Friday, September 26, 2014

Word Study that Works...

As a fifth grade ELA and social studies teacher, I am always looking for ways to making word study or vocabulary instruction more meaningful to my students. Over the past couple of years, I have been trying different strategies and ideas with a lot of trial and error. One of the most recent activities that I’ve tried is a spin off from “10 Important Words”.  This activity can be used with any grade level or subject matter. I call it “Sticky Words.”

Sticky Words:
1) Using any text, pass out ten sticky notes to each student.
2) While the students read or you read aloud, have them underline and write 5 to 10 unfamiliar words on a post-it note
3) I ask students to share their words and if anyone else in the room has the same unfamiliar word we put them on the board in a column.
4) I repeat this step until all of the sticky notes are on the board.
5) As a class, we analyze the graph on the board and the most frequent words become the assigned vocabulary words. The other words can still be studied in small groups. (This is a wonderful opportunity for differentiation.)


Vocabulary Word of the Day:

Every day (or every couple of days), I introduce a new vocabulary word. It can be any word from a list that is relevant to your grade level or other words you think your kids need to know. We spend a couple minutes talking about the meaning and giving examples and non-examples.  I then have the kids record the word in their vocabulary journals.  I keep these words posted on notecards along the top of the whiteboard. You could put them anywhere the kiddos can see them on a daily basis.

My kids always love this activity because I encourage them to try their new word at home, in class, and in their writing. I tell them they can’t just make up reasons to use their word, but they need to use it naturally in conversation.  I reward the students that are able to do this with tickets from our classroom reward system. This has been one of the most successful activities I have done in my classroom with word study. This activity seems to appeal to even the most unmotivated learner. I have seen challenging vocabulary words pop up months later in student writing because they are motivated to use their new vocabulary.
I don’t assess words of the day at all except once every nine weeks. I give them a VOCABULARY THINK-TAC-TOE activity to complete using their words.  This is a choice menu that allows them to demonstrate their knowledge of the words with three different activities. One child might do charades for their words, and another child might make riddles. It is a fun and engaging way to hold all students accountable for their words.

Vocabulary Journals:

When my kiddos complete vocabulary journals for me, I always have them write sentences using their words. Over the years, I have become frustrated with the sentences that students write for me. My students usually write sentences that are limited and do not have context clues.  This year I was determined to get better 'showing' sentences from my students.  I started the year of giving my kiddos a stretch your sentences printable to keep in their notebooks.  Their sentences seem to be much better when they know they have to answer the questions; who, what, where, & when.  Download this printable for free.
I construct my vocabulary journals using a cover sheet that my students decorate and a copy of the stretch your sentence sheet. I then include many copies of the free organizers below.  You can also use a simple composition book and have them glue in the organizers.


Sunday, September 21, 2014

Curriculum for $15 or less Sept. 21-28


$15 Frenzy is BACK at Educents!

From Monday, September 21 - Sunday, September 28, 2014, Educents is bringing back the ever-popular $15 Frenzy! Here's your chance to get 15 different curriculum bundles for less than $15 each! Some incredibly talented teachers have come together to bring you Science, Reading, Language Arts, Interactive Notebooks, Planners, Math Centers, Social Studies Units, Reading Comprehension Units, Clip-art & more! You're sure to find something during this amazing sale!

Here's just a sample of the awesome curriculum and activity packs that are on the site--
  our very own Totally Sweet Math Centers by Tabitha has a bundle in this deal that you're sure to love! 











Thursday, September 18, 2014

Monkey diary in English and Spanish FREEBIE

Hello friends!
   I am excited to share with you something that my kinder kids love, and that could work with older grades too. This is all you need:

 Yes, I’ve had the “monkey theme” for the past four years (and I plan to have it for a few more). Magically, my students started to bring me a lot of “monkey stuff”, including stuffed animals, so I decided to use them during and after class.

        I use them during class when it’s reading time and they don’t have a reading buddy. They simply go to the library, take a “friend” and read to them. It also works when I am busy talking to another student. I tell them to say it to the monkey first (and they really do!). That gives me time to finish the conversation. There is also another way I have used them. I had a student at the beginning of the year that would cry constantly because she didn't want to come to school. I told the student that our monkey was also nervous about coming to class, and that she was responsible for making sure he was okay, because I wanted him to know that he was safe in school. 

She started taking the monkey everywhere and I mean everywhere (bathroom, lunch, recess, etc). Our monkey even had a special place in P.E. I decided it worked but I didn’t want her to carry the monkey the whole day, every day. I decided I had to take it away, so I started a journaling activity.

This is how I started it:
1. The students picked five monkey friends from the classroom.
2. They named all the monkeys. A whole group activity.
3. I created the diary (duck tape on the spiral for durability):

4.  Created a few guidelines:

5. I send home every Friday, but only those who have not been on yellow the whole week can take them home. I love how it helps as a motivator for good behavior! 
6. Students share on Monday what they did with the monkeys.
Did I mention I also send a small snack(left over from the week)? I tell them that it is for the monkeys and one of my students actually brought the snack on Monday. He said the monkey was not really hungry. How cute! 

Would you like to use it in your classroom? Click here. 

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

She Works Hard for the Money!

This is a post about MONEY.   I know that most of our posts are explicitly about what goes on in our classrooms, teaching strategies, and issues related to education.

However, I know that a teacher's personal life and stress level *does* affect the lives of his or her students in the classroom.  When I am stressed out about life, I know that my students feel that stress and that this does impact the work that they do.  It is important for me to simplify my life and to help alleviate the stress that can come from a lack of dinero. 

Here are some tips and tricks that I have been using to help me.

1.) Sunday Cooking Parties and Strategic Grocery Trips
I have found that it is extremely difficult for me have enough self-control to not stop somewhere on my way to or from work to grab some overly-priced foods.  Therefore, I get four of my friends together on Sunday nights and each of us makes four servings of a healthy meal for everybody to share.  I go home each Sunday evening and I have 16
healthy meals, plus any food leftover from the meal that I made myself.

This saves me A TON of both time and money.  I scour the grocery store advertisements for foods that are on sale.  I also use the Checkout 51 App (See description below!) and plan my meal accordingly.  After I know exactly what I am cooking for my meal, I go to and see if there are any coupons to print for the specific foods that I need.  This has been a lifesaver, and my food budget has gone down IMMENSELY!

2.) Helpful Apps
Checkout 51 -
This is an app that allows the user to take a picture of their receipt from a shopping trip and get rebates on specific items. I have been using this app for about a month now and my account is up to $12.00.  Once I hit $20.00, I can cash out.  Some of the items are for brands that are a little bit harder to find, but there are ALWAYS rebates on items that are staples and that I buy almost every week anyway!  A gallon of milk (any brand) is always on there for 50 cents or a dollar back.  Tomatoes and bananas, two foods I always buy, are also always on there.

Last week, the app offered rebates for spinach, black beans, tortilla chips, and jalapeno slices.  Of course, I decided that making southwest salads was a great idea that week!

Mint -
It is sometimes difficult for me to keep track of bills, payments, and budgets.  When I downloaded the mint app, I linked it to my bank accounts and to the loans that I have out.  I also set a budget for various categories, such as eating out, entertainment, and groceries. If I am getting close to my monthly budget, I get a text notification.  There is also a "goals" section where you can set a goal and track your progress.  This has been very effective for me. 

Yes, I seriously have duct-taped my debit card to the wall in my house and have vowed to leave it there for a whole week.  I put cash in an envelope solely for gas and emergency.  If I don't have my card on me, I can't use it!

4.) Budgeting, budgeting, budgeting....
I have been writing down EVERY LAST PENNY on a budget sheet I got from a financial advisor who did a presentation at work.  When I typed in "budget sheets" on google,
many options came up.

Get your kids started early thinking about money with my activity "Fruit Market Fun!

Set up a fruit market in your Kindergarten, First, or Second Grade classroom and have your students practice buying the fruit with money.  You can find it here!