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BTT: The Giving Tree

It's time for Book Talk Tuesday!

Linking with Deanna Jump!

It's been 50 years!

We're all familiar with this classic. I just wanted to connect it with the Common Core standards!

Integration of Knowledge and Ideas:
Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.

Since this is a classic, there are different presentations you can use in conjunction with the text.  Here is the YouTube video of the book read by Shel Silverstein.

  Here is a comic strip version of the story with the tree played by mom.  It's Zits by Jerry Scott and Jim Borgman.

Some questions:
  • Is the video what you visualized in your head?  How is it similar or different?
  • How is the comic strip similar or different from the story?
  • What does the author of the comic strip mean by "happy-ish"?
Some activities:
  • Create a wordle of the words that you think embody this story.
  • Create a giving tree in your classroom or school and donate the gifts to a local hospital.
  • Write a companion book told from the tree's point of view.
Hope this was helpful.  Enjoy!


IMWAYR: The One and Only Ivan

Monday Linky from Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers!

The One and Only Ivan

In my classroom, we are finishing up The One and Only Ivan by Katherine Applegate. This novel won the Newbery in 2013. It's based on the true story of Ivan, who lived in captivity for 27 years before public outcry got him moved to a zoo.

It's a beautiful story about Ivan the gorilla. It is told from his point of view in captivity in a mall/circus.

The standard I focus on the most is:
Key Ideas and Details:
Refer to details and examples in a text when explaining what the text says explicitly and when drawing inferences from the text.

I made this anchor chart for my kids:

We use Ivan for two purposes. One: we do interactive read alouds during readers' workshop. I read aloud and plan stops along the way to show how to apply reading strategies. For example, My think aloud for character motivation might be "Why is it a turning point for Ivan when Ruby hits Mack? I think he's worried about what Mack could do to her. I'm going to keep reading to see what happens." Think alouds should be well-planned and short. If you're looking for some titles, TCRWP has a great list here. TCRWP is a great resource for all things connected with literacy.

Second: we use it for explicit close reading lessons. The third grade standard asks students to refer to the text but it is really called out in fourth grade and higher. Students need to be guided in how to use text evidence to support their ideas.  I made a close reading guide to help especially when it comes to asking my kids deep questions.  I formatted it with the text on one side and an open space on the other.  I use the gradual release method for teaching.

I hope this encouraged you to read The One and Only Ivan with your students. It really is a great book.

Twitter: @Lisa_teacher


Standards for Mathematical Practice (aka SMP's)

Standards for Mathematical Practice (aka SMP's)

Common Core mathematics is about creating problem solvers.  Consider the Standards for Mathematical Practice the basis.  I made this chart for the Standards for Mathematical Practice (aka SMP's).  It's free on Teachers Pay Teachers.  I wanted something easy to understand for the students.  Besides, I saw a lot of charts that were wrong about SMP 7 and 8.

SMP 7 is about looking for patterns and structures that can help a student solve a problem.  Maybe it's fact families or inverse relationships. or maybe it's breaking apart.

SMP 8 is more about making generalizations.  It's about whether students can see how a strategy can be applied to other situations.  I think people see repeated reasoning and assume it's about patterns.  It's more about seeing the big picture.

The SMP's you should see in every lesson are SMP #1: Make sense of problems and persevere in solving them and SMP #6: Attend to precision.  Perseverance is such an important skill for students to foster, especially in math where they tend to give up.  Precision is about doing correct work and checking that the answers are reasonable.  Consider them the framework or basis for math.

I really liked this blog by Scholastic.  It explains each one in an easy manner to understand.  

Thanks for stopping by!

Twitter: @Lisa_teacher


TFT: Conferring notes, Comments and Number Strings

Linking up with Teacher Gems to share tips and tricks!

Conferring Notes

       I have two magnetic folder bins for my conferring notes.  You can get them from Lakeshore Learning for $12.99 each.
      One is for Reader's Workshop and the other is for Writer's Workshop.  I have a separate folder for each student.  I prefer individual conferring notes to whole class ones- personal preference.  I can just pull the first one, confer and put it in the back.  That allows me the assurance that I'm meeting with every kid.

       I use this sheet for conferring during Reader's Workshop.  Under Reading Behaviors, I do a quick running record.  Under Comprehension Strategies, I write about the strategy they're working on and how it's going. Finally, the teaching point is what I want them to work on in their reading.

     I use this sheet for conferring during Writer's Workshop.  The research phase is where you ask the students "How's it going?"  It allows them to tell you what is going on with their writing.  After that, the teacher takes the lead and teaches.  Maybe the students needs to focus on something in particular or a trait needs to be addressed.  Finally, next steps is what you want the students to take away.  What should you be seeing in their writing as a result of this conference?

    The images are from FableVision Learning.  I just love Peter Reynolds art!


When reading someone's website, it's nice to leave a comment.  Here is a way to leave your comment and your blog address so that they can then go visit you!

Here is how you can make a hyperlink in a comments box.
Just type <a href="web address you're linking to">text you're link from</a>
as in: <a href="">LisaTeachR'sClassroom</a>
My example would like this:

Happy commenting!

Number Strings

Number strings are a set or sets of number related clues that students use to solve a problem.  It helps students see relationships between numbers and make generalizations.

Here is an one example:
2 x 5 =
4 x 5 =
8 x 5 =
16 x 5 =
32 x 5 =
48 x 5 =

48 x 50 =
Have students solve and ask what is the relationship between the problems? How does knowing the answer to one help with the others?  Can you plot the problems on a number line?  

Here is a different type of number string:
Start with the number of hours in a day.
Divide it in half.
Divide that into thirds. 
Multiply that by 2.
What did you get?
Stress listening and mental math skills when doing this type of number string. Ask them to justify their answer to a classmate.  Make sure to point out different ways students approached the problem.

Hope these tips were useful!!

Fourth Grade Teacher in California!



BTT: Flora and Ulysses

It's time for Book Talk Tuesday!

Linking with Deanna Jump!

     I love this book.  It's a fast read and has some really rich vocabulary.  I love the themes it touches on such as divorce, loyalty and friendship.

    It starts with Flora looking out her window and seeing Tootie Tickham, her neighbor, trying to control her vacuum cleaner as it heads directly towards a squirrel.  Flora runs down and helps bring the squirrel back to life.  However, he is not the squirrel he once was...he has superpowers!  Superpowers such as strength and poetry writing!  Flora decides it's up to her to protect Ulysses, as she names him, since the world will misunderstand him.  Out of nowhere the nemesis is made clear, Flora's mother.  Flora's mother also corrals her father in her nefarious plans.  The rest of the story is about Flora protecting Ulysses and her relationship with her father.

     Another reason kids love this book is that it is interspersed with comics throughout.  Pay attention to the images, they add a lot to the story.  This book won the 2014 Newbery Award!
     Hope you enjoyed my book pick this week!  

Flora and Ulysses: An Illuminated Adventure!

This is such a great book.  As a child of divorce and knowing many kids are going through it too, I thought it a good book to work with.  Besides, I just love Kate DiCamillo.

Floraand Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures! This middle grade novel won the Newbery medal for 2014. The story is about Flora, a self-described cynic, who witnesses a tragedy/miracle in her neighbor’s backyard. She is able to revive the squirrel and names him Ulysses. The book is very funny but also tackles some serious issues such as divorce, abandonment issues and more. The book is written as part narrative and part graphic novel.

I formatted the close reading guide as follows. It begins with an explanation of close reading and how to format a lesson. I also included sentence stems aligned to Webb's Depth of Knowledge. Then, there is a summary, themes listed and character descriptions. I created focus questions for each and every chapter. Along with the focus questions, I culled out vocabulary you might need to review and creative writing activities, research activities or discussion points. There are explicit gradual release formatted lessons throughout for pivotal moments in the story. I included a close reading sheet for each of the explicit lessons. You could use the focus questions to create more close reading lessons using the blank templates or for class discussions. At the end, there is a blank sheet for planning and to use with close reading of different chapters. Finally, I added my version of Cornell Notes, which I use for homework reading. I added a sheet for using with the idea of a capacious heart and a printable for creating comic strips. There is also a rubric for grading the close reading sheets. I hope your students enjoy it as much as my students did.

Awards for Flora and Ulysses:
The John Newbery Medal Winner 2014, National Book Award Longlist, Texas Bluebonnet Award 2014-15

Enjoy my new close reading guide on TPT!!!

Twitter: @Lisa_teacher


IMWAYR: Alice's Adventures in Wonderland


Monday Linky from Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers!

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

So I'm teaching Fourth Grade this year.  If you go to Appendix B of the Common Core State Standards, you can find the ELA Text Exemplars for all grades.  The very first story for grades 4-5 is Alice in Wonderland!  It's a tale about Alice who follows a white rabbit down a hole and many nonsense adventures ensue.

Because it was written so long ago, it is in the public domain and can be used freely.  You can find it on Project Gutenberg. You can find various versions of the text, audio versions and a dramatization.  If you go to Wikipedia, you can find comics, graphic novels and art related to Alice.

Here's the excerpt the CCSS provides:
Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Illustrated by John Tenniel. New York: William Morrow, 1992.  (1865)

From Chapter 1: “Down the Rabbit-Hole”

Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do: once or twice she had peeped into the book her sister was reading, but it had no pictures or conversations in it, ‘and what is the use of a book,’ thought Alice ‘without pictures or conversation?’ 

So she was considering in her own mind (as well as she could, for the hot day made her feel very sleepy and stupid), whether the pleasure of making a daisy-chain would be worth the trouble of getting up and picking the daisies, when suddenly a White Rabbit with pink eyes ran close by her. 

There was nothing so VERY remarkable in that; nor did Alice think it so VERY much out of the way to hear the Rabbit say to itself, ‘Oh dear! Oh dear! I shall be late!’ (when she thought it over afterwards, it occurred to her that she ought to have wondered at this, but at the time it all seemed quite natural); but when the Rabbit actually TOOK A WATCH OUT OF ITS WAISTCOAT-POCKET, and looked at it, and then hurried on, Alice started to her feet, for it flashed across her mind that she had never before seen a rabbit with either a waistcoat-pocket, or a watch to take out of it, and  burning with curiosity, she ran across the field after it, and fortunately was just in time to see it pop down a large rabbit-hole under the hedge. 

In another moment down went Alice after it, never once considering how in the world she was to get out again. 

Ways to use this literature with the common core...

Great standard to use with this text:
Make connections between the text of a story or drama and a visual or oral presentation of the text, identifying where each version reflects specific descriptions and directions in the text.

Because there is so much out there on Alice, this is a great piece of literature to meet this standard.  For example, look at the statue of Alice in Central Park.
You can ask kids: How does this representation match up with what you visualized when hearing this story?  What parts of the story does it represent?

Why did Lewis Carroll choose to format the text in this way?  How does it affect our understanding as readers?

There are even graphic novels you can purchase on iTunes! Here is an image from the graphic novel Alice in Wonderland - the Graphic Novel for iPadBy Ave!Comics Production and the original John Tenniel illustration.  Compare the two images.  Which captures the text most effectively and why?

Here are two writing activities:

  • Have students write a companion book from another character's point of view
  • Students can write their own graphic novel of a specific chapter from Alice in Wonderland.
Students love to hear this classic read aloud.  There is so much out there to use with the students and spark their thinking about literature.  Give it a try.  It's a classic for a reason.



Tips for Teachers

Linking up with Teacher Gems to share tips and tricks!

Address Stickers

I use them for everything.  

I use them to create labels for my library books.  I can label the grade level and the reading level.  I make all my labels the same; "Mrs. Robles' Classroom Library   Grade level ___  Reading level ___" That way I can just make one and write in the info.

I use them to make labels that say "Mrs. Robles' Professional Read"  That way, when someone borrows my books, they know who to return them to!

I use them to labels the kids notebooks.  I'm not much of a copy person...most of the kids work goes into their notebooks.  They have labeled notebooks for Readers' Workshop, Writers' Workshop, Comprehension, Problem Solving and Science/Social Studies.  It really cuts down on copies and how much paper we use in class.  Less paperwork all around!


Have you tried Storybird?  It's a great web based program for writing.  I love it because it has beautiful art that students can use to inspire their writing.  It's pretty easy to set up accounts- no email required.  All social interactions are classroom contained so it's safe.  The kids get to make illustrated books into beautiful books.  You can create assignments and give them feedback.  Students can also read the stories others have written.  Check it out.  It is really nice program and of course, it's free.

Comprehension Anchor Charts

When teaching comprehension strategies, you should always have an anchor chart for the students to refer to. What does a good anchor chart look like? They should include the title. I use:


Activate and Connect to Background Knowledge

Then a description of the strategy.  The what:

This is the foundation of all thinking. Readers must think of what they already know to understand what they hear, read and view. Background knowledge is also called schema.

The why: Readers need to activate their schema to understand and retain information from a text. It helps you get ready to read and be open to new information. It focuses your reading.

Then how to apply the strategy:

You can do this by:
· Referring to prior personal experiences
· Making connections between texts and media
· Activating your prior knowledge of the content, style, structure, features, and genre
· Connecting the new to the unknown -using what you know to understand new information
· Merging your thinking with new learning to build a knowledge base
· Activating your schema to read strategically

Finally, add some practical ways to apply, sentence frames or thinking maps. In this case, a KWL chart, a quick write or sentence frames:

-This reminds me of...
-This text is like _____ because _____

Here's what my chart looks like:

Hope these tips were useful!!

Fourth Grade Teacher in California!



It's Wordless Wednesday!

Here you go...

Twitter: @Lisa_teacher

A Diamond in the Desert: Book Review

It's time for Book Talk Tuesday!

Linking with Deanna Jump!

        So, I've been thinking of historical fiction so today I'm going to discuss A Diamond in the Desert by Kathryn Fitzmaurice.

        This book is about Tetsu who is Japanese American. His family lives in California during the bombing of Pearl Harbor.  Like all other Japanese Americans, they are ordered to leave their homes and everything they know to go to an internment camp in Arizona.  Worse, their father is sent to a different camp so the family isn't together.

        The research Ms. Fitzmaurice did was amazing and your students will learn a lot about the Japanese American internment.  Boys love it because of the sports references (baseball is a theme) and the main character.  The girls will love it because its a moving story.  Eleanor Roosevelt even visited the camp!

     If you're looking for something that will appeal to all your students, look no further.  It's a great read about a period in our history that is often overlooked.
      If you'd like, check out my close reading guide.  I added lots of hyperlinks to historical references.  I use the story as an Interactive Read Aloud during Reader's Workshop. The language of the story helps me delve into comprehension, literary elements and genre. I use the questions I created in the close reading guide to help me "go deep" with the literature. Students turn and talk during this time and discuss their thinking. I also model how to annotate text, which students can do using the class read aloud or a book at their reading level during the workshop.
     Once a week we do a formal close read during our language arts time. That's when I use the formatted sheets in the close reading guide. Gradual release is the teaching method in which responsibility shifts from the teacher to the student. The "I do it, We do it, You do it together, You do it alone" model. The lesson is very explicit and scripted. Close reading can be focused on anything you like: figurative language, theme, character development, story elements etc..

        Hope you enjoyed my book pick this week!

Twitter: @Lisa_teacher


Books encouraging creativity....


Monday Linky from Teach Mentor Texts and Unleashing Readers!

Since I'm participating in Dot Day, I thought I'd focus on books about creativity!
International Dot Day started when TJ Shay read this to his students.  Now the whole world is celebrating creativity and collaboration.  It's taking place today! If you want info on activities, you can visit my previous blog post.  

First up, The Dot by Peter Reynolds

The story is about Vashti who simply thinks she can't draw.  Her teacher encourages her to make a dot and sign it.  Then she frames it and hangs it up. Vashti thinks "I can do better than that!" and she does.  It shows us that we can do things we never imagined if we just gave ourselves a chance.

Ish by Peter Reynolds

Ramon is an artist.  He loves to draw...until the day his older brother makes fun of him.  Then he gives up, nothing is good enough.  Then he sees his little sister grab a drawing a take off.  He runs after her to see that her room is plastered in his drawings.  He complains it isn't perfect and she says it's "vase-ish" which helps him see art can be appreciated for what it is.  I also like this book because you can use the older brother's comment as a lesson.  Even when you don't mean to be cruel, a small statement can really hurt someone deeply.

Not a Box by Antoinette Portis

It's a simple idea about creativity and the magic of imagination.  A box is not just a box to the rabbit.

The Junkyard Wonders by Patricia Polacco

A wonderful book appreciating all children for the wonders they are and the talents each one brings to the group, no matter the "label".  It's a great read aloud for all children but especially those with special needs.  It's also autobiographical, based on the real life experiences of Patricia Polacco as a child.

What books do you read aloud to encourage creativity?

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