Literacy Rotations in the Upper Grades

Saturday, January 21, 2017
One of my New Year's Resolutions was to differentiate more in my classroom with the use of literacy rotations. Let's face it, organizing small groups in a way that works can be a rather daunting task, especially in the upper grades. If you are like me, you may face challenges such as limited space, large class size (34 to be exact!), lack of materials or just deciding which materials to use, and finally LETTING GO (for my fellow control freaks!) Due to these challenges, it has always been hard to wrap my head around how to organize everything, but I finally laid out a plan that has been working for me (and hopefully for you as well!)

Schedule
The first I did was find time in my schedule.  Over the break, I revamped my entire day so that I was going to teach the things that I seemed to have trouble fitting in FIRST. My morning schedule looks like this.
Morning Schedule (Language Arts)
8:15 Homework/Morning Warm Up
8:30 Read Aloud
8:45 Writing
9:45 Literacy Rotations
10:15 Recess
10:35 Rotations Continued
10:50 Close Reading/Book Groups

Choosing Groups
The first thing I did was decide that I wanted to have heterogeneous groups mixing up the ability levels of my students so that they could help each other when they were in different rotations without me.  Since I have a group of focus students in my class that I target through their previous year's test score data, I spread these students out.   

My target students are chosen for different reasons.  
#1) Students who are close to benchmark (proficient) 
#2) Students who just barely met benchmark and are at risk of falling behind
#3)Students who are far below proficient
I spread these students out so I have only 2-3 focus students in a group of 7.

Setting the Stage
Before starting rotations, I have students move ALL of their pencil boxes to a storage location so that their desktops are completely clear.  This allows for the students to completely move around and we are ready to set up the centers. I meet with the students prior to centers beginning to let them know where they will be going/doing using the following cookie sheet. I love using this since I have limited space in my classroom and it is extremely portable.  
Portable Rotations
Since I have limited space, I need PORTABLE centers. A basket that the students can take with them to set up.  I can dream about having enough space for permanent centers, but that is definitely not my reality! I usually choose a CENTER CAPTAIN that is in charge of getting the center tote and setting up, which is a great chance to give students leadership roles. I found awesome totes, seen in the pictures below at JoAnnes for 19.99, but I found them 40% off and I used an additional coupon! I LOVE them because they are canvas and have handles so the students can easily grab and take. 

What are the students doing?
Figuring out what the students will be doing is the most important task. I change the activities on a weekly basis, but the premise of the center stays the same.  The centers are broken down into:
Rotation #1) Word Work
This week, students are working with the root word SUB. The students fill out the template seen below with their group researching along the way with the help of our classroom chrome books, iPad, and dictionaries.  The students LOVE making NONSENSE words on this organizer! They get pretty creative here!
Rotation #2) Read to Self
For the READ to SELF rotation, my students were working on BOOK TASTING.  Students grab the portable basket seen below (from JoAnne's) filled with books that I have picked up with my Scholastic points.  Instead of putting them in my classroom library right away, I like to put them in the BOOK TASTING basket! The timer is set in 5 minute increments, at the end of each 5 minute block, students are able to decide if the book leaves a GOOD taste in their mouth. If so, they continue reading. If not, they are able to make a new choice!
Students use the BOOK TASTING template seen below to keep track of their work. 
Rotation #3) Comprehension
Since I taught the lower grades for many years , I have tons of picture books. Students choose a picture book. They can choose the same book with a partner or on their own.  After, students explore the "theme" of the picture book with the template you see here. Grab the template seen below by clicking on the link. 
https://drive.google.com/file/d/0B3cn7wYVF4dYVy1VNE9jTGJIeGs/view?usp=sharing
Rotation #4) Non Fiction
I receive TIME for KIDS every week. To be completely honest, it was getting pretty overwhelming trying to fit them into my daily schedule, but I think I have found the answer. Students browse through the TIME for KIDS and choose one article that interests them.  After reading the article, they write a NEWS BROADCAST using the template seen below.  After completing the template, students practice their broadcast for their group.  Eventually, students will record their broadcast into their GOOGLE CLASSROOM account so that they have a record of their performance!
Rotation #5) Teacher Time
I first complete a guided reading followed by skills building.  Last week we focused on COMPLEX sentences and used the following template to discuss the purpose for each coordinating conjunction.
Here is the template and other organizational tools I use for Literacy Rotations!
How do you organize your Literacy Rotations?

6 Mini-Lesson Ideas for Teaching Effective Dialogue

Thursday, November 10, 2016
The past couple of weeks I have incorporated 5 different mini-lessons that 
taught my students to effectively add dialogue to their writing. Hopefully! ;)
Mini-Lesson #1: Dialogue Models
I used the form seen below to introduce basic dialogue models to the students.  Under each individual model, the students wrote their own example.  Students also looked through the novel they are currently independently reading and hunted examples of each model.  
dialogue models, upper grade writing, dialogue lesson, 5th grade writing
Mini-Lesson #2: Color Coding Models
In the next mini-lesson, I gave each student 4 different colored index cards which they cut apart and arranged into the different models.  This provided a good visual as long as they stayed with a consistent color pattern.  The pattern we used was:

ORANGE: subject or speaker
PINK: speaker tag (how the speaker spoke)
YELLOW: what was spoken by the character
GREEN: quotation marks and commas

Students are keeping this in their writing folder so they can pull it 
out throughout the year when needed!
speaker tag lesson, dialogue lesson, color coding dialogue
Mini-Lesson #3) Speaker Tags
Students brainstormed different ways to say more basic types of speaker tags like the ones seen below.  After students independently researched these speaker tags using the chrome books, we made a classroom anchor chart where students came up and added one word to each square.  This created a good discussion tool as some of the words were great examples or synonyms for more common speaker tags, and how others were not very good examples or wouldn't make sense. 
synonyms for said
Mini Lesson #4) SAID is not DEAD!
As teachers we often use the expression SAID is DEAD! when teaching dialogue. However, said can actually be a very powerful word when it is paired with a prepositional phrase. As we were looking through novels that the students were reading and finding examples of dialogue, we noticed that many authors used long phrases to explain how a character sounded or looked when they were speaking.  Since we had been previously studying prepositional phrases, students were able to incorporate this into their writing.
Examples:
"Watch out! The bowl is going to tip over!" My mom said.
"Watch out! The bowl is going to tip over!" My mom said with a distraught look on her face.
Mini Lesson #5) Writing Dialogue with Comics
Students were so excited when I pulled out this comic of Charlie Brown talking to Linus. The students rewrote the comic using dialogue models.  This allowed the students a lot of practice with writing speaker tags to create the appropriate mood and tone as well as changing speakers. They loved it!
comic strips in the classroom, comic strip mini-lesson
Here is another example! We talked about how important it is the vary your dialogue models so that there is variety in your conversations.
5th grade, writing mini-lesson, narrative writing with dialogue
Mini-Lesson #6) Students Create Comics 
Finally, it was time for students to create a comic based on their narrative draft that we had been writing.  The students read over their narratives and pinpointed a place where they would want to add dialogue.  They used the template seen below to draw the comic. 
After students drew the comic, they wrote the conversation below and finally added it to their narratives! She was able to add this conversation to her narrative and it really took her writing to the next level! 
writing, 5th grade, panicked teacher
Click on the image below to get this free template!
Other templates seen in this blog post can be found in my narrative writing unit! 
Click on the link below to be taken there!
Please share your tips or tricks for adding dialogue!

Pumpkins, Prepositions, and Poetry!

Monday, October 17, 2016

We are in the middle of studying prepositions! We kicked off our preposition studies with the Preposition Song seen below that I still remember from my sixth grade English teacher! 
The kids are loving learning this song to the tune of Yankee Doodle Dandy.
I also made this anchor chart based on the wonderful visual I found on the website found here.
To have the students get in some real world practice, their homework for the night before was to find 3-5 prepositional phrases from the book that they had read! As I checked their homework, kids took turns going up to the chart seen below to record their prepositional phrase. This was not an easy task, but they came through and it was also nice to have a public view of what each student was reading.
Finally, the students took a crack at writing the prepositions in a poem about pumpkins. A great sentence starter we used was, "A Pumpkin Grows" which students then chose a preposition from the song and wrote a phrase that made sense to them. They came up with some great poetry! Click on the picture below to get more detailed templates that you can use with your students! 
Below is the finished product. The students typed their poems on the computers and inserted a picture of their rough drafts along with inserting a picture of a real pumpkin. They looked great on our door!

Johnny Appleseed for the Bigger Kids

Sunday, September 25, 2016
Can the big kids celebrate Johnny Appleseed Day??? Well, yes they can!!! I teamed up with my teaching neighbor Teaching in Room 6 to end the week off with some apple fun.  I searched the internet and found some awesome passages that I was able to print out for the students. Recently, we have been discussing the importance of having multiple sources while doing research, so this was the perfect opportunity for students to break out into groups, research different articles, and then compare information that was found.  Here are the links to the different passages that I found!


Johnny Appleseed Article #1
Johnny Appleseed Article #2

Since we have also been focusing on Close Reading, the students used the following paper to target the different Close Reading Annotations with their groups. Click on the template below the picture to use this in your classroom.
My class is also focusing on Idiom/Adage/Proverbs of the Week this year, so this was the perfect opportunity to get thematic and post an "apple" related Adage. What better than, "An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away?" At the beginning of the year, my students had a pretty firm grasp on Idioms, but Adages/Proverbs? I had to look up that one too! Since it is a major standard in 4th and 5th grade, I have an entire bulletin board dedicated to it.  Click on the picture below to get a more in depth look at how I post this in the classroom AND the week's worth of posters to display in your classroom! Also, there is a"Wonderopolis" article on this adage/proverb which is a great introduction for the students to read AND great if you have Chrome Books or a technology center in your classroom. 

I am finding that focusing on ONE Idiom/Adage/Proverb of the Week is a great way to incorporate this standard into my weekly routine.  The students usually work on this as part of their morning work!

Since we are a STEM school, we found this amazing idea from Kerry Tracy, called Apples Ahead, and it just fit in perfect with what we were doing. Students had to build structures that would be strong and sturdy enough to carry an apple while they participated in a relay race. This was a great opportunity for students to build hands on models using creativity and teamwork! They were given 35 minutes with specific materials (cardboard, yarn, planters tape, brown bags, pipe cleaners, aluminum foil, pencils, brads, string) to SHARE in order for each team member to build a sturdy model.  
Here is a picture of the kids in action! Each group had 4 team members working on their own individual structure. The 35 minutes went by quickly as they made their models. Some teams realized that they needed EVERY structure in their group to perform well in order for their team to be successful, whereas others acted more competitively within their team, realizing later that they needed to all do well in order for their team to succeed!    
Here are a few pictures of the teams in action!
This was one of the structures that the students voted the STRONGEST! She zoomed through the relay race since she made such a strong base for her hat (and her self-confidence was just beaming which was awesome!)
This girl won the most CREATIVE since she used every single type of material that was given to her. It was great to see the kids proud of their structures and comparing and analyzing why some structures did better than others.  
All in all, I was so excited about giving the students a "break" from their regular routine! Take a look how my friend Stephanie celebrated Johnny Appleseed day! I am LOVING all of her tips with how to incorporate Google Classroom with her legend vs. truth activity…..Take a peek into her room here!

Place Value Activities

Monday, August 8, 2016
I always start the year off with Place Value, so I have compiled the different resources I use here in one place.  I use the following numbers and place value posters to provide a visual model of the different place value digits.  Students are able to use this as a handy reference throughout our place value unit as it is displayed in the front of the room. I have made this FREE for you! Just click on the pic below.

The next download has a variety of place value templates and exercises like the one seen below where students practice different place value concepts.  In the following weather disaster investigation students practice word form, standard form, expanded form, comparing numbers, and finding the sum and difference of larger numbers. These resources center around numbers to the billions. 

Don't forget to have students fill out EXIT TICKETS at the end of your lesson! I like to do this at least once a week in order to assess my student's learning. Click on the link below to go to my free download for Math Exit Tickets.
I am excited about trying out the next project with my students this year. Students will work in groups of 6 to complete place value concepts using their BIRTHDATES! My favorite part of this project is students are working together and collaborating with each other to complete each task. 
Click on either picture to be taken to the BIRTHDATE PROJECT!
What are your tips and tricks for teaching place value?

5 Ways to Get to KNOW Your Students!!!

Wednesday, July 27, 2016
5 Back to School Must Haves
The first thing starting the year that is a top priority for me is to get to know my students.  While this takes time, here are some of the things I do the first week of school to get to know everyone.
#1) Learning Styles Surveys
You can never be too over-prepared for the first couple of days of school!!! I love have these surveys printed and ready to go for a moment when I need a 10-20 minute activity.  They are great reflection tools and great for students to add to their portfolio.  Also, another good way to get to know the kids! 

#2)All About Me TOTEM POLES
I am SO excited about this next project I am going to try this year! Got Paper Towel Rolls??? I have been collecting mine all summer for the kiddos to do this take home project so I can get to know them better.  The directions? Cover the roll with ANYTHING in your house that you can find that reveals information about you.  I had so much fun creating mine and this is how I will introduce myself to my students the first day.  I am excited to have my students create and write about each item they decide to add to their totem pole.  I'm thinking it will make a great looking bulletin board. I'm SO excited about these!!!
#3)Parent Informational Sheet
Something I can do immediately is go to the expert on the child….the parent. 2 must-knows for myself are allergies and asthma, so I highlight those on the top right of the form.  I also like to get down to the nitty gritty and ask specific things about behavior and academics so that I can begin to familiarize myself with where a student may need extra support.
#4) Index Card
The first day is all about survival! Getting to know 34 names can be tough. When the students walk in, I like to give them an index card where they can fill out basic information that would be helpful for me to refer to. I just love having the cards that I can quickly shuffle through and figure out who is who! I attached the PDF to the pic below so you can easily print and put under the doc reader so the kids know what to write.

#5) Getting to Know You Towers
Every year I love to have my students create these Getting To Know You Index Card House Towers.  They offer an alternative to the traditional all about me project and look really great for Open House! Click on the pic below to see further instructions and to get a copy of the template.
Other Resources to Kick Start Your Year!
Please share what you have had success with the first week of school. 
Do you have a special way to get to know your students?
Powered by Blogger.
Back to Top