Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Made It {FINALLY!}

I am SO excited I can actually link up with Tara this week for Monday Made-It, and I have SCHOOL related (not just house) made-its to share!!!
I worked in my classroom for the first time all summer this week, and only for a few hours. They did some serious carpet cleaning, so........ there is a lot of rearranging to do.
I decided in all the rearranging of furniture that I'd get rid of my teacher desk. (GASP!) So you know what that means...? TEACHER TOOLBOX TIME!
I ended up not using the big chevron paper because the print was sooo big. I printed the labels and taped them onto the paper, then taped it into the drawer. (If you could use these labels, you can grab them for free here!) I also used teal "Duck Tape" duct tape to cover the outside. I'm super excited about getting it into my classroom!
 My second made-it has been a work in progress ALL SUMMER. Many people have been asking for it and thankfully, patiently waiting for it.
All 40 of the books I made mentor sentence units for are included in this 300+ page pack! Basically, your reading plans are done for the year, and you have a weekly writing prompt! And... for only two more days, if you buy it, you can also get a free nonfiction mini-set, too! (This freebie opportunity ends July 29, 2014.) All of the details are in the product description. ;-)
Thanks so much to Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files, I was motivated to make my own Pinterest board covers!
Aren't they cute? I made them match my blog design. :o) Do you follow me on Pinterest? I have 4 main teaching boards of my own, but I also pin a lot to collaborative boards.
Lastly, I decided to make some cute covers for my binders at school. (I *try* to keep all of my unit plans, games, and activities together in binders... stacks still accumulate though.)
This might have been my most productive week so far... but today is my first day back at school, so be ready to see lots of pictures of room organization and getting ready for the first day! (August 5th!! EEEEEK!)

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

What I'm Wearing Wednesday: My Lucky Day!

Hello my friends! I'm here to share a few things I wore this week, and I hope you will too!

Let me tell you one thing I'm NOT wearing anymore... a HUGE beast product is finally out from under my belt!! I have been working on it all summer- I posted about it yesterday! Check it out!

So I called this post "My Lucky Day" because of what I wore this weekend...
I got this adorable shirt because my sweet friend Amanda (Collaboration Cuties) ordered it from and it ran a little big (so it was too big for her)... the one time I like being tall with big boobs! :-P
Pants are Michael Khors brand from TJ Maxx and shoes are from Ross.

Next up is not something I've worn yet... I bought two pairs of shoes to figure out which ones to wear with my Vegas dress, but only kept one pair... well I had bought them at Shoe Carnival on a "buy one get one 50% off" deal day, and so they told me they'd still honor the 50% off... and guess what they had just put out...? BOOTS!
I got these lovelies for only $25! Woot! Can't wait to wear them in the fall! :o)

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

It's Here! IT'S HERE! Better Than Basal! {AND a fabulous offer!}

Well, it only took me ALL SUMMER, but it's finally done! :-P Thank you so much for your patience- I have spoken to many of you about when this would be coming, and I'm sooooo happy I can finally tell you, "IT'S HERE!!!!"
Several of my followers who use my Mentor Sentence Units asked how I use those books in reading and writing. Because of those requests, this product was born! It is JAM-PACKED with common core aligned lessons, graphic organizers, and writing prompts for 40 of your favorite mentor texts to use in grades 3-5! It's over 300 pages of material! With over 100 graphic organizers WITH answer keys, lists of lessons for every book, as well as 40 writing prompts, you'll be set for the year, and for many years after, too!

Oh but wait... there's more! Since the majority of these books are fiction, you will need a nonfiction companion, too, won't you? Well, you know I can't let you down! The nonfiction companion is in the works, and if you purchase this set July 22-29, you can receive that mini-set of nonfiction reading and writing units for FREE before anyone else can even buy them! To claim this offer, you MUST follow these steps on or before July 29, 2014:

1. Purchase the Complete NO PREP Reading & Writing Units for 40 Popular Mentor Texts.
2. Leave feedback on your purchase through TPT. Access through your My Purchases page. Then, email me at and include your TPT username and the date of feedback. DO NOT send to my personal email. Keep in mind that you can always go back and edit feedback later if needed!
3. You will receive a download link for your FREE mini-set of nonfiction reading and writing units on or before August 3, 2014!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Why I Do What I Do: Weekly Homework

Hi there! I'm linking up with the sweet and smart Christina at Bunting, Books, and Bright Ideas to share why I do what I do with weekly homework.

I have tried assigning homework every night. I have, really. Buuuut... sometimes lots of times I would forget. The kids would be walking out the door and I would remember... and you know they aren't going to remind me. Ha!! So I decided I would just give them everything they needed to do for the week on Mondays. This way, the parents know what I expect, and the kids can pace themselves.

I give them a reading homework activity sheet (and log) which has to be signed and returned each day. This is the only thing I check on a daily basis. (And I would love to share the page I use with you, but apparently, I only have a copy of it on my school computer? ACK!) The math, language, and spelling homework does not get checked until Friday. I have found this helps students who have sports practice or church during the week- they can double up one night if they need to. It also helps teach some of them time management- I once overheard a boy complaining about "all the homework he had to do" Thursday night, and his friend said, "well maybe you shouldn't save it all for one night. Duh." :o)

We aren't allowed to grade homework in my district, but I want the students to know I think it's beneficial, so I reserve the last 20-30 minutes of the day on Friday so we can check it together (after I've walked around and spot-checked to make sure they have attempted to do it all).

I like to give my students homework in most of the subjects each night, but I don't want to give them too much homework, so I like to give spiral review pages that take just a few minutes each night (if they break it up and do it each night).

For math, I use Fun In Room 4B's Math Moves. It is every 4th grade math standard every week- and it's awesome!
For grammar/language, I use my Spiral Language Arts Homework (the first nine weeks has been published in my store, the next one is in the works... and it will all be done this year prior to the time it's needed!) - I copy it on the back of the Math Moves page for the week!

I also love Fourth And Ten's Spelling Contracts, which I give my students once or twice a month!
How do you assign homework? Go link up with Christina and share your ideas!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Reading in the Wild: Sharing Books

Eek! I thought I had this scheduled to post on Thursday and I just realized it didn't!
This week's chapter from Reading In The Wild was all about building communities of readers by sharing books with each other. I absolutely loved Donalyn's suggestion of the graffiti wall! Cover a bulletin board with black butcher paper and let the kids write their favorite quotes from the books they are reading. How exciting would that be?? My kids will love it! Here is an example I found:
My board will be much bigger than this because I will want it to be up and added to all year.

Another suggestion from Donalyn is to have students read books of interest together. It promotes conversation about the book, and it also may be helpful to a student who might not be able to read a book with complete independence- with a buddy, they can be more successful. I love to buy at least two copies of chapter books so that my students can read together. Sometimes, they'll even go check out more copies of the book from the library so that more can read together. (I give you all my resources and tell about how I use Partner Reading in my classroom in my Launching Reading Workshop pack.)

Lastly, book commercials are an excellent way for students to share books. My kids LOVE Reading Rainbow, so being able to make commercials like they do on the show will be so exciting for them!
I'm even going to see if they could air on the school morning news show sometimes. They'd be celebrities! ;-)

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

What I'm Wearing Wednesday: Summer Days

Hello again! Only a couple more weeks until What I'm Wearing Wednesday will include school attire for me... Poo. But for now, here are a couple things I wore this week in my summer attire!

First, I am soooo excited to show you the shirt I got to wear to the gym, thanks to my bestie, Amanda, from Collaboration Cuties! We've been working out together every day, so this was the perfect gift from her! LOVE!
I've also been wearing my Polar Heart Monitor Watch to keep track of my calories burned during my workouts...
This was after Spin class on Tuesday! Seeing my calories burned helps me feel like my workouts are worth it, especially on days when I struggle to get through it.

I also got to wear my new (to me) Banana Republic shirt that I ordered from Twice!

It's super comfy, and I love the color and beading! Although, I am a little nervous about wearing it too much because every time I wash it, I worry the beads will get messed up!!

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Taking it Back to the Archives... MENTOR SENTENCES!

Hello to my new and old followers! Today is a throwback of sorts... a travel back in time to when I first shared about Mentor Sentences, plus a little extra. ;-) I'm linking up with Nick from Sweet Rhyme-Pure Reason to head back to the archive!

This post is going to be a big one, but definitely worth your time if you are interested in Mentor Sentences!
Do I have your attention now? :-P  If you aren't sold enough to read the whole post yet, let me tell you why I use Mentor Sentences in my classroom. 

#1: I already use children's literature to teach my mini-lessons in reading and writing. 
Why not use those books for grammar, too?

#2: Kids need to learn from amazing, 
well-written sentences. 
Giving them a sentence filled with mistakes 
and telling them to "fix it" doesn't work 
if they don't even know what it's supposed to look like to begin with!

#3: My kids don't know they are learning grammar during our daily Mentor Sentence time. 
They think it's a scavenger hunt, or a game, or a challenge.

#4: My students' grammar knowledge 
AND WRITING improved. 
I found my students actually trying to 
imitate the mentor sentences  
in their own writing.

#5: It only takes 10-15 minutes per day!

Are you still with me? (How could you not be?) I realized after blogging about Mentor Sentences last year that although reading about them is helpful, seeing it in action is really what teachers needed. (Raise your hand if you are a visual learner just like over half of the students in your classroom!) So, I made a video. That's right, Y'ALL go ahead and get ready to make fun of my accent if you aren't from Georgia. ;o) 

Did you hear how excited the kids were? They can't WAIT to find out what the Mentor Sentence will be each week, and they are dying to be the one who figures out the skill I want them to see in the sentence, or for their sentence to be chosen to get displayed.

Still need more...? Want to read about it, too? Here you go, friends.

**These are two posts written in April 2013 combined!**
On Monday, I give the students their sentence for the week to glue down into their journals. (Mine use the back of their Writer's Notebook.) This sentence comes from a book we read the week before, or we are going to read that week. Usually, I have not read the book when I give them the sentence, so when I do read the book, they are hanging on every word, waiting to hear the sentence. I have trained mine to snap when they hear me read the sentence (instead of shouting out). Last week, we used a sentence from one of my favorite books, Step-Stomp Stride by Andrea Davis Pinkney which I had already read to them the week before as part of our biographies unit.
Sojourner put one big-black-beautiful foot in front of the other and she STOMPED on the floorboards of ignorance that were underneath.

Once they have their sentence glued down, we practice reading the sentence together fluently. I'll call on some volunteer students to read it by themselves to show off, but we read it a few times chorally as well. Then, they "notice" what is so awesome about this sentence. Some things I ask to prompt them and get them going are:
How is this sentence different from others you've seen? How is it the same? What makes it so awesome? Why do you think I chose THIS sentence out of ALL the sentences in the book? What about the way this sentence is written stands out to you?

I expect them to write at least three things down on their own, but usually they write more. I give them just a few minutes, and then we come to the floor and they share what they saw. I add their "notices" to the chart. I always have something in mind that made the sentence stand out to me, and the students know they are trying to "guess" what it was that made me pick it. This helps with their list of "notices" too because they know it's usually not something small and simple (although, sometimes it is!). Here is our list from last week's sentence:
You'll notice (haha, no pun intended) that I have my students tell me why for everything. They can't just say the sentence is descriptive. They had to tell me they could imagine the scene in their head like a movie. They couldn't just tell me STOMPED was in all capitals- they had to tell me why they thought the author put that word in all capital letters. You'll notice the star next to "big-black-beautiful"- there were two things about that, and they got them both!! Alliteration, and the hyphens! We also talked about this being a compound sentence, but I just realized it didn't make it on the list. I don't know how that happened! Whoops! I am usually really good about making sure everything that they say is there! My apologies!

On Tuesday, the students re-write the sentence in their notebook, skipping lines in between, and label all the parts of speech that they know (first, independently). Then we come to the floor again, and they tell me what parts of speech they know, but again, they have to talk about WHY. Here is the completed sentence, but check below it for examples of the dialogue we had as we labeled:
Student 1: Sojourner is a proper noun.
Ms. Ivey: How do you know that?
Student 1: Because it's her name, and she is a person.
Ms. Ivey: Good! What else?
Student 2: Underneath is an adverb.
Ms. Ivey: Really? But it tells position. Why isn't it a preposition? (yup, I'm mean. Trying to trick them!!)
Student 2: (thinks for a minute) Because it tells where they were, but it doesn't connect it to a noun...? (She was not totally sure, but she was right! I was so proud!)
Ms. Ivey: Very good!!! No fooling you!! What else do you notice?
Student 3: Oh! "On the floorboards" is a prepositional phrase, because like <student 2> just said, it DOES connect to a noun. On connects to the floorboards, and it tells where!
Ms. Ivey: Very good!! You are right, and actually, our whole prepositional phrase is "on the floorboards of ignorance"- of is ANOTHER preposition! (It's okay to tell them some things, like this, because you don't want them to be confused...)
Student 3: So "in front of the other" is a prepositional phrase too, right?
Ms. Ivey: Yup!

You can see that, by this point, I am not having to really lead them too much. They do most of it on their own. This is a different story at the beginning of the year. Please do not believe that the conversation you just read above happens right away. They begin to understand the "language" and know how to tell me the answer as we get more comfortable with the process. Of course, I would not give them a sentence like this in the beginning of the year either- I want them to feel successful, which they can do on simpler sentences at first. Something you might hear from them early on is, "big is an adjective." Instead of just labeling it, make sure to ask, "how do you know?" If they give you a blank stare, or just tell you it's a describing word, make them tell you what word it's describing!  Same with nouns. Yes, at this point they had BETTER know what a noun is, but make them tell you what MAKES it a noun! (For example, it's a person.) This is what leads to them being able to tell you why something is a preposition, for example. It also is great when you get into those adjectives that are also nouns, like "kitchen table." They want to tell you kitchen is a noun. Well it is, by itself. But it's describing what kind of table!

Mentor sentences give you the chance to hit several aspects of grammar repeatedly each week. I rarely teach grammar in isolation anymore because I can do it through mentor sentences! 

The focus of day 3 is to make the sentence SOUND even better than it already does. I have an exercise I do with the kids every Wednesday (and other times in writing also, but they expect it during Mentor Sentences on Wednesday). I ask them, "what happens when we edit?" I have taught them editing makes our writing LOOK better, so they all say together, "we make it look better," as they put their hands on their eyes like binoculars. I ask students to share ways we can edit- capitalization, punctuation, spelling... And then I ask, "what happens when we revise?" I have taught them revising makes our writing SOUND better, so they all say together, "we make it sound better," as they cup their hands around their ears to give themselves supersonic ears! I ask students to share ways we can revise- changing verbs to make them more vivid, adding descriptive language like adjectives or figurative language, combining sentences, etc...

So, now they are ready to revise this week's mentor sentence! We do talk about how just adding any old adjective (or adding TEN adjectives) is not revising because we want to make it sound better, not just "longer." I always give them an example of the sentence that I revised. This helps get their brain going. It also allows conversation for what kinds of things can be done during revision. Here's my sentence from last week:
(Remember, the original sentence was: Sojourner put one big-black-beautiful foot in front of the other and she STOMPED on the floorboards of ignorance that were underneath.)

We talk about the things that are different in the revised sentence:
*I changed the word put to placed, making it more vivid.
*I also replaced STOMPED with POUNDED- both are vivid, but POUNDED makes an impact in all capital letters, too.
*I used the preposition across instead of on because I thought it fit better with POUNDED.
*I changed the adverb underneath to below.

The students write their sentences and I allow the ones who volunteer to share; the rest of the class listens for the revisions and shares what they hear. It's very important that you stress to them they are keeping the meaning of the sentence, but just making it sound better. Once they learn Thursday's task, they will sometimes get confused and want to change the meaning of the sentence. Just remind them that they won't do that until the next day...

Thursday's task is to write like the author. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, I always say! So, on this day, the students decide what they want to write their sentence about (this is the day they change the meaning!) but try to keep the structure of the sentence the same. It is important to go back and review the noticings from Monday. The author used a metaphor? Oh, I should too! The sentence is a compound sentence? Then, so should mine! The author connected three alliterative adjectives with hyphens? I will, too!

Again, I share my example with them and we compare how it is the same as the mentor sentence:
I wrote a compound sentence with three alliterative adjectives connected with hyphens followed by a prepositional phrase, and capitalized my vivid verb. Sometimes, I even go word by word or phrase by phrase, pointing at the mentor sentence and pointing at mine to talk about the similarities. Then it's their turn! They all imitate the sentence and I choose 4 students to write their sentence on sentence strips with special markers. Some weeks, it is REALLY difficult to choose only 4! The students all want to be one of the four chosen, so they really try hard to write some SUPER sentences. I also try to pick different students each week to give everyone the chance to be displayed on the bulletin board.
The four sentences I chose last week were great! You'll notice they don't have EVERY element from the mentor sentence, but that's okay! You can tell they are trying some of the elements, and hey! I would be so happy with these sentences written in their writing pieces! The first one is by far my favorite. I laughed out loud!!

My dog dropped one stinky-smelly-surprise in front of me and BARKED for me to clean it up.

I bounced the basketball with my super-sweaty-super-sized hand and threw the basketball into the white netted hoop.

My mom made the best-blasting-booming with taste pasta and my brothers and I devoured it.

Jeremy bought delicious-dreamy-delicate brownies from the Debie Snack store and he STUFFED the brownies in his mouth and ate it.

Perfect sentences? No. But better than those boring ol' sentences I'd be getting otherwise? Absolutely!! And YES! They do try to incorporate the elements and structure of mentor sentences into their own writing! I have seen improvements in my students writing over the last few years while using mentor sentences.

As I mentioned in my last post, I teach grammar through mentor sentences and through my reading and writing lessons. Very rarely do I teach it in isolation. We have been working on distinguishing between simple, compound, and complex sentences for the last several weeks. I alternated my mentor sentences between compound and complex, and we talked about how we knew it was compound vs. complex.

Every Friday, I give a mentor sentence quiz, which I call Invitation to Edit (to stick with the Invitation Theme). The quiz requires them to edit the sentence that they've been seeing ALL week (so they know at this point what it should look like), and it assesses whatever skill we worked on as the focus for that week. It sometimes also spirals back to include skills that were previous focuses but also showed up in this sentence. For example, in this week's sentence, I focused on the fact that it was compound (last week was complex). But we also talked about the alliteration in "big-black-beautiful" which was a previous focus in our figurative language unit and another mentor sentence... so I included it on the quiz!
FYI: this is one of my ELL students! Yippee!
You can easily pull a sentence from any book and try this in your classroom, or if you love the idea of all the work being done for you, check out my TPT Store for Mentor Sentence Units (there are freebies there too)! Or grab the money-saving bundle of all 40 mentor sentences and corresponding interactive notebook activities!
Remember, CONSISTENCY IS KEY! To see real improvement, you need to carve out a time in your schedule to do Mentor Sentences daily. I promise you, it's worth it! You won't have to teach grammar in isolation so much anymore (BORING!) and you'll see improvement in the students' writing!