Saturday, May 23, 2015

Last Week of School: Championships, Mean Absolute Deviation and Go Noodle

Friday was my last day of school with students!

I wanted to share a little of why I've been a little busy lately:

1)  My daughter and her high school softball team won the state championship in softball last week.  STATE CHAMPIONSHIP my friends, STATE CHAMPIONSHIP!  I am so proud of her!  She is just a freshman, so we are really honored that she was asked to move up to Varsity for play-offs.  The coaching staff is amazing, and these were a great group of girls. I can't wait to see what 3 more years will bring us!  If you need a tax write off and want to help this team, you can go {HERE} to GO FUND ME and make a donation to the team.  We are trying to fund raise championship rings for the girls!  

2)  We spent time early in the week finishing up our Statistics Unit by completing a lab.  I needed to keep my Smarties engaged and occupied.  Last week we flew paper airplanes.  Instead of measuring how far they flew, I had students design them to see how long they would last in the air, and we measured the time in seconds.  This week we did a second lab to reinforce mean absolute deviation and interquartile range.  I had students long jump, and we measured the distance in feet and inches. I had students convert to all inches and then find the mean, mean absolute deviation, create a box and whisker plot, and then find the interquartile range.  My Smarties were so good!  We had a great time enjoying the sunshine.  If you teach these topics, you may want to pick up the printable worksheets to do both the airplane and long jump lab.  You can grab them for just $1.00 in my TpT store.

3)  We also finished up our Chasing Vermeer mystery unit.  There are so many great clues about mysteries in this story.  The secret codes they have to decipher really kept them on their toes, and they loved playing with the pentaminoes.  I'm really happy with the way their character analysis posters came out! Please excuse the bottom the cabinet in this picture.. there were three days of school left people. :)

The author just came out with a new book using the main characters, Calder and Petra.  Pieces and Players is a great mystery using PRIME NUMBERS!  Love it!  Add it to your summer reading list.  I know you'll enjoy the math/literature connection.

4)  We had a great time on our last day of school with a little Go Noodle!  My class loves the Ice Cream and Guacamole song.  

5) To leave you on a personal note, my son also has had amazing accomplishments this week.  He was asked to be part of the Junior Honor Society, and was then awarded honors for the highest ELA average in the 7th grade.  I'm one proud momma!

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Updated Product! Foldable and Lessons for Prime and Composite Numbers. LCM and GCF

Hello friends!  I just wanted to post quickly today and let you know I have recently updated my Foldables Lessons on teaching Least Common Multiple and Greatest Common Factor.  This product is now 30 pages long, and includes:

1) Mentor text suggestions for Prime and Composite Numbers, as well as video links to share with your students,
2) Foldable for teaching Divisibilty Rules-- differentiated
3) Lesson for teaching Prime and Composite Numbers using a Hundreds Chart
4) Interactive sort activity for Prime and Composite numbers with differentiated sort cards
5) Foldable and Lessons for teaching Least Common Multiple, Greatest Common Fractor and simplifying a fractions using the Prime Ladder Method.  There are several versions of the foldable for this lesson so you are able to differentiate for your students.

If you have already purchased this product, please go redownload it.
If not, it may be something you want to consider.
Have a great Sunday!

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Using Close Reading in the Classroom

I have loved using my friend, Fifth in the Middle's, Close Reads in my classroom!  Close Reading has become a hot topic in the last year or so across all areas of literacy.  Last spring I read a fantastic book by Chris Lehman and Kathleen Roberts called
Falling in Love with Close Reading: Lessons for Analyzing Texts--and Life

which gave me a great overview for the foundation of the topic.  I was interesed, and I was passionate about the idea of getting my kids to look at a text with more depth.  I was NOT looking forward to creating text to do this.  I tried finding text, but nothing kept the interest of my students, and with a move looming in my future, I did not have the time to create.  Lucky for me, I didn't need to. My friend Diane, genious that she is had started creating Close Read texts that were related to monthly topics.  These my friends, are fabulous!  She saved my sanity when I began using these!  I love her format because she creates text that I can use in my interactive notebook.  I'm a fan of the clean page with a simple border, and straightforward directions and prompts.

When I have my students use her close reads we do a cold read first, annotating using symbols connections that we are making with the text.  All of thse annotations occur within the border of the text created.  After discussion, we moved into the second and third reads, where there is a very specific purpose and task set for for us.  In our interactive notebooks, we answer questions and annotate for these reads on the OUTSIDE of the boarder.  This works well for me because I can see how students are digging deeper into the text.  We highlight and write as we discuss deeper meaning, and connections.

This week in celebration of her milestone on TpT, Diane has a limited time freebie of her Close Reads on S'mores. You can grab it {HERE}.  My class in particular LOVED this topic.  We read this one in the early September as I was still getting used to moving to Alabama.  They thought it was hysterical how excited I got about s'mores, and meanwhile, I'm thinking.. hello sixth graders.. campfires...chocolate, marshmallows... what's NOT to love about s'mores!  As I watched them complete the cold read, I saw a lot of wrinkled foreheads, and students who began to glance nervously at each other.  ut oh... I thought, are these too difficult?  I had only been in class a few weeks with them but I thought they could handle it.  I mean Diane differentiated them and gave me 3 levels to work with.  Some of them began to annotate furiously on the page, and I relaxed a little, but was curious when it came to discussion.  My students finished, and I had to bust right in and ask them why their brows were wrinkled in confusion?  Well my friends, here was this YANKEES first lesson in being a Southerner... you do not have campfires when it is 85 degrees outside in the summer!  They could not understand the context of WHY I would sit around a campfire in the summer!  I laughed so hard to think that s'mores are a WINTER food down here! Campfires are a WINTER activity in Alabama!  It was a great learning experience for the whole class, and we would not have had that bonding moment without Diane's fabulous work!
Needless to say, I promised them s'mores in class the next day, but fooled them in the process.  I gave them these:

We had been working on the distributive property in math, and I couldn't resist having them practice combining like terms.   Of course, after they finished moaning and groaning, I did give them real s'mores to eat, but I loved the joke, and they learned that it's ok to joke around a little in my classroom.

If you are interested in Close Reads for your classroom, I would recommend Fifth in the Middle's Bundle.  It is your best bargain.  You can go {HERE} to check it out.  Also, if you are teaching Combining Like Terms and need something to make it more interactive with expressions, you can go {HERE} and pick up my Combining Like Terms interactive game.  You can gran it at up to 28% off using the TpT code THANKYOU May 5th and 6th!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Squared Away on a Sunday: Testing and Surface Area Lab (FREEBIE)

Anyone else have the Sunday night blues?  I don't usually have regrets about starting back to school on Monday mornings, but this is testing week for my Smarties.. and well I'm a big fan!  I think part of this is because I have to give a new test in a new state this year, and I don't know what to expect.  Eveyone is our district has been uptight about test administration, so I don't know what to expect!  We are testing Monday-Wednesday this week, so I wanted to plan a few fun things to do once we are finished.
In ELA we are going to watch Wall E and work a little on our CCSS standard for media comparision.  We are going to work on character traits, theme and symbolism within a science fiction genre.  This lesson is courtesy of my good friend Erin at I'm Lovin Lit.  She is so put together!  It is in her Spring ELA Bundle.
In Math I'm going to continue with Surface Area by doing a measurement lab with my students.  I gathered together boxes of rectangular prisms and pyramids, laminated them, and cut them into nets.  We are going to use our handy dandy measuring tapes courtesy of IKEA to measure and find the surface area.  You can find the Surface Area Freebie I made {HERE} if you need something.  

In Science we are going to use our Board Builders program to create projects on the Planets in the Solar System.  We have a huge grassy playground so we are always going to measure the distance of the planets if it stops raining long enough!
I'm going to use this awesome clipart from Messare Clips and Design to create planet signs.  

So, what have you Squared Away this Sunday?  Any fantastic plans for the week that I should know about?

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Studying the Great Depression: Books and a Poster Project

My Smarties have just finished a quick study of The Great Depression.  I wanted to have them work on their publishing skills a little, so I assigned them a poster to review the concept.  Thankfully Jennifer Findley, who blogs at Teaching To Inspire in 5th at came through for me with a rubric Freebie.  She made my life super easy, and it is just what I needed.  My students really loved doing this project.  I loved doing a gallery walk through my classroom when all of the posters were finished.  Each poster was unique.  I love their creativity!
Here are just a few of them.  I hope they can inspire you!
I love the way this student made her poster interactive.  She drew pictures of the 5 criteria we used:  The Stock Market, Hoovervilles, The Dust Bowl, Failing Banks, and People losing their jobs and wrote about each underneath.  I appreciate that she took the extra time to draw her own illustrations for the project.
This poster is similar to the one above, but the student used photographs from the era.  Again, he made the poster interactive.  I guess all of our notebook work is rubbing off on them!

This last poster was unique as well.  I love how my Smartie color-coordinated her writing and pictures so as we did our gallery walk students could discuss the connections.  It made a really appealing presentation.

I also tried to incorporate some of the books written for the time period.  One of the most famous is Out of the Dust.

But have you heard of The Gardener? This is a sweet book about a young girl who goes to live with her uncle in the big city.  She brings with her a suitcase full of seeds, and changes the hearts of the people in the neighborhood.  I also love this book because there is a series of letters that Lydia Grace Finch writes home, so it is a great companion book for letter writing if you are cross curricular.  The book is very short, and meant for younger children, but it was quick for me to use with a group of students who are struggling readers.

I would love to add to my collection of literature for this time period. If you know of any other books, I'd love to hear from you!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Five for Saturday: Theme, Crawfish Boils, Books, Geometry Video, and Field Trips

  We have had a really busy week in the land of Coffee Cups and Lesson Plans!

1)  We have spent our ELA time talking about the characters in our novel, Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher, and discussing possible themes.  I love when it gets to this time of year in sixth grade.  Yes, it is stressful because testing is coming up.  Yes, it is difficult to keep everyone on task and paying attention, but YES they are capable of digging deep into literature and THINKING about the nuances of what they read.  I live for these moments, and we had one this week when we were talking about THEME!  I had previously done an intro lesson, discussing the difference between a theme TOPIC, and an actual theme.  I also show my students a video that has a pretty straight forward message to make sure they "get it."  These lessons are from Erin at I'm Lovin Lit.  They are in her Interactive Notebook for Literature.   She also has them individually {HERE}

  After a day or so with the basics, I used the same tree visual and gave my students five themes from Flying Solo.  We talked about how each theme would relate to the story.  Then I picked one of the five, and gave them the theme sentence.  They had to work in pairs to come up with four pieces of evidence from the book to support the sentence.  This my friends is where the magic happened.  They dug deep!

For example, a theme topic for this book is Grief.  I gave them the theme statement  Grief is about loss and a return to life.  We talked for a few minutes about the OBVIOUS, LITERAL evidence that would exist.  (For those not familiar with the book, a classmate dies, and the class during the novel is still dealing with and grieving for him).  But they dug deeper!  They talked about the grief another student was carrying over having to quarantine his dog, and even deeper over the grief a third student had over the time he does not have with his father.  I was so proud.  Fear not teachers feeling the push of testing. Students are digging deep!  Be a guide..don't give up on them!

2) We went to a Crawfish Boil last weekend at a friend's house. Being a native New Yorker transplanted into the South, this was a totally new thing for me.  Everyone around here is talking about crawfish lately.  I think the season for eating them is starting.  Our friends have a HUGE pot to boil the crawfish and invited us over to join them.  My kids were in awe over this!  We loved every single minute of it.  If the season is just starting, it is going to be a good one!

3)  I finished reading the first book in The Testing Series by Joelle Charbonneau.  If you have students that like the dystopian literature, I think they will love these books.  The heroine Cia, is a great problem solver, and intuitive thinker.  I great role model to teach character traits and the Hero's Journey circle.  Speaking of the Hero's Journey, if you teach this common story analysis in your classroom.  I used it last year while teaching The Lightning Thief and there is a freebie {HERE} if you need a graphic organizer.   The blog post contains a video that I used to introduce the concept, and a link to the organizer.  I hear they will be making movies out of the series.

4)  We started Area this week in Math.  I introduced it with this neat song to help students remember the difference between Area and Perimeter

5)  Finally, at the end of the week I took my class on a field trip to learn about The Bankhead Tunnel and Geology.  My students thought the tunnel was really cool, although we had to walk down about 4 stories of steep steps to reach tunnel level.  Yikes!

We also went to the University of South Alabama to the Archeology Museum.  There we participated in a huge geology lab, identifying rocks and minerals using scratch tests, observations, and even taste.  We also learned about how archaeologists study people, and layers of earth to learn the history of our city.  My students LOVED eating in the campus dining hall.  If you have a college campus near you, check out the programs they may have to offer.  It was an amazing field trip!

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs today!  

Friday, March 20, 2015

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold Book Review

I was recently contacted by a book publisher to have my students review an adventure mystery series by Iain Reading called Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold.  Below is a summary of the book, and my sixth graders thoughts.  If you are a Canadian reader, this book may be of particular interest to you as it covers Canadian Provinces and history.   My students enjoyed making connections between the Canadian history and US history, and this may also interest some of your students that enjoy research projects.  

Drako thought:  "I really liked the character of Kitty.  I thought it was cool that a yound girl could learn to fly, and I liked the titles of each chapter.  Sometimes I thought the sentences were long, but I liked learning about the Yukon."

Chloe thought:  "I liked when the author introduced the character of Charlie.  I think the adventure really got started then.  Kitty was a funny, strong-willed character and it made me laugh when she wanted Starbucks."

Bhumi thought:  "  Kitty Hawk is funny, creative, determined and loving.  I love how she cares about the environment and their creatures.  Kitty Hawk has a true heart and I liked how she became friends with Charlie, Jay Will and Buck.  They started off not trusting each other, but they used their strong will to achieve their goal.  I enjoyed that Ian Reading used real life places and history like Amelia Earhart to keep my attention. It was funny to read about Walmart, McDonald's and Starbucks in the book.   My only complaint is the text style.  The font was small, and at first I was afraid the book would not be good.  But I worked through it and found I really enjoyed it!"

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is the thrilling first installment in a new young adult series of adventure mystery stories by Iain Reading. This first book of the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series introduces Kitty Hawk, an intrepid teenage pilot with her own De Havilland Beaver seaplane and a nose for mystery and intrigue. A cross between Amelia Earhart, Nancy Drew and Pippi Longstocking, Kitty is a quirky young heroine with boundless curiosity and a knack for getting herself into all kinds of precarious situations. 

After leaving her home in the western Canadian fishing village of Tofino to spend the summer in Alaska studying humpback whales, Kitty finds herself caught up in an unforgettable adventure involving stolen gold, devious criminals, ghostly shipwrecks, and bone-chilling curses. Kitty's adventure begins with the lingering mystery of a sunken ship called the Clara Nevada. As the plot continues to unfold, this spirited story will have readers anxiously following every twist and turn as they are swept along through the history of the Klondike Gold Rush to a suspenseful final climatic chase across the rugged terrain of Canada's Yukon.

Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold is a perfect book to fire the imagination of readers of all ages. Filled with fascinating and highly Google-able locations and history this book will inspire anyone to learn and experience more for themselves. 

There are currently four books in the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series: Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold (book 1), Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway's Ghost (book 2), Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue (book 3), and Kitty Hawk and the Tragedy of the RMS Titanic (book 4). Each book can be read as a standalone.

“In the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series the heroine finds herself in a new geographic location in each book. The series will eventually have a total of 13 books in it (maybe more) and her flight around the world will be completed in the end,” says Iain. “The books are sequential but one could definitely read any of the later ones before reading the earlier ones.”

About the Author:
Iain Reading is passionate about Root Beer, music, and writing. He is Canadian, but currently resides in the Netherlands working for the United Nations.

Iain has published 4 books in the Kitty Hawk Flying Detective Agency Series (Kitty Hawk and the Curse of the Yukon Gold, Kitty Hawk and the Hunt for Hemingway's Ghost, Kitty Hawk and the Icelandic Intrigue, and Kitty Hawk and the Tragedy of the RMS Titanic). He is currently working on the 5th book in the series. For more information, go to  

Iain is also the author of The Wizards of Waterfire Series. The first book in the series The Guild of the Wizards of Waterfire was published in April 2014.

Connect with Iain on Twitter and Goodreads.

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