Saturday, February 28, 2015

Science Experiment + Science Journals = Learning Love!

Hi Teacher Friends!
Today I would love to share one way we utilize science journals in my classroom.  Our science journals are not Interactive Science Journals - they are strictly used for my students to record their thinking, drawing, and writing based off of the hands-on learning we do. 

I'm sure we all believe and would agree that students write about what they know best. I believe my kids' best writing comes from what they have experienced, seen, read, and learned. In the same way that I want my instruction to include a larger percentage of informational text for reading, I want my writing instruction to reflect this concept as well. 

We partnered with our fifth graders this week to do a big science experiment about melting ice! The experiment came from my sweet friend, Blair Turner's pack, Christmas Science Labs. First, our 5th graders helped us record, in grams, how much our ice cubes weighed.
 We wrapped one ice cube in foil, one in a paper towel, and left one ice cube as our control group. We called this ice cube the "plain" ice cube.  We set the plates under heating lamps and gave them about 10 minutes to melt. Then, we weighed the ice cubes again and concluded which material kept the ice cube frozen the longest.
 After lunch, it was time to write about what we discovered in our experiment! The number one thing I want my students to walk away with this year as scientists, is that a scientist always shares what he or she learned and discovered during the experiment.  My students know the whole reason for conducting an experiment is to answer a question we have and then write and record their thinking and learning to share with the world. 

We took our "very special science notebooks" out of our desks and together, we recorded the essential science question we had set out to discover that morning.  Then, my students sprawled out all over the classroom, choosing wherever they felt most comfortable to write. 
 My directions for their science journals is always simple, regardless of the task. I want them to have an urgency to record their learning, rather than worrying about my writing expectations for them.  This week they simply had to record the steps we took in our experiment so that they could share this activity with others one day. They also had to record the conclusion to their experiment. 
 Many of my kids drew the steps they took in the experiment prior to writing. I love the detail and labels that goes into some of their journals!
 I do try to embed my writing instruction and expectations into these science journals, in a gentle and "hidden" way. ;) This week, I wanted them to use temporal words (which we've been using in our narrative writing this month) as they wrote the steps for their experiment.  I encouraged them to do this by writing these temporal words on the board for them to utilize as they wrote. 
I was so proud of them!  Many of them were working so hard that they asked to finish their conclusions paragraph on Monday.  (So, of course, we are!) :)
Science journals are a wonderful way to embed writing instruction into other content areas.  It allows me to see if what I am teaching in my writing mini lessons is transferring into everyday writing with my students. As you can see from the writing below, this student understands the use of commas in a series. He has also watched me model a comma after temporal words during our narrative writing time and has transferred this to his science writing. 
The most important part of utilizing our science journals is that my students feel a true sense of OWNERSHIP to these journals. They love knowing that at the end of the year, if they write really clearly and well, they will be able to replicate these experiments during the summer with their friends and families. Or, as one little friend explained to us this past Friday, "When we are really old, we can read our journals and tell OUR kids what we did in first grade."  At that comment, another student replied, "Ewww I'm never having kids!" 

Do you use science journals in the classroom?  Do your kids write about the experiments they conduct in your room?  Lab reports guide our experiment  but our science journals display the "heart" of our learning. :)

Thanks for letting me share one way we use our science journals within my classroom! 
I hope you all have a great week!

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Nonfiction Text Features & One Lazy Dog!

We had THREE "Cold Days" off of school recently. This is what Weston spent most of his time doing...

For my teaching photo for Wordless Wednesday, we are knee-deep in nonfiction text features this week!  Today we cut out scholastic weekly magazines and found nonfiction text features in old issues to create a class anchor chart!

Link up your Wordless Wednesday photos with me below! Or, browse this week's photos by visiting the blogs who linked up with me! :)

Monday, February 23, 2015

Text Evidence Reading Passages: BIOGRAPHY Edition!

I posted my first "text evidence reading passage" back in early October of 2013.  It was part of a little Pumpkin Freebie pack and I wanted to try it out with my kids that weren't paying close enough attention to detail while they read.  (Do you have those kiddos? I sure do!!) I had nooo idea that the set up of those little passages would be so effective with my students! You all have shown such amazing support for these Text Evidence Reading Packs and I'm so thankful they are working in your rooms, too! So...I have fun news to share!

The "Biography Edition" of my Text Evidence Reading Passages is finally here!!  Many of you have sent the sweetest emails and messages to me over the past year about the need for a pack that focused on biographies and I'm happy to's created and posted!
 Here's a closer look at the different parts of these passages.  They are set up the same way as my seasonal packs.  Students read the passage three times for fluency, much like my Sight Word Passages for Reading Intervention. Then, students use their crayons to "highlight" or color three key details from the text.  They end with a reading response question that covers open ended questions, Common Core standards, and additional text evidence questions.  My kiddos love working through these passages and find them super interactive!
 Since this pack is a "special edition" pack, it does not contain paired passages like my seasonal packs.  This pack has 20 biography passages included in the set.  Here is a list of all the biographies you will receive:
 If you check out this pack in my TpT store, you can download the PREVIEW file for a FREE biography passage on Alexander Graham Bell!  Use it to test out the reading level with your kiddos.  I use these passages with my advanced first grade readers. These passages would be perfect for 2nd grade readers and struggling third graders, as well.  

I really hope you enjoy these new passages! I have a few little ones who are SO excited to read about Steve Jobs this week because they told me, "Because I just LOOOOOVE our iPads!!!" Haha!  You can't argue with that, right?! :)

See you Wednesday for Wordless Wednesday!!
(Last week it took a "snow day" vacation!) :) :)

Take care and have a wonderful week!

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Refreshed. Reminded. Refocused.

I posted this quote on my Facebook page, and received over 400 likes, 140 shares, and over 20,000 views.  I know that's not a lot compared to other Facebook pages - but for my little corner of "blog-world," it was exciting - not because of the Facebook data - because it reinforced my concern and my thoughts....

Other teachers feel the same way I do:
Two weekends ago, I attended the 2015 National Reading Recovery Conference. 
 I've gone every year for the past 4 years.  
 But this year was different.

As a teacher-blogger, my heart has been "concerned" over the past couple of months. I realize that some might shake their fingers at me after reading this post. I'm okay with that. As a teacher-blogger, I want to be a teacher-leader who speaks from the heart.  Sometimes, that means "putting it all out there."  So here goes. :)

I know as teachers, we are always, always trying and willing to do whatever is best for our students.  But I feel that lately, social media (Pinterest, Facebook, etc.) is portraying a side of teaching that is heavy on printables and "fluff," and light on research-based practices. 

Right now, the fact that I just mentioned "printables" in a negative way might seem very hypocritical.  You're thinking:  You are a TpT seller. You create printables. 

Yes. I do. I'm also very proud of them! Let me explain:
I create resources because I see a need in my students. That DOES include passages and printables at times.  I'm in no way saying we can't or shouldn't use paper-based resources in our classrooms.  There is a need for these materials. My students need reading, writing, and math resources to practice their skills and strategies. I have assessments to give. I have to make my students accountable. I have sub days. I have NO math or reading curriculum. I have NO science or social studies curriculum. (And I like it like that!) :) :) :) I have creative freedom to create curriculum that best meets my students' needs. There will always be a time and place for those materials in the classroom.  (I wouldn't be a curriculum developer if I didn't use and need them.) 

But that is only one part of my classroom.
My classroom has many sides to it. 
Many dimensions. 
Many "ingredients."
Many facets.

Lately, my teacher heart is yelling:
Give your copy machine a break! Let it breathe!
Technology makes life easy - it makes some days "effortless."
It can also - at times - make us think that we "need" it to teach.

Let's not get lost in the shuffle and forget those "back to basic" foundations for learning:
Hands-on experiences. Authentic books. Real writing.
 Prompting and discussion that comes from the teacher.

One of my favorite parts of the day, is opening up my email and reading a couple notes or questions from teachers who write to say hi or ask a quick question. First year teachers, student teachers, or teachers who are "re-inspired" in the classroom again.  These are the teachers who I think about when I'm blogging. I want them to know that no "pack," no "printable," no "worksheet" will ever replace quality instruction. They can enhance - but they won't TEACH our students how to read and write.  Our instruction on skills and strategies and learning must come from research-based practices.  
A teacher's authentic instructional decisions result in powerful learning for our students. :)

Right now, my Just Print March Fluency Pack is sitting at the bottom of my desktop waiting to be created. Will I continue to work on it? Yes! Of course! We LOVE the poems and we LOVE reviewing our learning through fun passages and word spinners!

Do I think that makes me sound crazy after writing this post? Not at all. Again, there is a time and place for these things in our classrooms for sure!  But as a teacher-blogger, I want to send a positive, gentle message and reminder to teachers about the importance of balancing our instruction and making it RICH in research-based strategies, reinforcement, some printable practice, and LOTS hands-on learning. :) 

The message I kept hearing over and over in my head during the conference was simple:
In the midst of state testing and the pressure from data and scores, 
let's keep what's best for kids in focus. :)

When our classrooms are balanced and child-driven, our teacher hearts are happy!

Lucy Calkins!! 
Her speech brought me to TEARS!! It was the most motivational, inspirational keynote I have ever heard!!!  

The FABULOUS Tanny McGregor! I could have listened to her talk 
If you ever get a chance to attend one of her sessions - RUN to it and grab a front row seat! 

I definitely had to ask a stranger to take my picture with Mrs. Wishy Washy in the Vendor Hall! :) 

I drove home with LOTS of inspirational, research-based books to devour this spring and summer! I'm starting with Comprehension from the Ground Up by Sharon Taberski.  :) I sat in on one of her sessions during last year's conference and she was absolutely amazing!

As always, thank you for following my blog and letting me share my little corner of the "teaching world" and my classroom with you! :)

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Wordless Wednesday: February 11th - Quick & Easy Vocabulary Warm-Up!

I'm breaking my own rule today....but I really want to share this vocabulary activity I did with my kids yesterday! I'll try to keep it short. :)
Here's a quick idea to build vocabulary and schema into your small reading group before you present your students with text:

Pull out 6-8 meaningful words from the text you are going to read that day. Have the words on sticky notes. As your kids come to the table, they will sit down in front of a word of their choice.  Give them a minute to think of their word and tell the group what it means (If they didn't know, we helped each other, or I helped them understand what it meant.)  

Now, place all the sticky notes in the center of the table.  Ask your kids: What do these words all have in common?  How are these words related to each other?    

Let your kids discuss their thinking and build schema with these words before they read the text. When they DO get their hands on the text, they will have already been immersed in the vocabulary they will need, made connections among the words, and they're now excited and interested in what they are going to learn about and read today! 

Have fun! Link up your own picture below or use the links to browse and visit other blogs and photographs this week! :) 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Love Is In The Air iPad Giveaway!

I'm going to get mushy-gushy for a minute. As teacher bloggers, we LOVE sharing our teaching journeys with you!  We LOVE collaborating with you, sharing ideas with you, and listening to you share your classroom adventures and enthusiasm for what you do.  
My point? 
This Valentine's Day, I have joined a wonderful group of teacher bloggers who LOVE technology and teaching!  We also want to spread some love and appreciation by giving away some fantastic technology prizes....including.....

A 16GB iPad Air 2! 

Can I get an OHHH YEAH!!!! ?

Here's how it works. Each of us is giving away a fun technology gift on our blog in addition to the BIG iPad Air 2 giveaway!  It could be anything from a gift card to a document camera!! You can use the link-up at the bottom of this post to visit our blogs and enter to win as many of the giveaways as you'd like! (But don't forget to enter to win the iPad, too!!)

I'm giving away a $25 Amazon Gift Card! 

Here's my Valentine Poem for you:
Roses are red.
Violets are blue.
I love to shop.
I hope you do, too!

For your chance to win this $25 Amazon Gift Card, enter the Rafflecopter below:
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Time for the Grand Prize!
The BIG 16GB iPad Air 2 GIVEAWAY is coming from all of us and will be given to one very lucky winner!!! For a chance to win this iPad Air 2, enter the Rafflecopter below:
The giveaway will end at midnight on Saturday, February 14th! 
Don't forget to visit all of my friends' blogs, too! Use the links below to head over and enter their Rafflecopters for your chance at more amazing technology prizes!

Thank you for entering our Valentine's Day giveaway! 
Good luck!! :)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Cause & Effect: Making It Memorable!

I was in third grade when I fell head over heels in love with school.  I can still remember where my desk was, what my teacher looked like, and who I sat by.  I fell in love with school for two reasons: 
Reason 1) My teacher, Mrs. Whiteman, who got to know me not just as a name on her roster or a score on a standardized test - but as an incredibly shy, eight year old girl, who loved books, writing, and words. She knew I got so anxious about spelling tests, (I was a bit of a perfectionist) that she would grade my test early and let me peek at it before we left for school on Fridays so that I wouldn't be anxiously waiting for it over the weekend. (Mrs. Whiteman - if you are out there, thank you a billion times!)
Reason 2) She made learning not just exciting but memorable.  She brought lessons to life and as a result, I still remember many of them.  When we read Mr. Popper's Penguins, our classroom was transformed  with white construction paper glaciers.  I still remember those white paper glaciers all over our room.  

My point to this trip down memory lane? 
I still remember it.
 Ultimately, isn't that what we want for all of our students? We want learning to be so vivid in their minds that they feel they always have something to hold onto.

Reading strategies are so abstract for young learners.  We are asking them to infer, engage in questioning, and activate their schema.  What an abstract concept for their little brains! In math, we use manipulatives to make their mathematical understanding concrete.  We need to remember that reading strategies are no different!

When my students came in last week, this is what they saw at our carpet area:

Our classroom was buzzing with noise (GOOD noise!)
"Who's birthday is it?"
"What are the balloons for?"
"Ummm...Miss DeCarbo...there are balloons on our chart."
"Why are there eggs?"
"Are we EATING those eggs?"
"I bet we're making scrambled eggs."
"I hate scrambled eggs."

I did not tell them what the balloons and eggs were for.  I simply said, "Those are for our new reading strategy. I can't WAIT to share it with you after lunch!"  That was all it took for an excitement for learning to occur in my students.  Sometimes, those little objects are all you need to hook them!"
Relate It To Real Life:
During our lesson, we used our anchor chart to discuss what the terms "cause" and "effect" meant.  We talked about real life examples.  I used Kristen Smith's Cause and Effect Resource pack for the pictures we discussed on our anchor chart. I also started our FUN activity with the balloon!
Make It Concrete
We discussed what would happen when I poked the balloon with my sharp pencil. Of course, they told me the balloon would pop. "Why will my balloon pop?" I asked. They were already identifying and restating the cause and effect in the balloon scenario.  After lots of squeals of excitement and one big "AHHH!!!!!!!!" moment when it popped, they were starting to see, hear, and understand what cause and effect looked like in real life.
We repeated this same idea with an egg.  We discussed what we knew would happen and I related this back to their ability to make inferences and use their schema.  This time, our effect was MESSY! We used our thinking stems: "Miss DeCarbo dropped the egg. As a result, it hit the floor and cracked."  We even broke that down into two different cause and effect scenarios:  "Miss DeCarbo dropped the egg. As a result, it hit the floor."  and "Because the egg hit the floor, the egg cracked open." we were digging deeper!
 Make It Hands-On 
After we discussed real life examples and made it concrete, it was time to put cause and effect into practice! I created a simple "Cause and Effect Scavenger Hunt" that took my kids around our classroom.  It didn't take us long - about 10 minutes, and you could easily write out your own scavenger hunt on index cards.  I don't have a pre-made scavenger hunt to share with you for a reason....the power in this activity was that it was personalized. Every student in my room was able to activate his or her schema on an equal playing field because they all know our classroom routines.  

Let's take a "walk" through our cause and effect scavenger hunt!
I handed the first clue to one of my kiddos and she read it aloud. The kids had to turn and talk and decide what the cause was for this clue.  
 My kids replied to this clue with, "Brooke had to plug the iPad into the wall BECAUSE it was almost dead."  Then, they checked that spot in the room to see if they were right.  If they were - they would find the next clue. ;)
 Here was the next clue:
 This response went something like this:  
"Amy's name is beside Mrs. Wagers' name for Daily 5. As a result, she will head to the back reading table for small groups."
LOOK! Another clue! 
 Amy got to read the next clue to the class:
 We had a couple ideas of causes for this clue: "Avery asked a friend for help at the computers BECAUSE he forgot how to play his math game," and, "Avery asked a friend for help at the computers BECAUSE his computer froze and he asked the Technology Coach."
 Ding! Ding! Ding! They were right! Here's the last clue: 
 It can sometimes by noisy in our hallway during our reading lessons as the older grades are going to lunch. When they read this clue, my students knew from their schema that I often ask one of them to please shut the door when it gets distracting. They turned and talked about the clue and came up with, "The class is at the carpet and it is loud in the hallway. Mrs. Wagers asks Brooklynn to help. As a result, she shuts the door."

When she got to the door, she found the card that said: 
Congratulations! You completed the cause & effect scavenger hunt!
(Cue cheering and happy clapping in my classroom!)
We even repeated the scavenger hunt activity the following day with new clues!
 Apply It To Text:
After hearing, seeing, and doing various cause and effect activities, it was time to apply this reading strategy to text in our reading groups.  We used red and blue crayons to code the text with C for cause and E for effect.  

Learning needs to be fun and hands-on in order to be memorable for our students.  We want to give them learning activities that they can hold onto and participate in.  I hope you enjoyed learning about this lesson and were able to take away an idea or two for your own classroom. 

As always, thank you for letting me open my "Classroom Door" to you and thanks for stopping in to visit!

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Wordless Wednesday February 4th - Are You Busy?

Ahhhh!! Do you ever feel like you are so busy that you can't even focus on one thing at a time? I do!!
I have promised you all a blog post about my recent Cause & Effect lesson with my kiddos but sadly, I'm here to share my excuse with you: I'm knee-deep in presentation preparations!  I'm not complaining, however, because they are so FUN to create and share with teachers in person! 
#sorryformyprocrastination #i'llmakeituptoyou #blogpostcomingsoon

This week, share something with us in a comment below that is keeping you super busy - yet you LOVE every minute of it!! :) 

As always, scroll through the links below or link up your own picture with us in our weekly Wordless Wednesday linky party! :)