Monday, January 25, 2016

All About That Stamina

My kiddos squeal with excitement when I tell them that it's time for independent reading. Is there any sound sweeter than that?! My district curriculum puts a huge focus on building reading stamina through independent reading. At this point in the school year, my babes are expected to independently read for 50 minutes! It seems like a lot, but I've got our independent reading time down to a science to keep it effective & efficient.

1. We keep a log of our reading

One of the most important items in my kiddos' independent reading folders are their reading logs. In the beginning of the year we practice & practice recording our reading in a log. It keeps us accountable and is fun to look back and see how much we've read over the year!

2. We set goals for ourselves

Every month, we set a new reading goal for ourselves. Sometimes they are personal goals (finish a series, read another book by a certain author, read more nonfiction, etc.) but often we make goals based on Daily 5 and CAFE. Students choose whether they want to work on comprehension, accuracy, fluency, or expanding vocabulary. This gives me a focus for when I confer individually with students.

3. We respond to what we read

My kiddos LOVE choosing a question to respond to from our Reader Response Menus. The menus have three levels of complexity for the question (organized into appetizers, entrees, & desserts) and I allow students the freedom to choose which question they want to respond to. Did they find evidence of character change? They'll choose that question. Just finish an awesome nonfiction article? They'll analyze the nonfiction text features used in the article. They know best which questions apply to their reading. This little bit of choice makes a huge difference in motivation!

This system makes it super easy to manage independent reading & build my kiddos' stamina! Want to try this out for yourself? CLICK HERE to see my Independent Reading/Read to Self pack with all of these resources!


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Leveled Text Resources

One of the geekiest things that I get excited about as a teacher is finding new texts for my students to use! I feel like I struck gold when I find an appropriate text for the skill I'm teaching in my mini lessons that week. I pretty much stock pile and meticulously label both fiction and nonfiction texts for future use!

 I love differentiating for my kiddos and making sure that they are reading texts that challenge them and are also developmentally appropriate. But I sometimes struggled to manage multiple different texts being read in my class. The amazingly talented special education resource teacher in my building suggested a sneaky trick last year, and I've been obsessed with using it ever since! 

Her solution? Have my struggling readers pre-read a lower lexile version of the same text. Then, when we read the on grade level text as a whole class, my struggling readers are already familiar with the topic and are ready to be challenged with complex vocabulary and sentence structure. 

My struggling readers get a confidence boost, because comprehension is not as difficult in this second read and they are reading the same text as the rest of the class. Because, lets face it, my big kids are TOTALLY aware of who is reading what text and who is reading something different!

Want to try this out in your own class? 
Below are a list of sources I go to for free leveled texts!

{fabulous nonfiction articles PLUS multiple choice and written response questions!}

{brief nonfiction articles available in 3 levels of difficulty}

{great for middle schoolers- choose a themed topic & focus question}

{short stories organized by lexile level. my favorite is Fly Away Home}

{technically not free, but my PTA pays for my subscription & it's an invaluable resource!}

Do you have recommendations of text sources?! I'd LOVE to hear about them :)
XO Emily

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Turning Passion Into Profit

Today I'm over at Say Yes To Happy, guest blogging for Julie!

The thing is you don't need to be brave enough to start. START DESPITE HOW SCARED YOU ARE! JUST START.:

I'm sharing my Teachers Pay Teachers story & how I turned my passion into profit.
I'd love for you to check it out :)
XO Emily

Monday, October 5, 2015

Social Skills Problem Solving

"Mrs. G, can I ask you a question? I tried standing up for a friend when she told me that someone was being mean to her. I asked that person to stop talking about my friend, but now that person is mad at me. I just wanted to defend my friend! What do I do?"

As a 6th grade teacher, I have heard this question (and many just like it) time and time again. My heart aches for my preteen kiddos who are navigating these tricky social situations. I'm fortunate enough to have both male and female teachers on my team, so we'll sometimes split up our girls and boys and have family chats with them about appropriate social behavior. 

During one of these talks, my girls posed a couple of hypothetical situations, just like the one above, and asked how to handle them. It was then that I realized that I needed to give my students time to reflect on difficult situations before they occur so that they can talk it out and problem solve, removed from the emotions they feel in the moment.

The next time we met, I gave my kiddos these problem solving task cards. They pose hypothetical situations and ask students how they would feel in that situation and what they would do. 

Of course it didn't solve all petty arguing and gossip in my class, but it opened up the conversation to let students practice these crucial skills in a safe environment. 

Click the photos above to download the cards and try this out for yourself!

XO Emily

Monday, September 21, 2015

Reading Survey Freebie!!!

Wahoo! Happy Monday Made It, friends!

One of my favorite beginning of the year activities is giving a reading survey. It's a simple confidence booster for the students, because there's no right or wrong answers- it's all their opinion. However, it provides me with SO much insight into what they know and how they view themselves as readers.

This survey also serves as a jumping off point for our discussion about what makes a good reader/writer. I usually make an anchor chart based off of our conversation about what good reading looks like & sounds like.

CLICK HERE to download this freebie to use in your upper elementary classroom :)

Looking for more beginning of the year resources? 
CLICK HERE to follow my back to school Pinterest board!

Looking for more teacher freebies? 
CLICK HERE to follow my teacher freebie Pinterest board!

XO Emily

Monday, September 14, 2015

Missing Homework Letter

Today, I'm linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It, and I'm sharing some things that I made for my classroom this year that are going to save me from some major headaches!!

Few things drive me crazier than managing homework! I usually visually check in homework and mark in my grade book a check for completion and a zero if it's missing. When I first started teaching, I would have students eat lunch in student support and complete the homework. They were free to return to lunch or recess once they were finished with the work. 

However, I began to realize that the same students continue to miss homework and parents weren't aware that this was occurring and that it was affecting their child's grades. I knew I needed a system that held students accountable, gave them an opportunity to correct the mistake, and included parents in the process.

Enter, the missing homework letter.

This simple, half page letter has saved my sanity more than I can say! So how do I use it?

-If a student is missing their homework, they go over to the missing homework letter basket and grab one of these letters.
-As I check in homework, the student shows me that they took a letter, and I temporarily mark a O in my grade book.
-The student fills in the letter, addressing it to an adult at home.
-That night, the student must complete the missed homework and have a parent sign the form.
-If students bring the missed work & the signed note back to me tomorrow, I put a check in the O and the student receives credit for the assignment. If a student doesn't bring it back, they have to complete the assignment during lunch that day.

This little letter did so much for both me and my students! First, parents were now involved and made aware of any missing work. Students also had another chance to make up their work, which communicates to students that mistakes happen, but I will always provide second chances to succeed. 

The biggest benefit is that I got to see why students were missing their work, because students check off why they didn't have their work. This helps me assist students where they need it. Do they complete it but forget it at home? I'll organize their homework folder and touch base with their parents. Do students not have a calculator or colored pencils at home? I know to lend the necessary materials to students before they go home that day.

Interested in using this letter in your own classroom? 
Click here to download an editable version for free!

My team is departmentalized and this year I'm teaching writing. One of the most challenging things to manage is peer editing & revising. It's so difficult to structure this time to actually be productive! Last year I tried out specific rubrics for revising different aspects of writing and it worked fabulously. Those guides are majorly popular on my TPT, and I just bundled the written response, narrative & informational packs together for the new school year :)

 Click the photo (or here) to check it out!

How do you manage peer editing/missed homework in your classroom?
XO Emily

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Establishing a Behavior Policy

So many of my posts recently are behavior management based, but that just reminds me how important is it to establish clear expectations in the beginning of the year! 

My first year teaching, I definitely wasn't as clear as I should have been when it came to outlining the steps that would be taken to address misbehavior. My second year, I created a behavior contract that helped communicate my classroom's behavior policy to not only my students but to parents as well.

I established the steps that would be taken if misbehavior occurred, because those are non-negotiables. However, I work with the students on the first days of school, and together we identify what "not following school rules" looks like. It's actually kind of fun to brainstorm together because I usually phrase it "What types of things drive your teachers bonkers?!" The kiddos laugh at that, but it also gives them a chance to reflect on their past behavior and have an honest conversation about what those behaviors (and their consequences!) look like.

I love that the students and parents sign the contract- we're all on the same page and asking students to sign it makes it feel official and puts the responsibility on them.

Want to try this in your own class? Click the photo above or click here to download the editable file for free :) 

XO Emily
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