Thursday, February 28, 2013

More Picture Books and a Chapter Book, too :)

Tonight was my last class with discovering mentor texts and I am actually quite sad it is over.  I couldn't even stay for the entire class tonight because of a prior engagement (this was actually a make-up day from the snow day last Thursday).
I mean don't get me wrong, it'll be nice to have my Thursday evenings back, but I really enjoyed hearing the presentations and learning even more about children's literature.

Even though I had to leave early, I was still able to find some great ideas for mentor texts.

And... I am going to share them with all of you!  Lucky!!! :)

The Quiet Place by Sarah Stewart is a book about a little girl, Isabel, who is moving from Mexico to the United States.  She is very sad at first and misses many things from back home; especially her Auntie Lupita.  This story is told through the letters Isabel writes to her aunt.  At first, the letters have a sad tone, but as she has new experiences, they get much better.
Isabel finds a box which she decorates and thinks of as a quiet place where she feels safe.  Throughout the book she collects more boxes and ends up designing a town which brings a lot of enjoyment to the kids which were invited to her birthday party.

I enjoyed this book because it was written through letters and it shows how Isabel changes throughout the story and learns to adapt to her new home.  Many kids go through similar experiences whether it be moving to America or just moving to a new state or school.

I think I have posted about this one before but I really like this book.

The Librarian from Basra is a true story from Iraq about a time of war and destruction.  Alia fears that her library full of valuable books will be destroyed in the war so she asks the government if she can move them to a safe place.  She is denied, but didn't let that stop her.  She, along with many friends, were able to move every single book to a safe spot just in time.  The library was unfortunately destroyed but luckily the books were safe.

I love this book because it teaches that books are valuable.  Alia tells the government that they are more valuable than a mountain of gold.  She also speaks of the history that would be lost if they are not saved.  It's just a great book and helps the students become aware of other countries and the difficulties they face.

Love, Love, LOVE this book!  This is a chapter book which is written by Natalie Babbitt.  It tells the story of a young girl, Winnie Foster, who is unhappy with her high class life and wishes to run away and find adventure.  When she finally does run away, she encounters a handsome young man, Jesse Tuck, and with him, adventure she definitely finds.  The Tucks are not your normal family.  They drank from a spring (which is what Winnie first spied Jesse doing) which gave them everlasting life.  The Tucks number one goal is to keep this spring secret as they foresee disaster if people find out (We all know that would be the case.).  When Winnie finds out, each member of the Tuck family feel it is necessary to share their personal feelings about having everlasting life.  Most share to warn her against it, but Jesse would love for Winnie to join him in an infinity of adventure.  This is a huge decision for Winnie to make and you might be surprised to find our what she decides.

This book is beautifully written and is perfect for character's point of view, as each character has a story to tell which play a key role in how the story unfolds.

After reading this book with my students, I provided them with a cup of water which would give them everlasting life (not really lol).  We would review each characters' perspective on everlasting life and then they would decide whether to drink or not.  You would think that 5th graders would jump at this opportunity, but surprisingly and thankfully, most dump their water instead of drinking it.

LOVE this book!!!  It was made into a movie which was done quite well but as you all know, the book is ALWAYS better than the movie.  I would always do both. :)

Hope you enjoyed my book shares.  Sorry there weren't very many, but like I said, I had to leave early!
What are some picture books and/or chapter books that you use in your classroom?
Can't wait to hear from you! :)

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Test Taking Strategies

Another snow day today...

Luckily we didn't get near as much snow as was predicted but I guess that means that we will have school tomorrow.  Bittersweet...

With February just about behind us, my district has about a month and half until our state assessment; MAP.
It's like all of sudden, everyone is getting antsy.

With MSIP5, MAP is even more a factor in accreditation which doesn't help the anxiety.

So yesterday I spent some time printing released items off of the DESE website for my testing grade levels.  This will help them provide their students with sample passages and MAP-like questions.

Preparing for state assessments is absolutely necessary, but I feel very strongly that core instruction shouldn't be put aside, for extended periods of time, for test prep; especially with reading instruction.

I would use some time during my guided groups to prepare my students for test taking strategies.  We focused on comprehension skills but also threw in some test taking tips, as I would call them.

First, we would work on answering constructed response questions.  Somewhere along the way I learned a strategy called SLAMS which is an acronym for writing quality constructed response answers.  When trying to look for the source to give credit, I stumbled upon this Prezi which explains SLAMS.

Here are some other test taking tips:

Make a quick overview of the test (is it fiction or nonfiction, what is the title, what illustrations and/or text features are included, etc)
Read the questions first to help you be prepared for reading.
Read the text once all the way through.
Skim the text for key words or phrases from the questions.
Underline and number (according to the questions) the key words or phrases in the text.
Answer the questions (For constructed response use SLAMS.  For selected response, go through each option and eliminate incorrect choices)

For math, we practice problem solving all year.  We use a strategy that I also learned along the way called MAPS.

Mark all important information in the problem.
Application- What operation(s) do you need to use to solve the problem
Problem-  What is the problem you are trying to solve
Solution-  What is the solution?  Does it make sense?

I always liked to throw in an additional S where I would have my students write their answer in a sentence because it is sometimes hard to tell where the answer actually is.

Hope you find these test taking strategies helpful.
What do you use in your classroom to prepare your students for state assessments?


Monday, February 25, 2013


I don't think words can quite paint a perfect picture of this past week!  So I have decided to include lots of pictures.  I know we have been MIA for about a week, but after some of these pics, you might understand why.

Let's start with the weekend before this last one!

Most of my family is from the Kansas City, MO area, but my brother Anthony, who is retired military, lives in Texas.  Anthony, my sisters, and I threw a surprise bridal shower for my niece and a surprise 50th birthday party for my sister-n-law.
Lots of family time and quite a blast!

Then I got to spend some fabulous time with my adorable nieces.  Here is a pic of me with one niece, Audrey, and her game of choice.

Monday came along with a slight cough and me being oh so tired which was to be expected after a busy weekend.

Tuesday was back to work and an exciting surprise from my amazing sister, Theresa, and adorable nieces.  A thank you for being such an important part of their lives.  I should be thanking them because I am so lucky to have them.

With Tuesdays wonderful surprise came also a not so wonderful cough and cold.

I was relaxing on my couch when all of a sudden I heard a loud noise and felt my building rattle just a bit.

"Did a bird hit my window? Did a car hit my building? An aftershock from a nearby earthquake... no can't be."

I looked out the window and everything looked fine.
Guessed it was nothing.
But when I looked again, people were out taking pictures.
So I went out and saw the sky filled with black smoke.

What had happened??
Come to find out, a favorite local restaurant, JJ's, had a gas explosion.
OMG... that was only a few blocks from me!
Many thoughts and prayers go out to the family and friends of the lady who lost her life in the fire as well as to the owners and employees of JJ's.

Back to my cough and cold which led to me leaving work early on Wednesday.  Ugh!!!

Thursday brought a state declared weather emergency... SNOW, SNOW, and more SNOW!!!

Buried in and sick as sick can be brought about quite a difficult day.  But once again, my sister and brother-n-law came to save the day...  She got out in the awful weather and brought me soup and cards from my nieces.  Aren't they amazing?

Friday, I was lucky enough to have wonderful neighbors help dig my car out so that I can go to the doctor.  All I wanted was some miracle antibiotic to make me feel oh so better.
Not so much...  I had some virus that was going around which antibiotics where useful with.
I literally cried when the doctor said that.
Seriously... I did!
She asked me if I was depressed lol.  I said, "No, I've been sick all week and you just told me there was nothing I can take to make me feel better.  So that's what made me cry!!!"
I mean what a disappointment.
So here is what she recommended to treat my symptoms!

Saturday, I finally felt slightly human again and was able to meet up with some friends for dinner, TV, and Phase 10!
Boy did I need that!

And finally...
Went to the store to stock up for yet another snow storm coming tomorrow.  That was a complete mad house!!!

And ended the weekend with friends watching the Oscars! Yeah!!!

How was your week?  Did you get hit by the horrible snow storm? There weren't many warm places out there.
I think Texas had the highest temps with the 60's.
At least from what I saw.

Here's to this week and what it may bring! :)

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Common Core- Multimedia?? Photo Essays??

Does your district have a curriculum based on the Common Core?  Are you trying to figure out the standards all on your own?

I don't know if I have told you this, but I am currently writing the reading and writing curriculum for the 5th grade teachers in my school district.

Your first thought is probably, "Wow, that is so cool!"
And it is...
It can also be quite frustrating and stressful.

Are you a 5th grade teacher??
Do you use multimedia presentations in your classroom??
If so, I would LUUUVVVE to hear from you about 
CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.5.7 Analyze how visual and multimedia elements contribute to the meaning, tone, or beauty of a text (e.g., graphic novel, multimedia presentation of fiction, folktale, myth, poem).

CCR: Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse formats and media, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words.

Here is the standard vertically:

At first, we were thinking multimedia meant movies.
With Common Core 5th grade??
Surely not...
So we decided to look up multimedia.
That helped... 
"As the name implies, multimedia is the integration of multiple forms of media. This includes text, graphics, audio, video, etc."

Our reading and writing units of study are closely linked together.  In writing, the standard is narratives.
We want to do something more than just write a personal narrative or a memoir.

So after listening to Matt Glover present on writing workshop tonight he mentioned something that was completely unknown to me.

Photo Essays...  Have you heard of this?  Have you used this?
I understand what they are, I guess. Lol  

This is a definition I found from Digital Photography School website.
A photo essay is very simply a collection of images that are placed in a specific order to tell the progression of events, emotions, and concepts.

Since we are working with literature in reading, we were thinking we could make the writing fictional photo essays, but we are having a difficult time find samples.
And Matt Glover is all about the "Stacks" to create a vision for the students to write.

There is just a lot of unknown...

Have you taught this standard yet?
Have any suggestions for me?

I would love to hear what you all are doing with this.
Thank you :)

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Common Core- Text Structure

Digging deeper into Common Core: RI5

One of my goals this school year is to REALLY learn the ELA standards; what they mean as well as how to take them to a more rigorous level.  In an earlier post, Digging Deeper into each Standard, I dove into the world of RL6.

In this post, I want to look at RI5 which deals with text structure.  I find it helpful to look at the College Career Readiness standard first because that is our ultimate end goal.

CCR: Analyze the structure of texts, including how specific sentences, paragraphs, and larger portions of the text (a section, chapter, scene, stanza) relate to each other and the whole.

Now for the standards K-8.  Looking at the vertical piece is extremely helpful because you can see how the standards build upon each other.

Now to dive deeper...  
A great start would be a quote from Lucy Calkins' Pathways to the Common Core: Accelerating Achievement.  I am currently reading this book and it has some great information about the ELA standards.
"To analyze structure, do this: Look back over the text, and ask yourself if you could divide it into parts.  Look at the text as if you were in a plane, flying above it.  Instead of seeing fields divided by a ribbon of roads, you see paragraphs.  Think about the meanings in those paragraphs, about the different sort of work that is being done in one part of the text, another, and another.  Ask what each part does."
- Lucy Calkins

I really liked this analogy. :)

So text structure is more than identifying whether it is a compare, chronology, problem/solution, etc.  It is about how a text is shaped to help a reader better understand the information.  It is about preparing your brain to take in knew information by looking at structure (cover to cover, text features, sections, paragraphs etc.)  Authors are very strategic in how the set up their information.  There is a purpose to what is included and how it is arranged which, when carefully thought about, plays a huge role in comprehension of nonfiction texts.

Here are some resources I provided for my teachers to help them understand and teach text structure.

Hope this information is helpful.  I would love to hear from all of you.  How have you taught this standard?  What resources help you understand the new Common Core State Standards?

Antoinette :)

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Quotes for the Day

So I have to do a SUPER QUICK post because I am suppose to be at Emily's Mardi Gras party like at 3. Sorry Emily- lol
LOVE YOU!!!! ;)

I love quotes and found some on Pinterest that were to cute not to share and some inspirational ones that everyone should know.

First-  WAY TOO CUTE! lol

Next- If only everyone could feel this way...  Especially our students.

Third- This is SO TRUE!!!

Last- This COMPLETELY describes me...

Just thought I post some quotes to make you think!  Hope you enjoy them! :)

Friday, February 8, 2013

Top 5 Favorite Picture Books

Need some more picture book ideas?  Getting tired of reading the same books that everyone else is reading?  Well I had class again tonight and as I stated last week, I am going to tell you about my top 5 picture books that were shared tonight.

It is such an amazing class because we all either get paid or earn PGC (professional growth) hours for reading and learning about great books to use during reading and writing workshop.  Pretty sweet huh?

So my top 5 picture books tonight are... (drum roll)

Wild Child by Lynn Plourde

I might have shared this book before, but it is worth repeating.  It is a book about Mother Nature and seasons changing.  Wild Child is a great book for making inferences, asking and answering questions, and how illustrations enhance the meaning and beauty of a text.  Those skills are what I have used in the past, but when I was rereading it through the lens of a writing teacher, I found that it is also great for rhyming, alliteration, and creative endings to stories.  There are three other books that go along with this one.  I have not read them but can bet they are cute also.

We Are in a Book by Mo Williams

This book is absolutely hilarious.  Gerald the elephant and Piggie discover that they have an audience... the reader.  It is great fun for them at first but they begin to worry when they realize the book is drawing to an end.  This interactive book is very engaging and great for beginning readers.  There is a quite a variety to choose from.
14 Cows for America
Have you heard of this book?  WOW is the first word that comes to mind.  I literally cried while reading the endnote.  Such a touching true story about a man from Kenya who was studying in America during the 911 attacks.  His people were known warriors but his culture also taught him to be compassionate and strive to heal wounds.  So after the horrific attacks, his heart ached for the Americans and he decided to give a gift of a cow (which is precious to his people).  He returned home to ask for a blessing on this very special gift and his pain for the Americans touched the hearts of his people.  Instead of 1 sacred cow, they presented 14 and cried, with their hands across their chests, along with the Americans they presented it to as our national anthem played.  Like I said, WOW!!!!
These words below come from Amazon and are so powerful.
"A mere nine months have passed since the September 11 attacks, and hearts are raw. Tears flow freely from American and Maasai as these legendary warriors offer their gift to a grieving people half a world away."

Grandfather Twilight by Barbara Berger
This book is a beautiful story about Grandfather Twilight who takes a single pearl and takes a walk which brings on night.  As he walks, the illustrations display the oncoming night which grows larger throughout the book.  In the end, he sets the single pearl free to take its nightly place in the sky because after all, what would night be without the moon.  This book is wonderful for making inferences, asking and answering questions, and using illustrations to add to the meaning and beauty of a text.

I grouped these two together because they both share a common theme.  Two completely different settings and groups of people find beauty and love in their surroundings.  There is something beautiful and something to love in all of our lives.  Sometimes it is easily recognized and sometimes we have to look beyond the bad to see all the beauty.

Hope you enjoyed my book shares.  Have you read any of these? What are some of your favorite books?  I would love to hear about them! :)

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Pinterest Linky Party Time and Blog Shout Outs

Are you a Pinterest fanatic?  Do you want to increase traffic on your teacher blog?  Brandi at My Teacher Friend had a fabulous idea for a linky party. It is a great way to get more traffic on your blogs.  Now who doesn't want more traffic??  I know I do.  What??  Did those words leave MY mouth??  Never thought I'd be wanting more traffic (at least not in the driving world). lol
My Teacher Friend

Those of you, like Emily and I, who love Pinterest know that a good amount of traffic comes from pinning.  So that is exactly what Brandi's linky party is about.  Pinning on peoples blogs so we can help each other out with increasing traffic. :) 

Here are the rules straight from Brandi's site!  It's super easy!

1. Link up any post that you have recently written (let's say within the last month) that you think is excellent for pinning. Try to link to a post that is picture heavy. Pinterest loves it some pictures!
2. Once you are all linked up and ready to go, visit the two links before yours and the one after. Rule of three. Easy peasy, huh?
3. While you are out blog-stalking, go ahead and pin to your heart's content. Try and write an enticing description of your pin. You might even comment to the blogger of what you pinned. I would love to know who pinned what, so I can say thank you. 
4. It would also help out if you would mention this linky in your lil ol' blog. The more teacher friends, the better! This one is more of an optional super nice thing to do, than a rule;) 

So that's it.  Told you it was easy! :)

We would love to hear what you pinned from our site, so please leave a message for Emily and I afterwards.  We would love to tell you thanks and check out your sites for pinnable wonders, also. :)

Blog Shout Out!!
Blog shout out is something I recently decided to do.  So many wonderful bloggers come up with ways to help all our blogging friends increase traffic and followers (e.g., Farley's Rule of Three and Brandi's Pinterest linky.)  So I decided I want to start helping other bloggers also (I'm gonna drag Emily into this with me.  She doesn't know it yet. Lol)  I want to start giving random shout outs to other bloggers who deserve some recognition.  My first few are ladies who have been frequent commenters throughout Emily and my blogging journey.  I have been learning a lot about blogger etiquette throughout and know that I haven't always taken the time to respond or say thank you.  So here's a Shout Out to you.

Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files

 Mrs. Corbit at Tadpole tidbits     

Mrs. Cockrell at Teach On

Mrs. Brown at Adventures in Third Grade

Thank you ladies for taking the time, so often, to check out our blog and leave kind comments.  We appreciate you and your amazing teaching ideas. :)

We look forward to Shouting Out to more bloggers who use their valuable time share amazing ideas with all of the teachers of the world. :)

What are some of your fabulous ideas that Pinterest is missing out on?  We would love to pin them. :)
Antoinette and EmilyK

Monday, February 4, 2013

We Give Books and Shared Reading

I am always on the lookout for great resources for teachers.  My latest frequent recommend is a fabulous site where you can get tons of free books to use in your classrooms.
You have got to check this site out!!!
Click on the picture above to go to the site.

They have a great selection of both fiction and nonfiction.  Check out a few below.

Now you do have to sign up for an account to access these books, but it is completely free.

One component of Balance Literacy is Shared Reading.  I was thinking this site is a perfect resource for this component because during Shared Reading, a teacher is using a text, that everyone can easily see, to model behaviors of proficient readers.

Here are a few sites with some great information on Shared Reading:

Hope this information is useful to you.  Do you do Shared Reading?  If so, we'd love to hear your insight on this powerful reading tool.  Also, What online book sites do you use? 

Looking forward to hearing from all of you! :)

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Currently February?!

Happy February?!
Farley's time maybe going slow, but ours isn't.
Just too many things to do!
This month, Emily's answers will be in red.
Antoinette's answers will be in Purple.

So let me explain!
I don't think there is really such a thing as way too much music.  Every February I get the winter blues, and the lack of live music in our city doesn't help my mood.  So, I listen to tons of Pandora and cds. Too many good bands out there...

My mom got me a Clarisonic for Christmas.  Love it!  
Seriously!  Everyone should have one. 
My hubs and I usually don't travel over Spring Break week, so I am super excited that this year we are going on a trip.  Since my 30th b-day is the week after Spring Break, we are splurging and flying to Charleston, South Carolina!
I can't wait!
In less than 40 days, hubs and I will be here!

Hubs and I are throwing a Mardi Gras party. Lots of cooking and cleaning to get done before next Saturday! 

Now my pet peeves:

No, you can't conversate with your friend. (But you can CONVERSE.)
The pencil is mines. (Really I didn't realize YOU were PLURAL.)
Where you at? (In a place that uses VERBS.)
I swear it's not that hard to speak proper English.
Plus, if you can't use the "big words" correctly, don't try to use them.

I was at the recycle center this morning. (My neighborhood doesn't have curbside.)
I was pleased to see lots of people.
I just wish that my school would recycle.  I inquired once about why we throw away 20+ cardboard boxes a week, since my school is right down the street from the recycle center.  I got no response. 
Seriously, way to be green!

I hate being micro managed.  You chose me to do the job, because I have the skills needed.  I have a college degree, I think I can handle it.  It's ok if you want to check my progress, but not ALL the time.  Trust me! 

Have you all ever watched Flashpoint??  I ABSOLUTELY love this show.  I started getting into it in the past year, only to find out that it was their last season!  SADNESS!!!  It is a special units police group who specialize in negotiating with people who are in dangerous situations and have chosen to take matters into their own hands.  Most of the time the people who they are negotiating with are good people but for some reason felt they needed to use violence to solve their problems.  For instance, a dad wanted a heart transplant for his daughter.  He held the hospital at gunpoint to try to get her to be next in line for a heart.  Crazy situation!  You almost can't blame him.  Well this unit tries to calm them down so that they don't do something that will get them into deeper trouble.  I LOVE IT!!!

My love this month remains Chris O'Donnell!!  lol  But I thought I would change things up a bit and go with Saturday.  Who doesn't love Saturday or any day off for that matter, which led to my thinking four day weeks aren't such a bad idea and the needing motivation. lol

I am looking forward to a few days off in the near future!  During spring break, my niece is getting married in California.  I am flying out there for the wedding!  My brother Anthony could throw quite the gathering, so I know it will be tons of fun.

Then in April, I am going with my family to the Gulf Shores for five days of sun and beach!  I am SOOO excited.  They went last year and I wasn't able to join them because I had training for my new job that week.  SADNESS!!  But this year, I am SOOO there!

We got paid early in December, which is nice at that point, but going 6 weeks without a paycheck is quite challenging.  Then on top of it, I am booking flights for the above mentioned trips.  So, "Abra Cadabra... Poof... Do I make more money???  Not so much! lol

So Pet Peeves...  I only went with just one... NEGATIVITY.  I am trying to have a positive outlook on life.  Have I been dealt the cards that I at one point thought I would get in life?  Not necessarily but I'm gonna play them with quite the poker face.  It is what it is, and I'm going to enjoy life regardless.  I could be sad and depressed about it, but my life is good; not perfect but I have so much to be thankful for.  I have a wonderful family, awesome friends, and a great job.  Can't really ask for more! :)

With all of the changes in our district, there is a lot of negativity going around.  I wish people would see that it only makes matters worse.  Once again, it is what it is.  We can't change it so let's just make the best of it.  You only bring everyone else around you down when your words are negative!

Last- I have been trying to lose weight since August.  I have had my ups and downs, but as of yesterday I am down exactly 30 pounds.  I am so excited!!  My positive thought has been, "It's a means to an end and I'm gonna like the end."  So just wait until California and the Gulf Shores...  I sure am gonna love the lighter, healthier me!!!

Quote Time...  "Dwelling on the negative simply contributes to its power."  Shirley Maclaine

Thanks for reading what we are Currently doing?
What is currently going on with you?

EmilyK & Antoinette