Friday, January 31, 2014

Persuasive Texts and Media: Guest Post with Looking From Third to Fourth

I am so excited to be a guest blogger here today!! I'm Anne (or AMC) from Looking From Third to Fourth. I wanted to share with you some of the activities we did in our classroom this month while learning about persuasive texts and media. I love to combine our units persuasive texts and media literacy and to do this I use commercials. There are so many to choose from and they can be used in so many ways. One reason I love using commercials is that students easily relate to and make connections with commercials. Also commercials are a great entry point for students who are reading below grade level and English Language Learners to participate in class discussions and build their confidence in citing evidence. It is a great scaffold - having students identify the purpose, audience and techniques used in a commercial before having to do the same with what they have read. I teach in Ontario and using commercials definitely addresses our Media Literacy expectations but it also addresses standards from the Common Curriculum. Here are a few that I think you can cover:  

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas  
*Integrate and evaluate content presented in diverse media and formats, including visually and quantitatively, as well as in words. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.7)  
*Delineate and evaluate the argument and specific claims in a text, including the validity of the reasoning as well as the relevance and sufficiency of the evidence. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.8) *Analyze how two or more texts address similar themes or topics in order to build knowledge or to compare the approaches the authors take. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.R.9)

Speaking and Listening
Comprehension and Collaboration  
*Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including visually, quantitatively, and orally. (CCSS.ELA-Literacy.CCRA.SL.2 )

The first commercial I like to use is this one from Nissan for the Leaf Electric car.

This commercial generates a lot of discussion in my class. First we have a hard time figuring out what the product is. We discuss how we feel about the polar bear at the beginning of the commercial. Then we discuss what the product is, once we finally figure it out, and who the target audience is. This commercial shows that we need to look at target audience a little more specifically then just adults - this is geared towards people who care about the environment and want to make changes. It also helps us look at techniques - this commercial definitely has an emotional appeal - don't you want to help save polar bears!! After watching and discussing this commercial we view more commercials for vehicles so that we can compare and contrast the target audiences and techniques. I use the Chrysler 300 commercial and the Toyota Sienna commercials with my class to get a wide range of target audiences and techniques. You could also use truck commercials - they definitely have a different target audience and message then the Nissan Leaf commercial. To help my students with their response pages I post these two anchor charts and we make an interactive note.
We also work on our critical thinking skills by watching commercials. Our reading series has two great stories dealing with misleading advertisements. There is also a great series of videos called Buy Me That Too dealing with advertising and kids. There is also this commercial on the house hippo that would be a great lead in to this discussion. My students can always make connections to a time they felt a commercial misled them - they get so excited to share their story. Two fun activities are to run your own taste test for colas to see if they can taste the difference or to watch a fast food commercial and pause on a shot of the food - then pull out a bag with the actual food from that restaurant to compare. After watching the Buy Me That videos and reading our stories we create an anchor chart with some "look-fors" that let us know advertisers may not be telling us the whole truth - like "part of a nutricious breakfast" and "fruity" or "chocolatey". We also look for the "fine print" in advertisments.
As a culminating task for this unit I usually have my students create an advertisement - either a 1 page ad or a commercial. It is a great time to integrate language with social studies. My students usually create an advertisement to entice Europeans to move to North America or a tourism ad for a region/province/city in Canada depending on which we are currently studying. This year we just ran out of time. So I had my students create a product (they could base it on a current product - just add their own ideas to it). Then they decided on a celebrity that would endorse their product and made the celebrity. Here we have Kelly Clarkson, Taylor Swift and Katy Perry endorsing our products! Students added a speech bubble for their celebrity. They also completed a reflection page.
You can pick up a freebie pack I made with the response pages, anchor charts, interactive notebook page and links to commercials and videos. Click here to check it out.

I am always on the look out for more commercials to use - especially since I teach the same group of students for two years so I would love to hear from you if you have any suggestions.
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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Address Label Timesavers for Teachers: Guest Post from Kate's Classroom Cafe

Greetings upper elementary friends!  I'm Kate from Kate's Classroom Cafe and I'm thrilled to be visiting All Things Upper Elementary as a guest blogger today.

I can usually think of at least ten more things I wish I had time to share with my students before they walk out the door each day.  The pressure to keep pace with curricular goals, common core standards and looming test dates can make the day-to-day teaching routines seemingly jam-packed without a moment to spare.  Time…I sometimes just wish there was more time to teach!

One time-saving tool that I use in my classroom is mailing labels.  I make them in advance, keep them organized in folders in my file cabinet and seem to pull them out nearly every day.  Here are some of the ways that I use them in my classroom:

1) Planner Reminder Labels
Don't forget your science project is due Friday!  Please bring a new glue stick to class.  You have missing assignments from when you were absent.  These labels are very helpful for sending a quick message home with a student and I find that they really do help kids remember!  It is a good idea to mention these to parents an open house so that they know to peek into their child's planner for important information.  I keep whole sheets of them ready to go in my desk and have found them quite useful!

2) Rubric Labels
I can't believe I didn't think of this sooner.  Most of the grading I do is in science journals and for years I would print, cut and staple mini-rubrics into the composition notebooks.  Printing on labels has saved me a ton of time!  The downside is that the rubric is a bit smaller so it is not as detailed, but I find that posting a detailed version on the board works just fine.

3) QR Code Link Labels
Encourage students to review content at home using their smart phones and tablets.  (These could also be used in class if iPads are available.)  This particular label links students to an interactive website where they can practice completing food chains, which was a great way to reinforce the daily learning goal.

4) Explanation/Message Labels
A few years ago I decided to make labels for grading labs.  I often write a lot of comments but found it frustrating to write the same phrases over and over.   "Mass is the amount of matter in an object.  Think carefully about how the mass changes during this experiment."  If I wrote that one more time I was going to scream! Printing a sheet of labels will take me about 5 minutes, but it trims about an hour off my grading time.  I've now started making message labels of other things that I want to make sure I communicate to students, such as my willingness to give the extra help or a reminder to resubmit a no name paper.

5) Label Tabs and Numbers for Notebooks

Label Tabs:
Address labels make neat tabs for notebooks.  If you print on the left side of the label only, they can fold over and secure to any page.  I love these because they make finding specific pages a breeze and can be made in any size needed.  I haven't done these with my students though because folding them can be pretty tricky and would probably be difficult for my 6th graders.

Notebook Numbers:
Here's a quick way to label all your student journals.   Print 3 numbers on each label, trim and affix to the binding of each journal.  Numbering the journals in alphabetical order can be helpful when making groups or organizing while grading.  I suggest using clear tape over these labels, as they tend to not adhere well to the binding after repeated opening and closing.  

I hope you find labels as helpful as I do!  Here is a free page of planner reminder labels to help save you time in your classroom.

Thanks for stopping by All Things Upper Elementary.  While you are out and about in blog land, please take a moment to visit me at:

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Happy Teaching!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Guest Poster Shearer-ly Sadler: RACE Reading Responses

Hello ATUE Readers!  This is Tobi from Shearer-ly Sadler 4th Grade guest blogging today!  This is so exciting to be over here to share! I am fairly new to the blogging and TPT world but not to the teaching profession.  I have been teaching elementary school for 14 years and a National Board Certified Teacher for 5 years.  So... I'm going to jump right in today. 

Do your students have difficulty expressing their thoughts when responding to reading?  Mine do and traditionally have experienced this on Kentucky's Common Core State Standards assessment (K-PREP).  This is my districts third year with Common Core so our principal steered us toward Genre Based instruction.  Biographies is my fourth genre based unit this year and since Kentucky has been hit very hard by Ol' Man Winter, I decided to start with a new classic, Snowflake Bentley.  This biography accomplishes many of the Common Core reading informational standards:  I took these from
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.1 Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.2 Determine the main idea of a text and explain how it is supported by key details; summarize the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.3 Explain events, procedures, ideas, or concepts in a historical, scientific, or technical text, including what happened and why, based on specific information in the text.
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.4 Determine the meaning of general academic and domain-specific words or phrases in a text relevant to a grade 4 topic or subject area.     
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RI.4.5 Describe the overall structure (e.g., chronology, comparison, cause/effect, problem/solution) of events, ideas, concepts, or information in a text or part of a text.
K-Prep questions are very deep thinking questions, even the multiple choice questions.  However, you can put MCQ's in front of my students and generally they can answer them well all day long.  But you put an constructed response question in front of them and they freeze.  MCQ's show they know the content, but when asked to apply and retrieve text based evidence, the show significant difficulty.  Part of these genre based units, at least for me, have been to really focus on written responses to reading.  I have been developing task cards with DOK (depth of knowledge) Level 1 & 2 questions for most of the year, but not focusing on them well.  I have been making them part of the daily 4-5 rotations while I teach small group guidedt instruction.  They have been general questions that pertain to any given text.  These questions for Snowflake Bentley were text dependent and required some mental effort on the students part. 

So after the questions were written based on the above mentioned standards, I had students pull out their basals.  I am NOT a basal teacher unless I have to be.  However, this story was included in our Treasures basal in its entirety and that makes for some easy access to multiple copies! 

I always have students read something multiple times.  Our first reading is first and foremost for enjoyment.  So, I allowed children to get into groups of three to four (which allowed for peer reading support).  then each group discussed what they enjoyed about the text.  I circulate during these discussions and eavesdrop!  After each group finished their initial reading and text discussion , they were allowed to choose one of the task cards with the direction that after the choice was made, a second reading of the text would take place with the purpose of finding text evidence in support of their task card response.  I was amazed at how much these very focused questions had them taking notes from the text and REFERING BACK TO THE TEXT OFTEN!!!  Why this is so difficult for my students, I don't know...

After these notes were taken, each person in the group was to formulate a response using our RACE extended response organizing strategy.  Restate, Answer the question, Connect to text, Extend to yourself or the world...They compiled all responses to hand in, choosing one and placing it on the top of the stack to be a part of the Snowflake Bentley Gallery Walk.  These chosen responses were reviewed by me and handed back the next day for revisions by each group. 
Here are a few examples of their written responses:

 This couldn't be the end of the session because there were just too many standards and each question was only correlated to one.  Thus the Gallery Walk was born.  I took the chosen response from each group and placed them around the room.  Students were then given this response grid
This allowed nearly all questions to be answered by each student.  It also stretched their little bloom's taxonomy legs getting students to evaluate other students' answers.  Here are the kiddos in action on their Gallery Walk


Here are some samples of the evaluation tool

 To make sure this activity was accessible for all, I paired students up with a peer if they required a reader or scribe and I also circulated to coach students through their answers. 

I was so pleased with this lesson.  It took me about 3-4 days to work though it and then I gave an assessment over the standard.  Great responses this time and I could see so much more close reading and attention text details in their assessment answers.  I plan to include this in a larger biography unit include some wordwork and other standard specific/congruent activities.
As a thank you to ATUE readers click here to get my RACE poster for FREE!  Also, this Snowflake Bentley Biography Lesson will be available at my TPT store as a flash freebie for the next 24 hours!!!

It was great to be here at All Things Upper Elementary today!  Come on over to Shearer-ly Sadler 4th grade and leave me some love and I might just have another little freebie for you!! 

Shearerly Sadler 4th Grade
Shearerly Sadler 4th Grade TPT shop

Friday, January 24, 2014

Integrating Writing Into the Content Areas: RAFT Tasks

Who are the writing teachers out there? I know some upper grades teachers departmentalize, so you may be the writing teacher on your team, or you may not teach writing at all. I think (and this is my total personal opinion) that even if you aren’t the designated writing teacher, you can still find creative ways to have your students practice those important writing skills. I want to use my post today to give you some tips on how to incorporate writing into other subject areas.

I have found through my years teaching, that some kiddos seem to have a permanent writer’s block. You can give them a prompt, they can’t think of anything to write on it. You leave it open-ended and they can’t narrow it down. I have found that when I focus my writing time around science, social studies, or math content, my kiddos have an easier time filling their paper with meaningful thoughts. Of course, this only happens if they have learned enough about the content to be able to write about it.

I personally love using RAFT writing tasks (Role, Audience, Format, Task) to accomplish this. RAFT tasks allow students to write for different audiences and take on different roles, and it requires them to apply learned concepts through their writing. I also love how RAFT tasks add an element of novelty for the kiddos and allows me a chance to be creative. Students need to have fun writing tasks in order to really understand that writing is more than just research reports and stories.

I think math is pretty easy to have kiddos write about. Why? Because they can explain their thinking when solving problems. Or, if they are playing a game, you can have them write about the strategy they used to win the game. Most kids are more than eager to tell you how they win.  If you want to create a RAFT task, you can have the kiddos take on the role of a game creator. I used to have my students create their own games to review specific math skills, so I would have them write out the rules to their game.
So an example of a RAFT task would be:
Role- game creator
Audience- any game company such as Hasbro
Format- directions
Task- Create a new game children can play to practice a specific math skill (you can allow students to select one or more skills, or you can assign students specific skills). You will need to write detailed directions for the children to follow in order to play the game.

Science/Social Studies
Science and social studies takes a little more effort, in my opinion, because you have to make sure you are thoroughly teaching the content if you expect kids to write about it in a meaningful way. Any kid can record facts about a topic. The purpose, though, is to have the kids write about the content in a meaningful way. Maybe have them describe a historical event using a first-hand account. Or they can describe how two processes are connected. Both of these require students to know enough about the content to apply their knowledge in a written form. Having students write about science and social studies content is also a sneaky way to find more hours in the day. Many teachers say that science and social studies is hard to fit in because of a lack of time or because of such an intensive focus on reading, writing, and math. Instead of having your students write a personal narrative about what they did over the weekend, have them write a personal narrative from the point of view of a child who is growing up during The Great Depression. I know that kids love to write about themselves, and I still had my students write about themselves and self-selected topics, but I had them do this as morning work before class started, or I had this as an option during literacy centers.

Here is one of my favorite RAFT tasks I love to give my students after we study habitats (click here for the complete task):
Role- keeper or aquarist
Audience- zoo or aquarium visitors
Format- comic strip
Task- You are in charge of providing information for visitors to read about a specific animal. You will choose one animal to research and create a comic strip that visitors can read to learn more about your chosen animal.

While we study each habitat, I let my students choose one animal from that habitat to research. I don’t have them write a report on that animal, though, because then they would be writing a LOT of reports. Instead I encourage them to choose one animal from that habitat they want to learn more about, and they fill out the graphic organizer using the information they find. They then keep this organizer in their folder. When we have finished studying all the habitats, and the students have found information on multiple animals, I have them choose the one animal to complete the writing task. They create a comic strip using the information pertaining to this chosen animal. The categories I had my students research for each animal tied directly to our science standards.

My students love Tim and Moby from BrainPop, so I have them create a comic strip similar in nature. Let’s say the student wanted to further research Emperor Penguins. Then in each frame of their comic strip they have one Emperor Penguin looking at the reader giving facts, and in the background there are more Emperor Penguins demonstrating the fact.  These turned out really cute! The comic frame is a large index card, or you can have a parent volunteer cut plain white copy paper in half. I had a parent volunteer cut strips of butcher paper and students glued their frames onto the butcher paper so they could roll it up and store it. I was able to display these in the hallway.  My students love this much more than the typical research report. I still have my students write research reports because it is important for them to be able to do this, but I also think that novelty is important in writing, too.

What do you think about using RAFT tasks in your classroom? How might you incorporate RAFT tasks into your day? I would love to hear your thoughts!

Until next time!
2 Brainy Apples

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Spread a Little Love DOUBLE Linky!

I can't believe we are already three weeks into the year! On top of that there are so many teachers who haven't been having full weeks due to weather conditions around the world and I know that totally throws plans off like crazy!

That being said, we still need to think ahead as we are restructuring things to fit the days we are missing out on and Valentines Day is coming soon! I know in my class we never could really do a party persay but we could do themed math!

When it comes to Valentines Day I think about romantic gestures or even random acts of kindness that we can show toward others. So with that in thought, I have decided to host a DOUBLE LINKY party here on ATUE today!

What is a DoUbLe LiNkY party you ask? Well that is a great question! A Double Linky party means that there are two linky parties within one post. It's pretty simple really, the first linky party will be for LOVED  themed FREEBIES where as the second linky party will be for LOVED themed PAID ITEMS.

Please follow the standard rule of listing no more than three items and to list a paid item you must have a freebie item posted as well. The theme can be loosely taken or other items that would tie into the month of February to help teachers prepare!

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Fraction Freebies for Interactive Notebooks

Hi, friends! It's Blair, from One Lesson at a Time, here to bring you a fun fraction freebie for your interactive notebooks! If you read my blog, you know that I am now teaching math in grades 1-4 and loving every minute of it! #mathnerd

We are eyeballs deep in our fraction units in 3rd and 4th grade, so I have numerators and denominators on the brain these days. I created this little set of foldable notes to help kiddos remember some key vocabulary and concepts about fractions.

The numerator/denominator flap is designed to look like an actual fraction. Glue the flap along the fraction bar:
Then, glue the definitions of each under the flaps. These are the definitions that we use with our kiddos and I really like them. That being said, if you want to use the template but would prefer your own definitions, just write them under the flaps!
I also created one that mimics the "diagonal" fraction bar. Same idea and same definitions:

Then, I created 2 fraction flip books to help students remember what each part of a fraction means in action - as part of a whole, part of a set, and on a number line. The first one is all filled in, using 1/3 as the example - this one is kind of an interactive anchor chart. The second flip book uses the fraction 3/4, but requires students to fill in the information and draw pictures on their own. Here are what the flip books look like:
Click {HERE} to download these interactive notebook fraction pages free from Google Drive!

If you need more fraction activities for your interactive notebooks, make sure to cheek out my packs for 3rd and 4th grade on TpT. I am also beyond thrilled to {FINALLY} be finished with the 4th Grade Mega-Bundle! Do you hear the chorus of angels or are those just in my head? ;) You can click on the product covers below to check each of them out in my store!
I also just posted a free set of Author's Purpose flippies for interactive notebooks on my blog - check out that post on One Lesson a a Time to grab your set! 
Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
Until next time...

Monday, January 20, 2014

Concept Sorts in Math

A while ago I posted about one way that I use "concept sorts" to help deepen students' understanding on a topic.  If you missed it, here it is!  It goes into quite a bit of detail about how I structured my lesson to use this GREAT learning tool!

I wanted to show you another way I use these sorts.  The first time I posted, I talked about having the students in trios which is really one of my favorite ways to use them.  The blog post above explains all the different skills that can be worked on in a 20-25 minute activity!

The other day I wanted to do a sort, but I really only wanted to spend about 10 minutes on it, so I wanted to share how I did THAT!

On this day, I knew I had a second teacher in my room during the time I wanted to "warm them up" with this sort, so I planned ahead and got enough supplies ready for TWO for each teacher.  Instead of having the students cut the cards, I did it and knew that this sort would be much more teacher directed.  I got the headers glued onto some big paper and we were ready to work.  My students still seem to be struggling with visualizing fractions, so I wanted to do another sort related to it.

We then split the class into two groups, one for each teacher.  We each did a little minilesson reviewing what we knew about visualizing fractions and then we grabbed our stack of cards to sort.  As a group, we discussed several of them.  I would show the group a card and then ask if there was someone who could explain which category the card belonged in and why it belonged there.  We did several more cards this way and then I passed the rest of the cards out to pairs of students sitting by each other.  I asked them to work together to decide which group they would fall into.

We then shared out a few more with the whole group and I asked groups to pick the one that was the hardest and we discussed that one.  We had a GREAT discussion about 6/8!  Some students felt it didn't fit in ANY category because it was exactly in the middle!  A few students remembered the rounding rule and felt it should be in the "Benchmark 1" category.  What a great discussion!

Again--the point of these sorts isn't always to have a completed product or even to finish the sort.  We probably had 10 cards left that we could have discussed, but the point of today was to do a quick sorting review, and we were able to accomplish a lot in about 12 minutes!  

For those of you who missed my original post, this is resource that these sorts come from here.

More sorts will be coming--geometry, science, and more. I hope you find these useful!

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