Sunday, April 30, 2017

Independent Reading Challenge FREEBIE!

                             
                                   Although the school year is coming to an end, you may already
be thinking about what areas of learning you might approach differently next year with your students. For me one year, it was independent reading. 

I have always been a firm believer that to practice and improve reading skills, students should read independently both in and out of school. Part of my classroom's daily routine was a twenty minute independent reading time. We called it SQUIRT, an acronym for Sustained, Quiet, Independent Reading Time. 

To help my students remember what the letters stood for, we reviewed the meanings of the words. In addition, we practiced the words with an auditory and kinetic routine described below. 


  • First, making a sweeping motion from left to right with our arms, we chanted, "SUSTAINED! Over a period of time!"
  • Then we placed an index finger to our lips and whispered, "QUIET!"  
  • Next, we stood at attention with our arms by our sides and shouted, "INDEPENDENT! On my own and by myself!"
  • When we called out "READING!", we put our hands side by side and palm up to represent an opened book.
  •  Finally, we looked at our left arm and touched our pretend wristwatch and chanted, "TIME!"  
For the first couple of weeks of school, we would practice our chant at the beginning of SQUIRT time. Also, for homework students were required to perform our acronym for their parents before reading at home. Prior to SQUIRT officially starting in our classroom, my students and I brainstormed what SQUIRT should look like and came up with a set of guidelines to help us focus on our reading. Initially, I modeled those guidelines and then asked for volunteers to model. Then the entire class practiced and I observed. If I saw someone not focused, I stopped the reading and gathered the students to review the guidelines.  Eventually, the result was during SQUIRT, students grabbed their independent reading books and usually a pillow, staked a spot on the floor or remained in their seats, and silently read. 

Although this routine was a success, what I noticed over time was that some of my students were not making good reading choices. Some chose books that were too easy or too hard, and overall the literary quality and complexity of the books were wanting. I came to the realization that students needed guidance on book selection. As a result, I created the Pirate Independent Reading Challenge. 

First, I made lists of quality children's books in the following genres: realistic fiction, fantasy, and historical fiction.  Over the next few weeks, I introduced some of these books to the students. I gathered the students to our meeting area and presented a book or two each day. I shared with them the front cover, read the publisher's summary, and read a chapter usually from the middle of the book. Often there were students who were familiar with some of these books, and I would ask them to offer their opinions. I left the books out for students to examine on their own during free time or when they had finished daily assignments. By the time I was ready to begin our new policy for selecting independent reading books, the students were ready to make a selection and were excited to begin.



Fortunately, most of the books were available through our school library or were among the many books within our class library. Having provided parents with the lists, many took their children to the public library if the desired book wasn't available at school. Students read these books during SQUIRT and at home. I had already required students to read at home for at least 100 minutes within the school week. The number of reading minutes were recorded on their weekly assignment calendar which had to be signed by their parent and
turned in on Friday. With the newly introduced independent reading policy, students were provided with a reading log and recorded each day the following information: 1) date of reading 2) book title, 3) author, 4) number of pages in the book, 5) page number started on, 6) page number ended on. These logs were also turned in weekly. This allowed me to see how each student was progressing with the selected book of choice. If only a few pages were read daily, I would meet with the student to determine if the book was too difficult or just not enjoyable, and if so, we hunted for a new book. There were times that students found books they wanted to read that were not on the lists. If that was the case and I was not familiar with the book, they brought the book to me for approval. 



Once this routine of the reading log was solidly in place, I introduced the reading journal. Luckily I found a good deal on composition books with unique covers and purchased them for my students. I explained to them that it was important to practice reading skills and to show their comprehension of the books they read. Each week students were given two assignments to complete in their journals. One assignment which was a weekly requirement was to select a word from the reading that was unknown to the reader or a word that they had seen before but did not fully understand. They were required to write the sentence from the book in which the word was used and provide a definition. Also, students drew a picture to help them remember the meaning of the word.

The second assignment varied depending on the comprehension skill focus. For example, to show their understanding of the main character's traits, students made character trait maps using a graphic organizer. As seen in the above example, students were asked to determine the traits of the main character and provide proof from the book. Other skills such as identifying the setting and summarizing were also assigned.

I am happy to say that revising my independent reading program resulted in better book selections, reading skills improvement, and students' enjoyment for reading! 

If interested in utilizing the Pirate Independent Reading Challenge for the next school year, you can download a FREEBIE from my TpT store that will help you with the implementation. Click the picture below for a direct link to this product.




    Thar be treasure in books, matey!



  

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Argh! U.S. Measurement...Plus a FREEBIE!

I realize my banner says: "Language Arts Treasure for the Intermediate Classroom". However, every once in a while I will offer a mathematical gem that I hope you find useful.

U.S. measurements are not easy. In many cases, they are quite frustrating for children and adults alike. I bet you have asked the question: Why don't we use the metric system here in America? I certainly have!

5,280 feet in a mile; 16 ounces in a pound; 8 pints in a gallon! How are we supposed to remember these equivalencies? Well, most of us memorize if we can, and yet the numbers don't often stay with us. Of course, if we use the information frequently or on a regular basis, it will stick with us. But how often do kids use this kind of knowledge? 

Memory techniques such as mnemonics and songs can be effective. When I took piano lessons, I learned the treble clef line notes by reciting this mnemonic-- Every Good Boy Does Fine. I also am able to remember how to spell the word, encyclopedia, after learning a song sung by Jiminy Cricket on the original Mickey Mouse Club TV show! And how many of us have fond memories of School House Rock?

                                          "Conjunction Junction what's your function?"
                                          "Hooking up words, phrases, and clauses." 

(Did you sing along as you read the lyrics?!)






So here is a math gem for you. Math Lessons by NUMBEROCK, a TpT store, has numerous songs and music videos to help you teach math concepts including measurement, both U.S. and metric.






And here's a gallon story, although not technically a mnemonic, found on Pinterest to assist students with U.S. capacity equivalencies. Together the Gallon Castle visual combined with the story of the four Queens is very useful for remembering these unit equivalencies.







Of course, memorization isn't enough. Students need to interact with the measurement equivalencies. One way is to apply those equivalencies to mathematical story problems as in the sample below.





Download this FREEBIE for more of these capacity task cards...



                                           



                                                   
                                                                   

...and here's an additional product that will provide more practice opportunities for your students.





Finally the best learning experience for U.S. measurement equivalencies is real life events. Cooking dinner or baking cookies with Mom or Dad, weighing fruits and vegetables at the grocery store, and helping measure a garden plot in the backyard--these are real experiences that will help those equivalencies stick.

So here's a final gem, No Bake White Chocolate Raspberry Cookies! Have a "no baking day" with your students or send the recipe home for a family chef night! Click on the picture below to link to the Super Healthy Kids website where you will find this recipe and others!


   

Thanks for dropping anchor! Happy Sailing! 
         

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

How a Box Can Inspire the Imagination--Plus a FREEBIE!





Remember imaginary play? Were you a princess or a knight, an astronaut or an alien, a pirate or a cowboy? Whatever you imagined, your day was spent in a fantasy world of so much fun. Jane Yolen’s book, WHAT TO DO WITH A BOX, demonstrates how a box can stimulate imaginary play, something I think all of us, young or old, can relate to.




When I discovered this book, it brought back memories of my family’s move to Arizona. Our daughter was seven years old at the time. We settled in an up-and-coming suburb of Phoenix. Every few weeks a new family moved in. Needless to say, cardboard boxes were abundant!

Our location on a corner in our neighborhood along with a grassy front yard was inviting to children. While parents unpacked, the kids dragged empty packing boxes from garages and gathered in our yard to play. Their imagination and those brown boxes occupied the youngsters for hours.
Once in a while, I would check on them to make sure all was well. What I witnessed were scenes of knights jousting in front of castles, Old West settlers building a new town, or  pirate ships sailing to islands in search of buried treasure. What a wonderful thing a child’s imagination is!

This book has inspired me to pass on to you some ideas to encourage the imagination in your students. So…what to do with a box? Why stimulate the imagination, of course!


Use this FREEBIE in a number of ways to inspire imagination. As a read-aloud it can trigger memories and lead to a discussion about imaginary play which can inspire imaginative writing.
          
This product will help you to make the most of your read-aloud. Four words from the book can be used for vocabulary study. Students are provided with a word list and are encouraged to draw pictures that illustrate the meaning of each word.  There are Word Wall cards to post for continuous review.  A circle map can be used after the reading to brainstorm and list imaginary ways to use a box.

There are two narrative organizers, a tree map for story elements and a flow map for narrative events. Either is a tool for students to outline their imaginative narratives for using a box. Final copy recording sheets are available as well as a Narrative Scoring Checklist that lists what is expected in the writing.

A second writing activity is to compose an additional stanza to Yolen’s poem. Again, final copy recording sheets are provided.
   
Detailed Teaching Tips help you to prepare, implement, and celebrate each of these activities. Finally, there are suggestions for how to utilize a box in your classroom.

Thanks for docking your boat for a while! Happy Sailing!



Saturday, February 4, 2017

Presidents' Day FREEBIE!


Presidents' Day is coming up.  If you're looking for a fun activity that will encourage students' interest in Presidential history, read on.  

First you will need a copy of the book, What Presidents Are Made Of, by Hanoch Piven who is known for collage illustrations. In this particular picture book, the author writes about 18 of our Presidents and reveals interesting and lesser known tidbits which give us insight into the character of these former Commanders-in-Chief.  For example, on Abraham Lincoln's page, Piven says that "PRESIDENTS are made of Humble Pie."  He goes on to explain that Lincoln had a sense of humor and even poked fun at himself.  When called "two-faced", Number 16 responded, "If I had another face, do you think I would wear this one?"

But what makes this book stand out are the collage portraits of these American leaders. Take a look at the book cover below.

 In Lincoln's portrait, one eye is a button from the Civil Rights movement that says, "LET FREEDOM RING."  The other eye is represented by a canon to remind us of the Civil War. The most powerful of symbols, however, are the black chains that are breaking apart, representing the broken chains of slavery.  Clearly this portrait of Lincoln is serious and somber and reminds us of an important milestone in our nation's history.

What you don't see on the cover is Lincoln's other portrait in which he imagines himself as a very cool dude with spiked hair and wearing sunglasses, an American flag earring, and a black leather jacket! Piven has a sense of humor as well!

After sharing this book with your students, allow each to select a president to research.  My recommendation is to have students choose from presidents who are not spotlighted in Piven's book.  In my free product, I provide a list of student-friendly biographical websites and a Presidential Fact Sheet on which to record information.  

Once students know more about their President, have them brainstorm items that could be used to represent his personality.  Then have them sketch ideas for how to use these items in their Presidential Portraits.  The next step will be collecting the paraphernalia needed.  Each student could be given the responsibility of locating these things for their own portrait, or you might compile a list to be sent home to parents asking for donations.  Sturdy card stock or tag board and lots of glue will be required to support these portraits!

When students have completed their works of art, do a "museum walk" to share the Presidential portraits and information.  Have students clear their desk tops and place their portraits and Presidential Fact sheets there.  Students will rotate from desk to desk to read the fact sheets and view the portraits.  When the viewing is done, have students return to their seats and ask the class for the most interesting or unusual facts they learned as they walked through the Presidential Museum.  You might also post the students' art and research on a hallway wall. (See the photo below.)  

When I utilized this activity with my 3rd graders, it was an historical moment in that the first African American president was elected.  We chose to make portraits of President Obama.  The following items were collected: pretzels, ginger snaps, licorice, Chiclets, pom poms, and stickers of basketballs, pineapples, and stars.  Each student created her own unique portrait of our 44th President.  These were hung in the hall to share with our school mates.  I sent a picture of the Obama gallery and a class letter to the President wishing him well.  In response we received a copy of the official presidential photo which I framed and hung in the classroom to the delight of the students!

Click the Presidents' Day FREEBIE cover to download from my TpT store.  Included in this product are:


• Teaching Tips
• Presidential Fact Sheet printable
• President Book List for children
• President Biography Websites for students                      
• Vocabulary and Idiom List
• Photo Sample of previous student collages
• “What Presidents Are Made Of” Book Cover Photo
• Hail to the Chief Sign to display with students’ art work




Click the below illustration for another Presidents' Day related product you might find useful.



HAPPY PRESIDENTS' DAY!
from the Pirate Queen





Wednesday, January 18, 2017

Pirates, Grammar, and FREEBIES!

Everyone needs a grammar review every now and then, even pirates!
Oops! I mean especially pirates! After all, we do seem to have a problem
with the verb, "to be".

A year after I retired, I broke my right foot. (After so many years sea bound, it was difficult to walk like a landlubber!) Having to be confined to quarters for a quite a while, I contacted my 4th grade teammates begging them to give me something to work on. As it turned out, they requested teaching units to cover the 4th grade Common Core grammar standards. Of course, there were class sets of language handbooks in their classrooms, and although the adopted basal program included weekly lessons, they didn't completely line up with the CCSS.

So when my mateys threw down the gauntlet, I accepted their challenge!

Now grammar isn't the most fun subject to teach or learn. It also isn't easy to comprehend. I had to come up with some way to grab the students' attention and be able to explain the sometimes complicated grammar concepts in an easy way to understand. What I needed were Super Heroes! Who doesn't like Super Heroes? Superman, Batman, Ironman, Captain America, Thor! Muscles and brains! Of course, I didn't really need too much muscle, but I did need brains. As a result, the Super Grammar Kids were created.



I'm not an artist so I went in search of Super Hero clipart. There were lots of choices on TpT, but as soon as I came across ReviDevi's kiddo heroes, I knew I had found my Super Grammar Kids.


Included in each grammar unit bundle is a slideshow to introduce and explain the grammar concept. The slides are interactive to keep students focused and engaged. Below is one animated slide from the Modal Auxiliaries unit explaining how "can" is used as a modal auxiliary.  Notice in the last slide illustration that students are asked to share with their partners something they "can" do.
                                                 


                                               


These next slide examples provide practice in using modal auxiliaries.


















Another component of the units are practice activities such as Sorts, Task Cards, and Games. For example, included in the Modal Auxiliary unit is a board game, Modals Magic Carpet Ride, in which students compete to be the first to arrive at Modal City by selecting the correct modal auxiliaries to complete sentences. Most units also include an assessment. 


This school year I am busy working on the 3rd grade Common Core grammar standards. You lucky readers can download these Grammar Freebies from my TpT store! While there check out the unit bundles: Noun Jobs, What are Verbs?, and Modal Auxiliaries Bundle. Click on the images below.


























So glad you dropped anchor for a while! Happy Sailing!

Friday, December 2, 2016

Pirate Holiday Books, Prepositional Phrases, and a HOLIDAY FREEBIE!

                         Happy Holidays, Mateys! 

If ye be looking for some fun pirate holiday books to read to your students, I have a few suggestions for you. 

Many children are familiar with the poem, "Twas the Night Before Christmas", written over one hundred ninety years ago.  It begins...

                        "Twas the night before Christmas when all through the house, 
                                    Not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse." 

Now let's put a little pirate spin on it...

                                    "Twas the night before Christmas aboard the Black Sark.
                                              Not a creature was stirrin', not even a shark!



This is from A Pirate's Night Before Christmas by Philip Yates. Santa doesn't visit pirates, but Sir Peggedy does! He's not dressed in red but he's "dressed all in black from head to his heels, an' his clothes are all covered with seaweed an' eels." The narrator of this poem is not a father. Instead it is told by the cabin boy who fears Sir Peg has forgotten his present when a treasure map lands in his lap!

                                                                    

Mr. Yates has given us another pirate holiday read with his version of A Pirate's Twelve Days of Christmas. On the first day of Christmas, pirates are not sent "a partridge in a pear tree". They prefer "a parrot in a palm tree"! Also, they don't settle for five measly gold rings. They get "5 chests of gold", of course! There are no "ladies dancing", but there are "mermaids singin'"! What fun you'll have singing this song with your students!




Baking cookies and leaving some for Santa to snack on after he lays out all the presents under the tree are Christmas traditions that many of us share. Author Kristin Kladstrup celebrates these traditions in her book, The Gingerbread Pirates. 



We're familiar with the Gingerbread Man who comes to life, but how about a gingerbread man who becomes Captain Cookie who must rescue his crew, The Gingerbread Pirates, who are jailed inside a glass cookie jar. He has to hurry because there's some guy named Santa who wants to eat them!

                                                                            **********

Like most teachers, I did my best to make every minute of the day a learning moment, even during the holidays! If you're a little like me, try out the FREEBIE below, Prepositional Phrases Hunt and Bingo Game inspired by The Gingerbread Pirates


Prepositional phrases may be introduced in 3rd grade in some curricula. Common Core places the concept in the 4th grade Language standards. If your students have been taught the structure of a prepositional phrase, then you will find this product useful.

After reading the book to your students, have them share with partners a family holiday or cookie tradition. Then remind your students that pirates love to hunt for treasure, and so they will go on a treasure hunt for prepositional phrases used in the book. Distribute copies of text pages from the book to partners of two or three. They will reread the pages you assign them and hunt for prepositional phrases which they will transcribe onto a recording sheet.  Once the phrases are located, listed, and reviewed, play the Prepositional Phrase Bingo game. (As part of the review, be sure to have students identify the preposition and the object of the preposition.) 

The provided Bingo Board is blank. Students will write the phrases on the blank spaces as you read them. Each student chooses where to place the phrases so no board  will be the same. Then mix up the phrases you read to the students and call them out one at a time until someone has a Bingo, five in a row vertically, horizontally, or diagonally. (You will have to supply students with tokens of some type to place on a phrase when it is called out. Cut up little squares of card stock to use. Also centimeter cubes and pennies will do                                                         the job!)











Here are other products from my TpT store 
that provide instruction, practice, review,
and assessment for prepositional phrases.





                                        
Thanks for taking the time to visit! Enjoy your upcoming shore leave! Let's rendez-vous here in January when our lives have calmed down!



Friday, November 18, 2016

Write a Pirate Story...Read on to Discover a FREEBIE!

                                    
                                              
In my pirate themed classroom, my students and I gave ourselves pirate names. The idea came from a pirate book that went home with a student and never made its way back to
school! No surprise there. After all, it was a pirate classroom!

The author of the missing book had a formula for creating a pirate name which I believe was based on Treasure Island's notorious character, Long John Silver. First, you select a word that describes one of your personality or  physical traits. In this case, Long for the pirate's height. Next, you use your given name such as John. Finally, choose something bright and shiny like Silver.

My pirate name is Sweet-tooth Linda Ruby (Sweet-tooth, I love chocolate; Linda, my given name; Ruby, my birthstone)!

Once we had our pirate aliases, we greeted each other every morning with our pseudonyms and chanted our pirate mantra, "We are the Pirates of Perrine! Discover the knowledge! Yo! Ho!"


As a strong advocate of tying together the various curricula taught within a classroom, I combined our study of maps, geographic physical features (isthmus, strait, gulf, etc.), and geographic human features (equator, hemispheres, harbor, etc.) with the literacy standard of writing a narrative (ELA-Literacy.W.3.3, 4.3, 5.3). As a result, my young pirates constructed grid maps for a "Treasure Island" that included those required geographic features as well as the location of buried pirate booty. In addition, they wrote directions on how to reach the treasure using coordinates. 

A third component of this unit was writing a narrative about a pirate who ran into obstacles as she, or he, protected a valuable prize. Of course, the main characters of the stories were given our own pirate names making us, the writers, part of the narrative!

Here's how we went about writing our stories:

Week 1-- Throughout the week I read a variety of pirate picture books to my students, and
                 together we constructed an anchor chart on the narrative elements. For each story
                 read, we identified the important characters and discussed their roles in the story. 
                 In addition to describing the setting, we talked about its influence on what 
                 happens in the narrative. We established the conflict and reviewed the different
                 ways the main character attempted to resolve it. Finally, we determined the
                 solution.

Weeks 
2&3--       Students were provided with a Narrative Elements map, and I modeled how to use
                 it. I began with the main character who was based on me. I describe my
                 character's physical features and discussed a few of her personality  traits. Then I
                 moved on to the villain. Once I was finished with my ideas for my characters, I
                 gave them the opportunity to think about theirs and to fill out the character
                 portion of the map. I proceeded in the same manner for all of the narrative
                 elements. 
                           




                 When students were ready to begin their drafts, I modeled how I might start. I also
                 made sure they understood that  the main character is introduced, a setting is
                 identified, and little bit of the problem appears early in the story. 

Week 4-- I am a fan of the Six Traits of Writing so for each major writing project I pick a
                 trait for our focus. Once the drafts are finished, we begin to revise for the
                 identified trait. I usually give students the opportunity to pair up and give
                 feedback to each other. When revisions are completed, students move on to
                 editing for spelling, capitalization, and punctuation. Final copies may be 
                 handwritten or typed on the computer. Names are drawn and those students are
                 given the opportunity to read their stories to the class. Another option is to pair
                 up students or place them in groups of three to read to each other. One of my
                 favorite ways to share is to visit a younger class and read the stories to them.  

For more directions for this writing project along with a printable copy of the Narrative Elements Map, final copy response sheets, as well as a scoring checklist, click below to download this Freebie from my TpT store.
                           


Thanks for dropping anchor to visit my blog. You're welcome any time, me heartie!