Sunday, August 31, 2014

Vocabulary in the Common Core Era

Vocabulary is one of the essential components of literacy. It is not single-discipline focused and will be needed for our students to comprehend just about everything they will encounter in life from having conversations with future bosses, becoming entrepreneurs, finding their way around a new city, learning about "what to expect when they're expecting", and so on.

It is important for students to be mindful of when they encounter new words and how to derive meaning from unknown words. Current research shows that:

  • Vocabulary learning is effective when it entails active engagement that goes beyond knowledge of just dictionary definitions. By knowing the word in their own terms, students can use it in multiple contexts and make connections between concepts and other words. 
  • Both teachers AND students should be involved in choosing vocabulary words. Teachers have a responsibility to expose students to words that they will need in school and in life (also considered Tier 2 words) while students must also choose words that will further their own comprehension of specific material. 
  • Vocabulary growth happens slowly over time and students need multiple exposures to words. Each time we experience the same word, we learn more about how it is used, what it means, and the different forms it can take. We are always adding on new information about words. It can be helpful for students to understand how they learn new words through progression. 
  • Greater gains are shown in student progress when they are included in tracking their own learning and growth on academic tasks (including vocabulary acquisition)
Vocabulary rating scales are a useful tool in getting students to be active participants in their own word learning. This can be done before, during, and after reading. Words can be chosen by students or teachers. Before reading, students can skim through the text or teachers can select Tier 2 words from the text to show students. Using the scale below, student can assess their knowledge of the words. 

This also sets a purpose for students before reading. They now know what words to be "on the lookout" for as they read. They can practice using context clues to figure out meaning, they can utilize technology to find the meaning, or they can discuss new words with peers and adults as they encounter them. 

Students can record this information in notebooks or in the graphic organizers shown below. This way, students are able to refer back to them before and after reading to see how much more they have grown. 

Individual Student Vocabulary Knowledge Rating Scale

Individual Student Vocabulary Knowledge Evidence

Individual Student Vocabulary Knowledge B-D-A Organizer

As previously mentioned, students show greater gains when they are included in keeping records of their progress. I plan to use vocabulary graphs with my students throughout the year. There are different ways that these can be used. 

Students can color grid squares... 
  • for each word they learned based on summative assessment data
  • for each new word that they have used 
  • for each word they have shown progress with based on their rating scale data (a word going from a 1 to a 3)
Individual Student Vocabulary Graph 
If you really like this strategy, please visit my TPT store to check it out by clicking on the link beneath the image!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Losing Ourselves in the Service of Others

I truly feel that teachers have a duty...not just to teach kids how to write, read, and solve problems, but to find a way to be a contributing member to society. Teachers have the unique opportunity to instill character and compassion in the students they serve for 180 school days.

In the past, I organized an after-school group with the purpose of raising awareness of and money for local animal rescue groups. These types of organizations have always been something of a passion of mine and I wanted to share that with the children I had the privilege to work with everyday. We baked and sold pet treats after sending home order forms. First mistake! We had THOUSANDS of orders placed - great for the cause...not so much on our ability to mass produce perishable pet treats. I had my grandmother, neighbors, friends, and mother baking for days!!! I laugh looking back at it now, but it sure wasn't so funny when we were all covered in flour and peanut butter! Needless to say, we raised over $800 for our local group based out of Clarks Summit, Pennsylvania. 

Having loved the feeling that came with making that kind of donation, I wanted to tackle the project again with my new students at my new school. The past three years, my students have thoroughly enjoyed learning how to bake and sell dog treats. It is always funny and pretty impressive to see how they are able to come up with marketing ideas for selling our goodies. 

This past June was definitely the best experience we have had to date. After reading stories about therapy animals and shelter pets, my class decided that they wanted to join in on our 3rd annual sale. I researched local rescue groups and showed the class the websites for each one. My class voted to help a local group called, One Love Animal Rescue. Now it was time for the hard work to begin!

                                                  (parent permission granted to use photos)

                                                        (permission granted to use photos)

The students in my class used their measurement and multiplication skills to figure out how to double and triple recipes. They had to set a goal regarding how many treats they wanted to sell and then decide how many batches would need to be made, how many treats would have to be baked, and how much potential money that could make for our donation. They got gooey, sticky, messy, and dirty and couldn't have been happier! 

I know what you are thinking...what kind of crazy lunatic takes twenty-four 8 and 9 year old kids to a Home Economics room that has hot ovens, wooden rolling pins, and sharp objects?! I DO! It is days like these that kids can truly shine!!! With expectations set and responsibility placed on their tiny shoulders, you would be amazed at what they can do! We made 28 batches of dough...hundreds of treats...and hundreds of dollars! 

                                               (parent permission given for use of photos)

We were able to present One Love with a check for $240!!! They were so thankful for the donation that they wanted to show up in person to tell the kids how grateful they really were. Sherri Smith and Dawn Hulings brought a furry friend by the name of Zuzu to our school. They taught the children how to safely and appropriately approach an unknown dog. Each student had a chance to spend some quality time with the beloved Zuzu. We even made the local news which can be found on One Love's FB album --> Watch Us Here!!!! 

                                                     (permission granted for use of photos)

I am reminded at the end of this project each year that it is worth every ounce of stress and organization that goes into making this happen! Seeing their smiling faces, tears in their eyes, and newly found passion for helping animals is nothing short of a day maker. 

Writing this post was not easy. It was difficult to describe something that felt so amazing. There are truly no words I can use to get your mind or heart where mine were on this day.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Back-to-School Motivation

The final countdown has begun. In a few short weeks we will be back in our classrooms...smiles on, energy high, coffee full, and ready for anything. We have had the summer to take deep breaths, refocus, recharge, and plan for a "full steam ahead" moment come school day numero uno.

Each year, I like to start with this video that I found a few years ago. It still gives me goosebumps and fills my eyes with tears each and every August. Don't let anyone tell you that teaching is easy...that it is a day full of coloring, tying shoelaces, and correcting papers. Remember why you became a teacher. Remember the teachers that made a difference in you. The next time you are criticized or a victim of a blanket "teachers have it easy" statement, refer to this video.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Celebrating with a Giveaway!

It has been almost one full year since I began my blog and my very first store at Teachers Pay Teachers! The year has flown and I feel like I have grown so much as a blogger, teacher, and entrepreneur! Just this week, I have created a shop over at the Teacher's Notebook. My enthusiasm and excitement has been kicked up a notch (along with the heat in good old Philadelphia) and I would like to throw my very first GIVEAWAY!!!

I am in dire need of followers and would love if any and all of you could share this exciting news with your fellow friends and family!!! I am giving away my Multiple Meaning Match-Up Bundle from my TPT and TN stores to 5 lucky followers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


1. Please FOLLOW ME at my Teachers Pay Teachers store by clicking the link and the "Follow Me" star
2. Please FOLLOW ME at my Teacher's Notebook shop by clicking the link and the "Follow Me" button
3. Please SHARE this post via Pinterest or Facebook
Good Luck!
<3 Mary

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Because of Winn-Dixie Literary Celebration

I choose different chapter books to read to my classes during the school year. Some I have kept in the rotation. Some I have quickly removed once seeing the glazed over looks in my students eyes. Each and every year though, Because of Winn Dixie always ends up being one of my students' favorites! They clap with excitement when they see me reach for the book and they groan with frustration when I stop after two chapters. Many of my students flock to our school library to check out this book in order to follow along with me in class as I read it aloud. the old saying goes..."If it ain't broke, don't fix it." 

Because of the trending popularity of this story in my class, I decided to surprise my students with a party to resemble the one had in the book. I replicated all of the foods and beverages served in the chapter including Dump punch, Otis' pickles, Littmus lozenges, and Opal's egg salad sandwiches. I also mixed in a few others to include peanut butter sandwiches (since Winn Dixie loved PB so much) and animal crackers to represent Gertrude's Pet Store. 

We snacked on our food, drank our Gloria Dump punch, and watched the movie version of the book. As we watched, I had students compare and contrast the similarities and differences between the book and the movie. They also worked in centers to complete a pamphlet that I had created based on certain chapters and characters in the book. 

We even decorated our classroom with the tree from Gloria's backyard and turned our classroom library into the Herman W. Block Memorial Library. Each student identified a mistake they have made in the past that they regretted or felt bad about and wrote about it on the bottle outline that I made for them. We hung them all from the tree and talked about why we thought Gloria chose to do that in the story. 

Needless to say, my students were 100% engaged on this day and still continue to get this book from the library to read it over again at home or during independent reading time in class. There is no better sight to a teacher than students truly loving to read! :D

Thursday, March 27, 2014

How 3rd Grade Celebrates Saint Patrick's Day the Academic Way!

It has been a busy couple of weeks in Glenolden School! The kids of Room 5 have really been buckling down lately in preparation for the state assessments (PSSA tests). St. Patrick's Day fell on a Monday this year and I wanted to surprise my students with something out of the I created holiday centers in honor of all things green and Irish! :)

Getting to school extra early on a Monday morning can be quite difficult, but I managed to get into my classroom with enough time to spare to setup all of the activities. I sprinkled gold glitter all over the tops of the desks. As students entered the room, they inquired about the glittery mess. I directed them to the white board which explained it all!


I wish I had a video of their reactions! They were equally surprised, anxiety-ridden, and grossed out! UNLUCKY DUST?!?!?!? What were they going to have to do to get their luck back??? Within five minutes of entering the room, my 3rd graders were ready for the challenge. 

In partnered groups, the students had four tasks to complete in order to "earn lucky charms and get their luck back". The four tasks included skills that we had been working on in class. I used this opportunity to partner up students based on their mastery of the skills. I grouped students that mostly mastered the skills with students that were still struggling to grasp certain concepts. The activities also allowed for my students to get some cooperative learning experiences. 

The four common core-aligned tasks included:

1.) Students read two passages about St. Patrick's Day celebrations in different parts of the USA. They were asked to compare/contrast using text-based evidence (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.9)

2.) After reading a passage about the Irish Potato Famine, the students identified the main idea and supported it with three key details from the text. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.2)

3.) Without using a passage, students were given sentence strips with directions on how to make Irish potato candy to sequence using only the clues in context. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RI.3.3)  

4.) Given four short video clips to watch, students were asked to fill in a graphic organizer using their schema and clues from the video in order to make logical inferences. (CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.3.2)

Be sure to check out my TPT Store in the future for freebies from this lesson! They are not quite store ready just yet!!! 

Monday, March 3, 2014

Math Bulletin Board FREEBIE - Pizzas at a FRACTION of the cost! :)

We are less than a month away from our annual state testing and Room 5 has just concluded learning about fractional parts of objects. As a tie-in to our math curriculum, we designed a math bulletin board as a class. One of my extremely bright and creative students came up with our BB slogan.

Students chose pizza toppings and were given the amount of slices that their pie would include. They designed their pizza and came up with the fractional parts for each topping. I had them color the edge of a standard paper plate brown, gave them a traced circle to cut out on paper, a ruler to "cut" their pizza in the right amount of slices, and paper/tracers for the toppings that they chose. This whole project took approximately 30 minutes from start to finish. 

You can see pictures of the latest board and find a link for the fraction pizza FREEBIE HERE