Saturday, November 30, 2013

Common Core Language Arts Resources on Teachers Pay Teachers and a Sale

Well, I was really excited to have this whole week off, so I could get lots of stuff done along with the resting and being Thankful. I started off my break with a cold, and essentially worked hard this week at taking naps. I am thankful for the rest.

One of my goals this week was to really re-evaluate my Language Arts block. I have found a lot of great resources lately, and I have been struggling to figure out how to fit it all in. It just all seems important! I definitely still need to rework my scope and sequence for the year to really plan out week by week the Grammar lessons and reading skills for read alouds. One of the hardest parts to me of planning for the Language Arts block is planning the schedule and how much time to allocate to different tasks. On Tuesday, I am going to share with you how I decided to re-allocate time in my Language Arts block to better allow for student engagement and ownership. Over the next couple days, I am going to share some of my favorite Language Arts resources I have found for Common Core.

As you probably know by now, Monday and Tuesday are the big Teachers Pay Teachers Cyber Monday and Tuesday Sale. You can save up to 28%. I think I have over $100 of items in my cart right now.  A good sale is the perfect opportunity to stock up on all those items you have been wanting. My store will be 20% off.  You use the code CYBER to save more at checkout.

Here are some of my favorite resources for the Common Core Language Arts Standards:

Resources I have Made:

First of all, I organize all of my Language Arts resources for Common Core by standard. I put all the resources I have made or purchased behind each standard.  It makes it so much easier when planning to have everything in one place. These are my Grade 5 Binder covers and dividers.

I use my Grade 5 Common Core Reading Literature graphic organizers for whole-group lessons and also independent activities.  They also work well for Guided Reading.

These are my Writing Graphic organizers, checklists, and rubrics for multi-paragraph writing:

These are my Writing Graphic Organizers, checklists, and rubrics for writing one paragraph:

These are my 25 posters for Theme. We use the list of themes and messages as reference when discussing stories. It helps to scaffold instruction as students work to identify theme.

This 2014 Writing Calendar makes a great monthly writing practice for the year, but it also can be turned into a calendar as a gift for parents.  We made these last year, and they came out super cute. I just updated the file to include the calendars for 2014.

Resources I have Purchased and Use Often:

Lately, I have really been convicted of how much kids need spiral review in Language Arts as much as Math. They need to continually practice reading skills, writing skills, grammar skills, Figurative Language, typing, cursive, etc. Thus, I am trying to build time in my Language Arts blocks to weekly review all of these skills.
  • Panicked Teachers' Language Weekly Skills Challenge:  We will use these on Fridays.  These will be a great way to review figurative language. We are going to be working on Figurative Language in December, so these will be a great way to review the rest of the year.


  • Ashleigh's Spiral Language Review: For now, we are focusing on the 4th grade skills before covering the 5th grade Language skills.

What are your favorite Common Core TpT Language Arts resources?

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Thankgiving take-home project idea for a real world application assessment

I can't believe my first semester of my PhD is almost over. It is almost over, but there is still so much to do. Tonight I just have a quick post.  I want to share a Thanksgiving Break take-home project idea.

I have been thinking a lot lately about wanting to give my students more authentic formative assessments with real-world application.  Last week my students were learning about speed in Science.  Our curriculum wanted them to understand the formula for speed being a relationship between time and distance.  I could have found some problems online and printed them out to practice the calculations.  I decided though I wanted to give them something that might have personal meaning to them.  I told them the assignment was to plan a day trip their family could take here in Texas. They had to pick a city here in Texas that they could drive there and back in a day. We then got on Google Maps and they plotted directions from their house to the city. Even though Google Maps gave them an estimated time to get to their destination, I had them compute the time using the formula for speed. 

For students who picked locations with an hour, they just used an average speed of 40 miles per hour to compute the time to reach the destination. For students who chose a city further away they assumed a highway speed of 60 miles per hour.  We talked about how choosing a lower estimate allows some room for traffic and slow downs. It gave them a chance to practice computing the relationship between speed, distance, and time, but they also thought about what it would be like to plan for that in real life. Students who wanted extra credit then planned out what they would do on their day trip while visiting.

For my students in Math grades 5 and 6, I wanted to give them a take-home project for Thanksgiving that would allow them to think about real-world math applications.  Many of my students are studying fractions, so I thought that Thanksgiving recipes was the perfect at home real world application. Before giving the project, we did a Math warm-up today answering some questions about a recipe. I got the sheet from this Thanksgiving Math pack from the Lesson Lady.  I am using her math sheets as warm-ups all week. She has a variety of skills covered, so it has turned out to be an easy way to get some themed math practice in when I don't have much time this week for more elaborate games and task card activities.

I typed up the directions for the project today and handed it out to my students.  I gave it as extra credit.  They are going to choose a Thanksgiving recipe.  They then have to transform the recipe for a different amount of servings (i.e. double recipe, triple the reciple, or cut it in half).  I told them to really think about their family's needs on Thanksgiving.  They then have to compute the new amounts for the ingredients based on the new serving amounts. The final part is to make the recipe.  They will either video themselves making the recipe or take pictures of themselves making the recipe and type up the directions to the recipe to go with their picture. You could easily turn this into a Math and Language Arts project.  I just assigned it for Math.  Many of my students seemed excited about it, so we will see how many choose to do it. You can get a copy of the directions I handed out here.  They are just simple directions in a Word document, but you can edit them as you need.

What are some ways you try to incorporate authentic assessments with real-world applications?

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Entrepreneurship Simulation Game for a Lemonade Stand

Did you know that November 18-24 is Global Entrepreneurship week?  You can read more at this link about Global Entrepreneurship Week.

Go Venture is a company that has online games and simulations. They have a free lemonade stand simulation going on starting today through Nov. 24th. Students and adults can play the simulation to create a lemonade stand.  They start out by creating a logo and naming their business. Then they choose the price of their lemonade, the recipe, and purchase their ingredients.  As they go through the simulation, their profits depend on things like the weather, their cost, and whether or not excess inventory spoils. It is a great way to get kids to think about economics and what really goes into supply and demand.  Go to this link to start playing the game. You can click here to register your school in the competition.

You could follow up the simulation by having the kids create actual logos or business cards for their lemonade stand.  They could write up a proposal for a class business. We use hoot loot as a classroom economy and have a store at the end of each month where the kids buy things.  I am thinking of letting the kids propose an idea for a class store where they could identify a product, think of inventory, advertising, profits, etc.

To go with doing the Lemonade Stand simulation, we are going to read Patricia Polacco's book The Lemonade Club.  It is a very touching story about how a class pitches in to help a fellow student who has cancer. The whole idea of the book focuses on the idea of making lemonade out of lemons.  Since we are discussing being thankful in the month of November, I think is a great tie in to the simulation game as well as the ideas of being positive and thankful.

How do you teach your students about entrepreneurship and economics?

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Growth Mindset and SMART goals

The NAGC (National Association for Gifted Children) Conference was amazing. My head is spinning with both things I really need to consider as a teacher, as well as a graduate student. One thing I felt convicted about is really making sure we praise kids for their effort and not for being smart.

Carol Dweck has done research on mindset and delineates between a fixed mindset and a growth mindset. A fixed mindset develops when someone focuses on how much intelligence they possess.  They focus more on grades and may not want to put forth effort because they are afraid to make mistakes.  They would probably prefer not to be challenged because they do not want to make a bad grade. A growth mindset exists when someone focuses on seeing opportunities to learn.  Not everyone may have the same intelligence, but everyone can get smarter. Here is an article from Duke on mindset.

This is an important concept to keep in mind with gifted kids because they have often been praised for being smart and doing things with ease.  They tend to translate this to mean they should be able to do well on everything with almost no effort.  When things become challenging, they often do not know how to react. I have found they often resist being challenged, whine when things get hard, avoid things altogether, and act like they already know everything you can could possibly teach them. In order to help students go from a fixed mindset to a growth mindset, we need to praise their effort and not their final products. Some students can make nice products with very little effort. We need to encourage them to reach to a level where they are really challenged.  I have been thinking of creating rubrics that grade assignments and projects on process and not final product or at least put much less emphasis on final product.

I had already decided I wanted to spend some time this month on discussing setting goals. I really wanted to discuss SMART goals. SMART goals are specific, measurable, have an action plan, are realistic, and have a time limit.  

I got on TpT and found this lesson on SMART goals.  I am excited to start using it his week.

I also decided to search for a learning style inventory.  I meant to do this at the beginning of the year and never did. Here is a link to a learning style inventory and prezi for free on TpT.

Here is a link to the Prezi online. It has some cute videos to go with the explanation of each learning style.  The videos make it a little longer, so I may spread the lesson over a couple days. Here is an online learning style quiz I may also use.

I think we are going to start by discussing what skills we need to have accomplished by the end of the year.  My students are 5th graders, so they need to think about what they need to accomplish to be ready for middle school.  I may have them create like a poster or template of what makes a successful middle-schooler.  I think we are going to make like a data portfolio, but focus on tracking life-skills as well as progress with the Common Core Standards.  I would like us to go through as a class and create some categories for goals/skills to accomplish.  Some will focus on content standards, but I also want some to focus on things like computer skills, communication, collaboration, creativity, and critical thinking. I think I am just going to jump into this process with my students and see what kinds of goals we categorize, create, and measure.

We also are going to read some biographical sketches of famous people from the book Dare to Dream over the next two weeks. I think talking about successful people is an important part of thinking about goal setting and effort. We need to think about what makes people successful.

How do you teach goal setting in your classroom?

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Tried It Tuesday: Close Reading and 21st Century Skills

I just finished up a Statistics midterm, and my brain is tired. I wanted to link up with Holly's Tried It Tuesday though.

I actually have a few different websites I have been trying out with my class I want to share with you, but I will probably spread it out over several posts. Because I work at a Blended Learning school, my students spend a large chunk of their time working more independently on online curriculum that is provided by the school. I supplement that with other lessons, activities, group projects, etc. I have tried out lots of websites that I hear about in blog posts or stumble across just to try different ways to expose kids to material and ideas.

There are few websites I really love and use all the time. As I think about those 21st Century Learning Skills of creativity, critical thinking, collaboration, and communication, I am trying to really be mindful about what activities we use different pieces of technology for and what activities or lessons we approach other ways.

Non-Technology Tried Its:

My students do spend so much time working independently that right now I am really trying to re-evaluate how I want to bring in more opportunities for collaboration and even hands-on activities like task cards. We have used task cards a couple times in the last couple weeks and my students have loved it! Kids love technology, but they also need to interact with one another and do hands-on activities. I am not doing a strict interactive notebook this year, but I am trying to use a lot of foldables because they need the practice with motor skills and following directions.

Several people have mentioned close reading as their tried it this week. We have tried a couple resources for Close Reading, and I have really enjoyed them. I purchased Primary Polka Dots Really Creepy Stuff Close Reading Kit and used it in October. She also has one for Really Gross Stuff that could be used all year.

I also purchased Jennifer Findley's Close Reading Mega Kit in the back to school sale. She has Close Reading bookmarks aligned to each standard.  My plan is to glue the bookmarks in our notebooks and as we cover each standard also practice it with close reading. She also has some poetry close reading book marks. Her kit includes posters you could display as well.

I plan on using her poetry close reading book marks starting next week. I really would like to start analyzing a poem a week. I think poems are a perfect place to start with close reading because they are short, but allow for a lot of depth and critical thinking. My students have been asking when we will write more poetry since they wrote their bat cinquains, so I really do need to add in more reading and writing of poetry. I actually have copies of Love That Dog, so I think after reading Holly's and Jivey's posts, I might add it in as a shared read when my students get to their poetry module in their curriculum.

Technology Tried-Its:

Edmodo - Edmodo is a fantastic website and iPad app. It can be used as a communication tool, a planner, and even a gradebook and system for students to submit assignments. I send students notes about when things are due and if they have missing assignments. This way they can't claim I never told them something was missing. I would like to start posting weekly poems and quotes on Edmodo. As we discuss them, the students can respond to questions on Edmodo. I think this would be a fun way to even do a "close read" of a quote. As we do some more reflecting this month on who we are as learners, I am going to have my students put a lot more thought into creating their Edmodo profiles. There are so many more uses for Edmodo I have not even explored yet.

Raz-kids - Raz-kids is the website and iPad app version of Reading A to Z's leveled readers. We have read some of the stories this year and taken the quizzes.  Raz-kids gives the teacher the ability to assign online running-records and assignments of the different leveled readers and corresponding activities. The only downside of the Running Records and leveling is you have to already have a good idea of the student's level.  I would love to find a good paper running record resource that is matched to the lexile system so I can more accurately determine a student's level other than just trial and error. I would like to use some of the Raz-kids stories as close reads. We will pair them with Jennifer Findley's bookmarks for each standard.  We can read through the story three times and focus on different things each time. I think we are going to start following up the close reads with written reading responses where the students have to cite text based evidence using quotes and explain the quotes.

I have some other websites I will share with you in some other posts. How do you help your students become 21st century learners while balancing out the technology with other methods of delivery to meet your students' needs?

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Creating Learners with 21st Century Skills

Last week I went to the iNACOL conference in Orlando on online and blended learning.  It was a great experience and gave me a lot to think about. There were a lot of great discussions on personalizing learning and competency based learning.  There was also much emphasis on the need to go deeper and not focus so much on just trying to cover "all the content." I find I often get side-tracked by all the material I feel needs to be covered.  It is always good to be reminded that I need to keep the bigger picture in mind. At iNACOL, I heard a lot of talk around college and career readiness and 21st century skills.  According to the Partnership for 21st Century Skills, these skills focus on collaboration, communication, creativity, and critical thinking. As I reflect on the activities and assessments my students complete, I want to keep these skills in mind. One of the speakers at the conference talked about how the answer to making changes in education isn't about using more technology, it is about what we do with the technology. It is also so easy to get focused on finishing all the units, getting ready for a test, or just surviving the year.

The people who succeed in the work world do not succeed because they are the smartest or contain the most knowledge.  They succeed because they know how to adapt, think outside the box, collaborate with others, come up with novel solutions to problems, manage their time, evaluate what is working and what is not, etc. It is not about the covering all the content.  It is about creating a generation of students who can think critically, creatively, and capitalize on finding the best tools to answer questions and solve problems. I want to give my students more opportunities for authentic assessment that enriches their learning experience and leads to greater self-awareness, growth, and sense of ownership.

Motivation is often a teacher's best friend and greatest enemy. You can plan engaging units and even project based learning opportunities and have students still only put the minimum effort into the process.  Many students do not want to think or be challenged. I think before spending too much time planning elaborate units, I need to step back and give more thought to helping my students understand what motivates them. Students need to feel a sense of ownership, accountability, and choice in what they do.

I am getting ready this week to go to the NAGC conference about gifted education. I came away from iNACOL really thinking about how I can facilitate opportunities for my students to really reflect on who they are as learners.  I think a big part of those 21st century skills is going to be recognizing one's strengths and weaknesses, knowing how to best work with both in different contexts, and knowing how to set and evaluate goals.  Throughout the month of November, I am hoping to do some lessons and activities on goal-setting, learning styles, and a lot of self-reflection.

Over the next few weeks, I hope to share some meaningful posts with you as I mentally work through how I can best help my students become 21st century learners.  How do you encourage self-awareness and understanding of learning styles in your classroom?
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