Friday, April 18, 2014

Testing Time is Upon Us!


Greetings Dear Friends!
If your school is like mine, you are currently in the "AAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH" mode of state testing. This year, Utah instituted a new test called SAGE (Student Assessment for Growth and Excellent).
It has been interesting to see how the students have reacted to the new format- most have commented on how much more they like the test because it is more engaging and interactive. So, I hope that works out in the end!

But, I will say that I have spent HOURS teaching and teaching and teaching concepts. This is the first year that I did not "stop" teaching to review. There is so much to learn that I can't stop to "just review". Instead, I gave the students 5 minutes at the beginning of class to look through their journal and look for things "they forgot they knew". Then they would share with a partner 3 things they forgot they knew. It does work wonders and it is surprising what the students come up with to share- and it is usually DIFFERENT ideas meaning the two students heard SIX things they forgot they knew. SCORE! I do this each day during the "testing" window! LOVE IT!

One of the favorite things the kids like to review in their journals is their Order Up! pages. If you haven't had a chance to try them out, you can get this one for FREE! Just click on the picture to check it out! To get them to fit in their journals, I copy them at 50% (the strips and the work mat). That ways they both fit on one page AND in their journals. WAHOO!

Click >>HERE<< to get your FREE set!

I have had many people tell me that Order Up! has been a fun way to review with their students for the text and have had great success with the 60+ sets of Order Up! that range from math and science to language arts and more!

What about YOU? What strategies, activities, and methods do you use to help those kiddos ROCK THE TEST?

Have a great weekend-
John, Created by MrHughes 

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Fun, Quick, and Easy Reading Comprehension Games for the Entire Class!

Hello friends!

It's Jen Bengel from Out of This World Literacy. 

Spring Break!!

I hope you all are having a wonderful spring.  Many of us have had our spring break and some are still counting the days until it is our turn.  My family and I are actually on the beach this week enjoying some fun, family, spring break relaxation!

Reading Comprehension Game One: New Learning Share

Materials Needed: a mentor text


1. Gather the entire class and have them stand in a circle

2. Tell the class to listen carefully as you read out loud to them.  When they learn something new they are going to jump forward into the circle.  

3. When every student has jumped forward stop reading and shout, 'SHARE!'

4. Students will then turn to a partner and share what they are thinking and learning.  

5. Give them 30-60 seconds to share and listen to as many people as they can.

6. The teacher then shouts, "TIME' and the class gets back into their circle.

7. Have a few students share what they heard someone else say about their new learning and thinking.  Ask if others were thinking the same thing!

8. Repeat steps 1-7 several times as time allows.

*** This is such a fun game because it gets ALL students involved, thinking about the text, and actively learning!  You can also play this game in any subject or as a review for a test!

Reading Comprehension Game Two: Question and Answer

Materials Needed: Unlined index cards (2 per student)
                             Popsicle sticks (1 per student)

Preparing to Play:

1. Pass out two index cards and one Popsicle stick to each student.

2. Instruct students to write a large 'Q' on one index card and a large 'A' on the other.

3. Glue the cards back-to-back between the Popsicle stick so that they make a sign with the 'Q' on one side and the 'A' on the other.


1. Gather the entire class and have them sit in a circle where they are all facing each other.

2. Tell the class to listen carefully as you read out loud.  When they have a question about what you are reading tell them to hold up their stick so that the 'Q' is facing the circle.

3. Continue reading until several students are holding up the 'Q' side of their sticks.

4. Stop, call on one student with their stick up to share his/her question.  Tell the other students if they think they have an answer to hold up the 'A' side of their sticks.

5. Go around the room, giving each student with a question a chance to ask it aloud to the class.

6. When every student has asked his/her question (some may be the same), tell those students who held up the answer side of their sticks to go to the person whose question they can answer.  

      ***Students will shuffle around into small groups.  It will be confusing to them at first, but they will quickly catch on.  If some students have neither a question or an answer, tell them to sit tight.  This also is a great assessment because it tells you these students may not be thinking much during reading.  You may want to have some reading conferences or guided reading groups on thinking during reading with these kids!

7. After a few minutes, have the students return to their original spots in the circle.  Ask those who had questions if their friends were able to help answer them.  This will be a great conversation!!

8. Repeat these steps as time allows.

*** This game is so fun because everyone gets involved.  And it allows students to take charge of their own questions and answers.  They have power over their own learning.  It is also an excellent assessment for teachers to see who is carefully thinking during reading and who seems to not have any questions/answers.  It works really great with informational texts in science and social studies.

I hope you and your class have fun trying these games out!  I would LOVE to hear how it goes in your classroom!!!  Please consider leaving a comment below.

Thank you all for reading and I hope you are enjoying some relaxing time before the big push for the end of the school year!

You can click on the image below for a free spring resource from my store.  I hope you can use it with your students!

Best wishes,
Jen Bengel
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Monday, April 14, 2014

Guest Post: Kimberlee Fulbright, Close Reading Journey Through Text

How can we get students to review standards taught, yet continue high levels of learning? I have begun what I like to call a "Journey Through a Text," with my students. This is a great way to:
1) Use when introducing a skill during mini-lessons
2) Once all mini-lessons have been taught and students have practiced the skills; it is a great way to review all skills independently on their OWN level.

First, it is important to have a plan at how to take your journey. What I want to do next year, that I didn't do this year (remember, it was my 1st year in 5th grade... still learning what works and what doesn't). My plan next year would be to introduce and model these skills with each novel we read. In doing so, they will have seen my modeling multiple times. PLUS, they would have practiced (with my guidance) multiple times. In addition, I want to make the process slow and steady. It is never a good idea to rush such deep work.

So, how do we take a journey through a text? I will show you step by step how to take the journey, which skills to focus on based on our 5th grade standards, and tell you a little about where students could go wrong with their journey, so you can be ready to get them back on track.

Here goes...

The skills/standards we will be working on are as follows:



* Figurative Language
* Inferences
* Textual Evidence/Main Idea
* Textual Structure
* Vocabulary
* Sentence Structure
* Visualization
* Context Clues
* Summarizing
* Theme
* Character Analysis 
* Point of View

I will talk you through half of the "Journey" using the text Out of the Dust by Karen Hesse.

STEP 1 - choose a text; You can choose a novel to work on together (so you can model and practice together). This is what I recommend to begin with. Once you have completed a journey together at least twice, I would allow students to use an independent reading book (their choice & their level).

STEP 2 - Students will need to fill out their cover page with the text title, author's name, and choose 6 items to work on. Again, I would start slow... introduce one concept as you get to a mini-lesson about that specific skill. 

STEP 3 - Begin the journey. I will show you 6 of the 12 5th grade skills you can dig deep with. 


With this digging deep journey activity, students are to create a visual representation outlining the major points of the text. They must find a portion they have read that they can really visualize. Just saying: "The dog ran down the road." is not enough. If it said, "The gigantic German Shepard leaped effortlessly over the fence, as globs of slobber splashed here and there." then that would be enough details in order for us to truly visualize the scene. Students want to put general sentences here, but when you have modeled similar sentences, as I have below, they have a better understanding of what types of words and sentences can really paint a picture in their minds. 



After spending a lot of quality time with each type of figurative language, students begin quickly identifying these types within the texts they are reading. With this journey skill, students must dig deep to find an example of each type of figurative language, write the meaning of the example, and then illustrate. If for some reason the text you are working on does not have one of the types, then I had my students create one that would fit in their text. See some of my samples below:


At first, my students got this page and the vocabulary page confused. With this journey page, students review using context clues in order to figure out the meaning of unknown words. After modeling & practicing multiple times, students should be able to use the text around the unknown word in order to come up with a close meaning. Another skill we practice along with this is substitution. After reading around the unknown word, students can determine a word that would be similar in meaning, reread by substituting with that new word to see if the new word makes sense. If so, that could assist in determining the meaning of this unknown word.

Students are to find a word, and then they should EXPLAIN the meaning and HOW they figured that meaning out. Many students wanted to either "quote" the sentence with the word (incorrect); write a sentence using the word (incorrect); or write the definition of the word (incorrect). What must be thought about here is the process in which they took in order to determine the meaning.


Not all texts are structured the same way. After reviewing the different ways, students can begin to look at key words, visuals, etc. in order to decide which type of structure the text was written. Rather than just tell the structure, it is important that students are able to communicate HOW they know. They need to back their response with some type of proof. Some of the structures we have discussed are Cause/Effect, Sequence of Events, Description, Compare/Contrast, Problem/Solution, etc. See the example below:


Although texts can have more than one theme, it is important for students to figure out which theme is the overall theme of the text by providing enough evidence to support that theme. It is not enough to say that "Perseverance" is the theme, they must say that "the turtle kept going and didn't give up" as proof for support. Prior to identifying and supporting a theme, use picture books to teach mini-lessons to show evidence for many different types of themes. With this skill, students just wanted to list all the themes they could find. The proof is what makes all the difference!


Lastly, I wanted to show how we review compound and complex sentences. My students have learned so much about these types of sentences through first identifying these types within texts they read. After identifying these types, they can then combine sentences in order to create these types. Here, they can practice writing these more fluently by taking simple sentences within their text and combine them to create compound or complex sentences. Here are two simple sentences that I have modeled.

I hope that this "Journey through the Text" has shown a deep way of reviewing many 5th grade reading standards. I am sure there are many other creative ways in which to review these standards, but I found this way very rewarding for my students. I sure hope that it can be a time saver for you!!

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Friday, April 11, 2014

I Have... Who has.... {Freebie + Giveaway!}

Hi!  It's Deb from Crafting Connections with you again this Friday!  I am guessing that there are few among us who have not played a version of "I have... Who has..." in our classrooms.  When I walk into an upper elementary classroom and students spot me carrying "I have... Who has...", cheers erupt!  (I'd be curious to know...does the same thing happen in your classroom?)

For those who have not played this game in your classroom, I encourage you to give it a try!  In fact, to provide further encouragement, this Greek and Latin Roots game is a FREEBIE at my TpT store through the weekend.

Little prep is required.  Simply cut the cards apart prior to class, and then pass them out when you are ready to play the game.  The person with "I have the first card.  Who has..." reads first.  At the end of each card, a question is posed.  Whoever has the answer to that card written at the top of THEIR card reads next.

These cards are part of my Beginning Prefixes game.

Students love this activity because it's fun!  They see it as a game.

As a teacher, I see it as so much more than that!  These are a few of the benefits of playing this game.

  1. Students are exposed to the target content in an engaging way.  There are literally hundreds of these games available.  One can find an "I have... Who has...." game for almost any upper elementary math, reading, or language topic!
  2. Students work cooperatively as a team.  When I play this game with students, we almost always play at least three rounds.  (And if we don't have time to play multiple times, boy, do I hear about it!)  Each round, I time how long it takes to advance through all of the cards, and the first round always takes awhile.  In the subsequent rounds, the students try to break their record, which they usually succeed in doing.  They not only help each other, but also encourage one another to pay attention!
  3. Students have an opportunity to improve fluency and voice volume.  When playing this game, it is very important to speak slowly, loudly, and clearly.  If you read too fast or too quietly, time is wasted because the class has to ask you to repeat yourself.  Therefore, students quickly learn to read as fluently as possible.
  4. Students have to pay attention and listen critically.  If they are caught not paying attention, they are letting their classmates down.  (I find that students pay attention quite well, though.)
I have learned a few tricks over my years of playing this game with students.  I make an answer key by cutting the pages in half, and then taping the strips together so that I have a very long strip of cards that are in order.  I put this strip under the document camera.  This is helpful in a couple of ways.  This is very helpful for those students who have a hearing disability or who just need to see the words written.  This is also helpful for me because I can easily catch any errors, especially when playing with cards that are very closely related.  

Strips are taped together.

This game is also wonderful to play with small groups of students.  The advantage of playing it with small groups is that each student holds (and is accountable for) multiple cards.  They have to pay attention the ENTIRE game.  I have them begin by laying their cards face-up on the table.  After they read a card, they turn it over.  By doing this, it is easier to keep track of which cards have been "played".

A small group of third graders play the prefixes game.

This BUNDLE will be discounted to $21 this weekend; that's less than $0.50 per game!

The above list shows all of the "I have... Who has..." games that I have created to use with my students. Enter the raffle below for a chance to win this "I have... Who has..." BUNDLE!  I will draw one winner on Monday morning!

A followup:  Lisa D. is the winner of the BUNDLE!

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Number Line Frustration? Walk the Walk!

It took a while to really "sell" me on the idea of using number lines (and I'm a visual learner)!  However, since number lines don't seem to be going away when it comes to curricula and standardized testing, I knew I had to accept them, get comfortable with them, break them down for those kids who also are not initially "sold" on them either, and make them interesting for my class.  I've developed coloring worksheets and homework pages, but this year I wanted to "step" it up a notch and engage those kinesthetic learners.  So that's when I created "Number-line Tightropes!" 

The set up: 

While my fourth graders were at music, I broke out the masking tape.  I taped 2 horizontal lines and 2 vertical lines on the floor.

Next, I labeled the whole numbers with tenths at each intersecting tile.  I started on a vertical line with zero and worked my way up to 2.20.  Notice at that point, there was an intersecting horizontal line.  

On the horizontal line, I did the same thing, but instead of starting at the end with zero, I worked around the intersection.  To the left it says 2.10, and to the right (although you can't see it) it says 2.3.  Of course, I did not fill in every number; some of that work had to be for the kids!

Next, I drew smaller increments on the horizontal lines.  Those represent the hundredths.
 I followed the horizontal line to the left until I got to 1.3.  At that point I came to another intersection.  Just as before, I worked up and down the vertical line from 1.3, filling in the tenths, but saving some spots for the kids to complete.

Below, I followed the vertical line to 0.4, which brought me to the final intersection.  I filled in the hundredths on the horizontal line.

The activity:

When the kids walked in after music, they were "floored."  They could not WAIT to interact with the tape on the floor!

I had each of the 4 groups take a "line" to fill in some of the blanks.

Finally, a simple dice rolling game kept the kids engaged in studying the lines.  Roll a dice, move your "guy" that many tenths (for the vertical lines) or that many hundredths (for the horizontal lines). 

So much more fun than worksheets!

How have you turned number lines into fun?

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