Thursday, August 20, 2015

Cooking up Metacognition with a Reading Salad!

If you missed yesterday's post, I am sharing a chapter at a time of Tanny McGregor's book, Comprehension Connections.
Chapter two is on a word I love- Metacognition.  I love it because it means “thinking about thinking”.  It’s a pretty cool concept, no matter what you’re thinking about.  Our students need to know that this is a thing.  They need to be aware and have a name for it.  Don’t shy away from using this term either, students love using multisyllabic words correctly.  I taught my first graders schema and stamina and they used them at every opportunity!

Each chapter/reading skill lesson starts with a Launch.  The launch here is defining the term metacognition and talking about what it could mean as a reader.

The second step is introducing a Concrete experience.  The concrete in this chapter is The Reading Salad.  McGregor begins with a narrative of how she did this activity with a group of students.  She demonstrated how she can sound like a good reader, but admitted that she was fake reading, because she was not thinking about the text as she read.  After a discussion on real verses fake reading, she introduces bowls labeled text, thinking, and real reading salad.  The discussion continues with a conversation on how a tossed salad is a mixture of lettuce and tomatoes, real reading is a mixture of text and thinking.  The text bowl holds red cards labeled text and the thinking bowl hold green cards labeled thinking.  McGregor then conducts a think aloud using a different passage.  Students drop in red and green cards as she alternates reading and thinking aloud.  These students will always be able to connect a salad with thinking about their reading!  I LOVE THIS!

I created a set of text and thinking cards, but I swapped the colors.  While I was researching metacognition (on Pinterest, of course), I found an anchor chart created by First Year Teaching Tales where she linked thinking to the tomatoes, because we have juicy thoughts.  This stuck with me and I couldn’t think of a reason why they couldn’t be swapped, so I did.
This is my friend Tonia and I at a state training where we shared this idea.
You can download the resource, which includes a brief explanation, by clicking the picture below.
The Sensory activity is a graphic organizer of metacognition, specifically thinking about reading.  A 2’ wide thought bubble with a hole in the middle for your student’s head is also an idea presented in the book.  I love that idea too!

We are now ready to move to the Wordless Picture Book portion of the lesson.  Wordless books DEMAND thinking about thinking, because there are no words to get in the way!  The Red Book by Barbara Lehman (2004) is suggested, but I am unfamiliar with this book.  Do you know it? It’s on my to-order-list.
Sentence stems are great to use at this point.  You can download a ton for free on Teacher’s Pay Teachers, just look for some you like!

The last step in the sequence is Time for Text and McGregor refers to several professional resources for lesson ideas.

Some of my favorite quotes from this chapter are:
A library is thought in cold storage. –Herbert Samuel, politician
A moment’s thinking is an hour in words.  –Thomas Hood, poet

Here is a look at some of the other pages in my free download above.

I would love to hear your thoughts on metacognition and teaching real vs. fake reading! 

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Comprehension Connections: Building a Bridge to Strategic Reading

I recently found a great teacher resource titled Comprehension Connections: Bridges to Strategic Reading by Tanny McGregor.  I say great because it is 8 easy to read chapters on different comprehension strategies.  Each chapter includes reading research, photographs and easy to incorporate activities.  My plan is to share a chapter a day with you!
Bridge Building 101 is the first chapter and talks about how Tanny discovered, through trial and error, the way to connect kids to reading and, most importantly, thinking about reading!
She developed a Launching Sequence (a progression for planning lessons that include a gradual release of responsibility) that consists of several lessons that span just a few days. 
The Launching Sequence is as follows:
Concrete Experiences- A lesson with a concrete focus.  Connections are made between background knowledge and new information.
Sensory Exercise- A lesson that might include art, music or food and links the concrete experience with the way kids learn.  It also provides time for practice.
Wordless Picture Books- Books with little to no text to allow an opportunity to practice the thinking strategy without the responsibility of decoding.
Time for Text- Independence increases as students practice the skills they've learned.
The Concrete Experience involves an actual object.  A speckled rock.  An old shoe.  A seashell.  Something that you can refer back to and say, "Remember when my old house shoe to school...?"  These concrete objects are the base of the "launching lesson".  This object creatively links background knowledge to the content you are about to present.  An old house-shoe is definitely going to be thought about long after the day is through and won't be easily forgotten.  We've also got to remember that reading is a social activity! Students need to talk about what they've read.  That's why I am not one of those librarians who are constantly shushing and giving the death stare to students who are engaged in purposeful talk!!
Turn and Talk is a great way to get students to engage with one another.  McGregor also says she provides thinking stems during each lesson.  Eventually, these thinking stems will sound less like parrot-talk and more authentic.  
I'd like to leave you with McGregor's cautionary note (found on page 7):
"It's tempting to start believing that the stuff of concrete lessons is what's important.  There's nothing magical about the concrete objects alone.  When it comes to meaningful instruction, it is never really about the stuff; it's about thinking and talking and learning.  These concrete ideas simply give us a way in to the hearts and minds of our students."
That is seriously some good stuff!
Come back tomorrow to read all about metacognition and leave with a freebie!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Using Static in a Good Way!

I hate static.  It's so annoying.  Especially when you get to work and realize you have a skirt-full of static and have to suffer with it all day long!  I have always thought static was sent straight from the devil, but I've just recently realized that its' powers can be used for good!
Shoplet asked me to review a product for them that uses static to our advantage!
EcoStatic SlickyBoard is a 25x30 sheet of dry erase "film" that clings to the wall!  You can use Post-it notes, dry erase markers, and even tape things to it.  I've had mine on the wall for about 2 weeks and it hasn't moved an inch.  I like the large size of the sheet and how well it stays on the wall.  The sheet does have some wrinkles in it, but you can get them mostly smoothed out.
I also wrote on it with a dry erase marker and I wasn't pleased with how it erased.  
The directions say to erase within a day, but this was after only a few hours.

Shoplet also sells SlickyNotes Notpads and the slips cling to the SlickyBoard.  I really like using them for orders for my small t-shirt business.
Once you write on them with a sharpie, it is permanent and don't count on reusing them.

Overall, I like the concept, but I wish dry erase markers erased cleanly.  It could have been just the brand I used though, and you may have better luck. 

The SlickyNotes slide around the Slickyboard easily, so you can quickly move information from one side to the other. 
Overall, I like this product and will continue to use it for keeping up with my t-shirt orders!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Viva Las Vegas:A TpT Conference Linky with Elementary Entourage

I could sum up my Vegas trip in word...AWESOME.  But if I did that, you wouldn't know why!
I only have about a million pictures, so to keep this post from going on and on, I put a lot if them in a Filpogram, so take 3 minutes and watch it!

I attended SDE's Differentiated Instruction and the Teacher's Pay Teacher's Conference.  There were so many great speakers and I came home with so much information!
Just some of the amazing people I met were (from L to R) Erin Klein {from Kleinspiration}, Meredith Lynn {from Write Brain Books}, Kimberly Geswein {KG Fonts},  and Kristin Oldham {from A Teeny Tiny Teacher}.
Angela Watson {from The Cornerstone} presented an amazing session on expanding your impact and expertise on TpT.  GoNoodle was in the exhibit hall and I met Taylor & Freckles and scored some cool swag.  Sessions were packed and so very informative.  Look for future blog posts on some of the sessions and companies who were in the exhibit hall!
Chris Pombonyo {Famous in First}, Kayla Delzer {Top Dog Teaching}, and Chad Boender {Male Kindergarten Teacher} are some of my new friends!!
All AMAZING people.
I was also excited to spend some time with my Nashville pals, Greg & Jason, AKA The Mister!  Jason is just a gem.  He is so supportive of Greg and is always there to help him succeed!
Chad and Jason were my zip lining partners on Fremont Street!  Despite how it looks, Chad is old enough to teach & drink, even though he was carded everywhere. LOL :)
Kayla just recorded a Tedx Talk in Fargo-can't wait to watch it!
I can't even tell you how awesome these people are!
Chis is hilarious and is dancing every time you turn around.
Not really sure what to say about Stacy, except that how much we are alike scares me a little... :)
Suz is a friend I met at the 1st Spring Teacher Blogger Meet Up in Indiana.  She's just great.
I'm still convinced that All Y'all Need is made up of only Amy and Lisa, who are both just pure sunshine.  Hopefully, I will meet Laura one of these days!
Tracy and Michelle are friends that I feel like I've known forever, even though it's only been a few years.  Love both of them.
Jen Jones was on my list of people to meet in Vegas...CHECK! She is a delight!
I also got to have dinner with Amy Biddison, from Teaching in Blue Jeans.
We even zip-lined down Fremont Street!!  
While I wasn't exactly a winner at the casino (I quickly lost my winnings- a whopping $3.35), 
I was a winner when it comes to lifelong friends and crazy memories!
Can't wait 'til next year!!

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

The best home laminator!

I recently received an offer from to review the Fellowes Saturn Laminator.
Some product specifics are:
  • Laminator features a rapid, one-minute warm-up with InstaHeat Technology.
  • The 9-1/2" entry width accommodates multiple document sizes.
  • Saturn3i 95 Laminator delivers hot lamination for 3 mil or 5 mil and cold setting for self-adhesive pouches.

I eagerly accepted this opportunity and here are my honest opinions!

*Lightweight, but did not feel "cheap"
*Heated extremely quickly!
*I have never used cold lamination, but I can now if I want!
*There is a ledge on the back of the laminator to catch your work as it comes through.
*MOST IMPORTANTLY, the lamination actually sealed all the way around my paper!  Usually when laminating with a small laminator, there are some edges that don't seal very well.  I was VERY impressed with how this one sealed!

*There are only 10 laminating pouches that come with the laminator. BUT, that is better than none!
*A little pricey, compared to other small laminators, but you do get what you pay for!

The Fellowes Saturn 3i 95 Laminator is seriously the best home laminator I've ever used.  It heats quickly, seals completely, and has an automatic shutoff feature.
If you need a good laminator, this is a great one!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Win a GlassTech Case for your Microsoft Surface Pro!

I'm happy to announce that I am giving away a GlassTech case for the Microsoft Surface Pro and Surface Pro 3 on behalf of Gumdrop Cases
This would be perfect for your classroom!

The Gumdrop Cases GlassTech for Microsoft Surface features:
  • Ruggedized, impact-resistant skin - perfect for accident-prone kids and families
  • Tempered glass screen protector for ultimate touch sensitivity, with a special smudge-free coating
  • Fully compatible with the Microsoft Surface keyboard and kickstand
Learn more about the GlassTech for Microsoft Surface 3 here, and the GlassTech for Microsoft Surface  Pro 3 here. The cases are available in Green, Black and Red, and start at $59.

**Enter to win a case by leaving a comment below.**
I'm sorry, but the winner must be in the US.
Let me know why you think you should win the case in the comments along with you color preference and email address. 
Thanks for your participation!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The 2015 Nashville Teacher Blogger Meet Up!

That's all you need to search for on Instagram to see what an amazing time we had last weekend!
If you've never been to a teacher blogger meet up, you are missing out.  You don't even have to be a blogger, blog-stalkers teachers are always welcome!
Greg {Kindergarten Smorgasboard}, Latoya {Flying into First Grade}, Cindy {Exploring is Elementary}, Alexandria {Classroom Action with Ms. Jackson}, Lawren {Teaching is a Royal Adventure}, and I had been emailing potential sponsors, brainstorming activities, searching for the perfect venue, deciding on a menu, and messaging each other daily for the last few months.  
It was completely worth all the work, because we had the most fun-filled weekend!
We kicked off the weekend at the Nashville Sound's baseball game at their brand new stadium.  It was a perfect night for baseball- the weather was great, cold drinks, hot food, 23 teacher blogger friends, and a win for the home team! We even made it onto the jumbotron!

GoNoodle provided us with some awesome sunglasses, which came in handy, because the sun was on us the first couple of innings!
Remind sent us the tshirts, along with some swag for our meet up bags!

Saturday's main event was held at Atmalogy, a super cool venue in Nashville with all sorts of unique spaces to hold meetings, get togethers, or 60 teacher bloggers!  Heather, the owner, was very easy to work with and gave us an amazing rate to use the space.  I highly recommend stopping by for a coffee or glass of wine in their cafe and checking out the space for your next gathering!
2320 West End Ave, Nashville, TN 37203

Y'all, this was so. Much. Fun.

We ended up with $14,000 in donations of one type of another.  Unbelievable, and probably unprecedented! We had SO many wonderful companies and people give us products!
In addition to Atmalogy giving us a great rate for our space, the following companies were also very generous!
Paid for our lunch from Jim N Nick's & gave us cool swag!
Donated a site license for an entire grade level.  That's a $2,000 value! 
Please shop from these companies and let them know that you appreciate them supporting teachers!

Saturday night we ended up at Opry Mills and had a delicious dinner at Chuy's!
After dinner, we walked over to Opryland Hotel and hung out at the Library Lounge!

On Sunday, we met at Monell's, a crazy good restaurant near the airport in Nashville.

I CANNOT wait until next year's meet up! Hope to see you there!
See more pictures by hopping through the blogs below!

Monday, May 4, 2015

Teacher Appreciation Week Giveaway!

American Greetings is hosting a giveaway for teachers like you - who work hard year-round to educate and inspire students!
To show their appreciation, they’re hosting a Teacher Appreciation Week giveaway. 
The winner will receive a $500 Staples gift card to use towards classroom supplies and a $30 Starbucks gift card as a personal treat. Additionally, 2 runner-ups will each receive a $100 gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers.  
All you have to do is register with your school email address so they can make sure that a teacher is receiving the prize.  You also earn extra entries by following American Greetings on Twitter and Facebook.

Friday, April 24, 2015

How to deepen Number Sense with Rekenreks

First of all, what exactly do I mean by "number sense"?
Broadly defined, number sense refers to having the intuition to not only understand numbers and number relationships, but also developing the ability to flexibly use this knowledge to solve mathematical problems. It’s a skill that’s developed early on in a child’s education, sometimes as young as age 2. According to the University of Cambridge’s NRICH Project, young children can identify the difference between one, two or three objects before they even learn to count.

My mind was recently blown by the October 2014 National Governors Association Paper that stated,
"A child's math ability when he or she enters school has proved a better predictor of academic achievement, high school graduation & college attendance than any other early childhood skill.  Early mathematics competency predicts later reading achievement better than early literacy skills.  High-quality early mathematics instruction supports later learning of the science, technology, engineering & mathematics skills U.S. employers require."
(Bold & underline emphasis is mine, not theirs.)

YOU GUYS!! This is HUGE.  Number sense in the early grades is crucial! We've GOT to make sure they're getting it.  The textbook alone is not going to teach it.  Our youngest learners need hands-on activities.  Rekenreks are a great hands-on way to help develop number relationships and flexibility when it comes to thinking about numbers.
Of course you can buy them, but ain't nobody got money for that!
I made an entire class set for $6.
1.  Pony beads, foam board, and pipe cleaners.  That's all you need!
2.  I cut my foam board into approx. 5"x3" rectangles and cut 2 slits on each end.
(I found that a X-acto knife was the best cutting tool.)
String 10 beads on each pipe cleaner, using two colors (5 & 5).
3.  Tuck the ends into the slits & twist them on the backside.
4.  That's it!  Your students could even make these!

Now what?
There are great resources all over the web for using reckenreks in the classroom.  
  • K-5 Math Teaching Resources has a great explanation of how and how.
  • Here's a free E-book by Dr. Barbara Blanke that has 10 activities along with an introduction to using the Rekenrek or Number Rack. It even includes correlations to the CCSS!
  • There are tons of great ideas on Pinterest, of course.  Click the image below to see lots of them!

Do you use rekenreks? Tell us about it in the comments! Also, feel free to leave links to other great rekenrek resources!

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