Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Storyworks in Our Classroom: Online Resources

Welcome to the first post in a three post series on Storyworks in Our Classroom!
 This first post is all about the online resources Storyworks has to offer and how we use them in our fourth grade classroom. This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to resources on the website. These are just some of our favorites!

If you have been looking for a way to supplement your curriculum, add to your Intervention/Enrichment tools, and include more Nonfiction in your room, I would highly recommend thinking about a subscription to Storyworks.
(I am not affiliated with Scholastic. I just love this resource & think
more people should know about it!)

What are your favorite online Storyworks resources? Is there something awesome on the site that I am missing? Let me know in the comments! Be sure to check back for the second post which will be on how I use Storyworks for our Intervention & Enrichment period.

Monday, January 18, 2016

One week ago...

One Week Ago
By Stacey Riedmiller

One week ago, my teacher heart changed. 

One week ago, I felt the excitement of Christmas morning.

One week ago, my phone had a constant buzz with Voxer excitement from book friends.

One week ago, nothing else mattered but our love for books we have shared.

One week ago, something crept in and pushed itself up against the walls and made my heart bigger.

One week ago, I watched a child who hated reading jump from his seat with excitement for books.

One week ago, a reader interrupted my Principal to say we were going to miss the Awards.

One week ago, our reading community was materialized.

One week ago, I felt electricity move through my body as my readers championed books.

One week ago, a book that we had all shared won the Newbery Medal.
One week ago, a book that we had all shared won the Caldecott Medal.

One week ago, in our tiny Ohio classroom, we were a part of a bigger reading community.
One week ago, we all belonged somewhere, and that somewhere was together in our classroom, reading books.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Scholastic Reading Club: A Guide For Teachers

You're a teacher... that's why you're here, right?
If you're a teacher then it is almost certain that you know about Scholastic Reading Club.

When I talk about the efforts I make to stock our classroom library Scholastic is mentioned every time. Using Reading Club in my classroom is the NUMBER ONE way I get books. Last year, we added over 100 FREE books to our classroom library by utilizing book orders.

This is the part where you turn into Negative Nancy. 
"My kids never order books."
"I teach in a Title 1 or low income district."
"Book orders are too much work."
"No one orders enough for it to be worth the work."

Well, don't be negative! I promise that I can give you some tried and true tips for making the most of your Scholastic Book Orders.

Things to do that you might NOT be doing

-Send home multiple flyers

Check with other teachers in your building. Not everyone uses Reading Club & sometimes you can snag their flyers! You can see which flyers you receive under My Account. If you are having trouble online, call Scholastic. They are so nice and helpful!

-Attach a letter or informational sheet to your multiple flyers

Your letter should include this information:
1. Your class online activation code (get this from the Teacher's Desk section online)
2. The due date
3. The website address
4. Payment method- send in checks or money orders, online orders can use credit cards. No cash!
5. A small blurb about why we do book orders (to get books into the hands of kids and to get bonus points for free books for your classroom library)
6. How many books? I have always included the amount of free books from the previous month's order. This helps parents see that their money supports the class in a big way! 
Plus, it's fun to see that number go up all year.
7. Monthly book suggestions- make some suggestions based on what your class is loving. Big Nate, Non-Fiction, Graphic Novels and Dork Diaries are huge hits in my class. Sometimes parents just need some suggestions.
8. A wish list section for students to fill out when you pass out flyers.
9. Did I mention the due date?? :)
10. Did I mention not to send in cash?? :)

If you do not want to make your own forms, these can be found here.

-NEVER put orders in mailboxes, instead host a Book Club Frenzy
Hand out your flyer packets and give the kids time to look through them!

 Have students write their classroom wish list books on the board, in a notebook or somewhere that the teacher can see them before placing the order.

-Work together as a class to set a goal for the month
NEVER EVER EVER MISS OUT ON THEIR SEPTEMBER BACK TO SCHOOL 10,000 BONUS POINTS! If you go hard one month a year, make it September!

Don't be afraid to set high goals. You will be pleasantly surprised when you see how excited the kids get as the picture gets colored in. This visual works for us as a class. Do what works for your students. Keep in mind that I never include students names, we don't make a HUGE deal about the signs, I think the casualness helps students not feel badly if they don't order. We have a lot of conversations about how some months we can order books and some months we can't. This should be used as a fun visual and should not be tied to any rewards or punishments.

-Be intentional with orders and bonus points
Every year my kids eat up Kazu Kibuishi's Amulet Series. This year I got smart and ordered a complete SECOND set to satisfy the classroom demand. Free with bonus points!

Balance the books you order! Actually sit down and write out the books you plan on getting with your next order. I even label the genre sections so I can make sure that I'm not favoring (ahem... realistic fiction and graphic novels) any genres or formats.

-Have a book raffle when the order comes in!
This keeps the buzz going even longer! For more information on how I do book raffles, 
check out this post!

Good luck! Leave any questions below. 
I am happy to help anyone who is trying to grow readers.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Making Plans as a Reading Community

One of the tell-tale signs of a Reading Community is that the readers in the community make plans.
Our school has TWO WEEKS off for Winter Break. That is a long amount of time to be away from my readers. The week before break we got together and decided on some concrete plans for break. 

Our goals were simple: make a plan, be prepared for that plan.

I think it's no mystery that I love the look of book spines. My door is adorned with our read books of the school year, our shelves house most of our books spine out and we do some fun book jacket designs throughout the school year. It was only natural that our Winter Break TBR included the chance for beautiful spines.

How to make it work:
-Make realistic and individualized goals
(I had some students reading ECHO by Pam Munoz Ryan for Mock Newbery, there was no way they were finishing it over break, so be realistic. I also had some students who still haven't finished a book for the school year wanting to finish two over break, be real. Help your kids set achievable goals).

-Readers should jot down books they are currently reading & ones they want to read over break.

-Readers should shop the classroom library, school library and make plans to get the books they will need for break (this helps students avoid reading emergencies).

-Be sure to do a brief mini-lesson on "edge time reading," a quick anchor chart brainstorming WHERE and WHEN kids can read over break would be perfect.

-Readers should color in the spines as they finish their books.

-When you return- celebrate all reading! Share your successes or goals with the kids. Show them your TBR and talk about how it went.

-Don't attach rewards or punishments to this. I'll find you if you do.

So, if you are planning to make plans with your readers (and you SHOULD) then get this Winter Break Freebie here. If you know you love the design and want to be able to use it for all of your breaks, find the full set here.

Happy Reading!

Sunday, September 27, 2015

Taking Writer's Workshop Outdoors with Roxaboxen (#OutdoorLearners)

Let me say that I am loving using Writer's Workshop in 4th Grade. I am still under Lucy Calkins' Launching Unit for the beginning of the school year. Today we completed a lesson about using objects around you to spark memories. I combined this lesson with one about writing narratives. Her lesson calls for using Roxaboxen (a strong narrative describing a place where children go to make their own neighborhood in their community). Roxaboxen has fort building, community making,  make believe wars and stores, and even their own form of currency (shiny, smooth black pebbles)

My kids LOVED this story. Immediately, hands were up wanting to share their own outdoor experiences with friends. It was refreshing to know that some of my little friends still do the same things I did as a kid with my neighborhood friends. I started by saying "do you guys ever just go outside with your friends and BUILD STUFF? Get your hands dirty and MAKE THINGS?" Only a few looked at me like I was crazy, the rest entered this crazed moment where they had to share about their adventures. Homemade ovens, bandana-wearing, fort building, nerf gun wars. Love it.

You don't have to use Roxaboxen, and you don't have to have the perfect lesson. I want to just encourage you to trust your teacher instincts. I had no plans to go outside when I added this lesson to my plan book. It wasn't until I saw their enthusiasm for being outside making things that I tweaked the whole thing and we headed outdoors!

What resulted was a lot of engaged writers. Students were finding their small object then settling in a cozy spot to start their writing. My school is lucky enough to be located right next to a small park and we have a beautiful courtyard that is perfect for outdoor learning. Even if you do not have these types of spaces, I still encourage you to get outside with your kids. The fresh air, the possibilities, the engagement... it's well worth your time.

Some tips for making it happen:
1. Don't wait for the perfect lesson, just grab your notebooks and pens and head outside.

2. Build the anticipation, let students know ahead of times so they look forward to going outside.

3. Set guidelines BEFORE you head out. Perimeters, behavior and how long you'll stay out.
(A big one for us is NO HUGE BRANCHES. Sounds crazy, but we have a lot of trees which leads to lots of branch sword fights o_0)

4. Bring all supplies outside. Keep it simple: notebook and writing utensil.

5. Once students find their item or cover their objective have them sit and write, write, write. Being in nature can be so inspiring and altering for young writers. Just being outdoors while writing is very powerful.

Don't forget to relax and have fun! 

I'm challenging all of you to get outdoors for learning this week. It doesn't matter what subject area or for how long, just get outside and see where it takes your learning. Use this hashtag so we can all follow along: #OutdoorLearners
 Happy Writing!

Saturday, August 22, 2015

First Week of 4th Grade!

School started on Thursday of this week after an Open House Tuesday night. ALL of my kids in my homeroom came to Open House where I had the chance to meet them AND their parents or guardians. After leaving Tuesday night, I knew we were ready for a great year!

This post will be a Frankenstein's Monster of pictures and reflections! Enjoy!

My husband took an idea I had and brought it to life by making me this Signpost!
 I did the writing on the boards, but everything else was all him and I'm obsessed with how it turned out.

I wanted my classroom door to reflect what we will be working on when it comes to building a classroom reading community. I added the "spines" of the books I read this summer and as students finish books in class, they will add the spines to the "bookshelves" on the door. I can't wait to see this filled up as the year goes on.

I have some great colleagues in 4th grade this year. They came up with the idea of doing some sort of social media board in our hall and then after a few discussions and some Pinterest browsing, we came up with this. Our Math teacher did all the labor on this one and I loved how her idea came to life. We will change out hashtags and photos, stories and drawings as the year goes on.

Our classroom library is the epicenter of the room and two days in, it is already getting a lot of use! We have gathered here to share stories this week and a lot of people gravitate to this area to work. 

Our first teacher day was Monday and it left me finally feeling prepared to start the school year. I didn't make it up to school as much as I usually do to prepare, but things went off without a hitch. After two days of schedule tweeking and getting used to my new daily duty as the Social Media Director (LOL) I think we finally might be in a groove for next week!

So, two years ago when I first went to fourth, I started chatting with my now reading bff, Lisa from Fourth and Ten. She was so helpful that first fourth grade year and gave me lots of ideas and support. She is the one who encouraged me to read Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna in the first days of school. We read the book and then did her Toothpaste Words activity to go along with it. We talked about how the toothpaste is like the feathers from the story. Once they are out, it's hard to get them back. This is always a hit each year (this is my third year doing it) and it leaves a lasting impression. It also proved as an excellent connection to Each Kindness, which I shared on Friday and we will do an activity with that Monday. I'll be sure to share.

I think taking the time to share these stories and build this community makes a huge difference!

Speaking of our community, the last book we shared for the week was The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore. This book was shared with me from another friend, a third grade teacher in my building. We read the book and then watched the video. We talked about how books can help you escape reality and make you feel lots of different emotions. One student even added: 
"A book a day keeps reality away." Nailed it.

A little reflection: These kiddos feel like babies compared to the big bad 6th graders I just let go mere months ago. They are so cute, kind and SWEET. They are so sweet! I am loving my time with them already and I know this year will be the best yet. I am so excited to get back to work on Monday.

I hope everyone had a great start to the 2015-2016 school year. If you're not back yet, I encourage you to think about really spending some time with your kids during the first couple of weeks to get to know them and build a strong classroom community. You will reap the benefits all year!

Monday, August 10, 2015

2015 #PB10for10

I'm participating in this year's Picture Book 10 for 10 on 8/10! Since this is my first year participating, and my fourth year teaching, I decided to do a theme. I'm doing Picture Book a Day in my 4th grade classroom this Fall, so I think this time next year, I will have so many more picture books under my belt and I may have a more "I can't live without these books" list.

Make sure you check the hashtag on Twitter to see the posts from everyone.
If you are participating, you will have already joined the Google Group, so the posts will be available to you there. Enough talk, here we go! 

I decided to focus on my first 10 read alouds for this upcoming school year! This goes perfectly in hand with #classroombookaday because I have been getting together books and trying to piece them in at the right times. I don't know if this will remain final (I am an Indecisive Gemini), but we'll see. 

Here are my books and why I chose them.

This book was introduced to me by a colleague (Thanks Jess!) and I have read it to my kids ever since. There is an amazing YouTube video that goes along with it. The kids love the book and video each year. I find that it gives us a great jumping off point for the school year. The kids wonder, think and decide what happened in the story. Some kids pick up on the deeper metaphor the story presents. Whatever a student thinks, I know that they are already engaging in deep analysis of a picture book, day one. The music in the video is magical and I always end up crying. If you haven't read this one, get it right away!

Let me first say that I love Peter Brown's illustrations. If you do not know his books, please fix this dilemma. He will quickly become a favorite! I live in the same community where I teach, so this one is a perfect hit for me. My kids do often see me outside of school. I work hard to develop relationships with my kids and this is a great sidekick for me at the beginning of the year. Your teacher is a little hard on you, but just because she loves you? Sounds like me. See you at Kroger!

I love Loren Long, and she's the illustrator of this beautiful book. This book was recommending to me by one of my dearest teacher friends, Lisa, from Fourth And Ten! She has a great beginning of year activity that goes along with it called Toothpaste Words. The lesson in this book is powerful and very good for my big kids to hear in those first few days of school. I started using Lisa's idea of sharing this three years ago, and I think it's one that I will continue to keep on hand.

This book has quickly becoming one of my favorite books of the year! The message is one that all kids can identify with. Be who you are! Use your imagination and go places. I can't wait to share this with my incoming 4th graders! Added bonus, the illustrations are so whimsical.

I mean, if you love Mr. Schu then you love Nana and Lauren Castillo. This book touched my heart and will be the perfect book to share with kids at the beginning of a new year. Maybe you have some kids who are new, maybe you have some kids that will be spending their first year in the big bad 4/5 hallway, whatever the case, this story will help kids explore the unfamiliar.

I am working on getting some great Non-Fiction picture books into my classroom library this year. I have really started buying NF picture books and this one will be a great one to share with kids in August. The illustrations are so interesting and I'm hoping that this PB Biography gets my Students talking!

How can you NOT start the year sharing the Best Smelling Book of 2014??
Doesn't Sam and Dave Dig a Hole teach us so much about life? I love the conversations the kids have after reading this book. So many great themes come up and I am obsessed with Mac&Jon anyways. The combination of these two guys together.... Perfect. Also, be sure to share the  Book Trailer for this one before you read it. It's pretty amazing.

Speaking of the amazing Jon Klassen... Are you Team Bear or Team Rabbit? That's the question... The kids will love this story and it's one you will hear them talking about long after the story is over. I Want My Hat Back also has a great Book Trailer on Candlewick's YouTube site.

Is it obvious that I am a sucker for great illustrations? This book has some magnificent drawings that really draw the reader in. This too, is another book that celebrates creativity and imagination. I love to nurture those things in my kids and this book is so powerful in showing students that.

This book is so fantastic to help us keep with that creative vein and learn more about Genius Hour. We talk about ideas and how they start small and have the potential to grow into something huge. Helping students see that the idea process takes work and mistakes and dedication is a great thing to bring into focus at the start of the year. Growth Mindset!

There you have it, my 2015 #pb10for10. I'm going to check out all the other posts and hopefully I won't go broke after seeing the fabulous picture book suggestions!