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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Little Detectives

What a difference a day makes! After feeling discouraged about the picture inferencing lesson from yesterday, I racked my brain (and the internet) for a better way to teach this strategy. I found a first grade blog that shared an inferencing lesson that involved detective work. I took this idea, ran with it, and created my own little mystery for the kids to solve today! Warning: This takes a lot of prep and organization, but the end result is SO worth it.

So, to start things off, I wrote a quick little story on the Smartboard about a boy named Tim who had a snow day and was watched by his Grandma while his parents went to work. When his mother arrived home at 5:00, Tim and  Grandma were no where to be found! Worried, the mother started collecting clues from the house to try and figure out what Tim and Grandma did all day and why they weren't home...

The students job: Use the evidence his mother found around the house to solve the mystery. Where are Tim and Grandma?

I collected all sorts of things to put in the evidence envelopes. For example,  an empty hot cocoa packet, a Hershey wrapper, empty mac and cheese box, a book, game pieces, a blueberry muffin recipe and a muffin pan (note: I did not put the recipe and the pan together. This way some kids saw the pan first and thought cupcakes, but their inference changed when they saw the muffin recipe.)

The main clues that pieced it all together were: a pet adoption poster, a Petco receipt for dog food, and dog paw prints in the snow.  All of these clues were in separate envelopes.

The desired result was that the kids would infer Tim and Grandma adopted a puppy and were walking the dog when Tim's mother came home.

One of my favorite clues was this note. 

It really required them to think. Why would they be meeting someone at a big hill during a snow storm? To go sledding, of course! 

The kids had a blast playing detective! The magnifying glasses really helped them get into character. (Thanks, Kristen!)

The kids recorded all the evidence and their inferences on this graphic organizer. 

After they collected all the clues, the real detective work started. They had to create a timeline of events based on their evidence in order to infer where they thought Tim and Grandma were at 5:00. The only event they had a time for was sledding at 2:00.  The conversations they had during this time were priceless. They truly sounded like little detectives, piecing all the evidence together. They were making inferences left and right without even realizing it. Teamwork was a must and they really worked hard together to solve the mystery!

Each group was able to work together to correctly solve the mystery. I was thrilled! The best part about this lesson was that each group started with a different evidence packet. Therefore, the groups received the same information, but at different times. This meant the kids were making different inferences based on their schema. However, they all came to the same conclusion when they put the pieces together.  

The kids had a blast! It was refreshing to hear "This is so fun!" and " Wow,  how cool is this?"

If your kids struggle with inferencing, I would definitely recommend this activity!

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

It seems the kids are still in vacation mode. I'm having a hard time reining them back in. However, day 2 proved a bit better than day 1. Small progress is better than no progress, right? Despite the struggle, we carried on with the curriculum and continued exploring the idea of making inferences. We reviewed schema and talked about how we must use schema and clues from the text to make inferences while reading.

To isolate this skill I decided to focus on using picture clues to make inferences about people's emotions. This is by no means reinventing the wheel. Using pictures is a well known way to teach inferencing and I first saw the idea in a fabulous fellow 4th grade teacher's classroom. :)

First, I showed several photos on the Smartboard such as...
The students made inferences about the children's feelings and specifically told me the clues from the picture that helped them infer. They came up with some interesting scenarios. 

Then I gave them some posters with all different pictures. 

They worked in small groups to make inferences about what was happening in each photo. How were the people related? How were they feeling? What were they doing? Why were they doing it? Most importantly, they had to tell me the clues and their schema that helped them make their inferences. 

This activity took a lot of prompting. I found the kids were being very superficial at first. The only emotions they wanted to use were happy and sad. I had to prompt them to think of other emotions and push for that higher level thinking. This was much harder for them than I expected. They weren't truly able to read into the pictures and dig for deeper meaning. Although the lesson wasn't a "home run", it did tell me that we need more work on inferencing and that is helpful. It was a good formative assessment.  

To wrap it up we had some fun. What better way to activate your schema and practice inferencing than by playing charades? I found these awesome action cards from Into The BookInto The Book.

I laminated, cut and tossed into a box. The kids enjoyed acting them out for the class. We had a few giggles and maybe even learned a little something. 

My inferencing adventures are definitely not over. I'm off to think of a better way to help my kids understand this concept!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Tough Skin

One of the attributes every teacher must possess is tough skin.

Exhibit A-
Imagine my excitement when the little boy who rarely raises his hand to participate in class, shoots his arm in the air today, with a big smile on his face. I think to myself "Ahhh, finally a breakthrough."

Now, imagine my embarrassment when all he wanted to do was inquire about the giant pimple that decided to nest upon my face.

Thanks for participating. :)

I wonder what tomorrow will bring.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Secret Getaway

Despite the fact that we said we weren't doing anything for Valentine's Day this year, Tom surprised me with an overnight getaway last night. I've known about the date since Valentine's Day, but he kept all the details a secret. THIS WAS KILLING ME! I'm a bit of a control freak. (Duh, I'm a teacher, it's who we are) I tried relentlessly to get some information out of him, but he kept those lips sealed! He loved every minute of torturing me.

I must say, the secrecy made for a very exciting week leading up to the big date. There was something so romantic about not knowing where he was whisking me away to.  I felt like a little kid waiting for Christmas morning. And boy, he didn't disappoint.

My first hint came in the car on the way there. He reminded me that one of his New Years Resolutions was to try things he's never done before. Ever heard of a boutique hotel? I hadn't either, but that's just where we went! He did his research and found this ever so classy, sophisticated and trendy boutique hotel in Keene, NH.

A boutique hotel is simply a non chain, high class, distinctly decorated hotel. It was fun to experience something new together. (And go Tom for following through on your resolution!)

It had adorable wallpaper in the bathroom...

and a giant sitting room...

and robes!

He made dinner reservations at a restaurant called Luca's. It was hands down one of the best Italian meals I have ever eaten in my entire life. If you are ever in the Keene area, I would highly recommend going for dinner! However, your date won't be as handsome as mine. 
 Dinner was so much fun! We were one of the only couples there. The torrential down pours probably kept the customers away. That didn't stop me from prancing around in the puddles with my little dress and heals. We definitely made the best of the yucky weather! No, chivalry is not dead. Tom let me use his umbrella while he walked in the rain. I know, you're asking why we didn't both use it...he insisted. 

The entire evening was so perfectly romantic. He made me one happy girl. We don't often do things like this so it was greatly appreciated and enjoyed. I felt very lucky. 

So, stop reading my blog and go do something romantic for that special someone in your life.
Thanks, Tom. 

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Isn't it ironic?

I failed to mention in my previous posts that the family I am sitting for has a cat. It is no secret that I am not a cat lover, by any means. This morning I picked up some cat poop that was ironically placed next to a sticker that said, "yummy". I guess their cat has some sick sense of humor.

Yesterday we went to lunch with my mom which was lovely. After lunch I took the girls to a book store where they each picked out two new books. In a world of technology, it is refreshing to see kids still so excited about reading.

After lunch we headed to the MSPCA. 
 We got up close and personal with the pretty horses. 
My favorite part of the day was playing with their Walkie Talkies. These things never get old. I tried convincing the girls that I was Santa Clause on the other end, we played "Find Maggie" ( the cat) and sang all sorts of songs into the Walkie Talkies. 
 After having way too much fun with them, I immediately told Tom we needed to invest in some. He quickly replied by informing me that there's an app for that! See, technology is ruining all the old classics. 

Monday, February 20, 2012

Sweet Innocence

       Day two of babysitting started off with the breakfast of champions.

I even got the girls to do some exercises with me. 

The girls were obsessed with the idea of weddings today. This may or may not be a direct result of watching three episodes of My Fair Wedding with David Tutera ! haha 

On the way to Build a Bear Workshop the girls told me that if Tom and I ever get married we would have to kiss and that's "gross!" I agreed. 

Well, later that night, Tom came to visit and boy was he a big hit. It started with a showering of homemade presents. 

The girls informed us that when people grow up to be 36" tall or when they turn 1,000 years old they have to get married because that's the way it works. 
Duly noted. 

As soon as dinner was over they pretty much attacked him. 
He put up a good fight, but eventually even the strongest ones must surrender. 

So to Tom, thanks for being the entertainment for the night. <3

Saturday, February 18, 2012

And We're Off...

For the past few years my February vacation has consisted of babysitting two adorable little girls. Some people think I'm crazy for giving up a school vacation but if you know me, you know I like to be busy and can't stand having too much free time. Weird, I know. Don't get me wrong, I love to relax, if I could, I'd wear my "happy pants" (sweats) 24/7 and sleeping is probably my favorite activity of all time. I think the reason I like my sleep so much is because I manage to keep myself so insanely busy that I wear myself out. My mother likes to call me "Cinderella." Nothing to do with the princess aspect. It's more of a when the clock strikes 9pm, I tend to turn into a ..."pumpkin"... kind of thing. Any who... Today was day 1 of 5 with the girlies. Here's a glimpse of the day.

                            Matinee of The Secret World of Arrietty

Out to lunch followed by a classic...
Who doesn't love making forts?

Of course we fit in a little learning.

I guess the spelling practice is paying off...

A rousing game of checkers...King me!

And I'm spent...

Good night! 

Friday, February 17, 2012

What's in Ms. B's Bag?

As if the Friday before February vacation isn't exciting enough, it was also crazy hat day!

My Leprechaun hat put me in a very silly mood which put the kids in a silly mood which made for a very silly Friday! Hey, it's the day before vacation, what do you expect? 

We did manage to get a little learning mixed into the fun today. 
This week we started learning about schema.

I told the kids that schema sticks to our brains like lint on a lint roller and I actually demonstrated by using a lint roller to pick up pieces of paper that had my schema written on them.
Then they wrote down all their own schema. What a smart child this is...notice the schema in brown marker. :)

Today I connected schema to inferencing. We need to activate our schema to make inferences. To illustrate this we played a game called What's in Ms. B's Bag?
I had students pick (pre decided) items out of my bag. 

We wrote them down on the chart and they also used a graphic organizer. 

They they worked in partners to make inferences about me based on the items I carried in my bag. 

I use Brainpop videos to supplement just about every lesson I teach. No joke. Today I used a Brainpop Jr. video. 

To close the lesson we made inferences to solve these cute animal riddles on the Smartboard.

At 5:15 on this fabulous Friday all I can say is Happy February Vacation! 

Thursday, February 16, 2012

When you can, make ten!

It's two days before February vacation. Let's be honest, I'm just as excited as the kids. Therefore, attention spans on their end and mine are short. Which means teaching any new concepts is pointless. So today, I decided to go back to basics.

Sadly, my kids are not fluent with their addition facts yet. Sure, they have their multiplication facts memorized but I still catch them counting on their fingers for basic addition facts.

I'm going to let you in on a secret. As a kid, math was never my strong suit. I myself was a finger counter! (GASP) I'd always pull off an A but it was simply by memorizing algorithms. I never truly understood what I was doing or why I was doing it. Today in school there is so much emphasis on writing in math and truly developing a deep understanding of concepts.

I feel it's my duty as a former finger counter to do everything I can to help my students in this area. So today was all about "anchoring to ten". I reviewed all the ways to make ten and focused on mental math for basic addition. If it wasn't unethical to tie their hands behind their back, I would have to ensure no finger counting was allowed!

The kids made their own foldables. 
Inside they had to explain how this would help them. 
Our school was lucky enough to host a visit from Greg Tang this year. He is a math wizard and author of several children's books such as 
He also focused on mental math during his visit and the kids were truly engaged by his presentation. He inspired me and apparently left a lasting impression on the kids...

Must Haves

Working two after school programs doesn't leave me much time for afternoon planning and prep. Therefore, I find myself getting to school earlier and earlier each day. This calls for a close relationship with my ever so adored Keurig machine... my morning must have.
(Fun Fact: Kohls will accept any old Keurig, regardless of where you purchased it and give you a brand new one, no questions asked)

One giant mug filled with ice coffee and I'm out the door! I swear coffee gives you super powers. 

There is something so peaceful about arriving at school early. No kids, no colleagues just time to prepare. Sometimes I feel like I come up with the most creative lessons on a whim during my "morning me time"...another must have. 

Last but not least, the most important must have of all. My ultimate weakness, can't walk past a bag without purchasing, melt in your mouth, accidently eat the entire bag...

I'm very good at justifying.