Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Book Character Day

Happy Book Character Day!

Can you guess who I am?

I love Robert Muncsh, the story "The Paper Bag Princess", and cheap costumes! 
Thus, this costume was a done deal the minute I ran across the idea.

A leaf bag, a few holes for my head and arms and a quick paper crown, and I was all ready for the day!

When the kids arrived this morning, they were beyond excited to see all of the costumes they had worked so hard to put together. I must admit the variety and creativity was quite impressive.

During our morning meeting we greeted one another using our character names and for our class activity we utilized our "Just Like Me" activity to think like our characters and reflect on how they are all alike or different. If you haven't played "Just Like Me" with your class, it is a great way for them to get to know one another. You simply read different phrases that reflect the kids interests, backgrounds, hobbies, etc. and if the phrase you reads pertains to them they stand and in unison with others that share the same quality they say "Just Like Me". Simple community builder, and it worked perfect to get into the minds of our characters today!

After our morning meeting, we worked to analyze our characters and put ourselves in their shoes a bit more by thinking through their thoughts, actions, feelings, etc. I ran across this great little organizer and activity idea from Laura Candler and tweaked it a bit by having my kiddos freehand their characters instead of utilizing the actual printable. They had the brilliant plan of using their iPads to looks up images of all of their characters - and I was not only on board, but amazed by the quality of work they produced!

Each of their pieces was organized utilize the following key phrases:
Head: The character thinks...
Mouth: The character says...

Heart: The character feels...
Hands: The character likes to do...
Feet: The character goes...

Yes, my friend who drew Marty from Madagascar even wore a brightly colored rainbow afro to school.

So proud of this creative bunch.

Does your school celebrate Book Character Day? What are some of your favorite activities to do?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

What do you like to read?

Over the past few weeks, my students and I have been focusing a great deal on selecting good fit books and building our reading stamina. One of the things we have talked about in great length is choosing books that we find enjoyable. On one of our first days of school, I asked my students to share with me on a post-it what types of books were their favorites to read.

As you can see, they shared everything from non-fiction biographies to books in a series like Harry Potter and Junie B. Jones.

I issued them a challenge to continue to read those books and genres that they find enjoyable, but be open to testing out new genres and series this school year as well to continue exploring! I am looking forward to seeing how much they grow as readers in a variety of ways throughout the year.

That being said, I recently had the opportunity to read and review a story that encompasses a variety of these genres that my students and myself highlighted as being some of "our faves". 

"Adventures of Ai" is a recently released children's ebook by New York Times bestselling author, Craig Bouchard. The story was originally written in English and has been translated into Spanish and Japanese among other languages, which was what made me to thrilled to get my hands on it.

The story is one which intertwines non-fiction with fiction and fantasy all into one, which is what makes it an engaging and exciting read. There are components of history, mystery, math and science within its pages along with a powerful message of overcoming obstacles and facing one's fears. It is a powerful story for any intermediate level reader (grades 4/5 and up would be my recommendation), and I truly believe it is one that would give students an opportunity to explore news genres along with those that they know and love all in one.

You can find a full summary of this adventurous tale here.
In addition to the book, there is also a game available students can play post-read so that they can dive into an adventure of their own! I love this connection between reading and gaming that so many of our students enjoy as it is a fun way to continue to develop their comprehension!

Now for the coolest part  - one of you will have the chance to experience this story for yourself, along with your students/children as well! I am raffling off one free copy of the ebook in the language of your choice (English or Spanish). Entering is super simple - just share in the comments section how you see yourself using the book with the students in your classroom and/or your own children and a winner will be chosen at random on Friday evening at 11:59pm (CST). 

Happy Reading!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, September 22, 2014

Bathroom Management

I first caught a glimpse of this idea for keeping informed of which students are in and out in the bathroom from Elizabeth in Fun in Room 4B. With a few cheap plastic plates from my favorite place on earth (yes, that would be Target), some velcro and an expo, we were in business!

Once students are given the go ahead via the use of one of our pictured symbols (found here and translated to meet my needs with a lil' label and sharpie magic), they must head over to the door to sign out on one of our plates.

The students must then erase their name upon returning to class so that it's ready to go for the next student, and so that I know they have safely returned to the room.

Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy.
Happy Monday and have a great week!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Library Grand Opening

Our classroom library officially opened this past week with a new sign to boot!

On Thursday morning we did a guided discovery of our library and one of my kids noted how bare the wall above looked. I shared with her that I was trying to think of the perfect thing to put there and she said "Why don't we put up a sign for our library?". 

Why don't we? I thought - What a perfect idea!
Later that afternoon while my kids were in specials I cut out some quick letters and prepped for the sign creation. My kids had NWEA testing all afternoon on Thursday, so I thought creating the sign could not be a more perfect wind down, break break type activity for them.

I let them pick their partners and each grouping was given a letter. I gave them guidelines in which I shared that they could add whatever design they'd like to their letter but it must contain something related to reading or a library. Ie. Author's names, genres, favorite book characters, tools to create books, etc. 

I mean impressive are these!

The sign definitely spiced up the place, and now there won't be any confusion as to where to find the books!

Here are a few more shots of our little reading area:

No library is complete without a "Super Reader" sock monkey.

Some of our bookshelves - organized by genre.

We have a strict no outside rug policy in my new building. This was a tough one for me to let go of as I felt like the rug just made the whole area so much more homey - but I think it still turned out to be a quite the quaint little, inviting space with what we had to work with. And thanks to my student's help - our new sign definitely livened it it up and made it their own!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Super Site Sábado #10

In prepping for our iPad rollout next week, my students and I did a variety of mini-lessons this week about how we can use iPads in our classroom and what the expectations will be when we have them in our hands!

In doing this, it was my goal to not only convey the information to them that they needed to know, but also try and show them a few features and apps that they would be using this year to get them more excited about our 1-to-1 environment.

Enter Popplet.
Popplet is an app that gives you the ability to create flow maps, charts and bubble organizers. I use the lite version in my classroom, which is what I will be sharing today. It's free and provides me with just the tools I need, but there is a paid version of the app for any who are interested in upgrading.

On Thursday, my students and I had a discussion surrounding what they thought our rules for iPad use should be in order to ensure we were using and handling them safely. I used the Airplay feature on my iPad to project an ongoing Popplet on our Smartboard so that the students could see how the app worked at the same time as I was adding all of their newly developed rules to the screen.

Here is what we came up with.

This map started as one bubble and we added on as we went along. 
Here's how:

You can also customize your Popplet by changing the background color of the whole thing.

Or just an individual bubble - which would be great for placing ideas into categories.

In addition to changing the color of each bubble, you also have the ability to add a drawing by clicking on the pencil icon or a photo by clicking on the photo icon.

Finally when you are all finished you can even save and/or send the finished Popplet. If you plan on having students use it as a tool to communicate their learning, this can definitely be a helpful feature!

And there ya have it, folks. How do you think you could use or how have you used Popplet in your classroom? I'd love to hear and share some of your suggestions!

Monday, September 8, 2014

Pizza Box Mailboxes

Linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for a Monday Made It to kick off the school year!
When I began setting up my new classroom a few weeks ago, I realized that I had no mailboxes. Instead of utilizing my yearly teacher funds to purchase new ones, I decided I needed to get creative.

I had read several posts about teachers using shipping boxes for creating mailboxes and while I really liked the ideas - I also really wanted to try and figure out a free way to get some if possible.

That was when I ran across this post from Teach Preschool about how she used pizza boxes to create student drying racks. 

Thus, the hubs and I set out to visit our local Papa Johns.
And boy did we hit the jackpot.

We squished 26 pizza boxes into his tiny trunk and we were on our way. And did I mention the best part- when I explained what I wanted to do with them, the super kind manager gave all of them to us for absolutely free!

Once we got home, the hubs cut off the front portion of each box, and then I put/stacked them all together.

Once ready, it was heavy duty taping time.

Then I added labels to the inside of each box to correspond to student numbers. (It also covered up the red and black numbers left behind that were kind of an eye sore!)

Once I transported them to school, I added a little bulletin board paper and borders around the outside to blend in a bit more with our classroom decor.

And finally I placed them in this quaint little counter cubby to be easily accessed by my students each day!

And there you have it! Pizza box student mailboxes - a cheap (free), sturdy, and easy alternative if and when you need em'!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Super Site Sábado #9

I am beyond thrilled to share this week's super site with you all today!
Not only is it a creative, innovative and rockin' place for Spanish learners, but I actually had the opportunity to interview the site's creator, and feel honored to share what I learned from him with you all today. is a site chalked full of songs, animated videos, games and more to get kids excited and motivated to learn basic concepts in Spanish. As those of us who are teachers of second language learners know, teaching through song is one of the best ways to reinforce concepts and vocabulary for our students. 

Cesar Chinchilla, this super site's founder has even more to share with you about how the site came to be and what it has to offer in the interview I conducted with him shared below!

So without further ado...

Cesar, please tell Tell us a little bit about yourself.

I am originally from Madrid were I used to teach English to Spanish speakers. 7 years ago I moved to San Francisco, and now I teach Spanish to English speakers.  Music is my main teaching tool.

How was the idea for Rockalingua born?

When I moved to San Francisco and I started teaching Spanish I could not find quality materials to teach Spanish so I started to write songs to teach vocabulary and basic grammar structures to my students. They loved the songs so I kept writing more. After 5 years of writing songs and seeing that they worked great with my students I decided that I wanted to do something with them to help other teachers and Spanish students. I contacted Daniel Fernandez, an old friend of mine and a professional cartoon animator to turn all my songs into animated music videos and that’s how Rockalingua was born.

We know the site offers some incredibly videos for teaching students basic concepts in Spanish, what else does it have to offer and how does it all connect?
On the website there are 5 different sections: videos, songs, games, worksheets and picture dictionaries. Each video and song introduces a topic and each topic has a related worksheet, picture dictionary and interactive set of games to review and broaden everything learned on the video and song. All is really well connected. If you are, for example, using the video on numbers at the right of the website you will see the related content so you can easily access the worksheet about numbers, or the games about numbers.

How do you go about selecting content for a video/song?

 I write songs about topics that are relevant to Spanish class. My songs cover concepts that all Spanish students need to learn. Some are very basic such as colors parts of the body or daily routines but I have lately been working on new songs that I will upload soon to the site that covers, verb conjugation, prepositions and irregular verbs that will make the learning of this tricky concepts fun and easy.

What do you currently have in the works? 

 We are constantly creating new content, writing new songs, creating new videos, and worksheets that we upload regularly to the site.  We are  also designing a memory game that we will  add to our game selection

Anything else you'd like to share with readers? 

Thank you so much Krista for this interview (but seriously, THANK YOU, Cesar!) 
I want to invite everyone to explore Rockalingua, there are a lot of free resources and everyone can do a limited free trial that will give them access to all videos and songs for a week.
Thank you so much and enjoy the music!

Not only was Cesar generous enough to take part in the interview, but he also was more than willing to co-host a giveaway with me for all of you!

That being said, one lucky winner will have the opportunity to receive a free 1 year subscription to Rockalingua to utilize with your class, your kids, yourself (whoever you'd like!) 
Did I mention this is a $149 value! Wowzas!
But wait...there's more...Another lucky winner will receive a copy of a DVD containing the Rockalingua videos Cesar and his team have worked so hard to create! 

That's two winners in all folks! The giveaway will run from now until midnight next Saturday. 
Check out the Rafflecopter below to see how to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway