Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Organizing Resources for Reading Genres and an Easy Way to Add Pics to Your Blog

Today, we reviewed over the different reading genres because we have been looking a lot at different fables, fairy tales, and folk tales. I have Ginger's Reading Genre posters on my wall so they came in handy during our discussion. 

As we have been working on Fractured Fairy Tales, I have decided I needed to start a binder with resources for the different genres.  I create stuff, gather stuff, etc., and I love having things organizers in binders with sheet protectors as dividers by topic.  I thought about making some dividers when it dawned on me I can print out a second copy of her posters and use them as dividers.  I am excited about this epiphany.  I love organization!  I know...I am a nerd.  Now,  I just need more binders and probably sheet protectors.

Side note - I have a new favorite way to share pictures on my blog.  Instead of saving pictures to my computer and then adding to blogger, I Pin the web source of the pic.  Then, I just go to my pin and copy the HTML code to embed on my blog.  Super easy!  Pictures I take myself I upload to Photobucket and then copy the HTML code there.

Also,  I started a personal blog about Balance and my journey toward being healthier called Balancing the Backpack.  I hope you will follow me. :)  I am working on updating the look of that blog.  (Note to self, I have needed to fill out that questionnaire for Ms. Fultz for awhile.)

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Resources for the 13 Colonies

In Social Studies, we spent the first half of the year learning about the different regions of the US, as well as the Native Americans of each region. Second semester we are supposed to talk about Westward Expansionism.  Before we move on toward the Pioneers and Moving West, I want us to quickly touch on the 13 Colonies.  They need to understand that sellers came from Europe to the Colonies.  Then, after while they moved west.  Expansionism is always a routine of exploring, settling, and then searching for more.

We are going to watch videos from Discovery Education on New England Colonies, Middle Colonies, and Southern Colonies, so they can see some of the differences at a glance. I also picked up some books at the library on each of the three regions of the 13 Colonies. Students will be getting into groups.  I will have a group for each of three regions.  Different people in each group will research different aspects of daily life in the Colonies like education, clothing, food, industries, cultures, geography, etc. Edhelper also has some great little reading passages on lots of Science and History topics.  If you have never looked at Edhelper, it is a good resources for $20 a year.  Many times over the years I have used it as my overall backup resource for all subjects.

My students will then do a project on what they learned.  I am thinking we will make our first glogs through Glogster Edu. I also would like to have them do something a little more hands on, so I might have them make some type of model of a typical home or something.  Any fun hands-on project ideas for the 13 Colonies?

Here are some web links I found on the 13 Colonies.  I found a cool website through Pinterest called Go Social Studies Go.  They have some really fun facts and videos on history.  They have a page for US History.  We will use the sub-page on the Colonies.  On the page for the New England Colonies, they have a link to a Horrible History video that presents the differences between the Puritans versus a family relocated from England.  The video is called a Historical Wife Swap, and it shows what would have happened between the two types of families if they had done a wife swap.  I thought this idea of using the idea of a reality show to highlight the differences between different cultures even in one section of the 13 Colonies was a really fun idea. I think there is a whole series of these Horrible History videos on Youtube for all sorts of History topics. This might even be a fun assignment. Have the students make their own video of what if they had done a reality TV show at a different point in history?  What would it have been of?

A couple books I like to use when studying the 13 Colonies because they are high-interest reads and  because they highlight daily life in a more disgusting, dreadful way are:

Source: via April on Pinterest

Source: via April on Pinterest

This book is an easy read and presents info on the 13 Colonies in a question and answer format:
Source: via April on Pinterest

There is so much more you can do when studying the 13 Colonies, but I want to cover it pretty quickly.  Do you have any favorite activities or projects you like to do when covering the 13 Colonies?

After we finish the 13 Colonies, each student is going to do a report on a state (probably one of the original 13 colonies because I only have 12 students). I can then do the 13th report. I want them to make the connection between life in a historical colony and modern life in a state. It is important to understand how history affects present day. Then, we will move on to Moving West.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Fractured Fairy Tales - Freebie Story Map

Our 4th Grade ELA curriculum references a lot of fairy tales, so I decided to pull in some fractured fairy tales.  If you have never taught Fractured Fairy Tales, it is a fabulous way to cover almost all of the Common Core Reading Literature Standards.  You can easily explore setting, characters, theme, imagery, point-of-view, visual elements, and even different text structures if you look at movie versions, poetry versions, and/or dramatic versions of fairy tales.

Here are three examples of some cute Fractured Fairy Tales from different points of view:

Source: via April on Pinterest

I am currently in the middle of making a Fractured Fairy Tale unit, but I thought I would share some web resources with you. Read Write Think has an interactive tool for students to plan and write their own Fractured Fairy Tale.  They also have lots of lesson ideas for Fractured Fairy Tales.  Here is a book list they have created with text suggestions. Scholastic has a tool where students can publish their Fractured Fairy Tales after they have written them, and students can find out info about John Scieszka (author of The True Story of the Three Little Pigs.)

Here is a website where you can get text suggestions of Fractured Fairy Tales.  Here is a website where you can original versions of fairy tales.

Last but not least is a quick freebie from my unit I am making.  It is a Fairy Tale Story Map.  I am going to have my students read an original version of a fairy tale, a fractured version with a different setting, and then a fractured version from a different point of view.  They will fill out this story map for all three versions. 

Then, we will compare and contrast the three versions.

Balance, Bento Lunches, and Planning for a Blog Birthday

I hope y'all have had a blessed weekend.  My weekend was full to the brim.  I had the opportunity to go to a holy yoga event here in Dallas Friday night and Saturday.  I have practiced yoga for three years, but this was my first chance to experience praise and worship combined with yoga and exercise.  It was so awesome to worship in such an active way. It made the expression and act of surrendering all to God so much more authentic. 

You may (or may not) have noticed I have not been blogging as much in the month of January.  I began to 2013 with a commitment to Balance.  For me, this has meant committing to exercising more and eating better.  Establishing healthier habits and routines always takes a lot of time and effort.  Hence, I have had less time for blogging and my TpT store. Although, this entire school year seems to have rendered little time for my store.

I started researching lunch ideas for work on Pinterest and discovered bento box lunches.  It was love at first sight.  I ordered some containers from Easy Lunch Boxes, spent lots of time on Pinterest gathering ideas, and then ventured into planning more balanced lunches and snacks.  The result has also been that I have been more actively trying to plan dinners as well. (The pictures below are not great.  They are from my phone, and the lighting in my kitchen is not great.  I have a DLSR camera, but it is so big and bulky.  I have decided I need to invest in a good, small camera that would be good for blogging.  Any camera recommendations of small cameras that are good for indoor or low light situations?)

For my snacks for the next two days, I have carrots and celery with pretzels and laughing cow cheese. Tuesday, I will also have grapes and cheese.

First lunch is a spinach, cheese, and turkey bacon quesadilla with watermelon and trail mix. Day 2 is a lemon pepper pasta with turkey sausage, olives, and sundried tomatoes, along with apples and trail mix.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App


Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Today, I fit in 1.5 hours of hot yoga, church, a 3 hour nap, the grocery store, laundry, Downton Abbey, and making lunches for two days and dinners for the week. I will be blogging on a separate blog called Balancing the Backpack about my journey toward Balance.  This will include expressions of gratitude, what exercises I am doing, what I am eating, and whatever other changes I encounter as I try to find balance and joy. On Feb. 7th I turn 29, and Feb. 22 my blog turns 1. I would like to plan a big blogiversary giveaway.  Let me know if you would be interested in contributing.  I feel like I should do something fun and different for my birthday.  So far I have not really thought of anything.  Any fun ideas to celebrate turning 29? 

Good night, y'all!  Hopefully going forward I will be better able to add blogging into my routine, along with exercise, work, and sleep.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Lesson Ideas on Martin Luther King

We are talking about Martin Luther King this week on Wednesday because I am alternating Social Studies and Science every other day.  Tuesday we talked about Properties of Matter in Science. 

We will start our discussion on Martin Luther King by watching a video on MLK.  There are several good choices on Discovery Education.  There is also a free video with Brainpop.  I love the free videos on Brainpop because they come with little printable activities.

Tonight I ran to the library to find some books on the 13 Colonies and came across a graphic novel biography of MLK.  Thus, we will read this as a read aloud.  I love finding opportunities to use different mediums and genres of text. The name of the graphic novel is Martin Luther King, Jr.: Great Civil Rights Leader.

Source: via April on Pinterest

We will also read a passage on Martin Luther King from Readworks.  Here are some different ones to choose from. Readworks has fabulous passages.  The passages usually are fairly short, but the questions are great.  It is an amazing free resource for extra nonfiction test practice or guided reading resources.

I was at a teaching workshop a couple years ago where the instructor took sections of the "I Have a Dream" speech and had them on notecards.  She handed out the sections to different groups, and we had to rewrite that section in our own words.  I think this is a fabulous idea, so we are going to do this as an analyzing and writing activity. Here is a link to a text copy of the speech.

My students will write sections of the speech in their own words.  I also pulled some quotes from Dr. King we will use for writing inspiration. We will break down the quotes and explain what they mean. Then, they can use the quotes to inspire their journal writing to write about whatever they want as long as it is inspired by the quote. I also will have my students write a paragraph about their own dreams for the world.  I ended up putting together a file with all of this. 

You can get it at my TpT store.  It will be on sale this week. The first person to leave me a comment with your favorite activity for learning about Martin Luther King can have a copy for free.

Jennifer Findley today shared a cute idea to work on Point of View in writing by looking at the Rosa Parks story.  We have been talking and talking about point of view, so I love this idea!  If I squeeze this next week, then we will use a Readworks passage.  Otherwise, we may use it for Black History month, and I will actually probably pick up some books at the library. Readworks has lesson ideas for using Rosa Parks: My Story.
Source: via Jenna on Pinterest

Thursday, January 17, 2013

What We Have Been Up to in Reading

The last two weeks have been crazy as we have been trying to get back into a routine.  Each day we have seen progress, and things have become calmer and more productive.

For our read aloud novel, last week we began reading The One and Only Ivan.

We have been talking a lot about theme and point of view.  I felt this was a great novel to apply both of those concepts.  The book is written in first-person from the point of view of a gorilla.  The chapters are short, which really allows you a lot of freedom to decide where to pause and how much to read each day.  I always like to stop at the end of a chapter, so I try to choose read aloud novels with shorter chapters (or at least no more than 10-15 pages per chapter).  This book has a lot of great imagery, figurative language, and sentences with idiomatic or metaphoric meanings.  We have had some good discussions on what the Ivan means when he says certain phrases.

For our independent reading, we also decided to start using for our reading responses.  We began using last week, and the kids are loving blogging and being able to comment on each other's posts.  For right now, they are just writing one paragraph.  I want to build up to writing longer reading response weekly entries and use Kidblog as the format to share these,  Because of the commenting feature, it would also be a fun way to publish essays and stories.  We could share without having to stand at the front of the room and read them.

We also have been talking some about idioms this week.  We completed this activity by ReadWriteThink to practice idioms.  It is an interactive way to practice idioms.  I did not have them turn it in.  We just practice it for fun.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Project ideas for Earth Science

I have been neglectful. I know.  I totally, thoroughly enjoyed every lazy minute of my break.  I did no blogging or schoolwork or housework or exercise. I joined the world of my feline and canine friends.  I ate and slept, with lots of reading and some HGTV.

Then, I paid for it today when I had to scramble to be prepared instead of going in as prepared as I usually am.

I thought for today I would catch you up on a few things we have been doing in Science lately.

Last Fall, we primarily studied Earth Sciences.  This actually worked pretty well for me.  I have never taught Science and Science is not my favorite subject.  I do really like the Earth Sciences though. In Social Studies, we have been studying the different US regions, as well as the Native Americans of each region.  This included lots of dicussions on how people adapt to the climates and natural resources of the region they encounter.

As a fun project to tie it all together (right before Thanksgiving), the students had to create their own island.  This assignment was completed in groups of 2-3.  They had to do a research project first.  They came up with what part of the world their imaginary island would be located in.  Then, they had to research what plants, animals, natural resources, and climate would be realistic in this region of the world.  They then planned out their island, including plants, landforms, water sources, people/animal life, economy, etc.  They completed a PowerPoint on their island.  At the end of the week, they built their island out of clay and painted it.  They turned out pretty awesome!  They loved this project. We had discussed volcanoes, earthquakes, weather, etc. and this brought it all together.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Following this project (in December) we talked a lot about galaxies, stars, and climate and seasons. For our discussion of galaxies and stars they ended the week by writing a short speech as if they were an astronomer.  They had to tell a little about planets and stars to their imaginary audience in their speech.  This was a fun RAFT writing assessment that made them think a little more creatively.  It is interesting to watch.  I have some students who can write a fabulous summary and others who cannot write a summary for the life of them.  However, if you have them write from another point of view or with a creative twist they do an amazing job.

In December, I purchased Science Penguin's ultimate science notebook kit.  I wanted more graphic organizers to use with our lessons.  I had already purchased her elementary graphic organizers and had been using them, but I wanted some foldables.  We do not use a science journal, but I like the feel of foldables or a smaller organizer we can add reflections to. We use a lot of technology, but I felt like we needed some more interactive resources to take notes and show understanding of concepts. Her products are awesome.  I am debating if I want to implement her science weekly five.  I am already struggling to fit everything in, so I just don't know that I have the time. I will keep thinking about it.

This week we are discussing natural resources. This will end this overall unit.  Then, we move into matter. We talked about renewable and nonrenewable resources today, as well as the difference between human-made and natural resources.  We made a list of natural resources we used just today and then made a word cloud with it.  We used wordle; however, some of my students did not have Java so wordle would not work.  Those students just used the word cloud tool at  It is a kid-friendly one and does not require any downloads.

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