Sunday, May 1, 2016

Successful Test Prep Activities

Woah. I feel like such a stranger. I haven't blogged since November. Going back after maternity leave was crazy busy. I don't have time to sit in front of my laptop at all like I used to. The only reason I am right now is because I just put him down for a nap AND I am sacrificing my nap to post. Big deal for this sleep deprived mama.

So let me get to what I came to share today. My writing STAAR was back in March and I went back to the classroom with an idea of making it super fun. Which I did, and I was even told by the kids those were the best two weeks they've had. Which punched me right in the gut. I had been so consumed in feeling like I was preparing them for the STAAR that I forgot what mattered most. Note to self (and to all of those who are questioning what they are doing.) They will NEVER remember a worksheet, ever. They will remember the activities and projects that you do. (Another note to self. This should be a poster hanging in every school!)

Here are a few things I did those two weeks:

I downloaded the app Team Shake to split my kiddos into equal groups. It makes my life a lot easier to shake it and it groups them. This is a screen shot of one class groups. I ended up merging some groups to make it more equal.

So for one whole week they worked in these groups. We had a 4 day week so it went pretty quickly. Monday we spent the day in the computer lab researching the whole class. They drew out of a cup a grammar skill that we have learned this year. Every single group out of all three classes had a different skill. Then with their group they researched what it was, anchor charts, examples used correctly, and even examples used INcorrectly. Then the next day we spent half the classtime back at the lab to finish up any printing or searching, and then headed back to class to plan out their presentation with their group. They could do a theme or whatever, it was THEIR project. Friday they had to present and all had equal parts, and they had to write in their journal a paragraph using their skill at minimum 5 times. My only rules. 
Here is a final poster: 
I LOVED it. They did SO good. They taught the class their skill, they had the class ask questions. They even gave an exit ticket on their presentation before they left the front of the room. 
This worked so well I decided to do something similar the next week.

We dove into figurative language next week to help out the reading teachers who were covering poetry.
We did Owl Moon Monday/Tuesday and the kids loved it. We did a book walk, and I made them write their own sentences similar to those in books. 
Then the last day they had to create an anchor chart using 5 of the newly learned figurative language skills and give me 3 examples. Every person had to write on the poster in the group.

Let me tell you, it's not so easy for them to come up with idioms, personification, even hyperboles when they just heard about it that Monday. They did it though, successfully, and had a blast doing it! 

The room is messy. I know. Don't judge ;) 

Then on Friday we did Hope King's Bean Boozled - WHEW. That's overly stimulating if you dare play, but SO much fun! 

So after these two weeks the reading scores came back on their last mini assessment and I was asked to go down to third grade and help out a class get ready for their STAAR test which is after next week.

I leave my babies (insert super sad face), and head down to a classroom where there is nothing of mine there but what I could fit on a traveling white board. The first few days were definitely getting acquainted and figuring each student out. Once we got that out of the way, it was time to get down to business.

I knew I would have to include some days of them breaking apart passages, but I can't deal with worksheets at all. I hate it. So I had to research and rack my own brain and my colleagues brain with what we could do to make this information stick in 4 weeks. Here are some things I have done:

So I took STAAR task cards from Watson Works EDU and my own on TPT and cut off the answer choices. These were posted on tables and around the room. Students worked the first few days in pairs to answer on sticky notes, and then the last few days they worked independently. We then met and went over each card whole group, then they broke out again and placed sticky notes that were similar to the correct answers we went over. 

I found this little gem at the end of the day. Needless to say, they had SO much fun. 

Then I have also had them work in partners and cut up old STAAR passages. 

They only get the question stems again and they record the answers on sticky notes. They also have to glue the question next to where they found the answer on the poster:

Some of them were crazy messy but correct. Others like the one above, super organized and still all found the correct answer.

Doing activities like these teach the kids accountability for their own finding. If you give them direction in where to find answer, or you tell them yes/no and they can't prove it themselves, they aren't taking anything away.

A student said at the end of this activity, "Mrs. Thomas this was so much fun, thank you for letting us do an activity where we are having fun and learning at the same time." Can you guess which poster was this students ;)

Next week is the last week with third graders and I am transforming my classroom to a beach theme and we are doing all things related to comprehension strategies at the beach.

What are ways you "prep" your students without them feeling like it's a testing environment??

Sunday, November 22, 2015

All I Want for Black Friday - Linky


I can not believe Black Friday is just around the corner!!! I am teaming up with some of my teaching favorites, The Primary Pack, to show you what we want personally, for school, and what we think YOU should want for your classroom for Black Friday! :) 

Hunter Rain Boots -  So, I normally wouldn't justify me wanting these just because we live in south Texas, but the rain this past year has been INSANE. I absolutely HATE walking around school with wet pants because I have flats on. So these are a must somehow. (Costco has them for $79.99 for members, I will be getting these ASAP)

Target Gift Card - If you know the way to my heart, you know what this will do :) 

Yeti 30oz Rambler - 30oz of delicious coffee every morning. Being a new mom and coffee has become my BEST FRIEND.

Mini Kenmore Coffee Pot - See previous wishlist item. This would be for my classroom.

Gunner, Gunner, Gunner - Little guy is the sole receiver of gifts. Everything you see on my wishlist, I will more than likely purchase myself. Except we will all spoil little man.

I am to the point where I would do ANYTHING to get grammar to stick with these kids. I already splurged and got all packages of mentor sentences by Ideas by Jivey and those have already helped SO much. Then my teaching partner introduced me to Games 4 Gains. SOLD. They love it. The top four products are in my cart already.

Then for my design purposed for the classroom, I'm all about I Teach! What's Your Superpower? 

The next three are all in correlation with grammar and writing to get my students to become pros! 

Here are a few things from my store, Cassie Thomas, that I think would be a great addition to ANY classroom.  These are my best sellers: 

  • Author's Purpose- This is a mini pack to get you started or to reiterate author's purpose. It's 34 pages of anchor charts, graphic organizers, lessons, etc. 
  • Writing through the Months- This is one of my favorite products I ever created. I grew up loving creative writing and this is exactly what that does. The students roll 3 times for character, setting, and problem, then they write a story trying to solve that problem. Some of them get really crazy and creative. They are organized by months. 
  • Spiral review (STAAR)- Even if you don't teach in Texas, this correlates with CCSS also. It prepares them to think critically about their reading. 
  • Procedural Text Mini Lesson- This has been my biggest seller this year! It's a mini lesson pack to get started with procedural text! The kids had a blast with it last year. 

Drumroll please.... Check out this HUGE giveaway package you can win by entering below! There is a resource from almost everyone in The Primary Pack, perfect for all primary grades!! Good luck, friends and happy shopping!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Now It's Your Turn To Join The Fun! 

Just a few rules to follow and you're on your way:

  1. Download the images above!
  2. Add your personal holiday wishlist to the image titled "My Personal Black Friday Wishlist"
  3. Add your favorite sellers products from your TPT wishlist to the "My Classroom Black Friday Wishlist"
  4. Add your own products to the "For Your Black Friday Wishlist"
  5. Link up below to share your Black Friday Wishlists!
  6. Don't forget to enter our fabulous giveaway above AND visit others linked up below!

Friday, November 6, 2015

Two Day Week

Well, I did it. I went back to work after maternity leave, and a few days earlier than expected at that. I really wasn't sure what to expect, except the worse. Nothing I can't handle. The kids have gotten a little taller, older, rowdier, and noisier. BUT - they missed me, and I missed them. I basically gave them a quiz Thursday about grammar and judging their sentence structure - uhh, we have work to do? ha. We reviewed adjectives and adverbs and I thought today we would do a fun activity so they would TRULY understand adverbs and adjectives. I found the idea on pinterest and on one of my favorites blog, Deb Hanson. You can read the original post here

We made lists of adjectives and adverbs and talked about the differences. (Next week we are going to review a lot, partly because I haven't been there in 7 weeks and I need them to understand the basics.) 
After we talked about the differences we read, The Z was Zapped by Chris Van Allsburg - The book is amazing, and the illustrations are even more beautiful. 
Basically, the book shows you a letter illustrated differently then on the back of the page it tells you what is happening to that letter. 
For example: A is The A was in an Avalanche. 
(Disclaimer: Most pages contain an adverb, only a few do not and this is where I had the students create their own aloud)

My students LOVED guessing what was on the next page. 

After we read the story, I assigned a letter to each child and they created their own. 
Here are a few examples. 

I didn't make my students do alliteration, just because I wanted them to understand adverbs solely right now. I love how Deb did the activity in her lesson, but I was just trying to ensure they understood adverbs. Some didn't, but most did. I love how they came out. 

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

To My Son:

To My Son:

As I sit here and watch you sleep your little heart away during your afternoon nap and think about how you're a few weeks away from 2 months old, I have a lot running through my mind. I go back to work tomorrow, a few hours away from spending the first 7 weeks of your life together every single day, to seeing you around 6pm at night Monday-Friday until you go to sleep, my heart aches and my eyes fill with tears. You were the gift from God that I had prayed for, begged for, ached for. I couldn't be more thankful and feel more blessed that He allowed your father and I to be your parents.
I have a few promises I want you to know about as you grow older.

I promise to always be in your corner, within reason of course, but I will always be your number one fan.
I promise to be a mother first. I know there will be moms who are "cool" because they let their sons stay out till 3 am, doing God knows what, or even allow the God knows what happen in their own homes, but know.. I won't be that mother. We will be friends, yes, but I will be your parent FIRST.
I promise to comfort you anytime you feel frightened, worried, concerned, etc.
I promise to work the best I can to raise you into the man I know you will be.
I promise to listen to you, pay attention, hear you, understand you.
I promise to remember to walk in your shoes. Your father and I both. We've been through so much as individuals and lived and learned, but I also know you will need to experience situations as well.
I promise to not pressure you into any sports, academics, lifestyle, etc. You are a part of us, you are always accepted.
I promise to encourage adventure, encourage experiences, and let go of my fears as your mother.
I promise to believe in your dreams and do everything in my power to help you pursue them, no matter the limit or the funds. You come from a family of dreamers, believers, and doers, and I would expect nothing less.
I promise to keep you safe. There will be times where you get mad and think I'm so unfair, but know, if at anytime you are in harms way, I won't allow it.
I promise to lead zero judgement when you make mistakes. You're only human, and once again, you come from your father and I. Mistakes are much expected.
I promise to be honest. My opinions matter to you, and I will respect that. Whether sometimes it's what you want to hear, or not.
I promise to love you unconditionally. There will be times when you won't want your Mom near, and believe me, I had those moments with my parents, but they always loved me significantly and hard, and I promise to share that love with you.

I want so badly to be the stay at home mom that gets every second with you, I'm selfish in that way, I am, but I also grew up my whole life wanting to be a teacher, and that is just what I became. Like I said before, you come from parents who are dreamers, I always dreamed of making a difference. I hope you understand this, and admire what I do. It's the hardest thing I have ever had to do, going back to work, but remember everything we do, we do for you. It's no longer about me, or your father, it's about you and your dreams. It's about making sure you have a life that is exactly what you want.