Saturday, September 6, 2014

Whew... Made It!!!

Amy here! We made it through our first week back to school. We introduced our students to our new classroom set-up (we PROMISE pics are coming!!!), talked about what "smart" REALLY is, organized supplies, introduced our students to their Word Study Notebooks, started our first science unit, took our first Math in Focus pretest, and had our first Publishing Party! Just typing all that makes me tired. I imagine our kiddos slept well last night!

Here are some links and details to learn more information about our New Year Kick-Off activities in case you are looking for some activities for your own kiddos!

We always begin our year by sharing with kids that being "smart" is all about growth. It's not about the things we can do well the first time, it is about the things we have to work at and areas we can grow in. I love the look on their faces as they start to hear what I am saying: "We should all care more about how far we have come rather than the final outcome!!" We used our "8 Kinds of Smart" posters as a PowerPoint to share with kids the idea that we all possess different strengths that we can use to our advantage when learning new information. If you would like to share this information with your kiddos, check out the our Multiple Intelligences freebie!!

We kicked off our Word Study Notebooks right away this year. Our kids enjoyed them so much last year that we wanted to be sure to start them as soon as possible. These notebooks help students to study prefixes, suffixes and root words in order to spell and read unknown words. We are so excited that we had all of our Word Study lessons/materials planned out for the year. We even sacrificed a summer day (okay, it was a horribly stormy, rainy day) to copy everything we would need for the year!! Now our Word Study block includes stress free, prepared teachers and engaged, motivated students. Check out the year long plan at our TPT store! You can buy the year long bundle, or try out an individual month!

Our pacing guide for Math has us going 100 miles per hour from now til the end of the year. This means we needed to start ASAP! We gave our kiddos their first pretest this week and learned a lot about their test taking habits and behaviors as well as each student's place value understanding. We will begin sending homework home next week. We are so glad we have worthwhile (and not overwhelming) homework that is standard specific and allows our kiddos to think about where their understanding level is so they are aware of the growth they make over the course of the unit. If you are looking for some relevant and useful homework for your students, check this out:

We always start our writing off with a fun activity. We ask students to bring in an artifact that represents their summer. They then use their artifact to write a piece that shares a story from their summer vacation. After giving students two days to prepare their piece, we introduce them to a Publishing Party. This is a celebration of the work students have put into a writing piece. We hold Publishing Parties when we are concluding a unit and students have a finished piece. We place students in groups of four and they take turns reading their pieces. This week they shared their artifact and their story. All of this while enjoying cookies and juice. Our hope is that each Publishing Party helps to give students a purpose in their writing with a specific audience in mind. It also shows students how much we value the time and effort they put into writing each piece. Finally, it gives students an opportunity to hear the author's craft elements that their peers are putting in their writing. Our kids love Publishing Parties and we LOVE watching them take pride in the work they do!

Whew, long post but so much fun stuff to share. We are so grateful to be in the classroom again this year with a new group of kids that are ready and eager to learn. It is going to be an awesome year! We hope your year is off to a great start too!


  1. Hi! Okay I just found your wonderful blog. I have a lot of questions. But I will start off with a few. What does your math pacing guide look like? We don't really have a program which is great, and I am not a huge fan of Engage NY so I want to create my own, but I am only a second year teacher and I am unsure of how to pace correctly. Also what do your pre-tests look like? How do you do your word study? Is it like 15 minutes every day or how exactly does it look in your classroom? Sorry I know this is a late comment, but I am really trying to prepare for next year!

    1. Hi Rachel! Bring on the questions! Connecting with people is our favorite part of blogging! We have the Math in Focus program and our district created a pacing guide based on the chapters in the program. We just completed our third year with the program and Mollie and I are ready to make some changes. :) We are looking at introducing Guided Math into our classrooms next year so keep an eye out, this summer we will be planning and blogging all about our Guided Math adventure. Our pretests come from Math in Focus but we are looking at giving our post test as our pretest next year. We feel like if we are not sending the tests home and are solely using them to help guide our instruction and to show growth, we feel like the post test is the best way to do that. We like to complete 20 minute of word study a day. The recommendation at the fourth grade level is actually only three times a week but we like consistency and so we try to do something every day. It also allows us to take longer activities and carry them over into a second day. Did I answer everything? What else ya got? Haha! :) Hope to talk to you soon!