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Ever have one of those weeks where you constantly feel a day ahead of yourself?  I thought it was Thursday allll day today.  In honor of that, I'm posting a day early.  Here is my most popular post from Smiling In Second Grade!

In math today, we did some math that was inspired by Abby over at:

We all know that I can't draw... so I created a poster on my computer!  I created a large one for my class and then printed out small ones (in B&W) for the students to keep in their homework folders.

My student's reaction to the poster?  "Wow!  It's so colorful!" to which another one replied: "Of course it's colorful.  Mrs. S. made it - she loves colors!"

To make their learning more memorable, my resource teacher created some movement to go along with it.  I tried to take pics as they moved - but they are quick!  Here are some taken with my phone:

More on top?

No need to stop!

More on the floor?

Go next door...

 And grab 10 more!

They loved it!   Hopefully, their homework will reflect how much they learned/remembered!

What a great weekend!  I got to meet up with some wonderful bloggers from around New England in Boston yesterday.  

Back Row: 

Front Row:

We invaded The Cheesecake Factory {yum!} at the Prudential Center in Boston.    Between delicious entrees and cheesecake, the conversation was constantly flowing!  We elementary school teachers sure like to talk!  We shared ideas on everything from blogging to teacher conferences to the best desks to have in your classroom.  We may have even talked about non-teacher stuff too!

The only down-side to a blogger meet-up at a restaurant?  I was at one end of the table and couldn't hear everything going on at the other end!  I'm suggesting a backyard BBQ next time!  Deirdre did a wonderful job of setting this up and I am so glad that I got to meet all these lovely ladies!

Also, a big shout-out to my husband who tagged along for the ride.  He was a good sport siting at a table with a huge group of women and offered to take a group picture of us all.  Actually, make that 11 pictures - one with each camera!
My last few posts have all centered around the changes that I am making in my classroom based on the professional books that I have been reading.

A major theme found throughout these books is making learning more meaningful for students.  I decided to have a sit-down conversation with my students.  

I started with their reading homework.  Every week I gave them a book log on Monday that was due on Friday.  It required them to record the book they were reading and answer questions based on characters, setting, etc.  I asked my students what they thought of the book logs.  Their answers:

"Mrs. S, I really like to read but I don't like the book log.  Instead of enjoying what I am reading, I am too busy thinking about how I am going to answer the questions."

"I like to read longer books and it takes me longer than a week to read the book.  It's hard to come up with different answers for the same questions every week."

I was very impressed with their answers.  They honestly told me how they felt about their homework. I decided to make a change.  

I signed up with Kidblog, which is a FREE and safe website for students and teachers to use.  I set up a class blog on the site.  Each student was able to create their own account under my name and password protect it.  They are able to respond to my posts as well as create their own post.  I have it set up so that I need to approve each comment and post before it is made public.  The students know that they need to use proper punctuation and spelling in order for their comment to be approved.

We set up their blog accounts in class and started with answering a basic question just to make sure that the students understood how to use the blog.  {I borrowed this idea from Teaching to Inspire in 5th}

For homework that night, I asked their opinion about our class blog.

They had some great ideas!  Here is one of them...

Another thing I like about the above picture is the other students' responses to the comment.  I have noticed the students really encouraging each other and asking each other about books.  It is exposing students {and myself!} to books that they might not otherwise pick up.  I love it!

One thing I've realized about 5th grade is that there is a lot more paperwork.  Having my students post their homework online, reduces quite a bit of this!  I am able to respond immediately to their posts from my couch each night {my posts are in the yellow box}.  I feel more involved in what they are reading and my conversations with students about their reading has definitely increased as well.  I feel so much more connected with them.

We are doing a trial run this week and I am assigning all their homework on the blog.  I am able to easily provide a variety of questions for the students to respond to.  

Before I set the blog up for homework assignments, I made sure each student had access to a computer at home.  I also gave them the option of using the traditional reading log for homework.  A few of my students did choose this option.

Kidblog also has an app, so my kids can use their iPads, iPods, Kindles, etc to do their homework.  They think this is so cool!  I also have the app on my iPhone and iPad so I can approve and respond to their comments without needing my computer.

Since today is a snow day, I was able to get some products made!  I feel as though it's been awhile.  I created my first ever novel study!  One of my classes is reading Frindle, so this set is full of comprehension questions and vocab for each chapter.  Click here or on the picture to grab a copy!

Want to win a copy??  Leave me a comment with your favorite novel to read with your students.  I'll choose a winner by 8:00 pm EST tonight.  Good luck!

Over Christmas break, I caught up on a little {okay, a lot} of professional reading.  I was looking to make some changes in my classroom and looked to the experts for help.  First on my list?  Teach Like a Pirate by Dave Burgess.  I had purchased this book over the summer, but let my mom borrow it since I was preparing like crazy for a new grade level.  Let's just say the book didn't make it back to my house until Christmas.

After reading the book, this is what I texted her:

There were just so many ideas, that I didn't know where to start!!  As soon as I finished reading, my mind started moving at a mile a minute.   Burgess takes you through his career as a teacher, showing you ways to increase student engagement and boost creativity in your classroom.

He explains the six parts of how to teach like a pirate - Passion, Immersion, Rapport, Ask and Analyze, Transformation and Enthusiasm (spells out pirate...get it??).  Not only does he inspire you to incorporate all these ideals into your classroom, he gives examples of how he has done it in his room as well.

The second part of the book which is a "crash course in presentational hooks,"  was my favorite part of the book.  Burgess prompts his reader with hooks to engage your class with any lesson you develop for your classroom.    He includes over 30 hooks and 170 brainstorming questions.  They are AMAZING!  These hooks really got the wheels turning in my head.

There were so many that I knew I wouldn't be able to remember them all when it came time to create my lesson plans.  I also knew that I didn't want to carry the book with me back and forth to school everyday so that I could reference it.  

Brainstorm moment!  I created cards with all the Pirate Hooks on them and put them on a book ring so that they are small and light enough to carry and they are always right next to me when I am writing my lessons.

I made sure I printed them on card-stock and laminated them because I knew they would get a lot of use {I'm such a teacher!}.   Now I keep them in my teacher bag and pull them out quite often!  I have already started using a few, such as those under the Techno Whiz category.  I can honestly say that my classroom has definitely come alive in the past few weeks in a very positive way.

I highly recommend this book to any teacher, especially those who feel as though their classroom needs some fresh thinking.  A way to teach outside of the box.  I won't share any of the details of this book since I would not be able to do it justice.  You really need to read it and I know you will be as inspired as I was!  Now, I just need to figure out a way to see him speak in person...

You can check out Dave Burgess' website here to learn more!

P.S. ~ I was not contacted to promote this book or author.  I simply picked up Teach Like a Pirate after a recommendation from a friend and chose to share my own thoughts on it's content.

Hi all!  One of my goals for the New Year was to be a better blogger.  Well, I'm not off to a great start.  I seem to have injured my shoulder somehow and using a computer aggravates it to the point of severe pain.  I start physical therapy next week and am under strict orders not to use a computer.  Oops.  I just HAVE to share what has been going on in my classroom because I am beyond excited and can't contain myself.  So keep reading and don't tell my doctor!

It all started with some light reading over Christmas break...

All four inspired me to make major changes in my ELA classes.  I'll get into the specifics in a later post, but here is one way that my classroom has changed.

We start every class with Silent Reading time.  Everyone quiet, reading and sitting in their chairs.  It worked well and the students did enjoy their reading, but I felt that it needed something more to really inspire my students.

I didn't want them to just read.  I wanted them to connect with each other over books.  I wanted them to share their reading.  I wanted to give them freedom to express themselves through their reading.  

However, this meant letting go of some control and structure in my room.  That was my biggest fear.  If I let them just do what they want during this time and not require it to be silent, then for sure my classroom is going to turn into full-on chaos, right?  I knew it.  

Boy, was I wrong!  Here are the photos to prove it.

These two are reading at their seats...

These boys are working together to write a play based on a book they both read (and there are students silently reading in the background)...

These girls are creating a Power Point on a book they both read (the girls across from them are writing on our classroom blog)...

Silently reading in the corner...

 These two were out in the hallway discussing and taking notes on their book...

And this student signed up to meet with me to chat about the book she was currently reading...

Every.  Single.  Student was working.  They were all doing something different, but they were all involved in their reading in some way.  Additionally, they were collaborating and they were working quietly.  No sign of chaos anywhere!

I had let go of control and my students rose to the occasion!  I was so impressed and proud of them!  They are taking control of their learning and sharing that learning with others.

Coming soon...I'll share some other changes I am making to my classroom!

Learn more about Teach Like a Pirate in this blogpost!

Technically we went back to school last Thursday.  However, we got out early and then had a snow day on Friday.  So I'm calling today our official first day back.  We got off to a fresh start!  

I used an idea that I found on Mrs. Robinson's Classroom Blog.  She had her students answer six questions on how to make them and their classroom function.  I chose 5 of them.  

~ What should students in our class be doing to make sure it runs as smooth as possible?
~ What do you need to do in order to be successful this year?
~ Our classroom should be           everyday.
~ What will Mrs. S. need to do help you this year?
~ What do you hope to learn in class this year?

I wrote one question on each piece of chart paper and handed out post-it notes to each student.  I asked them to answer each question at least once and they could answer it more than once if they chose.

The students then walked around and answered each of these questions.

 I used colored post-it notes to really make their answers "pop."  It worked because my next class came in and noticed them right away.  Some of the answers were a tad silly and not completely meaningful, but I definitely did get a lot of information from them!

For example, many students said that our classroom should be 'fun' everyday.

So I took this idea and ran with it.  I asked them how they think our classroom could be more fun, keeping in mind that it was a "reading class" (i.e. ~ pizza party and extra recess every day were not well-thought out answers).  This is where I really got my answers.  Many students said they want to do more projects and more collaborative group work.  I told them that this was definitely something we could do in our classroom.

It was a great conversation to have with my students.  I felt as though I learned a lot from them today and earned their respect because I asked them what they wanted to do.  I've never asked a class that before!  They gave me many ideas and I have a lot to think about.  I'm curious to see where it will take us.

Hope you had a great Monday!

Get ready to HOP people!!

So here is how this works...

Start by going to Tori's FACEBOOK page.
Click on the "FB HOP" button once you are there.  It looks like this:

Then you will see a whole list of bloggers.  Here is a snippet of what it looks like:

Start by clicking on the first button which will take you to Tori's freebie.  

Download, save, print, whatever you want to do with that freebie and then close out those windows.  You want to get back to the list of bloggers on my Facebook page.  Everything should open up into a new window to make it easier for you to get back to the "hop."

Make your way through all the bloggers as they will ALL have FAB stuff for you...for FREE!!!  
Each new FB page will have the same "FB Hop" image- just find that and click there.
Make sure you like the page to get your free product.

Oh and say "Hi" and "Thanks" while you are there... we love your comments/feedback!

Wait...there's more!  Here's a great giveaway to go along with the hop.  Does it get any better than this??

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