the candy at their desk during art, music and guidance!! My solution now? Let them eat candy! Say what, crazy lady?! Yes -- let them eat the candy. Two pieces. THAT'S IT! I tell them on Halloween right before we leave, "If you want to bring in some candy tomorrow to eat, you can bring two pieces to enjoy during lunch." No more wrappers, no more gorging of candy, and I usually get a snickers or two out of the deal :)

2) Costume Stories..... My cousin's brother's sister's friend and I were going down the road......If I listened to every child's Halloween story, I would be stuck at school until Thanksgiving!! My solution - November 1 letters! Students practice their friendly letter skills by writing a letter to someone in the room (we use one of our partner systems) explaining the great night they had. They get to tell ALL about their story, and you practice writing letters! I've also done journal entries - but letters are more fun, because you can exchange them!

3) Excess Energy - Two Words -- Lysol Wipes. It's cold and flu season y'all. Seriously. Too much energy? Set the timer.... I say the phrase, "You have __________ minutes to finish" about fifty million times a day. I set the timer. When the timer goes off -- we are DONE. If you didn't finish, you have to keep working while those who are finished cleans the room! This gives those fast finishers somewhere to put that energy. We clean keyboards, whiteboards, chairs, desks-- ANYTHING that we touch gets the wipe down. Students who need more time have it, and your early finishers aren't driving the other kids crazy.

4) I like to move it move it....... Let your kiddos MOVE! Move around the room. Seriously. Doing a two part assignment? Turn in one part at one table, pick up the other part at another table across the room. Let them move around, and get some of that energy out.

5) Halloween Themed Things - Want them to pay attention to your lesson that you're teaching when all they can think about is Trick-or-Treating? Make your lesson Halloween themed! I know that on Thursday my kiddos won't want to be even THINKING about our money unit - so I created this AWESOME worksheet packet that has all kinds of money word problems!

One LUCKY reader will win this worksheet pack for FREE!! To enter to win, leave a comment about your favorite Halloween thing to do with your kiddos!! (This is a sample page -- there are 4 pages of problems!)

You can also purchase the product on my TpT account here!

Hope everyone has a happy and safe Halloween!!! Our school is hosting Trunk-Or-Treat, and 3rd grade is performing for PTO -- wish us luck!! :)
Tuesday, October 22, 2013

This One's a Life Changer (for Reading Passages anyway!!!), A Freebie, and The Water Cycle.....

Hello Blog Land !! I have been SO bad about blogging lately that I'm beating myself up about it. Since the hubs and I have moved into our new house, it just seems like one thing after another that seem to tie up my evenings and weekends, but I just wanted to tell you all about some AMAZING things that I have been testing/trying/changing with my group, and I LOVE THEM! (My kiddos AND these ideas!)

First -- the UNRAVEL strategy. Please note -- I am NOT claiming this to be mine, and if you Google "Unravel strategy for reading" you get about 1.3 million hits! I am telling you how I have used this amazing strategy to improve my reading scores, and my science scores. Virginia is one of the LAST states to get on the CC band wagon - as in -- we haven't! HA! (Those of you who aren't fans of CC might be jealous - but it just makes it harder to find resources for some subject areas.) Our state test (SOL - Standards of Learning) in reading is VERY heavy on non-fiction passages - as are most reading tests. Our school uses the SFA (Success For All Foundation) reading program, so our students get fabulous exposure to fiction and nonfiction alike - but they don't have much practice with cold passages. Insert "UNRAVEL" ! This is a method/process developed to help students decode those cold passages.
The only problem is that SFA is a scripted program designed to last 90 minutes. I still have to teach a *small* Language Arts block - so WHEN do you practice UNRAVEL? During Science of course!!!!!! We use reading passages from Interactive Reading and Notetaking for our interactive notebook. These things are AHHHH-mazing. They come with a teacher guide, ready made questions, and a passage that breaks down each SOL into informative passages. I used to go over these passages with students as a whole group, and work toward having students be able to find important ideas on their own. Now - I pass out the Unravel task cards, and let the students get to work! This is what we do: Students underline the title and number the paragraphs on their own. Then, as a class, or partners, we read the questions (Supplied by IR&N). Students then circle the bold and italicised words, and read the passage. Right now, we are reading as partners, but in the future I will have students read individually.  E stands for Eliminate wrong answers - and since this isn't a multiple choice test, we just eliminate information that might not be important. The last step, is the most important. This is where students look back for the answers. I have them underline the answer they have found, and voila - they have underlined the most important ideas from the reading. Seriously -- my science scores have gone up tremendously compared to years past, as well as compared to their first test scores at the beginning of the year. So, for it is for FREE!!!!!!!!!! Just click HERE to be taken to the Google Doc that will have 4 cards per page - perfect size for students to have in their pencil pouch! 

Also - right now in science we are studying the Water Cycle! I LOVE making things for students to watch and learn, so we created a water cycle in a bag! 

First, each child gets their own zip lock bag. We put a piece of wet brown paper towel into the bottom to represent the soil from our earth. Then, using Sharpie markers, we drew a sun, clouds, and a water source. Some students chose to draw a pond with trees around it, while others drew a boat in the ocean. We taped the bags into the window, and waited for the magic to happen. The next day, students came in to observe their bags, and were SO excited to see the water had evaporated. Of course the water was trapped inside the bag, and they quickly came to the conclusion that the tiny droplets they were seeing were in fact condensation. Their favorite part was flicking the bags and watching the precipitation rain down. It was awesome!! We will be adding in our vocabulary words "evaporation, condensation, and precipitation" after we have observed the bags for a few days. 

Life has been wonderful, but super busy!!! I am so happy to have blogged again. I am reading all the blogs I follow as I do my cardio at the gym. If I could do the eliptical and type- I would be able to blog there too! How is your year going? Has the hustle and bustle slowed down? Or do you feel like it won't ever stop?! 

Thanks for following my blog, and enjoy the Freebie!!