Out with the old... In with the new

Well, I met my goal partially this weekend. I wanted to do a little 'spring cleaning' in my TpT store and it was cutting it close to accomplishing this task with my other busy must-do plans this week. These things almost got in the way of me cleaning:

Fraction circles. These buggers were a pain... and I didn't even cut the out, a parent volunteer did (and I am so grateful for that). But I had to separate them all into 16 different sets and sort them into these folders. And my husband did a lot of the grunt work too with assembling the pocket folders. So I just try to image how worse it would have been if I didn't have all that awesome help. But anywho, we are starting our unit on fractions and we are using the Rational Number Project as our curriculum as a pilot this year. We did our first lesson today and the kids loved the hands on part- I loved the student centered exploration. We'll see how the rest of this unit plays out! This was my Saturday.

Then my Sunday rolled around and I had to get ready to play in my first ever hockey game! Let me say, I've never played hockey in my life. I had never even put on pads before. Or held a hockey stick. But I bought a bunch of gear (and had some donated to me, again- thankful for the awesome help) and tested the waters in a league my teammate dragged encouraged me to do with her. It was supposed to be Hockey 101- it was a bit more advanced than we thought, but I was able to manage. This will be every Sunday for the next 8 weeks or so. I'll report back if I still have all my teeth.

Click on this button to go to my store.

So Saturday and Sunday morning, I was working like a mad dog trying to get some of my old products updated and add some of new ones. Here's what I accomplished:

My Mental and Emotional Health Resource got a face lift plus add ons! I added interactive options for the previous pack (those are still there too if you want a quick reflection page) plus a teacher's guide on how I used them in my room. I changed to the interactive this year and really liked it (my kids seemed to enjoy it too).

Another resources I cleaned up was my Superfudge Student book. The book didn't change, but I added graphic organizers to go with it was all was some end of book written response.

 And then there are my new resources. Last week, we had some extension lessons for place value up to the hundred thousands place. So I made this game that included all the skills we were doing with those big numbers: reading and writing numbers, rounding, and comparing in one easy-prep game! I added other game boards that have smaller place values too to use next year at the beginning.

I'm starting to create some things for my classroom next year. I redid these conflict resolution posters that I already had posted in my store. Same content- just different look.

And to go more with my 'theme' and colors next year, I made some new reading comprehension posters for my small group instruction. I love a good anchor chart, but sometimes I don't have the space. So I tried to add as much onto these as possible (without them feeling crowded). These posters include text structures and comp strategies.

Well, that's what I accomplished and cleaned! You can get all of these resources 20% off through Wednesday!



Preparing for the Spring Cleaning Sale

I've got so many updates that I've been working on for some of the resources in my TpT store. I change things and test them out in my class each year and always intend to update, but never find time! To help motivate me, I created a lil' spring cleaning sale to get my butt movin' and to celebrate the wonderful arrival of SPRING!

I'll be sprucing up some of my older products- adding resources to products already created, changing up the looks a bit, and trying to make them even more user friendly to you! I've learned a lot in my first year of selling on TpT so it's time to go back and give some of those first items some lovin.'

I've also got some new resources that I've created this year and just haven't posted yet. Those will be introduced just in time for the sale as well!

Both the new resources and updated ones will be 20% off in my store for 3-days for you to snag and and enjoy and kick-off spring!

Do you need some motivation too to give your store a little spring cleaning? Grab the image below, add in your own details and spread the news. Besides- doesn't it feel good to reap the benefits after a good cleaning? Or is that just me when it comes to my apartment...

Happy Cleaning!
("Copy image" and "Paste" into an editing program to create your own button to announce a Spring Cleaning Sale!)




I'd like to think I've been doing meaningful reading work the whole year and that it will shine on our state standardized test next month. The reality- some of the expectations and processes expected of my third graders don't always seem to properly translate over on a test (or any standardized test for that matter). So, we use the 3 weeks before the test to hone our skills and learn some testing strategies to try to make our skills radiate! I'm already so proud of my kiddos trying so hard to prove their learning and growth... and I hope they know that.

Anyways, I'm getting off track. Back to the post!

So! To help my students be careful readers, we've really been focused on the QAR strategy, or the Question Answer Relationship strategy. This is something I would start at the beginning next year, because like a lot of the skills we teach during our test prep, this skill is a great one we can use anytime reading for school and preparing to share about our books.

Click here to download these bookmarks!

To make a long post short, we use this strategy after we are done reading. We look at the written questions at the end of the passage or on our Reading A-Z quizzes and we pick them apart, looking for key words that give us clues as to what type of question it is. We created this chart today to help us figure out the different types of questions:

"Go" questions are right there questions, meaning, we can go right in the text to figure them out. We discovered that typically, the 5 W's are these types of questions. "Slow Down" questions are think and search questions, meaning, the answer is over a few parts of our reading and we are searching for connections. We discovered a lot of event type questions, cause and effect, compare and contrast, and problem/solution questions fall in this category. Lastly is the "Stop" questions, which are author and you questions, meaning, we create an idea using our knowledge and we stop to find evidence from the text to support it. We discovered these are our letatoes (inferences- see the post here on how they got their name) and main idea and detail questions. We later added some other post-its after looking at sample questions: word meaning questions are often right there in the text (meaning- they have to go find the word in the text and use it in context) and when it asks us to judge or evaluate something as the "most important" or "best" types of questions.

Once we discussed the different things we answer questions about, we tested out our new skills with some sample questions from an old test. (These are screenshots of some of our SMARTboard slides which is why the format looks a little funky.)

Step1: We read the question and highlighted key words that ground our focus.
Step 2: We then discussed these words and what type of signal it might show us for the type of answer that is related to it. We wrote them next to the stop light to help us visualize.

We noticed that in this question, all of our keywords are pretty much "right there" signal words. Thus, this question is one we can go back and find the answer right in the test (that is tomorrow's job- today was strictly identifying and categorizing the words).

Some had a few words in more than one category. We then discussed what type of question this is to help us. We realized that this question is asking about cause and effect as well sequencing, which means we need to go search.

For this last one, I had them pick the key words on their own and categorized them to determine the type of question. Then we reviewed it together at the end of Reader's Workshop. Many were confused on the "most important" words and what type of signal they give us. We realized that these words are making us, the reader, make a decision based on the text. So, this question is an author and you even though some of the other words fit in the other categories.

By no means did I execute this perfectly, but we came back to our chart to fill in the blank at the bottom and the biggest take-away I wanted them to realize: you HAVE to support your answer by going into the text. We'll see if that translates into tomorrow's work when we predict the answers before looking at them, go find our evidence, then make a choice! I'll keep ya posted! :)



If You Teach Them a Graphic Organizer...They Will Draw It

I don't know about you, but I have a strong love affair with graphic organizers. They are multi-purposeful in my eyes. They can help my students be stronger writers, readers, and speakers. It allows me to see their thoughts and ideas, clear up any confusion, and help them strengthen their overall understanding of whatever we are working on. You can use them across content areas and best of all- they can be slightly modified to fit your needs, while keeping it accessible for the students. 
The first part of the year, I often gave students a pre-made graphic organizer for them to gather their thoughts while reading. This allowed me to see what they were able to do, and where I needed to step in and help more. They worked great and gave me a ton of information on my students, not to mention, it held them accountable during our independent reading time. We began to shift now to graphic organizers that we can create ourselves. The beauty of these: they can change to fit our needs. Here are 3 graphic organizers that we use often and just slightly tweak!

These can be used in many different content areas. We use them most often during our read aloud and independent work time to gather ideas to show our thinking and talk with others about our reading.

Some of the uses we've used this style for: Cause and Effect, Inferences, Multiple Pieces of Evidence

We used this graphic organizer last week when we focused on multiple pieces of evidence and patterns to give our character traits. We used this awesome book for our biography unit. 

If you have a chance to read it, I strongly encourage it. The students really connected to it due to what Steve Jobs created, but the quality of character is excellent too. We see Steve change throughout his successes and drawbacks and we had excellent conversations as to what caused these changes. Here are a few examples of how we tweaked this flow chart graphic organizer to show our thinking using text evidence.

(don't mind my chicken scratch...)

For this time around, we put events in the boxes at the top, then we jotted why the author would add these events in the middle, followed by a trait word. I choose the flow-chart style to show how these are all connected: the text, the author's ideas, and my ideas.

This allows me to see: 1) Can they identify important events 2) Can they identify the reason those events were included 3) Can they develop an idea of their own based on the events

For example, in the example where the student said Steve is careless, I'd like to meet with this student to discuss how we want two or more events that show the same trait. Crying himself actually shows me that he does care, but I agree with the student that Steve seems to care about things that seem little to the rest of us and ignores things that seem important. 
Some of the uses we've used this style for: Sequencing, Author's Purpose, Cause/Effect, Inferences

I love the timeline graphic organizer! I often use it during read aloud. Students divide their paper into half. On one side, they always jot important events in the story. On the other side, we change it up: Sometimes we write down our ideas to, "Why did the author add that part?" Other times, we write down, "What is my idea?"  It's great to keep events in sequence and to go back and look for patterns, cause/effect, and retelling. Here are some student examples. Some were done during read aloud- others were done during independent reading time.

You'll notice that the one on the left wrote down that the text is on the left and her idea is on the right. She did this during independent reading to be prepared to discuss at her book club. The one on the right was done during read aloud. We were focusing on events/text on the left and why the author would add that part on the right. I would simply tell them to stop and jot and they would pick out the events they found important and jot those down, along with their idea as to why the author would add those parts (this was for our mystery read aloud). 

Some of the uses we've used this style for: Narrative Elements, Genre Studies, Poetry, Close Reading

I pull this one out when I want to focus on many skills at the same time. I might want students to focus on the setting, characters, problem, and solution so each box would be labeled with those words or a quick picture to remind students. Or, I might want students to focus on things that stood out to them, questions, places that they stopped, and unknown words for book club meetings. I recently began using it for genre studies and test prep. We are taking our reading test on the computer this year, so we are learning different ways to keep track of our ideas. One way is through this 4 square box so that students can look at different things they've gathered across a text. (I'll be showing you more of this when we do some work on close reading with poetry this week.) Here are some student work samples that they did independently when preparing to discuss at book clubs.

Notice how this student wrote little pictures (that we learned) in each box to keep track of her different ideas. The stick person stands for character events/things that stood out; the ? stands for questions to ask my group or questions I had while reading; the "No" symbol stands for parts that were confusing and made her stop; and the W stands for words or phrases that are confusing to her.

I love putting the power into my own students hands to use an organizer that works for them to show their thinking. The scaffold of using pre-made organizers I believe was very helpful and necessary and made our journey to self-created ones easier.

What is your go-to graphic organizer? Do you use pre-made or student created one? I'd love to hear!


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