Monday, July 16, 2018

Language Arts-the subject that just keeps going, and going, and going!

Language Arts teachers have a lot in common.  We love books, we love words, and we love to make connections with all forms of our language.  But I think another thing we have in common is feeling overwhelmed at times with all of the different components that make up our subject when it comes time to teach it!  Grammar, reading, research, handwriting, vocabulary, spelling, writing, fluency, expression....the list just keeps going on and on.  How can a teacher possibly fit this all into a 6 hour school day when there's also math, science, and social studies to teach?  And lunch to eat?  And recess to attend?  And music to be sung?  You get my drift.....

This very issue used to be a source of frustration for me every year.  I would start to lay out my yearly plan for language arts, and just not be able to physically make everything fit in!  Or, if I did manage to squeeze all of the different above mentioned items into my day, it was a chaotic, choppy day of mini lessons just skimming the surface.  That's when I knew I had to come up with a better way of covering what needed to be taught in a more connected, systematic way.  And that's when my "Daily Bites" were born!

I basically sat down and brainstormed 5 main categories that I wanted my students to focus on independently throughout the week; attacking 1 area each day.  The five areas that I decided my students needed the most intensive practice with were as follows:  WRITING (informative, persuasive, and narrative), KEYBOARDING AND TECHNOLOGY, READING COMPREHENSION SKILLS, GRAMMAR & VOCABULARY, and SPELLING.  Once I had my categories, I began gathering materials that would help my student reinforce and practice the skills associated with each area.  I kept in mind that I wanted this time to be an independent work time.

I decided that the best time to implement my Daily Bites would be at the very start of the day.  I found out early on that it is a life-saver to have something for the students to work on right away upon arrival time in the morning.  Between the morning greetings, checking in, collecting notes and homework, sending attendance, taking lunch count, listening to announcements, etc., this time can become very hectic.  However, by putting a consistent routine into place, both my students and myself look forward to this time instead. 

I developed a simple rotation by placing a red, blue, yellow, orange, or green color sticker on everyone's desk.  Next, I placed 5 bins of the matching colors on my table in a row at the front of the room.  Above the bins on the chalkboard I hung up 5 signs that label my categories.  Next to each sign, I place an apple cut-out in either red, blue, yellow, orange, or green.  I put the materials for each activity in the corresponding color tray.  As soon as a student arrives who has a yellow sticker on their desk, they know to go to the yellow box and get the activity for the day.  By glancing at the title signs, they will know whether they are going to be focused on writing, keyboarding, spelling, etc. for the day.

By dividing my class into 5 groups, I can easily check what needs to be accomplished for each task.  Since about 4 or 5 of my students will be writing in their journals, I know that I will need to set aside about 3-4 minutes to conference with them during my 45 minute work time.  If a group is working on the spiral review sheet for reading, I can easily check their work as their completion times will be naturally staggered.  Keyboarding and spelling activities are self checking.  I may collect a vocabulary or grammar cut and paste for a formative grade.  But again, since only a handful of kids are completing each task each day, it makes for simple, focused assessing!  The rotation is very easy to maintain.  I simply take each apple and move it down to the next sign at the beginning of the next day.  ( I attach magnets to the back.)  Then I just move the activity papers to the appropriate new color bin and we are ready to roll!

In a nutshell, this simple morning routine allows me to cover 5 key areas in an independent manner each and every day.  I can connect it to my lessons and stories that we are doing throughout the week.  So even if I don't have a main lesson that contains something to type, by having a “daily bite” keyboarding activity in my rotation each week I know my students will still be getting the opportunity to practice this important skill.

I hope you will consider trying this systematic, highly effective and time saving routine in your own room.  I think you will be happy with the consistent results your students will produce.  And it will free up valuable class time to dive deeper into the heart of your language arts program!

For a closer look at some of the many materials I have created to use in my Daily Bite stations, please check out the link below to a FREEBIE! 😄

Friday, August 14, 2015

Welcome to Back to School season! I don’t think any other time in the year quite compares to the weeks leading up to a brand new school year. The anticipation of meeting those new students, the smell of new pencils and freshly waxed floors, the hours spent on perfecting those brand new ideas.....only a teacher really knows how that feels! And though you hope everything goes smoothly, every once in awhile you run across an idea, thought, or activity that you quickly put into your “NEVER do this again” file. DON'T DO THIS! The one that comes to mind for me dates back to my first year as a kindergarten teacher. I had just moved districts and was looking forward to this new challenge of teaching small people after having spent several years in the upper grades. I spent WEEKS in my new classroom and I loved setting up those tiny little chairs and colorful decorations. I had visions of my classroom being this wonderful place of free exploration and learning so I carefully set up inviting centers to usher students to on that first day of school. I was really excited about my visual stimulation center because I had just unwrapped dozens of brand new 20 piece puzzles and was excited to see students working constructively on them. Well, I’m sure at some point the thought ran across my mind that maybe having 30 new puzzles all out and displayed was not the smartest idea but it apparently didn’t stick with me long enough to make me change my plans. I was correct in thinking that it would be an inviting place to come....but, being a teacher new to this grade it never occurred to me to stress the rule about doing one puzzle at a time. By the end of that center rotation on the first day, I had literally a thousand puzzle pieces scattered around the room! It took HOURS putting them back together. I finally recruited some older students who were with their teacher moms to help with the promise of milkshakes as a reward! We finally got them back in order and the rest of the year went a lot more smoothly as I learned several valuable tips that day! So, if you are new to a grade level, I encourage you to seriously think about EVERY possible outcome of what might seem like a perfect idea at the time!
DO THIS! If your school is anything like mine, it is a frantic race to perfect your class list before that first day of school. It seems like that class list changes every minute! And as the clock ticks closer to that opening day, you feel more and more stressed about making sure you have everything labeled for all of those names! One great tip I learned from a colleague of mine was to make several baggies of classroom materials for any “extra” students you might acquire in that hectic first week of school. Now I don’t feel pressured to wait until my list is “perfect” and “set” (as we know that never really happens!) to get everything labeled and set out. I simply make 4-5 extra copies of EVERYTHING I make, label, cut out, set aside, sort, etc. for my classroom. Then, when that new child arrives at my door on the first day, it is easy to pull out the bag and make her feel just as welcome as the other veterans on my list!
FREEBIE! I LOVE to play games with my kids.....and I think it’s especially important during those first few days to get them up and moving in between all of the new things that need to covered. As a “moving” activity and a way to quickly assess students’ knowledge of grammar skills, I like to play Grammar 4 Corners. There are 8 different parts of speech so the game can be played in multiple rounds to ensure lots of participation and review! Feel free to check it out this freebie! Have a great back to school season!

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Brand new store!

I'm so excited to announce that JB Creations now has a second home.....on a great new marketplace site called Educents! If you haven't had a chance to explore this wonderful website, I highly recommend it! Pursuing my goal for developing quality, engaging materials for the intermediate level student, this site has provided me with another opportunity to reach more individuals who share my passion! I have always believed that kids learn the most when they are presented with connected, interactive activities. I strive to build that into every product I create. I test them out each and every day! As a result, if you visit my room, you will most likely see my students up and moving to music, collaborating and working in small teams, or acting out key events from history. It is an exciting environment where you can see connections being made! I invite you to experience this yourself! I have a game available for you to try for free that will review all of the parts of speech in this hands-on, interactive way! Get ready to toss that boring review worksheet....students will participate in the traditional 4 corners game to get them up and moving and learn in a much more meaningful, fun way! Please click on the link below to find this game in my new store. I hope your students enjoy it as much as mine do!
Now for another great surprise....the many Educents partners have teamed up to offer a $50 Edubucks be used anywhere on this terrific site! All you have to do to enter is follow a group of stores that has already been determined to most likely match your grade level needs! A win-win for everyone.....and hopefully a little extra for you! Just click below! Educents Marketplace $50 in Edubucks Giveaway #8 - 3rd & 4th Grade Stores

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Keeping Test Prep Fun!

It's that time of year again.....although I must admit it seems like this test prep time frame comes earlier each year! Right now my school is just beginning the process of administering the PARCC tests school wide. It has been met with its fair share of controversy and concerns, that's for sure! However, in the long run I know it's my job to best prepare my students for what to expect on these brand new tests. After studying the few practice tests made available by the company creating the PARCC assessments, I developed my own series of test prep activity bundles to use in my room. I concentrated on the Literary, Research, and Narrative components as well as developing some key vocabulary to review with students. I found them to be very useful in my classroom. I was able to break them apart and fit them into our regular schedule as small group and station activities. If you are giving these tests for the first time this year, too, please take a minute to check them out! I have a freebie sample below!
Make sure to continue on through the Blog Hop for other amazing tips, giveaways, and your chance to win some wonderful prizes!

Friday, January 30, 2015

Do the upcoming state tests make you feel like pulling your hair out? The stress on teachers is bad enough, but after recently administering a mock test to our students, I feel like they are truly the ones who are going to bear the brunt of the stressful feelings. I watched as all of my kids (gifted, regular, struggling) struggled with the length/complexity of the passages and confusing directions, all while navigating brand new technology skills. I think Superintendent Trisha Kocanda of Winnetka Public Schools in Illinois said it very well. I appreciate her willingness to go to bat for the kids. Well worth the time to read! (Click on the stressed girl!)

Wednesday, January 28, 2015

I saw this on Pinterest and thought it was such a clever, cute idea! This testing nonsense has gotten out of hand. Everytime we turn around, I feel like there's another training, video, manual, schedule, etc. being dumped on us. This stress that teachers feel is ultimately going to be handed down to the kids....if we can only remember to step back to see what truly matters......

Monday, January 12, 2015

Product Highlight: Celebrating a Hero!

I like to embrace Dr. King's belief and dream to include everyone! On MLK day, I hand out 3 different scripts for a reader's theater on the life and time of this great leader. The scripts are leveled with a modified, regular, and enriched version to ensure everyone has a chance to participate at his/her own reading level. Students will learn about Martin Luther King Jr's childhood & beginning of his dreams, his work, dedication, & accomplishments as a civil rights activist, and his lasting influence on people today! Grab them by clicking on the picture below!