Sunday, March 30, 2014

I Share, You Grab - Thesaurus Hunt

My students are encouraged to expand their vocabulary in my class. Not only do we have a new vocabulary word a week, I also have a bulletin board that celebrates my students' attempt at higher level vocabulary. Click HERE to see how I use this incentive bulletin board. In order to train my students to love words as much as I do, dictionaries and thesauruses are always visible and accessible in my classroom. This year, I also subscribed to Thinkmap's Part of the reason I love this website so much is because it gives a visual interpretation of how words are related. I also enjoy the fact that students can move words around; and specifically for my ELLs, each word can be pronounced for the students with a mere click of a button. Here is a screen capture of what it looks like. Notice that the right side of the screen indicates the part of speech of the words, in this case, I've looked up the word relate.

To help my students learn how to use these tools, I've created a worksheet that they can use. This year, it's just a sheet that I put in their center, but next year, I think I'll create a notebook for synonyms and high-value words. In the link below, I've put this FREEBIE in my Google Docs. It's called Thesaurus Hunt. See if there is anything else in the folder you find useful. Please comment and share this link if you found it helpful. 

It can also be found on TPT as a free download. Click on the image below to go to the product in my store. There are a few freebies there, but some great products for purchase. 

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Update... Tumble Towers for 3rd - 5th Grades

Slowly, but surely folks. As promised, I'm creating additional Tumble Towers sets. To see the original post, click HERE. For now, ELA review for 3rd grade is up on Teachers Pay Teachers. Click on the cover to get your copy! It is the eve of Friday. I hope everyone is anticipating a restful and fun weekend! 

I can't wait to tell you when 4th grade ELA Tumble Towers is posted. I really can't wait until I attack the other subjects. Have fun with this one!

Happy day! It is finally here! Fourth grade ELA Tumble Towers have arrived. So that covers all testing grades' review sets for ELA. If you're using these, please let me know how the kids are doing with it. Click on the cover to find all Tumble Tower sets on TPT.

And if you missed out the 5th grade ELA Review Tumble Towers, click below.

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Tips for Teaching English Language Learners (ELLs)

Today, I found a great, to-the-point list in a blog article called, "Do's & Don'ts For Teaching English-Language Learners." It was written by an expert I've been following for quite some time, Larry Ferlazzo. While you read this list, keep in mind that all the dos and don'ts that are listed will just as well help your struggling native English speakers. Remember, sometimes the difference between an ELL and a native speaker is not all that much, especially in the early years.

Another Ferlazzo article is about the importance of having pictures handy when teaching ELLs. Today, I found a great site for free images. I went to morgueFILE and just browsed. I found great images that I wouldn't even have thought about searching for. NOw I have a library of images saved that I won't get in trouble for using! This will be my new go-to website for free images.

Even beyond photos, go one step further, and consider the importance of realia. I attended a conference where the presenter shared with us the difference between a photo of an orange and an actual orange. Having us write down all the adjectives we could about the real orange we had in our hands first, he then gave us a picture. "What words could you no longer use to describe the orange if you'd never seen one in real life? Cross them out." He then gave us a card with the word orange on it. "Now if you can't read and you don't know what orange means because you don't understand English yet, what words would you have left?" We went from a list of sweet, rough, sticky, wet, light, mushy to having no words at all! The power in that, even to an ESOL teacher, was extremely eye-opening. So, all that to say, bring objects into your lesson.

Click on the image to go to Ferlazzo's article about photos for ELLs.

The link to the article is below, but I'm also linking my Pinterest board of writing prompts/inferencing/discussion generators. 

Click on this image to go to my Pinterest board for some helpful and interesting images.
I really enjoy this stuff. Being a creative person, I would hope that my students have a chance to imagine and wonder in my class. I've seen graphic organizers on TPT that go great with this. I'm sure I'll be creating one in the future. Just not today. =)

Finally, here is the link to the second Larry Ferlazzo article, "Using Photos with English Language Learners." Really great stuff. Ferlazzo is worth following, especially if you embrace the challenge of teaching our little language learners. I'd love your feedback. If you have some questions, I'd love to have a discussion with you and brainstorm about different idea. 

On that note, it's Friday! End on a high note.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Captured Lesson - The St. Patrick's Day Scavenger Hunt

Are you guys still doing leprechaun-themed lessons? I didn't think I would, but leprechauns are just too cute. I wanted my students to do a scavenger hunt through the school. You know, get them to change up their scenery. The reward was entering the classroom full of St. Patrick's Day treats. We just had a few stops in the school. We started in their hallway with a pretty hokey poem....

We then continued to the office, the gym, the reading garden, and lastly, our classroom. At each stop, they had to unscramble words to make a St. Patty's Day sentence. At each stop, one student was the designated QR code scanner who would check to see if the class could move to the next destination by arranging the words correctly. The destination was revealed only then and was underneath the sentences strip that the students made the sentence on. So much fun!

There are tons of advantages of working with a small group, and scavenger hunts are one. I could envision this being possible within a classroom or for an advanced kindergarten class or whatever classes that may have an aide. My heart is broken that every means I could've had to take a photo or record the scavenger hunt was out of commission yesterday, so I only have a couple of photos to share of what they came into the room to. It hardly looks like much at all, but first graders are still young enough to express glee and gratitude no matter how small the gesture.

Go on over to Teachers Pay Teachers if you'd like this set, all ready and made up cute for you.  Please pin it if you love the idea. Everyone have a great week!

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Captured Lesson - Idioms Skit "Act It Out"

This week was super busy! I finally got my students back in my class after weeks and weeks of testing. I had a SIOP video observation, and yesterday was our Destination Imagination Tournament. I won't say whether I did or did not oversleep one morning last week, but if I had, I think it was justified. 

Having my students back now means that we're going to be doing a lot of spiraling, a lot of reading practice using the UNRAAVEL strategy, and much more pep talking in preparation for the CRCT. I was pleased that I had my SIOP observation; I'm also pleased that I completed the task and got my videos published on YouTube for my observer.

For my observed lesson, I chose to review idioms and figurative language. I created these skits for my students. For ESOL students, and honestly many students, watching and listening people use figurative language in context is more helpful than just reading it on paper. For SIOP, it was great, because this was a tremendous way to bring in all the language domains - reading, writing, speaking, and listening. I'm working on a video of the students acting out the skits, but I will post that later. Below, find the links to the "Act It Out" packets. One's a teaser, so I'm making it a freebie. Yay for FREEBIES!! For more skits and differentiated answering sheets, please get the full set.You won't regret it! The students will love it every time they see these waiting for them, especially if you have some popcorn popped, too.

My students loved this. I have a director's clapboard, too. Make it authentic for them, they will sure to be engaged!


Saturday, March 15, 2014

Snapshot of Destination Imagination

In December, I was offered an opportunity at my school that I couldn't refuse. The schools within our high school cluster were the newest participants in Destination Imagination, and they were in need of team managers. I had never heard of it, but when I did some research, I was eager to participate. Our school was going to have two teams made up of students who were just short of entering our Talented and Gifted program, but otherwise had great academic scores and attendance records. The premise is that DI holds major tournaments each year that weave science and performing arts and problems solving skills and teamwork all together. Today was our tournament day, and what a fantastic day we had! With me acting as team manager, the students caught up to everyone else in GA to actually have enough craftsmanship and story line to perform in a very tough technical challenge, and they did as great as they could with the time we were given. I am thoroughly proud of them. Click on the DI logo below to see both of our school's teams' journey that got us here today. You can also find out more about this program, which is open to all student teams from Pre-K to college levels. I can't say enough about this program. If you want to get your students ready for any S.T.E.M. or S.T.E.A.M programs and curriculum, this is a great route to choose. The students have had a blast! So have I. Not only did I have fun, now that we've completed this milestone, I think I've earned a spa day to boot! =)

Go here to read about our Destination Imagination Journey

Way to go, kids!  Congratulations to my team, the Undefeated Golden Eagles, for their journey and participation in today's Affiliate Tournament. I just want to promise they did indeed have a good time. I'm know it's impossible to tell if you're looking at their faces.  

Monday, March 10, 2014

Captured Lesson - Tapple Rocks My World

An earlier blog of mine covered some of my classes' favorite games. Click HERE to read about and get links to those games and to see how I was dying to acquire TAPPLE. Well, good news! I got it this past weekend. I finally got to hold classes today because of FTE (don't ask, I don't know what it means other then see your kids when you're scheduled to), so we got a break in testing. I decided today was a games day. Did we learn? Of course, we did, but I like when the kids forget they're learning.

I used Tapple with my 5th graders the way the instructions said. They simply drew cards with topics on them as other groups used computer games and the Make-A-Monster game. For my first graders, I used some creative muscle to fit the game into my unit plan.

We will be starting an animal unit when we meet again regularly, so Tapple helped me with a pre-assessment opportunity. In the video below, you'll see the steps we followed to complete our small group lesson 

1. Our group of four broke into teams.
2. Each group took turns completing an addition/subtraction problem using die domes.
3. Once they found the answer, they found the corresponding number on the sheet. The sheet had 12 categories.
  1. Part of an animal (nouns)
  2. Animals that are bigger than you (nouns)
  3. Animals that are smaller than you (nouns)
  4. Words that describe animals (adjective)
  5. Animals in the zoo (nouns)
  6. Animals in the circus (nouns)
  7. Scary animals (nouns)
  8. Soft animals (nouns)
  9. Where animals live (nouns)
  10. Things animals do (verbs)
  11. Pets (nouns)
4. Depending on the number we got, we started with the student who rolled the dice. After him, we went around with the hope that all four would answer correctly before the buzzer. 
5. After a successful round, the other team would roll their die.  
6. The cycle continued until time was called.

One fun part, if we happened to get the answer of 0, they each had to make an animal sound! I had such a blast today. Having a great lesson, smiling kiddos, and a great way to integrate math or any subject makes for a great day in teaching! I can't wait to post again. I'm so pumped!!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Learn / Play Flash... Introducing Tumble Towers Review Game

Alright, readers, this is the first of many! I finally got around to making the product for a review/game that I created for my classes. I began, first, using JENGA for sight words. With 54 blocks, even using both sides, the same ol' sight words JENGA didn't make the rotation for centers too many times. Kids were bored, and I couldn't come up with enough extension exercises for them. That's when I threw out that box of JENGA and came up with a more sustainable option. This is my new method. I was teaching every grade accept for third last year. I had to get creative so that I wouldn't have five different JENGA sets.

Here you have it, ladies and gentlemen! I numbered the blocks!!! I then created a set for each class for whichever subject I was teaching. Now, I will say the first evolution of questions was front and back of 8.5x11 paper.  For this round, I've decided to make cards. My stock paper sheets got bent too often, and cards are kid-friendlier. 

I hope you will have patience to hang in there for upcoming products if 5th grade ELA doesn't suit your current needs, but that's what I have up, and I hope you grab your own copy. Review of any kind is great for our students, but you'll see that games and interactive activities are sort of my thing! My hope for you is that getting a JENGA set and labeling the block is simple enough. I tend to overdo it sometimes, so I'm glad to offer something pretty simple for you. 

Have a blast with this product, and as I said... Stay tuned. =)

Third grade ELA review is available now.  Click on the cover image to get your copy today.

Fourth grade ELA review is available now.  Click on the cover image to get your copy today.

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Testing Season Reflections - Bucket Filling

I've posted about testing season once already. I am one of three ESOL teachers at my school. Because ELLs' academic and language development can be influenced by so many factors throughout the year, it is crucial that we assess their language proficiency annually with ACCESS on top of all the other assessments they receive throughout the year. It does truly benefit us all as their instructors. I'll admit, it's exhausting!!! More than it is exhausting for me, I'm sure it's exponentially more exhausting for our little 5-11 year-olds. By now, perhaps we'll all become numb to it.

It's exhausting for me because there is no flow to my day. My schedule..., well who am I kidding? It's not my schedule. It's, 
                                      "Are they at lunch?"
                       "Are they at specials?"
                              "Oh, there's a Dr. Seuss party?"
                   "Wait, we have a writing/science/checkpoints/math test right now?"
               "Yay! We finished early!!!"
       "Did you say we got 3 new ELLs today? Well, we need to order more books, then."
    "They need two days of testing. If they're not absent, we can meet the deadline."

[Though we test every single ELL three different times, twice in small group and once individually... yes, every single child.] Then, there's, 
                  "There's three of them, why does it take this long?"
   "They can't just send a courtesy email 30 minutes before they pull students (it was a courtesy and it's hen's teeth)." 
             "Cover all the content on your walls."
                         "Testing's over, take down your coverings."
                                 "One writing test on Wednesday, cover all content again."

So, while we're still testing ELLs, now overlapping with small group testing general ed. students, I walk around listlessly. My usually very enthusiastic smile and how-you-dos has been replaced with a less vibrant smirk and an "eh." My bucket's empty, what can I say? I miss my students making my cozy little modular complete with their laughs, enthusiasm, and their awesome kiddisms. I miss all my grades, but closing out the school day with my first graders was always the best. It's been nearly a month now, and I'm dying for normalcy.

I received an email yesterday that made me realize just how much I was craving my regular bucket levels. Thanks so much to this parent for filling it up just a bit. What a sweet message! I have many heart-to-hearts with said student about paying attention in her gen. ed. classes. I try! This made me (until now) secretly swell with pride.

So, while I was thinking about replacing my snowman and snowlady bulletin board with a gumball theme (just for the bright colors), I may do a Bucket Filling bulletin board instead.... after I take down the content coverings for this round. To all you teachers out there, when I can, I will not dip out of your bucket, but rather, I will try to fill them if possible. Hang in there during testing season, don't interpret my smirk as lack of enthusiasm for you. I promise, that's not the case! That smirk actually means, "I feel ya. We'll make it though this."

Monday, March 03, 2014

What's Developing - Student Interviewing and Biography Writing

My fourth grade ELLs are currently working on comparing firsthand and secondhand accounts. We started the multi-day lesson with primary sources vs. textbook literature to tie Social Studies into our ELA course work. We also looked at news interviews. We've reviewed the pronouns and noun usage that indicate the different perspectives. We also read different passages to find the firsthand and secondhand accounts of the same event. I will use this activity as a closure to our lesson. Not only will it spiral back to lessons on perspective, but it's a great project for the kids. If I continue to have fourth graders every year, these will be a fantastic collection for my scrapbook. I did this last year, and it was one of my favorite activities.

First, I will have the students interview each other. I have created the interview sheet and the biography template for this lesson. I love having the student interact, and I love that through interviewing each other, they will learn what they might have in common with each other. My ELLs have such histories, and I love having a record of this. Here are what my pages look like. The files in my packet are more generic for your use. With this summative piece, I will differentiate and decide that each student chooses "x" questions out of the 21. As always, I model for them how to ask the questions, record the answers, and creatively write the biography.

Once they have finished writing, they will share their biography writing with the class. After this time, we will discuss how the accounts of the interviewer and the interviewee were different, and I will show them examples of biographies I have in my library! With luck, this will tie it all together for them. Time-permitting, they would choose a book and take an AR test on it sometime during the week. Fun, informative and cohesive, just how I like it!  

Click on the packet cover above to preview the entire packet of original material that I created. It's truly a helpful packet, but is used best if you do include the primary sources and integrate the other subjects. For my ELLs, it is seriously crucial that I tie in Social Studies as often as possible. Best of luck! I hope you can find good use for this product. It's one of my favorites!!