Sunday, May 31, 2015

The Last Week of School

MCA and NWEA testing is finally over. Thank goodness! Testing season is so taxing on the children and teachers. While it's tempting to stop teaching and show a movie every day (it's true, I walked by a few classrooms last week where they showed a movie every single day), I think it's important to keep those little ones actively engaged in learning up until the very last day of school. I'm impressed by all the teachers that use this time to fully immerse their children in fun projects, something we don't always have time for before state testing. Our wonderful ELL teacher, Ms. Christine Brinkman, had one of the third grade classrooms create a diorama showcasing their favorite story from our National Geographic REACH curriculum. Our students can only be creative if you give them the opportunity to be creative. And boy did they run with this project! Here are a few examples of the amazing student work:

Ms. Ashley Eichhorn and I had our students make pinatas after reading The Pinata Maker by George Ancona. It was such a mess, but sometimes it's just necessary to let the kiddos be a little messy. The pinatas turned out nicely!

To prevent the dreaded summer slide, we sent home an 8-week summer packet with each of the students. Each day the students will have five math and five literacy problems to complete. Depending on the student, each page will only take about 10-15 minutes to complete so it's just enough daily spiral review to help them retain what they have learned, but won't take up too much of their summer fun time. If the student brings back the packet completed during the first week of school, they will get a reward from their teacher.

Are you looking for a free summer packet to send home with your students? Or are you looking for a free summer packet to use with your own child? You can have a 5-day summer packet sample for students going into first grade, second grade, third grade, or fourth grade for FREE!

Or you can purchase the full 40-day summer packet for students going into first grade, second grade, third grade, or fourth grade. Either one you choose, parents and students will be delighted!

Four more days until summer break! I cannot wait to lay by my pool with a good book and summer cocktail!

Happy summer everyone!


Sunday, May 10, 2015

The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl

I cannot believe I'll be wrapping up my ninth year of teaching in 17 days. Now that we have completed our state testing, we can spend the last four weeks with our kiddos, stress-free. While we are without the stress of tests, I still put a lot of pressure on myself to ensure the students are still actively engaged with fun and thorough lessons.

I struggled all year to motivate the boys in my third grade reading intervention group. They're all very sweet boys and would always do what was asked of them, but I could always tell they were never genuinely interested in the lessons. I tried so many different approaches to actively engage them, but nothing seemed to work. Finally, we started a book unit with The Magic Finger by Roald Dahl and that seemed to do the trick. I had to use binder clips to remind the students where to stop reading, otherwise, a couple of the kiddos may have read the entire book in one night.

All of my students in this reading intervention group are ELL so we had to spend a lot of time with vocabulary words from the book. We defined and explored the first six vocabulary words before reading the book using various activities. The students used dictionaries to write the definition of each word. They also played charades and completed worksheets and puzzles for further practice. After reading the first two parts, I repeated the same process for the last six vocabulary words.

I read the first part of the book out loud to the students and then guided them through the first comprehension worksheet. I always teach and model how to complete the first comprehension worksheet so the students know some strategies for how they will complete the rest of the comprehension worksheets independently. Since the students are responsible for reading each part of the book independently, these worksheets are perfect to check to see if they read carefully. If they did, then they should get majority of the questions correct.

After giving the students the task of reading the second part and completing the corresponding comprehension worksheet, I was thrilled to see the students leaving my classroom with their noses deep in the books.

After reading part four (pages 30-39) my kiddos had a spontaneous discussion about the advantages and disadvantages of having wings instead of arms, just like the Greggs. This gave me the idea to lead the students in an activity to explore how difficult it would be to eat an apple without arms. So I brought in apples and had the students attempt to eat the apples without their hands. They had a blast trying. The kiddos and I couldn't stop laughing. It was a riot! It got a little gross when they laughed with a mouthful of apples and bits of it were flying everywhere, but I'm glad they enjoyed it. After a few minutes of trying, I let them finish their apples with their hands as they discussed and wrote in their journals what it was like to eat an apple without any hands.

We finished the book unit in about a week and a half. The last activity involved choosing one of the writing prompts as shown below. I'll post their writing piece as soon as they are finished. I told the boys we would be starting the new book unit in a few days and they actually cheered! I was elated!

Four more weeks until summer vacation! When does the school year end for you?