Monday, October 13, 2014

Haunted House Writing...Beautiful Beginnings/Hooks {Part 2}

If you didn't get to see or read Part HERE.  

Now that my students have finished their 5-senses circle plans, we got to tackle one of the best parts of these stories...the beginning!  Since they are writing for 8th graders, their creative juices flow like mad because they want to reel in the attention of teenagers.  We all know...and they will attest to this since so many of them have teenage siblings and hard it is to keep teenagers entertained.  Ha!  

So, bring on the Beautiful Beginnings mini-lesson (thank you to my fellow teacher and pal, Ella Maya!) and anchor chart!!  

We actually already did our main lesson on this last month when they were writing their Superhero narratives.  But I like to use this opportunity to rewrite a whole new set of Beautiful Beginnings just to show them how much more they can do besides their typical (and I am not kidding you when I say typical)...hence why we have the Banned Beginnings side of our anchor chart in our classroom.

Let's just take a look at that Banned Beginnings side for a hot minute.  All of those came from writing my students have actually done.  After looking at their district benchmark testing and initial writing samples...these are the beginnings they over use...over and over again.  Sigh.  We've already had many many students trying to start their story with, "One spooky Halloween night..."  Gah!  Hence, this repeated mini-lesson on how to use those Beautiful Beginnings or hooks.  

I found my version of this chart from last year on my iPhone and I think those beginnings were waaaaaaaaay better!  But after modeling this, my students were already back at it getting rid of that boring, "One night..." lead.  Ick!  

Bring on the adjectives list!  Since they would be starting on their drafts, I wanted to make sure we interacted with the Adjectives list I include in the unit on Teachers Pay Teachers HERE.  

I ask my students to individually read through the list and mark 5-6 adjectives they have never seen or heard before.  Then, we do a sort of poll by raising our hands for each word.  The words the majority of the class are curious about are those that I highlight.  We bust out the dictionaries, just to get some extra reference source practice in.  I don't have them look up every single word because that would just waste a ridiculous amount of I do like to use context clues and funny or scary scenarios to help them get the gist.  From there they definitely start attaching themselves to certain words they really want to use in their own writing.

And then from there I set them free to let those creative juices flow through their arms on to their paper.  And just like their planning stage...their heads stay down and pencils rapidly scratch across the paper the entire writing period.  I can't get enough out of walking around to stop and read their beginnings and seeing their ideas on paper!

Many students like to wait and use the adjectives until they revise or edit.  But I did have a large handful who wanted to tackle them as they were drafting.  Either way, I love not seeing the word "spooky" or "scary" overused.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Haunted House Writing...We are Obsessed! {Part 1}

We are knee-deep into our drafts and so I wanted to get this little ol' blog post together...finally!  I love this time of year in my classroom!  Even though I am a major Christmas time fan, there is just something about celebrating all things October in 5th grade.  At this grade level I can still get away with the scare factor without kids thinking it's cheesy.  Not only do I love students become obsessed too!

One of the best parts of October though, is when I get to break out and introduce my Haunted House Expressive (Narrative) Writing Unit.  This was one of the first things I put together for Teachers Pay Teachers and it's for sale HERE.

Sure, I'm selling a product I've made and have used in my classroom for the last 6 years...but I really love sharing it here because students fall in love with it.  Year after year, I have seen a HUGE change in my students' voracity and enthusiasm with writing because they suddenly realize they can enjoy writing rather than deal with it.  So, I guess you could say this project is at the heart of why I enjoy this time of the year so much!  The best part is, it covers several of the Common Core Writing standards for narratives in grades 3-6.  Score!!

I like to introduce this assignment to my students in the most persuasive way possible...and that is by using a Promethean flipchart I found on Promethean Planet many years ago (I can't remember the source at all, so hopefully someone knows who I can thank).  This flipchart has great sound effects and some imagery that gets my students excited and feeling inspired.  It really does help it take off!

I feel like I'm going to be saying, "I just love it when...," in this blog post a ton!  But it's because I constantly look up or out at my class and get all giddy because of how much I see them wanting to delve in to something I provide for them.  Sooooooo...when I start going through the flipchart, it makes my heart skip a beat as I see smiles come across their face and I can almost see the wheels turning in their heads.  Sometimes I have to tell them to pump on the brakes because they want to start writing before I'm even done introducing the rest of the unit to them.  Around this time, I also tell them their audience will be 8th graders (this is the benefit of working at a K-8 school).  They get super nervous until I tell them about how much the 8th graders the year before truly enjoyed my previous class' writing pieces.

I've since inserted my own pages into the old flipchart I downloaded years and years ago so that it includes the paragraph plans you can grab up in the TPT product.

In fact, here is the paragraph (5-senses plan) I modeled in front of my class this year...

I should really preface this by saying I am perfectly open to my students getting gross and graphic (at a 5th grade level) as long as they stay within age-appropriate parameters.  The thing is, whether I like it or not, my students (in an at-risk urban area of Phoenix) watch rated R scary movies constantly. I've tried in my earlier years of teaching to put a stop to it, but it happens at home, and there's just nothing I can do to stop it.  So, because they have that background and it is just part of their life, I allow them to take it and run with it.  And...I have never had a student overstep boundaries because they know there are ground rules.  It is completely up to you, your student population, and your comfortability level.  For those who do not want to go scary, I let them know it is perfectly fine and just as much fun to write a funny story or even a combo of funny and scary.  I've had several kids write some hilarious haunted house stories that have made me laugh out loud.

Once we set everything up and I have modeled a paragraph plan or two, my students go for it.  By go for it...I mean GO FOR IT!  They are chomping at the bit and bubbling over with excitement to get to writing for the 8th graders.

I can't stop there though...I have to play Halloween music via my Spotify album I've been adding to the last 3 years.  I'm including it below so you can grab it up and use it in your classroom as well. My kids get all kinds of giddy when they hear the scary sound songs since it gives them inspiration for their 5-senses plans.  The looks on their faces when they hear their favorite scary movie song come on always cracks me up too (think Nightmare on Elm Street or Halloween).  Let me know if you decide to use it...I'd love to find out it's being played across classrooms.  :-)


My students usually need up to 2 days to work on their five paragraphs/plans.  This year, I noticed more of my students really wanted to utilize the space to sketch a visual in order to help them form those ideas.  Talk about ownership!   

This year, I have two students whose families do not celebrate Halloween, so they are writing mysteries that take place inside of a house instead.  I really want to put together an extension to add to the original I'll work on that soon.  I don't want any kids to feel left out. Definitely keep an eye out for that!

What do you think?  I hope this blog post helps those who have grabbed up my little unit.  Part 2 coming up tomorrow...stay tuned!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

What Can You Infer? {Carousel Style}

We only have 3 more days till our fall break and I couldn't be happier...seeing as how I'm on that downward slope of the teacher curve.  I am so looking forward to being able to sleep in a little, head to the gym for those morning classes I miss from my summer off, reading, and cleaning house...okay, maybe not the cleaning part.

So I just finished grading and checking my students inferencing (AKA RL.1)  post assessment today and my students did so much better than they've done in the past.  I wanted to share one of the activities I do, which I got from THIS free resource on TPT from The Teacher Treasury.

RL.5.1:  Quote accurately from a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

These are meant for a Carousel type activity...and it has to be silent!  This is the coolest part of the whole thing.  Once you paste up all 15 pictures around your room and students have at it, you won't believe the intensity in their thinking and how silent they can stay.  The idea is, you don't want them sharing their opinion with others.

But let me back up...first (as our warm up or lead-in) we watch this awesome 3-minute animated YouTube video, The Defective Detective, I discovered via Pinterest last year. We watch it once to start forming inferences and students can jot down key words, phrases, and anything else they notice in the video from the sounds and sights. They discuss it together and compare inferences.  Then we watch it again to try and catch clues they may have missed.

For our "I Do" we take a look at this Promethean/ActivBoard flipchart I found many years ago on Promethean Planet.  If someone knows of the source, please let me know here! We use some TPR motions for each part of this little "math equation" and use those TPR motions consistently throughout our work with inferencing.  You can see we used a sentence frame in order to practice using evidence as we form those inferences.

You can see our day's goal here...

I do love to have students use either Rally Robin, Round Robin, or even Timed Pair Share afterwards to get them chatting about their inferences and why they came up with what they did.  My students did a really nice job of citing their evidence and on several occasions one student changed another's mind about their inference because they missed a piece of information in the picture.

At the end of this lesson, I introduce a quick and simple paragraph and ask my students to complete an exit ticket.  I wrote a paragraph about a boy who wakes up late and rushes to get ready for school. He gets annoyed his mom didn't wake him up, but then as he is walking to school he hears church bells, an empty school parking lot...and then he suddenly realizes...So, this gives me a chance to see how they do with inferring from text after practicing with the sentence frame, hand motions, and picture discussions.

What do you think?  Have you tried something like this in your classroom for inferencing?

Friday, October 3, 2014

Vocaroo {A New and Simple Way to Record Audio in your Classroom}

I am so sorry I haven't posted in almost a month!  This school year is going well, but with all the new requirements being rolled out with Common Core and our school's mandates (which I'm actually enjoying and fully supportive of) life has become quite overwhelming.  It's tiring to keep up with it all.  But this is how I roll...I like to take a new idea, strategy, or mandate and try to implement it immediately and as best as I can.  Is anyone else like this, even though it tires you out?

Speaking of Common Core and trying to get better at something, this brings me to our new RI.5.5 (Informational Text) standard, which is all about text structure.  This one was quite tricky for our team because our adopted curriculum doesn't have enough material for it.  So, we consulted BetterLesson.  Have you heard of this site or have you used it?  We found a seriously nice set of lessons from one of their master teachers here.

Through this find, I was able to read up on a new Web 2.0 tool...or maybe it isn't new except to me. Please tell me I am not the last one on the planet to find out about Vocaroo!

Any who, the master teacher mentioned using this website for workstations.  She had her students read a Reader's Theater script about text structure and record their reading for a fluency check.  I decided to give it a try since we have 3 iMac desktops in our classroom.  My students were all about being able to use technology and didn't mind having to read to a computer at all!  Anything to get them excited about something that might not be all that exciting right?

Since it's a Web 2.0 Tool, it is completely free and pretty easy to use.  It took a quick 5-minute intro to show my students how to use it and they didn't need any help once they started.

Once they press record (see the screenshot from above), they press "Stop" and get this screen you see below.  They can listen to their recording to make sure it worked, the volume is fine, or to possibly redo it.

Once they are happy with their recording, they click "Click here to save" right there at the bottom of the screen (see above).  

For my students, I set up a Google Form so they could copy and paste the link you see above.  It was super easy to set up and my kids were able to send their links easily and quickly.  This, again, only took a couple minutes to show them and they took off with it.

I am able to now click on the links in the "Responses" Google Form document and listen in on their fluency.  Easy peasy!!  Did I mention it is free?  Did I also mention it gets students' attention...and keeps it?!

So, what do you think?  Will you be trying Vocaroo in your classroom?  How do you think you could implement it?  I'd love to hear some other ideas!

Friday, September 5, 2014

Close Reading is Cooler with Transparencies!!

This is just a quickie little post to show all of you who are in the same situation my grade level is in...well, our entire district really.  You see, this is the first year where we are FULLY implementing Common Core in our classrooms.  In my grade level team's case we were using some of the standards last year to get started despite having to also teach state standards for our district benchmark tests and our state's standardized test.  So, we already had a jumpstart...BUT, and this is a big but...we are really beginning to experiment with ways to stick to our district's adopted curriculum while holding strong to Close Reading.

We came up with the idea to make shrunken down copies of each of our basal stories...but our district's Print Shop had to start charging this year and we can't afford to do it. Waaaaah!  So...being teachers and all (AKA being used to figuring out how to be frugal and successful) we decided to order boxes of transparencies and use white board markers!!  Funny students seemed to think this was the bee's knees and were very enthusiastic.  They delved right in!

Today was the first day we tried this in our classroom.  We were working on finding interactions between concepts and ideas (a Common Core Standard we are all struggling with...but it seems very similar to cause and effect).  So they were trying to scope out some of those interactions between text events.  My kids are still learning how to annotate and so this in no way shows exactly how it should be done.  I am finding my kids are not used to citing evidence...le sigh...and so they are having a rough time annotating too much or not enough.  We will get there soon!

And just because...we used GoNoodle for the first time this school year.  It went so much more smoothly than last school year when our wifi was insanely bad and our videos would freeze a couple seconds in to the brain break.  My students are already HUGE fans and were pretty darn good at you can see in the photo.  Ha!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Currently September

It's been awhile since I coveted Currently on my blog and now is about time!  With the coming of September, this means I have already been in school for a month...whaaaaaaa?!  We finished our 4th week of school this past Friday and it already feels overwhelming.


We are settled in for the night after being out all day on our much needed date day.  So, this means one of our three kitties is sleeping soundly between the two of us on the couch.  The UFC fight was a PayPer View fight and we couldn't watch it till, both of us didn't really want to see it badly enough because the main card was changed when one of the fighters didn't make weight and had to drop out.  I may be speaking Japanese to some out there at this point...but we enjoy it!  :-)


I've said this a ton to so many friends and on Facebook in the last few weeks.  But it really is nice to be a teacher since we get to start all over each school year.  This means we can take the time to figure out what to change, improve on, or keep the same each summer. 


I posted this on Facebook yesterday...

Sure I could do some swimming or barbecuing tomorrow...but I have a HUGE to-do list of things I haven't been able to get done in the last couple weeks.  In fact, my hubby came to my classroom with me today (on a Sunday) to help me scan and put away about 50-60 new library books that have been sitting at the back of my classroom since the week before school started.  Sigh.  This is the life we lead.  


So speaking of which, wouldn't it be nice to have a 3-day weekend every week?  How many of us say this every time we have a 3-day weekend though.  


Only educators could really understand the enormity of how hard it is to readjust to life with a paycheck again.  The first couple months are always a time to play catch up.  That is all I really have to say about that.  Know what I mean?

3 Trips

I've been lucky to do a lot of traveling, when I was younger, so my list probably looks different than most.  On the other hand, it was really hard to pick just 3 places because I was bit by the travel bug a long long long time ago.  Out of the 10 countries I've visited in Europe, I'd love to go back to every single one of them.  But I didn't get to visit Spain on my two trips to Europe in my 20s, so that is a place I definitely want to go some day.  My hubby, the pitmaster, has been to Austin, Texas a couple times and there are so many cool places I want to be able to go...including several of the famous BBQ spots like Franklin's.  Enough said there.  I have been to France, but didn't really enjoy Paris at all. But I would absolutely love to go to the Riviera to hit up the awesome beaches and scenery.

Join up with Farley and a ton of other teachers for a Currently linky party here.

The Obsession Continues...Fabletics is Here to Stay!

It has been a busy busy summer and couple months as I got back into the swing of work/school. So, I have a ton of outfits and pics to share that I haven't been able to blog about...but I'm slowly getting back to my little ol' blog here.  I would blush out of embarrassment, but there's no need!  I'm still motivated to head to the gym and there's no doubt it's because of my Fabletics obsession.

Back in May and June, I posted all about Fabletics!  Well, the obsession is still going strong and I have ordered something (sometimes more than one outfit) every single month since then.  Going to the gym now feels effortless and I seriously still love putting different pieces together from different outfits...just like I do with every thing else in my everyday and work wear parts of my closet.  Oh and I've now become one of THOSE people who wear my gym gear outside of workouts!  I never ever thought I'd be that person, but it is hard not to leave everything on because it is so dang comfortable and flattering.  I catch people giving me side glances or double-takes and looking when I walk in the gym and even fellow class-goers have complimented many of the pieces (including my Pilates instructor).  In fact, I've now changed a flat tire and worked in my sweaty humid classroom over the summer in my Fabletics.  Ha!

In case you aren't familiar with's a quick rundown for ya.

  • Monthly VIP membership for VIP prices or just purchase as a regular customer at a regular low cost.
  • Your first 2-piece outfit is only $29.95...50% off the regular price!  Here's mine in case you'd like to see an example of what you get to buy as an intro to such an awesome brand.
  • Complete 2-piece outfits for $49.95 and a customized boutique for you - take a stylized quiz for the types of workouts you love and your needs too
  • Skip if you don't want to purchase by the 5th of the month or you can choose to get charged and earn yourself a credit for another month or a time when you'd like to purchase.
  • New collections and items are released the first of every month!
  • Competitive quality and fit with companies like Lululemon and Nike but with much more affordable prices!
  • Accessories like headbands, socks, hats, yoga mats, and gym bags are also available!  (I own the headbands, a gym bag, and a pair of the yoga socks...and I seriously love them too!)
I've been hoarding these photos on my phone (and Instagram) for a couple months now and figured it's about time I put a blog post together.  So...bring on the overload of "I am obsessed with Fabletics" photos!

Part of my June Outfit:
(only XXL is left but they have the gray version in all sizes)
Not Seen - Miri Tank in Black and the Sevan Bra in Purple

July's Outfit:
Seen on me below...
Pardon my, "People are staring, and I can't seem to take this random selfie in the middle of the studio" look on my face in this shot.  LOLOLOL

And then...even more exciting?!  I got to host a Fabletics event for some of my friends in July!  We had a great time doing some yoga together and checking out my obsession.  I was seriously excited to introduce my friends to something I'm so in love with and several of them already tried their first outfits too...and they love them just as much!  There's something about helping others feel great when they are working out that I can't get enough of.  We ladies deserve to feel goooooood!!

Sporting my Gaviota Capris, a new Embra Tank in White Mesh, and a Sevan bra in black above...the white mesh is seriously perfect for sweaty workouts!!  It has the most awesome cutout in the back and it kept me cool. I'm obsessed with tops that have cutouts because of it.

And my latest outfit from August!...notice the shorts?  I am so not a shorts-during-my-workout kind of girl.  But I really wanted to try them out and I am definitely a fan.  Plus?  Look at those colors!
And I've already grabbed up the Twist Tee in Mulberry (a sort of light magenta color) because these are the best for yoga and pilates.  

Tomorrow is the first day of September...which means a whole new collection!  I've already decided on what I want.  Fabletics puts up sneak peeks a couple days before the end of the month on their Facebook fan page and Instagram.

If you don't want to buy anything at the start of a new month, all you have to do is pass by the 5th. They send out reminders via email, Facebook, and Twitter.  I myself put a reminder in my iPhone calendar just in case.  You can earn your reward points by passing on the love of Fabletics, so I'd love for you to try it out for your first outfit at $29.95 by clicking my referral link.  And please share what you get, because I'd love to know!  So what are you waiting for?!

**This is not a sponsored post.**

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's a Book Frenzy!!

Soooooooooo...we have been back in school for 8 days now.  I've had zero chance to take pictures of some of the lessons we've been doing.

With that being said, I HAD to take pictures on the first day of school during the book frenzy in our classroom library.  After reading Reading in the Wild and being a part of the book study (see all of those posts HERE), I was ready to implement wild reading in my classroom alongside the procedures.

I gave a couple of book talks and also gave what will now be my annual "I love reading," speech a la Colby Sharp's inspirational speech.  I wish I would have had a student film it...but maybe next year. Since I was wearing a dress and heels...I refrained from jumping on tables.  But I really really really wanted to.  My kids were cracking up and very much into it.  I had so much more fun presenting my true passion for reading this way instead of just sort of talking about it like I did in years prior.  The impact was HUGE.

Once I laid the groundwork and my students gained an understanding into just how much reading was going to become part of their 5th grade was time to let them loose.  Oh, and because I gave a couple book talks from the nonfiction section of my library, so many of my kids went in that direction!!!  If I knew it was going to be that easy to get kids on that side of our library, I would have done it a long time ago.  So many new things were learned from this year's book frenzy, I love it!!!

Notice all the kids on the left side?  That's the nonfiction section!

Many of them selected books a lot faster than I've ever seen before.  This makes me nervous though as they may have just grabbed the first book they saw.  But only a handful of them have abandoned them since that first day.  The vibe in the room was also completely more positive and electric versus other years.  I even felt different watching my new group discovering how much fun they were going to have.  Wild readers are in my room already! it's a matter of showing them they can do it without me.

It also looks like I have quite a few World War II I am going to try to get my hands on as many fiction and nonfiction books as possible to provide for them.  I can't wait to share my interest in WWII with them as well!

This fellow has had this Pearl Harbor book since the first day and is still deep into it 8 days later.

This is what I saw after only telling them once to sit down and start enjoying their first book.  

All in all, this year's book frenzy was a success.  My students clearly have a love for reading already, at least most of them.  So, we can focus more on getting books they love in their hands and teaching them how to become wilder readers throughout the school year and beyond.

Did you have a book frenzy this year?  How did it go?  Let me know!