Monday, October 21, 2013

Leveled Classroom Library

I think it’s imperative that students are reading JR books.  If they aren't, they won’t grow as readers.  So, how do you ensure that the students are reading JR books?  You level your classroom library. When I first started leveling my books, I made the mistake of putting the level on the book.  Please don’t take offense if this is something you do. What works for one teacher doesn’t always work for another.  The students I teach tend to be very competitive and will pull books that are well above their independent reading level because they want to “show off”.  

So, enter my new leveling system.  I wish I could claim this as my idea, but I’m not that smart.  I was lucky enough to have Becky Koesel visit our school for a day.  Do you know Becky Koesel?  If not, you should!!  I love, love, love her!  Not only is she a fab teacher, but funny as H.E.double hockey sticks!  If you live in Texas, she holds several summer workshops in the Houston & San Antonio area. Even if you have to pay for the workshop yourself, it’s totally worth it…I promise!  Check out her website here!

Ok, back to my leveling system.  I use colored dots and decide which color represents the level.  Take a look at my “cheat sheet”…

Next, I look up the level of the book and put the colored dot on the spine of the books (I suggest securing it with some tape too).  Take a look at my leveled library…

Also, here’s a few websites to help match the level to a book.  Or you can just google it! Scholastic Book Wizard, Fountas & Pinnell, Beaverton School District

But, HOLY COW, I have a lot of books!  How do you expect me to level all those books?  Do you have parent volunteers who are just begging to help you in the classroom?  Send home a couple of book baskets with a list of websites and before long…it’s done!  If you aren’t lucky enough to have parents stalk help you, then take home a bag/cart full every other night (or once a week) and before long it will be done. 

Do you level your library?  If so, how do you do it?  I’d love to hear your thoughts & ideas!

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Saturday, October 19, 2013

Spark Student Motivation-Minute to Win It!

So, I'm linking up again with Joanne from Head Over Heels for Teaching for another addition of Spark Student Motivation!

This week, it's all about games!  Specifically, Minute To Win It games...remember that TV show?  My teaching partner dubbed it Monday Minute It To Win It, but lately it's been Whenever I Have Free Time Minute To Win It!  It is a great way to start off the week, but not always feasible.

The first game I call...Tissue Toss!  Each student (about 4 or 5) gets 1 full tissue box.  They have to put one hand behind their backs and pull out ONLY 1 tissue at a time until the box is empty.  Now, the goal is to do it in a minute, but it usually takes longer than a minute.  Take a look at a few pictures...

Now, I know you are thinking that it's just a waste of good tissues, but it's FUN!  And, you get to use these boxes again for another game I like to call Pingpong Booty Ball!  Yeah, it's not really the name of the game, but I like my name better!

In Pingpong Booty Ball, you add 8 pingpong balls inside the empty tissue boxes from the previous game.  Attach string to the tissue boxes and the students have to tie them around their waist.  The tissue box faces the student's back side (booty).  The students have to shake their booty until all the balls fall out of the tissue box. Take a look...

Sorry, the pictures are a little fuzzy!

The last game I've done is called Steady Noodle.  In this game, the students are given one uncooked spaghetti noodle and 6 uncooked ziti noodles.  The students have to put their hands behind their backs and pick up all 6 ziti noodles using the spaghetti noodle without breaking it.  

Trust me, my students are completely adorable, but I have to conceal their identity.

Let me know how it works in your class!

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Cold Busted!

We had a surprise visit from the Fire Marshall today at school!  I'd love to say this went well, but it did NOT!  Look, I understand that my cute little beach balls hanging from the ceiling were probably against the fire code.  Take one last look at my beach balls...cuz they're gone now!

I was in a 504 meeting when he popped into my room, but my student teacher was there to witness the shock of how he removed the beach balls.  Upon my return, the students started saying "OMG, look what they did to your beach balls!" "Yeah, and they took part of the ceiling down too!"  Of course, I thought they were exaggerating, but my student teacher confirmed that he just grabbed the balls and pulled them from the ceiling.  He pulled so hard that part of my ceiling tile broke.  The balls were attached to paper clips that were bent and I slid the paper clip into the ceiling tile.

Then, I had placed boxes (broken down) on top of my cabinet because I don't have ANY storage in my room...with the exception of TWO cabinets.  He just threw them on the floor of my classroom and left it. 
If you look close enough in the picture, you'll see the boxes on top of my cabinets.  

Keep in mind, this was ALL done with my students in the classroom! My teaching partner was trying to give an assessment to her class when he busted in and started ripping things off her cabinets & ceiling.

Call me crazy, but I think it would have been more appropriate and less disruptive to have simply noted the violations.  WOW...what a day!

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Classroom Library Check-out System

My classroom library check out system is something that I continue to struggle with and constantly changing.  There have been several things I’ve tried. For example, a check out binder, recipe box or pocket charts.  The check out binder includes a page for each student and they write down the date and name of their book.  Didn’t work for me!  Next, I tried the recipe box idea.  Each student would get their own library card (purchased from teacher supply store) and they’d log the book on the card, and then file it in the recipe box. Nope!  Finally, I started using a pocket chart. Again, each student would receive a library card, but the cards would stay in the pocket chart.  I’ve used this for several years now.   

This year I was going to go "High Tech" and use an App called Book Retriever. It looks like this...

For $.99, I figured I'd give it a shot! All you have to do is scan the barcode on the book & it will place that book in your database.  (side note: some books purchased through Scholastic Book order doesn't scan properly & in that case you'd have to manually enter that book) Next, enter your students and when it’s time to check out they bring you the book and all you do is scan it…Viola.  Sounds fabulous, right?  Well, I was super excited, downloaded the app and started to barcode my books at school.  The problem I ran into was that I teach in a portable building and I can't get a good connection even using the school's wifi.  I kept getting an error message stating that the connection failed.  I had no problem scanning books at my house. Sorry, but I'm not very tech savvy. Although, I figured as long as I was connected to the school's wifi I'd be fine.  No bueno!  

Now, fast forward 6 weeks and 2 updates on the app, it started working.  So, here's my  problem, I've already started the "old school" library cards and pocket chart with the students.  Keep in mind, I haven't even made a dent in scanning all my books and many of them are already checked out to the students.  Do I abandon my system now and try out the app?  Decisions, decisions! 

 I’d love to hear how you manage your class library!   

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Saturday, October 12, 2013

Spark Student Motivation-Flashlight Friday

This is my first time to link up with Joanne @ Head over Heels for Teaching for Spark Student Motivation!

What do you do to get your students excited about reading?  Well, I’ve discovered that all it takes is a mini flashlight. Before I stepped into the 21st century, I use to read real books made of paper.  Thanks to my wonderful husband, I now have a super cool Kindle Fire!  Anyway, I like to read in bed at night, but my hubby didn’t appreciate it when he was trying to sleep.  One night, he asked me to turn off the light & I told him that I was reading.  So, he reached over into his nightstand & handed me a small flashlight. Then, it hit me…give my students flashlights to read with.  This turned into what I call “Flashlight Friday”.  Each student is given their own mini flashlight and we turn off the lights.  The kids LOVE it!!!  I’m sure this is NOT an original idea, but its fun and I wanted to share it with you.

Each new school year, I purchase a class set of mini flashlights from Oriental Trading. Why do I buy them?  Just imagine what kind of flashlights the students would bring from home.   

Someone could seriously get hurt with one of these…

But, no one is going to get hurt with one of these…

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Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Free Reading Leveling System!

Yep, it’s that time of year again!  It’s time to spend countless hours assessing the students reading level.  Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s really important and it helps you have a better understanding of your students as readers. I know what you are thinking, we've been in school for 6 weeks and you're not finished leveling your students.  Keep in mind, I have 65 students and it takes a REALLY long time with that many students.

So, what leveling system does your district use?  When I first starting teaching, the district I worked at used DRA.  I liked it!  Then, I switched districts and they were using Rigby. No Bueno!  Rigby totally stinks, or at least the leveling kit we were using really stunk!  Sorry, I’m just being honest! The district finally came to their senses and decided to purchase Fountas & Pinnell’s leveling system, which I’ve used before and really like too.

If you are looking for a good leveling system, I have a solution!  I’m sure you’ve heard of Teacher’s College @ Columbia University Reading & Writing Project, right?   Well, they have their own leveling system; take a little gander at this.  What’s even better…it’s FREE!!!!!!!  Well, free from levels L-Z.  They include the running records for levels A-K, but you’d have to purchase the student books.  It’s really simple to use and they include the instructions.

I hope this helps!

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