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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!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Publishing Informational Texts

Hello Buddies-

Have you ever heard of Bare Books?  Bare Books, or, 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!

Monday, February 22, 2016


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!

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!

Wednesday, February 17, 2016

Google Slides ABCs of Space Project

Hello buddies-

Technology never ceases to amaze me. That being said I am more amazed by how quickly my third grade superheroes suck up the technology and become pros at using it. 

We had just finished a unit on Space and I decided to have my little heroes create an ABCs of Space Google Slides presentation to present to our second grade Reading Buddies. That's right, 20 8 year olds on on Google Slides document---AT ONCE! After a few hiccups on the first day, it was pretty smooth sailing. Here's a few snapshots of what we created. 
Here we are presenting---one day I'll get parent permission to use their adorable faces on this little blog here. 
Here's a close-up of one of the slides. 
This was a great way to introduce the technology format, Google Slides, to my third graders and a nice way to end a unit of study. 


Sunday, February 14, 2016

Superhero Training Day!

This year my class has a Superhero theme. It's a new theme, since I lived at Hogwarts with a Harry Potter theme for the last 7 years. Although there are times when I miss Harry, sometimes desperately, I am enjoying the Superhero theme.  Earlier this year we even had a Superhero Training Day. 

Superhero Training Day was a blast. When the kids came in they were treated by this morning message. 

Over the summer I made capes for each of my third grade heroes using t-shirts, scissors, and a guide found on Pinterest in September the kids designed emblems to put on their capes. Anytime we need a little extra super power we wear our capes. Here's one of my heroes in his cape ready for Superhero Training Day. (Yes- he is siting on an exercise ball. I have some alternative seating going on this year). 

After we "suited up" it was time to put our narrative writing skills to work. We used dialogue to create origin stories tell how we got our super powers. These were a lot of fun and really came out better than I had expected. 

Here are a few of the completed origin stories.

After our origin stories were complete I sounded an alarm not he SMARTboard (and gave some of my heroes a heart attack) letting them know that New York was under attack from Loki and needed our help. Points gathered by playing Kahoot would help give supplies to the Avengers battling in NYC. I used clips from the Avengers Movie to help to sell this idea. 

This was an early dismissal day so we didn't have much time left.  However we headed outside to a S.H.I.E.L.D. training facility for some training exercises. 
Bowling for bad guys- Each bowling pin had a
villains face on it. 
Leap Tall Buildings
Close up on the bad guys. 

We also practiced throwing Captain America's Shield (a frisbee with Captain America's shield taped to it) and threw some rockets (I borrowed nerf rockets from my Gym Teacher friend). 

All in all Superhero Training Day was a blast.  I have another Superhero Day mulling around in my head, which is why I made this a Training Day. It sure was a SUPER day! (That pun will never get old.)