Friday, November 20, 2015

A Week Full of Thanks!

Being turned into an elementary teacher, I've grown to have a fond affection for thematic teaching.  This week is the week before we get out for an entire week to celebrate our Fall Break over the Thanksgiving holiday.  Here's a peek into how we integrated Thanksgiving into our classrooms this week.

First of all, I planned our Word Study this week to help out my sweet teammate as she traveled out of state for a family matter.  So, I got to really let my crazy out and have some fun with using Thanksgiving themed activities to help us review our November sight words.

First, we played Look-Say-Cover-Write.....with a ~TWIST~! I found the closest thing I could to a 30-second Thanksgiving/Fall themed timer on YouTube, inserted it into a Google Slide so I could easily share it with my team, and projected it onto the board.  I wrote one of sight words on the board and had the learners LOOK at it.  Then, they had to SAY it.  After that, I COVERED it by erasing it off the board.  Finally, the learners had to WRITE the word.  But, here's the twist...I set the timer and told the little spellers they had to write the sight word as many times as they possibly could during the given 30 seconds.  They absolutely ate this up!  They loved the challenge and loved seeing which words they could write the most of.

By the way...did you notice what we're writing with?  Monday, we made our very own quills using new pencils and a feather.  You would've thought we had transported back in time and got ourselves some genuine quills!  :)  We also got a piece of manilla paper, cut it into a animal skin shape, crumpled it up, then smoothed it out.  We did this to mimic writing on deer skins the way some Indian tribes wrote.

On Wednesday, my craziness REALLY showed up!  While searching on Pinterest for ideas on ways to practice our sight words while paying homage Native Americans, I came across these beautiful pictures of Talking Sticks all over Pinterest.  I fell in love with them and they became my inspiration.

My sweet husband and I gathered sticks for our team around our land.  My sweet kids and I painted them in true Talking Stick style.  Then, at school, each learner was assigned a sight word from our November list.  They had to illustrate and write their word on a leaf.  Then, we hung them from our Talking Stick and proudly suspended it from our ceiling for the perfect Thanksgiving decoration!

Our grade level rotated through each teacher this week and each teacher had a different Thanksgiving activity to complete.  In Mrs. Hill's class, we wove paper place mats, Pilgrim style.  In Mrs. Serio's class, we produced the super cute Thanksgiving play posted earlier this week.  Mrs. Gentzler helped us draw and paint some very artsy Native America art.  Mrs. Crow got her teepee making skills on and helped us make our own!  Ms. Mullenix helped us create our own cutest little paper strip pumpkins.

In my rotation, we created Grateful Stones.  We took a stone, cleaned it up, cut a heart out of tissue paper, and Modge Podged it onto our stone.  Now every time we look at our stones, we know to find something to be grateful for.  They turned out really well!

Finally, one of my sweet learners is rocking PicCollage!  She captured our day perfectly:  two sweet friends ready to celebrate, the teacher projecting our Thanksgiving Math Minds prompts, and more friends working to recognize their sight words with a mystery picture.  Great job snapping shots of our morning, Ally! ;)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Hooray for Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!  Thank you to Mrs. Serio for such a cute video!

Friday, November 13, 2015

November Sight Words

Spelling Tests

You remember taking spelling tests, right?  You know...the assignment when you had to fold your notebook paper in half, number it one to ten (or twenty, if you had a tough teacher) and wait on your teacher to call out your spelling words to you while you wrote each one...skipping lines, of course.

I despised those days!  Not because Phonics and I weren't friends, but rather, because I would sit there for fifteen minutes bored out of my ever-loving mind!

Yet when I began my first year of teaching in a fourth grade ELA classroom, I assigned spelling words each Monday and I did the dreaded sit and spell spelling test on Friday.  After moving to second grade, I still did the same test.  Now, I did evolve a bit and went to allowing the learners to choose their own words, but I still assessed them in the same old way.

About this time last year......I WAS OVER IT!  I needed a new way to assess spelling (although, I must admit, this article is convincing me that I need to stop the tests altogether!) so I got the bright idea to try to do it thematically.  For example, my learners completed their spelling test during the week leading up to Halloween on spider web paper.  Heck, we even tested our /oi/ and /oy/ words on tin foil.  But the process was still the same.  I was just changing the paper.

Then BAM!  That's when the idea hit me!  I created a Google Form spelling test and I have never seen learners so engaged during a spelling test!  They loved it and their scores reflected it.  Through the rest of the year last year, that's usually how we tested over our words.  Click here to see an example test.

This year, I've had to get a bit more creative.  Our computer carts are now hot commodities and it's hard to get one booked consistently (a good problem to have, right??  That means our campus is rocking technology!).  Today was one of those days when I needed a great idea.  And to be VERY honest, it seriously hit me RIGHT BEFORE I gave the test:  I TOOK THE TEST TODAY.

You read that correctly.  I, Mrs. Thompson...the teacher, took the test.  I called out each word and spelled it on the board.  Some of our words I decided to spell correctly, but some words I decided needed to be misspelled.  What did the learners do?  They GRADED ME.  

For each word I spelled correctly, they put a check mark or smiley face by that number.  For each word I spelled incorrectly, they put an X or a sad face.  Then, here's the kicker, they had to correct my spelling.  It was a mixture of editing practice and a spelling test all rolled into one.  And guess what?  It was a HUGE SUCCESS!  The class absolutely loved getting to "grade" me, they giggled (during a spelling test...WHAAAAT???) as I misspelled some "easy" words, and they did great!  Perhaps their most favorite part was that they got to "be the teacher" for a bit.  One little guy even wrote his name as "Mr. Will" on his paper!  Ha!

Next week, we're on to Sight Words, where we will be assessed by identifying our words from a Wordle-style doc.  Word Study, too, can be creative and engaging!  Have a great weekend!