Friday, October 28, 2011

Flat Stanley (An Oldie But a Goodie)

Last week, we read this:
Flat Stanley has been a part of my classroom for many years.  For those that are unfamiliar with him, Stanley was a boy who was flattened by a bulletin board one day.  He adjusts quickly to his new flat lifestyle.  At one point, his family mailed him across the country because it was cheaper than a plane ticket.  By the end of the story, his brother helps him get back to normal.

After listening to the story, the children had a chance to decorate their own Stanley.

Click on the picture for a template.

The students then get to mail Stanley to friends and/or family members asking them to send us a picture or write a note letting us know how he is doing.  It is such a simple project to get started and yet you reap the benefits from the project all year.

As I was looking for a picture to post on my blog, I came across a ton of images of Stanley's adventures, including meeting some very important people.  It is funny how Stanley has become a part of so many lives.

One of my favorite Stanley stories was from when he had a run in with the law.  A relative was taking pictures of Stanley at a national park.  They propped him up on a monument for a photo op.  Turns out the park police were not too happy about that and told him to remove it immediately.  My class got such a kick out of the fact that Stanley almost got "arrested." 

I can't wait to see what adventures Stanley goes on this year.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Poetry During Shared Reading

I try to work on a poem a week with my students.  Each student has a "Fluency Binder" that they keep in their desk.   As we work on poems or short passages throughout the year, they add them to this binder. 

We work on poetry and fluency during our Shared Reading block.  After reading the poem in various ways, I then use it to help review various concepts.

This week's poem is Bats by Jack Prelutsky.

With this poem, I was able to discuss new vocabulary.  We shared strategies for reading the more difficult words.  We also reviewed rhyming words, nouns, verbs, and adjectives. 
As I have the children hunt for concepts, I have a volunteer come up and use Wiki Sticks to identify the word(s) they found.

The children really enjoy this activity and by the end of the year their binder is full of great poetry that they can read and understand.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Favorite Read Alouds

I'm joining Swimming Into Second for her:


You had me at Read Alouds.
If you look on my sidebar, I have a virtual bookshelf full of my favorites.
Here is a list of my top ones.
Favorite Chapter Books:
This is a fantastic read aloud for the beginning of the year.  It lays a great foundation for what good story tellers need.  What is also nice is that each chapter lends itself into a writing lesson for the day.  The kids LOVE hearing Gooney Bird's stories.

This is another fun story.  I especially love Chester the skiddish cat. 
We finished this just in time for Halloween. :)

This is my all time favorite read aloud.  I have read this one every year since I first started teaching.  It is such a great story and so much fun to read out loud to the children.

This is a newer favorite of mine.  There are some parts that need a little explanation, which is why I wait to read this later in the year.  However, the story and underlying message are just too good to pass up on.

Favorite Picture Books:

Dogzilla, Kat Kong, and Dog Breath all by Dav Pilkey (Just all around fun read alouds)

Wonderful for giving struggling readers encouragement.

Great for introducing letter writing.

I hope you join in and share some of your favorites as well!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Helping Students with Writing

Every classroom has struggling writers and I know you all have some great ideas on how you help those writers. 

Here is what I did recently with one of my students during our Monster Stories. Click HERE to read about our Monster Stories.

I have a few students this year that have difficulty forming letters correctly and legibly.  Writing in general is extremely frustrating.  However, I know these children are VERY creative and I don't want their frustrations to hinder what they have to say.

I had the class use a graphic organizer to map out their ideas.  Seeing one student still struggling with even getting their ideas down, I pulled this student aside and had them verbally tell me the story as I transcribed it on the computer.  They then helped me reread and edit it as well.

I wanted everyone to try writing the stories on their own so I told the student if they became too frustrated then we could use the typed version.  BUT, they had to try writing it first.

I gave the student raised line paper to help them stay within the lines the best they could.  I also gave them a view finder (From Really Good Stuff) to help keep their place when writing.  Sometimes I notice this student skips lines and doesn't realize it.

The student ended up writing the whole story with barely any frustration and it was pretty legible.  Yay!  When given the choice, they chose the typed version, but I was still so proud that they worked through that obstacle and completed the assignment.

Now it is your turn, link and let me know what ideas you use!  Don't forget to link back here and give me some love.

This post is also being featured on:

TBA's Ultimate Linky Party

If you don't have a blog, feel free to comment below if you would like to share an idea!

Monster Writing

With Halloween coming up, I took advantage of the topic to help the children work on using adjectives, mystery, and suspense in their writing by creating Monster Stories.

Day 1:  I had them create their monsters using these:

I wish I had the source for you, but from what I made out at the bottom, it is from 1985! LOL...

After they created their monsters, we went on to brainstorm a spooky/scary monster adjective poster. 

Day 2:  The kids were really pumped up after the first day.  Our prewriting activity was to lay out their story using a very simple monster organizer. 

Sorry I wasn't more creative on this one.  Feel free to click the picture for a copy.

After modeling how to introduce the character and set up the beginning and middle of a the story, while creating my own story, I set them free.  It had never been so quiet while writing! :)

Day 3:  I modeled how to end the story as well as reread the story and make changes if need be.  They were then set free again.  A few kids were ready for editing.  Some even finished and we put all of the pieces together.

Day 4+:  Many are still working on their stories.  For my early finishers, they are buddy editing or creating a new story.

I always love seeing what types of stories the children create each year.  Once we get closer to Halloween we will share our stories with the class.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Centers Ideas

I have tried so many different types of center formations through the years.  It wasn't until one year when a colleague shared her way of doing them that I finally found something that worked perfectly for me.

I am not going to go into the actual center formation in this post because it can be kind of hard to explain.  It is actually easier to understand if you see it in action.  I will say that once the kids spend one day going through them, they get the hang of it quickly.

We have centers Tuesdays-Fridays.  On any given day, half of the class is at a center, while the other half meets with me in 2 reading groups.  There are two children in a center at one time, which minimizes the chatter throughout the room.

We have eight centers which take about two weeks to cycle through.  Four centers are Word Study/Spelling activities and the other four are Literacy centers.

Here are my first set of centers for the year:

Word Study:
A) Spelling Stamps (stamp spelling words: consonants blue/vowels red)
B) Read the Room (hunting around the room an recording words that fit the given pattern)
C) Rainbow Spelling
D) Spell City (Computer Center)

1) Friendly Letter (on pumpkin stationary)
2) Pumpkin Poem (piece together the poem puzzle and then create a new version filling in different adjectives)
3) Listening Center w/response sheet
4) October Acrostic Poem

Sometimes I set up recurring centers, so you may see some of these repeated.  The children have been enjoying these centers so far and I have even better ones in store!

If you have time, I would love to hear some of your favorite center ideas.  I am always looking for new ones to add!

Monday, October 10, 2011

Twitter in the Classroom

A friend of mine had mentioned the great idea of using Twitter in the classroom.  I loved the idea, but having never used it before(I know, how could I be missing out on Twitter), I had to check it out over the summer before deciding if it would work in the classroom.

I found out there is a way to make your account secure and have control over who can be a follower.  Once I realized I could make this a safe venue for the kids, I was in.

I discussed the concept with the parents at Back to School Night and just introduced it to my second graders this past week.  Of course many did not know what it was, but as I explained that we could "report" to their parents daily on what happens in our class, they loved the idea.  They especially love that their name is posted next to their tweet.

My friend had already become a follower of my class.  As we "tweeted" one morning, she was doing the same with her class.  It was great to have the kids help me come up with tweets for her class while they tweeted back to us. 

There was one point where a child came up with a really long message.  I didn't realize there was a character limit.  Well, we found that out together.  It was great to see the kids problem solve how to shorten the message while still keeping the main idea intact.

This is all teacher led right now as we review sentence structure and proper punctuation.  My goal is to eventuatlly have the children tweet on their own.

Enter to Win

I just had to share this great opportunity!

Click on the picture below and enter for a chance to win a $45,000 tech makeover for your school!

Good luck!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Classroom Freebies

I just found out about a great collaborative website called:

Classroom freebies
The site consists of tons of great freebies all in one place!  I hope you find something that you like over there.


Gasp! A non-educational post????

Yup that's right.  My husband and I actually took a 1 day vacation from school work, our kids and pets!

This was a VERY belated Chranniversary gift from April that had to be rescheduled due to rain.  My husband has a small affinity for Nascar.  Being from NY myself, I do NOT.  However, when I saw this Groupon about getting to do 8 laps in a Nascar, I had to get it for him!

So the grandparents took the kids and dog and off we went to Richmond.  We couldn't have asked for a better day. 
Jeff was one of the first ones in a car.

There he is zooming around the track. 
Although I am not a Nascar person, I have to say the sound of the cars racing around the track was pretty cool.
We finished off the day with dinner and a movie, something that we never get to do. :)

Today it is back to reality, which involves 2 kids, a dog, a lizard, unpacking, loads of laundry, cleaning, whining, and school work for all.
It's good to be home! ;)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011


Oh Boy 4th Grade is having a linky party.  Here is my October Currently:

Making Words

One of my favorite activities in class is Making Words.  I wish I had more time to fit this into my schedule but as of right now, I can only dedicate Mondays to the full version of this.  I love having it on Monday because it is a great way to transition the kids back from the weekend.

When the children come in on Monday they see this:

After they write in their homework agenda, they collect the letters needed from here:

They then take out their Making Words journal and get to work.  The children need to make as many words as they can using the letters given.

There is a "Word of the Day" which is usually a second grade frequency word (indicated by the star on my board).  There is also a "Mystery Word."  This is the word that can be made using all of the letters.

The kids love Word Work.  This year's group has been coming up with some fantastic words.

After some independent time, we come back together and share words that we have created.

Later in the year, I add in word ladders and making sentences to the routine. 

Today I am linking up with Rockin' Teacher Materials, so head on over for some other great Word Work ideas!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Mimio and a Great Website

The newer schools in our county have been blessed with Smartboards in the classroom.  We do have a few in our school, but not enough for every classroom and the budget doesn't allow for us to get a ton more.

We have an awesome tech person at our school who has been searching for cheaper alternatives that work in just the same fashion.  Last year, she showed us one that uses a stylis pen to operate the board rather than your finger, much like the Promethean Boards, which I also love.  It was the perfect solution!

It is called a Mimio.
The longer piece is placed next to your working surface.  Once hooked into your computer, it turns that surface into an interactive board!

I just had to be one of the first ones to use it in the classroom.  I have had it in my room for a year now and love it!  It barely takes up space and I can use the surface as a whiteboard when I am not working on the Mimio.

Here are a few of my students trying it out this week.  We were doing a lesson on 3 digit place value.

They click on the dice to roll them.

They then write and state the number they created.

Simple but VERY effective.
In this particular lesson, there were a few other activites on 3 digit place value that the children had a chance to try as well.  I love getting the kids on here!

I can't take credit for creating this though.  There are a TON of great smartboard, powerpoint, and other creative lessons on a website called:  Rockingham County Public School Resources  
You can pretty much find any grade and subject on there.  I found this one on the second grade math resources HERE.

This is a county in Virginia so concepts are categorized by SOLS(Standards Of Learning).  However, I don't think you will have a problem finding what you need.

Hope you find some great ideas there!

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Around the Classroom

Read to Self has officially been implemented in our classroom and the children are loving it!
Here is a poster I made from the freebie I posted here:

This is the I Chart we made:

Not a huge fan of the title.  I may have to make that fancier. ;)

And finally, we did the schema lesson last week that I had discussed HERE
The kids did a great on the assignment. 

A copy of this freebie is at that link.