May 19, 2015

Guest Blogger on Minds-in-Bloom!

I am very honored to be a guest blogger on Rachel Lynette's Minds-in-Bloom today!  I wrote an article about my current favorite teacher topic....saving time in the classroom!  Hop on over to read Tips for Decorating Your Classroom, Even If You Don't Have the Time!

May 18, 2015

Struggling Reader Help

Do you have students every year who come to you and don't read well? Do they make you wonder if they need glasses?  I know at the second grade level, I have had quite a few!  Read the following as a suggestion as to what you can do as a teacher to take the first step. Keep in mind, there may be other reasons for children not reading well even if this little "test" is not passed.
          Every year I have several students who come to me and they struggle with reading.  They are readers who  flip words around, can’t stay on the same line of print, or just sound “choppy”.  No matter what interventions I try, they do not help!  I came up with this trick to let me know if my students actually can see what I see when they look at the page.
I get a book at their current independent level so that I know they know most of the words.  I type out a page of the text and after every 3 or 4 lines I change the size of the font.   As they continue to read down the page, not only does the letter size get smaller, each line of print gets closer together just like the print in this article is doing.  I start with a size 36 font and go down to size 14 or smaller.  It is amazing to see some readers buzz through the first part, start the choppiness on the middle part, and then cannot read the last part at all! This is the first hint that your students may not see what you see! 

The second step is to hand your student a the same words with everything printed in the size 36 font.  Can they now read everything fluently?  If yes, you will know that something is going on because they just can't read the same words when typed smaller.  It is an indication that they may need an eye exam and possibly glasses. Notice how I say may and possibly because I am NOT a doctor and there may be other reasons for what you are observing.  This is only a first step in finding a possible solution to help a struggling reader! It is something that you can share with the child's parents and they can share with their doctor.  I have had lots of children who do get glasses after this, a few who didn't, and even one whose doctor found a severe problem on both of the child's eyes. Be sure to take notes as the child reads.  Suggestions are "fluent" , "beginning to skip around here"  "slowed down/choppy here". Note whether or not punctuation was acknowledged, too.  

A fellow blogger, Amy Mezni, has some fabulous information on eye problems that you may see in your students or your own child.  Hop over to Teaching Ideas 4U to read her posts!

Apr 10, 2015

Adding Three Numbers Addition Game

You know what?  I absolutely love to play mini-golf...or goofy many call it.  I can't play a lick of the REAL game, but there is something about the mini-version that makes me smile! I grew up in a town that had a really cute one. The windmill and the curly-Q were my absolute favorites...even when they kicked my ball back a few times!  My kids and hubby play and they are so competitive...sigh.  Not me! I play just for the fun of it.

With mini-golf in mind I created a new math game! I LOVE USING MATH GAMES!  I'm pretty happy with how cute it turned out! The whole point of it is to get kids to practice adding three single-digit numbers.  You can check it out if you'd like to take a peek.

This game is SO FUN! Just click the picture!

Mar 27, 2015

Fractured Fairytales


Writing fairytales and fractured fairytales is a wonderful activity in ANY grade!  My class wrote the fractured kind and they were SO creative!   I started out the unit by reading lots of funny ones that are easily recognizable.  Here are some of my favorites!

Why do fractured fairytales in Workshop? Kids have fun comparing and contrasting them to their old favorites.  I must admit that I laugh each time I read the Cinderella one and LOVE reading it in a "snotty, snobby" voice.  I love it as much as the kids do!  And the one from the wolf's point of view is GREAT to read in a gruff, sneaky voice. YEP- this may be my all time favorite writing unit of the year!!!

The first year that I taught writing the tales I made a HUGE mistake. I REALLY DID!  I used these books and then thought that my kiddos could just write fractured fairytales on their own. What I didn't do was assign the reading of the original stories. I had a few of the originals in class, but not enough to go around.  My kids NEEDED the original story to follow along with to write their own.  So, the 2nd year I tweaked my lessons and it made the biggest difference in the world. Read on to see my tips to make this go easier in your classroom.

1. I let each child write with a buddy.  They had to decide together on a tale that they would fracture and they had to discuss the changes first.  THIS WAS HUGE in getting the stories to go in the right direction because talking them out let them figure out mistakes before writing them down.  WOW!  THE COLLABORATION WAS WONDERFUL!  They were forced to build on their partner's ideas and find ways to make their stories funny...together!  It was almost like they were writing a play because they had to keep their stories flowing.  The best part of this  was that I paired a weaker writer with a stronger one. It really freed me up to work with less groups and I had less questions because the stronger writer led! I was so surprised at how well the weaker writer shared ideas, too.  They LOVED the collaboration and help!  Each group ended with a product that they were proud of.  I did make sure that I talked through "sharing the responsibility" before starting though.  Each member was aware of pulling their weight AND allowing the partner to have ideas. 
I found this link to them.
2.  I got the set of Scholastic Easy Readers above.  These tales were written at much the same level as my mid-writers.  They were easy to follow along and the children could read a little about how to change it for their story...write it down...then read a little more...and so on.  They were PERFECT!  My advanced writers added so much more detail, too!

3.  I got my students excited to write by creating some CUTE fairytale paper so that their published pieces looked awesome. If you show it to them beforehand they can't wait to use it.  I used the one below and they turned out really cute.  The picture at the top shows my example that I show them.  We even made little puppets of the character that the children held while reading their tales to the class. Now, buddies each wrote their own final copy so that each child had a book and puppet.  They looked great displayed all around the room and everyone had a great time reading them over and over!

What else might help a child OR fellow teacher with the fairytale unit?  Post it in the comments section!

   Grab mine on TpT if you want to save time!