Test Sophistication Time

Teaching Points Preview

March is said to “come in like a lion” and I couldn’t agree more. As the month begins, we teachers are all about to enter the season that leads us up to the biggest event of the school year -standardized testing. As we scramble to review what we can and encourage students along the way, nothing will prepare us better than being well organized and planned.

For me, this meant mapping my daily teaching points out on a monthly calendar (grab one here!), then plugging in all the resources I had into these lessons. I also set aside 9 days for 3 full “mock” exams, knowing that this would greatly benefit my students and work out all the kinks!

Most importantly, I created my Writing Unit Plans for my Writer’s Workshop Unit: Getting Writers Ready for the Common Core and Standardized Tests – TCRWP. These lessons were written for 4th grade, however the unit is identical for grades 3, grade 4, and grade 5. Which means the teaching points are valid for all, you’ll only need to switch the resources used (I reference NY Ready in my lessons). 
Happy testing!

Kids Get Free Gifts With Summer Reading Programs

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Summer is a time when kids get to kick back and enjoy their carefree days, making memories that will surely last a lifetime. However, not being in school for 2 consecutive months, also has a huge downfall, more specifically the “summer slide.” Experts agree that those children who read during the summer acquire reading skills, while those who do not often slide backward. The good news is that research indicates that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing. The trick is to make sure these books are on the child’s independent reading levels, so that they are not too easy or too hard. Below I have outlined a few summer reading programs that offer kids incentives to continue to read over the summer, avoiding the summer slide and getting rewarded all in one!

Barnes and Nobles Summer Reading Program – Imagination’s Destination

Kids earn a FREE BOOK in three simple steps:

Step 1. Read any 8 books and record them in the Reading Journal PDF. Step 2.Bring the completed Reading Journal to your local B&N store.

Step 3. Choose a FREE BOOK from our selection on the Reading Journal list at the store… Enjoy reading!

Pottery Barn Summer Reading Challenge

Students who read all summer long and log it on their recording sheet, can visit a local Pottery Barn store and pick up a free book!

Half-Price Books Summer Reading Program – Feed Your Brain

Kids 14 and under can earn free Half Price Books gift cards if they read for at least 300 minutes from June 1 to July 31, 2014.

TD Bank Summer Reading Program

With this reading program students who complete the program by reading 10 books, earn $10 free! This summer reading program runs June 1 – August 31.

Chuck E. Cheese Reading Reward Certificates

On this site are many different rewards certificates that earn children 10 free play tokens! The reading certificate requires students to read each day for two weeks.

Book Lovers Rejoice – “Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day” Movie Trailer Released

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Have you ever had one of those days where it seems just about everything has gone wrong? Well if you have, you probably thought of this book and referred to your day as a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day, by Judith Viorst is a childhood favorite for so many. In fact since its first publication in 1972, Alexander and his book have helped us to remember that while we often find comfort in commiserating over our terrible luck, things are really not that bad.

Disney has released a trailer for the movie, and I was thrilled to see the twist they put on this book! Take a look and let me know what you think about the trailer in the comments below!

Movie Trailer on YouTube

FREE Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Classroom Edition App reg. $49.99 Today Only!

To celebrate Teacher Appreciation Day, today only (5/6), you can download the iTunes Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Classroom Edition app for FREE! This is usually $49.99!

FREE Hooked on Phonics Learn to Read Classroom Edition App reg. $49.99 – Today Only!.

Testing Miss Malarkey – A Book for Easing Test Anxiety

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As our week of testing is set to start, I thought I would share with you a wonderful book, just in time for testing season! I think you will find that it is a wonderful book to read to your students prior to (or during testing). Testing Miss Malarkey by Judy Finchler is a great read-aloud that through its humor, introduces the topic of test anxiety and opens it up for discussion with your class.

The book tells the story of standardized testing through the point of view of the students. It’s amusing in that the the students detail how stressed out the teachers become about the tests and show how the whole atmosphere in the school changes during testing. I just enjoy how it allows me to talk to my students about the obvious changes they are seeing around the school, and possibly at home. Things like the emergence of “brain food,” the sudden need for number 2 pencils, and the appearance of quiet signs and new rules for quietly navigating the halls. The theme of the book is that while things are wacky, they will all go back to normal soon enough. Check it out, I know you will be happy you did!

 

Happy Testing!

Wonder – Teaching About Bullying and Acceptance Through Literature

I won’t describe what I look like. Whatever you’re thinking, it’s probably worse.

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So if you know me, you know I absolutely LOVE to read. I am that annoying friend who will gladly push book selections on you if you ever make the mistake of telling me that you enjoy to read! I own tons and tons of books and enjoy nothing more than sharing them with others. I am always eager to know if my friends too enjoyed them as I always feel a certain sense of triumph when I’ve paired a friend to a book they’ve loved. In short, I am a huge book nerd!

A few years ago, a close teacher friend of mine, Stephanie, asked if I wanted to read the book “Wonder” with her. I dove right in and ordered the book without hesitation. Once I opened it, I was hooked and couldn’t (and didn’t) put it down until I was done. To say that the book was an emotional journey for me, would only begin to describe the effect it had on me. If you have not yet read “Wonder” by R.J. Palacio, I strongly urge you to do so. (You can totally borrow my copy!)

This year, I decided to read the book to my class because I feel it encompasses so many life lessons, and illustrates it in such a believable and moving way. I love how the language and characters in the story are so realistic, and so I really felt like the students in my class would be really moved by this story. Well by day one, they too were hooked!

Here is a quick synopsis taken from Wikipedia: The story “Wonder” is about a 10-year-old boy with facial deformities named August Pullman (Auggie) who wishes to be treated normally. He attends public school for the first time in his life, although he does not want to, he agrees to go. Throughout his fifth grade school year, he faces many challenges of having a deformed face, but some surprises also come up like Summer and Jack. The book also goes into other people’s perspective of August: Via’s, Summer’s, Justin’s (in which he doesn’t capitalize his “I’s” and has other grammar mistakes), and Miranda’s.

The themes of kindness and inclusion, meanness and exclusion, and friendship, are the main ones weaved throughout the story. Wonder is told in several different points of views, allowing the reader to see how one person’s differences can affect the lives of so many others. It will make you laugh, cry, question your own behaviors and thinking patterns, and force you at times to be uncomfortable. This is the magic behind the story and what makes it so powerful and moving.

I will be posting some activities we did as a class for the book as we go along. Here is a FREEBIE that we used to create text messages to Auggie prior to the chapter when he goes to school. I had my students write him a text message offering him some advice on his first day of school. They enjoyed it very much and did a great job balancing the right words to encourage Auggie, while also setting him up to be prepared for the possibility of not all kids and adults treating him nicely. I was very proud of their work and excited to showcase it.

We were also working on persuasive letters in Writer’s Workshop at the time, so I had students write August letters persuading him to either go to school, or stay at home and continue to be home-schooled. CLICK HERE  for the paper we used for that.

We signed the Choose Kind Pledge online as a class too! After each kid signed, I gave them one of these cute labels I printed onto a label to wear.

Last, they visited this SITE and created digital postcards that they e-mailed to me. On each postcard they were asked to write about how they would carry out their pledge to be kind.

Each of the assignments is pictured below.

Text to Auggie

 

Auggie Text

 

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Wonder

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wonder postcards

 

A List of Resources

Choose Kind Tumblr

Educator Guide for Wonder

 Teachingbooks.net

 

HAPPY READING!

Domo – Excite and Create with Animation Presentations

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I am on a constant quest to find new sites and #edtech resources to integrate into my classroom. Today’s students are digital natives who have the potential to do so many great things with computers and technology. That is why I feel a huge part of my job is to expose them to different types of technology, websites, and ways of doing things. In addition to this, I also realize the potential that technology has to allow students who might struggle with a pencil and paper assignment, to showcase their knowledge in a more appropriate way. I love when these students blow me away with a digital presentation that showcases all the skills and knowledge they have acquired!

Working with special need students over the years, I have learned the importance of allowing students to exhibit their acquired knowledge in a way that was easily accessible to them. As teachers, this requires a shift of thinking while creating a lesson. It requires us t put more weight on what we want the student to know (our lesson’s objective), and less on how we want them to display this knowledge to us (the product). By differentiating the product stage of the lesson, we allow students to show us what they know, without hindering them with activities that involve skills (which aren’t this particular lesson’s objective) that might hinder their ability to express their thoughts and ideas.

One such resource I found is DomoAnimate! My kids always love new sites, because they are “novel”
and the brain loves novelty. However, they LOOOOOOVEEEE this site! We are currently using DomoAnimate for a social studies unit on community (which I will post more about in an upcoming lesson when they are done), to produce group animations about life lessons every kid should know. (#whathekidsneedtoknow)

After what was a brief 5 minute introduction of the different aspects of the site, my students were off and creating. The interface of Domo is super easy to learn; it just takes a few clicks here and there, and you are off creating wonderfully entertaining animations. In fact, my students loved it so much, almost all of them went home that night and created their own (FREE!!!) accounts and made their own animations. This waswithout being assigned any homework to do so. I love it when they get this excited about things.

Brief Overview of DomoAnimate

The site is powered by GoAnimate, and it is a free animation site. Students are able to animate characters of their choice and they can add unique backgrounds, music, and sound effects too.  They can also add speech as text bubbles or add interactive elements for story-telling activities.  The website has a very easy to learn interface, with a drag and drop platform that is familiar to students. The best part is that students can make their characters come to life, as each character has a set of actions and emotions that can be added by simply clicking on the character and selecting from a drop-down menu. Domo animations can be embedded on websites or blogs, and can be shared either publicly or privately.

How Can I Use It In My Classroom?

While the possibilities are endless, here are a few ways I came up with.

  • Book Report
  • Trailer for a Book
  • Biographies – animating a subject’s life
  • Interviewing a character from a book
  • Interviewing a historical figure
  • Public Service Announcements
  • How-to-Videos
  • Bullying Prevention Videos
  • Social Issues
  • Illustrating Vocabulary Words (they won’t forget them after that)
  • Illustrating real-world math concepts
  • Sequencing

Have more ideas. Please share by placing them in the comments below! 

Click here for a video one of my students went home the first day and made. Pretty impressive for only have used in one day!