Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Show us some Bloglovin - A Giveaway!

You have probably heard by now that Google Reader is going away on July 1st.  Well, Google Reader may be going away, but we don't want YOU to go away, so we hope that you will consider following our blog through bloglovin!  We know that change is we thought we might sweeten it up for you a little bit!

We are doing a giveaway for all of our fabulous followers that take the leap and switch over to bloglovin.  You may have already switched over!  In that case, this will be an easy entry!

If you have not yet switched or are not following our blog through bloglovin, then there are a few easy steps to follow.  You can go to our sidebar (that's the column on the right over there that shows our followers) and you can click the button that says Follow this Blog with bloglovin.  Or, you can go into the Rafflecopter below and click the link in the first entry, and that will take you to our blog on bloglovin.

You will need to set up an account with bloglovin so that you can follow us.  Please be sure to leave your bloglovin username in the Rafflecopter entry.

If you want to go ahead and move all of the blogs you follow from Google over, you can go to this link and it will take you through the super easy steps.  BUT, please go to our bloglovin link and make sure that you are following us through bloglovin.  To be sure, make sure that the blue button at the top of our bloglovin page has been clicked (it should be gray with the word following- if it's blue, please click it to follow!)

So, if you follow us by bloglovin, please enter our giveaway!!  We will be picking 2 WINNERS and each winner will win $10 to my TpT store. 
a Rafflecopter giveaway
get the InLinkz code

Monday, June 24, 2013

Tutorials on Securing the Clipart in Your PDF files

If you use clipart in your products (which most of us do), you are supposed to flatten and secure the images before turning it into a pdf to protect the art.

Here is an article I found from the 3am teacher on securing your pdf files.

Here is another tutorial.  This one is from Jivey. 

Ideas By Jivey

At work, we use Macs.  We actually have Word and PowerPoint for Mac.  If you use PowerPoint on a Mac, you can still save all of your slides as JPG's or PNG's just like Michelle's tutorial.  You can't just right-click on the images and say "Convert to pdf."  You have to use the "Automator" application.  Here is a tutorial on how to use the Automator application.  Now, I just need to figure out how you reduce the file size of a pdf without destroying the image quality.  Any suggestions?

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Must Read Mentor Texts for Social Studies: You Wouldn't Want to Be...Series

I really thought I was going to finish some products this weekend for my store and classroom.  Instead, I was up late Friday night doing Statistics homework.  Saturday morning I did bootcamp and holy yoga.  The rest of the weekend was filled with cleaning, organizing, purging, donating to Goodwill, moving furniture around, laundry, grocery shopping, church, and getting ready for the week.

It's Sunday, so it is time for Collaboration Cuties' Must Read Mentor Text linky.
Collaboration Cuties

This week's topic is Social Studies. Can we say love?  I am starting my PhD in Educational Psychology with emphasis in Gifted and Talented Education. (That is why I am taking Statistics this summer).  My career goal is to create Social Studies/History curriculum for Elementary kids.  I feel like History is so important, and we need more resources that make it come alive and feel relevant and tangible for Elementary kids.  A great text is a fabulous way to help kids relate to a historical figure or time period.  Historical Fiction always has and always will be my favorite genre.  I discovered my love of reading when my grandmother introduced me to Ann Rinaldi.  She is still one of my favorite authors.  Her books are probably more Middle School reading level, so I always try to encourage my higher level fifth-grade readers to explore her books. I remember reading In My Father's House in 6th grade.

It is about the McLean family.  The Civil War started right in front of their house.  They moved to Appomattox to escape the war.  Then Lee used their library to sign the surrender.  I remember visiting Appomattox the summer after 6th grade with my grandparents.  I was so excited when we saw the McLeans' house in Appomattox.  I told my grandmother when we got to the library there was going to be a doll left on the sofa.  My grandmother thought I was silly, but sure enough there it was.  Will McLean's little girl leaves her doll in his study and it is taken over to sign the surrender and end the civil war. She is upset because she wants her doll, not understanding the importance of what is happening behind closed doors. I love historical fiction because often kids can relate to history so much more when they can relate to the age or gender of the characters.  It is such an easy way to learn history and absorb interesting details.

I often have done a round of book clubs with Historical Fiction in my classroom or had my students choose from a list of books when we are studying a period of time. I am teaching US History again this year, so I am excited to use more picture book mentor texts.  This year we studied the US Regions and Westward Expansion.  I am excited to actually cover most of the major events in US History again. 

This year was my first year to use Common Core.  I live in Texas, so I had previously followed the TEKS.  The private school I am at now follows Common Core. With the emphasis on nonfiction in Common Core I used a lot more nonfiction this year in Science and Social Studies for mentor texts.  Engaging nonfiction is hard to find that reads well aloud, so I love finding great nonfiction mentor texts. My "go-to" Social Studies source for mentor texts is the "You Wouldn't Want to Be" series.  Students always love them!  I would like to read this one to use this year: You Woudn't Want to be a Civil War Soldier. 

The series always presents the worst part of a time period - the hardships and disgusting details.  It always helps to paint a picture though about the hardships of a place and time, and the kids eat it up.  If you scroll through the other related books at the bottom of the Amazon page, you can see a bunch of the other books in the series. There are tons of books in the series for American History and World History. Usually after I read one aloud, it gets read and reread during independent reading. What is your favorite Social Studies nonfiction mentor text?

Thursday, June 20, 2013

Balance, Bento Boxes, and Bootcamp

So after work today, I went to my bootcamp fitness class with Texas Bootcamps.  I came home, showered, and ate dinner.  I had every intention of finally finishing my second post on teaching about dialogue. Then, I sat down and lost maybe an hour or two to researching bento box containers.
You know how you can lose time (or lots of time) to Pinterest?

When I started 2013, I decided my word for the year was balance. (That is why I started my personal blog, Balancing the Backpack, that I can't quite seem to get into a routine of blogging at.)  I really do want to track my journey toward better health and balance. In January when researching healthy lunch ideas, I discovered bento box lunches.  It was love at first pin! 

Many bento lunches are done by moms with toddlers and they cut things out with cute cookie cutters.  I don't make my food cuter, but I have found I am more likely to eat all my food if it is when one container versus several.  I am a slow eater, so not eating enough is a problem for me. Eating healthier lunches and snacks helps me feel better and stay more patient during the school year.  I have never functioned well hungry. Trust me...ask my mom.

I am also absolutely loving my bootcamp class three times a week.  I have been doing yoga for several years.  Yoga helps me destress.  Working out at bootcamp (outside in the sun) helps me get much less stressed to begin with. Really, yoga and working out pair really nice together.  I love bootcamp because like having a personal trainer you show up and someone tells you what to do.  Each workout is challenging and completely different.  You will never get bored. I sleep better, have more energy, and have been in a much better mood the last couple weeks most of the time.  I think being outside in the sun has a positive effect on my moods too (despite the Texas heat).

Here is my "Lunch ideas" Pinterest board with links to bento ideas:

Here are some examples of lunches I have taken to work:

Smoked turkey with roasted green beans and cherry tomatoes, with carrot sticks and hummus

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Baked potato with BBQ chicken and butternut squash

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Salad with chicken salad to mix in and fruit on the side (This is one of my most common lunches)

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Turkey Bacon and Spinach Quesadilla with fruit and trail mix
Quesadillas for lunch are one of my favorite easy lunches

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I also try to pack snacks.  This was a snack I took this week:

Cucumber, carrots, celery, brown rice crackers to eat with hummus and a white peach

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I am trying to follow the Fast Metabolism Diet right now.  It has a great iPhone app that makes it really easy.  You have to cut dairy, corn, wheat, and soy out of your diet and it outlines specific things to eat different days of the week.  My goal is to pack all my lunches and snacks for the week Sunday night so they are ready to go.  Thus, I needed more containers.  I ordered some containers from some of these different websites tonight to try different ones to see which I like better. (I already had the Lunch Bots and Easy Lunch Boxes.)

How do you pack healthy lunches and snacks?  Do you have any favorite ways to help yourself eat healthy?

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Follow me on Bloglovin!

I have already been following blogs through Bloglovin.  Like many others, I heard that Google Friends Connect may be going away.  (Of course, now that I am 4 followers away from 600 it might go away. Sounds like time for a new giveaway).  I hope you will follow me on Bloglovin.  I will be back later with a post with more actual content.  Have a great Wednesday!   Hmmm. It is Wednesday, right?

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Monday, June 17, 2013

Planning How to Logically Teach 5th Grade US History

I need to finish my second post on ideas for teaching dialogue.  The month of June is already flying by...

Today I was working on making Scopes and Sequences for next year for the different subjects I teach. While looking at our 5th Grade US History curriculum I noticed they covered most of the US History topics and then covered US regions at the end of the year.  I understand the logic behind this, but I find having an understanding of the differences of the climate and geography of each region better helps students understand US History and the way people adapted to new environments. I decided we are going to cover the regions at the beginning of the year and then start with the Jamestown and the Colonies after covering the regions.  I think we will plan "a road trip across the US" as we study the different regions.  Maybe we will make a little "travel scrapbook" or write entries for a pretend travel blog.

Time to teach Social Studies each week is always limited.  I also think I like the idea of using an interactive student notebook this year.  I tried it some last year, but it did not really work.  My students work at different levels and paces so we are not always doing the same thing.  I like the idea of interactive student notebooks where they incorporate more visual notetaking and have a creative output to show their learning.  I want my students to learn how to take notes and take ownership of it. I think if I take on interactive notebooks I will have to make some templates for them to use and put a detailed guideline of what to do on my class website. I am even playing with the idea of just doing the notebooks in a binder instead of a composition notebook since my students have to work a little more indepedently.  I like the idea that in a binder you can move things around if they accidently get put in the wrong spot.  I am thinking instead of left/right thinking for inputs and outputs we could just do like front and back of the page.

When studying the US regions, I also like to touch on the Native Americans of each region so students can understand that often many of the differences in various tribes was largely to do with the climate and natural resources of where they lived. I decided that while we are studying the regions in Social Studies, we will complete a unit in Language Arts on Native Americans.  My plan is to have us read either Native Americans myths, legends, fiction, or nonfiction each week to go with whatever region we are discussing.

Then I spent a lot of time today doing research on lessons on Native Americans, projects, and book lists of Children's Literature about Native Americans. The other day I read Hiedi Raki's post about how she used Livebinders to create student portfolios.  It reminded me I had not used Livebinders in a few months.  I have found Livebinders to be a fabulous way to collect research on different units I want to plan. Today I made a Livebinder for a Native American unit. You can see my livebinder below.  I am going to make a Livebinder for each major unit I plan to teach with collections of sites and ideas I come across in my research. Here is the link to my livebinder.

What are some of your favorite books to use when teaching about the Native Americans?  Do you have a favorite way you like to organize your approach to teaching US History?

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Common Core Writing Lesson Ideas: Using Dialogue

I have been trying to sit down and write a blog post for 2 days.  Tuesday was my husband's birthday and yesterday we had dinner with out-of-town family.  On top of that I am trying to balance work this summer (I'm working all summer reviewing curriculum and doing summer school), working out every day, and my first class for my Doctoral program. This first summer session I am taking the introductory statistics class.  Luckily so far, I have found it really easy.  I am trying to sit down and make a list of what products for my store I want to finish this summer and a list of some blog post series. Many of my posts will probably focus on incorporating the Common Core skills into the Content Areas.  I also want to start gathering lesson ideas for the Common Core Writing and Language Standards.

One of the skills my students have always struggled with when doing Narrative writing whether they were Middle School or Elementary students is how to use dialogue.  When using dialogue, students have to consider rules of punctuation, characterization, and paragraphing.  Using dialogue correctly is a higher level writing skill. (Using dialogue falls under CCSS Writing Standard 3 (Narrative Writing) part B at most of the grade levels.

This year I would like to spend a little more time on how to use dialogue.  Thus, I decided to search Pinterest and the internet for ideas on teaching dialogue.

Writing Fix has a couple lessons on dialogue. Here are some links:

The last lesson is the one I wanted to use with my student's this year as a review of dialogue and I ran out of time. It uses the book The Web Files
We did a unit on mysteries, so I thought this would be a cute lesson to incorporate with mysteries.  They write a dialogue to describe the facts of a crime (sort of like the old show Dragnet.)
...So, now I return to this post several hours later after bootcamp, walking the dog, dinner, and a shower. When I find a ton of great resources, they tend to turn into really long posts and take forever to write.  Sometimes there are so many great things to share.  So I think I am going to have to sometimes split a topic over a couple days so I can share lots of things with you without the post getting way too long.
If you have followed me for awhile, you know I love all things Read Write Think.  Here are a couple links to some lessons on dialogue from Read Write Think that look great:
Last for today, but certainly not least is a freebie on dialogue from Miss Nannini.  I can promise you this little unit is getting printed out and put in my Common Core Language Arts binder under dialogue. If you click on the picture below, you can go see her blog post about this freebie.
What are some of your favorite lessons and ideas to teach dialogue?  I always like to have students look at their own books they are reading to help them see how dialogue is organized and punctuated.  I have always found it resonates with them when they see examples in their own books.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Fractured Fairy Tales: Text Suggestions for Little Red Riding Hood

So one of my goals this summer is to finish all of the products that I started this year and only finished about 50-70% of the way through.  One of the units I really enjoyed this year was studying Fractured Fairy Tales.  Fractured Fairy Tales are such a fun way to challenge students to think creatively and practice all of their comprehension skills. There are so many ways you can use Fractured Fairy Tales to meet the CCSS. Here is a link to a post I did earlier in the year on Fractured Fairy Tales with a freebie story map for fractured fairy tales.

Today I have a couple text suggestions for you for doing Fractured Fairy Tales with Little Red Riding Hood.  Aaron Frisch has written a new book called The Girl in Red with illustrations by Roberto Innocenti. 

The Girl in Red is a new version of Little Red Riding Hood that takes place in modern day in a large urban city.  The illustrations are beautiful, but have a dark undertone.  I would use this picture book with either grades 4-5 or even Middle School.  I actually think this would make a fabulous mentor text to use with Middle School or even High School.  The way the illustrations are drawn it alsmost reminds of me of graphic novels. You could have your students make a graphic novel version of a fractured fairy tale.

If you haven't really explored the Common Core Exemplar Texts, there are some fabulous texts on there. You can click here to get a copy of the Appendix B from Common Core State Standards website.

One of the Common Core Exemplar Texts for Grades 4-5 is Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf by Roald Dahl. In this narrative poem version of Little Red Riding Hood the little girl shoots the wolf at the end.  This poem would also open the door to getting your students to explore the idea of writing a poetic version of a fairy tale. I read this poem with my students this year and they loved it.  I had wanted to use the poem again but never got around to it. The poem comes from Roald Dahl's book Revolting Rhymes, which are all somewhat naughty versions of fairy tales. 

After Revolting Rhymes was written, some short videos were made of the poems.  You can find them on Youtube.  Here is the video for "Little Red Riding Hood and the Wolf."

Dahl also has another book called Vile Verses.

I would look through the books carefully before handing them out to your students.  Some of the fractured fairy tale poems in the books probably are not the most appropriate choices for lower grades, but there really are some great fractured fairy tales with a lot of humor. Both of these books would be great sources of text for Grades 5-8 for a unit on Fractured Fairy Tales.

Another great text source for a unit on fractured fairy tales is the book Newfangled Fairy Tales by Bruce Lansky.

Hope you have a great weekend!

Friday, June 7, 2013

Common Core in the Content Areas: Charley the Female Stagecoach Driver

Following our thematic unit on biomes, we spent the last couple weeks of school focusing on Westward Expansion.  As the last couple weeks are always hectic and filled with last minute items we forgot to do, I did not have as much time with this unit as I wanted. I wanted to have them do a web quest on different locations on the Oregon Trail and write a journal as a pioneer moving west.  The other thing I really wanted to do was one more read aloud.

While reviewing the novel units earlier this year at, I came across a book called Riding Freedom by Pam Munoz Ryan.

It sounded like a great book and since Readworks already had a free novel unit to go with it I thought it would be perfect.  The novel is an easy read that is only about a 127 pages. It would be perfect to read with grades 3-5 as the chapters are short (which also makes for a great read aloud). The book is about Charley Parkhurst, who was an orphan girl who disguises herself as a boy to become a stagecoach driver. The historical fiction novel is based on a real story. As the Gold Rush commences, Charley moves West with some other stagecoach drivers to find opportunity.  She ends up losing an eye in an accident and still is able to drive a stagecoach with one eye.  She disguised herself as a man most of her life and built a reputation as one of the best stagecoach drivers in California.  She was the first woman to vote in California (even though she really voted under the pretense of a man.)

In order to integrate this book with Common Core, you could compare settings in the novel, you could discuss theme, you could look at Charley's development throughout the novel, and you could also discuss point of view in the novel. Readworks does a great job with their novel units of emphasizing the CCSS.  You could choose to write an informative essay about the life of Charley Parkhurst or stagecoach drivers.  Students could write a persuasive essay about whether or not women in the West should get the right to vote.  They could write their own narrative inspired by the story.

Another great book on Charley to pair with Riding Freedom is Rough, Tough Charley by Verla Kay.  This biographical picture book includes the story of Charley's life but is told in poetic verse.

This would be a great book to pair because you could discuss any differences in details about her life between the two.  You could also compare and contrast the portrayal of Charley.  Rough, Tough Charley would be a fabulous book to discuss narrative poetry.  I love the idea of even having students write a biographical poem of a historical figure.

I hope you are having a great start to summer.  I look forward to being able to get back into a blogging routine now that the end of the school year is over.

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