Friday, February 21, 2014

Must-Read Monday Linky: The Stranger

I'm all about a good read aloud. I'll admit that I don't get to read aloud to my third graders as much as I'd like to. However, when I get the time, nothing beats all my students being invested and engaged in the same book at the same time. Sometimes I will choose a read aloud book that I think is great and it will fall flat, or only some students will find it interesting. But sometimes, I'll come across a gem, a book that my entire class LOVES.

The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg was this book for us recently. I used this book to help teach questioning. As a class we brainstormed questions before, during, and after reading. We also stopped throughout the book to answer the questions that the students created. They were really into listening to find the answers to the questions they created. They also liked the mystery in the book. Who was this stranger? Where did he come from? I had to explain the ending to most of them, about how the stranger was a Jack Frost/Father Nature type character. Once they figured this out, they loved the book even more. All I heard was "Oooohhhh, that's why....". You can't beat a book that students are still talking about at the end of the day and asking to reread weeks later.


Hop on over to Teaching Maddeness to read about more great books or link up with your own.

Must-Read Monday Linky 

Thursday, February 20, 2014

Tips for Interactive Notebooking

I have always loved interactive notebooks (INB). It makes sense I guess, I was a scrapbooker long before I started teaching. INBs are basically a combination of two of the things I love, scrapbooking and learning. I started using INBs my first year in the classroom and I have used them every year since. I really don't think I could teach without them, we are in our notebooks daily. My notebooking creations and skills have definitely evolved over the years. I'm actually kind of embarrassed when I look at pictures of INBs from my first year. But hey, you have to start somewhere and student learning was still enhanced by our notebooks.

Like I mentioned above, we are in at least one of our notebooks everyday in my room. Since we use them so frequently, I have learned a lot about what will work best with my teaching style, schedule, and group of students. Below are some tips that have made my life easier and enhanced the learning taking place in my room.

This activity in our reading notebooks took two days. The first day students added the heading and sorted the yellow pieces by category. The second day, students matched the orange abbreviations with what they had already sorted.

1. Make sure it's interactive

Sometimes we (Pinterest-y, bloggy teachers) can get so carried away with things being cute that we end up doing all the work for the kiddos. Having students simply cut and glue something into a notebook is fine and great for future reference, but it doesn't make an interactive notebook. Students need an opportunity to become engaged and actually get hands on experience with a skill. Whether its sorting into categories before gluing, adding to glued in notes, filling in a foldable/organizer, etc. the kids need to be doing the work.

It is also a good idea to give students time and opportunity to personalize their notebook by coloring or drawing pictures. Sometimes I have to restrain myself from using all the super cute colored clip art available because I don't just want the finished product to just look pretty, I want it to be a reflection of my student. Interactive notebooks are truly like scrapbooks to record learning and personalization is necessary for student buy-in.

2. Plan with your students in mind

Like many of you, I enjoy looking at all the pretty pictures of INBs on the web. I try not to let a great looking notebook picture tempt me into doing something that isn't going to work for me. Here are some questions I have to consider when creating or adapting an INB lesson for my specific class:

-Can the lesson be completed in one sitting? If not, how can I split it up? Like many of you, I really have to stick to my schedule because I don't have much extra time in my day. I have learned how much time it takes my kids to cut out pieces, glue, color, and respond, so I can plan accordingly. I usually do INB activities after the skill/topic has already been introduced and use it as a check-up to see what the students understood. I typically do a quick lesson or review tying in the activity before we get started. This is one of the reasons that I really have to consider the amount of time an activity will take.

-Is it too confusing? Foldables with too many pieces or directions can be difficult for my third graders. I have found that when the activity is too confusing, the focus shifts from the content to assembly.

-What is required of my students? My students are able to cut out pieces, sort, glue down, etc. however, I try not to give them too many pieces to work with at once. I have seen some great INB pages that have 6-8 flaps on one page, all glued in individually. This would not work for my students. It would require not only cutting and gluing multiple pieces at once, but also organizing them all to fit on one page. I learned the hard way that some of my kiddos are not the best at neatly organizing pieces to fit on a page. Something like this might work wonderfully for older children.

3. Prepare

Do as much as you can before hand. Assembling a notebook activity can take quite a while for some students. I usually try to cram a notebook activity into a 15 minute mini-lesson and to make this work, I have to come prepared. I will typically cut any notebook pieces on the big butcher paper cutter beforehand to minimize the amount of cutting my students need to do. I also choose/design foldables that don't have too many pieces.

4. Chunk the lesson
Giving to many tasks to students at once can cause confusion and disengagement, the exact opposite intent of an interactive notebook. I usually start my lesson by showing the students the finished product in my notebook so they can see where we're going. Other times, I use my document camera to model each step before students try it. As I mentioned above, I cut the activities as much as I can beforehand on the paper cutter machine. I hand out the activity one piece at a time so students can glue, cut, color, etc. before moving on. (Ex. I pass out the foldable and once everyone has that glued in, I pass out the sorting cards to cut.) I've found that too many pieces all at once cause frustration and messy, incorrect work.

I chunked this lesson by first having the students copy some notes (I usually try to keep them simple, 4 steps or less). Then, I passed out the Pac-Man looking equality signs and had them glue them in. Next, I passed out the equality labels and had them match them up with the signs. Last, I had students place numbers in the hundreds place on either side to make the equality true.

Food for thought:

-Learning is the most important outcome. Keep the goal of the lesson in mind. If my students are completing a noun sort foldable, then I am assessing to see if they know nouns, not if they can cut and glue. I will usually walk around my room and help slower-paced students cut out pieces or glue pieces so they can focus on the sort or whatever the intended focus is.

-Save the planet! I sometimes have a flare for the dramatic, but it is important to think about copying before creating or using a product. I will often times reduce an activity when copying so that I can fit more than one on a page. When I create INB activities, I also keep this is mind.  I either put two of the same activity on one page or as many elements as possible so I can copy one page per student. This also helps with mass cutting and passing out.

-Have students initial the pieces. I love a good ol'  notebook pocket as much as the next gal, just make sure students initial every piece because at some point with an active INB, they will end up on the floor. This also goes for storing work that is unfinished. Gluing an envelope or Baggie in the front cover of notebooks will help students not lose loose pieces before an activity is complete.

-Keep a notebook with your students. I keep INBs along with my students for three reasons:
1. Reference for the following school year
2. Keeping track of the order of activities and as a guide for absent students
3. To model how it should look.
As I mentioned above, I like to show the students the end result or build the activity with them so that they are able to complete the assignment easier. I don't color or fill in the answers because I don't want kids to copy me exactly, I just want to make sure assembly isn't an obstacle.

-Use address labels for rubrics.
I rarely take a grade for any notebook activities, but if I do I use address labels. I print simple rubrics on labels, stick them in student notebooks and circle their score.

-Use a table of contents to keep track of skills and strategies taught. The first year I used an INB, my students and I did a horrible job at recording items on our table of contents and labeling the corresponding pages. I'll even admit that this year I don't have a table of contents in any of my INBs. I have found that I don't need them, I just stress to always use the next blank page and students can find what they need relatively quickly. However, next year I plan to start using a table of contents again.

-Help students keep track of where they are in their notebook. Using some sort of a bookmark will really help to save time when you're ready to start a new INB lesson. I glued ribbons to the inside of the back cover. The students flip the ribbon over into their notebook to save their place. You could also use paper clips, rubber bands, or just good ol' bookmarks.

-If you are new to INB, start slow. INB are such a great learning tool that it's tempting to want to take off running with a notebook for every subject. My advice would be to start off with an INB for only a couple subjects and really commit to using them multiple times a week. It can quickly become overwhelming to try to create/plan/keep up with multiple notebooks when you are new to the tool. I have always had content notebooks, but my focus this year was reading and math. I have definitely seen an improvement with student retention of the standards and I next year I will have 3 INBs :reading, math, content (one side will be for social studies and the other will be for science).

The more you use interactive notebooks in your classroom, the more you will come to know how to best accommodate your students. I look forward to your comments and reading any tips that make INBs work in your room.

Stay tuned for more of my interactive notebook pictures!

Image Map

Sunday, February 16, 2014

Classroom Libraries - Freebie Alert!

Yes, it has it's own board on my Pinterest account. I used to be embarrassed by how fascinated and excited I was about classroom libraries. I paroused thrift stores, hit up retiring teachers, and planned my weekends around library book sales for months leading up to my first year in the classroom. By the time I actually got my own room, I didn't even have enough space for all the books I had collected.

Thankfully, Pinterest came along when it did and showed me that I wasn't the only person in the world obsessed with classroom libraries. Of course, that meant hours of my life were spent pouring over pictures, pinning everything from book bin labels to decor. I'm all about helping out other teachers and hopefully I can save someone out there time by putting a lot of ideas about this topic in one place (and also by offering a freebie at the end of this post). I guess there is also the chance that someone will stumble upon this post randomly and then become enthralled with cultivating the perfect classroom library and in turn end up spending a gazillon hours on Pinterest. If that is you, sorry in advance! Below are some of the many ideas I have found over the years.

1.  Collection

The first, and maybe the most important, question to answer do you get books for your classroom? Teachers certainly can't afford to spend their entire paycheck buying a wide variety of texts (not with all the other classroom items we spend our paycheck on ;) ). Don't fret! There are many options out there. Like I mentioned above, I ended up with more than enough books on a substitue's salary and I didn't break the bank. In fact, I still have a couple bags of chapter books in my basement.

-Retiring Teachers: If you don't know any retiring teachers, you can always look on Craig's List or keep your eye on your local newspaper. A lot of retiring teachers are looking to sell their entire collection of books for cheap. I ended up with a lot of goodies from a librarian who retired at the school I was subbing at. She used to be a classroom teacher and passed down classroom library books, teaching resource books, name tags, posters, stickers, etc.

-Teachers at Your School: Many teachers probably aren't going to give you any of their new, shiny books, but that doesn't mean they don't have others they are willing to pass along. My first year, I had many teachers offer me books for my room because like me, they had more than enough (especially as they continue to replace older books with new purchases). My school also does a lottery at the beginning of the school year. Every August when we get back in our rooms and start to clear out the junk for a fresh start, we place all the items we no longer want in the front lobby. All week, teachers can stop by and place a post-it with their name on any item from class sets of books/magazines to teacher desks, easels, and pocket charts. On Friday, items are handed out to their new owners and the rest are donated.

-Student Donations: My first year I had a parent ask if I needed any books because her child, who was the youngest in the family, had already read or outgrown many books. I said yes and was floored when a box full of shiny, crease-free, new-book-smelling, age appropriate chapter books came my way. I ended up putting old books on the wishlist every week on my classroom newsletter. I made it clear that parents did not need to go out and buy books for the classroom, but if they had old books around the house, I would be willing to take them. I got a lot of good books this way, of course some were not so good or not usable, but it was worth it.

-Thrift Stores: Most thrift stores sell children's books, the hard part is finding the best price in your area. One thrift store near me sells books for $0.50 to $1.00 each. I was surprised when I first started looking, but then I found another thrift store 5 minutes away that sold 6 books for $2.00, and their selection was much wider. Do some shopping around and you might be surprised what you find. A lot of the time I would find gems that were in pristine condition and do a little dance in the aisle knowing that I was about to pay 33 cents for a book that would cost me $15.00 at the store. Thrift stores in my area are definitely cheaper than used book stores. You might want to check around to see if that is true for your area as well.

-Book Sales: Library book sales are a gift from God. Okay, I might be being just a bit dramatic right know, but this is really where I got the bulk of my books. The libraries in my county have weekend long book sales 3 or 4 times a year. There are good prices on Friday and Saturday, but if you wait until Sunday you will make out like a theif! Sundays are brown bag days. One dollar a bag for all of the books you can fit into a brown paper grocery bag. Let me tell you, I was a master at stacking and cramming those books in there. I would walk away with hundreds of books for $4.00. I used to go to these so often that I devised my own method. I would go on Fridays or Saturday morning while most of the books were still there to see what they had and where it was. I would buy anything that I really wanted and didn't think would still be around on Sunday. I would also take note of where the books I wanted were, so I wouldn't waste any time later. You also can't really dilly dally on Sunday morning. I would get to the library at least half an hour before they opened. I ain't lyin' when I say there was a looonnnggg line by the time the doors open and the library crowd is not polite when there are books involved. There was all sorts of pushing and shoving when the doors were opened, but I would speed walk to the paper bag table, grab at least two, and write my name on them with my Sharpie as I headed over to the children's book table. Then, I really just started grabbing and shoving until my bags were full. Man, those were the days, just writing this makes me want to look up sales in my area. Anyway, I suggest you Google library book sales in your area and at least go once to see what all the Hullabaloo is about. Here is a website to help you get started, Book Sale Finder.

2. Location

Where will your classroom library be located? I have seen some teachers place bookshelves along the back and side walls of the room. This really helps save space, but I have found that it doesn't create a library/book nook feel. I like to use a corner so I have two walls of space, but it is all in one spot. It is also a nice area for my students to read during Daily Five time. If you see the pictures from my 3 rooms below, you will notice that I always utilize my corners!

3. Organization

My first year, I set up my library by placing all chapter books on one side and all pictures books on the other side. I organized each section by series and then genre or theme. The past two years, I have been sorting my books by just series/genre/theme. I place all the chapter books for the category in a basket and all of the picture books for the same category on the shelf next to the chapter books, to the right of the basket. I like this set up a lot more. In actual libraries students search by interest and not by chapter or picture book, so I wanted to replicate that. As you look at my classroom libraries below, keep in mind that the rooms in my school aren't that big. I would love to have space like some of the rooms I see out there, but you have the make the best of what you have.

I love how neat and tidy The Plaid Apple is.
Love this rug!

 If you have the space, this reading nook is great!
Classroom library is on the "outside" and an area big enough for the whole class to fit in for a story is on the "inside". I love that.
 This library from the 2 sisters is ah-ma-zing. I'm pretty that's all we would do all day long.

Now THAT's a classroom library!
This library is simple and purposeful.
My classroom library. The only thing I would change are the colors so that they are more gender neutral.
4. Procedure

My students all have book boxes for Daily Five. I stress to my students that they must keep their books in the boxes and not in the desks since that can damage the books and cause them to get lost. I don't let my students choose books in the morning (they were socializing too much and not completing their morning work) or during Daily Five time (they spent the whole time shopping for books and not reading). My students are each assigned days of the week. On Monday, Monday friends (about 5 or 6 students) can switch out their books in the morning. They get 15 minutes to do this and must be in their seat working by 9:10. At the beginning of the year, I teach students how to choose books that will last them a week. At 9:10, the "Daily Friends" bring their book boxes to me to check. Each student has a booklet in their book box and I stick a label rubric in and circle how they did. The categories on the rubric label that I am checking their box for are organization, nonfiction books, fiction books, and their writing notebook (I require them to keep their writing notebook in their box for ease of transitioning during Daily Five). I also take this time to make sure students have chosen appropriate books for their level and enough books to get them through the week. Sometimes I ask students to put back some books if I think they have too many and will end up not being able to finish any within the week.

Two students every week are assigned the job of librarian in my classroom. It is their job to search the room for misplaced books and put them back where they belong. They also straighten up and organize my library every afternoon to keep it looking clean.

5. Tracking

I don't really keep track of who has what book. My primary concern is to get the books into the hands of the students and they usually have about 8-10 books in their book box at any given time. That is way too many for me to keep track of for every student. The system I mentioned above, checking book boxes for "Daily Friends", gives me a good idea of where things go and who is reading what. There is incredible software out there that allows you to scan your books online and set up accounts for your students to check them out using a smart phone or tablet, just like a real library. I think this is awesome! I would use it if I could, but I don't have any tablets in my room or the patience to scan all my books.

Other Ideas

This source uses paper clips to attach read aloud books to the wall of the library.
use 2 paperclips to clip book to wall
This source has a "book hospital" for torn or ripped books that need to be repaired.
Book Hospital
Themed libraries are always super cute, like this one from Proteacher.

If you made it this far, you definitely deserve a freebie. Below you can download my Genre posters. The posters make a nice addition to my classroom library. I post them one at a time after teaching each genre.

I hope I was able to give you some ideas or inspire you in some way. I know you all have tons of awesome ideas as well and I would love to learn from you. Leave me a comment to let me know how you do things in your room. See you soon!

Click Here to view my Class Library Pinterest Board

Image Map

Friday, February 14, 2014

Welcome to My Room

What better way to get reaccquainted, then a look at my second home. So...remember how I was saying that I have been MIA? Well, this is proof. I took these photos back in August, before the school year even began. I know they're super old now, and a lot in my classroom has changed since, but I still thought they would help show who I am. As teachers, our classrooms can be an extension of ourselves.

Don't worry, I promise I will take more photos once I get back in my room so you can see how things are holding up. However, this may take longer than normal since nature seems to have its own plan for winter. We have already missed so many school days here in Northern Virginia due to snow and other icky winter weather. The current snow storm that kept us out of school yesterday and today was severe enough for the Governor to declare a State of Emergency. That doesn't sound like something to be thankful for, but it does mean that there is a great possibly we won't have to extend our school year to make up for the missed days. YES!

That's my sweet husband and our dog Teddy outside yesterday trying the clear some snow. By the way, this turned out to only be the first batch and we got another lot later that evening. We are expecting some today too. Oh well, at least we are warm and toasty inside. I am so grateful that we have a warm home, food, and electricity. I can't help but think about and pray for the people who don't have these things, especially in such extreme weather. I hope you enjoy the pictures and let me know what you think!

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Thursday, February 13, 2014

Come One, Come All

Hello! My name is Adrienne and I teach third grade in Virginia. I used to have a very active blog titled "Wiggins World" which became very unactive as time went on. I am now a mom (which is amazing!), but I have probably only posted on my blog 2-3 times in the last year! Yes, I said year. I am constantly being inundated with teacher-style inspiration through blogs, Teachers Pay Teachers, and Pinterest. I have finally let all of this inspiration inspire me to get up and get back on "the scene". So, here I am.

I decided to start a brand new blog with a brand new...what's the word...vibe, flow, rhythm? I have grown so much while I was MIA and I want to start fresh. I plan to blog about my teaching ideas, share happenings from my classroom, inform on products I've bought and created, and just generally motivate all of my readers. I will occasionally re-post from my old blog (with a disclaimer), no need to throw out the baby with the bath water, right? My goal is to be a benefit to my profession while having a great time.

Thanks for stopping by! I hope to hear from you and see you again soon!