Sunday, March 25, 2012

Celebrate Spring Freebie!

Happy Spring everyone! I hope wherever you are, that you had some lovely weather this weekend. Here in Arizona it was 85 and sunny! I have a "springy" freebie to share today! Hopefully it will start your week off with a smile. I absolutely LOVE Chrysanthemum by Kevin Henkes. The illustrations in the book make me smile, and who doesn't love a girl named after a beautiful flower! Enjoy!


Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Techies Unite!

I LOVE technology! I can't get enough, and love to use it anyway I can in my classroom. My low income Title One kiddos really need the opportunities to use technology at school, and I try to get as much of it into our day as I can! I have two parts to this post. The first is a technology success, and the second is a technology problem that I need your help with! Long post, so I'll get moving...

My school has a somewhat functional old school computer lab, but no tech teacher. We have a class set of computers, and a few games to play on each, but we don't have a comprehensive program for students to use. Last year I started the search for something meaningful to use during our computer time. Our weekly 40 minute computer block  is really important, but I felt like it was being wasted by just "playing" and not having a purpose.

I finally found what I was looking for! The website/program we have been using is It is part of the Reading A-Z website. It is an entire online leveled library and reading incentive program. Students listen to and read narrative and expository stories at their independent reading level, answer comprehension questions, and monitor their reading progress.

This is the student view. They can choose which story they want to read, and decide if they want to listen to it, read it independently, record it for a RR, or take the quiz. They earn stars for each activity. More stars are awarded for reading independently, and answering all of the comprehension questions correctly. There is also a progress monitoring bar at the top for students to track how they are progressing towards the next level. Each student must complete all of the tasks (check marks) before moving on to the next level.
 As an incentive, kids earn star points for listening to a modeled story, reading independently, and answering comprehension questions correctly. They can decide to save their star points, or spend them in the "Raz Rocket" store.  (below) It has a really engaging space theme with sounds, animations, and video!
  The teacher interface has so many tools you can use!! It is easy to keep track of all the students and monitor their progress. It will let you track how many minutes students used the program (in school AND at home), how long they spent reading, how long they spent "shopping" in Raz Rocket, what level they are on, etc.

You can choose the reading level for each student when they start at the beginning of the year. All you do is match the reading levels to age, grade, Fountas and Pinnell, Reading Recovery, or DRA. 

You can even view and print reports! It keeps track of all of your students minutes, reading and level progress, and comprehension quizzes.
If you have the headphones with a microphone, students can also read and record running records. It will send you a copy of their reading to assess! From there you can assign specifics books and skills, or move students to a new level if that's necessary.
If you have an extra minute, I would definitely check it out!  You can view many of the tools, and play around with the stories, layout, and gadgets before deciding if its right for your classroom. The package I bought is the one year subscription for 80 dollars. It comes with full use at home and at school for 36 students. Because it is one full calendar year, students can even use it at home over the SUMMER!!! Yahoo!!!!!!!!!!!

This is where I need your help! We have a Wii at home that my husband and I never use. I brought it to school to hook to my SMARTboard. I took all the pieces to school all pumped to hook up the 2 or 3 cords and voila! More awesome technology!
Buuuuut....that's not quite how it went down. I can't figure out how to connect it to my SMARTboard! I submitted a district tech request, but those take forever and I am too impatient to wait. I want my kiddos to be able to use it, like yesterday! I tried for hours and connected it to my TV, VCR, and everything else I could get my hands on. Does anyone know how to successfully hook it up?  I am also interested in any great learning games you know of for the Wii! I don't have anything yet, but really want to make this an engaging and MEANINGFUL tool for my kids. Help!

I also took my old ipod touch into school. I finally got access to the district wireless, and I want to use it as a center. Anyone know of some good apps? These are the ones I have so far:

How do you organize the usage of your special classroom technology? Do you have a rotation schedule for who gets to use what? Do you use it as an incentive? I'm not quite sure how I want to have students use these new pieces of technology. We just got a student classroom computer, and I haven't even figured out how to give everyone a turn on that. It's so hard with only one for 25 students! Now with the Wii and ipod I really want to get a solid plan in place to make this new technology work smoothly for us. I would love to hear ideas from your classrooms! Please!

THANKS for all your help with this long post! I hope you are all having a great week!


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Making Connections, Thank You, and a Question!

This week and last we have been revisiting text connections. I have taught it many times previously, but since discovering Comprehension Connections, I wanted to tweak a few things. My kiddos need a much more concrete way to make connections, and use their schema. If you don't have this book yet, you HAVE to read it. It has changed the way I teach comprehension forever.

We started by reviewing schema with a really quick activity. (Sorry I don't have any pics, my board eraser is VERY enthusiastic this week!) First we made a t-chart on the whitebaord;  Peter Piper Pizza was on one side, Zimbabwe was on the other.  I asked my students to tell me first about Peter Piper Pizza. Every single one of my students has been there before, and they were able to easily share their experiences as they visited. They shared the food they ate, the games they played, the sounds, the smells, the tickets and prizes, etc. Next, I asked my students to share what they know about Zimbabwe. (Insert crickets here.) Eventually I got some "huh???", and "what's that!?" They only thing we had to share was that it had 4 syllables. It was a great activity for my students to understand where schema comes from. We can make lots of connections to Peter Piper Pizza, because we've been there. We can't make any connections to Zimbabwe because we don't know what it is! We've never seen it on TV, read a book about it, or visited there. They really understood this, it was perfect!

To independently practice our T-S connections, we read Green Eggs and Ham. This was a perfect fit for a our Seuss day activities last week. Thankfully I found this T-S activity from First Grade ABCs just in time! It was perfect to tie in our T-S standards, and have some Suessy fun too! You can get it from their fabulous blog, here. 

Here is our Making Connections "target" anchor chart. It is a great visual for students to see the connections between T-S, T-T, and T-W. They really understood the text being the heart of everything, and then we expand on our thinking as we move outward to make connections.  

 I am so excited to keep using this book. I have been using it as my own personal book study. I am trying all the lessons I have time for this year, so I can tweak them and hit the ground running next year. I'm trying to recruit some of my school and team to jump on the wagon too! I have seen such a difference already in my students comprehension, as well as their ability to monitor their comprehension while reading. Love it!

Switching gears, I have to give a BIG thank you (again!) to Rebecca and Katie at First Grade ABCs. Can you tell I LOVE their blog?!  They were super thoughtful and honored me with:

I am so grateful! I haven't had enough time to blog stalk lately, but I am working on my list of new blogs to pay this forward to. There are so many great new blogs to choose from!

Now a BIG favor! I cannot for the life of me figure out how to post a blog button. I don't want to add it to my blog roll on the side of my blog layout, but I DO want to post it here in a post. I wanted to post Farley's button for the currently link up, and Rebecca and Katie's button in this post. Please help! It is bothering me!!!!

Have a great rest of the week!


Sunday, March 4, 2012

Currently, a Top Ten, and Some Sunday Inspiration

Happy Sunday night blogland! Hopefully you all had a wonderful weekend! I actually RELAXED this weekend! After one of the most stressful teaching weeks I have ever had (the State finally came on Thursday! Thursday I also had 6 teachers observe me alllllll day! It was a long week...) I took the weekend to catch up on sleep, do a little shopping, think, and just breathe. It was wonderful. I am heading into this week rested and revived.

I'm excited about this "currently" from Farley at Oh' Boy 4th Grade. This is my first one and I am excited to try it! Love the spring green theme!

I also have a new blog award to celebrate! Many thanks to Mrs. Cook at First Grade Smart Cookies for the Top Ten Award! Please check out her blog, she has wonderful ideas to share!

 I so appreciate all the blog love! It is encouraging and inspiring to be connected to so many fantastic teachers. It is exactly what our profession and our kiddos need!

Last but not least, some Sunday inspiration for us all. I spent a lot of the weekend searching for some end of the year inspiration. Thank goodness for Pinterest! Inspirational teachery quotes galore. Enjoy! And remember,  It's all about the KIDS! Have a great week.