Sunday, August 31, 2014

Good Golly, it's Grammar!

I may be in the minority, but I always LOVED teaching grammar.  I guess I was one of those nerdy kids in school that always found myself fascinated with punctuation, phrases, clauses, and who can forget diagramming a sentence?  So let's talk Grammar.  In some small way, I feel like it has taken a "back seat" to other instructional practices.  It can be a backseat, but for goodness sake, let's not put it in the trunk!  It IS an important life skill.  Our students will communicate in one form or fashion for the remainder of their lives.  (Resumes, research, filling out forms, legal documentation, email, phones, interviews, etc.)  I don't want to be the teacher of the kid who grows up and creates signs or posters like the one above.  ;-) 
  
All joking aside, you ought to read this editorial by Emma Peplow on "The Lost Art of Grammar." (Click image at right)  She'll crack you up with her MISUSE of grammar to prove a point.  She's an editor, so I'm sure she has seen it all!

So what are some new, innovative ways to teach some grammar skills to our elementary students?  Let's investigate.

It's hard not to gravitate toward Pinterest for visual images of grammar instruction in action.  My favorite Pinterest board is FREE GRAMMAR RESOURCES.  It currently has over 400 pins and 28,000 followers. It's a smorgasbord of pins to to navigate through for some FREE ideas and additions to your current grammar instruction.




Another FREE place for some quick grammar practice is ONLINE.  You could bookmark the following sites and allow your students to practice their grammar skills interactively during center rotations. One of my favorites is Fun Grammar for Kids.  The punctuation game will be a hit! Students first select the correct punctuation, then SPRAY (or SPLAT) the punctuation in the correct place.  
Fun Brain offers the Grammar Gorillas for free practice with the parts of speech. They have a beginner (nouns and verbs) and advanced (all parts of speech) version of the game to select from.  

Finally, I've been on a grammar "kick" myself lately in the creating department.  More and more of our teachers talk about the lack of proper grammar exhibited in students' daily work.  So I decided it was time to create some fun and engaging ways to hit some of the basics again.  Poppin' Punctuation is my BRAND NEW unit complete with 8 mini punctuation posters (with cute rhymes to help students remember the function of the punctuation), some interactive foldables, a punctuation Scoot game, a punctuation points rubric that can be used during writing (highly motivating since kids determine their high scores with correct punctuation use), and some paragraphs that have LOST  their punctuation and need to be fixed!  The target area in elementary is grades 2-4, since it contains practice with 8 pieces of punctuation (periods, exclamation marks, question marks, quotations, apostrophes, colons, semicolons, and commas).

Another favorite is my Grammar Recipe Book.  This one is a challenging one, but comes in both Primary and Intermediate versions.  Students really "show what they know" as they have to write sentences based on what the sentence "RECIPE" card calls for.  The chef may order up a sentence with a Proper noun, past tense verb, adjective, and prepositional phrase!  Can your students rise to the Chef's challenge?   The intermediate version deals with parts of speech usually taught in grades 3-5.  The primary version works with parts of speech and punctuation usually taught in grades 1-2.  Great for centers or quick formative assessments on grammar skills you've been working on in the classroom.  Chef hats OPTIONAL!  

If interactive notebooking is your thing, then be sure to investigate the Grammar Gators.  This one is full of cutting and gluing using flips and flaps in interactive notebooks and writing to explain your learning.  Whether your students are playing bingo with plurals or making jack in the box pronouns, they are sure to have fun with this grammar practice!  

You can find each of the units in my TpT store individually (click on image for direct link) OR all bundled up for a CHEAPER price.  (The bundle is best for grades 2-4 and contains ALL of the units listed above...Grammar Gators, Poppin' Punctuation, and the Grammar Recipe Book (both primary AND intermediate so you can pick and choose what's best for YOUR grade level). It also contains a ANOTHER 55 page BONUS UNIT that will simply be an added surprise!   The link for the bundle can be found by clicking on the Great Grammar Bundle image.  

WHATEVER you use to teach grammar, ENJOY IT!  It can be lots of fun, and hopefully our students will make us PROUD as future communicators!  

Bananas for GRAMMAR,
  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Navigating Informational Text and a 3-5 Bundle at over 70% off!

Engaging kids in informational text can be challenging, but rewarding!  With the push for increased rigor and complex text, it's important to actively engage our kids with guidance through non-fiction reading material.  Here are some things to think about when working with kids in this area.

1.)  Find informational text in their lexile range that is of interest to them!
2.)  Expose kids to the variety of text features that authors use when writing complex text.  Understanding what these features are and how they work will serve almost as a "cheat sheet" when comprehending the informational reading.
3.)  Break it down in small chunks!  Use graphic organizers and webs to assist in breaking down the pieces of the complex text into more "bite size" friendly tasks.
4.)  Think cross curricular!  Use your Reading time to teach Social Studies and/or Science concepts through content rich material in those areas.  This works BOTH ways!  Use your SS and Science time to reinforce reading strategies as you're working your way through the SS and Science content!

There are MANY, MANY resources out there that offer FREE, ENGAGING, yet CHALLENGING informational text which is appropriate for the age and developmental level of the kids you work with.
Readworks.org is one of the best.  You have to register, but it's totally free and allows you to search for material by subject, content, grade level, lexile level, etc.  Happy Reading!
 


I've teamed up this week with Educents to offer a resource of mine directly related to helping you navigate through informational text.  It's a fun variety of graphic organizers you can keep right at your guided reading table to grab and go as you dive into complex text!  It contains more than 15 graphic organizers that help reinforce some tough reading strategies.  (text features, point of view, steps in a process, timelines, main idea/details, factual evidence, inferencing, and more.

The MOST amazing part about this resource this week is that it is bundled with another 32 products for grades 3-5 in the areas of reading, math, and science!

Educents is offering this 700+ page bundle for 78% off the original prices!  You can grab enough material to have fun for weeks and weeks with your students!  Be sure to check out the bundle, which is offered for a limited time only at $24.99.  CLICK the image below to grab the bundle for yourself! 

This bundle covers the following topics that you will need to teach this year:

Multiplication and division
Explorers and Scientists
Grammar including:  Common Nouns, Verb Tenses, 
Graphic Organizer
Informational Text
Full Grade Level Math Assessments for 3rd, 4th, and 5th
Full Grade Level Personal Word Walls for 3rd, 4th, and 5th
Presidents
Math Problem of the Week
Vocabulary
A couple activities for Fall including Candy Corn Science and Turkey Writing Craft



3-5 Teachers....ENJOY these incredible resources as you start your 2014-15 school year! 

Bananas for teacher created materials that make my life easier!!  

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School BOOST

It's a BACK TO SCHOOL BOOST today with a variety of resources and helpful hints to get your school year started off on the right foot!  (Pinterest boards, free online resources, and a HUGE sale)  Let's get to it!

A. Classroom Decor:  It's everyone's favorite part of the year...decorating your classroom.  I'll share some of my favorite "hot spots" for ideas, but let's not forget the FAB FIVE rules to decorating your room!
1.  Whatever theme or style you choose, you've got to LIVE with it all year. (And even longer if you're on a budget!)
2.  Avoid OVER stimulating your students.  You don't want there to be SO MUCH in your classroom that they can't focus on the lesson at hand!
3.  Think practical!  Just because it's CUTE, doesn't mean it's functional!  Think about what you'll be using things for and if it's ultimately going to be a big waste of time or not.
4.  Leave some space for movement.  We often forget that an EMPTY classroom has far more room than when you put the 20 + bodies in there!
5.  Don't forget yourself!  Every teacher needs a working space.  We use it to plan, answer emails, fill out paperwork, etc.  Decorate your little private world to be a motivating and pleasant place to work for YOU! Put up some personal photos of your loved ones, inspirational quotes to lift your spirits, and go ahead and splurge on a few items that you just WANT to have.  (Nice planners, cute organizers, colorful folders, etc.)  You'll need that pleasant space to unwind and relieve some stress!  Make it worthwhile!

Click images for some really great Pinterest board full of ideas for classroom decorating!  :-)

B. Set Realistic Goals:  I did say REALISTIC!  Teachers are highly motivated individuals anyway, but sometimes we set goals so high that we only end up disappointing ourselves when we don't get there.  So...think short and sweet goals!  Perhaps one every quarter would be a great place to start!  They can be goals ranging from personal in nature, (I WILL get home by 5:00 three days a week) to professional  (I WILL purposefully pull my high achievers at least 2 days a week in math to teach them an advanced concept).  Share your goals with a colleague.  We all know that when we let someone in on our intent, we are more likely to follow through!  Make your "buddy" hold you accountable!


C.  Purposefully Plan!  Planning is a large part of our lives as teachers.  The buzz word at our school is purposeful planning!  Make the most of every minute.  It's amazing to think about how much time "lost minutes" add up to if we're not planned effectively.  Hmmmm....5 minutes a day of "lost instruction" doesn't seem like much, huh?  After all, it's only 5 minutes.  Those 5 minutes turn into 25 minutes each week.  (I can teach a good mini-lesson in 25 minutes!)  Those 25 minutes a week turn into 1 hour and 40 minutes each month (an entire E/LA block at my school), which turns into 6 hours and 40 minutes for the year.  You've lost an entire day of instruction with the "it's only 5 minutes" mentality.  Purposeful planning isn't just about writing lesson plans either!  It includes everything from seamless classroom routines, to long range mapping, to management of time, resources, and little people!  I like this little website called Teachingleadership.org  (Click Teaching as Leadership image to access).  It's loaded with some tips and strategies, as well as .pdf documents as resources for your purposeful planning events.  Scholastic DOES offer a paid for product called, "Your Best Year Yet! A Guide to Purposeful Planning and Effective Classroom Organization."  It's available for as low as $4.50 on Amazon.

FINALLY, what's a Back to School BOOST without your friends at TpT?  They are offering a very quick ONE DAY ONLY sale for you! **WEDNESDAY, AUG. 2th!**   Most sellers (including myself) will participate in the boosting fun and give you 20% + TpT's additional 8% off if you use the code BOOST when checking out!  (Total of 28% off!) 

I'd love to show you some of my BEST DEALS!


The Problem Solving Monthly Bundle is typically $15.00.  With the Back to School Boost, you'll get it for $12.00.  It contains 9 months of problem solving, including a problem of the day for each day September through May.  It comes with a calendar for each month, adorable monster problem solving tips, and multi-step challenging word problems in a variety of topics each month!  Great to use as morning work, centers, or class constructive response problems you work on together.  (Best for grades 3-4!)

My latest and one of my favorites is the Literary Elements (Make a Case for) unit.  It's full of Close Reading opportunities as students round up some evidence to support their choices for characterization, plot, theme, setting, etc.  This is a great unit to run multiple copies of and keep handy at your guided reading table.  It includes some mini-posters on the Literary Elements you can hang in your classroom.  With the Back to School Boost, you can get it for $4.00.  (Best for grades 3-5!)

Whatever deals you walk away with, I hope you're feeling a little BOOSTED and ready to go.  Best of luck for a fabulous 2014-15!  Got any additional BOOSTING TIPS for us?  Please share!  We'd love to hear from you!

Bananas for a BOOST to help you start your school year,








Monday, August 11, 2014

Shark Week Fun and Problem Solving FREEBIE

All teachers know that kids learn more when they’re excited and engaged. Today a team of bloggers come together to help your students take a BITE out of learning with a theme your students are sure to love!
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Of course, picking topics the students are interested in always helps, too!
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Sharks are IN and so is SHARK WEEK on the Discovery Channel. No matter how you feel about sharks, we all get drawn in to watching an episode or two during shark week. Kids are fascinated by sharks, so take advantage of this week and engage them in some shark problem solving. This little FREEBIE is a problem of the day for each day of Shark Week. Students could work the problems in pairs, cooperative groups, or individually. It's up to you, but it's a sure way to peak their interest in problem solving. Invest in some cheap shark stickers and mark their progress on the August calendar included in the freebie.


Click the image to try it out!
Be sure to go for a swim in the linky party below. Every blog in the Shark Week Blog Hop features a fishy freebie for you and your students- but hurry! Shark Week only lasts until Sunday, August 17th  : )

An InLinkz Link-up

Bananas for sometime scary, but interesting adventures!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

FREE Back to School E books

What happens when some amazingly talented educators and creators for grades 3-5 share their favorite Back to School tip, as well as a Back to School freebie?  You get the FREE Back to School E books available in E/LA and Math/Science editions!  Both books are loaded with some easy to implement ideas with little to no prep!  There are over 70 pages in the E/LA book and over 40 pages in the Math/Science book...that's 110 +freebies with some clicks of a mouse! Count me in!   :-)  

Hats off to the contributors, collaborators, and hosts of each book!  As you grab some great ideas and free materials, please remember to say THANKS!  May your 2014-15 school year be an AMAZING one!

Bananas for incredible ideas and new beginnings each school year!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

GET UP AND MOVE YOUR STUDENTS! FREEBIES to try!

I was never one to sit still!  At least that's what my mother always told me!  Isn't it true for our students these days?  Now, more than ever, students' attention span is not what it used to be!  So, how do you combat this?  You MOVE them!  We all know that getting students out of their seats can be beneficial in the long run.   Here's a link to a great article (and reminder) that movement can actually ENHANCE the the learning process.  In a nutshell, "Moving With the Brain in Mind," discusses the physical benefits that directly correlate to increased learning.  1.  Circulation increases heart rate, which gives you a better performance.  2.  Movement gives learners a new spatial reference on your classroom.  3.  We learn in SHORT bursts, not ones that drag on and on and cause us to become squirmy.  4.  We, as humans, are designed to be physical. (walking, running, eating, and DOING)  Keep in mind sitting in chairs is something a person invented...  5.  Certain movement can stimulate the release of your body's natural motivators  6.  Both explicit and implicit learning occur when we are academically engaged, as well as moving about.

There are always BRAIN BREAKS...where you simply take a moment to stretch, dance, walk, jog, etc. to get the blood going!  I found some super FREE resources on brain breaks. (Click images for access)

Another way to get your students moving is to actually plan a lesson where they are required to move as part of the skill practice.  Most of us are familiar with the "I Do (modeling), We Do (teacher/students are practicing together), You Do Together (students' collaborative learning) and the You DO (independently) approach to teaching a concept.  Why not create opportunities where your students are UP AND MOVING during the "We Do" or "You Do Together" phase of the lesson?   It's simple and immediate!   For example, if you're teaching Fact and Opinion, simply call out some statements and ask your kids to do a particular movement if you share a fact, and a different movement if you share an opinion.  BAM!  You've given them time to practice the skill with you formatively assessing their progress, as well as given them a chance to stretch and increase their chances of learning.  It works well for almost every single subject or concept you teach!  (Move this way if you're an adjective/adverb, Move this way if you're an odd/even number, Move this way if you should round up/down, Move this way if the evidence in the text helps prove characterization, setting, etc.)   Wow...the possibilities are endless.

Be sure to investigate "Active Academics," a website devoted to Learning on the Move!  It's a FREE site...but requires you simply register to access!  I was able to acquire activities after signing up in a matter of 90 seconds!

  Teachers love to create their own resources as well!  You know I do!   I've got some activities (INCLUDING FREEBIES) that you're welcome to try out.  The 4 Corners game is probably my favorite because it can be adapted to almost anything!  Be sure to try out the FREEBIE version with "Types of Sentences."  


You've probably heard of the SCOOT games.  Funny thing-- when I first began playing them in my early years of teaching (Ummmmm.....20 some years ago), I always referred to them as Road Runner.  :-)  When "Scoot" caught on, I refused (politely) to call my games that.  I still enjoyed the little ROAD RUNNERS running around (okay, walking at a swift pace and switching seats) in my classroom.  So the race is on in your room if you want to try this freebie on contractions.

I played softball growing up, and had 3 brothers who played baseball, so I'm sure that was the inspiration behind some of the Bullseye games!  I
think these require a little more brain power to score, but they are great fun, nonetheless!   This can be a really FUN way to practice a skill, while bodies are pitching pennies or other small objects.  This one is a FREEBIE on NOUNS...loaded with Differentiation practice!


So what are some things you do in your classroom to get your kids up and moving?  Please share!  I'm that big fan of teachers who share their ideas with others, so we all benefit.  SO... let's hear it!  Give yourself a shout-out.  I'll put names in a hat from those that share and on August 11th (Our students' first day back) I'll draw 2 lucky winners!  Primary (K-2) and an Intermediate (3-5) teacher.  **Be sure to list what grade level you teach, what your get up and move idea is for your grade level, AND your email addy so I can send you something!  *I have some BRAND NEW GRAMMAR RECIPE activities I'll send your way....an engaging, creative center that you can set up for students to APPLY those grammar skills you've taught them!  *I have a primary and intermediate version!  :-)

Bananas for LEARNING while MOVING!





Monday, June 30, 2014

Building a Positive School Climate and FREEBIE!

If you're anything like me, you're not quite ready to think about BACK TO SCHOOL yet.  The truth is, however, like most educators, I begin thinking about it long before the previous year even comes to a close.  I think that's how we teachers roll.   I hope your year was successful and you find yourself looking forward to the new one.  As much as we look forward to new beginnings, the truth is, I find a lot of educators are quite stressed in the work place.  As more and more demands are being placed on teacher and student outcomes, the more challenging it can be to keep calm, be encouraged, and see a light at the end of the tunnel.  There are many articles and ideas out there for how to create a positive work environment that are easily applicable to a school culture.  I love the freebie E book 52 Ways to a Positive Work Culture," by Baudville.  It contains some simple reminders about the importance of staring your day right, practicing teamwork, and keeping a positive attitude.
There's also a book for purchase available called, Shaping School Culture: The Heart of Leadership, written by Terrence Deal and Kent Peterson. (Available at Amazon, and most book stores).  This book addresses the critical importance of the cultural aspects that bind a school community together.  It's based on 20 years of research and real-life cases.  If you're a leader in your school or part of a leadership team in your building, this is a worthwhile read!

Last year for us, the year seemed to start off a little rocky.  Between implementing a new reading series, trying to get a handle on Common Core, new administration, and the list goes on, teachers quickly found themselves overwhelmed, exhausted, frightened, and uncertain.  How are we combating this for this coming school year?  One way was that someone in our district actually began an "Educators for Excellence" Facebook group over the summer.  It's a POSITIVE and ENCOURAGING posts only for our district.  It's designed to celebrate the successes and share positive solutions to existing issues.  It went from a few members to a few thousand members in a matter of a couple of weeks!  The group now even has shirts and bumper stickers available to its members that proudly state, "I LOVE MY JOB!"

One of my personal goals this year to help get our immediate building staff started off on a better foot, is to use some (FREEBIE) ADORABLE cards that I can distribute throughout the year.  They contain encouraging and uplifting comments that can easily be added alongside an inexpensive treat to share with a colleague.  (Who doesn't love a little chocolate, or chips, a Diet Coke, or a nice new pen to grade papers with when you least expect it?)  You can use them anonymously, sign your name, create a "Secret Pal" type situation where EVERYONE commits to using at least 3-5 cards throughout the school year for their secret buddy.  Then, have a reveal party at the end of the year!  :-)  However you use them, they're sure to lift somebody's spirits and nurture a positive environment.  So have FUN with them!


What are some things your school does to promote a positive school culture?  Readers would love to hear!  Please post any suggestions or ideas below!  
Best of luck for a wonderful new school year.

Bananas for this quote, "Positive anything is better than negative nothing." -Elbert Hubbard

nomonkeybusinessmichelle@gmail.com

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