A Year With Mrs. Newingham's Class

Choose a topic from the right to get a peek into Beth's classroom.
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Message Edited by maureen_ryan on 07-25-2007 12:41 PM

Give your Classroom Library a Boost!

Experts claim a classroom library should have at least 20 books per student, so a typical class of 28 students would have a classroom library of close to 600 books.  In fact, I believe teachers really need more than 20 books per students to really match books to the many different readers in their classrooms.

Experts have discovered that even very young students can read for extended periods of time when they are matched with books that they can read with 95% or higher word accuracy rate, and they are more successful when reading books that interest them. This means your classroom library should have books at many different levels, and the books should represent many different genres, topics, and series.

With funds for education continuing to decline, many teachers find that they must spend money out of pocket to add more books to their classroom libraries. Here are some inexpensive ways to get more books for your library:

***Purchase books from Scholastic Book Clubs. The book clubs offer inexpensive and popular books that your students will want to read. I especially stock up on the 95-cent books for guided reading groups. I also send home book orders regularly so that I can get more bonus points to use toward books for my classroom library.

***Library books sales are a great way to get books. I have collected hundreds of gently used books that have been donated to libraries in my area for public sale. Parents often donate books that their children have only read once to libraries, so the books can be in great shape. Even better most are sold for less than a dollar. Use this website to find used books sales in your area: http://www.booksalefinder.com/index.html

***Garage sales can be another way to find used books if you are patient enough to browse through the many books. I have been especially lucky to hit garage sales held by retired teachers who no longer have use for the hundreds of books they collected over their many years of teaching.

***Ebay now includes many teachers and other booksellers who auction collections of books including sets of books from favorite series, grade-level chapter books, author collections, etc. The challenge is finding collections that are right for your students and then, of course, winning the auction!

***Solicit donations of old books. At the end of the year, ask students to donate books or magazines they've outgrown, as long as they are still in good shape.

***Ask students to donate "legacy books" in the name of friends, parents, or other relatives. Also, encourage parents and grandparents to donate books in a child's name. You can invite parents to a special recognition ceremony where personalized nameplates are inserted into the donated books. This is also great to do at the end of the year. Students who donate a book to the library get their own nameplate and will be a part of the classroom library long after they leave my classroom!

The summer is a great time to really organize and add to your classroom library. Click HERE to see how I organize the library in my classroom.

Message Edited by balbery on 05-15-2007 08:18 PM

Movie Making in the Classroom

In our classroom, we enjoy making movies to extend our learning. Writing scripts and working together to display our knowledge in a creative way are both benefits of movie-making in the classroom. We use the movie-making process to help us understand, reinforce, and review new concepts we are learning in different areas of the curriculum. We also make creative movies to enhance our ability to write interesting stories.

Brainstorming: The process begins at our class meeting where we decide on a topic or theme for a classroom movie. Oftentimes an idea has already surfaced during a learning experience in our classroom and we have gathered together to brainstorm and develop specific ideas as a class. This is a way for all students to be involved in the planning process. Students take turns explaining their ideas to the class, and I list all of the ideas on chart paper. Movie ideas in my classroom have ranged from a creative adventure that highlighted places in our local community to a fun yet informative reenactment of a day aboard the Titanic, to a commercial promoting a school-wide skating party. The options for movie topics are endless!

Developing a Plot and Assigning Roles: Once we have decided on a plot, we then create a rough draft of a storyboard on chart paper. We determine the scenes we will need and indicate what “characters? will need to be in each scene. We then list all of the acting parts in the movie and add parts if necessary to be sure that all students will have a part. I have yet to have a student who does not want to be in a movie, but, if this is the case, stage hands, camera operators, and set or costume designers can also be listed. I then type up the list of roles and have students rank their role choices on their own copy of the list. I try to give each student one of their top five choices. Students can even write a persuasive paragraph to let me know why they think they would be good in a certain role.

Writing the Script: Once the roles are assigned, students work in small groups with the other students in their scene to write their script. Writing workshop mini-lessons focus on script writing and how this genre of writing includes stage directions as well as an indication of who is speaking each line. Students finally type up their scene on a PowerPoint slide. All of the slides are combined into one slideshow and rearranged in the order they will be performed as I project the slideshow on the large TV in my classroom for the entire class to see. The storyboard view helps us organize and sequence our ideas to determine the final order of the scenes that will ultimately be part of the movie. Each student receives a copy of the PowerPoint slides (printed as handouts).

Planning & Practicing the Scenes: After all scenes are written, students make a list props that they will need to make or bring from home. This also includes costumes. Although I have collected quite an array of costumes over the past few years that are often used, students also enjoy designing with their own costumes by gathering materials and clothing from home. Students also determine if their scene will need to be taped in front of a green screen and decide whether or not they will need certain pieces of furniture in their scene. Actors then memorize their lines and then practice their scene to make sure it is ready for filming.

Filming the Movie and Using a Greenscreen: Sometimes we film scenes in front of our makeshift "green screen" using a turquoise flannel blanket that we tack to a bulletin board wall in our classroom. This allows me to project images behind the students when editing the video on the computer. For many movies, this makes students look like they are in different states and countries. By using a sturdy tripod, students can take turns as the camera operator.

Editing the Video: The scenes are captured onto the computer and edited using a software program called Pinnacle Studio. It is a user-friendly program that includes many great features including built-in music, titles, transitions, and DVD menus. I burn the final movie to a DVD and send a copy home with students as a traveling DVD so that students can enjoy a “movie night? with their families and friends when they get to bring it home. We also show some of our best movies to the entire school on the morning announcements. At the end of the school year, I put all of the movies on a single DVD and make a copy for each student as an end-of-the year gift. All of the class movies I have made with my classes over the past four years can also be viewed in Windows Media Player on our class website. Click HERE to check them out!

I have found that movie-making is a great way to build community among students, hone students’ writing skills, engage students’ creative imaginations, and instill confidence even in those students who might begin the school year afraid to be in front of the camera.

Message Edited by balbery on 04-29-2007 10:58 AM

What are you Reading?

The best teachers are those who are constantly finding ways to become a better teacher. I am always looking for great books that I can read that will give me new ideas for my classroom or new practices that will improve my teaching.  Most professional books are written by teachers, and I think that teachers learn best from each other!

HERE is a link to some of my favorite professional books that are related to reading and writing.

Please share some professioanl books that you are currently reading or that you have read in the past that you have enjoyed.  I am looking for some good books to read this summer!

Message Edited by balbery on 04-25-2007 07:02 PM

Writing Teams

Every month or two throughout the school year, students select one notebook entry or story that they would like to take through the writing process and publish. This means the story will first be shared with members of a writing team in order to receive feedback from other authors in the classroom. We call them writing teams, and I emphasize the goal of working together to improve each other’s writing.

When students are part of a writing team, they meet in groups of four to read their chosen stories aloud and help each other improve the stories before taking them into first-draft form. Students are placed into teacher-assigned writing teams and are given a checklist of questions for the author to ask of their team members after reading his or her story aloud to their group. The checklist is not always the same each month. It depends on which skills we are working on during our mini-lessons at any given time. I have found that third graders cannot focus on too many things at one time during revision, so each month my writers are looking for different things when listening to their peers’ stories. At the beginning of the year, the things on the checklist may be as simple as “Does my story have an exciting lead,? or “Does my story make sense?? As the year goes on and we begin focusing more on the traits of writing, the questions may become “Where in my story did I add exciting details?? or “Where in my story could I add more details?? This focused revision has been most effective in my classroom.

Throughout the year, students will continue to work with different classmates in ever-changing writing teams to share and revise the writing they do in their notebooks. Students use the feedback they receive in their writing teams to begin a first draft of the story they are taking out of their notebooks. The drafts are turned in to me, and I meet with each student to discuss and sometimes further revise the stories before they are published and added to the students' writing portfolios. Stories may also be published in other ways such as in hard cover books, online, or as a class newspaper.

With 27 students in my class who all want to share their writing with me and with their classmates everyday, writing teams provide me with a way for all students to share their work without taking up precious teaching time by having 27 students sharing in the author’s chair.

Please share ways that your students share and revise their writing in your classrooms!

Message Edited by balbery on 04-17-2007 08:16 PM

Embracing Our Diversity

Every year the third graders at our school celebrate their diversity by embarking on an international study of their ancestors. Students complete a research project in which they learn more about one of the countries from which their ancestors lived before coming to America. The project culminates in an International Festival during an evening event at our school. Below are the components of our International Festival.

Research Report: The geography of the students’ countries, along with their countries’ popular cuisine, holidays, festivals, clothing, system of education, sports, and language are all studied as students use reference books and teacher-selected websites to gain information that is ultimately be used to create a book. Students spend lots of time in class using books and Internet resources to collect information on the countries of their ancestors. They first take notes on index cards, each card representing a different topic of research (clothing, food, education, housing, holidays and festivals, popular sports, governments, etc.) They then write rough drafts before finally transferring their research into a final report. The final research books are displayed for parents and all other guests at the International Festival to enjoy.

Taste-Fest: Every country has favorite foods that are eaten by its citizens and some specific foods that are eaten only on special occasions. Students (with the help of their parents) are asked to make a favorite food from their country that will be served at the “taste-fest.? We provide parents with websites that have international recipes if they do not have any of their own. When deciding how much food to prepare, we remind parents that it is just a “taste-fest.? We ask that food be served in small sample portions for approximately 50-60 people. All recipes are collected and are used to create an International Cookbook. All families receive a copy of the cookbook so that they can make any of the delicious foods that they enjoyed at the Taste-Fest. We also create passports for all visitors that list the names of the countries being represented at our festival. As students and parents try foods from the many different countries, they can check off those countries on their passports. This encourages students to try as many different types of food as they can.

Costumes: Parents are asked to help their children put together a costume that reflects the country they are studying. The costumes are worn during the night of the International Festival where the students take part in a musical performance that also includes a fashion show.

Music Performance/Fashion Show: On the night of the International Festival, we decorate the stage in our cafeteria with flags of the world and other decorations that celebrate the many cultures of the world including a huge Chinese Dragon made with balloons, a light-up Eiffel tower constructed by a parent, and other things we can collect or make. We work with the music teacher in the school to sing four songs that celebrate our diversity. In between the singing, we call students’ names from each country and have them “strut their stuff? on a catwalk that we construct off the front of the stage. While students from each country are showing off their great costumes, we play music from their country. After they have their turn on the catwalk, students go to the microphone and share an interesting fact about their country before returning to their place on the risers.

We have been doing this International Festival at our school for the past four years, and it has already become a favorite tradition for parents and students alike. It is often my students’ best memory of the school year and is one they will likely never forget. Not only are my third graders provided with their first authentic research experience, but they are also encouraged to embrace their diversity and respect the differences amongst their classmates.

Click HERE for more information and pictures of our 2006 International Festival.

Message Edited by balbery on 03-29-2007 09:17 PM

Classroom Management in a Reading Workshop

Managing a group of independent readers while you are conferring with readers and meeting with small groups can be challenging! Here are some ideas to help you make this time less stressful and more productive.

Reading workshop is a staple in my daily routine. During this time, students are reading self-selected books independently. They have chosen the books from my classroom library and have already made sure the book is at their “just right? level based on its color code. While students are reading their books, I am conferring with individuals, conducting guided reading groups or strategy lessons, facilitating book clubs, etc. For this reason, it is important that I have clear routines and procedures in place to keep my independent readers on task and truly engaged in their reading. Below are some management ideas that help make this possible in my classroom.

Book Nooks: At the beginning of the year, we determine rules about independent reading time in our classroom. One rule is that you must find “your own? place to read and not distract other readers. For some students, this is hard. They would rather sit together with their friends and pass the time. For this reason, I have a book nook rotation schedule (see picture below) that is switched everyday so that every student has a certain place he or she should be reading. I also have pillows, bean bags, and dish chairs that are popular among my readers. These items are included on my book nook rotation schedule so that no time is wasted after the mini-lesson arguing over who gets the pillows when we are transitioning to independent reading time. Click HERE for more information on Book Nooks.

Book Boxes: Each reader has his or her own book box. (You can also use gallon-size bags for this purpose.) Readers are asked to keep enough books in their box to last them for at least a week of independent reading time. Without Book Boxes, my students would spend more time browsing the classroom library than they would engaged in text. You can either have designated “shopping days? where 4-5 five readers are allowed to switch out the books for new books in their book boxes, or you can just have readers visit the library when necessary. I always make sure that readers visit the library in the morning (if necessary) rather than during the independent reading block of our reading workshop. Selecting books should not take away from important time spent engaged in text. The book boxes are kept on a special bookshelf in the classroom library. (See picture below). Click HERE for more information on Book Boxes.

Organized Classroom Library: Students need to be reading at their “just right? level during the independent reading block of reading workshop, so they need to be able to locate appropriate books without spending hours browsing the library. This means it is important to level at least part of your library. As students develop strong interests in literature, it is also important that your classroom library is organized in a way that they can easily find their favorite series books, favorite genres, and specific topics without having to search for extended periods of time. Click HERE to see how I organize my classroom library.

Book Logs: Students must record ALL books they read throughout the year in their Reader’s Notebook. They visit this log often to reflect on their own reading habits, create genre graphs, set monthly reading goals, and help them assess their reading progress. Click HERE for more information about Reader’s Notebooks and book logs.

Independent Reading Checklist: Unfortunately, I cannot be watching every reader during the workshop. I am often busy conferring with individuals or meeting with small groups. For this reason, my students complete a quick checklist that helps them monitor their reading behavior each day. The checklist only takes about 2 minutes at the end of independent reading everyday. This checklist adds an accountability factor to the workshop and serves as a constant reminder of expected reading behavior. I look at my students’ checklists often and use them as points of discussion for some of my readers during the time we confer. Click HERE to see the Independent Reading Checklist I use with my students.

Assessment/Accountability: While my main form of assessment is done when conferring with readers or meeting in small groups, I also want to hold students accountable for authentic reading when they are not working directly with me. As students read their books, they are asked to use post-it notes to record the thinking that they are doing as they read. After they get done with a book, they remove the post-it notes and organize them onto paper. (See picture below.) I give students page protectors to cover the sheets so that the post-it notes do not fall off. I like to look at these pages to assess students’ level of thinking, and I often refer to the post-it notes when conferring with readers.

No Interruptions: Once reading workshop begins, I really try to tolerate very few interruptions. Since reading workshop always occurs immediately after our morning work, I tell students that they need to go to the bathroom before we start. (Of course in emergency situations students must be allowed to go to the bathroom, but emphasizing the need to go before instruction begins leads to far fewer students leaving the classroom during this time.) Students must always check the book nook schedule in the morning so that they know exactly where they will be reading each day. Students must also have their book boxes ready before independent reading time starts so that there are not groups of students browsing the classroom library during the time that they should be engaged in their texts.

Of course things do not run smoothly every day, but I have found that careful management in my reading workshop is the most important factor in its success. Please share your own ideas for how you manage your reading workshop!

Message Edited by balbery on 03-16-2007 07:40 AM

Interactive Bulletin Boards

When I spend time creating bulletin boards for my classroom, I want to make sure that they are connected to my teaching and that my students use the information to push their thinking. I can spend hours creating beautiful bulletin boards, but if they are not meaningful or if they do not serve a real purpose for my students, I find they do nothing more than take up important space on my walls. Below are pictures of some bulletin boards in my classroom that are interactive.

Reader’s Choice: Each month I choose a picture book for my students to review. As each student reads the book, they move their picture below the “Thumbs Up? sign or below the “Thumbs Down? sign according to their personal evaluation of the book. (The wall that I use for this display is magnetic.) I also use a separate basket to hold the multiple copies of the chosen book so that students can easily acquire the book when copies become available. It is fun for students to observe the display throughout the month as they keep track of their classmates’ votes for thumbs up or thumbs down.

Book Recommendation Boards: Students suggest books for their classmates to read by posting their favorite books on our book recommendation board. When students want to recommend a book to a specific person they think would enjoy the book, they use the Peer Recommendation board. I find that these boards generate excitement about books in my classroom and help to strengthen my reading community.

Thick Question Bulletin Board: When students are involved in reading partnerships, they must write "thick questions" to bring to their meetings. To help students practice writing thick questions, I also include them in my daily read-aloud. Each day after I read a chapter aloud from a class novel, I invite my students to write a thick question on an index card and add it to the card holder on our "Thick Questions" bulletin board. I pick one thick question to ask the class before I begin reading from the novel the following day and lead a brief class discussion.

Who’s That Baby?: At the beginning of the year, I ask all students to bring in a baby picture of themselves. I create a bulletin board that features all of the baby pictures with a number next to each picture. Students spend a week studying the pictures before trying to match their classmates with the correct baby picture. This is fun for students and helps build community at the beginning of the school year.

Mystery Photo: Since my class studies the regions of the United States, we play a Mystery Photo game each week. I print out a picture on photo paper of a certain landmark in a city we will visit and cut it into puzzle pieces. Each day, I add a new piece of the puzzle and a new clue. On Friday, students guess the identity of the Mystery Photo.

Please share your great ideas for bulletin boards you create in your own classrooms that encourage active participation on the part of your students!

Message Edited by balbery on 03-01-2007 02:03 PM

Class Book Awards

At the beginning of the year, students study the criteria used to select notable book awards, including the Caldecott Medal and the Newbery Medal. Then they develop their own Class Book Awards to bestow upon favorite books in our classroom library. Every month students decide on different award categories and nominate books they believe are worthy of receiving Class Book Awards. Since my last name is Newingham, we call our class book awards Newibery Awards.

To kick off this year-long activity, I choose 5 book award categories (best illustrations, most unpredictable plot, favorite fiction series, etc.) and pick my favorite books as the first Newibery Book Award winners of the school year. I frame color copies of the books and create a bulletin board to display the winners I have chosen.

Nominations: Once my students understand how this will work in our classroom, they create their own Newibery Book Award categories. Every other month, students suggest new categories, and the class votes on the 5 categories in which they will nominate books. After determining the 5 Newibery categories, students begin nominating books that they are reading in each Newibery category. Students try to read many of the books that are nominated by their classmates during the month so that they will be more prepared to vote.

Voting: At the end of the nominating period all nominated books are added to a Newibery Book Award ballot, and students vote for their favorite book in each category. The book (or series) that gets the most votes in each category receives a Newibery Book Award and is framed for display on our Newibery Book Award Bulletin Board.

Awards Ceremony: The winning books are announced at an exciting Newibery Award Ceremony. I set up a podium and play traditional awards ceremony music. I act as the host of the awards show, and my students act as the presenters. Selected students announce the nominees in each category and then open a colorful envelope to reveal the winning book. The "audience" cheers, and the student who nominated the book can choose to make an "acceptance" speech to thank his or her classmates for voting for the book.  The student also explains why he or she nominated the book.

Winning Books: All winning book covers (color copies) are placed inside frames and added to our Newibery bulletin board display with a blue ribbon that indicates the category in which each book was nominated. Once a book has received a Newibery Award, it is forever branded with a Newibery seal to indicate to current (and future) students that the book is has been selected by the 2006-2007 students of Room 13 as a great read!

I have found that this activity promotes excitement about books and helps to strengthen the reading community in my classroom.  Click HERE for more information and pictures of Class Book Awards in my classroom.

Message Edited by balbery on 02-18-2007 08:55 AM

To Typing Camp We Go!

In my school district all third graders are introduced to touch typing. We believe it is important for our students to be provided with formal typing instruction before they enter middle school so that they do not develop “hunt and peck? habits that are hard to break. However, we have found that short, sporadic visits to the computer lab are not effective. When students are first introduced to typing, they need lengthy, consecutive time periods where they learn the location of the letters on the keyboard and are given ample time to practice typing using the correct fingers.

Our solution for this is to send our students to Typing Camp each year. This is an activity that third grade teachers across the district do with their students. To make the experience most authentic, my fellow third grade teacher and I try hard to create a genuine camping experience for the kids. While we really go no further than the computer lab in our media center, we develop a camp-like atmosphere in our classrooms with a tent, a campfire, and matching camp T-shirts. Then for one whole week in February, we spend our afternoons learning to type.

Some of the things we do during this week are listed below:

-We make camp T-shirts. Students are asked to bring in a white t-shirt. We use Print Shop to create iron-on transfers and then have parent volunteers iron the transfers onto the t-shirts. All campers wear their matching shirts everyday when we go to typing camp.

-We set-up a real tent in our classroom where students can hang out during breaks.

-Parents volunteer to send in “camp snacks? like trail mix, rice krispy treats, smores cookies, etc. We eat the treats during our breaks from typing.

-We also have campfire time. We borrow an artificial campfire from the cub scouts organization at our school. During our breaks from typing, we share stories and even sing a typing camp song around the campfire. You can hear us sing the typing camp song in the typing camp movie on our classroom website.

-We make Camp Memory Books. The camp book includes a page with a keyboard that students color-code with the correct fingers. Students also glue pictures of themselves in the book throughout the week and collect autographs from fellow campers on a special autograph page. This book is their souvenir from Typing Camp.

While the students are at typing camp, we use two different typing programs. We start camp with Almena. This program includes a video that teaches the students catchy phrases to help them remember where letters are located on the keyboard. Later in the week, our students use “Type to Learn.? This software program spices up the typing camp experience with fun games and exciting tasks that help students build speed and accuracy.

You can visit the Typing Camp page on my classroom website to see more pictures from last year’s camp and watch a movie that reveals typing camp in action.  Please share fun activities or games that you use at your school to help your students improve their typing skills!

Message Edited by balbery on 04-29-2007 11:19 AM

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