Small Moment Stationery

Wow!  I am in amazement of the people who can keep up their blog once school is back in session.  I am having difficulty even reading all the great blogs that I follow!

This posting is really a piggyback post to Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher.  She wrote a great post about the beginning of Writer's Workshop, brainstorming "watermelon" topics and then finding those "seed" stories.  Check it out here!

Don't you just love the posters? 

I also love, love, love the idea of assigning a point value to their brainstorming.  You may not do this with every session, but it would be good to pick a few.  I know that in our hearts we believe that writing is developmental, and grading of it is subjective, but grade we must!  This little point system is just one small way to quantify what is going on. 

So, why am I writing this since Third Grade Teacher already did?  After I read the post I whipped up two different papers for the kids to use for brainstorming.  My first one looked just like her poster, and the second one I did with a watermelon and seeds.  I sent them to her, and now I'm giving them to you! 


Think of a Person                       Seed Story                        Back of both!


Winner, Winner And It Wasn't Dinner...

Okay, first I will admit that my title is very lame.  I'll attribute it to the fact that I have been trying to come up with Weird School Series rhymes in preparation for our author visit of Dan Gutman so I'm little worn out with coming up with a rhyme on a dime. 

A few weeks back I entered a contest for a Back To School Giveaway!  Three different bloggers were offering two selections each from their Teacher's Notebook Shop.  As you can see below, I was one of the lucky ones!

Here are the three blogs I won from:
First Grade Factory    Mrs. Patton’s Patch 

I selected some really amazing things!

From First Grade Factory I chose:

Nursery Rhyme Homework--I thought this was a great idea as our little ones are not coming to school knowing nursery rhymes and fairy tales and yet references to both will appear on state testing.  We need to bring back both of these genres! 

Teacher Talk: Modeling and Developing Text Interaction--This is a fantastic resource aligned with Common Core Standards that provides text cards to support children as they interact with text.  From previewing text to synthesizing covers everything!

From The Teacher Wife:

Action Verbs--This is a great 30 page unit that includes anchor charts, activities, games and assessment tools.  The graphics are so cute!

All About Nouns--Another cute unit chock full of charts, games, activities and cross curriculum linking!

Mrs. Patton's Patch

Phonics Friend--Short and long vowel patterns complete with adorable characters and their favorite things.  Such as "Short A Max" whose favorite color is black and favorite pet is a cute!  There are also loads of other printables that go along including posters for word walls!

Writing Interactive  Notebook--Perhaps my personal favorite...naturally.  These are fantastic printables that create a wonderful interactive notebook.  She also offers a free download that shows you how to assemble the notebook in a prong folder.  If you have always wanted to try a Writer's Notebook, this is the place to go!  Love, love, love it!

A big thank you ladies for all the wonderful stuff.  I encourage everyone to head over to their stores and check out their items...they have lots of goodies!


Pick Me, Pick Me....

Jennifer over at Rowdy in First Grade posted a really great idea for managing Popsicle sticks to pick students.  It is really so simple, yet brilliant.  Check it out here!  I don't know about you, but I use Popsicle sticks to determine who is going share their writing, lead our Fundations (phonics) drill or lead our daily math routines. Each task requires two cups, picked and not-picked, and it is inevitable that I end up playing "pick-up sticks" at some point in the day.  Jennifer's posted idea would have gone a long way to cut down on that fiasco!!

Last year I discovered an App for the iPhone called Teacher's Pick  or virtual Popsicle sticks. I think it is a bargain at $0.99 and it helped me cut down a bit on the "cups o' sticks" that were floating around. 

Teacher's Pick allows you to set up a class with the names of all your students and you can easily copy that list for multiple classes.  Here are some screenshots to give you an idea of the interface:

I set up my class and then made several copies for all of my different purposes.  We even set up a game that the kids use during Morning Meeting. It is called Earth, Air, Water and Fire.  I set up a class called "Game" and instead of student names I made a stick that said "Earth", "Air", "Water", and "Fire."  The student who is the leader will go around a circle and press the selection button.  If it says  Earth, Air, or Water the child in the circle has to name an animals that is on land, flies or swims.  If "Fire" comes up, the leader sits down and the child from the circle becomes the new leader. The game ends when we have gone around the circle at least once, or we run out of time. Quick and fun!

If you have an iPhone, iTouch or iPad, give it a try!

What systems do you have in place for selecting students for different activities?

Where It All Goes Down Wednesday

I wasn't going to participate today because....I don't have a classroom and I haven't pimped out my cart just yet.  (Check out this post to understand). But I did set up a brand-new classroom last year and it looked pretty good and was functional although there are very few things I would have changed.
This was what it looked like when I walked in.  The furniture was pulled away from the wall because they painted the room.

Everything piled in the center.

I always feel better when I get all of the desks set up.  Notice my gorgeous new rug ready to lay out!

My room theme was space and I couldn't resist this galaxy paper.  This year I created templates for my Daily Five posters.  We brainstormed our "I Charts" on the whiteboard, and then I transferred it neatly to the charts on the bulletin boards. Things to change:  If I had stayed in third grade I would have returned to solid color bulletin boards. I found the galaxy paper to be visually noisy! 

You will see many of  Beth Newingham's ideas in my room. The character trait posters were used to discuss and identify specific character traits.  When we discovered a character who displayed that trait, we would add the book to the poster.  (Beth puts mini pictures of the books, but I am not nearly as clever or organized.  We wrote the titles with whiteboard markers).

This is my "desk" area.  I used one section of the computer station and stored things in the rolling cart drawers.  You will also notice my Desk Apprentice on top of the fridge. This is a teacher's dream.  Some day I'll fancy it up....


Genre posters and my easel.  The genre posters were stuck to radiator with magnets, but the kids kept knocking them down.  We eventually put them on a ring and clipped it to the side of the cart. Update:  I put the posters in a binder and made a flip chart!

I really enjoyed the reading map.  Each child had their own unique tack and when they read a story with a real setting, they placed their pin in the city/state.  The kids really got into this and would use the Internet to find exact placement.  Eventually, the class decided to add the other continents.  We also used the map to identify the city with the high and low temperature each week (another special tack) and when Flat Stanley went on his adventures, we noted that! 

My Cafe Board is set and ready to fill.  I use the bottom portion for the kids to place their post it with a goal. 

All ready, just need the kids!


Teacher Talk Tuesday--Mentor Text Day 4

I swore that blogging would be an enjoyable activity and not another item on my "To Do" list.  I also committed to five entries per week.  Several events have taken place that have given me pause to reconsider and revise my ideals.  I still swear that blogging will be enjoyable to me, but I will create entries when I have the desire to write and not stick to an arbitrary number.  With that being said, I thought it would be interesting to jump start the creative juices by participating in a little linky party.  So.....
Teacher Talk Tuesday!

Everyone has written great advice so far.  My advice is rather simple:

1.  Well-meaning teachers who have had your students in the previous year will want to tell you all the things wrong with the student.  Smile, nod and say,  "Thanks, let's hope that he/she had some growth this year," then walk away and forget everything they said.  It IS a new year, there WILL be some growth and YOU are a different person.  Let the child start new!

2.  Be humble.  You don't need to know everything, and if you act like you do you will create a divide.  Ask your team members for help...but don't expect them to hold your hand.

3.  Find the most difficult child in your class and love them and protect them like a mama grizzly bear.  It is easy to love the good kids, but your true teaching spirit will come out with the difficult ones. 

4.  Rest, take your vitamins and rest some more. 

5.  Finally, when things are not going well in a lesson, don't be afraid to throw in the towel.  Stop the lesson, move on and reflect on it later.  A talented teacher is not one who can execute a lesson plan perfectly, a talented teacher is one who recognizes that a lesson needs to be executed.  (Theme song to Godfather should be playing in your head right now).

Here is a favorite Mentor Text to refer to when life hands you lemons. I'm Gonna Like Me-Letting Off a Little Self-Esteem, by Jamie Lee Curtis.  This is an upbeat book with repeating text, "I'm Gonna Like Me."
 The story finds the good in all the annoying, scary things that can happen to little kids.  It is a wonderful text to use to get children to brainstorm situations when something goes wrong.  Have them write as many ideas as possible...a perfect list for small moment ideas!

Mentor Text Madness--Day 3

The Hello, Goodbye Window

The Hello, Goodbye Window by Norton Juster and illustrated by Chris Raschka is a delightful text that describes, through the eyes of child, what happens outside the window of her grandmother and grandfather's house.  This is another great read aloud for the beginning of the year, because you can revisit it for several mini lessons throughout a unit on narrative writing.

Mini lesson ideas:
  • Small moment
  • Seed Story
  • Show, don't tell
  • Voice
  • Point of View
  • Closing with a reflection of character's thoughts and feelings
Children identify easily with story and often are eager to share their own experiences with visiting grandparents or other relatives.  This is a perfect time to have them turn and talk with their elbow partner about those experiences and then send them off to write while they are excited!  Younger children enjoy modeling a similar story with another object or place.
  • Hello, Goodbye Treehouse
  • Hello, Goodbye School
  • Hello, Goodbye Pet

Mentor Text Madness--Day 2

Today's Mentor Text is Me on the Map by Joan Sweeney.

Me on the Map is a great first week read aloud.  I like the book for many reasons.  It lends itself perfectly to a social studies unit on geography and it can be used to introduce science unit on habitats.  I like it for writing because it can open up many possibilities.  For those not familiar with the book, this is an excerpt to give you an idea:
          This is me.
          This is me in my room.
          This is a map of my room.
         This is me on the map of my room.

         This is my house.
        This is a map of my house.
        This is a map of my street....
The story continues all the way to This is my country on a map of the world. 
I like the story for writing because of the following features and potential lessons:
  • Use of text features.  Labeling, diagrams, and maps.
  • Repeating text.
  • Circular story.
  • Simple transitions.
This is a simple activity to get started:

Jenn over at Finally in First has an adorable activity that also goes with this book.
Jessica Meacham has an amazing unit with other activities.  (Scroll down the page).

Are You...Fond of a Favorite Font?

First, let me announce that it is clearly time for me to go back to school.  Why?  Keep reading.

I've been thinking about fonts lately and when I say the word font, it also makes me think of fondant.  Font, of course, is the style of letters that one chooses to give their writing the perfect look.  Fondant is that dreamy, sugary coating that Buddy Valastro (Cake Boss) puts on his cakes to give them the perfect look. Do you see the similarities?  You do?  It is time for you to go back to school, also!

The reason I have been thinking about fonts is because I have been writing in several different forms.  I have been working on this blog, writing emails and creating tables and charts in Word and Excel.  They all default to a different font which is even further complicated when I convert some of my documents to Google Docs.  I decided that this week I would change the default of all my modes of writing to...THE ONE PERFECT FONT.  However, before making that monumental, life-changing decision I need to do some research.  Here is what I discovered:
  • Research suggests that serif fonts (those with little tails like this Times New Roman font) are easier on the eye when reading print.  The tails help you to track better.
  • Research also suggests that serif fonts (those without the little tails like this Arial font) are not as helpful when reading from a screen and sans serif fonts are better for electronic media.
  • Size really does matter.  Particularly when you are over the age of 45, and bigger is better.  However, you don't want a size so big that the reader has to keep scrolling down to read. Most people agree that anything over 10 pts is preferred.  I often pick 11 although 12 pts can be read without my glasses.
  • Not all browsers support all fonts, so it is better to keep to the well-known, standard fonts. 

So, help a girl out.  What is your favorite font?  What are your font pet peeves? 
Want to do a little research on your own?  Click here for Crabby Office Lady article.  Hey, I didn't say it was quality research!!

Stay tuned for Mentor Text Madness--Day 2.


Mentor Text Madness--Day 1

Are all of these words rattling around in your head?  It is easy to get distracted with everything we have to do in those first few weeks of school. This time of year is perfect for reading mentor texts that will support Writer's Workshop throughout the year.  I like to read many, many picture books during those first few weeks of school to help break up the monotony of rules, regulations and procedures. I read the books for the pure pleasure of reading and listening.

The bonus?  Later in the year when you want to use one of those books for a writing mini-lesson, you can say, "Remember when we read this book?  Well today we're going to visit just a piece of it as we talk about...." 

This story is about two writers who conveniently live next door to each other.  Their dog and cat start to chase each other and each author begins the process of writing a book about the adventure.  This is a perfect book to demonstrate where authors get their ideas, the process they go through for writing and the challenges they face during editing.  Students love to hear this book and beg me to read all of the thought bubbles from the dog and cat.  We return to this book many times throughout the year when talking about the writing process.

This is a story of a little mouse who lives in the library and reads book after book every night.  One evening he decides to write a book of his own and tucks the tiny book onto the library shelf. He writes several more books and the librarian leaves him a note inviting him to a "Meet the Author" gathering to share his secrets to writing. The mouse is too shy to come to the gathering, but he sets up a box that says "Meet the Author".  When the children peer in to the box, they see themselves in a tiny mirror.  Next to the box are small blank books and pencils for everyone to try writing their own book!

I love to read this story and have tiny books all stapled and ready to go.  There is something magical about writing in a tiny book and I use one of the mini pocket charts from target to display our newest treasures!  How fun!

Bucket Filling Freebie

One of the activities I created for Work on Writing as part of my second grade Daily 5 was our Bucket Person of the Week. 

Like many of you, I created a bucket filling environment.  During the first few weeks of school we read the book How Full is Your Bucket? by Tom Rath and Mary Reckmeyer and  Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud. 

Once the students were comfortable with the language and purpose of bucket filling, we created a "Bucket Person of the Week.  Each week we selected a student to highlight and during Work on Writing the rest of the class would write a bucket filling message to that person.  I kept a special mailbox to store the written bucket messages and at the end of the week I would bind them and present them to the student.  Students LOVED receiving their special messages! 

(I'm still new at the embedding Google docs thing so if this link does not work let me know and I will try again).

By the way, in case you haven't discovered this there is a Bucket Fillers website that offers a free e-Newsletter and they have a nifty shop with Bucket Filling emblems!


Paint Away Those Tired Words

Here is an easy mini lesson on word choice that I did this year with my class AND it tied in with a current lesson they were having in art class. After the students were discussing colors and hues in art class, I brought in a stack of paint chips.

Source: via Kitty on Pinterest

Using the paint chip I wrote the word fun on the lightest color.  Together we brainstormed words that could replace "fun" and ranked them in order until we got to the boldest color and boldest word.

I partnered students up, handed out paint chips, some tired words and a thesaurus and the students went to town.  Soon our door was covered in colorful paint chips with student made signs reminding them to pick a bolder word and other clever sayings.  After a few weeks, we attached all of the chips with a word ring and hung them up in the writing station.

Later in the year when they were partner revising their Young Author's Books, I heard more than one child say, "I think you could use a bolder word here," and they would run off to the chips! 

Here is a sampling of some of the phrases the kids came up to display our paint chips.  They created their own signs by hand and I wish I had taken pictures of the whole darn thing....but I didn't!

Bold Words

While searching Pinterest for a picture of paint chips, I came across some other cool uses.  Check these out:

How fun would these be to make?

So colorful!

Make some jazzy Elkonin boxes.  Reading Rockets has a great tutorial for this.

I can picture bookmarks with reading strategies or icons printed on them.  You could use clear address labels to print your strategy so the color would remain.

You can get paint chips for free, but if you are like me you feel a little guilty taking a class set.  I had a conversation with my nice Benjamin Moore dealer and he gave me a whole pack of chips they didn't display because one or two of colors are discontinued.  Don't be afraid to ask!

Have you ever used paint chips in the classroom?

My Head is in The Clouds!

Last week I wrote about Wordle a favorite word cloud generator of mine.  Jen over at Runde's Room left me a comment about her favorite word cloud generator--Tagxedo pronounced [tag-SEE-doh] similar to "Tuxedo." I am in word cloud heaven.  Tagxedo allows you to make word clouds into shapes.  You can copy text, type in your own, or just enter the URL of a web page.  For example, here is a coffee-cup shaped word cloud of my blog:

The really neat thing about Tagxedo is that you have the option to include punctuation or numbers.  Here is my About blog post without numbers or punctuation!

The possibilities for Tagxedo are endless, but I know that my number one use will be to take the rather wordy emails that my principal loves to send and turn them into a fun word cloud.  I can't wait!  Of course, there are boundless educational uses for Tagxedo, but for now I keep thinking of the shapes and the people who would love them.

 How about a Tagxedo for the bus driver?

Or the music teacher?

In addition to the standard shapes there is an entire gallery of shapes preloaded with words.  Why is this exciting?  When you click it opens up in the creation window and you can paste in your own text and choose your own colors!

I need a monkey, ladybug and smiley face shape for a few of our staff members with those themes for their rooms.  Oh, and wouldn't a book be great? 

Tagxedo is the brain-child of Hardy Leung. The current beta version allows you to create your own shapes. (Warning:  It appears, to this elementary teacher, to be way more math and computer coding than I am willing to know/learn...I'm thrilled to leave it to the experts.  Thanks, Hardy!) Want to know more?  Check out this FAQ from Tagxedo.

Hardy has several fantastic blogs spotlighting, you guessed it, amazing word clouds. 

I encourage you to take a peek and start exploring.  I apologize to your family in advance for the delay in breakfast, lunch or dinner.   

All Things Tagxedo--The Official Blog of Tagxedo, Tag Cloud with Styles

 Daily Tagxedo--Current Events, Trending Topics, or Whimsical Idea of the Day

Celebrity Tagxedo--Celebrities+Words+Images=Celebrity Tagxedo

What Tagxedo will you create today?

Wordle Tutorial

 I promised you more about Wordle in this post.   I love Wordle and the possibilities are endless.  Here are two samples:

This shows all the different genres I like to write!

Here is a partial list of the My Weird Series

Tamara over at Teaching with TLC has posted a great article about Wordle. 

Check out my quick tutorial on using Wordle.

Data, Standards, Assessment, Oh My!

Is your "To Do" list longer than your arm now?  Have the school nightmares begun?  We all need to do what we can to find some easy solutions for those little annoying things that we know we have to do, but just isn't fun.

How does your Data Notebook look?  Mine is an old binder with a bunch of boring, ugly sheets stuffed in.

That is all about to on over to Primary Graffiti and check out her Data Notebook packet.  It will be posted on TpT tonight, and I can't wait.  Here is my theory--if it's pretty, I will use it.  We'll see how that goes!  In the meantime, check this out at Primary Graffiti and don't forget to visit her TpT store!


Creating a Thought Journal

One of the first mini-lessons I teach in Writer's Workshop is creating and using a Thought Journal.  Some might call it a Writer's Notebook, Journal or Reflection Notebook.  In my classroom the Thought Journal is a place where students can play with writing. They use the Thought Journal to try out new techniques in Writer's Workshop, keep lists of ideas to write about and reflect on their reading. 

This book by Ralph Fletcher is a wonderful companion for older students (4th - 8th) about how to use their Writer's Notebook. 

Younger students need more hands-on instruction with lots of modeling to use their Thought Journal. 

I teach the first lesson during the first few days of school. I show the students my own Thought Journal and spend a great deal of time telling them about the different parts and what all the pictures mean to me. 

That evening I send them home with an assignment to start collecting pictures.  I also post my samples on my class blog so parents know where we are headed. 

The next day I demonstrate Wordle for the kids and we make Wordle clouds for any topic we are learning that day.  I show them my the Wordle cloud on my Thought Journal and get them excited about creating their own.  I send home a blank composition book and directions for Wordle and give the kids a long weekend to complete their Thought Journal at home.  I wish I had taken pictures!  One was cuter than the next!  Stay tuned for directions on how to use Wordle!


My Not Weird School

I mentioned yesterday that Dan Gutman will be coming to our school for our Young Author's Day.  Usually our author comes in the spring, but Dan was available in early October so we jumped at the chance.  The downside is that everyone will be crazy busy with back-to-school.  But I have a few tricks up my sleeve:
  • I have encouraged everyone to make their back-to-school bulletin board do double duty as their author bulletin board.  To emulate Gutman's My Weird School series teachers can create a board rhyming their name.   So if your name is Mrs. Fry your board might say:  Mrs. Fry's Class is Soaring High....and you might have a hot air balloon with the name of each student. 
  • We always create a board in our lobby with pictures of the entire staff to help new families on back-to school-night.  Title of this board?  The Not Weird Teachers of (Insert school name here).
  • In honor of Gutman's Million Dollar series I'm thinking of labeling The Million Dollar Office, The Million Dollar Water Fountain or The Million Dollar Lunch Room.
Do your students love The Weird School Series?  Listed below is a pdf Teacher's Guide. 

You can find this and other fun things at Dan Gutman's website.

What types of activities have you done for Young Author's Day or Author's Visit.  Let me know!

Death of the Bookstore

Borders, is closing.  Believe me when I tell you that I have done more than my share of trying to keep it alive.  I have the shelves of books and Mastercard bill to prove it!

Borders was my go to place when I needed to get away from everyone for a bit.  I would announce, "I'm going to the bookstore, anyone need anything?" and then zip out before they roused from their baseball watching, video game playing coma.  Whenever I walk into a bookstore I get a smile on my face. 

I love the way bookstores are laid out!
 Here is what I love about bookstores:
  • They are grouped by topics or genres. 
  • The displays call out to me, "Pick me, pick me."
  • I can order a latte, grab a pile of books and sip and browse.
  • They have cutesy book-themed items to go with the books, which is why I have Mo Willems' pigeon, Laura Numeroff's mouse and many Dr. Seuss plush toys!
  • The books smell new and you get to keep them (assuming you buy them which I always do).
Don't you wish libraries would become more like a bookstore?  If I were in charge of the world, I would put a cafe in the public library and dump Dewey and set up my library like a bookstore.  Sigh!

My good friend told me that Borders was having their closing sale, and at first I couldn't bring myself to going, but I convinced myself that they were going to go out of business whether I liked or not, so I might as well pick up a bargain or two.

How sad.
I headed for the magazine rack and picked up a few titles that I would never pay full price for but don't mind 40% off.

Next, it was on to the children's books.  The day I went they were only 10% off, but people were stuffing their carts like crazy.  Just to be polite, I picked up a few myself. 

My Weird School #20: Mr. Louie Is Screwy!Nightmare at the Book Fair

Please note:  Dan Gutman is coming to our school for an author visit in October, so the above books were in the name of research.

How do you feel about this behemoth store closing?  Has the Kindle and Nook replaced our bookstores?  Tell me what you think!
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