December 5, 2013

"Like" Me and Win!

I'm having a contest on my Facebook page, which makes this the perfect opportunity to "like" me on Facebook!  Head on over there now and enter to win!!!

December 4, 2013

Stumbling into Compare and Contrast Text Structure

            As we continue to explore text structure, I stumbled, literally, into compare and contrast.  We were working in Science, and, as we were reading, bam-there it was. It was a moment I wasn’t expecting-which was good-because it got me thinking.  It kept me on my toes.  It, well, showed I needed to pay more attention to what I was doing!  I think that this is what is now an authentic part of teaching again.  It is so easy just to look at a manual, follow it along (which I abhor to be honest, but, do so for planning), and read, talk, and complete with the students.  It is where I have been since I’m still not totally stable in my grade level.  So, that’s what happened to me.  I had planned along, not paying any attention to what was going on in the READING part of science, when-BAHM!  I got hit with compare and contrast and I, honestly, fumbled!  I dropped the ball and did what any unsuspecting teacher does-I waited till the next chance I had and backtracked! 

            I backtracked in my reading block.  First, I passed out the Compare and Contrast text structure page to put in their reading journals and we went over it. The thing about this information is that in Florida they use specific word choices on the FCAT-similarities and differences.  I had thought of the traffic light idea. 

Similarities is when you should STOP and look for ways that are alike.  Differences are when we should GO and find things in the reading that aren’t the same.  We drew a nice traffic light in our reading journals and went to town in our science books filling out the graphic organizer. 

As you can see, it is not the traditional compare and contrast graphic organizer.  In fact, one of my kids asked, “Can we use a Venn Diagram?”  Here’s what I then asked, “How many of you are frustrated by the tiny space to write the same information in in a Venn diagram?”  I had never thought to ask that before!  I know it drives me nuts!  You have to squeeze the information in there as an adult, with tiny handwriting!  It looks terrible!  It’s hard to read and many times it doesn’t make sense because it’s so little!  The kids gave me those reasons too!  I explained that this graphic organizer was like a Venn diagram except that the similarities go inside the circle and the differences go in the boxes!  And they gave it a shot and did very well with it!

            The next day, we examined a chapter from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.  I am telling you, I have gotten a lot of mileage out of this book!  Roald Dahl is a master level writer!  He has hidden things in this text that I , as a teacher, have never noticed before! He so completely does the compare and contrast thing!  The chapter we used for this exercise is chapter 16.  This is the chapter where Augustus Gloop goes up the pipe. This is clearly a cause and effect chapter, but, hidden away in these moments of cause and effect are the comparing and contrasting of the behavior of the family groups.  This is what I was after-the deeper root of the problem of all of the families coming out in the comparing and contrasting of their reactions to what Augustus did. 

            First, we reviewed our chart.  If you notice, I didn’t talk about the yellow light yet.  That’s because it wasn’t there at first. Well, the light was, but not the phrase.  That phrase came from a student.  

As we were entering the classroom after lunch, he looked at me and said, “Mrs. Santello, I know what the yellow light is! It is slow down to find similarities and differences!”  Why, yes it is, isn’t it!  I so wish I had thought of that!  As a class, we discussed how this phrase was so perfect for this light!  And, we added it to our reading journals!  How could we pass up such genius!  After that, I explained to them that they would be creating the same diagram in their reading journals and looking at the way the families acted.  I excluded Willy Wonka and the Oompa-Loompas.  These were off limits, as I wanted them to begin to look toward what Roald Dahl’s deeper message is. 

            Once the kids finished, I passed out a post it note that I asked them to cut in half with the sticky side at the top.  While they were working, I used chart paper to create the same diagram in a larger model.  I asked them to write one similarity and one difference that they felt would represent a thought that others may not have come up with.  Then I had them place this on the chart.  I shared one or two that day and called it a wrap.

            As an opening discussion to the next lesson, I began to examine with the students what they had discovered about the similarities and differences.  From that, we began to look more closely at the parents. How did the adults behave? What did they do that we could also “see” the children doing? What was Roald Dahl saying?  Together, with all this digging, the kids came up with the idea that the parent’s behavior is why the children act poorly.  Can you say implied cause and effect (Text structure coming next!)  This was not easy for them, but we worked it and we got there! 



We will continue to look at compare and contrast text structure with Violet Beauregarde (otherwise known as No Regard Beauregarde with one of my former classes!)  Can’t wait to see where that takes us!

            And, now, for a freebie!  I have figured out how to use Google Drive!  That’s pretty exciting to me!  So, to share my excitement, I’ve added the Compare and Contrast Text Structure Student Notebook Page.  This is just one page from my new packet on Text Structure.  You can find it in my TpT store.  I hope you can use this great page to work on text structures in your classroom  Please share what’s going on in your rooms too!  How are you doing with text structure?  Do you have an ideas or questions you would like to share?  Be sure to leave me a comment and we can all work together to find the answers!

December 1, 2013

TpT Cyber Monday Sale 2013!

My store is on sale as well!  Get an additional 15% off!  Be sure to use CYBER at the checkout!  

My newest TpT items are 

Text Structure Practice and

Author's Purpose and Perspective Student Notes!

I'm back to work tomorrow just as many of you are!  I hope you had a wonderful Thanksgiving vacation!  

November 26, 2013

Two Birds With One Stone

         I hope everyone is enjoying this pre-Thanksgiving week!  I, for one, will be enjoying two birds this week.  One that my husband smoked for our camping trip and one that my niece will be cooking for the first time ever on the big day!  So it is very fitting that last week I thought of this title, and then never got to write it!  It’s about shades of meaning and how to attack this skill in two subjects, instead of just in one!

            Let’s start with a question.  Have you ever taught something with “cute” words?  I mean, really “cute”, so “cute” that, after awhile, they start making you a little sick!  I believe this is because these “cute” words aren’t true to what kids need to know.  The word I am currently “sick” of is “Sparkle Words”.  Let’s face it, what does this really mean.  Oh, I know what it means.  It means to go in and find weak words and replace them with stronger words, making your writing “sparkle”.  But do kids deserve more than a word that doesn’t really match something in reading!  There is, after all, an exact reading term for this very concept.  It is a term they are now (or should be) learning in lower grades with the influx of Common Core.  Let’s, then, make it really count and call it what it is in writing also-Shades of Meaning!  And, so I did! 

            I started out with redirecting them through a Power Point to our slide show on Roald Dahl and author’s purpose.  We specifically talked about his ability to write exactly opposite of what he wanted to say to his teachers! 

Imagine that, an author who was clever enough to trick his teachers into thinking he couldn't write!  We also looked specifically at some of his word choices and talked about what thesaurus are.

 I explained that the shade of meaning, or intensity of the word, helped to strengthen his writing.  To show them what I meant by intensity, I showed them a large paint chip from Wal-Mart’s paint section that has all of the intensities of blue on the chip in circle form. (These are from Better Homes and Gardens Paint)  We focused next on one particular sentence: 

And she was mad! ( Page 37)

Using the thesaurus, we first picked out the definition that matched the sentence on page 37-Wait, can it be true-THIS IS READING!-and then tried out a few.  I showed them how we would build an intensity continuum and we charted out mad.  And, low and behold, we found “seeing red” as one of the most intense word choices!  A great example of how idioms are an intense shade of meaning!  Isn’t figurative language a standard in READING vocabulary in Common Core (and, not to mention, NGSSS)?  Are you starting to see what I mean?  Why keep calling them words like “sparkle words” when you can get more bang for your buck!  Shall we move on?

            I then turned it over to the kids.  I gave each group a sentence from Charlie and the Chocolate factory with a word underlined on the page.  They needed to find 4 more words in that shade of meaning that grew in intensity.  It was amazing. They went at it and really enjoyed talking about how the words grew stronger but didn’t change the meaning. One group lost their way in the fact that they picked the first four words they came across.  I worked with them to “shop around” a little and soon, they had gathered some pretty intense words.  Continuums were created, and we were on our way!

            Next, I gave them a word with multi meanings-wait, isn’t that READING!- and had them 1.  Find their meaning and 2.  Organize them by intensity.  This was from my Shades of Meaning 8 Pack.  Once they created their intensity continuum by simply ordering them on their desktops, they shared out with the class.  After that, they completed the form provided in the pack for the word “good” that their group had.  And just like that, we were on our way to creating stronger sentences in our writing from something that matches a reading skill!

            But we weren’t finished!  Next, I gave them a weak word from a website I found.  Can I find it now, of course not!  There are tons of them out there to use though, so find what works for you!  As partners, the students worked on two words. They were given the directions to find 5 “weak” words, because the one I gave them was the WEAKEST, 5 strong words, 5 stronger words, and 5 intense words.  

This was the only way I could think it through that made sense to them.  I do need to work on this particular thought.  Anyways, they went to town and created word lists to match their weakest word!  I reminded them that they would be sharing these with the class, and to be prepared, but they weren’t prepared for what came next.

            A gravestone, some tears and a whole lot of saying goodbye!  Many of you have probably heard about burying words, putting them away from use, but have you ever had an actual funeral.  We did.  I “cried” and everything.  Once the kids got into it, it was pretty humorous.  They cried loudly over each word as I announced its death and put it on the gravestone.  They then “eulogized” their word by sharing their stronger choices.  I wrote them on the paint chip circles that are now hung our Shades of Meaning bulletin board.  

As we go further along, I will be creating lists of ways to make their writing come “alive” next to our tombstone and shades of meaning continuums.  This will include similes, metaphors, alliterations, etc.  that I post on flowers.  I thought that would be a nice way to show how their writing will grow by using intense word choice.

            So, here’s the bigger picture and how I am killing two birds with one stone. Next we will  go over the question stems for shades of meaning for reading tests.  That means I can now write test questions based on shades of meaning and they will get it.  I can now go through the figurative language pieces for their writing.  I can tie it to how writers use figurative language to strengthen their work and how they should too.  I can show them how those question stems work!  It’s all connected; it’s all one strand!  It is now open season for this word work!  Take a shot at it; I think you will like it!


November 18, 2013

It's a Sale!!!

In honor of selling my 40th item, I'm having a 15% off sale on my TPT Store.  The sale ends on Wednesday!!  Here's the link:

November 14, 2013

Weekly Content 5+ With A Fist Pump!!

            This week I had a number of things I had planned to talk about and something else has yet, again, sidetracked me.  But sometimes, you’ve gotta share!   Today I was home with my youngest who wasn’t feeling well.  I tend to overuse Facebook on days like this, and that’s where I saw this:

I'm working on Science daily 5. I am asking for input on the rotation. Do you allow each group in to each station daily? Please help!

That totally got my interest.  I had to find out more! I had to get my oldest going and get him to school!  That’s a half-hour away and that means think time-and think I did! 

            Before I left the house, I was able to discover what the Science Weekly 5 was.  I went to The Science Penguin and took a quick glance:

From that quick glance, I then found this link to her freebie that explains more.

And, from there, my brain started ticking away.  I know enough about the Daily 5 to be able to make some serious reading/content area connections.  The Daily 5, in case you haven’t heard of it, is a reading system that allows you to hit all areas of reading work every day.  I have done a modified version in the past and just haven’t gotten there since I have taught 4th grade.  I find that I am really teaching and they are busy enough with the literature we are doing, that I just can't get to it.  It is an awesome program, so if you want to learn more, I highly suggest getting the book and reading it through. 

As I was driving, I began to make some serious decisions.  What did I want it to look like?   Who would be doing what?  What would I be doing?  How could I make this content area worthy and hit everything I need to hit?  How will I know what the kids are doing and cover content?  How would I give a test?  And, then, BAM-just like that-I also realized how this would help when I’d be working with my RTI groups!  Oh, how great this day is!  Success!!  Without further ado, here it is.

1. There would be 6 rotations instead of 5.  The 6th rotation is the +.  It is only for the kids that are not participating in RTI.  They are doing the extra assignment while I am working with the small group kids.  They can work on any of the Weekly 5+ during this time.

            2.  The areas would be Social Studies comprehension, Partner Reading/Listen to Reading Science Text with comprehension, Teacher Time, Team Work Time (this will be project based), Vocabulary, and + Time.  

      3.  Yes, it covers both areas.  Let me restate that -YES! (with a fist pump) That means I’ll get through more curriculum at a faster paces than I currently am.

            4.  YES! (Fist pump) I can still do projects and experiments because now it will be interwoven with the rest of the items and I will meet with kids in small groups to help guide their understanding when we do this!

     5.  YES!  (Fist pump) I can give tests.  This will be the teacher rotation for the week all on one day!  So, technically, they are still working on a rotation, just all at once.  And when they finish, they are able to go right back to work on one of the things that they have for the week-steady flow of work! 

     6.  YES!  (Double fist pump) I’m covering READING SKILLS this way! 

            7.  YES!!  (Triple fist pump)  I get multiple grades for each subject, each week now!  Oh, I could just sing at this point!  Hallelujah! 

Oh, dear Fourth Grade Friend, you have no idea how you blessed me today while I drove my child to school.  So what did I do when I got home????

            I wrote it up!  Here’s a quick peek at what I’ve got going!   This is the poster that I will print out and laminate for my room. It will be the overall guide for the kids for the week.

These are the plans for week one.  That’s right-next week!  I'm totally excited!  Look at that-Science AND Social Studies!  That means grades folks, and you know that’s what we are always looking for!!! 

Each week, I'll just take this off the poster and add the next plan of action!  How great is that! 

For those of you from Florida, the reading comprehension is the sheets from Florida Then and Now.  I got so excited about this, I charted out the comprehension for the rest of the year-yes, I did!  That’s how you spend a day with a sick kid who’s watching TV all day! (Oh, I did 2 loads of dishes, graded 4 sets of papers, did 4 loads of laundry-no folding till after this, and made 2 batches of Pillsbury biscuits, 2 batches of corn bread, and 1 loaf of beer bread for my youngest school’s luncheon tomorrow.  Please don’t ask me how-I’m still trying to figure out how I was that efficient today!)

There are more thoughts that I have.  I know there will be some work throughs.  I haven’t even read through The Science Penguins suggestions yet.  I know they will help.  I’m just, plain, fist pumping excited about this!  I’m hoping you might like this too!  It is a totally different way to think about the content areas!  Thanks again Fourth Grade Friend!!!


November 11, 2013

Off Topic

Today I want to write about something unexpected, something that I think all teachers go through from time to time that we just don’t see coming.  This weekend, I held a baby.  A beautiful, almost year old, baby.  She was beautiful and she was sweet.  She laughed and ate bacon from my hand as her brother and sisters worked on a craft project.  I even gave her a nick name.  And then I found out. I found out her father was a former student.  That is not a typical story, but the next part is.  Her father is in trouble.  He isn’t home and won’t be, for a while. 

With the onset of modern technology, we have the ability to be “around” our former students.  We get to watch them grow up and have real lives.  Before I go on, I do want to clarify.  I am not “friends” on Facebook with any former students who are not over 18.  Once they are adults, I will follow them.  This is, after all, part of being an adult.  I am friends with one of my former teachers, the one who probably impacted me the most in my life.  I can never thank her enough for simply doing her job.  It was that very passion that more than likely lead to mine.  And she is but one of the 6+ elementary teachers that spoke into my career and helps still, to this day, guide what I do.  Being friends with these now adult former students is an opportunity to do the same thing.  I write them “Happy Birthdays”, “Keep studying”, “Congratulations”, and more recently, “Oh, should I spoil all this fun and tell you that you only fill in a little box on "real" lesson plans!”  I have also written, “Your baby is beautiful.”  And that where this post is leading me.

With all those wonderful things that students do, I think seeing some of them become parents is amazing.  It is, after all, the most amazing thing a person can do.  And this little baby, she is a part of me.  I know that sounds “weird”, but how many times do we meet former students and we go right back to that moment, right back to knowing that kid and loving that kid, even though they are adults.  We hear about their lives and take pleasure in knowing what they are doing.  Yet, presented before me is a struggle in life.  I think we forget that former students struggle. But, it won’t change my feelings the day I do get to see her dad, because he’s coming home.  I will hug him and tell him the same things that I would tell one of those students who’s lives seem to be together, “Your daughter is beautiful.”, “Her mother loves you and wants what’s best, “  and “I don’t care what you have done, I care about you!”   So, I think that’s the thing that I’m taking away from this opportunity.  Strugglers are still ours, they still matter to us.  And, more importantly, we might be the only ones in their childhood life that do.  When you see that adult students, just ask yourself, what really matters.  Right now, to me, that’s simply to love that child where they’re  at, even when it is not the pretty picture we hope it to be.