Monday, May 30, 2011

Can't Quit Catching Cooties

Alright, so I love using alliteration for titles. But seriously, my students can't get enough of our new cootie catchers for reading comprehension. I made up this cute little product last weekend, and brought it into my classroom at the beginning of last week. I try to allow my students up to 30 minutes of independent reading time each day (in a perfect world there would be no announcements, interruptions, assemblies ... you know what I'm talking about). In previous years, I had always tried to give my students a good chunk of independent reading time, but after reading The Book Whisperer last summer, I was even more determined to make sure it happened every day.

I rarely give my students worksheets to keep them accountable for their independent reading. Instead, I have a 30 book challenge that they work through (another idea from The Book Whisperer). Also, after independent reading each day, they meet with another student for a Pair Share. During the Pair Share, students must tell each other about their reading for the day. Sometimes I have a specific prompt, sometimes they give a summary, and sometimes I have the students come up with the questions. The catch is, when I ask specific students to share with the class, they have to tell what their partners told them. Because they know I'm giving them an oral language mark, they know they have to listen intently to their partners, and ask thick questions to get a really deep answer. Having the students share their partners' answers (rather than their own) is like a safety net for the students - and you wouldn't believe the number of hands I have waving in the air to share. Probably 95% of my students are eager and willing to share. This week we've been using the cootie catchers during our Pair Shares, and there is visible and audible disappointment when I ask them to put the cootie catchers away.

Because the cootie catchers have been such a hit in language class, and because I'm desperately trying to review a full year of math concepts before testing begins on Wednesday, I created a version of my Cootie Catchers for Mathematics. Concepts covered with these catchers are: reducing fractions, rounding, factors and multiples, mental math multiplication, metric conversions, 3D shapes, and converting fractions to percents). Can't wait to break in our new cootie catchers tomorrow.

I've included links to all the products mentioned in this post. Just click on the pictures to bring you to the product at my TeacherspayTeachers Store.

Genre Posters and 30 Book Challenge

Cootie Catcher Comprehension

Cootie Catcher Mathematics

Lollipop, Lollipop, Oh Lolli Lolli Lolli

My sweet little niece turned four this weekend. We went to her sweet little birthday party this weekend. A sweet little girl deserves a sweet little party - and what's sweeter than lollipops and candies??? The birthday girl's mom, my sister, is an amazing mom, creative food whiz, awesome preschool crafter, and party planner extraordinaire. To get a glimpse of her party decorations (and all her other fabulous creations), head on over to Meet the Dubiens.
The four sweetest little girls around. My Elizabeth, my Katie, my niece Kirsten, and my Allison.

As part of the party decorations, my sister made lollipop topiaries. I got to take one of these creations home with me. And within five minutes of getting home, my sweet little girls turned into lollipop-begging monsters. Now there must be 150 lollipops in this creation. I'm not dealing with the begging for weeks on end, and yet, the topiary is far too cute to get rid of. So I'm bringing it to school. We start testing on Wednesday - 6 hours of testing over 4 days. I'm thinking I will give the kiddies a lollipop each time they finish a test. I'm not usually about candy rewards (in fact, I'm almost NEVER about candy rewards), so this will definitely be an unusual treat for the students at school ... and for my sanity at home.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

And the Winner Is ...

Thank-you to all who entered my Graphics Factory Giveaway. The response was incredible for this brand-new blogger. I'm excited to announce that the random number generator chose the comment from ...

Marsha!!! Marsha said, "I'm a follower...pick me pick me."

Well, Marsha, the number generator did pick you. Congratulations! I've already emailed you with the information I need.

Thanks again to all my brand new followers. I can't believe I'm almost at 100! Time to plan a new giveaway - lol!

Last Day To Enter ...

Have you entered my Graphics Factory Giveaway yet? Today is your last day! I am giving away a one year premium membership to the Graphics Factory. There are different ways to enter - you get one entry for each task you complete, but please leave a separate comment for each one.
1) Follow my blog (my follower gadget seems to be working today - YAY!).
2) Follow my TeacherspayTeachers Store.
3) Download one of my teacherspayteachers FREE products and give it a rating.
4) Post my button on your blogroll.
5) Blog about this contest.

There are only 8 hours left to enter. GOOD LUCK!

On another note, one of my free products is featured in the TeacherspayTeachers Newsletter. Have you downloaded my Last Day of School SMARTboard Koosh Ball yet? I am also holding a 15% off SALE at my TeacherspayTeachers Store from now until Tuesday.


Friday, May 27, 2011

Ink Blot Poetry and a Friday FREEBIE

Sometimes I wonder why we teachers plan days ahead. (I know, it's our job, but ...) When the bell rang this morning, I noticed my line seemed quite short. And when I greeted those same faces in the classroom, I realized that more than a third of my class was absent today. There goes those well-laid plans. I took complete advantage of the situation though, and we had a fabulous day!
Have I told you before about my weakness for online shopping - especially online book shopping??? Well, the Scholastic Dollar Days sale was too good for me to pass up. In total, I ended buying 56 books! FIFTY-SIX!!! (How could you not at $1.00 a book?) This morning I quickly looked through a few of the books and found some really fun activities to do with my students (or lack of students). My favourite had to be our Ink Blot Poetry. Well, it was actually paint splotch poetry, but it worked all the same. After the students made a ink blot (paint splotch) picture, they had to write a rhyming couplet describing what they saw. We mounted them on construction paper, and I've got a brand new bulletin board display ready to go on Monday. LOVE IT!

For my Friday Freebie this week, I decided to post my Monitoring Comprehension Strategies Bookmark. I know some of you have already finished school for the year, but there are many of you (like me) still plugging away. How many of you give books as an end of the year present? I know I do (thank-you, Scholastic coupons). You can laminate these bookmarks and stick them in your books to remind students to think about their reading (yes, even in the summer). Click on the picture to bring you to my TpT store for the download.

Lastly, there are still 2 more days to enter my Graphics Factory Giveaway. I know my followers gadget doesn't seem to be working (is blogger ever going to get this fixed?), but there are still 4 other ways to enter. I will be drawing one winner Sunday evening.

Have a great weekend, everyone.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Fabulous Art (and a Thank-You, too)!

First of all, I'd like to say THANK-YOU!!! I'm totally feeling the love. My giveaway has helped me gain over 30 followers since Sunday. I've had a great response to my giveaway so far. In case you haven't heard, I'm giving away a one-year subscription to the Graphics Factory. Click here for more details, or see the post below.

Secondly, for the past two days, I've been unable to post a comment on any blog. I logged on to the blogger forum to report the problem, and found that many others were having the same problem. This afternoon I changed my internet browser to google chrome (free download), and my problems have vanished. Yay! I can post again!

OK, now for the real reason for today's post - Fabulous Art! We've been studying the Canadian artist, Ted Harrison, in class. Over the past few days, my students have been creating their own landscape masterpieces, in the style of Ted Harrison. First, the students divided their page into large areas, using mostly horizontal lines. The lines should be soft and fluid. The students then filled in these areas with pastels - use a different colour for each area. Remind students that colours should be vivid and bold. Then, students outlined each area with black puffy paint. (I highly recommend this step - it really made the colours "pop"). Lastly, we mounted the pictures on larger black construction paper and folded the corners of the paper to really give it a framed appearance. The students are so proud of these art projects - they are truly museum quality (at least we think so).

Monday, May 23, 2011

I Just Couldn't Wait ...

Ok, so I know I said my first giveaway would happen at 50 followers (I'm only 4 away!!!), but I got a great deal this morning that I just have to share. I've been looking for clipart site that I could use (legally) on my TpT products. This morning, I bought a premium membership to Graphics Factory. As part of my membership, I get to giveaway one premium membership to a friend. WHAT A DEAL!!! So my blogging friends, who wants in???

There are 5 different ways to enter my contest. You get one entry for each item you complete - just leave me a separate comment under this post each time you complete an item.
1) Become a follower of my blog.
2) Become a follower of my TpT Store.
3) Download one of my free products from my TpT Store and give it a rating.
4) Add my button to your blogroll.
5) Blog about this contest.

I will choose 1 winner Sunday evening (May 29th). Good Luck!


Sunday, May 22, 2011

Catching Cooties and Cookies

So, I'm wondering what it says about myself if I keep getting my inspiration from my seven year-old daughter. I'm hoping it means I'm still "young at heart". Whatever it means, I stole another one of her ideas. My Elizabeth spent all day yesterday making "cootie catchers" for herself and her sisters - seems it's all the rage in her classroom right now - funny how these things always come full circle. Anyway, as I picked what seemed to be my hundredth colour and number, I had a great idea. Cootie catchers would be a great way for my students to ask each other questions during our pair/share for independent reading. As I started to plan it out, I thought ... why not make one for all seven of the reading strategies we study (asking questions, determining importance, inferring, making connections, summarizing, synthesizing, and visualizing). I also included a blank template because I think this would be a great way to have students come up with questions and review for a test. My girls were more than happy to oblige when I asked them to try it out - and I'm happy to say it got the Elizabeth stamp of approval. Click on the picture below to check my newest product out at my TeacherspayTeachers Store.

I posted another new product this week, as well. I've been doing book talks forever in my classroom, and am just about to assign another one to my students, so I thought I'd upload the file to my TeacherspayTeachers Store. If you haven't done them already, book talks are a great way to keep your students accountable for their independent reading, without assigning the traditional book report. They also help students practise their oral speaking skills, and build confidence speaking in front of an audience. Click on the picture to download a preview of the product.

Although I'm happy I got a lot of work done this weekend, the best part was definitely after supper tonight when we made my world-famous chocolate chip skor cookies (OK - maybe they're not world famous yet, but they should be). Another stamp of approval from my kidlets. And the fun continues tomorrow - here in Canada it's a long weekend. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE long weekends!

Sidenote: I'm only 10 followers away from my first giveaway!!! I can't wait - it's going to be a great one! Spread the word to help me get to 50 followers. Thank-you!!!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday Feature: Fantastic Work, Fabulous Flowers, and a FREEBIE

I'm trying out something new today: Friday Feature. For this week's Friday Feature, I decided to highlight the fantastic work of my oldest daughter, Elizabeth. Elizabeth has been hard at work all week on a very large country project on Greece (doesn't it look great!). Today was the culmination activity for this project - a multi-cultural feast. My husband and I were hard at work assembling 40 gyros all morning. (Guess what we're having for supper tonight?) I was so happy to have the opportunity to share in this activity with her at school today. The one and only downfall of my job is that so often I'm not able to share in these opportunities at her school - probably the reason why I chose to enrol my middle daughter in junior kindergarten at my school this year. Next year they will be at our neighbourhood school together. It's a good thing for them, but sad for me. Today though, all is good!

Helping Elizabeth with her school project this week inspired me to create my own country project. I will be using this activity next year when I teach the grade 6 social studies unit, Canada's Connections to the World, but it can be used to compliment any curriculum unit that studies different countries. For this project, students have to research a chosen country, completing different activities to amass a total of 100 points. The project includes over 25 different activity ideas, a parent letter explaining the multi-cultural feast, instruction page for teachers and students, and a rubric for evaluation. Click here or on the product pictures to bring you to my teacherspayteachers store where you can download a free preview.

It's been a hectic few weeks at home and in my classroom, and there's more to come before we finish up our year at the end of June. I need to remember to stop and smell the flowers a little more. My life is wonderful, my class is fabulous, and my own family makes every day worthwhile. As I was rushing to Elizabeth's class this morning with my tray of 40 gyros, I happened to notice my beloved tulips are in full bloom in my backyard garden. I made a mental note to stop and enjoy them for a few moments on my way home. I am anxiously awaiting the summer so I can really enjoy my gardens (my lilies will be in full bloom by then), but for now, I think I will plan a visit to my favourite greenhouses this weekend.

Lastly, I have another freebie for you. I wanted to say thank-you to all of you. I was invited to join TBA this week, and have already gained 14 new followers in 5 days! Now, 14 may not seem like a big deal to you, but it was more than enough to make me break out the happy dance. I've only been doing this whole "blogging thing" for less than a month, and I'm already completely and utterly addicted. I can't wait to get 50 followers - I've already planned my giveaway.

Today's Friday Freebie is a Word Building Activity (mini-lesson) that compliments the reading strategy of making connections. My kids LOVED this activity, and so did my principal when I used it during my evaluation. Click here or on the picture to get your own copy. If you like the activity, you can rate it after you download it.


Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Last Day of School Freebie

OK - have I already mentioned how incredibly jealous I am of all of you finishing up your last days of school??? I go until the bitter end of June - June 30th to be exact. So last night I put away the voodoo doll (jk ... kind of), and redirected my jealous energy into something much more productive. I turned my summer koosh ball template into a FREE last day of school activity.

Fellow SMARTboard lovers, have you tried koosh ball activities yet? My students adore them! Who wouldn't love the chance to throw something around the classroom - ahem, throw something around the classroom WITH permission! Students throw a koosh ball (I get mine at the dollar store), or a bean bag, or a beanie baby (you get the point - basically anything smaller than a shoe) at the SMARTboard to hit a target. The target brings them to a page with a question on it. After students have answered the question, click on the image at the bottom of the page to return to the home page.

Sidenote: the first time my principal saw the kids engaged in a koosh ball activity, she almost had a heart attack ... It took a lot to convince her that the board would be OK - I even had to show her I got the idea from smarttech posts on teachertube.

Click here to head over to my teacherspayteachers store and download your free copy. Enjoy!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Riding the Tiger - A Great Book for Inferring

Today marked the end of our junior / intermediate focus on inferring(I also included a mini-focus on point of view). For our summative task we chose the mentor text, Riding the Tiger, by Eve Bunting. I read the book twice to the students, but because it was our summative task, there was no oral discussion after reading. I think this is a fabulous book for inferring, but I wished we could have discussed the book after reading. So many of my students were too literal, and thought the book was really about riding a tiger (for those who haven't read the book, the tiger is a symbol for a gang).

So, if you've got a copy of this book kicking around in your bookroom or library, here are the questions we used:
1) Why do you think Danny wanted to ride the tiger at first? Use information from the text and your own ideas to support your answer.
2) What do you think the policeman meant by, "Once you get up on the tiger's back, it's hard to get off...". Use information from the text and your own ideas to support your answer.
3) What do you think the tiger is a symbol for? What were some of the clues that led you to this inference?
4) From whose point of view is the story written? Give an example from the story to support your answer?
5) What do you think the author is trying to say about our society? Use information from the text and your own ideas to support your answer.

I plan on discussing this text further tomorrow. I feel I HAVE to. Although I got many really great, thought-provoking answers, I have to reach those students who still think Danny wanted to ride the tiger because "it would be really cool to ride a talking tiger." Ummmmmm ... OK.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

I'm Part of Teaching Blog Addicts!

I'm so excited to announce that I have been invited to be an author on Teaching Blog Addicts. It's one of the first blogs I followed when I began my blogging journey last month.

Check out my first post here.

Friday, May 13, 2011

The "Un"Journal - Writing On Demand

The other day I was doing some online book shopping (one of my weaknesses), and just as I finished adding items to my cart, something caught my eye. You know that little menu that comes up on Amazon - "You may like ...", well, I saw and I liked. I impulsively added Unjournaling, by Dawn DiPrince and Cheryl Miller Thurston, and I'm so very glad I did.
I know many of you are just about done the school year (and may I say now how very jealous I am!). Well, I'm not just about done. We go until the very end of June - June 30th to be exact. In these next few weeks I have province wide grade 6 testing, track meets (I'm the track coach), team meetings, class trips, Arts Fair ... you name it. With the weather only getting warmer each day, it's becoming increasingly difficult to keep my kids focussed and motivated. The kids (and I) needed something new.
Enter Unjournaling. This book takes the age-old writing on demand tasks, and actually makes them fun! We did our first prompt on Monday - Write a paragraph about a girl named Dot, without using any letters with dots. It took my students a few minutes to wrap their heads around this, but when the timer went off after 15 minutes, I had quite a few giggles and volunteers to share their work.
On Tuesday, the students didn't know what to expect when I had them take out their writing notebooks. Tuesday's prompt was - You have been hired by a car company to subliminally encourage people to buy a car. You will receive $10.00 for every word that has the smaller word of car in it (example: scar, carton, etc.). Write a short story for a magazine using as many "car" words you can. When the timer went off, I heard an excited voice from the back of the class shout, "I made three hundred sixty dollars!".
As I entered my classroom on Wednesday morning, the students were already asking me what their writing prompt would be that day - and their language block wasn't for two more hours! That's when I knew I had stumbled upon something great. Wednesday's writing prompt was - Write a paragraph about anything you wish, using 20 double-vowel words (example: peep, school, etc.). I also had them include 5 words from our new word wall. When the timer went off, over three quarters of my class had their hands waving in the air, eager to share their writing. SUCCESS!!!

On Thursday and Friday, their task was to choose one piece of writing, polish it, publish it, and submit it for marking. I displayed the published pieces on a bulletin board to keep the excitement going. I know we're going to have a lot of fun with this book for the rest of the year. See ... sometimes impulsive online shopping can totally pay off!

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Our Many Faces: Visual Arts Activity

Isn't this fantastic?!? I LOVE how it turned out. And I really love that some of my students who wouldn't consider themselves "natural artists" saw great success with this activity. The activity took a bit of time to complete, but the end result was so worth it. This is how we completed the activity:

1. I started by taking pictures of my students (close-ups of their faces).
2. At home that night I used a free program ( to convert the pictures to black and white drawings (I have photoshop elements, but this free program worked better). I printed the pictures on standard letter size paper.
3. The students took the black and white drawings and drew a 2cm x 2cm grid over the picture.
4. They then took a piece of construction paper (4 times the size) and made a 4cm x 4cm grid on the paper.
5. They then had to enlarge their original picture onto the larger construction paper. It is important to stress that they work square by square, row by row - it is NOT a free sketch.
6. Once the enlargements are complete (this took a few 1/2 hour classes), they must erase all the grid lines.
7. They then divide their pictures into 4 equal quadrants. Each quadrant is completed using different materials and techniques. The upper left quadrant is painted. The upper right is shaded with pencil. The lower left used stippling with a black sharpie marker, and the bottom right used crayons or pencil crayons.
8. Lastly, students were instructed to fill in the background for each quadrant using any design they wish.
9. After the pictures were mounted on colorful construction paper, I laminated them and hung them in the hallway outside my class. You wouldn't believe the reaction I got from other staff and students at the school!

Sticking with the face art theme, my three-year old proudly presented me with this picture when I picked her up from daycare today. "I made this for you, mommy. This is YOU!"
Hmmmmmm ....... I see horns - do you see the horns? I must admit though, I did FEEL like this by the end of the day today.

Monday, May 9, 2011

On Top of the World

"Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known." Dr. Carl Sagan

This weekend, I know my little girls discovered some incredible things!

So, this weekend I packed up my family and took them on a weekend trip to a science center just a few hours away. What could be more relaxing for a Mother's Day weekend?? Alright, so maybe there wasn't a lot of relaxing, but there WAS a lot of FUN and LEARNING! The last time we went to the science center, my oldest was 4 and my middle girl was only 18 months. I thought we were due for another trip. I knew my oldest would love it (she is so totally into everything science), but I was surprised how much the younger two got out of it. They all had a blast (and so did their mommy and daddy)!

Allison, my three-year old, took a huge interest in the oil spill display. She carefully and lovingly cleaned all the oil off her "duckie". A future environmentalist in the making!

Katie, my five-year old, was entranced by the butterfly room. She was so quiet and still (so unlike her) as to not disturb the butterflies. She studied them carefully and was surprised by how many varieties there were. (We only see monarchs and moths around here). A future entomologist in the making!

Elizabeth, my seven-year old, is my little scientist already. While other little girls are getting Barbie dolls and Justin Bieber CDs for Christmas, my Elizabeth asks for microscopes, dinosaur dig kits, skeleton puzzles, and chemistry sets. And mommy Santa is only too happy to oblige. Elizabeth thought the x-ray display was "too cool". She was armed with her brand new camera, and after checking out the x-ray machine, she went to work snapping pictures of all the skeletons and their x-rays. A future veterinarian in the making!

They planted trees, touched a snake, built a water system, saw a planetarium, fed baby birds, explored with magnets, counted fish, searched for fossils, lay on a bed of nails, wore moose antlers, repaired a turtle shell, sat in a geode, constructed simple machines, replaced organs inside a body ... and did it all with such wide-eyed excitement and enthusiasm.

At that science center, something incredible WAS discovered. And my three little girls left ... on top of the world!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Guiding Inferences and Critical Pathways

We're almost at the end of our 6 week focus on inferring and point of view. For the past three years, the teachers in our board have been required to complete Critical Pathways in our classrooms. A Critical Pathway is a 6 week intense study of one or two of our curriculum expectations. All teachers in each division in a school must study the same expectation at the same time. We create the rubric, success criteria, diagnostic task, and summative task together, and meet to complete moderated marking on these tasks. We are free however, to choose our own tasks the rest of the time. We use the first few days to establish our learning goals and anchor charts with our students' input. These must be posted throughout the duration of our study.

OK ... enough with the formal teacher talk. I wanted to share this because I have been so very impressed with my guided reading groups. I have 5 different reading groups. Two groups are reading The Nexus Ring by Maureen Bush, two groups are reading Gregor the Overlander by Suzanne Collins (yes, THE Suzanne Collins), and my last group is reading The Ruby Kingdom by Patricia Bow. After the groups complete their reading each day, they have a different task related to inferring or point of view to complete. Sometimes they work individually, and sometimes they work in groups. I modelled questions and responses with our oral reading text, Among the Enemy, before I set them loose. I wanted to share some of the fantastic group work they completed over the last few days.

I can't wait to experience their final thoughts and responses as we finish the books next week. And by the way, Gregor the Overlander is an AWESOME book for classes who are just a little bit too young for The Hunger Games, yet want to get in on the excitement surrounding Collins and her trilogy.

For more ideas and activities for inferring, check out my Inferring Package - Activities to Use for ANY Text.
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