Thursday, January 30, 2014

What's Developing: I Used an Adult Word

These extra inclement weather days allow me to share more with you. Putting these posts together make me miss my students, but I hope they're getting to play in the last bit of snow before it all melts away. I am sharing one of my favorite reward and incentive bulletin boards. I came up with this one day when a fifth graders told another one, "You better finish your homework. He is already cross." Cross? I asked her to verify what the word meant, and she told me upset and angry. I was thrilled! She was taking chances with new vocabulary she learned in reading or another class. I decided to reward this risk-taking behavior in a cute way, using a play on words. By taking risks in their social language, I thought she should be honored, and I was determined to make a big deal of it. After all, we make a big to-do about things we don't like all the time. That student inspired the I Used an Adult Word Wall. Whenever I hear students attempt a word beyond their reading level or their language proficiencies in an organic way, I tell my student to "Get a Ticket!" to their delight. We fill in the ticket and highlight them on the class board. After last year, I took down the tickets and made a Hall of Fame booklet that hangs on the wall next to the bulletin board. Students like to refer to these for new words, and I think having their picture attached gives them a lot of pride! Building confidence is one of my favorite things! To date my favorites are from my first grader who told me his dream about a teleporter and one for fifth grader who told me about levitating in a video game. =)

I've added these simple forms to my Google Docs drive for the sharing. Yay for FREEBIES! If you think this would be a great thing to add to your room in this new year and approaching testing season, feel free to download your own copy by clicking on button below.
Just because I was ready to give my board a little aesthetic oomph next year, I create a graphic copy as well. If you want a little more pizzazz, I've put a file on Teachers Pay Teachers. This is different than the Docs file. Click on the cover to go to my TPT store.

Our Snow Adventure... Oh, snap! is Right!!

Tuesday, January 28 was epic! I know the word is overused, but it was epic in so many ways.  The weather was epic, our responsibility as teachers and staff was epic, and perhaps the kids had an epic night spending the night with teachers and staff due to our "2 inches of snow." I am so happy it's over, and most of all, I'm glad that students are safe and at home. There wasn't so much time to document our 16 hour adventure but here are just a few pictures, and my reflection on our night.  I considered posting with time stamps and all that, but I think the photos should be posted without my comments.

My reflection:
After a knockout nap, I'm feeling so blessed to be home, and I want to thank everyone who responded to my Snowed In posts. Y'all have given me a whole lot of credit, but I feel like I had the best situation of all... I never stepped foot out in the cold, I didn't have a child out there unaccounted for or left in an unfamiliar situation, my epic duration of travel was a whopping 30 minutes, I was warm/safe/fed, and I didn't have to get out and walk in the snow. I'm an adult, so I understand why I had to be away from my family. It was hard for some of our little ones to understand why their parents couldn't do more to get to school. I overheard a first grader plea with her mom on the phone, and it killed me. I hurt so bad for the mom on the other end. Many of the teachers that stayed were away from they babies, and had to trust that they were ok because some of their husbands couldn't get to them either. I am thrilled that we reunited our kids with the families after unfortunate planning by... whomever! I have to give big props to my school, River Eves, and our staff and our admin. Our parents (my God, I love these parents) spent the night walking back and forth with blankets, pillows, snacks, dvds, jugs of hot coffee, and food. Our teachers were in high spirits and we acted as a smooth, working, and fun unit. For those of us in the building, we were warm, and we were safe. I slept better at the school because I knew everyone's status and whereabouts in real time. In all this, I am most thankful and most appreciative and have more understanding about our bus drivers than I ever have before. They were on the roads, they fought with traffic, they got stuck, they slid, and they had harder decisions to make for those umpteen hours than people who are paid the big bucks to make critical decisions. While we had heat and movies for our kids, they were behind the wheel, lives in their hands, unable to get the students home. I can't even imagine the pressure they felt. We had one bus driver, still at 11pm, trying to find a safe place to take 3 hearing impaired students. One was a pre-schooler. Our bus driver couldn't sign to communicate with these students. She couldn't reach out and hug them while driving. The bus driver stayed in contact with our Asst. Principal the entire night. She was able to pull over and get them fed and warm by stopping at a fast food restaurant. There were dozens of bus drivers stranded, trying each minute to safely get the students anywhere. When our bus driver helped us deliver students this morning, he wasn't done for the day. He came into our school for a coffee break and to get his next assignment. My hat's off.... They're so special to me! I could really go on about the acts of kindness and the heroes we had in our lives last night and this morning. There's no hierarchy, just a full heart because everyone was looking out for each other, and everyone did what they needed to do, with no questions, and from where we were, no excuses. I was happy to have been surrounded by such wonderful people, especially my fellow REES teachers and staff. Thanks goes to the little people!! You're awful big and important to me.

Sunday, January 26, 2014

Exposing It - Our Favorite Educational Games in ESOL

The past two years, I've been lucky enough to have a lead ESOL teacher that ropes me into presenting at conferences. Being this green, I wouldn't say it's fun, but then, I realize how much I get out of it and how much I learn. It is at these conferences that I realize how much I love sharing! So, thanks Jennifer! Our presentation has been entitled Apps, Websites, and Activities... Oh My! We realize there is understandably a push for technology, apps, and websites at all times; however, talking to our attendees, we learned that there are still so many schools that don't have access to technology like our very advantaged district. We had a chance to meet people from rural districts that said they don't have Ipads. I even heard from a couple of teachers who didn't have wireless access at their school. I can't take for granted how lucky I am to be in a district with resources.

On that note, I am happy that we presented games and kinesthetic activities to the teachers to take to their students. I learned the importance of "unwired" activities when I completed my practicum in Liberia. I learned quickly that I could not rely on technology, and I think my students appreciate the diversity. I also see more interaction with these type of games. For this post, I am sharing some of my students' favorite games, both for language practice and test prep. Keep this in mind for any of those times you may receive an allotment to spend for your classroom, or take this list to someone in your school to add to the resource room.

I want to really emphasize here that having a game center on my choice board has been one amazing sight to see. Not only do students stay engaged; they manage themselves and each other. They have fun, and their social barriers disappear. If my lesson ends early,or if students perform great on an assessment, we have another chance to pull these out for a few minutes, and I play with them. I will also say that we've had many a fun and informative conversation during these games. How powerful is that with ELLs? It's my favorite! With that, the list of games. Clicking on the names will direct you to their Amazon links.

For test prep and review, my favorites are...

  • Make-A-Monster - I've linked the 5th grade version, but it's available for grades 3 - 5 ELA. This one is ready to use without any extra work for you. There is also an answer card, so students can use this with each other.
  • JENGA - You can write site words on these. I create my own games for JENGA and will be a posting those in the next week or two. (UPDATE: See the new post for Tumble Towers Review Cards! More to come.)
  • Eggsperts - Use these for your made up review games or online quiz show games. You'd be amazed how crazy excited the students are when they walk in and these are set up.

For grammar and language practice:

  • Zingo - I like this game for my Spanish-speaking newcomers. They are able to join in yelling out the words since it's pretty repetitive.
  • Apples to Apples - Use this to teach students new vocabulary, synonyms, how to use adjectives and nouns. This practice is especially helpful for Spanish speaking students due to the fact that nouns and adjectives are used in the reversed order from English.
  • Jeepers Peepers or Headbandz - Great for practicing the language, but also teaches students how to ask questions and how to use interrogative words.

For word work and spelling:

  • Chunks - Helps students use blends.
  • Word on the Street - Students pull category cards and spell words to be the first team to clear their letters off the board.
  • Boggle - A classic, right? The great thing about Boggle is that there are so much reproducibles online for centers. I like to add points for the number of letters in their correct words.

Of course, there's a plethora of games that could be listed here. For instance, I can't wait to get my hands on Tapple! I just wanted to list the ones I've used and have seen success with. I hope that you will have fun using these games and not be afraid to use them in your classroom. There are so many ways to differentiate and extend lessons with these games. Your new language learners have built-in models with their classmates; and you can offer challenges to your stronger students. Have those students create new questions to add to the games. They can write sentences using words in the games. Have students write a persuasive paper about which game they get play or why they should play more games. Challenge them to use their game-playing experiences to create a class review game of their own!! Thing Blooms, y'all. Think of the impact that will have on their learning! Please share your classroom's experiences with games. I'm all ears, and can't wait to hear your ideas!

Friday, January 24, 2014

Oh, Snap! - I Made a Boo Boo

Here I was, promising a new post about my adult words bulletin board. Well, I got sidetracked! It happens to all of us, right? I was productive, however, and I'm able to post another freebie for my readers. This freebie can also be downloaded from Teachers Pay Teachers. Feel free to use either link.
With Common Core implementation, we are seeing more and more emphasis on nonfiction. Nonfiction can be challenging and intimidating to young readers and English Language Learners. Magazines are very manageable for our struggling readers, especially if we find one geared towards their personal interest, which I highly encourage. I've used this choice board to ease students into exploring nonfiction through a few wonderful magazine articles. And not to forget our avid readers, this choice board offers a twist to your every day reading response. 

I want to thank my sweet husband, mentors, co-workers, and friends for continuing to give me ideas, plus a boost in confidence. This free download will be my first item listed in my TPT store! Please share this with your teams. Pinning, blogging, posting, sharing, instagramming... all sound great to me. I will be forever grateful. =)

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Captured Lesson: Contraction Surgery - The Doctor is in! (Updated)

My Contraction Surgery lesson is the first of my Captured Lesson posts. These are lessons that I have felt quite proud of, from planning to implementation to student reaction. I can't claim all these plans as completely original, but I have been inspired.  At any point, if I can recall the origin and link it, I will be sure to credit the inspiration. I found the gist of this lesson while student teaching, but I added my own spin to it. I also wrote this plan using SIOP, which is great for English Language Learners in a variety of ways. You are welcome to grab the lesson plan and graphic by clicking on the I Share...You Grab icon.
For a follow-up lesson about contractions, students entered the room and were immediately addressed as doctors. I wanted this to be a bit performance-based. This is a great way to boost engagement without adding too much time to the lesson, and it is possible to turn any number of lessons into performances. Each "doctor" used their desk as an operating table... no sitting, they had surgery to perform! Wearing surgical masks and rubber gloves, the doctors used scalpels (scissors) and stitches (tape) to join their words together as contractions. They had to call out for these supplies. Doctors would say, "Scalpel," and I would present them with scissors. "Scalpel." Actual band-aids were used as the apostrophe. Perhaps you've seen this online or on Pinterest before.

I added an extension activity so that the students would have to use their contractions in writing. What comes after surgery? Well, a prescription, of course! In this case, our, doctors wrote prescriptions to their patients about what to do and what not to do in order to get better. Here are some of the pictures of their work and the resulting bulletin board. Of course, I have to include a photograph of my second grade doctor staff!

A little programming note: I'm still new to blogging and green as I'll ever be when it comes to self-promotion, but I'm trying. My mentor is keeping me accountable and has recently shared the blog with her network. So if you're new here, thanks for stopping by. If you think that anything I post is worth sharing, I would welcome and love any pinning, sharing, posting, linking, tweeting that your heart so desires!

UPDATE (05.04.14)

I finally created the unit plan that I've wanted to create for the past two years. I now have two packets on TPT. The link for the freebie is still available, but if you want a complete set of anchor charts or a full unit packet, click on the images to follow.

I hope you've enjoyed this post! Happy following.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

A Little Inspiration for Gratitude

Absolutely beautiful. The message is fantastic.  It was hard for me to listen AND look at the beautiful images by Louis Schwartzberg.  I had to watch it twice, because the message is powerful!! 

"If you do nothing else but to cultivate that response to the great gift that this unique day is, if you learn to respond as if it were the first day of your life and the very last day, then you will have spent this day very well." -Brother David Steindl-Rast 
I hope you get as much out of this as I have.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

What's Developing: Oh, Snap! Symbaloo

This bit of organization heaven is my labor of love. Now, I warn you, there is a whole lotta information jammed into this one resource. For those of you who are not familiar with Symbaloo, it is a website that is basically a docking point for all of your bookmarks. In Symbaloo, each page or tab is called a webmix. These webmixes can remain private, or as in this case, they can be shared and searched. Currently, the Symbaloo webmix I'm sharing is just one webmix I've saved.  I have a personal webmix that I use as my default Homepage that has my favorite news, financial institutions, blogs... any link that I use frequently.

I learned about Symbaloo while attending an ESOL conference. They demonstrated ways to search and add webmixes, but I wanted to create my own. So if you don't find use for the one I've created, you can search for any and all kinds of webmixes that have already been created on any topic (Think Pinterest, but for website bookmarks).

Now, let me walk you through mine. I needed a better way to organize all of the websites I was learning about, all the sites shared with me, and ones I observed teachers using in the classroom. I also needed them well organized because bookmarking was not working for me. Organizationally and visually, bookmarks were a mess, especially with a work and personal computer.

This is the resulting webmix - a color-coded elementary education collection of websites. I've created this one to be mainly geared toward reading/ELA for ESOL students, but remember, most anything that involves scaffolding, media, student-created products, and games will benefit all students. Clicking on the image will take you directly to the Symbaloo link I've created. Each website has a small description on it, and I have color-coded as follows:
  • Red - Reading / Online Read-Aloud
  • Blue - Teacher and Lesson Planning Resources
  • Purple - Upper Level Bloom's Taxonomy / Student-Generated Sites
  • Yellow - Games
  • Green - ELL, ELA, Grammar
  • White - Social Networking, Media
  • Gray - Assessments

You can use this as a jump off for you own Symbaloo, adding or deleting websites of your choosing. I know that Symbaloo has been a life-saver for managing websites for me. As a teacher also interested in blogging and photography, I'd lose my head without it. If you already use Symbaloo, I would be honored if you added this as a tab to your existing collection. I hope you find some interesting websites and that Symbaloo is a tool you feel you can use!  

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Exposing it: Free App AutoRap by Smule

Ok, friends! Here is the first of many “Exposing It” posts where I share something great I've found. It may be an app or a game or anything I can use. This app: I love it, and what I love the most about it is that I “stole” it from my student. Last year, I created an assignment for my 5th graders to learn and reteach the UNRAAVEL strategy for reading comprehension and citing of evidence in text. In small groups, they were to make a poster and a rap. I made a deal with them: “Make a good effort and good product, and I’ll put you on YouTube.” Remembering my generation, we would’ve been mortified. Not these students. They were squealing at this point. I had no idea how I was going to “produce” their final rap for them, and I figured I'd wing it when we got to that point. Luckily, I didn’t have to. As soon as I released them from their mini lesson, a student was pulling up AutoRap on his IPad. Wait, wait, wait...well just WHAT is this??
Basically, AutoRap is a free app that allows you to speak or read into your device, and with a few taps, your voice is transformed into a rap, complete with beats and riffs, and the true mark of an artist… autotune!  It’s so cool!!  Here is a resulting clip of me plainly reading a Dr. Seuss poem, simply click on the link.  Play a fun game while listening, can you name the beat in the background?! It's from my era of fun nighttime outings. =)
Step by step directions (as of January 2014):
  1. Homescreen
  2. Choose your beat
  3. Press talk or rap and speak into device when prompted
  4. If satisfied, click Save and Share or Start Over
  5. To find your saved song, click on Menu on the top left of the screen and click on My Rappertoire
  6. To share, choose the song to share, and click Share at the bottom of the screen. The song will be sent as a link.
Other ways I’m considering using AutoRap:

  • Project presentation
  • Studying tool
  • Student lesson-teaching
  • Review tool for tests
  • Just for fun and creativity (remember those things?)
If your students are like me, they will speak or read the information a million times until they create a version they like. The beautiful end of my story is that the students did get a video on YouTube. Even better, they learned the UNRAAVEL strategy. Click on their photo below to see how they used AutoRap. I would love to hear how you would use AutoRap. Just leave ideas in the comments section.

One song is included for free.  If you want more beats, you can subscribe for $4.99/month or $39.99/year. It is available for Apple and Android. I welcome links to any of your or your students’ rap hits.  I hope you enjoyed the first of many "Exposing It" posts. Happy Rapping!

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Reflecting on the New Year with Students

In the next week, I hope to have two great posts!  Bear with me as I gingerly dip my toes in this big ocean of education bloggers.  I am putting together a post about one of my favorite free apps including a tutorial and different ways it can be used.  Second, I will be putting up my very first Teachers Pay Teachers item. It'll be a freebie!! I've presented this item at a couple of ESOL/TESOL conferences in the past year and a half and have had great reviews. I hope it will be a fun one for your classes.  

Until then, I am feeling reflective.  It's the last weekend of Winter Break, and the preparations for seeing the kids are in full swing.  I'm already starting to see their little faces in my dreams.  During the break, a lot of magic happens. Families have time together, maybe see extended family, travel, shop, and relax during the time off from school.  Another little magical thing tends to happen during this mid-year break.  I'm not sure what you call it, but everything the students have learned from August to December seem to fall into place.  I compare it to tenderly raising a flowering plant.  During the first part of the year, we plant little seeds and offer them water, nutrients, shelter, and just the right ecosystem.  They begin to sprout roots, not roots we can see with our eyes and not roots we may be aware of, but they are there.  By January, those roots are getting strong, and with our bear eyes, we begin to see a tiny green leaf sprout.  We begin to see how strong it is as we continue to offer the little plant everything it needs. 

As a teacher, I have the love and hope to take care of a plant way before we see this perfect, bright, happy little sprout.  Some days I think I've given the students too much; sometimes not enough.  Some times I've moved them from all the sun they need, and sometimes, I've baked them with sun. Gosh!  Have I rotted their little roots?! And I will tell you, no plant is like the other; they all have unique and special needs.  The succulents offer the world just as much as the rose; the daisy is as precious as the young oak tree.  What's different is that I don't yet know exactly what future plants I have, but I can't wait to see it, beginning with this tiny little sprout.

I'm looking forward to 2014 and seeing the students continue to grow and absorb all that I offer them including care, encouragement, and high expectations.  I hope you all had a wonderful break, but it's time for them to come back to school.  To my fellow teachers, I hope you're all greeted by happy sprouts this week.

Friday, January 03, 2014

2014 Opens with a BLOG!

I am planning a BIG 2014!  Making the decision to blog has been no small feat. Since I began teaching in 2012, I have over-shared with my colleagues. Let me tell you that my sharing was not one-sided, and I always enjoyed what I got in return from my fellow teachers.  Sharing ideas and resources helped me build relationships with other teachers, and it gave me relief from the feeling of drowning as a new teacher!

If I'm able to help the newest teacher or tweak a veteran teacher's lesson in any way whatsoever, my heart is full.  Please join me in this journey. I hope to keep you entertained as well as share goodies and ideas. You may also see humor and photography (two things I can't live without). Any encouragement is welcome. I don't plan on doing this alone!