Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Do you like a good mystery?

It was another boring review. We were all playing Jeopardy, and I was taking notes on which child needed what skill. I decided I needed to spice things up a bit. So, I took out this handy dandy activity from Laura Candler called the Mystery Vocabulary Detectives. 

I called witnesses to the guided reading table, and they were dragging their feet. Thinking that it’s just another book to read. Little did they know that this guided reading lesson was going to be different. I was going to be my own detective. I needed to find out if this was an activity that the kids could use more often to help with building and retaining their own vocabulary. 

Clue 1: Witnesses’ faces lit up when they realized we were going to play a game at the guided reading table.
Clue 2: Witnesses were eager to get to the table quicker.

The witness gathered around the table begging for the directions to be read. One suspect read the directions while another passed out the materials. I chose for them to use the geography and genre cards for them to guess. 

Clue 3: Witnesses asked if they could use the resources to help them create clues. 

They began to make predictions on who would be the winner, calling that person the suspicious suspect. (We did just learn about alliterations… maybe that’s another clue?) 

Clue 4: Witnesses actually used the resources to re-identify with the words that they had learned earlier in the year.
Clue 5: They laughed until there were tears coming down their faces.
Clue 6: Other witnesses began to hang around so they could learn how to play! Soon they began to help give hints to the others.

After it was time to clean up, I looked back over the clues to find out whether or not this product could handle what I needed in my room. The answer is “Absolutely, Yes!” 

Let me step out of detective mode and explain why.
This game is kind of like Taboo. Your objective is to not say part of the word while trying to describe it. Some hilarious quotes that came out of this were:

  • Clue: It’s an ancestor of a dinosaur. Answer: I know it’s not a dinosaur. Other Student: It’s gotta be a T-Rex. First Student: It’s an ancestor of, not one of the dinosaurs! 
  • Clue: I’m a very tedious person. Answer: Let’s look up tedious.  All nod in agreement. 
  • When earning his first card, one student quoted Lord of the Rings, “My Preciousssssss!”

The word lists are amazing in themselves. There is a sheet for every subject area, plus some for you to make your own. (Weekly Vocab words, Testing Vocabulary, etc…) There are directions for team play or for whole class play, which is great for an alternate way of testing. I can see who really knows what the words mean, and who needs a little extra practice. 

The kids decided to make some of their own rules too. They wanted to play it like the slap game. The first person to slap their suspect card on the table would be able to make a guess. I think next time, they'll have to write down their clues and make more of an educated guess! (Live and Learn!)

Everything in her packet is pretty simple to set up. I recommend printing everything on card stock though. Maybe even doing the categories on different colors so that it’s easy to sort them.  If you do it on regular paper, you can see through the cards and they get bent very easily. 

I think once you play the game several times, this can even go into a center as a review from the previous week’s words so that kiddos don’t lose it. You know how that saying goes, “If you don’t use it, you lose it!”

Do you want to get your own copy of this AWESOME packet? Check it out here.

Thanks to Laura Candler for allowing my class to use it. We were very happy to try it out for her!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Close Reading Portfolio from Snap Learning

Hey ya’ll! I’m here today with a product that I was asked to review called: Close Reading Portfolio from Snap Learning

This is a really neat tech tool that I think will impress the observers and keep the kiddos inspired at the guided reading table! My first thoughts after watching the tutorials were when can we get started! Kids love books, but when they can use the computers and read, that's even better! Next year, all of our benchmarks and state tests are supposed to be online as well. For 4th grade, reading online can be a chore, so this tool can be a big help! Keep scrolling to learn more about how to use it and some of the cool things I found! 
After you log in you come across your dashboard and you can see recent activity from your students, which is great! I can keep an eye on what they are doing from my Guided Reading Table while they are in a center!

Input all of your kiddos easily!
Enter your students in with a user name, password, and then sort into a group. I would do my group names for Guided Reading.

When you’ve entered all of your lovelies into the system, you can start assigning collections for them to browse though. You can sort the books by lexile, by the Fountas and Pinnell, or by grade levels. Then you can decide whether you want non-fiction or fiction. After you decided what books you want sorted into your collection, name it! 

Lesson plans make life easier!
Here is something neat about the books in the collection. Under the image it tells you a lot of info: the levels, standards it covers, and it has a LP: Lesson Plan button!! A neat little pdf pops up with step by step lesson plans. The lesson plan packet also has sheets you can print to help with synthesizing information. I think I’m in love!

What’s even better? These books are so exciting! My students are begging to use the site just to read the books. How can I say no? 

What does the student view look like? Well, it’s very similar to what you would see on your own if you click on it. They click on their portfolio and see a list of books with a reminder about Close Reading. Students click on the story that you want them to work on, then a pop up with what they are to do pops up (and it does it on every page). Students can choose to listen to the story by clicking on the play button, or they can read it on their own. Personally, I don’t like the robotic voice that reads to the kids since I want them to read with expression and fluency, but it would be fine for kids who are struggling reading the texts.
Student's view after logging in.
Students can click on which number read it is at the top, and the messages that launch on each page visit changes based on what number read it is.
On the second read, students can highlight words to add them into their flashcard bank. A great activity for them would be for them to highlight words that you have gone over with them from the book. It asks them to type in their understanding of the word. (Look at their Job and Career Readiness get worked!)  During this section, kids can even take notes for the main idea of each paragraph and summarize each page. 
When you turn a page in the story a reminder pops up!
During read number 3, students are asked questions to think thoroughly through the text. For example:
Reread paragraph 1. Identify the point of view and purpose of the text for this introductory paragraph. Underline the sentences that support your answer.

There are highlighters with different colors, and the questions are different colors as well! Bonus!! On our writing tests kids can use highlighters on the computer! 

Finally, on read number4, students are asked to do a quick write for the passage.
 After their reading, there is a book check section. I really like this because it’s split screen. In Tennessee, our computer tests are beginning to look like this. The exposure is a plus! There is a mixture of types of questions on this part. There are matching, drag and drop, and multiple choice. I don’t think this section is perfect, however, since sometimes when you get to the question for the matching they are already lined up. Luckily, at the end of the test, it tells the students their score!

Book Check!
I’m just unearthing the possibilities for this unique product. I can see myself using this at the Guided Reading table with the netbooks we have in our classroom. Then as they became better at this, then I could have them read the story on their own, and when we come together start on read 2 together!

If you want to know more about this product head to Snap Learning right away and get your own Close Reading Portfolio!

Would you like to try this product out? You can request a demo here!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sick and Tired

For two weeks I have been fighting. I’ve been fighting against excessive testing, I’ve been fighting for my students, I’ve been fighting for my team, I’ve been fighting with students making the wrong choices. To top it all off, I’ve been fighting against myself. 

Allergy season is in FULL swing in Tennessee. Even with all of the Claritin, I always get a big sinus sickness thing in April. It’s happened every year since I was out of high school. Ugh. I decided that I would try to work through it all.

One thing changed my mind. One of my students
looked at me during Morning Meeting and said, “Mrs. S., you don’t look so good.” Other children started to chime in on the fact that I wasn’t at 100%. When my kids notice that, then you know you’re in over your head. So, I took the plunge and got through the day, stayed late, and made lesson plans and copies. I left worried about us being 9 days away from TCAP testing, and I here I was taking a sick day.

I slept for 12 hours. I didn’t even hear the big, bad thunderstorm that rolled into town. Everyone on Facebook was talking about it, but I never heard it.
Sometimes you just have to take some time for yourself. Your body needs to recoup. You need to take time every day and do for you. Not al of your time has to be for your students, your husband/wife, or your children at home.

My goal: To spend 25 minutes every night for me. To read, to listen to my music, or to crochet. Just whatever I want to do. It doesn’t have to be planned out. In fact, the more unscripted it is the better it will be!

What do you do to keep yourself grounded?