Thursday, April 24, 2014

Poem in Your Pocket Day!

Today was Poem in Your Pocket Day! To celebrate I had my students write down a favorite poem and I made several copies. We cut, hole punched, and "sewed"pockets to distribute to teachers and classrooms around the school. In each pocket we put one of the favorite poems and students also put their favorite poem in their pocket!

After we sent out the pockets we started receiving poems! Teachers and classes sent us their favorite poems and some even treated us to a read aloud of their poem!

 By the end of the day we had an entire wall of poems by authors in our school and favorites like Shel Silverstein!

Friday, April 18, 2014

Common Core and Technology

When I examine the Common Core standards I appreciate that speaking and listening are included, as well as an emphasis on publishing using technology. Speaking, listening, and technology are core tenets of my classroom. I am hoping that this post shares ways to incorporate these standards into your classroom!

Let's look at this third grade Speaking and Listening standard:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.5 Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.

There are two tools I recommend for creating audio recordings: VoiceThread and AudioBoo. They can both be accessed through a web browser, as well as iPhone and iPad apps.

Here is a VoiceThread my third graders created to share their musical instruments:

Here's another VoiceThread created after an Earth Day field trip to the beach. Students wrote poems and then added a photo or a photo of a drawing:

And here's a third VoiceThread that was created using a fable that students wrote collaboratively. The pictures are photos of student drawings:

On VoiceThread, by upgrading to an educator account, you can record many more VoiceThreads than are allowed on a regular account.

Now, AudioBoo! If using AudioBoo on the iPad, download the iPhone app so that you can record podcasts (video explaining how to do this).

Here is an AudioBoo a student created based on an animal they researched:

And an AudioBoo board of students' creature alliteration poems:
I wrote a more detailed post about Audio Boo last year, which you can read here!

Here are the corresponding standards for other grades:
Second Grade:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.2.5 Create audio recordings of stories or poems; add drawings or other visual displays to stories or recounts of experiences when appropriate to clarify ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Fourth Grade:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.4.5 Add audio recordings and visual displays to presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.
Fifth Grade:
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.5.5 Include multimedia components (e.g., graphics, sound) and visual displays in presentations when appropriate to enhance the development of main ideas or themes.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Anchor Charts

I remember when "Charting the Learning" was introduced at my previous school. Ugh, I thought… this will just clutter up the walls. But, since we were mandated to make at least one chart a week for each subject I started to do just that.

Lo and behold, I loved charting! When charts are made with student input and referenced to during instruction, guided, and independence practice they are an incredibly effective instructional tool.

As a child I remember being so distraught when I knew I had learned something, but I couldn't remember a key detail for an essay or completing a math problem. Charts support visual learners as they can reference the chart for support during guided and independent practice.

I find that chart work best when I already have an outline and plan of what is going to go on the chart. Sometimes I provide students a copy of the chart so that they can fill in the information I place on the chart. When I get organized I want to have students keep these in a notebook of some type.

In order to prevent the charts from getting overwhelming I take pictures of them and print them (several to a page) for students to keep in a folder.

I hope some of these chart spur ideas for your own classroom!

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

Hands Off!

It is the time for our Animal Research project (described in full detail: here) and this year we are using Google Drive to create the books! In the past few days I've been reminded again and again why I try to keep my hands off the computer when students are working. I've actively used a computer since I was a kid, which makes it easy for me to start a new document, insert a picture, and change the font. But, this project (and any time a project is happening in the classroom) is not about me.

When teaching my students to use technology John Dewey's quote echoes for me: "If we teach today's students like we taught yesterday's, we rob them of tomorrow." What will today's students need for tomorrow? I think they will need to be able to create, collaborate, and demonstrate persistency to challenging tasks. It will not be acceptable to not finish a work assignment because they couldn't figure something out!

This takes me back to my Hands Off! policy when my students are using technology. As I teach students the steps to change font size, change the layout on a page, or insert a picture I don't touch the computer (or at least try my hardest not to!). This starts to build students' retention of the process, as well as their muscle memory. And, builds and shows my students independence! After I have taught one student in the class something I ask them to then teach the next person who needs to learn that same skill. It spreads like wildfire and soon I have 31 students who can insert a new page, underline a word, share a document, use spell check, etc...

Tuesday, April 16, 2013


Third graders are poetic in their nature and I thought I should share a few poems my amazing third graders have written:

Plane by Josh

take me
to texas
all day
take me anywhere
take me anywhere
all day
i got a passport
so let me on
i'm going to
to see my grand ma

   A School Dog
                                                  By Sydney

                                              Marley is a fun dog
                                               a run dog
                                               a has to go again dog

                                              Marley is a sigh dog
                                                my dog
                                                a has to say good bye dog

                                               Marley is a hall dog
                                                 a ball dog
                                                 a bump into a wall dog

                                                Marley is a nook dog
                                                 a book dog
                                                 a take one more look dog
                                                 Marley is a stay dog
                                                 a play dog
                                                 a come another day dog

Egyptian Queen
By Elena
Cleopatra was her name,
Luring young men was her game.
Though the captain general's heart,
She was a lovely work of art.

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Using Audio Boo and Creating Podcasts

This week has been our statewide testing. There have been several incidents of crying and after we've completed the test each day everyone is exhausted (myself, as well!). I wanted to do some creating and have fun in the afternoons and so I asked my students if they wanted to make podcasts.

Using the information from their animal research books, students wrote a fun podcast about their animal. The first student to finish (who is a gifted writer) decided to include sound effects for the rest of the class--couldn't have thought of that wonderful idea on my own! Having everyone participate in this way made it possible to record these with the whole class listening (and they were so excited to hear the podcast being made).

Here's an example of what we created:

Audio Boo is incredibly easy to use. You do have to create an account (I sign the kids in so that the account won't be accessed from home), but recording involves pressing a series of buttons. I use an external microphone as it records more clearly. If students' podcasts will be less than 30 seconds, Croak It allows students to record with out an account.

It's fun and it covers a few common core standards!
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.4 Report on a topic or text, tell a story, or recount an experience with appropriate facts and relevant, descriptive details, speaking clearly at an understandable pace.

CCSS.ELA-Literacy.SL.3.5 Create engaging audio recordings of stories or poems that demonstrate fluid reading at an understandable pace; add visual displays when appropriate to emphasize or enhance certain facts or details.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Non-Fiction Reading and Writing Unit

The Common Core Informational Text standards for third grade reading require students to be able to (I have paraphrased the standards):
  • Ask and answer questions about the text (and refer explicitly to the text)
  • Determine the main idea, as well as include key details and how they support the main idea
  • Use language that refers to chronological order/sequence text (historical events, scientific ideas, how to) and cause/effect
  • Determine the meaning of words and phrases in a text (I have interpreted this to mean being able to use context clues AND a glossary/dictionary)
  • Use text features and search tools
  • Distinguish their point of view from the author's
  • Use information and illustrations to answer the 5 Ws of a text (where, when, why, and how--I include who especially if students are reading a biography)
  • Compare and contrast, determine cause and effect, or sequence events (between sentences, paragraphs, and two texts)
For writing, students need to:
  • Write an informative text to convey ideas clearly
  • Introduce a topic and group related information together
  • Include illustrations to help explain topic
  • Include facts, definitions, and details
  • Use linking words
  • Provide a concluding statement/section
Now, how do we make this happen?

A Text Feature Chart

This year I spent a few months on informational text features and text structures. Each day for my mini-lessons I would pick a different text feature and we would examine how this feature was helpful to us as a reader. We would read articles in our Everyday Math Student Reference Book, the books that accompany our FOSS kits, and articles from Time for Kids. When reading from the math reference book students would first use the index or table of contents to find the article. While reading the article students would locate bolded words and look up the words in the glossary.

To introduce text structures I used this fantastic Text Structure PowerPoint from Emily Kissner (free on TeachersPayTeachers). I split up the text structures over many mini-lessons.

A Text Structure Chart

We then created text structure flip books. On each page students wrote a text structure and inside wrote a description of that text structure. We used several editions of Time for Kids and after reading the articles, identified the text structure they fit best under, cut the article out and pasted it on that page. (I saw this idea on someone's blog and need to give them credit--please pass it my way if you find it!).

Text Structure Flip Book

Would I do this the exact same way next year? No, I would probably create my text features and text structures chart and each time a new Time for Kids edition arrived I would take time to go through the text features and text structures present in that edition with my students. Time for Kids also work really well in Guided Reading groups and many of the standards could be covered in Guided Reading groups. Over time, I might create a "cheat sheet" of questions to ask during instruction based on the standards.

Selection of books students used for research

To put the writing standards into practice, as well as incorporate our knowledge of text features and text structures students undertook animal research projects. We used books from the library,, as well as Kid InfoBits (which was available through our school library) for our research. If you have access to Kid InfoBits I highly recommend using it because it shows the (relative) reading level of articles, as well as giving a citation on the bottom of each article.

Students used an Animal Research Packet I created to guide their research. After students completed their research, they outlined their books on plain paper (you might consider printing out a few templates from Power Point for students to use for their outlines). 

A student planning her animal research book
To create a professional looking book students created their books in Power Point. We learned many different "tricks" to add to our books including inserting page numbers, adding pictures, flipping text (useful for true/false answers), adding shapes, and changing the template of pages.

Here are two examples of finished products:

Text Structure Resources:

How have you taught informational texts in your classroom? What ideas do you have for informational text? What questions would you include in a "cheat sheet" of questions based on these standards?

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