Sunday, December 7, 2014

Plans for the New Year

I've taken a bit of a hiatus from blogging, putting my family first. I've decided to focus on creating a quality product at least once a month and make blogging less of a priority. I spend a lot of time posting pictures of my classroom on our class instagram and twitter which you are welcome to follow to see what we're doing and use any ideas you see there. The handle for both accounts is @mrsgreengr5. 

Upon reflection, I found that keeping up with the DillyDabbles blog was consuming my time and thus I was not creating new products nor, more importantly, spending time with my 3 young children. I hope you'll understand and continue to keep in touch on FB, instagram, twitter, email and the more rare blog posts. I'm always happy to respond to questions or comments. My goal is to create items for my own use that will also benefit you.  The pressure of having students learn all they can and perform well on end of year assessments along with all the other demands being placed on classroom teachers has also taken its toll.  

As a secondary benefit to this slight change in my focus and time, I hope to earn enough each month to provide piano lessons for my older daughters. Thanks for your support and understanding of my slight focus change;


these three need their mama....

and this crazy bunch needs their teacher.


Sincerely,

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Book Share Wednesday: Missing May


Missing Mayis the book I chose for our listening station this rotation to support our literature circles in our current Realistic Fiction focus.  It's a Newberry Award Winner by author Cynthia Rylant.  This book was a new one to me, but has been available in our school resource library for a while.  I wanted a book that was an easier read for my students, but also had some good meat to it.  This was just perfect.  In a very matter of fact, yet positive way, the author presents this story of a young girl orphaned early in her life and bounced from home to home among distant relatives.  When May and Ob come to visit, they just know they have to take Summer with them.  Summer continues to have tragedy in her life when May dies and leaves her and Ob to figure things out together.  With the help of a classmate, Summer gets through the sadness and together they help Ob.

A click on the cover will take you to the book on Amazon.

I purchased this novel unit to help me out.  I just choose a few of the questions that correlate with the chapters I've assigned to help my students practice answering in complete sentences.  Since it a listening station book, I want my students to focus on the enjoyment of listening to the story.

(I'm getting no benefit for sharing this product with you)

I'd love for you to share a book as well!  Please link up below or share your book in the comments.  If linking up, please be sure to grab the button and link it back to this post.  






Sunday, October 5, 2014

Organizing my Grading

Grading, especially keeping up with it, has been an area in need of improvement for me.  The actual keeping up hasn't gone as well, but the organization has been much better.  It started with this great drawer system I found at Jo-Ann's fabric and craft store on sale over the summer.  It has worked out beautifully to keep my in and out papers organized and out of the way.  The one adjustment I need to make is specifying to the students which direction to hand in papers.  I spend a lot of time turning papers back and forth. I added the two slot bin above for no-name papers and notes that need to go out from the school.



The second thing that has really helped me is using a class list and colored pens in combination.  The class list allows me to quickly go through the papers and record scores to then quickly transfer to our computer grading system.  They're already in alphabetical order, so I can easily enter them in the computer.  I also like having a paper record, technology is great, but there's always a time or two that it fails.


I use the colored pens to help me track which grades have been entered in the computer.  I use a different color every time I grade so I know that at the end of my grading time each day, I just look for all the grades marked in that day's color to enter or change in the computer.  This works really well to keep track of late and missing assignments.  It also helps in the way I grade math homework.  Each homework is worth 2 points.  Students receive 1 point when they hand it in and the second point is given when the homework is correct.  So, using the different colors helps me to know when a grade needs to be changed from a 1 to a 2.

I have really liked these B2P recycled water bottle pens made by Pilot.  I didn't know they came in a variety of colors until receiving this lovely pack.  As you can see in the photo above, the colors are vibrant and I think the pens write very smoothly.  These are gel, which you can get in single colors as well, but the pen also comes in a ballpoint option.  Shoplet sent me these and a few other great pens to use and review a few weeks ago.  I like to use the FriXion pens in my gradebook and when I sew to mark the fabric.  Since the ink disappears with friction or heat, it's perfect to erase easily from my planbook or remove with the iron in my sewing.  The FriXion highlighter would be great to use for close reading.  For writing throughout the day, I do really like the Acroball pen.  I've been using it when I do examples under the document camera.  My students can't see pencil very well under the camera, so I often use pen and this one writes nice and smoothly.


My next step in grading organization is committing to do it everyday so it doesn't pile up for me to do for hours on the weekend.

How do you organize yourself to grade efficiently and keep it all in order? 

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Meeting Shannon Hale and Dean Hale Book Share Wednesday

Me on the left with three of my fabulous colleagues surrounding Shannon and Dean Hale
I had the opportunity to attend the UCIRA conference over the last weekend.  It's the Utah chapters IRA conference.  I had the pleasure of meeting and hearing from Shannon Hale, a local author with a big reach.  Shannon lives in Utah and has written many books, including a few you might be very familiar with.  Her husband, Dean, has co-authored several books with her as well.  This is the case with her newest book to be released next week on October 14,The Princess in Black.  This is the book they presented to us on Friday.
From the excerpt they read to us, I can tell this is a darling book.  It's going to be perfect for the lower-mid grades of K-3.  I'm thinking my fifth graders will even find it comical and a fun read.  An easier read chapter book, The Princess in Black is all about the adventures that this young princess has.  No-one identifies her because "princesses don't wear black."  Shannon discussed the wide appeal her books have to both boys and girls, despite them often having female protagonists.  She expressed the importance of offering all books to all children without caveats like, "I know there's a princess on the cover, but I really think you'll like it."

Here are some of her books you might already be familiar with:

Her Newberry Honor Book Princess Academy, the first in a 3 book series.


This is the first in a 4 book series. 


This one is now a movie and more for you, the adult.


Reading to grab your reluctant readers, a twisted tale graphic novel. I picked a copy of this one up at the conference and got it signed by Shannon and Dean.


Have you read any of Shannon's books?  Share your experiences with her books in the comments below.  Have a post about a book you'd like to share?  Be sure to join our Book Share Wednesday link up below.  Just grab the image to add to your post and link it back to this post.  


*Note, I have previously make only my posts on the third Wednesday of the month links.  I thought I'd try making every Wednesday Book Share post a link up and see how it goes.   




Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Book Share Wednesday: How to Steal a Dog


We started literature circles this week and I decided to choose realistic fiction books for our first round. One of the books I chose for students is How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor.  It's a great realistic fiction book that discusses the issues that this family is dealing with as a result of their father/husband abandoning them suddenly.  They are living in their car, Mom's working two jobs and the kids are fending for themselves.  Georgina sees an ad for a reward in exchange for the return of a lost dog and she gets the idea to steal a dog to earn the money her family needs to get an apartment.

Although the book deals with some heavy and sensitive topics, the author keeps it light and focuses on the plans Georgina writes in her journal and the adventures she and her brother have, rather than bringing down the tone of the book with constant negative dwelling on the family's situation.

Readers will learn along with Georgina that bad times don't last forever and that everyone makes mistakes.  Those mistakes can have happy endings when you work to rectify them.

Amazon lists the lexile at 700L.  With the topics the book discusses, I would recommend it for 4th grade and up.  It has been a perfect read for my low fifth graders.  The storyline is engaging and they are able to access and comprehend the text.  A caution to consider student situations and emotions before using this book.  Though the author does a great job, some students may be sensitive to the family's situation.

Have a book you'd like to share?  It's the third Wednesday of the month and that means Book Share Wednesday is a link up!!  Be sure to link up your book share post sometime in the next week.  The linky will be open through next Wednesday.  Please grab the button to add to your post and link it back to this post. Don't have a post? Please share your book in the comments.









Sunday, September 14, 2014

Genius Hour in Our Classroom

Last year, I looked into the concept of genius hour and really wanted to try it.  My biggest hurdle was the lack of computers access for my students.  Last December, our district gave each 3-6 grade classroom 3 Chromebook computers.  That was wonderful, and I was very grateful, but with 32 students, how does one effectively use 3 computers for anything really other than remediation for a few students?  

In the spring, my principal announced that he had some extra funds that he wanted to use to get more technology to us.  My team decided we wanted more Chromebooks, so we each received 2 more.  Then, I decided if I had 2 additional ones, I'd have enough for small group use and that would be a game changer for me.  Amazingly, thanks to the kindness of several donors, some of which were fellow bloggers, I had them both funded through DonorsChoose.  Now with seven computers in my classroom, we are able to use them to do so many things.  We also borrow from the other fifth grade classes when they are not using their computers.

One of my favorite pictures.  Totally didn't plan to capture this! 

One of the things I implemented this year is Genius Hour, which I called passion projects and passion time in my classroom.  It has been amazing!  My students can't wait for Monday, Wednesday and Friday mornings to work on their projects.  My colleague suggested using the first 20 minutes of class three days a week instead of an hour block one day a week.  I thought it was a brilliant idea, so that's what I chose to do.  Instead of morning work those three days, students work on their passion projects three mornings a week.  They have from the start of the day, 9:00, until 9:18 to work on them.  Many students come in early and work on them from the moment they enter the classroom.  I have students begin arriving at 8:30.  

Some of the projects that my students have chosen to work on include: 

  • How can I create a website?
  • How should one care for chickens? 
  • How did the library get so organized?
  • How does the computer language of coding work? (A group of students interested in this are all working through the code.org lessons together)
  • How do you play the ukulele? 
  • How do you play the mandolin? 
  • How do you plan resonator bells? 
  • Learning about birds of prey. 
  • Teaching another student karate, the other students project is to learn karate. 




And several more.  Not only has the response from students been great, but the response from parents has been positive as well.  Parents have expressed appreciation for my ability to not only find time in our day for students to learn what they want to learn, but for igniting the love for learning in their children.  

I'll continue to share with you about how it's going in our classroom.  I'll also be sharing the results of each students passion work toward the end of the semester.  For now, enjoy the pictures throughout this article of my students working on their projects this week. 


Have you tried genius hour in your classroom?  Tell us about it in the comments. 



I've linked up this blog post to


Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Book Review: Rocky and Bullwinkle Graphic Novel


Graphic novels are very popular in my class, and from my experience, many upper grade students.  I was so excited when I had the opportunity to preview this new graphic novel all about one of my favorite childhood cartoons, Rocky and Bullwinkle.  I found myself reading all of Bullwinkle's parts in that deep voice and Rocky's in that high pitched squirrel voice.  How fun would it be to get your students hooked to this book by showing a teaser snippet of one of the cartoons?  You can find episodes on YouTube that could be shown.  Always remember to view before you show anything to your students! You never know what's really in a video that might look innocent.




This book is comprised of several shorter stories, each as an "episode" of Rocky and Bullwinkle.  They aren't necessarily stories of the show episodes, but the characters are the same with a similar plot line as the cartoons.  The pictures are well illustrated and in vivid colors.  There is a good mix of text with pictures and illustration only pages to tell the story.

Give this Graphic Novel a try and you just might snag some of your reluctant readers.  The text in this story is not too difficult, I'd place the text readability itself around a 3rd grade level, but that's totally just my guess.  I think my 5th graders are going to love this book!

Rocky & Bullwinkle will be available on October 7, 2014.  You can pre-order a copy now by clicking any of the cover or title links in this post.  If your'e reading this after the release date, go grab your copy now!

What are some of your students' favorite graphic novels? 





Note: I was provided an e-book copy of the book in this review by the publisher in exchange for my review.  The opinions expressed in this post are my own.  Links in this post refer to my amazon affiliate and I receive a small compensation for purchases made through these links.  Your purchase helps me support my classroom and this blog. 

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