Thursday, October 31, 2013

Writing Checklist

I've found that some of my students need checklists for writing.  I was brainstorming with another teacher and came up with the idea to make these small flipable lists.  I printed them on cardstock, laminated them, and then connected them on rings in the corner.  I have students keep them in their desks and take them out during writing.  They can use Vis-a-Vis or Expo markers to check themselves off, and then they know exactly what needs to be done next.  I'm hopeful that after time, the steps will become a natural part of the writing process.  These checklists are available for free download at my teacher store!

Halloween and a World Series

Phew!  Did we really make it through the day?!  Combine Halloween with 23 mini Red Sox fans and you get one CRAZY day in 4th grade.  Somehow we made it and I can only imagine how the rest of my colleagues are feeling right about now (I'm trying to keep my eyes open long enough to hand out candy!).  Wishing all of you a Happy Halloween….and a restful weekend! 

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bad, Bad, Blogger!

So it has been over a year since I last posted.  Life with an infant was a challenge, but nothing compared to life with a toddler!  Being a full time teacher and mom is tricky, and at times difficult for me to organize.  Right now there is one organized apple and it's not me!  Our district is trying a balanced literacy approach to meet the common core standards.  So, my time has been spent reorganizing my classroom library.  A few years ago I went from a leveled library to a genre/author based library.  Now it is time to switch back.  If it weren't for Scholastic's Book Wizard I wouldn't have been able to do it.  For those of you that may be switching to a leveled library, have your students do it!  We used on technology time and each child went in with a sleeve of colored dot stickers, a Sharpie and a stack of books.  It worked out great and the kids had fun doing it!  

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

CEPA - Results

Ok, so maybe you're a little bored about hearing about the CEPA I tried out in my classroom....but I did say I'd share the results.  Below are photos of the student work.  I'm still in amazement of how well it went and am planning on creating more for my class to tackle.  Enjoy!

Friday, October 4, 2013

Explorer Time!

I'm getting ready to start my study of North American Explorers again this year.  I always love this project, but it often takes a bit of review of continents and oceans first.  We've spent the past few weeks going over the continents and are just about ready to begin. 
This project begins with research on 5 explorers - Columbus, Cabot, Cartier, Hudson, and Cortes - focusing on the reasons for exploration and connection between land found and influence of the exploring country.  After the research is done, we begin a project where students work in groups to create an explorer news broadcast.  They write the script, add commercials, and film.  This year, I've decided to read a play with the class ahead of introducing the project in order to give them an idea of how to write the script.  I've also created a script template in hopes that it will clarify expectations.  Each year the students dive into the project and have a lot of fun creating their "news show."  At the end of the unit, I have students reflect on their participation and write a short summary of the explorer they presented on.  I have a very creative group this year, so I'm curious to see what they come up with!  Stay tuned for updates!
The project is available at my teacher store if you're interested!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

CEPA Update - I'm a Fan!

My students have been working for the past 3 days on their first math CEPA.  This CEPA combines addition, subtraction, rounding, estimation, and problem solving into a real-life situation.  (If you're curious about the contents of the CEPA, see my post from Monday, September 30th.)  I broke my class into groups of 4 - placing my 4 strongest math students together (I was curious to see where they might take it), but mixing the remainder of my students. 

Day 1 started with some minor confusion about how to effectively work in groups and where to start, but about 15 minutes into the project the entire class was focused and working.  Soon they were delegating work and beginning to round/estimate.  At the end of class I pulled the groups together and they shared out.  I had many students share how quickly the class went by and how much they enjoyed working together.  Lastly, I had each group make a plan for the next day.

Day 2 began with students reviewing the work ahead, then jumping in.  Right away students were on task and beginning to figure out strategies to solve the problem.  I rarely had to speak to groups about being on task because they were all so focused!  Again, I pulled the groups together at the end to share strategies they used to get closer to the solution.  It was amazing to see students share who were often hesitant to participate, regardless of their mathematical ability.  Needless to say, I was very excited to finish up on day 3.

Day 3 arrived and groups finished up their projects and checked their work.  We ended class early so that each group could share what they did.   Finally, I had students reflect individually about what they thought about the project and what they learned.  Many reflections included that students learned new math strategies from one another, and that they liked doing a "different" type of math lesson.  

Overall, I was not expecting this first CEPA to go smoothly.  I thought that we would have some tears and distress, but I hoped we could stick with it long enough to get in the routine of the CEPA.  I figured the beginning of the year would make this tough, but I was wrong!  The conversations I heard throughout the project were authentic and focused.  Students collaborated and genuinely seemed excited to get to the solution.  I cannot wait to get into our next unit and try this again.  If any of you have experiences to share, please drop us a line at  I would love to hear your ideas!  

Your CEPA loving blogger,
Kara :)

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

It Takes 21 Days to Form a Habit - A.K.A. Wake Me Up When September Ends

With September ending and October starting tomorrow, I'm taking time to celebrate the small victories in my classroom.  Like most of you understand, the beginning of the school year is full of new routines and explanations.  I sometimes forget to praise them for the routines they've mastered - how to enter the classroom in the morning, how to sign out for the bathroom, what to do when they hear the bell ring or see the lights flicker, and more.  It's so easy to focus on the things they aren't doing, instead of seeing the progress we've already made.  I hope you're all beginning to feel that the time you spent explaining and practicing routines has paid off!  Happy October!