Sunday, June 30, 2013

What's Up Currently.... for July!

Almost July! So time to link up with Farley......

Listening... the rain tapping my windows AGAIN.  This has been our radar for days...
...having more time to really be with my daughters. Today's agenda included Candyland, cuddles, and making BLTs...
...about seeing Man of Steel with my Mom tomorrow.  After seeing him in The Tudors, I'm a big fan of Henry Cavill...

...a massage! My darling husband got me a gift certificate for one on Mother's Day and I'm hoping to redeem it next week.  Aaahhhh!
Needing... declutter! My inbox is jammed with over 1,000 emails that I need to sort or delete. And our basement has various "treasures" that I'm dying to Curb Alert on Craigslist. 40 FRAMES? Seriously??
 Tips, Tricks, or Hints...
...have fun...write about what interests you...and if your blog post doesn't have an image that you can pin - make one!  :-)

Hope you have a fantastic July!

Saturday, June 29, 2013

Are you a Geek or a Nerd?

Do you consider yourself a GEEK? How about a NERD? While both signal an intense devotion to a particular subject, there are some fine shades of difference between the two words:
Geeks = stuff   They're "collection oriented" and enthusiasts of a topic. 
Nerds = ideas   They're "achievement oriented" and more intellectual practitioners of a topic. 

Burr Settles analyzed over 2.6 million tweets to evaluate what words were paired most often with "geek" and "nerd". Here are the lovely results:
(You can read the author's original analysis in all its statistical wonder here.)
These are some words indicating I'm a NERD:
  • teacher, books, Star Trek, reading, bookworm, Atari, vocabulary
But these words might make me a GEEK:
  • blog, podcast, ipod, Apple, Whedon, Star Wars, film
Overall....since I am definitely not into collecting stuff - and care more about ideas - I think I'm slightly on the nerd side.  

And you?  Are you more geeky or more nerdy? 

Friday, June 28, 2013

Making Vocabulary Introductions {Word Nerds Book Study}

Chapter 3 of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary hosted by Sabra at Teaching With a Touch of Twang
 See other posts here: Ch 1, Ch 2, Ch 3, Ch 4, Ch 5, Ch 6, Ch 7

Chapter 3 guides you through the first steps in introducing vocabulary words to your students - sentence prediction, word prediction, trying out the new words, and starting a Vocabulary Journal.

First Steps to Making Vocabulary Introductions

      1. Sentence Prediction
      • Post a cloze sentence for each of the vocabulary words. For example, "There was a _______ of resources after Europeans came to America." 
      • Students use context clues to guess what the words could be. Do not correct their predictions, but praise their efforts and discuss with the class whether or not the words fit.  
      2. Word Prediction
      • Reveal cards one at a time with the vocabulary words written on them.
      • Help students pronounce the word, perhaps using the "My Turn, Your Turn" strategy by saying, "My Turn, CON-FLICT. Your turn..."
      • Repeat but clapping out the syllables.
      • Have the class predict what each word means. Don't reveal the correct answers, but discuss their ideas and talk about any clues in the parts of the words (roots, prefixes, etc...)
      3. Trying Out the Words
      • Try out the vocabulary words one by one in each cloze sentence so students can decide if it fits the context of the sentence.
      • Model using the process of elimination and testing out every word.
      4. Vocabulary Journals
      •  Lead students through completing the first sections of their vocabulary journals - filling in the word and adding the child-friendly definition, picture, and sentence at least 7 words long - a "7-UP" sentence.  :-)   Students can use the sentence from the cloze activity if they're stuck.
          The authors suggest using a pocket chart with sentence strips for the close activity, but I think using my Promethean Board will work better for me. Embedding conversation about the topic throughout the vocabulary introductions is genius - students can't HELP but remember details after so much repeated exposure. :-) And I really love how their enthusiasm for vocabulary really came through in this chapter - treat it almost like a game show with silly sound effects and catch phrases!

          I was also relieved to see the authors using a Frayer-type graphic organizer for the vocabulary journals. I made one very similar a few years ago combining elements from Pickering as well. However.....after looking at it again, it didn't quite fit what I need now. Here is the old "bleh" one:
          Okay, but not great.  Sooo....I hunted down some cute graphics and made a spiffy new Vocabulary Journal!

          Cute, colorful cover and 20 pages of vocabulary graphic organizers - two on each page. Just $1 on TpT or TN.

          And don't forget - you just have a couple more days to enter my Summer Relaxation Giveaway!

          Monday, June 24, 2013

          Classrooms That Foster Word Confidence {Words Nerds Book Study}

          On to Chapter 2 of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary hosted by Sabra at Teaching With a Touch of Twang
           See other posts here: Ch 1, Ch 2, Ch 3, Ch 4, Ch 5, Ch 6, Ch 7


          This chapter offers some advice about how to create a comfortable space where students feel supported while exploring new vocabulary.  There are tips for routine, classroom management, and design considerations for both primary and intermediate classrooms.

          The Importance of Routine

          All great teachers know that investing time during the first several weeks to establish flexible yet structured weekly and daily routines will pay off with more efficient learning in the long run.  The authors also suggest repeated modeling of vocabulary activities so that students can understand what correct procedures look like and feel like.

              Classroom Management in the Vocabulary Classroom

              Since some students may come to school without having developed appropriate emotional responses or the needed social skills to work cooperatively in groups, it's often necessary to explicitly teach those skills. Again, some investment up-front in teaching and practicing appropriate academic behavior should help develop students' self-control and lead to greater success as the year progresses. (They even have their students practice getting excited and then calming down again!)

              Classroom Space & Design

              Whether you are teaching primary or intermediate grades, creating a space that is "student convenient" rather than just "teacher convenient" is key.  Some questions to ask yourself:  Are materials clearly labeled and easily available for students to use as needed?  Does most of the space belong to the children or the teacher?  As plan your space with vocabulary instruction in mind, here are a few things you'll want to have:
              • Space to display vocabulary anchor charts
              • Dictionaries and Thesauri in an accessible place
              • Small group meeting space
              • Large group instruction area
              • Desks grouped for quick collaboration
              • A variety of methods for grouping students
              • A designated time for vocabulary development

              The 5-Step Vocabulary Cycle

              The term "cycle" is preferred over "unit" since there is no specific end to studying a set group of words as they may come up again later. As you plan your 10-day Vocabulary Cycle, you'll need to choose 6-10 words. You can pick words from your reading program, content-area terms, or tier two words (See previous post for an explanation.)  Then, for each word, prepare the following:  a kid-friendly definition, a sentence to introduce the word, two synonyms (or examples), two antonyms (or non-examples), an image to represent the word.

              Here are the 5 basic steps of your Vocabulary Cycle.
              1. Introduce the Terms
              2. Add Synonyms & Antonyms
              3. Practice Using the Words (whole & small groups)
              4. Celebrate Vocabulary Learning (whole group)
              5. Assess Learning (teacher created in standardized test format)

              We'll explore those five steps in much more detail in the Chapters to come.
                  The modeling of correct behavior reminds me a lot of Daily 5 - and I agree.  If students are not doing what it expected, they need more practice and need to see more examples. Having my 5th graders work well in groups was a huge challenge this year. I'm really looking for some strategies to help that go more smoothly.

                  1. How can I help my students work better together?
                  2. Do all the vocabulary words for a particular cycle have to go together? Or could I do half Math vocab / half literary terms?

                  For more details, you can get your own copy of the book right here:

                   And we'd love to have you join the conversation any time! Just click on the image below!
                  Hope to see you there! And don't forget - you still have almost a week to enter my Summer Relaxation Giveaway!

                  Friday, June 21, 2013

                  Summer Relaxation Giveaway!

                  As a warm thank you to over 200 fantastic followers and all those who visit through Pinterest, Facebook, and Twitter -  I want to celebrate the official start of summer with a
                   Now that school is over (for most of us...), it's time to kick back, relax, and enjoy some down time.
                  This Summer Kick-off Relaxation Kit includes:
                   Soothing Gel Beauty Mask
                  Sweet Chamomile infused Bubble Bath
                  Exfoliating Bath Sponge
                  Anti-Stress Mud & Sea Kelp Mask
                  Citronella Pillar Candle (for outside use only)
                  Summer Sparkler Fizzy Drink Mix
                  Rainbow Flower Garland

                    PLUS...what better way to truly relax than to know you have some incredible resources all lined up to use next year? Just select the Prize Packs you want and enter to win! 
                    PRIZE PACK #1
                    1 Summer Relaxation Kit plus items graciously donated by...
                    Katie from Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher - Winner's Choice of 2 Items from her TpT Store

                    Diane from 5th in the Middle - Winner's Choice from her TpT Store

                    Sandy from Fearless in 5th - Winner's Choice from her TpT Store

                    Misty from Think, Wonder & Teach  -  Winner's Choice from her TpT store plus One Month FREE Subscription to Technology Adventures!
                    PRIZE PACK #2

                    1 Summer Relaxation Kit plus items graciously donated by...
                    Tara from 4th Grade Frolics - Winner's Choice from her TpT Store

                    Amy from Active Readers and Writers - Writer's Workshop Cards from her TpT Store

                    Molly from Lessons With Laughter - Winner's Choice from her TpT Store

                    Ariane from The Science Penguin  -  $10 Credit to her TpT store
                    a Rafflecopter giveaway
                    PRIZE PACK #3
                    1 Summer Relaxation Kit plus items graciously donated by...
                    Addie from Teacher Talk Back-to-School Pack from her TpT Store

                    a Rafflecopter giveaway
                    This Giveaway will run through next Saturday, June 29th
                    and the three winners will be announced on Monday, July 1st. 
                    Thank you and good luck!!

                    Monday, June 17, 2013

                    Monday Morning Inspiration {Understanding Music]

                    Beautiful animation about a quest to understand music - great to share with your students!

                    Understand Music from finally. on Vimeo.

                    Have a fabulous week!

                    Friday, June 14, 2013

                    Fun Friday & Weekly Recap

                    I stumbled across this fun data table through my Zite feed the other day:
                    (You can read the original article here)

                    How Common Is Your Birthday?

                    This could be a really cool graphic to post in the classroom.  I find it interesting that around major holidays (July 4th, Christmas, Thanksgiving, etc..) the birthdays are far less common. I wonder if this is due to scheduling Cesarian sections?  My birthday (November 16th) seems to be right in the middle. 
                    And now a quick recap of the week.

                    On Monday...
                    I celebrated my 13th Anniversary with my husband, Paul! I am so very lucky to have him - he's an amazing father and a great friend. I love how we can still make each other laugh every day!
                    On Tuesday...
                    Our old washing machine broke down, and we had to buy a new one. I was determined to avoid those new top-load washers that just "spit" at your clothes instead of soak them, so I bought a front-loader LG.  Happy so far! (Although the slightly creepy chiming has me calling it "Hal".)
                    On Wednesday...
                    I finished an incredible audio book -  Neil Gaiman's Anansi Boys. I drove around my neighborhood for about 15 minutes just to savor the end.  I'm still in awe of the narrator's skill with handling such diverse characters with complicated accents. Puts my paltry read-alouds to shame!

                    On Thursday...
                    I booked our tickets to St. Paul for this September-hooray! My cousin is getting married and my daughters are both flowers girls. It will be their first plane ride.  :-)

                    On Friday...
                    All the 5th grade teachers across our district met to learn about our new Lucy Calkins writing program for next year and receive our kits. On the one hand, I'm really excited by what I saw. On the other hand, I dread retooling everything I've invested in so far and I'm concerned about where to find the necessary one hour. Summer reading!
                    I am very interested to hear from other teachers who are using this program. What do you think?
                    Swing by Doodle Bugs to link up and share your week!

                    Thursday, June 13, 2013

                    What's the Big Deal About Vocabulary Instruction? {Word Nerds Book Study}

                    I'm excited to share some summer reading with you all!  First up is a Book Study of Word Nerds: Teaching All Students to Learn and Love Vocabulary hosted by Sabra at Teaching With a Touch of Twang
                     See other posts here: Ch 1, Ch 2, Ch 3, Ch 4, Ch 5, Ch 6, Ch 7


                    Literary specialist Brenda Overturf, along with teachers Leslie Montgomery and Margot Smith, share the 5 part plan they've developed to help students learn "word confidence" and get excited about discovering new words. (Their recommendations are geared mainly toward K-6 teachers.)

                    Why Teach Vocabulary?

                    In Chapter 1 (What's the Big Deal About Vocabulary Instruction?) the authors outline the case for explicit vocabulary instruction. Some of their main points:
                      • Knowing the "right words" helps students understand and show knowledge of a subject with confidence
                      • Improved vocabulary is strongly correlated with increased reading comprehension
                      • The Common Core Standards focus on word knowledge from Grades K-5 and beyond, asking students to "Ask and answer questions about unknown words in a text" and "Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary..." 
                      • There's a "30-million word gap" between children from low-income families and those with a more affluent background (WOW!)

                      10 Key Components

                      Overturf, Montgomery, & Smith glean from their research on vocabulary instruction the following ten "essential ingredients" for word study.
                      1. Some words are more important to teach than others. (Focus mostly on general high-frequency terms that will be used in school, and then content-specific terms.)
                      2. Students have to learn words at more than one level. (Range of knowledge should extend beyond identifying the definition to using the word correctly in all it's forms and meanings.)
                      3. Students learn words when they experience them multiple times. (It could take 6-12 exposures.)
                      4. Asking students to look up words in the dictionary and write the definitions does not help them learn words. (Definitions in plain language is the way to go!)
                      5. When students learn words, they build patterns and networks of meaning called "word schemas." (Help build the framework by making connections to their lives and including work with synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, and root words.)
                      6. Students can learn some words through the use of wide reading. (Guiding students through a variety of texts and different genres can build their word knowledge.)
                      7. Students can learn some words through rich conversations with adults and peers. (Academic discussions and interactive read-alouds help students make connections and learn words for new concepts.)
                      8. Students can learn some words through word play. (Encouraging children to be risk-takers with language and sparking their curiosity about words will help them develop word confidence. Multisensory vocabulary instruction - visual/auditory/kinesthetic/tactile combinations - helps students connect to language more deeply.)
                      9. Students can learn some words by direct instruction. (Marzano and other researchers agree that teaching words can effectively improve achievement.)
                      10. Most students need word-learning strategies to become independent readers. (Help students to unlock context clues in the sentence and passage to determine meanings. Again, teaching roots, prefixes, and suffixes will help children decipher unfamiliar words.
                        Although I do love teaching my students the secrets of the dictionary, I also know that reference books don't always provide the right kind of information to help children figure out unknown words. Or, most importantly, use them correctly. Being a bit of a word magpie myself, I get excited about learning and using new words and phrases so I'm eager to start Chapter 2 and get into the meat and potatoes of their word study program. Also - I'm hoping to gather some ideas to get the most out of "Word Work" time during Daily 5.

                        1. How do I select words to teach and how many per week are recommended?
                        2. Should spelling words be the same as the vocabulary words or is it better to keep those separate?

                        Are you really happy with your students' word knowledge and the vocabulary instruction in your class?  If yes, please share what works for you!  If not, grab your copy of the book right here:

                        and jump into the conversation this summer! Just click on the image below to join us!
                        Hope to see you there!

                        Monday, June 10, 2013

                        Monday Morning Inspiration {Bach's Crab Canon on a Mobius Strip}

                        Take a look at this fascinating visualization of Johann Sebastian Bach's "Crab Canon" as a mobius strip.  Blew my mind!
                                                                             Now, I am no music teacher. And although once-upon-a-time I participated in chorus and even struggled through one year of All-County Choir - I really can't carry a tune in a bucket anymore.  My 4 year-old shushes and wags her finger at me when I try to sing to her, saying "Don't sing, mama."  :-(
                        However,  I do appreciate beautiful music and enjoy playing a variety of genres in my class. I like to pick out a random Classical or Ambient  iTunes Radio station and explore that for the day.

                        If you play music to your students - what are your favorites?

                        Sunday, June 9, 2013

                        App Review: Running Record Calculator (SALE!)

                        If you've been struggling to document your running records as accurately as possible, then VonBruno's Running Record Calculator App might just be what you've been looking for.  After the tech specialist in my district suggested it, I decided to give this a full test run for my final round of Fountas & Pinnell running records. Here are my thoughts...


                        This app has all the basic features of a traditional running record calculator - a time recorder and functions to input number of words read, errors, and self-corrections.  After you enter the data, the app calculates the words-per-minute, accuracy rate, and self correction ratio. In addition, it records audio of the child reading and allows you to flag sections to refer to later. (This feature alone had me sold! I can listen to the playback to ensure I've written down the correct information.)  However, there is also a Pause Feature! If you're interrupted in the middle of the assessment, you can simply pause and continue it later without the student having to read the entire selection again.
                        Once finished, you can email a report with an attached audio file.  Just press the blue 'Share' button (see above). Here is what the email will look like. The text highlighted in yellow are the areas where you can add the student's name, reading level, comprehension score and any other notes you'd like.
                         TIP - Send the e-mail to yourself first. Then you can edit and forward the report.


                        • Can listen to the recording multiple times to get the most accurate assessment.
                        • Sharing the report and audio file with reading specialists, other teachers, or parents.
                        • Students can listen to their own recordings to learn from their errors.
                        • Pause feature is fantastic if you are interrupted!
                        • Convenient
                        • Inexpensive ($1.99 until the end of June 2013!)


                        • App does not store individual running records
                        • Can't enter time to just calculate without recording
                        • Free version ("Lite"- without playback or sharing features) is discontinued at the end of June 2013
                        • Currently available for iPhone or iPad only

                        The Bottom Line 

                        Get this App!! And hurry - the free version is being discontinued on June 28th, 2013 so the developers are offering the full version for half price until the end of June. Sweet!

                        Want to know more about other Apps to use with your students? Follow my Apps in Education Board on Pinterest!

                        Coming Soon...  
                        Summer Relaxation Giveaway, "Iron Student" Challenge & a Fantastic App to Improve Parent Communication