Visiting Jamestown {Virtually}

We had so much fun today visiting this website:

If you study Jamestown, this site is wonderful!! It takes the kids through establishing a colony.  They have to make decisions based on what they've learned.  At the end, it gives an evaluation of the decisions.  I let them do it independently using our laptop cart.  A lot of them were shocked when their colonists died because they didn't plant enough food.  Their faces were hysterical.  I let them go through the steps to establish their colony a few times, so they could see which decisions worked best and what the consequences of those decisions were.

It was such a wonderful educational lesson because after our time was up, they couldn't stop talking about what decisions they had made and what the effects of those decisions were.  I love when they can't quit talking about school stuff.  It was a good teacher moment.  Plus I got some papers graded.  It was a win win.

And the ultimate bonus: I had a walk through evaluation in the middle of doing this in my morning class.  The kids were engaged, I was using technology, and everyone was behaving.  The stars were aligned!

Hope you had a great Friday, too!

Revising Writing

Don't kids just love revising their writing?  Um, not.  They give this, "Seriously, lady? I just finished writing this--I'm over it" kind of face.

This year I focused my mentor sentences during the first grading period on parts of speech and using that to improve writing.  We worked on identifying nouns so that we could add adjectives to be more descriptive.  That sort of thing.  I wanted to give them more support during the revising stage so all that doesn't slip away as move into more of a punctuation/grammar phase.

In our writers' workshop, we've also worked on word choice, showing not telling, visualizing, rearranging sentences, and adding some pep.  Whew.  That's a lot for eight and nine year olds to remember.

Here's my solution.  What do you think?

I have two sets ready to go for each basket waiting for us to revise our latest story. I can't wait for the kids to use them.

I got this great idea after reading this post by Stephanie over at 3rd Grade Thoughts.

She has a really great nonfiction pack for sale in her store.  Which I bought.  Anyway, Stephanie shared how she took the nonfiction posters in her pack and printed several sets of them in a smaller format.  Then she put a ring in each and put them at each table in her classroom, so the kids always had the information close by when they needed it.

Genius!!!  Visit her blog for a tutorial on making the posters you've purchased or made streeeeeetch even farther.  So smart.

I got to thinking about ways I wanted to use that idea in my classroom.  As I was writing my lesson plans and penciling in revising our latest story, a light bulb went off.

I think it will be very helpful for a lot of my kids.  Hopefully, between these two sets, they'll have something that moves them in a positive direction with revising.  These are in my TPT store here and here now, but I'll e-mail a complete set to the first three people that leave a comment.

What about you?  Got any great revising tips?

For My Font Obsessed Friends

I know many of you are fellow font obsessed sufferers.  I {LOVE} FONTS.  This may or may not have gotten out of control.  I won't tell you how many fonts I have.  It's an embarrassing number.

Anyway, when I go to create something, it involves a lot of scrolling.  I forget about fonts, I get bored with trying out different fonts.  But, there's this snazzy website called to help you out with this little problem.  Bonus?  It's super easy to use.

And what would a post about fonts be without some font eye candy?  Here a few fonts I've been enjoying recently.


Teaching Theme. Again.

So, back when I had about 6 followers, I wrote about theme.  And how much fun it is to teach.  Not.  Anyway, I'm getting the hang of it (finally) in my 14th year of teaching.  In that post, I wrote about my theme epiphany: Have kids think like the teacher.  If you were the teacher, what life lesson or idea would you use this book to teach other kids about.

I also wrote about how much I love the website  It's basically real life theme.  If you've never see the billboards, here are a few:

There's a person.  Enough to give you their story.  Then a one or two word THEME.  Brilliant.  If you visit the website, you can get a longer background story for each billboard.

On Monday and Tuesday, we used the Mimio lesson I made using some of the billboards and stories.  We went through the different stories, and the kids tried to guess the theme for that person.

I also read a book each day with a strong theme to it.  We did a lot of turn and talks with this.  Calling on just one student isn't going to help the whole class.  Theme is hard.  They need a lot of chances to talk it out.

On Wednesday, I read another book, and then each kiddo sketched out their own billboard for a fictional character of their choice.  Some kids needed more help, but that was good because it gave me a chance to talk out theme with them one on one.

On Thursday, they made their billboards.  I love how they turned out.  Take a peek:

Percy Jackson

Stephanie from Stephanie's Ponytail


Wodney Wat

It's been a great week.  Today the kiddos are going to spend some quality time with our laptops and the website reading some of the stories from other billboards.  And I will clean my classroom.  It's a win win.

Keepin' On with the Comprehension Toolkit

We are keeping on with the Comprehension Toolkit.  Last year I made it through the first two books.  My goal this year is to make it through four of the six books.  I'm almost finished with the first two, so I think I'm right on track!


We just completed the "Merge Your Thinking with New Learning" lesson for the first time.  I say first time, because these lessons are pretty deep.  They're definitely worth doing several times.  This was our first time and it was my observation lesson!  We have a two week observation window, but our principal doesn't mind a "Hey, we're doing at great lesson at this time" e-mail.  

The point of the lesson is to get kids to notice when they already know something and when they create new learning.  The theme of read/write/talk continues.  

•The toolkit teaches kids that when they read, they must stop, think, and react.  
•Writing down this thoughts will help them hold onto that learning.  
•Finally, talking about it will help cement it even more.  

Moving on, I read them the first few pages of this book:

While I read, I modeled noticing when I read something I already knew and when I read something that was new learning.  I jotted down the new learning and any questions it might have made me ask.  I asked them to share also.  We made an anchor chart of things our thinking voice says to us that signals new learning.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App

Then I turned them over to the article "Kaboom".  Our reading series came with a Time for kids book of articles.  They're perfect for the Toolkit!  I make copies for the kids so they can stop and jot while they read.  They did the read/write part, particularly noticing when they learned something new.

Uploaded from the Photobucket iPhone App Untitled
After reading the article, they did the talk part and discussed it in small groups. (They really did! They really did!  Love the Toolkit!)

Finally, we came back together and discussed the anchor chart and added any knew phrases that signaled new learning.
Got my observation form back and few days later, and it was awesome.  Yippee!!

Election Time!

My kiddos are taking their district math benchmark Monday and reading benchmark Tuesday.  They're going to be pretty brain dead after that.  I also won't have that much time left with them.  I'm thinking Tuesday we'll do some election stations.  I'm thinking three stations, 20 minutes or so each.  Fun and educational, right?  We've been learning about the election in Social Studies, and this will be a great way to wrap it up.

1.  Independent read or buddy read election themed books like:
Arthur Meets the President
Duck for President
My Teacher for President
President Citizen
Grace for President
What Presidents are Made of
So You Want to Be President?

2.  Word Work
Make as many words as possible from Presidental Election and Voter Registration.

Click on image to download.

3.  Voter Registration Form and Card
Students will complete the following and then go online to "vote".  My district has its own online voting site, but you can use Scholastic's.

Click on the images to download.