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Aug 27, 2015

Guided Reading

Those that have never taught are prone to think teaching a child to read is simple, yet it really takes skill and meticulous planning! I LOVE teaching guided reading and have had the privilege of attending several PD courses on the subject! Of all the different professional development courses I have completed, the one based off Jan Richardson’s The Next Step in Guided Reading was surely my favorite.  She is a guided reading guru and has such simple, practical advice that makes all the difference and has revolutionized my instruction!

After attending a training, I began implementing a 3 day guided reading model in which kids read for two days and write on the third. Here is a snap shot of my guided reading and a few helpful video links and resources from Jan Richardson herself!

Day 1: Introduce the guided reading book, have students take a picture walk, ask probing questions and pre-teach tier 3 vocabulary words. All of this seems simple, but to be done effectively, takes time and planning! Of course, it becomes more second nature over time, but it does take time!

I found this video to be very enlightening, seeing it modeled by Jan Richardson is very helpful!

After the book is introduced the students read quietly and I listen to each child read individually. There is a consistent routine established that if they finish the book early, they read it again! No down time here! Our limited time is too precious!

Day 2: Students re-read the book and answer specific comprehension questions that I target for them. For example, if we were reading the book Tony Baloney by Pam Munoz Ryan & Erwin Fotheringham, we might be focusing on making inferences and I would have assigned specific pages where they make an inference and document it with a sticky note! At the end of the session, students will share an inference that they made that day with a partner or the group, time dependent!

Day 3: Guided Writing! This is AMAZING because the ELA block just goes too quickly and my guided writing groups often take a hit! During the third day, I have a pre-determined writing prompt that pertains to the skill we have been working on within the book we've been reading. 

For example, a prompt may look like this: “On page 4 & 5 it says, ‘Tony Baloney does not love trouble…but trouble loves him.’ What do you think this means? Use text based evidence to support your thinking.” 

Students will then write their response, edit their response using a checklist and then draw a picture with details if they have time at the end. We have done a mini-lesson at the beginning of the year to establish that the purpose of drawing a detailed picture is to help generate more ideas for their writing. This allows me to rotate around the table giving quick conferences, meeting each child’s individual writing needs!

Here is another link to a video by Jan Richardson teaching guided writing after her students finished their guided reading book! I hope it can help bring the concept to life for you!

Again, this is my own SPIN on guided reading/guided writing but it is largely based off Jan Richardson’s work! She really is a pro! 

Depending on what type of funding you have in your district, the accessibility of multiple copies of leveled books may be difficult! I have created some leveled reading passages with comprehension passages aligned to the common core, here is a freebie if you are interested! It works well with the two days of reading, one day of writing model!

Allison is born and raised in Western, New York. She feels fortunate to teach in one of the top public schools in the country! She's a proud wife and Momma of a beautiful baby girl who was born in Spring 2014. She loves Jesus, teaching and family time!

Aug 23, 2015

Inspiring Creativity in Visual Arts Lessons

Inspiring Creativity in Visual Arts Lessons.
Many people believe that creativity is naturally a part of Visual Arts lessons, this is not so, do not be fooled by it falling under the Creative Arts umbrella. Creativity by definition means to be original and to use your imagination – most visual arts lessons are step by step, the student follows what the teacher or a set of instructions tells them and the student’s artworks all look the same in the end. This values the product of their artwork over the creative processes, this does not encourage them to use their imagination, think outside the box and be original.

This is not to say there isn’t a place for structured arts lessons; it teaches students specific techniques such as how to use a medium they may not be familiar with, it benefits students who are overwhelmed by choice/open tasks and are important lessons for studying and responding to famous artists. I teach a whole unit of structured lessons on the colour wheel, colour mixing and Wassily KandinskyThe aim of this post is not to discredit structured art lessons, but to provide ideas and inspiration for how to increase your student’s ability to think creatively. Some of the ideas can be applied to structured lessons.

My students’ re-imagination of Kandinsky’s concentric circles

Miss W’s tips for CREATIVE arts lessons:
  1. Think of art as an opportunity to explore and create. Students should learn new techniques but be free to explore, be creative and make pieces of art that are unique. The artwork they create may not be aesthetically pleasing to the adult eye but your student should feel ownership over their artwork.
  2. Demonstrate the whole process rather than teach a lesson step by step. When you demonstrate how to create an artwork, you are scaffolding the students thinking and providing stimulus for their imagination. I have the whole class watch me create an artwork from start to finish – using narration to discuss what I am doing and why, as well as integrating metalanguage such as colour, composition and harmony. Once I have finished I put my artwork away and allow students to create their own version of the artwork. Many will be similar, that’s ok, those students are not ready to be independently creative, and others will surprise and surpass your expectations!
  3. Provide students with reference material. Provide students photographs to create their artwork from, all art is one person’s view or opinion of reality.
  4. Get rid of erasers and do-overs. Visual arts is layered, if students make a mistake encourage them to work it into their artwork, make their artwork better by expanding it or taking it in a new direction. There is no mistake merely an opportunity to change and make their work better than before.

  1. Mount their work and present it nicely. Showing students you value their artwork will give them confidence to take risks and experiment in their artworks.
  2. Create a body of work. Allow students to build on their artworks, Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is a good art work. Complete the artwork over a couple of lessons, adding more textures or colours.
  3. Play music. Playing music can calm the room and distract the brain, when I play classical music I find my Year 1’s slow down and take their time.

Let’s see it in action!  
I only recently started teaching my students using the product over process ethos, admittedly I was nervous to let go of the control and pass it over to my students, I am more than pleased with the results. This term we are studying Australian animals and landscapes. My students found the thought of skipping pencils and going straight to pens daunting but I believe it made them take a lot more care. They were given a picture of a banksia and asked to study it – look at the lines, the shape and the size. Then to sketch that picture onto a piece of white paper. Each student had a different picture and they were allowed to choose which picture they wanted to use – again giving them ownership over their creation.
The banksia pictures were replicated on black card using coloured pencils and with oil pastels on art paper with edicol dye wash.
Same concept with Lizards:

The next step is for the lizards to be painted, using a chalk outline technique – students draw an outline of their lizard on a large piece of black card. Students fill all the spaces and the background using quality acrylic paint. Once the paint is dry rub off the chalk, leaving a black outline. Then the lizard will be recreated in a 3D form with air drying clay.

Establishing a creative and positive classroom:
Encourage students to look at each other’s art and discuss what they like about it, it reinforces to students that their art is valued and creates a positive atmosphere for art making. Praise specific parts of student’s artworks and encourage their efforts and the time they are taking to create their masterpiece!

The take home message?
Take a step back, allow students imaginations run wild and enjoy the ride! Children’s creativity is endless and if you let them take the reins they will truly amaze you!

About Me:
My name is Miss W and I am a teacher in Australia. I studied Early Childhood, meaning I specialise in teaching Kindergarten to Year 2 students. I currently teach Year 1 and I love it! Teaching infants is a passion of mine, it’s such a crucial age – at this age they will lose their first teeth, start to determine their personality, build lasting friendships, form the foundations for their numeracy and literacy learning and most importantly their teachers at this age can either build a love of learning and create a curious mind or they can create a negative attitude to schooling that can take years to adjust. I aim to be the kind of teacher that always excites, inspires and sparks a light in the students I teach!

Photo Credit:

Aug 18, 2015

FLASH FREEBIE - Back to School Activities GAMES Collection!

The Flash Freebie is going on RIGHT NOW!  (until 8 PDT)  "Beginning of the Year Activities - Games Collection!" will be listed as FREE!

Aug 17, 2015

10 Tips for using TEACHER BINDERS and Free Binder Resources!

teacher binders

     Hey everyone! So I have been busy designing more teacher binder resources after receiving such great feedback on my first binder bundle! I did however receive some suggestions for the next set of binders. My first set was NOT very printer friendly! :( Even though I loved the design, it was heavy on the black ink. The binder bundles are over 300+ pages so you could see why it would be a good idea to use lighter, more printer-friendly colors!

So this new design is mostly white with hints of gold glitter, peach, and mint colors!

If you would like to read my TOP TEN TIPS for utilizing teacher binders in the classroom (and check out the first binder bundle design), you can read about them here!

Here are the free binder resources that you can use to start building your own teacher binder!

teacher binder freebie

teacher binder freebie

teacher binder free resource

teacher binder freebie

teacher binder freebie

teacher binder organization

teacher binder ideas

Let me know what you guys think about the new design! Do you like the printer friendly colors rather than the black or do you miss the bold design? 

Aug 13, 2015

Making History Come Alive!

Making history come alive is one of my favorite parts about teaching social studies. If the kids can see a historic location in real life or speak to someone who lived through a world changing event, the topic becomes so much more interesting and meaningful to them rather than reading about it and answering worksheet questions. One of my most popular ways of making history come alive is to re-create trench warfare during our World War 1 unit. I have done this for 3 years now, and each year it is a smidge different based on the personality of my students, the size of my classroom, and the time available. What I describe below are the general guidelines for this to work well in any classroom. The great thing about this activity is you can totally customize it to each group of students. Since you're in charge, there's really no "script" to follow. If you decide to stop early so the students can write a reflection paragraph, go for it. If you want to have booming and crashing war type sounds in the background the kids would definitely feel more in the historical moment.

  DISCLAIMER: you should only do this with students you can trust (there was one period last year I did not do this with because I couldn't trust them to completely lose control). Your kids WILL get rowdy, it WILL be really loud, and paper balls WILL be thrown, but they will LOVE it!

The Prep Work 

1. I start prepping the "ammunition" a week or two ahead of time. I had students help me the last few minutes of each class ball up scrap paper to use as the ammunition that they'd be throwing at each other (they didn't know what it was for though). I had 2 huge garbage bags full and that seemed to work well with classes ranging from 32-38 kids. Before the kids came in the room I emptied one bag of ammo evenly in each trench.

 2. The day before the re-creation, I tell my kids them that the room will look very different the next day because we will be re-creating trench warfare. They immediately get excited and start asking questions but all I do is divide them up into the two alliances so we can start right away the next day. I then tell them to come to class ready to listen to the instructions tomorrow.

 3. Before school starts the day of the re-creation, divide the desks in your classroom lengthwise on opposite sides of the room, this will be your "barbed wire" and the empty floor in the middle of the room will be no-man's land. The desks can be sitting up normally or with the legs in the air, it will depend on what you'll be doing the next period. The “trench” the students will be in is the space between the chairs and the wall.

 4. I hang images of real signs that were in the trenches of WWI and images of a re-created trench on each side's wall (I took these pictures at the Imperial War Museum in London).

 5. I write a list of 15 actions I call out to the students. Depending on how it went the first time, I add or take some away for the next period. If it's an action where the "ammo" is being thrown I let that happen for about 10 seconds.

6. In the last 5 minutes of class, I have the students gather up the "ammo" and put an even amount in each bag.

The Activity 

When the students come into the room, they immediately go to their respective trenches and I tell them to get down in the trench for safety.

 Once each trench is settled you can say something like, "It's November 1914, the war is in full swing...let's see what's happening in Battle X between Britain and Germany."

 I then give the kids the following sorts of action prompts and they follow through on them (these are just samples): 

 --5 British troops try crossing no-man's land to kill the German captain, the Germans use gas against them, 3 British soldiers die. (After trying to cross no-man’s land, the "dead" soldiers come stand or sit with me at the front of the room)

 --Britain sends supplies to the front lines, you all get a machine gun, "fire" your guns for 10 seconds at the Germans

--a tank comes rolling at the German trench, you don't know what to do so you shoot at it and waste a lot of bullets

 --it rains for a week, the trench is half flooded, rats eat any food you leave out

--2 soldiers from each trench get their legs amputated due to gangrene….they come off the front lines

--the Germans try storming the British trench with cavalry, it fails, the British shoot 3 horses and kill one soldier

--it's December 1914, the Christmas Truce happens, meet in no-man’s land and sing Christmas Carols, play soccer, and exchange presents --an airplane flies overhead and drops bricks on your trench because it has run out of ammunition

--5 British soldiers attempt a night raid on the German line, one gets stuck in barbed wire, another is bayonetted, one is taken POW, and two are killed by friendly fire trying to make it back to their own trench

--10 German troops try storming the British trench, they are all gunned down by machine fire

--10 British troops try storming the German trench, they are all gunned down by machine gun fire
--the Germans get word that their comrades sank the Lusitania and the British are ecstatic that the Americans are finally entering the war

--both sides take a last ditch effort to win the battle, all the soldiers stand up and shoot their machine guns at the other trench I hope you have the opportunity to try this at least once, it really is a LOT of fun, and in my "end of year feedback" form this is always mentioned as a favorite activity.

Logo Credit to RebeccaB Designs
 Logo Credit to RebeccaB Design
 Stephanie has been a high school history teacher for 4 years and this year will be working with middle school students. She loves reading, traveling, and of course all things history and teaching. Head to her store for history and geography resources or her blog for tips and tricks on classroom organization, getting students engaged and excited about the material, and general stories about teaching history and incorporating travel experiences in the classroom.

Aug 11, 2015

Back to School GIVEAWAY!!!

Who is ready for a 
             BIG Back to School giveaway?! 

For all the hard work teachers do during the beginning of the year, they deserve fabulous prizes

This giveaway might be a little late for some, I know many of you are already back in the classroom! Hope you are enjoying your first few weeks! Even if you are already off to a running start, who doesn't have room for 700+ scented stickers, planners, stamps, notepads, and post-it notes?!?  Be sure to enter so you can win these awesome Back to School prizes!!! 

Enter the giveaway below! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Aug 9, 2015

Getting into Informational Texts

  Getting into Informational Texts, from Classroom in the Middle

     Kids love informational texts, especially when the topic meets one of their interests, and especially when there are lots of colorful pictures! But getting kids to read the texts closely enough to get the most out of them can be the challenging part! There are two things that can help here focusing on text features / structures, and close reading. 

When you want to focus on the text features, a page with several short articles, illustrations, and other graphics works great. For close reading, a single, more in-depth article seems to fit the bill. And anything with an easily recognizable structure - one of the specific structures that kids study - will work for studying text structures.   

Focusing on Text Features and Text Structures 

 Identifying text features is a good place to start because graphics and illustrations seem to be naturally engaging. To practice identifying features, you can use a specific article that you plan to read or even a selection of magazines, but don’t stop with just identifying the features. 
   The next step is for the kids to make use of these text features to gain information. For this, you’ll need one article that is both interesting and at a good reading level for your class. Then, choose one or two features to focus on. Photos with captions and charts or graphs are always good choices. 

Looked at closely, photos often provide details that are not mentioned in the text. Ask students what information they can find in the photo to add to what they learned from reading. 

Charts and graphs are great for detailed information too, and they often add a math connection. And, it is easy to create good compare and contrast questions based on information from even a little chart.    
For text structures, you’ll have to decide whether you want students to look at a whole article or just a paragraph. Sometimes it is easier for kids to determine the structure of a single paragraph, especially if they are still learning the differences between the various structures. Some articles have more than one text structures, and some use structures that are different from the basic types kids usually learn. So, unless your kids are ready to move on, be selective about the passages that you choose for text structure questions.

In addition to identifying text structures, kids can also use the structures to answer questions. They can be asked to compare two items discussed in the article, find the cause of an event, tell what happened before or after, or list descriptive details. All of these questions require the kids to focus on one particular structure.

   Getting into Informational Text, from Classroom in the Middle  

Close Reading 

With close reading, of course, you want the kids to go into more depth with their reading. Some kids balk at the idea of re-reading an article (especially for the third time!) but if given a specific task to accomplish on each reading, they soon get back into the text.   After each reading, kids can mark up the text with one particular goal in mind, too. After the first reading – mark main ideas and supporting details. After the second reading – mark important vocabulary words and unknown words.  After the third reading – mark as needed for any follow-up assignment.   

Using questions that get progressively more complex with each reading gives students a reason to go back a second or third time and read for what they might have missed, or to “read between the lines.” For me, it works better to prepare everything for all three readings ahead of time; that way you can sort out your questions and fit them in with whichever reading fits best.   

 One great thing about informational text – there’s so much great stuff out there! You can always find something that will interest your kids or that will fit in with what they are studying in one of their other classes.   

Getting into Informational Text, from Classroom in the Middle    

A Freebie! 
 Here is a FREE sample informational text resource; this one is a close reading activity for the fall election season with everything needed for three readings. In my Teachers Pay Teachers store, you will find more close reading activities and also informational text activities with magazine-style reading pages, like the one about Pluto in the pictures above.  

Winning the Vote, close reading freebie from Classroom in the Middle

Classroom in the Middle website

 Guest post by Sharon Fabian, from the Classroom in the Middle blog. Sharon has spent over 20 years teaching English, reading, and other subjects to middle school students. She loves having more time now to create and write about resources for teachers – especially materials for teaching reading, vocabulary, and writing to students in grades 4 through 8. Here is the link to her store, also called Classroom in the Middle.    

Aug 2, 2015

Back to School Resources!

Hi everyone!
Where did summer go?! It flew by so quickly! I spent this summer with my fiance planning for our upcoming wedding in November. I just had my bridal shower last week at my sisters and it was perfect!! My sister & sister in law did such an amazing job with the decorations and games... and I'm so thankful for how they've supported me through the whole planning process.

Aaaaand amidst all the wedding excitement, I realize it's
already time for back to school.

How did this happen?!?

 If you're not feeling ready to jump into classroom content,  I recently blogged about fun Beginning of the Year & Back to School activities, you can find it here.. 

I'm so excited to be a part of The TpT Back to School Resources Link Up, hosted by Wise Guys
The link up is also just in time for the Back to School Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers!
 This is the BIGGEST SALE of the year!

In this fun little linkup, I am featuring my favorite Back to School resource as well as my best-selling resource!

Back to School Resource:

Start the year off running with 50 (Yes 50!!!) FUN and COLLABORATIVE Back to School Activities! Provide the opportunity for your students to get to know each other with fun games, team building exercises,  and ice breakers! Common Core Aligned writing activities also included! Find this resource ON SALE during the Back to School TpT Sale Here! 

Best Selling Resource:

This best selling resource was featured in the TpT Newsletter in February of this year!
With Music Around the World (Common Core Aligned) you can provide music and multicultural fun in the classroom!  Great Activities for 3rd-6th Grade.  Students will learn over 30 different musical instruments from Japan, France, India, Spain, Brazil, Africa, Russia, and Italy! There are video links included to see the instruments in action! Find this resource ON SALE during the Back to School TpT Sale Here! 

Do you have a Back to School resource or Best Selling product you would like to share during the BIG TpT Sale? Post in the comment box below! 


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