Monday, September 1, 2014

Interactive Notebook 101

I LOVE using interactive notebooks with my students, but last year, I couldn't help but feel that something was missing.  Then it hit me.  We just sort of jumped into notebooking, but I never took the time to lay out what notebooking really was.  I neglected to explicitly teach the HOW and the WHY to my students.  Although I do feel like my students worked well with their interactive notebooks, I can already tell that my newest batch of kiddos might need a little more direct instruction and more of an explanation of why we are doing what we are doing.  So, I sat down and plugged away, and now I cannot wait to launch interactive notebooks with my kiddos this week!  This bundle includes a variety of interactive notebook templates to help lay the foundation... educate parents about the process... and it even includes teacher PD components to deepen your understanding. I'd like to introduce you to Interactive Notebook 101

I'm starting off tomorrow with the following page.  I am going to have my kiddos glue the header to the page, then fill out a KWL about interactive notebooks. (Small note: the templates are in black and white and color.  I just used color for my examples because I didn't feel like eating up more time with crayons in hand.  Yep, I am a lazy pants.)

The next template allows my students to sift through the vocabulary piece. They will record "interactive notebook", the definition, and a sketch of what this looks like.

In our classroom, we are always breaking apart words to look at roots and affixes.  So, I am presenting the root "inter-" for analysis.  The kiddos will record the meaning of the root and the meaning of the word "interactive."  I will have them highlight the root and discuss.

Now, this part is a good one.  I outline this on slides as well... but I want kids, parents, and administrators to realize why we are doing what we do.  This is NOT busy work.  When done purposefully, it is anything but.  So, we are going to take notes and explicitly spell it out from the beginning.  I am super excited about this piece.

We will also be covering some organizational tips and creating an accordion of possible uses.

This foldable will be used to take notes on how we take notes and refer back to them to improve our understanding, refresh our memory, and build on what we already know.

This photo shows what it looks like when it's folded.  You can also see a questioning foldable to stop and give students a chance to process the information and check for understanding.

This pocket illustrates the connection between all of the multiple intelligences (that we refer to in class as types of smartness), and how it all connects to interactive notebooking.  It also provides a great way to share this information (again) with parents and administrators.  I am all about transparency and supporting my curricular decisions.  Plus, it's good practice with a pocket too! 

This flower foldable is ideal for listing out types of templates.  You can list more than one on a petal.

Although not totally comprehensive, I included four-square foldables for several different templates.  I don't think I will be folding them though.  I plan on having my students glue them  just like this.  Since I don't have clip art for every foldable every created, I have included a blank template where you can have your kiddos write and draw the template.

Of course, I love my Jot Spots, so I created one for this pack too.  I want to start introducing them now so that students get the hang of it from the beginning.  I love how they provide thinking stems and a place for student sticky notes.

And there you have it... in a nutshell.  Interactive Notebook 101 is a simple, kid-friendly way to explicitly introduce interactive notebooks to your students. Words cannot adequately describe how psyched I am to use this with my students this week.  I just know it's going to help us be even more successful and iron out this routine before we get to the heavy lifting of notebooking to address the standards!  Have a Happy Labor Day!!!!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Meet the Teacher: Amanda Nickerson

Today was my first official day of year number nine, and it's Who Monday at Blog Hoppin'.  Can you believe it's already time for Teacher Week?! I'm joining my friends for a little fun... and I'm sharing my current back to school stats... plus a little blast from the past.

Honestly, I feel like this entire blog is basically a diary of my teaching life, so I have decided to take it back to my pre-blogging days.  I could have easily titled this post "Meet Miss McVay" since it's more about my past than my present because let's face it, I am a social media addict, so you probably already know way too much about my classroom and my life.  :)  So... anyway... now you can see the whole continuum of my teaching experience...minus my days at a behavior school...because who knows what happened to those photos.  Sad face. 

Let's see what I could dig up from the archives, shall we?

This is a photo from student teaching in the spring of 2006.  :) I  was working the drive-through window at McDonald's for McTeacher's night.  I had the pleasure of working in the same second grade classroom for a full year, and I knew that teaching was everything I wanted at that point.

As you can see from another student teaching photo... I have always had an affinity for props.  :)

I used to teach first graders too... once upon a time.  Here are some of the activities we did for CVC words.

I also taught summer school for a few years.  This was part of my first grade group with their hilarious self-crafted reader's theater masks.  I totally forgot about this, but they are too stinkin' cute!

I also had no shame.  Not a shred.  Because who doesn't dream about being a coconut tree.  Right?!

Besides making Chicka Chicka Boom Boom themed frocks, I also used to make a lot of my own resources... and that sounds a lot like what I do now... except I didn't realize I could make digital resources... so I drew everything myself.  

I believe I have mentioned this before, but reading "Reading with Meaning" and meeting Debbie Miller during my second year of teaching was a game-changer for me.  She transformed my rudimentary teaching style, and she helped shape me into the teacher I am today. 

The next photo montage is from my first year as a third grade teacher in the 2008-2009 school-year.  

Freckle Juice Characterization
School-wide Election Project- Collaboration with Mrs. Hartwig's Fourth Grade

The First Annual Whatchamacallit Workshop

An engineering challenge using index cards.
A student initiated invention that came out of our unit on circuits and energy.  

The final photo is from my last year in my former school district.  It was taken on the day of our word parade.  I had just had knee surgery, so I was on crutches for a legitimate reason.  Out of necessity, I dressed up as "Incapacitated".  My student dressed up as "Hypochondriac."  This is one of my favorites.  :) 

It was so much fun digging through old albums to find pictures for this post.  It's amazing to see how much I have grown since the 2005-2006 school-year.  It's amazing to see the transformation from hand-drawn to computer generated classroom resources too.  (I still kind of LOVE my original goodies because there's something so warm and welcoming about homemade/handmade stuff!)  I love seeing my first take on some of the projects I still enjoy doing with my students after all of these years.  When you boil it down, I still value fun, novelty, creativity, and critical thinking.  I just continually refine those projects and resources year after year to make them better than before.  Because that's what we do.  :)  We reflect... we look back... we look forward... and we strive to do even more than before... and even more than we thought we could.  Because at the end of the day... we all want the very best for our students.  I hope you enjoyed this trip down memory lane with me!
Don't forget to link up with Blog Hoppin' and introduce yourself!

Monday, August 11, 2014

Building Community With GoNoodle!

Do you GoNoodle?!  You should!  GoNoodle can be hugely powerful for binding a class together, building teamwork and working toward a common goal. It's also SUPER brain friendly! Allow me to explain...

I remember when I took my first position as a third grade teacher...we were ALL about brain-friendly teaching that year.  As a collective whole, we were immersed in a book study called "The Art of Changing the Brain" by James E. Zull, and I served on a district committee that helped facilitate discussions with colleagues about how to integrate more brain-friendly lessons into our curricula. Although it was a very technical read full of neuro-scientific jargon, I loved it so much that I quickly devoured other books on the topic.  I really enjoyed "Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites", "Brain-Compatible Classrooms", and "Brain Rules".  Highly recommended!!! :)

Did you know that brains are hard-wired to crave certain things?  Novelty is just one example, and it makes perfect sense. Humans are natural explorers.  We are always trying to make sense of our environment and our life experiences.  We are curious... we problem-solve... and we have fun when we encounter something shiny and new.  Researchers have found that novelty causes a number of brain systems to become activated such as the the dopamine system.  Although, dopamine is typically thought of as the "feel good neurotransmitter", a growing body of evidence suggests that it's more like the “gimme more” neurotransmitter.  Dopamine also is very much involved in learning and memory, which occur in the brain through changes in the way that neurons connect to one another. From biological and survival standpoints, it makes sense that we would literally be hard-wired to pay attention to novelty over the mundane.  As teachers, we cannot ignore the fact that our brains crave novelty.  Instead, we must harness it and use it to our greatest advantage.  Of course, there are countless ways to engage students in the classroom using a little bit of novelty, but today, I just want to focus on brain breaks, because let's face it, they are magical. Pure MAGIC.

What is a brain break, you ask?  A brain break is a purposeful break during instruction that is intended, quite literally, to give your students brains a break.  :)  I have enjoyed a variety of brain breaks over the years.  I still love cross-over exercises because they activate both sides of the brain, but I also LOVE using videos that tie into our lessons.  I have become a pretty big fan of using School House Rocks videos and Flocabulary songs to drive home concepts we work on in class.  However, the FREE website GoNoodle has definitely become our go-to-source-for-brain-breaks.  Oh my word.  The kids are obsessed, and it's easy to see why!

Let's talk real talk.  First of all, as I mentioned, GoNoodle is a FREE resource.  Although it does give you the option to upgrade, the free version has a plethora of videos to enjoy!  I don't know about you, but I LOVE FREE QUALITY RESOURCES!  What teacher doesn't?  (Am I right?)  I love that the videos are so kid-friendly, and they allow kids to engage in short bursts of physical activity.  This gives them a "break", gets their blood and oxygen pumping, and helps them refocus on our classroom responsibilities.  Ultimately, it helps keep my kiddos focused, engaged, and motivated, and it only takes a few minutes each day.  The videos are perfect as transitions, as an energizer, or as a reward at the end of the day.  Personally, I really like that there are different kinds of brain breaks.  I can pick calming brain breaks that help prepare my students for concentration, I can choose energizing brain breaks to provide a controlled-outlet for extra wiggles, or I can choose focusing brain breaks, like stretching, that help my students refocus on the tasks at hand.  The other thing that my students enjoy is watching their classroom "Champs" grow and evolve as earn minutes.  They choose their own itty bitty baby Champ as a class, and they watch it mature until they max it out.  Then they have a chance to pick a new Champ and begin the process all over again.  It's amazing how excited my third AND fourth grade kiddos are about watching the Champ go into the "Transmogrifier". 

My students have yet to find a video that they aren't crazy about.  They really enjoy the sports options... the Zumba Kids videos... and pretty much everything.  Literally.  Even some of the videos that are clearly silly and/or created for younger students have delighted my students.  They love quirky silly stuff,  and GoNoodle delivers in a big way.  A class favorite is  "Ice Cream and Guacamole"... was an instant hit. The first time I played it, my room was a dance party for three minutes before getting back to test prep business... and I am so glad they had a few minutes to just take a break... be KIDS... and dance their wiggles away. My students also love all of the videos compiled from popular movies.  They are some of the class favorites for sure. It's nice to have videos without ads and the extraneous information that sometimes litters the screen on YouTube.

Beyond that, I love that my students dance together, sing together, and grow closer together as a community through each brain break.  They laugh, they exchange glances, and we become more of a school family each and every time.  That has been an unexpected bonus, and it makes my teacher heart so full and so happy!

Because I was planning on writing this post, I enlisted my students to help out by sharing what they enjoy about GoNoodle.  I had my third graders send messages using their Google Apps accounts, and I had my fourth graders write a more tangible letter.  Click on the scanned letter below to read some of the feedback I received from my students! :)  I think the letters show just how embedded GoNoodle brain breaks have become in our classroom culture and how much we love it!

Now, make sure to sign up for a FREE GoNoodle Account!  I promise, you won't regret it. and your students will thank you!  Make your students brains happy today!

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If you're interested...keep hopping over to my sweet friend, Erica!  She's going to talk to you about why GoNoodle is so great for students with special needs.  :)  Hop on through with the link below!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A GATE-way to Understanding the Gifted: Parent PowerPoint!

Serendipity is one of my favorite words.  Merriam-Webster defines serendipity as "luck that takes the form of finding valuable or pleasant things that are not looked for".  I can't think of a better way to describe my current position as a teacher of gifted clusters.  It was serendipitous that I was asked to teach this population and GROW a group of kids that are often difficult to grow.  Perhaps it's because of the misconception that gifted students will thrive in any setting under any circumstance... that they can "hold their own".  Time, money, and support staff are often poured into struggling students, the middle gets hit with the core curriculum, and the top group "holds their own".  The issue is, gifted students are not carbon copies or gingerbread men.  They are diverse.  They have great talents.  They may have great needs and gaps just like other kids.  They may be ESL students, or they may be twice exceptional with two or more diagnoses.  The kids with an IQ of 135 look much different than the kids with an IQ of 170, and if you compared two kids with the same IQ, you would see lots of differences between them too.  The span in a gifted cluster looks a lot like the span you have in any other classroom.  It's a big continuum, and in some ways, it's wider than a typical room with a mixed bag of students.  Gifted kids need intervention and enrichment.  They need encouragement.  They need to be understood, valued, and supported just like every other kid in every other subgroup.

This year, I am making a concerted effort to ramp things up even more.  As part of that process, I created a Parent PowerPoint that breaks down some of the basic elements of gifted education, and I hope to share it with my classroom parents.  I hope that it will help clarify what it means to be "gifted", gifted characteristics, the 16 Habits of the Mind that are promoted in gifted education, a look at some positive and negative manifestations of gifted traits, a closer look at three characteristics and suggestions for support, parent resources, and more.  It would be perfect for an Open House, an informational parent night, or conferences!  Once I decided to share this with the wider world, I created THREE slides that are editable to allow for customization of your state's laws/regulations, your school/classroom services, and your own enrichment . The rest are secured images and, inherently, cannot be tweaked. Here's a little peek at some of the slides included in the file.

Due to high interest, and the fact that every time I tried to upload a longer preview and reduce the file size it was unsuccessful, I am sharing the Gifted vs. Bright Chart as a FREEBIE.   Print, laminate, and keep for conferences to help differentiate between the gifted and their non-gifted but bright counterparts.  I hope that this makes your job a little easier this year.  ENJOY!

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Classroom Preparations!

Well, the 2014-2015 school-year is inching closer and closer, and I decided to get a head-start on purging, reorganizing, and start setting up my classroom.  I have had several conversations this summer about themes, and I have stated several times that I had no intention of switching mine out.  I like to focus my energies elsewhere, and let's face it, revamping decor can get expensive.  However, after walking into my classroom, I am now singing another tune.  I just can't take the zebra print anymore.  It looked like zebra print threw up all over my room, and all of my once vibrant poms that were hanging from my ceiling looked faded and sad. I have decided that I just want to simplify.  I did an ocean theme for several years... then I did a jungle-esque theme... and as I enter my ninth year of teaching... I am just frankly OVER themes.  I don't want to keep buying thematic bits and bobs.  So, I am not.  Ever again. (Well, that's the plan anyway!)   I just want to make my classroom feel like home, so I am simplifying, and I can't wait to share my streamlined space with you once it's complete. In the meantime, here are a few snapshots to whet your appetite!  I have a long road ahead of me, but I am looking forward to creating a  home away from home. 

I am trying to create a more refined space, but I still will have pops of patterns and color... mostly teal and black though  :)
I always keep extra resources handy... and this is how I will be storing them instead of keeping them in cupboards!
Other than working in my classroom, I am trying to organizing materials for the new year.  I am seriously so excited to whip out my Stop, Collaborate, & Listen: Speaking and Listening Like Rockstars pack.  I think it's going to be loads of fun... and foster critical thinking... and of course collaborations as well!  Yay!  Here's a little sampling of a few of the activities I've been cutting and organizing!

What Ifs: Prompt discussions with “What Ifs”. Have students work in cooperative groups to discuss each scenario. Have each group share out the conclusions that they drew through their discussions. Briefly discuss scenarios as a class. Teach the strategy, then have your students create their own “what ifs” and discuss! Great for book discussions too!

Questioning: The Wonder Workshop is a partner activity. Students will choose two cards from the pile, and each student will ask their partner to generate questions about the topic on their card. For example, if I pulled the card with an illustration of a tape dispenser, I would ask my partner what they wonder about tape. I would record the answers manually, or I could video tape or tape record the interview and dictate the responses later. You could have your students create news clips about their interviews and the interesting questions posed by their subjects then share the multimedia clips with the class, or you could simply opt for a group discussion to share new learnings.

Set Descriptions to Music: Students choose an item to write a song or rap about. The song or rap must be descriptive. They can either perform it live, create a music video, or they can create a song clip using software like Garage Band (that comes with all Macs.)

Garage Band Instructions: 1. Click on GarageBand. 2. Choose “New Project”. 3. Choose “Voice”. 4. Name the file. 5. Click “create”. 6. Press the red button to record. 7. Press it again When complete. 8. Save again. 9. Bring the red line to the beginning of the track, and Press play when ready to listen.

SCAMPER: Each of the letters in the acronym SCAMPER stands for a stage in the process. Students will find alternate uses for everyday items, and then share out their innovations!

S- Substitute
C- Combine
A- Adapt
M- Modify
P- Put to other uses
E- Eliminate/Elaborate
R- Reverse/Rearrange

Research Corner: Looking for an independent study component to reinforce speaking and listening skills? Create a mentor corner where your students can conduct research to answer questions posed by “younger students”. Your students will ultimately createa quick video to present their research. You could upload videos to a private YouTube channel, use the Reflector app to automatically reflect the movie and share it, or have your students send the file to you via email/other
means. I swear by Reflector for i-Pads and Macs.

Debates: Elementary students are perfectly capable of having debates. Debating is a great way for students to practice considering two sides of a scenario or argument, polish oral language skills, research, support their claims with evidence, and synthesize information.

Have you checked out my newest freebie, by the way?!  I created a quick little icebreaker to get to know your students' learning preferences!  You'll definitely want to snag that HERE!

In other news,  the TpT sale is underway, and it's the perfect time to stock up.  If you've been eye-balling anything in my shop, now is the time to buy.  :)   Have a great week, friends!