New Kids on the Block

I know. It’s been a long time since I’ve written.

Y’all…I’m tired. It’s been one of those years. The dreaded ones. The ones where you feel like you’re running in quicksand. You’re making all the moves but not going anywhere.

Exhausted doesn’t even begin to describe my mental state by 3:00 PM. Decisions, decisions, and more decisions. All. Day. Long. Who has accommodations? Is the speech-to-text going to work on the computer today? Remember to make sure your kids have their graphic organizers, fidget box, commonly misspelled word list, grammar and spelling rules, and oh, a sharpened pencil WITH AN ERASER. *Intercom* Mrs. Shook, Kid A is going to be a car rider today. And Kid B is going home right after specials so please send said kid with his backpack.

Seriously. And it’s like a hundred million things every day. And I’m tired.

Yeah. That’s been me this year. It’s a tough one. For lots of reasons…but to keep this from turning¬†into a giant snooze fest, I won’t list them. You’re welcome. ūüėČ

In the meantime, our son broke his arm right where his forearm connects to the elbow. Luckily, he only had to wear a splint for two weeks, and now it’s just in a sling. But sheesh! One more thing to worry about…a 6 year old 100% boy with a broken arm in a sling. Yep.

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And we’ve had to start new inhalers and breathing treatments and¬†allergy meds. Keeping up with all of that is definitely not my gift.

Stress: 2     Me:0

We have also been settling into our new home. The process just seems to drag out. But I guess that *might* be because I’ve been watching too much Netflix and ignoring the boxes that are piled in the garage. Oops.

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But…

I’m still here. And things are starting to get easier. Hopefully I can do more than sit around and eat Halloween candy (or whatever the nearest holiday is…) and binge watch shows on Netflix…anything that doesn’t take thinking.

I’ve been working on some new things. This group has required me to think on my feet and go with what they need. I’ve been playing with using mentor sentences and paragraphs (rather than full texts like I’ve been using) to introduce grammar content while marrying it with strategies¬†I love from Gretchen.

And I’m really liking it. I’ll be writing a blog post soon about how we are changing our writing instruction to meet the needs of the kids. Because…you know…they won’t get better if you don’t meet them where they are, right?

So that’s coming soon.

I promise to not wait so long before blogging again. Several of you have messaged me or reached out on social media. If you aren’t following on Fb, you should hop over and join the fun. I post there much more frequently, and you are welcome to send me a message there if you have a question. Sometimes that’s easier than email!

Thanks for following along. I hope your year has been awesome.

In the spirit of thinking on your feet…who else is in the same boat? Have you tried something new that you think is working really well? Please share!! We would all love some fresh ideas!

Until next time…

 

 

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A Week of FUN Review!

Last week…as in the week BEFORE Spring Break…my class participated in Game Show Review. (I’ve created a second set of Game Show Review…you can scroll to the bottom for the link.) ¬†In my last post, you saw several kiddos having the time of their lives.

Well…it continued for the rest of the week. ¬†I thought I’d share more fun and sometimes hilarious photos from our games.

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On Wednesday, we played Token of Truth. ¬†It’s sort of like poker, but we had no money…so it can’t be considered as gambling. ¬†:)

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We practiced our spelling skills and homophone identification and proof skills.  In order to allow time for all students to think and get their answers, students were asked to put their hands on their heads until everyone was ready to answer.

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I had my student teacher at one table, her roommate she conned into spending the day with us at another table, and I was at a third table.

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I really enjoyed this day because not only did students have fun, it gave us some small group time to talk about the spelling rules and clear up some misconceptions.  I even took out my handy dandy dry-erase marker and did a little reteach on the table when times called for it.  #imcallingthatawin

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On Thursday we continued with more Minute to Win It games. ¬†The first was water bottle flipping…yes, you heard me right. ¬†Water. ¬†Bottle. ¬†Flipping. ¬†This was their reward for answering questions about quotation marks. ¬†#ishouldwinamedalforthat

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I think the boys had more fun than most of the girls, but they were so motivated and loved every minute of it.

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FYI…there is a certain amount of water needed in the bottles for this¬†awful interesting game. ¬†Apparently if they are really full, they bust open and water flies EVERYWHERE. #speakingfromexperience

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And then there was Face the Cookie.  This was the reward game for answering questions about commas.

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Just look at that smile.  #nootherwordsneeded

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This was definitely a hit with all involved. ¬†ūüėČ

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After commas and quotation marks rounds, we did a round of both.  Students were not told whether it was a question about commas or quotation marks.  They just had to look closely and decide for themselves.

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Slug bowling. ¬†One of the funniest things I’ve seen in a long time. Students had to try to knock down the water bottles with their tennis ball.

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Some of them got the hang of it very quickly and knocked over several bottles…

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…while others battled it out or stood over one bottle the entire time. ¬†Oh. ¬†My. ¬†Goodness. ¬†#laughsfordays

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On Friday, we played Deal or No Deal with combining sentences.

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There were three types of questions involved.  One asked students to identify if the sentences were combined correctly or incorrectly, one asked the best way to combine the sentences with multiple choice answers, and the last one asked students to combine them on their own. #lastonepictured

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Students who were not answering questions got to hold a briefcase “sealed” with a point value inside.

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When the teams were finished answering the question, they got to choose a case. ¬†Then they decided whether to make a deal or shout, “No deal!!”

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And…of course…at the end they all wanted to reveal what was inside their case. :)

If you can’t tell by looking…we had a BLAST this week!! ¬†Test prep has NEVER been so fun!!

Need something like this to liven up your classroom this last week before STAAR? ¬†Click here for Week 1 or click here for Week 2…coming up! ¬†The lesson plans are designed for one hour of instruction. ¬†If you have more than that, you could even do the plans for BOTH weeks together for even MORE fun. ¬†And if you’d like to read up on our first day, click here.

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I’ll be posting soon about our week coming up. ¬†We are ready for round two of Game Show Review!!

How are you handling your last week before STAAR?  Drop a comment below!

Until next time…

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Game Show Test Prep

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to have some fun with test prep! ¬†No boring worksheets. ¬†No monotony of same thing, different day. ¬†Nope. ¬†Not having it.
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So…I created something that kids are SURE to LOVE!! ¬†GAME SHOW WEEK!!

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We are calling it “STAAR of the Show” in our room. ¬†It’s a BIG secret right now as to what we will be doing next week, so if you see any of my students, don’t tell them!! ¬†Haha.

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This is just the first set that reviews revising and editing.  I will be creating another set for the week before STAAR that includes writing and some mixed skill review.

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There are over 150…yes…ONE HUNDRED FIFTY cards to help students practice their skills in teams and battle it out to earn the most points.

Who WOULDN’T have fun with Minute to Win It games, table games, task cards, and Deal or No Deal?!?! I’m so excited!!

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My student teacher and I have been busy prepping our room for the fun times to come.

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This is going to be awesome. ¬†I’ll check back in soon to let you know how it’s going!!

Interested in getting in on the fun? Just click here to grab a set for yourself! I promise you won’t be disappointed!

Until next time…

 

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H-E-B Buddy League

Hey, y’all!

I wanted to let you in on a little something that’s a really neat program for kids. ¬†It’s called the H-E-B Buddy League. It is a program that focuses on being a buddy, not a bully, and is GREAT for Diversity¬†Awareness Month in October!

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As a teacher, you can order a FREE kit from H-E-B. It comes with posters to hang in the hallway and resources for your class, including worksheets and a link to several online activities.

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I was a little late in writing this, but we’ve had the posters up in our school for awhile. ¬†The kids especially enjoy seeing whose name is written on the special poster in recognition for being a buddy to friends.

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The kids sure have enjoyed it!  While it is designed for 2nd grade students, many grade levels benefit from this awesome program!  :)

If you would like to join the H-E-B Buddy League or want additional information, click here. There are links to free materials on the site.

Until next time…

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My Take on Things

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I wanted to take a moment to reflect on some things…mostly the Writing STAAR from 2016.

Here goes.

First of all, let’s just take a moment of silence to calm ourselves down from reading those words…STAAR 2016.  Yeah. Hang in there!

There were so many things that were out of the ordinary for the test.  Schools receiving the wrong test booklets. Districts receiving their tests in Home Depot boxes.  The company losing…yes LOSING test scores. And some schools receiving DOUBLE scores (which weren’t even the same scores in some cases!) for their students. And there was more…

I think we can all agree it was a mess.

But there’s more…

The 4th grade Writing STAAR was interesting, to say the least.  And the scoring? Ummm…let’s just talk about that for a second.

I had the opportunity to sit down with someone who works for the testing company and helps score writing.  Let’s call this person Bill. Bill told me all about what happened on the scoring end of things. I asked him to write some things down so that we could all have a better grasp of what went down:

  • Ambiguity in grading was the biggest issue. There is no consistent adherence to the rubric.
  • The rubrics ARE consistent and the anchor papers and model texts ARE consistent.
  • Inconsistent are the calibrations, ratings, and what is being taught to pass in schools.
  • My observation has been that ambiguity exists because of the variety of raters across the U.S. (Yes, they are ALL OVER the United States…not just from Texas.)
  • There needs to be direct, clear communication between TEA and the testing company. 
  • The breakdown is the funnel or flow once the information hits the upper echelon of the company.  The trickle down of information exponentially diminishes so that when it hits calibration, training, and rating, there is no reliable, linear, consistency in the rating system.

So…in a nutshell…the communication stinks…all over.  There were lots of graders (from who only knows where…because they put out ads on CRAIGSLIST, for crying out loud) who were extremely inconsistent and didn’t use the rubric.

Let that sink in a minute.

The STAAR graders didn’t even use the rubric…many of them, anyway.  Hmmmm…..

**Take a short break. Once you calm down a bit, continue reading.**

Ok.  So it was a complete mess.  But there are still some things we learned from this craziness.

The prompt threw the kids off.  Totally.  It asked students to choose one reason they liked being in 4th grade and to explain it.  Basically, if a student really didn’t like being in 4th grade, they were already doomed…but that’s for another time.

Anyway…when you think about it, the prompt wasn’t as different as we all thought.  It was just narrower than we had been used to.  STAAR has always asked for students to pick ONE thing and explain it.  In this case, the one thing was 4th grade.  In the past, it was a favorite time of year, what they want to be when they grow up, etc. In essence, the test had already picked their main topic.  What really stumped the kids was that it asked for one REASON.

Fortunately, if students chose to write more than one reason, they didn’t get counted off for it.  In fact, I’ve read papers from my current district that received a score point 8 and had two reasons.  So that’s definitely a plus!

If you really want to focus your students on giving one reason, an easy way to do that is to give a broad reason and then funnel it from there.  For example: I enjoy being in 4th grade because of my teacher. I love 4th grade because I get to go to the science lab.  4th grade is awesome because I get more privileges.

After choosing a reason like this, students can then choose more than one reason that goes with what their “main” reason (the ones above). For example: My teacher is kind. My teacher lets us do fun activities. Or…The science lab looks amazing. I get to do tons of experiments in the science lab. This still allows kids to use multiple reasons that connect to one main reason.

So…it really isn’t all that different from what we’ve had in the past when you look at it this way.  It just required much more thought and skill at developing their reasons if they did it this way.

Does that make you feel better at all?

The cool thing is that YOU can make a difference.  This company is ALWAYS looking for people to help grade essays! If you are interested, just search for “STAAR” on a job search engine and sign up!!  Let’s get more TEACHERS to help with the grading!!

If you’re interested in some things that might help your students with writing or grammar, I have several products (even FREE ONES!!) in my TpT store.  Just click here.

What are your thoughts about it?  I know we would all love to hear!  Leave a comment below!

Here’s to hoping it gets better this year!! ūüėČ

 

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Grammar Posters

Another quick post. ¬†Sorry guys! ¬†I’ve been incredibly busy this year. ¬†I PROMISE to get back to a blogging routine soon! ¬†I have some incredible papers (for the beginning of the year, anyway! ¬†Ha!) to share with you. ¬†I am still waiting for several permission forms to come back so that I can share them with you.

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I just uploaded my newest product to my TpT store.  I created some grammar posters to go along with my Daily Writing Review.  These focus on the rules for apostrophes, commas, quotation marks, and capital letters.

You can grab a set here.

See you soon!

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