Monday, September 1, 2014

Classroom Makeover 2014-15

If you read my last post, you know that I am at a new school this year teaching 4th grade. When I walked into my new classroom, I had a few reactions--it's a little on the small side, so get rid of everything that is not necessary for students and PAINT!!! So, I spent quite a few days over the summer weeding out the former teacher's stuff, deciding what furniture I could get rid of, and then painting and decorating my walls. Here are a few before pictures:
The most hideous desk ever. It ended up the same color as my walls.
And here are the exciting results!
I'm trying a focus wall this year. These are themes, concepts, and skills that could
be found throughout many subject areas and concepts this quarter.
Reader's Workshop: Ready!
This area still needs a rug, but I have a really cute one on the way from amazon!
These awesome inspirational notes came from a Dollar Store Calendar! ($1 bulletin board, yes please!!)

Monday, August 4, 2014

I'm Back!!!

Wow! It has not been a "bloggy year" for me. It has actually been a super tough teaching year for me. I decided to move to a new school for this school year--a charter school in NC and with this position, I have a grade level change coming up too, 5th down to 4th. If you have followed my blog for a while, you know that I have looped to 4th twice in my teaching career, so this upcoming year won't be foreign to me, but it will be the first time I have taught 4th grade common core standards. I'm actually super excited. The best part is----I have had the summer off for the first time in 9 years!!! My old school was a year-round school and they started back in July! I have had a much needed extra month or more than normal and have had time to recharge my teacher brain. I have been mapping out the year, plugging in resources, and wishing I had time to blog. I have given my new room a makeover and can't wait to reveal the before and after pictures {maybe some time next week?!?!}

Have you been shopping the TPT sale? I have all day!!!! I have been going through the cycle~~purchase, leave feedback, earn credits, purchase more! Don't forget to use the TPT discount {BTS14} for an additional 10% off the 20% sale that most of us have put on our store. I have grabbed up some major helpers for the year, especially for my math curriculum! So excited!!!

Here's a few of the products from my own store that are great for back-to-school~~I would even call them ~critical~...I have already prepped these resources to begin my new year!


I also have tons of math task cards. (I use task cards at least two days out of the week in my math workshop! <3)

Check out my store and see if there's a goodie that you want to grab on sale! And, I can't wait to blog more this year!!! :) Back to school posts and an exciting new product coming soon!!!!
<3 tamaralynn

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Getting Ready for Reading Tests!

This post is a compilation of my reading test minilessons from last year. I'm starting this next week and wanted to share...for some reason people keep purchasing this set of materials from my teacherspayteachers store ;) Tis the season!

I have created a "Test-Prep" Minilessons Bulletin Board that I use to review strategies for reading comprehension that I have taught students all year long, but with a "this is what it looks like on the test" spin. This board allows me to move from what students KNOW about reading in general to how that applies to reading for a reading test.

This method considers “test prep passages” as another reading genre that students develop an understanding of how the test/passages are designed. (I’m sure you have done this all year with poetry, nonfiction, realistic fiction, science fiction, fantasy, opinion-based articles, etc.) Together, you and your students discover how a test is put together AND how what you have taught them to do all year as intelligent readers still applies in the setting of “test reading.”

My version of Question-Answer-Relationship is based off of the types of questions on our Reading EOG. All questions can be classified as "Right There"/"There and There," "Inferencing," "Overalls," and "Apply Prior Knowledge." Once studnets realize what question type they are working with, they can then go about the appropriate steps to figure out the right answer. I love these four types because it helps me remind my students that there are questions that ARE NOT directly answered by the text. The test will require them to THINK (at least a little) for themselves and use the knowledge they have learned.
I use a 4 step method to help students when they are finally answering questions. (WE do ALOT of work before we ever touch the questions!) I guide them through learning how to reword the questions (when necessary), mark out the obviously wrong answer (or 2), collect clues for the other answer choices, then make an educated decision (not a guess!) based on the information they have collected. Students are also required to write evidence (for or against) for each of the 4 answer choices. By the time they do this, they have typically figured out the right answer. You may decide to only use one of these questioning strategies (as I have in the past).

We are still in the beginning stages of our test prep because I know what my kiddos were capable of last year. We are still reading our independent books and I am conferring with students during our independent time. I'm sure we will dabble in reading and answering some of the passages this week, but I didn't want to get them started to soon (as 5th graders) and then have them burn out closer and closer to the test. Our first few lessons this week will be analyzing the types of questions they will be asked and talking about how we should think to answer those types of questions. I have typed up all of the Reading EOG questions from 3rd-8th grades for a student sorting lesson. This is included in the test prep download, but I have also uploaded it as a freebie (since I didn't write the questions myself, but made the sort so that we could use the questions in a different way). You may want to check out the grade levels before and after you as you work with students. I was uber surprised that 5th grade had no text-based features types of questions (we have NO NO NO graphics in our released set at all), but looking at 3rd or 4th (can't remember), they did have some text-feature based questions. Of course, I don't want my kiddos to be surprised by anything.

Although I am preparing my students for testing, I have lived by this ALL (of-my-teaching-career) YEAR!

Reading Tests: Questioning Lessons

What’s the purpose of having students sort questions independent of reading the text?
Allowing students to closely analyze questions helps them to make generalizations about the types of questions they can predict will be on the test and that they can expect for specific genres. Yes, you can do the sort for them and hand them a list of questions, but allowing them to come up with generalizations about the test questions takes your “test prep” from teacher-centered to student centered and considers testing a “genre” or “type of text” rather than an unpredictable “test.”

Today I wanted to share how our questioning lessons are going.
Day 1:  I had students work in partners to sort the questions into categories that made sense to them. It was interesting (and telling) to see what kind of categories students came up with on their own. I went around from group to group listening to their ideas and pushing them to reconsider some of the questions they had placed in different categories. (We completed this sort prior to the kids reading the text--based on my experience, you can decide what kind of question MOST of them are without reading the text yet.)

Day 2: I gave students a copy of my Question-Answer-Relationship handout. I went through each type of question (which was review from last year) and then had them meet with their partner again to sort the questions into these four categories. Now, not having read the text, there are a few questions that fall between two of the types of questions.
Day 3: During minilesson,  I gave each student two of the question cards and decided to start the lesson with the ones I had leftover. (Totally random, no strategic planning here). I called out one of my questions and we discussed where we would place it~"Right There/There and There," "Inferencing," "Overalls," or "Apply Prior Knowledge." Then, I asked students to raise their hands and share if they had a question like the one we had just categorized. Students read their questions one-by-one and we decided as a class if it fit the category. We continued until we had grouped and classified all questions. You can see our findings in the picture below. Each of these categories helps students tap into what skills and strategies they should use to answer the questions given. For example, if I have an overall question, I am going to pull from the beginning, middle, and end of the text (or a specific paragraph).

Here's how our questions fell into the categories:
"Right There/There and There"
* Literal Questions-We can go right back to the text and put our fingers on these.
Example: "Based on the selection, how did Roberto get to see the game?"
* Compare/Contrast Questions (need us to use information in two different places in the text)
Example: "How are butterflies and mosquitoes different?"; "Which statement shows a way some insects are similar to spiders?"

* Interpreting Figurative Language questions, using context clues for unknown words, and comprehension questions that go beyond the literal
Examples: "In paragraph 19, what is meant by 'Roberto's heart was in his stomach"?; "In the selection, what can be inferred about how the people viewed the old man?"; "What does the word shabbily mean as it is used in the text?"

* Main idea, summary, theme, generalizing, author's point of view, etc.
Examples: "Which statement summarizes the theme of the selection?"; "What main ideas are supported by the selection?"

"Apply Prior Knowledge"
***We talked about how none of the questions on our test would be true "prior knowledge" questions and that all of the questions were text-dependent. Now, when we take our SCIENCE EOG, ALLLLLLLLLLLL of the questions will fall under "prior knowledge." Interesting findings!

What are some ways I can use the questions for sorting?
• I think all sorts should be completed with partners or in small groups to encourage students to discuss what they are noticing and negotiate the categories.
• Allow students to sort the questions into any categories they see and then discuss as a group. (This would work well before you have introduced any of your Question-Answer-Relationship lessons and your “how to answer questions” lessons)
•After teaching your QAR lesson, have students re-sort the questions into the 4 categories (“Right There/There and There,” “Inferencing,” “Overall,” and “Apply Prior Knowledge.”) Within the 4 categories for QAR, see if you can come up with different types of each category. For example, “overall” questions include main idea, summarizing, theme, etc. while “inferencing” questions also include context clue questions because you use the text and your mind to infer word meaning.

My full Thinking Through Reading Questions Bulletin Board/Minilesson/Questioning Strategy Materials can be found here!  

Sunday, February 2, 2014

Happy February Valentine Heart Personalities Anyone?

Hi All,

This is a quick post as I have to leave the house in a few minutes, but I wanted to share that I uploaded my Valentine Personalities Vocabulary and Creative Writing Project like my Snowman and Pumpkin Personalities products. Students research a chosen personality trait in-depth (finding synonyms, antonyms, definitions, etc), complete a character questionnaire to explore their character and word in more detail and then plan a story, poem, blog post, etc. Last, students write their story and design their Valentine/Heart Character.

Here's a sneak peak:


Choose Trait: 
Explore Trait:
 Explore Character:
 Plan Story/Write Story:
 Bonus Activity: Design a Valentine Card from this Heart/Valentine Personality:
 Design the Valentine Character (thinking about facial expressions and features):

I like to use these seasonal activities to infuse my year with creative writing. At this point, my students are involved in research-based writing and they spent last quarter writing essays. It was nice to take a week to write "Snowman" stories. And, during Valentine's week, students will research their Valentine Personality trait and write a creative piece (it can be a poem, narrative, blog post from the character, a wanted ad,--anything to allow them to breathe creatively for a mini-writing project. 

Snowman Personalities
Pumpkin Personalities

Thanks for checking out this new product. It's cheap and ~EASY~ to implement if you are looking for something simple for V-Day. ~Put a little love in your <3~

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Multiplying and Dividing Fractions Plans

You might recall that going into this quarter, I figured out a planning routine for differentiation that I think is AWESOME applesauce! I take all of the materials I have (task cards, worksheets, etc) and place them on a continuum of difficulty. (If I need to fill in holes for lower levels or higher levels, I begin searching for resources or create my own). In addition, I outlined the quarter with FOCUS CONCEPTS (new material) and REVIEW CONCEPTS (1 day/wk).

I outlined my fractions unit {loosely} before the quarter began, and of course, things have already changed a bit. Mainly, I realized that it would be okay to push a few things to next quarter (like coordinate planes) and spend an extra week on multiplying and dividing fractions. {Keep in mind that I do not suggest only teaching fractions for 4 weeks. We already spent a large chunk of 2nd quarter on fractions--adding, subtracting, and a little intro to multiplying. Can you tell I could literally spend ALL year on fractions and be in MATH~nerd~HEAVEN?}.

I thought I was differentiated to the max already, but as I began to teach my three classes, I understood that what I had considered lower-level needed to be even more straightforward or scaffolded for one of my classes (for this group, I have went back to my old math workbooks). Now, don't get me wrong, these kiddos that I have to drop back to the worksheet for CAN get it and have done so, but I found that they need a more straightforward approach first and then they move into the task card sets. With a worksheet, they seem to get more accomplished and grow more in their confidence that they CAN solve the problems--and they know they will be moving on to task cards, which they have a positive attitude about.

Here's my fraction outline in a continuum format. The first icon will be the easiest/basic entry level, with the activities/practice work moving into increasing levels of difficulty. Also, it is important to note that some of the individual sets of task cards (like the Chili Math Multiplying Fractions) already include questions in increasing level of difficulty. This pack of task cards has 60 cards that I broke into sets. Some of the first questions are straightforward multiplying fractions problems, while some of the later task cards make students think backwards to figure out the factors that were multiplied instead of just the product. Needless to say, these cards have kept us busy busy for a week (with whole group minilessons also included at the beginning of each math class). The extension column includes materials for those students who finish the tasks above and beyond and are ready to move on to other concepts or look at the focus concept in a new way.
Based on my routine math schedule that I brainstormed before the quarter began: 

Mon-Wed: Practice with Focus Concepts (new material we are trying to master, students work through the continuum)
Thurs: 1/2 time Data Day (charting our exit slips performance and assessing on an OLD skill); 1/2 time: Algebraic Thinking Day
Friday: 1/2 time remediation on old skill (based loosely on assessment performance) and 1/2 time continued work on Focus Concept (some students may be working on extensions while others are 'secretly' being remediated, and others are completing work from the week that they understand but just need more time to work on). Some students may also use as a differentiated spiral review/to fill in some unmastered skills.

I will say that in getting the quarter started last week and getting to know my new students, I decided not to implement the Thursday/Friday schedule until our second week back. We will definitely have assessment/data/algebra on Thursday and Remediation/Review on Friday this week.

By the time I teach math for the third hour, I am burned out...and worried that I can't fix everyone's issues and misunderstandings. But, after having a little lunch and getting to my planning time to further differentiate and plan for the next day, I get really excited and LOVE the ability to focus on only a few subjects (I'm also teaching reading/social studies integrated into an hour and 20 minute block).
I hope your teaching life is happy, and please comment with questions as I am hoping that I am able to explain what I am doing clearly, but I am not always sure it is!

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