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Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Because of Winn-Dixie & Technology

Hello Buddies-

As I've mentioned before, we are a workshop district! We've been using the new Writing Workshop units of study for the last three years and have been using Reading Workshop for the last four. This year, however, my principal purchased the Teacher's College Reading Workshop units, one for each grade level and an entire set for third grade. My third grade colleagues and I were SUPER excited to receive them and dove into the character unit. The character unit uses Because of Winn-Dixie as a read aloud. This was a text I used when I taught fourth grade and was a little concerned that it might be a bit "over the head" of my third graders. However, they fell in LOVE with India Opal Buloni from the very first line. 


“My name is India Opal Buloni, and last summer my daddy, the preacher, sent me to the store for a box of macaroni-and-cheese, some white rice, and two tomatoes and I came back with a dog.” 

I mean seriously- what a GREAT first line!

After reading the novel, we got the entire third grade together in our APR to watch the movie and conducted a digital chat using TodaysMeet as our hosting platform. We watched the movie and compared it with the text. Can I just say- I don't know who was involved in adapting this heart-warming novel into a film but they MISSED THE MARK! BIG TIME! Although I was disappointed in the film adaptation, and think Kate DiCamillo should be as well, it made a great comparison to the novel. 

It was blankets, pillows, and chrome books for our digital chat. 

TodaysMeet is a quick and easy format to have
bachkchanneling while viewing any kind of film. 

Here are my two third grade colleagues and I facilitating our student chats. 
One of the coolest thing about our chat was the way it helped a poor friend who went home early. One of my littles got sick in the hallway (with yours truly-yuck!) the morning before our viewing. Not to be too gross, but as the little sweetheart wiped the vomit off his mouth he immediately asked "Can you tell me the time we are watching the movie in-case I get sent home so I can watch from there?" In-case! In-case! Honey- we are sitting on the floor in the hallway with a garbage can- YOU ARE GOING HOME! I felt really bad for this cutie so I coordinated with his Mom so that he could not only watch at home, but participate in our digital chat with the rest of the kids in school. How cool is that!?!?! Technology really helped to once us and make sure my little friend didn't miss out on the experience. 
Here's a picture of my little friend watching bat home and chatting with us while we
watched and chatted at school. 

If you haven't read Because of Winn-Dixie, you should! It's such  heart-warming tale with some really interesting characters. One of my favorites to read aloud is Miss Franny Block. In my interpretation Miss Franny is a former souther belle who is past her prime and runs the Herman W. Block Memorial Library. One of the best parts is when Miss Franny tells Opal and Amanda about her relation Littmus W. Block and his time int he Civil War. Miss Franny teaches the girls about the tragedies of war and that "war is hell". When I read that line aloud to my class I thought they were going to have a stroke. Here were my little third graders hearing their teacher say hell not once, not twice, but three times! (Thanks Kate) Each time the word left my mouth they gasped in a way that said "we are shocked but trying to keep it together". I just tried not to laugh because it was hysterical! 

You can't make this stuff up!
-Damien 


Sunday, March 27, 2016

Third Grade Airlines- Regions Day!

Hello Buddies-

In third grade we have been studying the regions of the United States. Now, I'll give a #teacherconfession here- I do not like teaching Social Studies. I just don't! I didn't like it in 5th grade and I don't like it in 3rd. Phew- it felt good to say it outloud. 

However, every so often something clicks and I find myself looking forward to a particular lesson or activity that is Social Studies related. That day, was Regions Day!

We broke our classrooms up into the five regions and each took control of helping our kids board "Third Grade Airlines" and flying off to the next region. Airline ticket and all!

Prior to the day we decided that we would do some nonfiction reading, some writing, a little digital viewing, and they would make a souvenir to take with them. We also decided to dress up for each region. 

Here are my colleagues and I dressed for our region. 

My LOVE for Disney and my kind colleagues allowed me to be the Southwest. We did some nonfiction reading and writing from a regions packet I found on TPT. The kids used some of the information they learned to write postcards home. Postcards were a great format as they were quick and helped the kids to pick the best facts from the reading selection. 

Taking some notes to include in our postcards to our
friends "back home" in New Jersey.

Once our postcards were finished it was time to go souvenir shopping. We made Mickey Mouse Ears as no trip to the southeast is complete without a trip to Disney and no trip to Disney is complete without your own Mouse ears. After the ears were ready I told the kids it was time for the fireworks display. If you know Disney, you know they REALLY know how to do fireworks! We ended our rotation by watching Wishes fireworks show on the SMARTBoard. It was fantastic and the kids were adorable "ooh-ing", and "aah-ing" at all the right spots!

We really had a blast having the kids "fly-off" to different regions. We even made them wings to wear for their first flight on third grade airlines. Each classroom also had a walkie-talkie borrowed from the office so we could make sure our flights left on time. Communicating with my SUPER colleagues via walkie-talkie was hysterical! One colleague even announced that her "flight would be delayed" because they were running a little behind on their activities. It was also a ton of fun mixing the kids up a little bit. Each flight contained kids from all three classes and one special ed class. This is only 1/5 of what the kids participated in as they traveled the five regions. 

Just wondering- Is there any subject you really don't like to teach?

See you later buddies!
Damien 

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Getting Seuss-y With It!

Hello Buddies!

The Reading Buddies absolutely LOVE Read Across America Day. At our school we celebrate with a  day of reading and by wearing our pajamas to school.  Any day that I can wear pajamas to school is OK in my book. 
We start the day by having the kids explore the many works of Dr. Seuss and complete a "Reading Passport" as they document their journey through the collected works of Dr. Seuss. I move all the desks out of my room and the kids bring in blankets and pillows in order to get comfy. The Reading Passports are a great way to start the day, it's calming-which is a good thing this year as Kelly and I have a combined 39 2nd and 3rd graders. (Remember, I used to bring independent and responsible 5th grader to our activities, but those days are gone!)

After some buddy reading time I read aloud Kelly's FAVORITE Dr. Seuss book. I have read this book aloud for the last 10 years on Dr. Seuss Day because it is Kelly's favorite. (I read my favorites Oh the Places You'll Go and Hoorday for Diffendoofer Day earlier in the week.  

We carried over the skills we have been working on in our TCRWP Reading Units of Study and analyzed Horton's Character Traits. After documenting the text evidence, we wrote long about Horton's trait and analyzed a trait that we have. 

After all that hard work we took a min break and watched the Warner Bros. version of the Horton cartoon. The kids loved it and it was a nice break for everyone, (exhausted teachers included).

Love this picture of my co-teacher, para, and I using some Seuss props from the first grade across the hall. 
It was a fun, but exhausting day! Hope everyone enjoyed their Seuss Celebrations and, of course, READING!

Bye Buddies!
-Damien

Saturday, February 27, 2016

Teaching Theme- Disney Style

Hello! My name is Damien and I am a Disney Fanatic! 

I know, that's not much of a confession.  Heck, as I write this I am wearing a Mickey Mouse hoodie and watching the Disneyland 60th special on ABC (I cried twice). Disney movies, Disney songs, and Walt Disney World are a part of my soul. I am who I am because I was raised on Disney films!
So, what does all this have to do with teaching. Well, Disney always seems to find a way to sneak into my classroom and most recently it was to teach my kids how to identify, support, and write about theme. 


Here's one of my friends following along with the lyrics as we
listened to the song. 
The lesson started with me using an anchor chart to define the word theme.  I quickly passed out lyrics to the song "Let it Go" from Frozen, maybe you've heard of it-LOL. I told the kids that while I played the song I wanted them to listen while trying to find the message the author wanted us to apply to our own life.  When this was done we examined the lyrics for text evidence to support our theme. 




Here's our Writing About Theme Anchor Chart with
markers on what is expected when writing about theme. 
On our second day I modeled to my third grade heroes how to write about the theme as we wrote about Let it Go together. 

Over the next few days I exposed my kids to two others Disney songs giving them greater independence in finding the theme and the evidence to support it. We listened to "You'll Be in My Heart" from Tarzan and "You've Got a Friend in Me" from Toy Story. 

One of the great things about this lesson was that their was minimal "reading" required. I am an ICR classroom with five special education students and this allowed everyone to practice identifying theme without their reading abilities getting in the way. I also found youtube videos of the songs and placed them in my Google Classroom incase my friends wanted or needed to listen to them a second (or third) time. This really allowed my friends to focus on the skill and not be hindered by trying to apply it to the reading they were doing (that time was coming soon). 

 This lesson was a *magical* way to learn about identifying and writing about theme. 

Have a *Magical* Day Buddies!
-Damien 

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Publishing Informational Texts

Hello Buddies-

Have you ever heard of Bare Books?  Bare Books, or barebooks.com, sell hard cover blank (or bare) books that students can write in. They also have a plethora of other items that you can purchase, bare, for your students. In the past I have used bare board games, bare books, and other items they sell.  

The entire third grade at my school orders barbers to publish our informational writing. The kids LOVE the idea that they are creating "real books" with hard covers and often tell us how they remember watching their older siblings work on their books when they were in third grade. 

If you haven't checked them out- well, WHAT ARE YOU WAITING FOR?!

Here are my third grade superheroes "reading" their published informational texts using Bare Books
Let me know if you check them out. 
Bye Buddies!
-Damien 

Monday, February 22, 2016

We are WRITERS!

Hello buddies-

We are Writers! That's right, we WRITE and WRITE and WRITE! This year my district fully adopted the new units of study by Lucy Calkins of Teachers College Reading and Writing Project. I am so lucky that a select few teachers in our school have been using it for three years now and the results are UNBELIEVABLE! 

I was lucky to have my looping class when we began diving in to Writing Workshop. I had two years of direct writing instruction on structure, content, and writing strategies.  As I read the units of study books in preparation to teach I often thought Queen Lucy was crazy (b/c all rulers are at least a little crazy) for asking my ten year olds to produce the writing she asked for, no demanded! My colleagues and I fretted, stressed, and pondered what was best for our kids. In the end, we followed the visionary (you don't question Walt Disney about theme parks, you don't question Lucy on Writing-LOL). 

The growth in student writing was unbelievable. I read informational texts that were built on structure. I read memoirs that made me cry. I read opinion pieces that made me want to change the world. And now, now I'm doing the same work with my third grade superheroes and finding that the growth in their writing over the past few months is quite unbelievable, yet again! 

Here's a look at Writing Workshop in my classroom:


It's messy, it's creative, it's student driven, it's hectic---and it yields results! 

What are your Writing Workshop experiences?
Happy Writing Buddies!
-Damien 

Friday, February 19, 2016

SUPER Summary Boot Camp

Hello Buddies-

So, my third grade superheroes are great. They really are! They work hard! They love reading! but they can't write a summary to save their lives. Seriously- they either rewrite the entire story or they sum up the whole story in two sentences. With DRA time around the corner it was time for a SUPER Teacher to take action. (Are you humming a heroic tune in your head when you read this, because I am while writing this?)

The other class my co-teacher works with was on a class trip meaning that I would have her ALL DAY! (Are you now hearing a choir singing- you should be! It's how I felt!) So we decided to take the day and work on summaries, so the SUPER Summary Boot Camp was born. 

My co-teacher and I wore matching Captain America cardigans and capes
We started the day by having the kids suit up! Superhero strength was going to be a necessity today! Then I read The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore a fantastic book to model summary writing. 

I used this chart to help my little heroes figure out what was needed when writing a summary and used our Story Elements post-its to jot the important events while I was reading. 

Then we wrote a summary together so my little heroes would have a model to work from. 
After coming back from special we had snack and took some time to watch the Academy Award short film that was adapted from he book. It was a great film and really conveyed the message and heart of the book. 
How cute are they with their superhero capes on?!?!?!?!?
Then It was time for my little heroes to use their powers for good. I gave them a leveled reader (I knew they had to be good for something) and had them read, jot story element post-its, and write their own summaries.  Definitely heroic work!

Before sending them off we added some tips to our Summary Anchor Chart. 

Reading and jotting

The end result was pretty good! I only had four or five little heroes that I had to work with in small groups to help them really understand what a summary required. Have we all accomplished summaries in one lesson---heck no! But, we are closer than we ever were before! 

See ya later!
-Damien