Read-A-Thon 2016!

Do you see the enthusiasm in those kiddos faces? This was after an entire day filled with…. READING! Seriously, 4.5 hours of solid reading. And they loved every single minute of it… they even wanted to stay after school and read more! :)

After reading this post from the amazing Joanne, I knew I HAD to do a Read-A-Thon this year! I figured the last day before Thanksgiving Break would be the perfect time!

Messy and Perfect~ Saturdays and Teacakes

The first week of this school year is in the books, and I think we finished it with a bang!

Between all of the constant practice of routines and procedures that we do during the first week, I always try and squeeze in as many fun reading activities that I can. I take a poll on the first day of my students who love reading, kind of like it, and don't like it at all. I tell them it is my personal goal and mission this year to help every one of them find their "forever" book and their passion for reading. I set out to do this right away!

This year, we are taking the lead of the wonderful Teaching with a Touch of Twang (Sabra is amazing!) and taking the #ClassBookaDayChallenge! We will read 1 book for ENJOYMENT My students are overwhelmingly excited about this challenge (I will share in a separate blog post all of the fun Sabra and I are having with this amazing challenge!)

For now, I want to share about our Friday book: Saturdays and Teacakes by Lester Laminack.

If you don't have this book, you NEED it. 

^This version is hardcover and includes the CD of Mr. Laminack himself reading the book, which we always love to listen to!^

Throughout the week we do activities from Ideas by Jivey's Mentor Text and Better Than Basal Units on this book.

On Friday, we get ready to dive into messy learning and take the book even further.

We listen to the CD of Mr. Laminack reading the story (my students love his accent!)

While listening, my students work on the setting graphic organizer (we discuss clues as we listen to the book.) 

Then, while I am setting up the ingredients and passing out supplies, my students complete the theme activity together with their team.

And then the real messy fun beings!

On the Smartboard we write out the supplies and ingredients we need to make the Teacakes. I let my students completely lead this, because by now they should know all of the ingredients. I fill in the numbers for flour, sugar, and vanilla since those are not specified in the book.

My students sit in 4 teams of 6-8 each students in my classroom. Each team gets to mix up a batch of Teacakes, and then I divide up the dough and give each student a ball to roll out and cut into Teacakes.

Just like other hands-on activities I do, I always set up all of the ingredients at my small group table. Each team elects a "captain" at the beginning of the activity. ONLY this student is allowed to approach the table to retrieve ingredients. Then, they take turns passing the bowl around the team so each person gets a chance to add an ingredient and/or mix the bowl.

When they feel like their dough is ready, they ask me to check it. I do the Mammaw "pinch and taste" and give them their approval! :) (Or I help fix it if needed!) 

Then I give each student at the team a sprinkle of flour on their desk, a ball of dough from their bowl, and a small rolling pin to use (play dough rolling pins work amazing!)

*I didn't get pictures of these steps because by this point I have flour and dough up to my elbows and am running around having fun helping!*

Here's a pretty sheet of Teacakes all ready to bake!

Two of my boys who were VERY excited to take it down to the cafeteria (note the INSANELY messy desks behind them.. yes my whole classroom was a huge cloud of flour and I love it!)

Luckily, the wonderful cafeteria ladies are more than willing to help and have the ovens ready and bake the Teacakes for us. (Always make friends with the cafeteria ladies and custodians… especially if you do as much crazy/messy learning as I do!)

While our Teacakes bake, we clean, clean clean!! We use spatulas to scrape the extra dough into the trashcan, and then Clorox wipes to scrub down the desks. My students do a great job of cleaning up because they know their Teacakes are coming.

Once they are done and ready to eat, my students work on their first "How-To" writing of the school year---> Teacake recipe cards! They are SO excited to work on these because they can't wait to make them again at home. PLUS, they're enjoying a yummy Teacake or two while they work. :)

I do collect these recipe cards for a quick writing grade, but I always give them back by the end of the day so they can take the card home and try it over the weekend! (It's Saturday morning and I've already gotten 5 emails from my kiddos saying they made Teacakes today!)

I highly recommend this book and these activities that go with it. You can pick up the graphic organizers I talked about above and the recipe card as a FREEBIE in my store as a back to school gift for you! Click here to download. :)

Happy messy learning!

Travel Brochures and Creative Writing

I'm sure many of you are enjoying your summer break, and you certainly should be! I promise not to bring the back-to-school anxiety in this post, but I wanted to share a quick writing tip you can easily start planning now.. And it's stress free!

As you, friends, or family travel this summer, ask them to pick up a travel brochure or two from the places they visit. 

When you get back to school, put all of these brochures in a bin in either your classroom library or your writing center.

During stations, one of my writing options is a creative writing trip planner. Students can choose to write in their journals, or the diary templates that I have copies of with the bin.

Students simply pick up a brochure to a place they want to go and read all about it. Then, they can write a diary of all the places they visited along their trip to that location, or they can plan out a vacation with all the places they will stop and make an itinerary.

It's as simple as that! My students LOVE reading all of the brochures, going places in their minds, and planning trips out. I've even had students bring home their itinerary to parents and convince them to go on that vacation! 

I also {love} that some of my students who may never leave our town, get a chance to have a little bit of explorer and culture fun through the brochures.

Another fun thing I learned this summer among our travels is that 4th grade students have free access to all federal parks, forests, lands, and waters. All they have to do is go online to this site and download the free voucher! I can't wait to share this amazing opportunity with my 4th graders when the school year starts!

What are some fun writing opportunities you include in your writing center? I'd love to hear about it!

Back to School Prep made EASY!

Hi everyone! I know I've been incredibly MIA lately. I have been joyfully, busily, tremendously enjoying my summer break with my sweet little guy! <3 At a year and a half, our days are filled with endless laughter, chasing, cuddling, and absolute craziness and I wouldn't have it any other way. I {puffy heart} LOVE being a teacher, and I {BIG puffy heart} LOVE being a mom. Last summer I created this Back to School Pack to make the transition from summer to school mode easier on me, and allow me to spend more time with my little guy.

There is SO much to this pack, so I'm here to show you some pictures and help you see how purchasing this can making Back to School prep quick and easy for you, so you can enjoy your much deserved break!


Reading Game Changer--Blogging Literature Circles!

Literature circles have ALWAYS been one of my favorite things to do. The students love being given a book and told to take charge of their learning in their group. So how do we make it even more engaging and keep up with the times? We teach our blogging skills to our students!

Two years ago, I decided to take literature circles to the next level by having my students create their own blogs! Let me tell you, it has been a HUGE hit! I have students who haven't consistently done homework all year and spend most class time distracted, who are now engaged, enthusiastic about learning, and producing quality work! It certainly makes a teacher heart happy. <3


Implementing Engaging and Effective ELA Centers

In each of our classrooms students vary greatly in their daily needs when it comes to their literacy education. This is not news to you at all, I'm sure.  But with our classes being large, and resources being limited, how do you find time to differentiate for each student, give time for 1 on 1 and small group instruction, and still make sure other students are doing independent, meaningful tasks?

When I was stumbling through this question, I began developing my monthly-themed centers.