Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Helpful Hints!

The teachers of Blog Hoppin' are hosting a week long linky party! I'm so excited to participate in today's linky- H is for Helpful Hints.


I've got three helpful hints for you today...

My students use to always argue over whose turn it was to be on the computer. We only have 3 student computers and 20+ students. I decided to assign each student a computer for an entire day. Each card has the student's name on the front and their individual login information on the back. The cards are hole punched and hooked together with a book ring. Each ring of cards hangs from a 3M hook on the computer. My students know each day whose turn it is for the computers and can even check to see when their next day is going to be. It's also really handy having their login information on the back of their card to eliminate questions, disruptions, etc. So easy!

Last year, I used one turn-in basket for all of my students' completed work. It was a nightmare! The basket would pile up, I'd have to sort the papers, and I'd get overwhelmed and procrastinate with grading (sound familiar?!) This year, I found this really neat 5-basket organizer from Really Good Stuff. I thought about labeling each basket with the days of the week but decided to organize them by subjects. I have mine organized into the following five categories: morning work, math, word study, reading, and other. This has been such a tremendous help in managing papers to grade. It's not so overwhelming and the papers are already organized at the end of each day. I love it!

We all know that classroom storage space is limited so we have to get creative when it comes to hiding storing all of our materials! An easy way to do this is to use the extra cubby space in your classroom. If you have a couple of empty cubbies, use a piece of fabric and Velcro to cover the extra space. You can store a ton of materials by doing this! Whenever you need something, just pull back the fabric, grab what you need, and velcro the fabric back on. It's so simple and looks cute too!

Alright, those are my helpful hints for today! Tomorrow I hope to blog about activities that I love to use in my classroom. Be sure to head over to Blog Hoppin' and check out all of the helpful hints being shared!

Monday, November 4, 2013

Using Trifolds in Guided Reading

Does anyone else struggle with holding your kids accountable for reading their guided reading chapter books? Or what about keeping them focused on a strategy while reading their assigned chapters on their own? These are two of the biggest issues that I face with my guided reading groups. To help with this problem, I started using trifolds to help keep my kids on track while they went back to their seat to read on their own. These have proven to be really helpful for my kids in so many ways. They now know exactly what to focus on when they are reading, they have opportunities to record their thinking, and we are able to have meaningful discussions about our reading when we meet as a guided reading group again.

Here are some tips for using guided reading trifolds in your classroom: (I'm not an expert, these are just things that work for me!)

1. Focus on a specific reading strategy for the majority of the book

This is something that I've learned over the years while teaching guided reading. Instead of changing the focus every chapter of the book, decide on a specific strategy to use for the majority of the book. This is less confusing for the kids and helps them focus on using the strategy over an extended period of time. Find a book that really lends itself to the strategy/skill that you are teaching. For example, in one of my groups we are focusing on inferring character traits. I thought about which book would really lend itself to teaching character traits and decided on Because of Winn Dixie. In this book, you really get to know the characters and there are lots of different traits that can be used to describe each one.

2. Explicitly teach each reading strategy/skill before using the trifold

A great way to do this is to use think-alouds. I love to read books aloud to my kiddos (during our reading workshop minilessons) and think-aloud for my students. It really models the thinking that goes on while reading. Before having the kids practice the skill independently on their own using the trifolds, allow them many opportunities to hear you think-aloud and to discuss their own thinking as a whole group. Once students understand the skill/strategy that you are teaching, you can have them try it independently using the trifolds in guided reading.

3. Plan for time in your guided reading groups to discuss each student's writing in their trifolds
Do you have times in guided reading when you ask the group a question (What is a summary of this chapter? How would you describe Winn Dixie?) and all you get is blank stares? Ahhh!! It drives me crazy! These trifolds allow you to have meaningful conversations with your students using the writing that they recorded while reading independently. Instead of the blank stares, students are looking at their writing and sharing their thinking with others in the group. This is so powerful! I always encourage each student to use evidence from the book to support their thinking (see the example below where a student referred to a part in the book and wrote down the page number). This makes discussing each chapter so much easier!

If you are interested in learning more about using guided reading trifolds, you can check out the product below that includes trifolds for 11 different strategies (character traits, character feelings, inferring, questioning, summarizing, making connections, making predictions, setting, unknown words, visualizing and sequencing). The download also includes posters to use while teaching each strategy. Just click on the picture below to see more views of everything that is included!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Currently!

I absolutely can't believe that it's November already! I love this time of year and everything that comes with it (well except grade cards). I've linked up with the wonderful Farley at Oh' Boy Fourth Grade for her November Currently. Here's what I am currently up to...


Listening- As soon as it hits November, I give myself permission to start listening to Christmas music. Anyone else???? I know it sounds crazy but it just makes me so happy =)

Loving- I NEVER get to sleep in. It seems as though my son wakes up earlier the later he goes to bed the night before. Today, however, was an exception. I couldn't believe it when I looked at my phone and realized it was 9:30. Pure bliss!

Thinking- I only have two more months to prepare for this little girl! We are so absolutely excited to welcome our little Makenna Grace into this world!

Wanting- Have you had a three day weekend yet? We haven't and I am DYING for one. I always feel like I just need one more day each weekend.

Needing- I DESPISE grading papers. I wish I would be better about grading them periodically but I always end up procrastinating right up until grade cards. Oh well!

A Yummy Pin- Easy No Bake Peanut Butter Bars. These are absolutely delicious! I've made them several times and they really only take a couple of minutes and a couple of ingredients.

Here is the pin from Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/pin/97320041919569838/
And the website where the recipe came from:


You will be thanking me for these- they are amazing! Alright, that's it folks! Be sure to check out Farley's linky and see what everyone else is currently up to =)