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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Summer Reading

One thing I love about summer break is all the extra time I get to read!  It is so relaxing to sit out on my patio with a good book and just read for as long as I like.

If you are looking for something to read, I highly recommend these books:

Go Set A Watchman-  Harper Lee

To Kill a Mockingbird is my all time favorite book, so of course I could not wait to get my hands on this new book by Harper Lee.  I went to the bookstore right away on the day the book was released, purchased a copy of the book, and spent the rest of the day reading!  It was interesting to get a glimpse of Scout as an adult and see how characters changed/stayed the same.  While this wasn't as good as "Mockingbird" (nothing really can be that great) I still found it to be an enjoyable book that provided a look into history and let me see the futures of the characters I got to know in Mockingbird.

First They Killed My Father-  Loung Ung

This is a non-fiction book about the authors life as a child in Cambodia living during the horrible genocide under the leadership of Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge.  Loung was only 5 years old when the Khmer Rouge took over her city and this book tells her story of what life was like during that time.  I found this book to be a great read and I learned so much about Cambodia and this horrible time in Cambodia's history that I really did not know a lot about before reading this.  I just read that this book is going to be made into a movie, directed by Angelina Jolie.  I am excited to see the film!

The Ice Cream Queen of Orchard Street-  Susan Jane Gilman

I am currently half way through this book and I am LOVING it!  This is another historical fiction novel set in the early 1900's and the present.  The story line switches between the present time and the past, telling the story of how the main character came to be where she is now.  The  main character was a young child when her family immigrated to the United States in 1913 and their new lives are not easy. Without giving too much away, they main character gets injured and ends up living with/working for an ice cream maker.  The story gives a great history about the evolution of ice cream, what life was like for new immigrants at that time, and what life was like for kids during those years.  The main character is one you feel sorry for and also despise, which makes the book intriguing!  This is a great summer book that will surely make you want to dish up a bowl of ice cream for yourself!

Do you have any books that you would recommend for my remaining month of summer reading time?

3 Reasons to Have Morning Meeting in Your Classroom

Do you do Morning Meetings in your classroom?  The 15-20 minutes I spend to do Morning Meeting in my classroom each day is so valuable, for myself and my students!

Here are my top three reasons why I think it is worth spending time to have a Morning Meeting with your class each day.

1.  Communication skills  the kids learn beneficial skills like speaking clearly, making eye contact, not interrupting the speaker, asking questions and more!  We start Morning Meeting with a greeting.  This can be a simple handshake that is passed around the circle or something silly like a wacky voice greeting, or a frog hop greeting.  The kids learn the importance of making eye contact when greeting their neighbor, and learn how to do an "appropriate" handshake.  (yep...5th graders like to try and throw in the death grip handshake- we talk about why that's not cool).  I always discuss how these skills aren't just Morning Meeting skills, but life skills they will use forever.  If you go into a job interview and shake the boss's hand with the death grip and look at the floor while greeting them you won't get very far :)

2.  Everyone gets to know each other better-  Sharing is a big part of my Morning Meeting.  I used to have kids sign up to share.  I had a clipboard with spots for 2 to 3 kids to sign up to share each day.  I noticed that kids didn't sign up to share unless they thought they had some major event to tell about, or the same kids signed up all the time.  This past year I changed things up and started letting everyone share.  I worried that this would take way more time than we had, but it really hasn't taken any more time than before.  On Mondays I always do "weekend update".  We go around the circle and share one or two highlights from our weekend.  Every other day I either let the kids share anything they like or sometimes I will choose a topic/question and have everyone respond.  Getting rid of the sign up sheet for daily sharing has been great for everyone!  More kids share each day and we get to hear about so much more about everyones lives outside of school.  I feel like I really got to know my kids so much better this past year!  

3.  Team Building-  The final part of my Morning Meetings always involve some kind of group activity.  We might play a game, tell jokes, or watch a funny video clip.  The important thing is that we are all doing something together that is fun!  It starts our day off on a positive note and gives us a shared experience that is supportive, fun and builds teamwork!  

If you haven't tried doing Morning Meeting with your class, I highly encourage you to give it a try this fall!  I will be posting some of my favorite Morning Meeting greetings and activities in future posts, so stay tuned!

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Stitch Fix #4 - June

I love when a new Stitch Fix box arrives on my doorstep! I just get so excited to open the box and see what surprises my stylist Natalie has picked out for me.   Here is a summary of my June "Fix".

First, if you are not familiar with Stitch Fix and how it works, here is a quick overview:

1. Start by filling out your style profile - you will complete all sorts of questions on sizing, pricing, style preferences, colors, etc.  

2. Order your first fix! A personal stylist will put together a box of 5 items based on your style profile.  Once your fix ships you will be charged a $20 styling fee-  however, if you keep any item [one or more] you will be credited back the $20. 

3. Decide what you want to keep and what you want to send back -it is so easy to return items you are not keeping in the provided postage paid envelope! 

Ok, here is my June Fix- ENJOY!

Sneek Peek!

Item #1-  Mavi Sonja Boyfriend Jean- $88.00

     I do not have a picture of these jeans because, well, they are jeans....  You can see the color of the jeans in the picture above.  I usually never pay anything close to $88 for jeans, so when I saw these I thought "yeah right".  I have an old pair of Mavi jeans from many years ago (that I got at Marshalls for about $25) and I knew they were super soft jeans.  Once I put these on, I didn't care how much they cost.  Mavi jeans are so comfortable and SO soft, I just love them.  I have already worn them many times.


Item #2-  Zad Rhian Mulit-Layer Necklace-  $34.00

I asked for a multi-color necklace in my stylist note, and this one is pink, orange and gold.  While it was cute, I am not usually a big fan of gold, and I felt like I could get something similar somewhere else for much much less.


Item #3-  Collective Concepts Pamela V-Neck Blouse-  $58.00

I also asked for something with polka dots in my stylist note, so once again my stylist Natalie really tried to fill my requests.  I love the multi-colored dots on this top, and the pink/coral color is totally me.  I wanted to keep this shirt, but when I tried it on the armholes were super huge and it just felt very baggy all over.  I really wish this had fit better because I really liked the style and fun dots!


Item #4-  Daniel Rain Lewis Cut-Out Shoulder Blouse-  $64.00

                               BACK                                                       FRONT

I had pinned a fun shirt with a bird print on my Pinterest "style" board, and my stylist saw that and thought I might like this fun bird print shirt.  
Look at the adorable little birds!

When I pulled this out of the box I wanted to keep it right away.  I loved the little birds!  When I went to try it on, I was super confused.  It has shoulder cut-outs, an opening and a tie in the back, and an attached cami.  I felt like I was untangling a bunch of jump ropes to get this on!  I was so sad once I finally got it all figured out and actually on the way it was meant to be worn.  It was just too baggy and the shoulder cut-outs did nothing for my arms.  I sadly packed this one into the return envelope.
****I recently saw this exact same shirt on the Anthropologie website for $98.00, so Stitch Fix      definitely had a great price on this top!

RETURNED (sadly)

Item #5-  Daniel Rain Bernal Split Neck Top-  $68.00

                                    BACK                                                FRONT

This shirt was super soft, and I really liked the bright blue (I have told my stylist I like jewel tone colors- she listened!).  I liked that this shirt was casual, but could be dressed up.  I also likes the back, which had little blue pleats across the top.  Sadly, this shirt was just too big.  


So, in the end, all I kept were the jeans.  But I was totally OK with that because the jeans were awesome!  

Have you tried Stitch Fix?  If you would like to try Stitch Fix out for yourself, I would love it if you used my referral link when you sign up!  

I get a small "referral fee" when someone signs up using my referral link.  When you sign up, you will get your own unique referral code link that you can share with your friends too!

Close Reading and Text Dependent Questions

This past school year I really worked hard to try and incorporate more close reading skills and text dependent questions into my reading instruction.

First, I had to figure out what exactly close reading was.  Here are a few books and web posts that I found really helpful:

Close Read Complex Text and Annotate With Tech
great post with lots of good links

10 Super Innovative Teacher Ideas for Close Reading
another good post with a lot of helpful information and links

Text Dependent Questions- Grades K-5 by Douglas Fisher and Nancy Frey

Falling in Love with Close Reading by Christopher Lehman and Kate Roberts

Once I wrapped my head around close reading strategies and thought about how I could use it in my classroom I gave it a try with a couple TIME for Kids articles and short fiction passages.  I was amazed at how hard it was for my 5th graders to find actual proof from the text to support their thinking.  I had wrongly assumed that this would be a simple task we would simply gloss over.  NOPE!

We worked on text dependent questions A LOT this spring, and I was excited when my kiddos finally started to get it, and I heard them discussing books on their own and saying things like "yeah, because on page 23 it said....".  YES!  They actually took the time, on their own, to go back and find proof to support their reasoning when discussing a book.  

I wanted to have an easy to use resource that would allow me to have a large quantity of text dependent question stems close by at any time so I could hit the different reading standards with a variety of text dependent questions.  

 I created a set of text dependent question cards that have worked wonderfully for me!  They are organized by each common core reading standard and there are a variety of questions to go with each standard.  There are over 190 different question prompt cards covering fiction and non-fiction!

They can be hole punched, organized on a binder ring, and kept close by for those times when you want to throw in a TDQ!  You can print them on white card stock with the colored boarders, or print them in black and white on bright colored card stock.  

 You can find this resource in my Teachers Pay Teachers store if you are interested in getting the whole set of over 190 different text dependent question stem cards!

Happy Reading!

Monday, July 6, 2015

Fermi Math

Have you ever tried using Fermi problems in your math class?  I had not heard of this until a couple years ago, but now I am hooked!

Enrico Fermi was a scientist/mathematician who loved playing with numbers and was able to calculate seemingly impossible questions in his head.

Fermi math problems require
*reasonable assumptions
*number sense

A couple of classic Fermi questions are:
How many water balloons would it take to fill your classroom?
How many jelly beans fill a one liter bottle?

Fermi problems emphasize the process of solving problems over getting the exact answer.  Fermi problems will not result in an exact answer (usually), and different kids may come to their answers using different strategies.  This is a great way to get kids talking about math and justifying how they came to their answers.

How do I use this in my class?  

This is a great activity for any time of the year, but I usually use Fermi questions as a fun break between units, as a fun project for kids to work on if they finish early, or at the end of the year when you have finished the "required" curriculum but still want to keep your class engaged in math.

At the end of this school year I had each kid come up with their own Fermi math question.  A typical question usually involves "how many ____" would it take to "fill/cover a _____".  The kids are instantly interested because they get to make up their question and get to include things that are interesting to them.

Some of my sports fans asked questions about how many footballs it would take to fill a specific stadium, how many hockey pucks would it take to cover the ice on a NHL rink.  A couple examples of questions involving candy are shown in the pictures below.

Once the kids have solved their question, I have them create a poster (12" x 18 " paper) to display their question, data, and conclusions on.

The kids are amazed with the huge numbers they usually get in their answers.

Have you ever tried using Fermi style problems in your math class?