October 24, 2012

Till We Meet Again

I've been struck by a vicious stomach bug. I will be back eventually. Happy fall everyone.

October 18, 2012

October Reads

I have been reading like a mad woman recently. It's one of the few things that I feel I can do comfortably as a nine month pregnant person. (At least before I fall asleep. I have the hardest time staying awake right now.) Recently this led to me finding all kinds of cool books. I've been meaning to share them with you, but then Rachel shared her awesome post of Halloween Books and I felt like I had missed the party. I felt it again when Amy shared her favorite Monster Books. Seriously, with so many talented bloggers out there how am I supposed to keep up?

But I decided as long as I shared DIFFERENT books with you, you'd still pat me on the back and visit my blog again. Right? No. Hmmm. Well. At least I shared them with you and you have more options to look for in the future. Make sure you check out the two talented ladies above as well.

My October Book Picks:

Ed Emberley's Drawing Book of Halloween: This book is perfect for encouraging fine motor practice, creativity, and engaging fast finishers. I recommend getting a coy of the book, copying out your favorite step by step sequence and placing it in a center with scrap paper, stationary, and books/paper for story writing. Have students illustrate their stories, add pictures to letters, or just work on developing their fine motor and sequence.

Andy Shane and the Pumpkin Trick: This book would be perfect for an October read aloud. It is a smal chapter book with fun characters. Andy needs to stop the pumpkin smashers from destroying Halloween. Have your student's write their own solution before you finish reading the book.

Dr. Pompo's Nose: You can't help but smile as you read this book. The pictures are amazing, the storyline is unique, and it lends itself perfectly to a writing activity. In the story one of the characters loses her nose. Other pumpkins who stumble upon it come up with all kinds of unique uses for it. Gather random items from around your home/classroom. Place them into a paper bag. Have each student reach in and come up with a new use for that item and write about it. Encourage them to be as creative as possible. Don't want to go around collecting 20+ items? (I don't blame you!) Have students work in small groups or write a story as a class. I think this would be a super cute class book if you took pictures of your students using whatever random object you decided to use in new ways.

Boo!: This book is adorable! It is perfect for young picture readers. The only word in the entire book is "Boo!" The pictures add so much more depth to the story. Students will feel confident as they read the pictures and words.
Working with older students who need to add more detail to their writing/illustrations? Read the book to them without showing them the pictures. It goes really fast. Then read it to them with the pictures. Explain how you can expand sentences to include more detail or add detail to illustrations in the text. Give each student a page to expand upon. Encourage them to use descriptive words, action verbs, and lots of details.

The Fat Cat Sat on the Mat: This book is perfect for beginning readers. It features a lot of words from the -at word family. Perfect for developing confidence and indulging in the Halloween spirit.

October 10, 2012

Common Core Vocabulary Part 2

I recently did a post about introducing common core vocabulary using books. You can read that post here. Today I would like to share some of the resources I found online about vocabulary instruction in the classroom.

Vocabulary journals
I know that for me personally, writing something down helps me to process new information.

Vocabulary graphic organizers
Great for visual learners, these sheets can be combined into a class book.

Teaching techniques for vocabulary
  • The Second Grade Super Kids introduces TPR. Total Physical Response is very helpful for kinesthetic and visual learners.
  • Mrs. Castro's uses shared writing to cement new vocabulary words.
  • Ms. M introduced the idea of creating themed vocabulary books for your class. You can use illustrations from books you are reading or have your students illustrate it.
  • Hello Literacy introduces Marzano's Six Steps to vocabulary 
  • Hello Literacy introduces making your own vocabulary posters using bighugelabs
  • Clutter-Free Classroom introduces new vocabulary using blanks and context clues

Reviewing vocabulary
  • Ashleigh's Education Journey has a game called "A Mile a Minute." It is a review game she makes for specific areas in the curriculum. Right now she has a a science and math set for free on her blog. 
  • 3rd Grade Gridiron has a customizable word search up for free on her TpT store.

Know any other great resources I should add to the list? Leave me a comment. 
Look for more Common Core Vocabulary blogging soon. :)

October 8, 2012

Common Core Vocabulary Part 1

As I studied the Common Core one theme that seemed to reoccur often was vocabulary. Students are expected to "build strong content knowledge" across a "wide range of subject matter." They are expected to learn both "general knowledge" and "discipline-specific expertise." (p. 7 ELACC) Students are also expected to "interpret words and phrases" and be able to "read and comprehend complex texts independently." (P. 10 ELACC)

What does that mean to me as a teacher? It means I need to spend more time teaching my students how to understand words by context and provide them with opportunities to expand their vocabularies. This week I discovered a new book that I think would be perfect for introducing this concept.

How many of you have heard of Big Words for Little People by Jamie Lee Curtis?

I actually love a lot of her books including: I'm Gonna Like Me: Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem and Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods That Make My Day. I love that her books introduce big words with kid friendly descriptions and fun illustrations.

My favorite part of Big Words for Little People is the introductory poem:
"I know some big words. I'll teach them to you. Although you are small, you can use big words too. Big words aren't scary. They're big fun to learn. I was taught once and now it's your turn."

Children can learn big words. We just need to give them the opportunity. Need more great ideas on books that teach vocabulary? Check out the following: Jane O'Connor's Fancy Nancy Series, the Geronimo Stilton Series, and Lemony Snicket's Series of Unfortunate Events. Do you have any favorite series that teach vocabulary?

I have also seen some amazing ideas about vocabulary instruction from other bloggers. I'm in the process of combining them into one lovely post. Stay tuned for updates. 

October 6, 2012

Common Core Concerns

The Common Core is new. In an effort to understand more about it I am reading anything and everything I can about the subject. Some reviews of the Common Core are positive. Some reviews are negative. Some talk about the similarities and some the differences. But each article/post I read helps me develop a better idea of what exactly the Common Core means to me.

Yesterday I read a post by Hello Literacy's Jennifer Jones. (A Reading Specialist in North Carolina) She recently gave two amazing power points about integrating the common core to teachers. These power points and a a free questioning resource are included in her post. If you too are still full of questions about the Common Core I highly recommend taking the time to pop over and reading her post.

As I read, I took notes on the things that seemed important to me. I'd like to take a moment over the next week or so and talk about my impressions. My first impression? The Common Core is rigorous. It expects more of our students and more from our teachers.  I love to see that it is moving towards making connections across curriculum and understanding why the things we learn are important.  But I am also confused at the gaps in some of the standards. I love to see more of an emphasis on understanding text and moving to higher level thinking. But I am not always sure how to align that into my teaching.

Please tell me I'm not the only one with questions. If I am, well you are just going to have to sit through several posts. I find that once I put my thoughts into words for another person I am able to see the holes in my thinking. So thank you for being my sounding board. I hope that you learn something too.

October 4, 2012

Currently and the Common Core

I love Fall! I wish that California understood the changes of the seasons. Unfortunately it is still warm here and the leaves are refusing to change colors. In Utah we would be sleeping with our windows open under nice thick blankets. Here in California we are camped in front of the AC or a fan. At least I don't have to deal with snow right?

On to my life currently. If you haven't heard of Farley's Monthly Currently Parties you are in for a treat. Each month she asks teachers around the world what is current in their lives. I love reading about my friends and sharing a little bit more about my little piece of the world.

My husband and I are sitting next to each other on our respective computers plugging away. He is programming and I am catching up on blogs, pinterest, facebook, and politics.

Today (or is it yesterday since it is after 12?) I finished two new projects. I am so proud of myself. I even aligned them to the common core. I'm still trying to learn more about implementing the common core. This post, by Hello Literacy and the power points it contains are my new homework. I plan on learning a bit more and hopefully creating two more things before the week is up.

I need to learn more about politics, but I'm not sure where to start. Anyone have some pointers?

I am making slow progress on my son's nursery. We bought his crib and I started washing 0-3 clothes and putting them in his dresser. I'm excited and a little overwhelmed. Apparently we have a million size 1 diapers and only one package of newborn. Do people just think my baby is going to be chunky? I can understand. I guess. I have kind of "popped" in the last week or so.

Is it ever not a good time to eat a piece of pie? I have had the munchies all day long. I think I might just have to cave and bake myself a pie tomorrow. (Though I might end up eating it all myself and my doctor will chastise me. I've already decided not to tell her about the ENTIRE carton of cookie dough ice cream that has disappeared in the last month.) Anyone volunteer to help me eat a pie? No? Maybe I will stick with the pile of fresh fruit I have been rationing. I love fresh apples, oranges, grapes, and bananas!

Picking just one book is hard. So look forward to my comprehensive list of favorite fall books in the near future. I can't wait!

Thank you for a fun linky Farley!

October 3, 2012

Movie Reviews

Soon there will be two movies in theaters about the power of teachers. I recently had the opportunity to see both of them and wanted to share my thoughts with you. 

I saw the first a couple of weeks ago, "Here Comes the Boom.


The synopsis listed on IMDb says, "A high school biology teacher looks to become a successful mixed-martial arts fighter in an effort to raise money to prevent extra-curricular activities from being axed at his cash-strapped school." I do not generally like Kevin James' movies, but I will have to make an exception here. I thought the movie was fun, inspiring, and worth telling others about. 

I loved that Mr. Voss (Kevin James) did not start off the movie as an idealistic teacher who ended up sacrificing everything he has. (Anyone remember Freedom Writers?As a teacher I love the message that one person can change a lot, but I hated the fact that she had to loose everything in order to do so. I think there can be a balance.) Mr. Voss starts the movie as a burnt out former teacher of the year. While his motives to finance the schools extra-curricular activities do not start out with the students in mind, that is what drives him in the end. He was inspired to change his teaching and inspire his students.

The second movie I saw was, "Won't Back Down." 


The synopsis, "Two determined mothers­, one a teacher, look to transform their children's failing inner city school. Facing a powerful and entrenched bureaucracy, they risk everything to make a difference in the education and future of their children." I liked and hated this movie all at the same time. While I think it is worth seeing, I was disappointed in how teachers and unions were represented.

The message of this movie is true. We can change education for the better! Every child deserves to learn and there are parts of our school system that are broken.  But I can't say for sure that destroying unions is going to fix that

I know that there are schools where teachers and students have lost hope. I know of teachers who lost their love of children and teaching, but continued onward in order to reach their retirement goals. I know of teachers who should have been fired, but weren't.  But I also know of countless teachers who are striving daily to help their students. (Hello, you just need to look at the teacher bloggers out there.) I know of good union leaders who want what is best for students and teachers. 

What do you think?

Have you seen either of these movies?

October 2, 2012

Do you like color?

My husband is convinced that I should quit teaching and go to graphic design school. I think teaching is a much better bet.  My older and younger sister? Man are they crafty. They would rock at graphic design. Which is probably why one studied art history and the other studied advertising and photography. Me? I'm convinced that I have very few artistic bones in my body.

But I do like to create things. And sometimes when you create things it is helpful to know what colors go well together. Growing up I assumed that if it was all one color it was ok. Imagine a girl with braces, glasses, and her nose in a book, wearing all different shades of blue. Yes that was me. My little sister always tried to catch me before I went out the door.

Anyways. Creating things means I need help with my colors. Enter is my brilliant friend's suggestion. Colour Lovers. Yes, it is spelled funny. Crazy Brits! But boy do I love it. And it is free. One of my favorite words.

You can go on, create your own colors, color palettes, or patterns. Sounds a little intense? Don't be scared. I managed to do it. And if it becomes too much you can just borrow someone else's palette, pattern, or color. There are tons and tons to look at and choose. 


Why I bring this up?

How many of you have ever used Wordle before? It is an awesome program where you type in a list of words or a full story and it automatically turns them into a beautiful word cloud. Like this:  

But to be honest, sometimes it is not nearly as cute. Which is where colour lovers comes in. You can make a custom palette and then use those colors in Wordle to make truly amazing posters.

You start with the regular create button and then the real magic happens. 
Click on color, scroll down past all the set palettes and hit edit custom palette.

A little window like this one should pop up:

Use the hex colors on colourlovers to change the colors to your new favorites. The hex colors are the ones to the left. 

Tada! You are set!