Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Biomes of the World Webquest Freebie

Today is Tuesday, which means it is time to link up with Techie Tuesday and Tried It Tuesday.

We have been studying biomes.  I have been loving loving this unit!  My students are reading nonfiction books on biomes and practicing the different nonfiction Common Core Standards for Informational Text while reading.  It has been a great end of the year project and fabulous interdisciplinary unit.

I decided I also wanted to try a webquest with my students.  I decided to create my own.  We have been working on it the last few days for Science, and it has been really fun to watch them engaged in student-centered learning, practicing reading and note-taking skills, as well as being creative. We used the Biomes of the World website for our research.   They had to take notes on each of the biomes and then come up with their own idea for a zoo to represent all of the biomes.  They will then create a brochure for their zoo and a map of their zoo.  We are done with the web research and still working on the zoo projects.  (I will show you pictures of the maps and brochures when we are done).

You can get a copy of the webquest here.

You can get a copy of the notes form I made here. There is a note page for each biome.
Here was a post from about a week ago from Technology Rocks Seriously with lots of different online games for kids to learn about animal habitats.  I plan on checking them out to have my students try some of them.

Have you used webquests?  This was my first time to make one, and I have really enjoyed watching my students work on this project.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Be a Better You Giveaway Winner

I will be back later for a more informative post.  I  took this weekend to just get some rest and enjoy the nice weather. I wanted to announce the winner of my Be a Better You Giveaway.  The winner is Jen Ormsbee.  Congrats on winning the $30 gift card to a store of your choice to be healthier.  I will be emailing you.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Online Student Planner through Edmodo

So the last two nights have been super busy, and I have been really tired by the time I finally stop moving.  Exercising and eating better is great, but boy is it time consuming.

I wanted to link up with Holly's Tried It Tuesday and Technology Tailgate's Techie Tuesday on Tuesday.  (Now, it is Thursday night.)

My students use laptops on and off all day long, and many of them are working at different paces.  Helping everyone get organized has been a constant struggle. I have tried so many ways to help them keep up with when things are due and what is missing.  We tried paper planners, which I could not get most of them to actually consistently fill out. I tried making different chart templates that they would fill out (but it was already partially filled out for them).  This worked better for some of them.

I have been researching online student planners.  I looked at quite a few, but most of them seemed more appropriate for high school or college students.  They seemed a little more involved than what I needed for my 4th and 5th graders.  I also wanted a tool that would allow me to send them assignments and due dates.  I remembered from some Facebook posts people mentioning that Edmodo had a planner type application.  I had signed up for Edmodo ages ago, but I had never done anything with it.  Edmodo has all sorts of applications and uses, but it does have a planner application.

I decided to try it just for the planner part.  We have been using it this week, and so far I love it.  I can input assignments and due dates.  They can upload assignments directly to Edmodo to turn them in.  They also can add their own tasks to the calendar to keep up with when they are due.

(See, if you look at the planner I meant to blog on Tuesday.) One of my other favorite features is that I can set up different classes and within the classes I can setup small groups.  I am doing three different book clubs (literature circles) right now, so I created small groups based on the Book Clubs. I can add different assignments for each book club, so not everyone in class necessarily sees the same assignments due on their calendar.  As they finish assignments, they turn them in.  For tasks they add themselves, they check the box when they finish them.

We are still new to using it, but so far it seems to be working better than the other paper type planners I have tried. I know Edmodo has all sorts of features and eventually it will be fun to test them out, but for now I am just excited about an online planner that was easy to setup and use.

So far my students all updated their profiles on their own and are sending class messages to each other with things like "If you were a super dog, what super powers would you have?"  Do you use Edmodo?  What are your favorite applications for it?

In my effort to get healthier before summer, I am having a Be a Better You Giveaway.  It ends tomorrow, so I hope you will enter.  You can earn a $30 gift card to a store of your choice to get healthier.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dear Children of the Earth Freebies

I was looking for some ideas for Earth Day. While linking up my biomes book suggestions at Collaboration Cuties, I saw this suggestion to read Dear Children of the Earth by Schim Schimmel at The Balanced Classroom.

I had picked up this book at the library when I was searching for books on biomes and looking for possible read alouds. I decided after Tammi's post that this would make the perfect read for Earth Day. It has beautiful illustrations and is written from the point of view of Mother Earth.

Today we will read the book, discuss the theme, answer some questions, and then my students will write their own letters from the point of view of an animal or plant on Earth.  They will have to choose what message they want to deliver. Click here for your own freebie copy of the activities.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Common Core in the Content Areas: Biomes and Habitats

My new weekly series is called Common Core in the Content Areas. Eventually if people show enough interest I think it would make a great linky.

Jessica at Ideas by Jivey was kind enough to help create a great blog button for the series.

Ideas By Jivey

Since it ties into Science, I am also going to link up with Collaboration Cuties' Must Read Mentor Texts since I am offering book suggestions for Science.

This week I am going to share some ideas on studying Biomes. I decided I wanted to do an end of the year project to incorporate Science and Social Studies as well as Reading and Writing.  I have tried to incorporate a lot more Nonfiction this year, but I felt that the Informational Text Common Core Standards are the ones I really want to review at the end of the year. Informational Text is much harder for students to read because they have to be much more active readers. I decided that a project on biomes would be a great way to tie up the year. With tomorrow being Earth Day it is also a great time to begin our discussion of biomes.  I am going to be stalking all the blogs I follow and Pinterest for some cute Earth Day freebies to tie in tomorrow.

We introduced biomes last week with a Discovery Education video to preview all of the biomes. Then, the students had to choose a biome they wanted to learn more about.  I asked all of them to check out at least 2 books at the library on their biome to bring to class tomorrow.  We are going to practice all of the Reading Informational Text Standards over the next several weeks while they read/learn about the plants, animals, climate, etc. of their biome. I have been looking for some cute books that would also make great read alouds over the next couple weeks.  The students will be reading Nonfiction independently, but I will probably choose some other texts for read alouds.

I found a unit on TpT that is going to make a great starting point for our research. Today I just need to finish my informational text graphic organizers and plan for the unit.  (Every weekend I plan on getting so much accomplished but in my effort to be eat better, exercise more, and be more balanced I have found I have less time at home for blogging, grading, planning, and creating products.)  The biome unit is by Tanye Rae Designs.
The unit has some great research organizers, handouts, and even book suggestions for each biome. After going through the library, here are some books I found on biomes, ecosystems, and habitats.  I am going to have my students research the plants, animals, climate, and the various plant and animal adaptations for these biomes. We also probably talk about food chains during this unit.
Last week, we started reading What is a Biome? by Bobbie Kalman.  It is a great overview book.  I would say it is probably more effective read independently or in small groups than whole group. We are going to read it in small chunks. (I found the Discovery Education video a more engaging preview to the unit.)  It will make a good book to do mini-lessons on reading informational text though as I have them practice different reading skills over the next couple weeks.
You can never go wrong with Magic School Bus.  I found a couple of Magic School Bus books related to Biomes.  The kids always enjoy the videos more but the books are great as read aloud. To talk about animal habitats and ecosystems, there is The Magic School Bus Explores the World of Animals.
To talk about Food Chains, there is The Magic School Bus Gets Eaten.
I found a cute book called Crinkleroot's Guide to knowing Animal Habitats.  An old man is your guide and leads you through ways to find animals in different habitats. There is a whole Crinkleroot series of books.

I always love searching through the Graphic Novels in the kid's section for ideas as well. I found
A Journey into Adaptation with Max Axiom.  We will read this when we talk about adaptation.

If you go look in the Junior Nonfiction section at your library under 577 and 578, you can find a ton of nonfiction books on each of the biomes.  These are the books we will use for their independent research.  As we get started, I will share more of my ideas and finds on studying biomes.  Do you have any fun books or lessons you use when studying biomes, food chains, ecosystems, habitats, or plant and animal adaptations?

Don't forget about my Be a Better You Giveaway.  You can earn a $30 gift card to a store of your choice to get healthier for summer.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Point of View

I am here to join up to Jessica's Workshop Wednesday (on Thursday morning).  I love that the idea for this week is on Writing Workshop mini-lessons.

I really enjoy teaching writing and watching my students blossom as writers.  It is hard to pick one favorite lesson idea.

First, I will share a couple of my favorite resources for teaching writing.  One is www.readwritethink.org.  My students all have laptops so we have used the interactive graphic organizers a ton this year.  They have really enjoyed them and responded well to them.  My second favorite resource is www.writingfix.com.  There are many lessons on this website with free printables and mentor texts.  When I first started teaching, some of my best lesson inspirations came from here.

Now, my favorite writing topic to teach is probably Point of View.  Point of View is a skill that students need to understand in Reading, Writing, and History.  I have found it to be a key skill to unlock creativity and higher-order thinking. I usually introduce the topic of point of view early in the year with mentor text The Pain and the Great One by Judy Blume. The book shows the point of view of both a brother and sister and how they view each other. It is a cute text and something many kids can relate to. I think this text could also pair well with My Rotten Redheaded Older Brother by Patricia Polacco (since the CCSS put so much emphasis on comparing and contrasting).

After we talk about Point of View, I introduce the writing strategy RAFT.  I love using RAFT.  RAFT stands for Role, Audience, Format, and Topic.  For a lot of our writing assignments, I have my students think about the role they are writing from (point of view), who their audience is (author's purpose), the format (letter, journal, essay, story, etc.), and the topic.  Often you make 2-3 of these aspects mandatory and give them options for 1-2 of the others.

I have found using RAFT a fabulous way to incorporate writing into Science and Social Studies as well.  We have done a lot of assignments where we have written from the point of view of historical figures.  Point of View helps students make connections to people in History or characters in books or even think about how friends or family members feel. While studying light in Science, my students had to write from the point of view of a shadow.

In November for Thanksgiving, we do the persuasive writing from the point of view of the turkey who does not want to be eaten.  We studied Point of View when we studied and wrote fractured fairy tales.

How do you teach Point of View?  I will be back later to share my text suggestion for integrating the Common Core Standards in the Content Areas.

Don't forget to enter my Be a Better You Giveaway.  I am giving away a $30 gift card to a store of the winner's choice in order to be a "healthier, better you" for summer.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Be a Better You Giveaway

I should have had a 500 follower giveaway over a month a go and a 1 year blog anniversary almost 2 months ago.  In 2013 I decided my word for the year was balance.  I am trying to make health and wellness more important.  I want to eat better, exercise more, and find joy on a daily basis.  I very much want to continue to grow my blog and my TpT store.  I also have come to realize that we all do the best we can and balance is most important. 

Last week I started a bootcamp fitness class that lasts for four weeks.  I am trying to make food adjustments to go along with it. As I am trying to work out and plan out what I eat, I am just trying to fit in time for grading, blogging, and creating products as best I can. I am also trying to remind myself to fit in more time for prayer and keeping my gratitude list. It is all about balance. :)

Now, I decided I wanted to do a giveaway related to being a better you.  What can you do to be healthier?  I am going to give away a $30 gift card to a place of the winner's choice.  The winner just needs to choose something that will help them be healthier. It could be to Whole Foods, Trader Joes, or maybe Academy.  Maybe even Amazon if there is a book or fitness item they have been wanting.

Enter the giveaway and start thinking about how you can be a better, healthier you in time for summer.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Common Core in the Content Areas: You Wouldn't Want to Be an American Pioneer

Common Core in the Content Areas

On Thursdays, I would like to start offering ideas for the Content Areas (Science and Social Studies) to incorporate the Common Core Standards.

These might be reading ideas, writing ideas, or even Math ideas.  Initially, I will probably focus on text suggestions.  With the Common Core Reading Standards placing so much emphasis on Informational Text I have tried to incorporate a lot more nonfiction into my read alouds this year.

I enjoy searching the library for nonfiction on topics we are exploring in Science and Social Studies.  I try to always distinguish between which texts seem like they would be great for a project and which ones seem like they would read well aloud.

In Social Studies, we are studying Westward Expansionism.  This week we read You Wouldn't Want to Be an American Pioneer by Jacqueline Morley.  If you have not read any of the "You Wouldn't Want to Be" books, you are missing out.  They are packed full of information on different history topics, are engaging to read, and the illustrations are funny. The kids always love these books and remember all of the details very well.
You can easily cover the Common Core Standards with this book.  You could discuss the main ideas and details, text structure, and/or the author's claim with evidence. You could discuss how the illustrations aid their understanding.  For writing, you could have your students write an informational piece about the hardships of moving west. They could write a persuasive piece on reasons why should move west or reasons not to move west.  They also could create a little persuasive brochure or poster for this same purpose. You could also have them write a narrative about the daily life of moving west. We discussed the book in depth and then I gave them questions to answer at the end. You can get a copy of the questions here.
For each text suggestion I give for the Content Areas, I am going to give you a freebie to go with the book.  I may also try and create some mini-units to go with the books to put in my TpT store. 

I hope you will consider linking up your own posts on how you incorporate the Common Core Standards in your Content Areas. I look forward to this being a weekly series.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Mentor Text for Metaphor: Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge

I am linking up with Collaboration Cuties' Mentor Text Linky.

April is National Poetry Month, so I love incorporating poetry and figurative language.  We just started a Mystery Unit, so I may push more of our poetry for May or the end of April.  (We did some poetry in February and March.) My favorite site for Mentor Text lessons is www.writingfix.com. All of their lessons are fabulous and can be used to incorporate reading strategies as well.

One of the lessons from this site I have enjoyed most was for metaphors. Click to pull up the lesson here. The lesson uses the mentor text Wilfrid Gordon McDonald Partridge by Mem Fox. 

This book really lends itself to not just discussion of metaphor, but the idea of extended metaphor. The story is very sweet and would also be great for discussing theme. After reading the book, students write a four metaphor poem.  To accompany this book I would also have my students read the poem "Hope" by Emily Dickinson.  It would flow well with the topic of extended metaphor.

I am also going to link up with Sabra at Teaching with a Touch of Twang for her Monthly Market linky that focuses on Poetry.

What is your favorite Writing Fix lesson or poetry mentor text?

I also am trying to get back to blogging at my personal blog "Balancing the Backpack" as I work toward better balance spiritually, mentally, and physically.  I will be focusing a lot on what exercises I am doing, what I am eating, and what I am thankful for. Stop by if you also are working on balance. :)

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Math websites

I am excited to link up for Jivey's Workshop Wednesday for Math sites. (I love her new button by the way.)

I teach in a blended learning environment, which means we use a vartiety of actual teacher/student interaction and online learning. All of my students use laptops, so I have tried out all sorts of sites this year. I have a small grade 4-5 class, but for Math they span from 4th grade Math through 7th grade Math.  I have had to use a lot of sites to help practice, teach, and reinforce math concepts to help them all work at different paces and levels. During Math, I am all over my classroom helping my students.

Some of these have already been mentioned, but here are my favorite sites for different reasons:

1) Xtramath - Many of my students have struggled with their Math Facts, so we have used Xtramath to improve their math fact fluency.  (This reminds me we haven't used it since coming back from Spring Break.  I need to make them start logging in again every morning.) It takes about 5 minutes per day. They have to master addition at 90% accuracy before moving on to subtraction and then they move on to subtraction, multiplication, and division as they master them.

2) Sumdog is one of their favorites.  It is a fun way to spiral review without making copies.  You can assign grade levels or topics to individual students. They create avatars, earn levels, and can play lots of different games against each other.  They love when I play, too. Sumdog has a free subscription.  If you pay, you can get Sumdog English as well.

3) IXL - My students love doing IXL practice to unlock extra rewards.  It takes a subscription, but honestly IXL has been of the best ways for me to give all my students extra practice for so many concepts at so many levels with immediate feedback.

4) Math Playground - Math Playground is a new one we have been experimenting with lately.  They seem to really enjoy it.

I like the idea of these weekly linkies.  I think I would like to do a weekly post/linky on text suggestions for the Content Areas (Science and Social Studies), especially Nonfiction with the Common Core emphasis on Informational Text. I am trying to think of a name. So far I have Thinking Through Texts Thursday, Common Core Texts for the Content Areas, Informational Text Thursday, or Nonfiction Thursday.  What do you think?  Any name suggestions? Would you be interested or participate in a linky focusing on text suggestions for Science and Social Studies?

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