Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Slept, Read, Shopped, and Got Accepted

So...I have not blogged in almost 3 weeks.  I apologize for the absence.  I had been in a great routine in the month of April. I was eating great, exercising like 5 days a week, blogging, etc.  Then, I got sick and the routine got thrown off.  Yeah, then I just realized I was tired and had been running on empty.

In the month of May, I have slept and read a lot and just tried to push through to the end of the year.  The weekend before last I had a great time with my Big Sister from Big Brothers Big Sisters.  We celebrated our 17 year anniversary since we got matched.  She has been an amazing part of my life since I was 12. (It really is a fabulous organization that changes lives.) We had a lot of fun in Fredericksburg. We shopped at the trade days and visited some wineries. I bought a dresser for $85!  It looks great in my dining room with my farm table (that I love).

Memorial Day Weekend was very relaxing.  I got to go to the Taylor Swift concert. She is really amazing, but I felt like other than the moms of Tweens I was the oldest person there. I visited with the in-laws some and slept a lot. The house got cleaned, and I read about 4 books this weekend.  I kept thinking about blogging or grading, but then went back to reading.

I also spent a lot of time in May trying to get all of my application requirements in to apply for a PhD program in Educational Psychology. I saw this on Pinterest and thought it was hilarious.

I found out last Thursday that I have been admitted to a PhD program in Educational Psychology with an emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education at the University of North Texas. I start in the Fall for sure, but I hope to even take a class or two this summer. I will still be teaching and just working on my PhD part-time.  I am excited to see how my classes and research inspire my teaching and blog posts.  So stay tuned - I promise I really do blog regularly.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Mother's Day and Writing Motivation

Just for fun I realized today is my 200th post.  Have you ever had one of those days that would have been stressful if so much of it wasn't just funny?  That was my day...  It did end with happy hour though. 

I still need to have my students do something for Mother's Day.  One of my favorite lessons I have done for Mother's Day is from www.writingfix.com.  The lesson is to write poems modeled after the book I Love You the Purplest. You can read the lesson, download handouts, and also download student samples for the lesson here. Students write a poem about their moms using color to describe them and what they associate with that color.

Sabra had a cute suggestion to make word clouds for moms and then mount them on scrapbook paper.  We are definitely going to do this.  We will also make cards.  I am going to give them a large envelope to put their word cloud, poem, and card in.  They can decorate the envelope.

I have a freebie in my store to make Mother's Day coupons, awards, and cards. I usually have my students write their moms a thank you letter.

Today is also Workshop Wednesday.  The topic is how to motivate your students to write.  Here are a few things I have found to be pretty successful.

1) Allow students to type when possible -  Many of my students have been more successful typing than when they have to handwrite. (We do still handwrite though as well).

2) Give students choice  -  I love love RAFT (Role Audience Format Topic).  It is a fabulous way to get kids writing, use higher order thinking, and allow for structured choice.

3)  Model your thinking -  I have mentioned this before, but I have seen more growth from my students when I model my own writing than even just through using mentor texts.  Students like knowing that you write, too.  It helps to see how writing really works.

4) Choose random points of view - My students get so excited about writing from the point of view of small animals or random objects.  Why be a pilgrim on the Mayflower when you could be a rat on the Mayflower observing everything?  Why not describe light from the point of view of a shadow? Why not describe the setting of a book from an object located in the setting? 

5) Allow students to write with a partner - My students love writing together or swapping journals and finishing each other's stories.  I have a couple students who have decided to start a daily comic together (that actually gets made like a couple days every other week, but they enjoy it).

These are the things that come to mind most when I try to remember what motivates my students to write.  I am off now to see if I can find some scrapbook paper and envelopes for Mother's Day projects. 

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Biomes, Adaptations, and the Magic School Bus. Oh, my!

I realize I have not posted in a week.  I came down with a cold last Tuesday night, and since then it has taken all my energy to get through a work day and then go home and nap.  I also slept the entire weekend.  Apparently, this cold told me I needed rest.  I am ready to get back into my workout routine and even get back to blogging, etc.

I guess for this week, I am going to say my Tried It Tuesday is a thematic unit. We have been studying biomes in Science and English the last couple weeks, and so far it has been one of my favorite things we have done all year.  We have used lessons from Science, we have done a webquest, we have done projects, and we have done a lot of reading nonfiction.  I have been creating handouts to review all of the nonfiction Common Core Reading Standards while they read their book. We will do a major informational report next week after all of their research and reading for some more writing.  (Hopefully in the next couple days I will have a whole Biome research unit to post in my TpT store.  I am almost done with it.)  After this, we will spend the last couple weeks of school immersed in Westward Expansion.  I found it was too hard to do the Westward Expansion and Biome activities, so I decided to just focus on each for a couple weeks.

This is our last week of studying biomes. It really has been a fun unit.  I have loved watching my students practice their nonfiction reading skills, research skills, and the creativity they have shown.
For their final project on the unit, I gave them a menu of options. Their projects are due next Monday.  One of my students made a commercial for his biome (the temperate Deciduous forest) using iMovie.  You can click here to view the video. One of my goals this summer is to play with iMovie and Garage Band more to think of fun ways to use them next year.

Yesterday, we were talking about adaptations.  They spent some time reading their nonfiction biome books and looking for at least 5 plants with descriptions of the plant and the adaptations.  They had to make a 2 column chart.  You can see a picture of mine below. I usually try and do some of the same assignments they are doing.  I am reading about Grasslands and Prairies.

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Then, we watched the Magic School Bus episode "All Dried Up."  The episode talks about adaptations and conditions in the desert.  In the episode, Arnold who is usually terrified of field trips is prepared for once.  He has created a field trip survival guide and survival kit.  I thought this was an awesome idea and felt totally inspired. Here is a copy of the episode:

My students are still reading and taking notes in their books about adaptations.  Tomorrow they are reading about animal adaptations. They will be creating their own field trip survival guides for their biome (just like Arnold did in the Magic School Bus episode).  I made a little booklet for them to fill out.  You can get a copy here.
Arnold made one for the desert, but each student will make their own guide for the biome they have been studying.

Today the students had to make a habitat for a polar bear that lives in a zoo in Arizona.  They had to create a model of their habitat and write a paragraph about it.  They had the option of drawing it, designing it on the computer, or trying to make it 3D.  Most of them opted to make it out of paper. This is one of my favorite student made polar bear habitats:

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Make sure you check out Holly's 500 Follower Giveaway.  There are so many prizes, I got tired reading them all!  I am contributing $15 to my TpT store.

Like everybody else, my TpT store is on sale for 20% off today and tomorrow.  If you enter the code, TAD13, you can save up to 28% off.  What are your favorite thematic units for upper grades?
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