Monday, February 27, 2012

This Week's Centers

Today was the first day back and boy oh boy were they crazy rowdy.  I felt like a broken record repeating SIMPLE directions...directions and tasks that we have done since September.  Oh well, I am sure my normal kiddos will return tomorrow.  Let's hope so since we start new Centers tomorrow!  I admit that I haven't been great about them in January/February.  Between test prep, working on a few texts, and everything else I just want to get back on schedule.

Oh, and I have a new addition to my room.  Once my little girl left I have a student switching in from another room. It's intense.

Anyway, I plan on running just 5 centers (instead of the usual 6) over the next 3 days.  The once FLEX center has two components and will take the entire 30 minutes.  I will meet with 1/3 of the class each day for that.  The other 16 kids will divide up between the other four centers for about 4 kids per center.  It will work.  It has to. :)  Anyway, here are the centers!

Love the use of Inter Office Mail Envelopes? hahah Someday I will beautify them...
The first 3 centers are basically a combination of word work and group games.  Two of these were from Pinter's Potporri...the "The Day It Rained Hearts" parts of speech sort (to be done independently), and the "To,Too, Two" game.  While she teaches 2nd/3rd, my kids really need practice with these basic skills.  It will keep them entertained and yet independent enough that I can work with my small group.  I don't have as much help these days since we are doing Literature Circles/Book Clubs/Whatever you call them today (more on that later this week).  In short, the time I have push-in services is the Literature Circles time, so my other 30 minutes is run by just plain 'ole me. :)

The next center has students going out in the hallway where our Harris Burdick stories are displayed.  (Want to read some amazing stories?  Go here to see my kid's work! Harris Burdick Stories).  Anyway, they are in the hall like this.  My amazing teacher's aide displayed them all for me!  She's great!
Anyway, for this center they will go into the hallway with the following bucket:
Bucket compliments of my dad who bought my mom Valentine's Day flowers in them! :)

Anyway, so inside this cute little bucket I have pads of sticky notes and some gel pens (ooooohhh gel pens---the kiddos LOVE them).  I stuck some quick directions on the bucket.  Essentially, the students are to read other kid's stories and write them a specific comment.  We have talked about how comments should be more than, "It's cool."  Anyway, students will fill them out and stick them in the bucket (where I will then proof them for kindness and make sure all the kids have them) before I hand them out.  I figure this is much easier than having them all read aloud...especially when you read them and see how long they are.  NOT THAT I AM COMPLAINING BECAUSE I AM SO SO SO HAPPY WE WROTE SO MUCH!

Now, for the final center, the kids will be working with me.  I am still working with them on text features of non-fiction so they will be working on the activity below.  Meanwhile, I will pull them to go over their Main Idea Assessment to continue to reinforce what they need to do and how to improve.  On to the text features activity.  I go over with them the sheet from Runde's Room on text features and show them how to find them in a book.  I then show them that they have to pick a page in their non-fiction book and re-create a mini-book showing these features.  This is the BEST part:
 SO many books can be used for this that vary in difficulty.  This is a quick sample of the ones I have.  The Mummies one is a bit more challenging along with the space one.  The one on Native Americans is a good level for them and I have several different titles in the series (inventions, mammals, reptiles...) and even that Dr. Seuss book has the major features such as a Glossary, Index, bold words...EVERYTHING!  But it a nice, neat, simpler way for my struggling students.  They all can be successful with just a few different texts.  I let them self select, but I do "guide" a few in a particular direction!  (*wink wink*)

Anyway...there you have it! Centers for the week!  Stay tuned for a post on Pinterest (and yes, you have my permission to "pin", just reference me) and a post on Literature Circles.  Woo-hoo!

Happy Monday!

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Is anyone from North Carolina?

If so, I LOVE your state!!! If you read my posts you most likely know that I am from good 'ole New York. Which yes, I love. But I am currently in Charlotte waiting for my connecting flight to Fort Myers and it is just so calm and nice. I was in Raleigh this summer an also adored it. So this is just a shout out for the South---you're beautiful!!!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Vacation, Goodbyes, and a "Thanks" to Jeff Kinney

Good Morning!

     The crazy reason why I am up at 8am this morning is unknown.  But what makes matters more interesting is that I began break yesterday at officially 3pm.   For everyone not in the Northeast, I'm not sure if you get what we have known as "Winter Break."  I'm sorry!  I wish everyone could feel the relief that I feel for getting ahead for a change.  Even though the parking lot cleared out at 3:01pm, I stayed until 5pm.  Does anyone else feel odd when that happens?  Anyway, I stayed and got a bunch done.  Well, by that I mean book projects graded and displayed, wiped the desks down, and tidied up.  I also have my lesson practically planned for Monday in both ELA and Science so that I can actually hopefully not take work to.........FLORIDA! :-)  My plane leaves tomorrow from Newark, NJ.  Odd timing considering Whitney Houston is from there and therefore it may be kind of crazy this weekend.  But who knows, maybe we will be in the airport with a celebrity. Tim Tebow? LOL

    In other news, one of my girls is leaving the school.  Her last day was yesterday.  My school is rural and small.  The kids know each other for forever, and it's not a transient population.  So as you may be able to assume, it made for a really hard day yesterday.  On the outside this should look like a blessing for my classroom as she refuses to do work, is disorganized, and it takes incredible push to get her on track.  But I felt MISERABLE yesterday.  I don't want her to leave.  So Thursday as I gathered her items together and put together a little present of school supplies (she never is prepared for what she needs for class), I flipped through her journal.  That day, she just presented a project on "Don't You Dare Read This Mrs. Dunphrey" by Haddix that she finished ON TIME!  She related all the characters to someone in her life.  I almost started crying when I see she added this:
I don't know why it's upside down but I can't seem to get it right.  Anyway, that's me starring in her "movie poster" project.  She loved this book.  I gave it to her to read because she has a tough life and I thought she would relate to it.  I was right.  She was late to homeroom a couple of weeks ago and I was ready to begin to yell when I look in the hallway and she has her nose in the book, walking as slowly as possible to my room so she can keep reading.  *happy sigh*  So when I was afterschool Thursday I flipped to a page she had from September where I had students tell me what they liked, and didn't like about both reading and writing.  Here is what I saw:

I'd like to think that, even for just this one book, this changed for her.

Speaking of reluctant readers, I would like to issue a giant "THANK YOU" to Jeff Kinney and the "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" series & for the latest book:
Photo from
THREE of my 22 read this for their independent book.  I loved one of the projects made by a boy who is a lower reader and also defiantly does not love reading...(yet.)

It was just too cute.  Speaking of readers...I teach 6th grade and I have one boy who is, self-admittedly, lazy.  He just doesn't like the work that school includes, but is SO bright!  Anyway, I had this book below from Scholastic that I received free for ordering books.  I hadn't read it yet.  This student sees it, reads the back, and wants to borrow it.  He LOVED it.  So much so that my kids reported that "(student name) is being weird.  He sat in the cafeteria and just read that book.  He wouldn't even talk to anyone."  So, since he just finished reading it I haven't yet but I am just throwing it out there that it was well-liked by one of my kiddos! Happy Saturday
Photo from

Friday, February 3, 2012

Organizing Book Clubs--Round 1

   So as I posted before, when we were planning book clubs to begin after February Break with the 6th grade.  There are 3 sections of 6th grade with about 22 students in each.  Which translates to a lot of kids.  Here's what concerns we were originally faced with.

1: General organization (teachers, rooms, groupings--management/behavior/etc)
2: Books
3: Responsibility
4: Planning Stress
5: ...and of course, what to plan?

There were probably more but we slowly tackled each of these together.

The first thing we did was think of what teachers we have available and when.  Each day for one part of the ELA block (about 35 minutes) we have 6 teachers on hand.  The three Gen Ed teachers, 2 SPED teachers, and the AIS reading teacher.  When you divide this up, you have each teacher managing about 10 kids.  So we decided we will only run book clubs during this part of the period

Availability can be an issue.  5 out of every 6 days we will have enough space for everyone to meet with their 12 kids in their own room.  On the 6th day the AIS reading teacher will have to meet elsewhere, possibly the hallway or library.

This was a headache.  There can be a lot of drama.  Plus, when groupings get too large kids tend to slack off.  So we decided on groups of 4 and some with 5 if necessary.  Each Gen Ed teacher and one of the SPED teachers will have 3 groups in their rooms.  The other SPED teacher and the AIS Reading teacher have smaller rooms so they will only have 2 groups.  We planned these groups/rooms out like drafting for the NFL.

We are limited on funds and materials.  Therefore, we decided that all rooms (and thus groups) will read books around the theme of Medieval Times.  (We get to go to the dinner theater in NJ in May with the kiddos too as our big trip--woo hoo!)  Anyway, it correlates with our SS unit too (and if this goes smoothly then we will also be doing World War Book Clubs).  Anyway, we have a limited number of books.  Most of our collections were purchased through the Scholastic Book Clubs.  I was able to use my points this year to get enough books so each room has a title.  Two rooms will actually share the one Avi book because we have a lot of copies, but it works.  Here are the titles.

The Whipping Boy-Sid Fleischman
The Door in the Wall- Marguerite de Angeli
Crispin -Avi
The Castle in the Attic -Elizabeth Winthrop
Midnight Magic  -Avi
((photos from

So--do you see how this works much better on a tight number of resources?  We only need 12-15 of each title, and in the case of Castle and Whipping Boy we only had 8 each so we gave that to the AIS and one SPED room with only 2 groups of 4.  The class set of Midnight Magic was divided into two sets of 15 for the two classrooms with three groups.  We had 15 of Door which my group will be reading (3 groups of 5), and the Crispin books I was able to buy more through Scholastic with the bonus points so we scrounged up enough for that room.

While we were all on board, I can see where teachers may be reluctant.  But there are so many reasons NOT to be...besides that this is beneficial to students and that it aligns with the Common Core.  You get to work with smaller groups (yay!) and employ ALL of your resources so no support teacher is just standing there bored.  Then, the way we worked it, teachers don't have to worry about reading 10 million books and having them all going at once.  So that argument is de-bunked.  You can focus on one text and do a good job.  Plus, if you need a large group activity you have 12-15 kids there to work on one in your room, and they all have read the same book for large group discussions (or regular ELA class has double that amount!)  Then, if you want to expand further, we are all reading around the same theme so activities can be done that way too.

We haven't conquered this one fully just yet. We're still trying to plan Assigned reading is a must, as well as bringing your book (literally because we don't have any more).  We are somehow planning on counting and managing it into the children's grade for Book Clubs.  We haven't planned anything yet but are looking to combine skills across all of the books to make sure all students learn the same foundations.  We are also looking to make them interesting, so if anyone has any ideas I would love to hear them!!!  Feel free to comment away!

Anyway, that's where we are right now for the Medieval Book Clubs!  Stay tuned!  They launch at the end of the month!

Happy Weekend!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

A Great Teacher Is A Great Modifier

When I was in undergraduate I had a (lovely!) professor who always said, "A great teacher is a great modifier" as she showed us all of the neat, recycled, creative ideas she had come across.  So I couldn't help but think of her today when I realized that although I wanted to play a review game as part of my activities for the day, I didn't have pieces to my Candy Land game.  Somewhere along the lines I lost one of the gingerbread people, and I could have up to 5 kids at the game at one time.  Sooooo I dug through my math manipulatives box (even though I don't even teach math!) and came up with this:

Marker caps!  The markers had been trashed but I saved the caps and this put them to the most perfect use!  Different colors, plastic & washable, can stand independently...

woo-hoo for recycled! :)

Have a great night!
*Ms. D*