Saturday, May 31, 2014

Surviving the End of Year CHAOS!!! Here is a tip...Contest OVER!

It always fascinates me how the first day of school and the end of the year have been placed on the calendar for MONTHS, yet it always seems to catch me off guard and come faster than I ever could have imagined!  Does it feel that way to you, too?

I am a planner, organizer, and a bit OC when it comes to having things in working order, but no matter how hard I try, I struggle to avoid even a little bit of chaos during these exciting times.  There always tends to be one last... bit of data to enter, report card to complete, gift to buy, meeting to attend, task that needs tending to, etc! Tell me I am not alone in this end of year cycle that I swear won't happen the next.

My one tip to surviving the chaos is this...always have one extra engaging lesson/activity/learning tool for students to work on that is copied, in an easy-to-access spot with any and all materials ready to go...because you never know when one of these LASTS may pop up! 

Just like my students, I am pumped for that last day of the year.  Being a 6th grade teacher and student, we get to look forward to the 6th Grade Graduation, which takes place every year at 9:30AM.  Problem is, the students arrive at 8:15AM and all of their materials have been taken home the previous day.  While a movie could work, this is the last time these students will be interacting in this specific setting!  I try to make it memorable!  This is the perfect time to put finishing touches on that Moments and Memories Reflection Journal by allowing students to autograph, add tidbits about the year, etc!  Have it ready to go! Grab this now for some peace of mind...

Thanks for joining our end of the school year blog hop today. Twenty teacher bloggers got together to celebrate the end of the school year with you by donating a product to the Surviving the Chaos blog hop bundle. 

Thanks for joining our end of the school year blog hop. We had a great turn out of hoppers. The prize pack part of the hop is now closed. Stay tuned for blog excitement in mid July.  

Please keep hoping along to read our tried, tested and true survival tips.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Top 5 Ways You KNOW State Testing is OVER...and what to teach now!

State testing is one element of teaching that is so very tricky!  In the one sense it is a data tool that holds teachers accountable for student learning, but in another sense it is THE tool that is the focus of the success or failure of the school year!

Sadly, I have heard some of the best teachers I know say things like, "I have been practicing my 'Welcome to Starbucks, what can I get for you?' in preparation for the results of my state evaluation."  These are some of the best of the best, I might add!

Testing is stressful for teachers, overwhelming for students, and the moment it is completed, there is a change in atmosphere in EVERY school building.  Here are the ways you know testing is over.

  1. These books are now back on every library shelf because no one wants to see them!!!

    2.  The shelves at Walmart and Target!  If you are in need of bags of mints, boxes of Goldfish, and #2 pencils, it may be awhile!

    3. This madness has halted on You Tube!

    4.  Every field trip and assembly for the year is crammed into the remaining days of the year!

    5. There is a whole lot more of this!

    If you are looking to have a little fun with your students for the times when you are not in an assembly, on a field trip, or spending some extra minutes enjoying recess, here are some resources you might find both helpful and useful at keeping students engaged.

 I have also teamed up with Educents and Buy Sell Teach with of instant downloads for you! It includes printables, activities, readers theaters, close reads, and much more!  It's a mixture of reading, math, and social studies so you are sure to find a great mix of items to teach in May!

My products included will surely be loved by your students!
Two of my products are: Baseball Close Reading Bundle to enhance reading comprehension with fun, high-interest passages that will engage your readers.  Extension activities included will have your students begging to read more informational text.  

Reader's Theater is an essential tool that builds both fluency and reading comprehension. By including Reader's Theater into your middle grades and middleschool classroom, you are allowing for your students to transform into enthusiastic readers of text. This Reader's Theater MEGA Bundle includes 15-high-interest selections that will have your students begging to perform. In addition, each comes with clear directions for keeping students focused and on-task, reader response questions, word work activities using context clues, journal topics, graphic organizers for post-reading exercises, and other extension activities. Each NO-PREP, PRINT AND GO script can be used independently from the others.

For a limited time it is $10.99 from Educents which is about 80% off!

You can also take peek at some of the other products included in the bundle at any of the links below!
Have fun teaching everyone!

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Best of the Best~A Teacher Appreciation Blog Hop and Giveaway

Amy over at Teaching with Blue Jeans organized this amazing blog hop and giveaway for Teacher Appreciation Week.  There are over 106 teacher/bloggers participating to make a few AMAZING bundled prizes.  Each teacher/blogger has donated the top selling item from their TpT store in order to truly make this giveaway THE BEST FOR THE BEST! 

The novel Crash by Jerry Spinelli is an absolute favorite of mine.  It is the first novel I share with my students when they arrive in my classroom in August.  Here are my top 5 reasons that I find it to be such a hit:
  1. It is the perfect read aloud!
  2. My students easily connect to the characters.
  3. It is realistic fiction, dealing with present day issues.
  4. The chapters are short, which appeals to my students.
  5. It is the perfect tool to introduce/reinforce: read to someone, read to self, listen to reading.
Need I say more?!

I have my own set of classroom copies of this novel, but they are worn out.  So I utilize our public library's teacher collection system to have 25 hardback copies for use in the classroom.  If students are absent, I send one of my copies home to make-up missed work.

Each student is given a file folder with the unit inside.  Because this is a tool we are using in the classroom, I collect the folders at the end of class and keep them.  This allows me to grade any work they completed in their unit folder, and I don't have to worry about it being forgotten-students are prepared to learn upon entering the classroom.

Below are a few pics of students working on the novel unit and the end of book project I love to use with this text to really focus on character, setting, and narrative writing.

The project is called "Spend a Day!"  The students have to select one of the characters from the novel that they would like to spend time with.  Based on evidence from the text, they write three narratives about three different activities they would do with this character.  Finally, they draw three pictures of the activities they shared about in their narratives.  The illustrations and narratives are complied into a construction paper book.


If you are looking for that perfect text to start the year, this truly is the best one!
I just created this reader's theater script to go with the novel because every year my students ask if the novel has been turned into a movie.  Shout out to Hollywood for making my students think that!  My students LOVE to perform reader's theaters and with the CCSS mandating that students can compare and contrast different versions of the same story, this learning tool helps my students with that skill.  It can be read to introduce the novel, or it can be utilized at the end.  Either way it is a great addition to the novel.  Grab it for $1 by clicking on the image!

Have fun navigating the rest of this BEST OF THE BEST Blog Hop!  Most importantly, thanks for all you do for your students!  Have a great rest of your year and a well-deserved summer!

Here is the next stop on the BLOG HOP:

Continue on The Best for the Best Teacher Appreciation Blog Hop by clicking the picture below.

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Sunday, May 4, 2014

May the 4th be with you...My Top 4 Novel Units

In the teaching world it can feel like you are standing on an island at times.  Despite all of the work that happens in the classroom, the interactions you have with other teacher and staff during the course of a day, and the numerous meetings attended each day, it can sometimes feel like we are fighting an uphill battle all by ourselves.  

As the only 6th grade reading and language arts teacher in my building I am at a loss at times to find the perfect learning tools for my students.  One size does not fit all in my situation, and our Reading Street 6th Grade Level resource is not always the perfect tool for teaching my learners.  With students at such diverse levels-believe it or not-from kindergarten-tenth grade level, I have quite a span of readers. 

What's a reading teacher to do, but work to find the tools or MAKE them in order to make sure everyone is learning and growing.  So that is what I do!

Novel units are a huge part of my instruction.  While I do utilize Reading Street, I do believe that students need to read WHOLE texts and NOVELS.  I can honestly say that there are some students that arrive in my classroom is the fall and have never read an entire novel cover to cover by themselves.  I take this sad reality, and turn it into a positive goal.  In order to make ensure my students leave me as better readers, I help them find texts that they won't want to put down and help them to navigate them successfully.

A few novel units I have created for my students have become hits with others on my TpT store.  In fact, my top selling four products are novel units.  I want to share them with you today.  Each unit is common core aligned and comes with an answer key in order to make your life as easy as possible as a teacher...something we all need.  Take a look below at how I utilize each of these tried and true tools with my 6th grade learners...

Crash by Jerry Spinelli is the novel I love to begin the school year with in order to model a few of the different elements of the Daily 5-listen to reading when I read aloud, read to someone for partner read, and read to self when reading independently.  Because it is a high-interest, realistic fiction text that my students connect with so well, it is one that they can't seem to get enough of reading.  In addition, a theme of the novel is bullying, which I believe to be a perfect issue to tackle right at the start of the year.  The rich discussion that comes from this novel is incredible.  I find that students think some of the bullying in the beginning of the novel by Crash toward Penn is humorous, but by the end, no one is laughing when Penn is getting mistreated by Mike DeLuca.  Lastly, this novel makes it easy to enhance student understanding of setting, point of view, antagonist vs. protagonist, and flashback.

How do I utilize these novels? I make each student their own novel folder with the novel unit inside.  We do share books because I teach 60+ students and only have 22 novels.  This is one that I bought for my classroom library, but the public library does have a teacher collection that can be reserved. The chapters are incredibly short in this novel, so I will always read aloud at least one chapter each day.  We will answer a few of the novel unit questions and engage in discussion about what has been read.  Next, the students will partner read or work independently on the remaining chapters and corresponding questions assigned for the day.  I will also pull students in small groups and work with those that might need more assistance.

I created the Chocolate Fever and The Boxcar Children novel units for my intervention crew this past school year.  They were 6th graders that were eager to achieve as learners, but struggling readers.  I wanted them to have success with high-interest novels that they would enjoy reading.  also, it is imperative that students have success reading complete novels.  Both of these texts made that happen for my intervention students.  Each of these units were incredibly well-received.

My intervention group read 3 more of The Boxcar Children novels after tackling this one.  Many of the students in that group had never read a mystery and loved trying to infer how things would turn out.  They loved reading these novels aloud, which really improved their fluency.  In addition, our discussions were terrific.  If you are looking for books to read with upper elementary intervention kiddos, this is the perfect series.

I am a Jerry Spinelli fanatic.  I just adore the novels he writes because I feel they really make an impact on my male readers.  His main characters tend to be boys dealing with various issues of which my male students can relate.  Wringer is the same way as Crash, but deals with peer pressure and how we sometimes go along with something just because others are, not because we agree.  Palmer LaRue really battles that in this novel with the idea of having to become a wringer.  Like Crash, this novel makes it easy to enhance student understanding of setting, point of view, and flashback.

If you are looking to enhance your classroom library, these are perfect books for your upper elementary students!  Grab these discounted novel units to save you some planning time and money!

Happy Reading!

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