Thursday, September 26, 2013

Friendship and Connections

We are nearing the end of the third week of school, and almost into a new month. Time is flying!

This week has been rough for me personally. My dog, Angie, passed away on Wednesday, just a few days shy of her 15th birthday. The day we brought her home when she was just 8 weeks old was one of the best days of my life, and it will be difficult to come back to my parent's home and not see her waiting for me in the foyer as I walk in the front door :(

Each year, my students hear about Angie. I always have her picture up by my desk, and am constantly telling them stories about her.


Even though I didn't tell my students about Angie, I wanted to honor her in some way in my classroom (even if I was the only one aware of this)....keep reading to see what I did :)

 The past couple of weeks, I have been teaching my students about making connections to our reading. 

We began with making text-to-self connections. I modeled the "stop and jot" strategy as I read My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco. The students got the hang of it pretty quickly, and were jotting down connections in their reading notebooks that they had to Trisha and the relationship she has with her brother. The next day, I modeled using a venn diagram to make text-to-self connections while reading Ira Sleeps Over by Bernard Waber. On one circle, I wrote Ira's name. On the other circle, I wrote my name. In the guessed it! What Ira and I have in common! 

My students practiced using the venn diagram in partners. I gave each partnership a picture book to read together. They did an excellent job recording what was different about the main characters from themselves, as well as the things that were similar. I was so impressed!

As many of you know, I have been reading The Fabled Fourth Graders of Aesop Elementary School as our read-aloud book. The story follows a class of children and their teacher, Mr. Jupiter. Each chapter is a take on an Aesop's fable. To practice making text-to-text connections, I decided to re-read the chapter "Dance, Stanford, Dance!" which is based on the moral from the fable "The Ant and the Grasshopper": It is wise to prepare today for the wants of tomorrow. After re-reading the chapter from Fabled Fourth Graders out loud, I gave partners a copy of "The Ant and the Grasshopper" and a text-to-text connection worksheet.

We came together as a class to share some of our connections: 

Finally, it came time to make some text-to-world connections. This is where my "Angie Tribute" came in. I decided to do a read-aloud of The Two Bobbies, a true (and incredibly emotional) story of a dog and cat who, through their unique friendship, survived Hurricane Katrina after their owners evacuated New Orleans. Angie was such a good friend to people and other animals, I knew she would love this story!

 I decided that before I read the story I would ask the kids about hurricanes:

Not surprisingly, they had a lot of information to share! With so many hurricanes threatening the northeast in recent years, many of my students have prepared for one and/or watched newscasts with their families. After we brainstormed, I read the story. Throughout the story, my students would notice that the author was describing many of the things about hurricanes that they had added to the chart, like flooding, boarding up windows, and community helpers coming to the rescue for people (and animals!)

On that theme, I plan on ending the week (and our unit on making connections) with Uncle Willie and the Soup Kitchen. I want to reinforce to my students how important it is to make connections, whether that means to their reading, in helping other people, or to our very special, animal friends.

RIP Angie. I love and miss you. 

Thursday, September 12, 2013

First Week Fun!

I can't believe this first week of school is already over!

I had a blast (and a good sweat) putting together my room!

Here are some "after" shots of my classroom:

I laminated sentence strips with our schedule and added magnet tape to put on our whiteboard for easy schedule changing each day!  Always a good idea to keep those kiddos in the loop...

Of course, it wasn't totally complete until my students came on Monday  :)

This first week was all about community building and getting to know my new group of students. We started the morning decorating name tags, and then did a version this activity from Pinterest. It was nice to get a sense of how the kids feel about coming to school and how they see themselves as learners (and also get them moving around the classroom). We did a few activities that required the students to move around, like this genre survey:

I wrote the genres individually on pieces of paper and put them around the room. I then gave kids a sheet of stickers. Any book genres that they read over the summer would get a sticker.

After everyone was finished putting on their stickers, the kids broke up into groups of 3-4 to count the number of stickers for a specific genre and color in the number on the bar graph (a sneaky way to assess how much the students remembered about bar graphs!)

Speaking of reading, this is the best read aloud to start the year with! My head teacher read it to the class during my first year as an associate teacher, and I totally fell in love with it. It's funny, clever and has many wonderful lessons. So far, my students have been laughing out loud and cannot wait for read aloud so we can hear more about this crazy group of kids from Aesop Elementary! 

After decorating our heart maps, we reviewed the writing process. The kids did a great job remembering the steps that we added to this super-cute pencil:

 Of course, this post would not be complete without some tips for organization!

I originally intended to use a dish-drying rack to organize my papers/handouts for each day of the week...until I opened up all of my ordering and remembered that I ordered this handy-dandy hanging pocket chart:

 The first five pockets are for Monday-Friday. The bottom two are for items that need to be filed and copies that need to be made. Of course, I realized I have a totally new use for the dish-drying rack I bought! I plan on keeping file folders filled with materials for the writing process (peer/teacher conference sheets, revising strips, spelling "try-it" sheets, etc.)

 Also, there is nothing I hate more than clutter (especially when it comes to student work!) I decided that the only way to avoid things piling up and getting lumped together is to separate each subject into three different bins: homework, finished work, and unfinished work:

 Blue for reading. Red for math. Yellow for writing/word study. Green for Social Studies. Conveniently, the folder that the kids will have for each subject matches the color of the bin!

So far, the kids are really upbeat about being at school. They even complained that they only had reading for homework! I'm sure that won't last long...but a teacher can dream :)

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