Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Writing Better Reading Responses

This year in my classroom, I introduced CAFE to my students.  Except that I didn't write it CAFE, I wrote it CAFER.  I love CAFE in my classroom, but the extra R, I believe, is definitely needed.  What is that extra R?  Reading Responses.  Or, since I teach in a French school, Répondre au texte.  

At the beginning of the year, my students would respond to questions from a text with very limited abilities.  Either it'd be one loooooong sentence, or a simple "yes because I think he's great" answer.  And I knew I had work to do!

First strategy we worked on was making sure we repeated the question in our answer.  If the question asked what you thought about Billy, the first sentence of your answer should be "I think Billy is...".  Always.  My students picked that up very quickly!  And we were off to a better response already.

Second strategy was to add "because" to your answer.  "I think Billy is great because..."  This way, you are always adding at least one supporting idea to your opinion.  

Third strategy was to add "Also" to your answer.  Finishing off one idea and starting another, giving a more meaningful and in depth answer.  "I think Billy is great because he loves to fish.  Also, he enjoys spending time outdoors, and so do I."  

Another strategy was to ensure you had ideas from the text (ie. he loves to fish) as well as your own ideas (ie. loves spending time outdoors, and so do I).  

So I've listed a few strategies, but the greatest part is that my students actually LOVE working on these strategies!  Every day, we read together.  I actually alternate between two books, one in French and one in English.  Afterwards, I pass each student a post-it and write one question on the board.  The students have to write their answers on this post it.  And then the fun part!  The students then gather in groups of 4 or 5 (sometimes, I pick up their post-its first and make the groups based on their answers) and using a white sheet of paper, will highlight parts of each post it and together, write out the BEST reading response they can.  They will stick the post-its on the sheet as well, so we can all see where they highlights and how they formed their best answer.

My students do this at least 3 times a week and together we have improved our reading responses.  They are often posted on the bulletin board for everyone to see.  And it's so amazing to see their progression from the beginning of the year to now!  They are definitely writing better reading responses!

Sometimes I know it's hard to come up with proper questions to ask your students, and that's where my wonderful resource comes through!  Check out my 75+ Reading Strategy Questions Fan, perfect for any fiction story, working through 10 different reading strategies.  Two birds, one stone!  

En français?  Toutes les questions sont traduites pour vous!  Cliquez ici pour mon Évantail de questions pour les stratégies de lecture.  Plus de 75 questions pour des textes fictions.  

And there you have it! I hope your students can write better reading responses!

Have a great day!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Happy Easter!

Happy Easter everyone!  I hope today brings lots of chocolate and bunnies and rest for all my wonderful readers!

In my area, our Easter weekend is a long 4-day weekend.  We are lucky enough to get the Monday off as well.  I'd like to know if this is just my region (Ontario, Canada), or whether or not you also have a 4-day weekend.  

Today, I'm going to enjoy spending time with my lovely son and husband.  It's an absolutely beautiful day outside, lots of sunshine and great warm-ish weather.  After the winter we've had, we need more of this!  Considering my son is only three and a half weeks old, we did not get him anything for Easter, but sometimes I wish I would have, just so I could have stolen his treats! hahaha  He would have gotten a taste of it in my breast milk, right?

I am also participating in a large sale over at TPT.  A lot of us have decided to throw a sale for today, just to reward our buyers and to celebrate Easter!  So head on over to my TPT store and save 20% on all my products!  What a great way to celebrate Easter!

I'm also mulling in my head about a certain giveaway.  I have 31 likes on my Facebook page and 26 followers on TPT.  I'm thinking once I reach 100 likes or followers, I should celebrate by hosting a giveaway!  If you'd like to help me reach those goals, please like my FB page or follow my TPT store, and watch those numbers grow!

So don't forget to let me know whether you have a 3 or 4 day weekend!  I'm such a curious soul, and I want to know!  

Happy Easter!

Monday, April 14, 2014

Creative Teaching Supplies and a Giveaway!

Wanna win my 75+ Reading Strategy Questions Fan? It's the perfect tool to use during your literacy groups and it's available in a wonderful giveaway.

Creative Teaching Supplies is celebrating 200 followers on Teacherspayteachers (TPT) and is hosting a wonderful giveaway for 5 lucky winners!  I am so proud and glad to be a part of this giveaway.

Want a chance to win?  It's easy!  There are 5 different prize bundles, each with some GREAT prizes!  Head on over to this blog post here to enter.  My Reading Strategy Questions fan is included in the 4th bundle, for grades 3-5.

You can enter every day for the next 6 days.  The more you enter, the more chances you have of winning!  

Good luck!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Liebster Award

Ok, so I started this blog post on March 26th, but wasn't able to complete it in time, and then I had my son! So after a two week hiatus, here I am, ready to finish this blog post!  Thank you Lauren for the nomination!

Lauren from A Teachable Teacher nominated me for a Liebster award.  What's a Liebster award you ask?  It's an award given from bloggers to new bloggers, asking them 11 random questions about themselves.  It's a great way to get to know new blogs and get your followers to know a bit more about you!  Thank you Lauren for this award!

Here are Lauren's 11 questions for me (and my answers!)

1. What is your favorite classroom "tool"?

Hmmm... I really have to think about this one!  I do enjoy my Smartboard, but I don't really use all the "Smart" features about it.  BUT I do enjoy the projector tool, projecting from my computer onto my Smartboard.  Especially when random questions about my lesson comes up and I don't know the answer.  What better way than to get on google and find the answer together!  

2. What is the sweetest thing another school staff member has ever done for you?

Well, that actually happened just last night!  We received a package notice in the mail, and thinking it was my husband's aquarium thermometer, we went in to go pick it up.  It actually was a care package from a friend and colleague.  I am due to give birth any day now (frankly, this little boy is late) and she sent me an "after baby is born" care package filled with goodies for mommy and baby!  I am so glad and proud to be able to call her my friend.  

3. If you could have any one item given to you for your classroom (with no price limit), what would it be?

Oooohh what a question Lauren!  This is sooo hard to answer right now!!! There are so many great things!  I know I'd LOVE to have an unlimited supply of BOOKS for my students to read, and be able to purchase any book they ever wanted to read, but may not be able to afford themselves.  Reading is a large component in my classroom, and I'm a strong believer that every child can love to read, they simply haven't found the right kind of book for them!

I'd also love, love, love a set of either laptops or ipads for my classroom.  I love using technology, but find the old computers in the computer lab very outdated, and hard to use with the way I run my classroom.  Many students work at their own pace in my classroom, mostly in group work, and I'd love to be able to have certain students working away at the laptops while others are working on their interactive notebooks or their writing portfolio.  

4. When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?

Finally, an easy question that doesn't require me to think! 

I actually have ALWAYS wanted to be a teacher.  Seriously.  I'm the oldest of 7, and I'm the one who always played school teacher in our play room with my brothers and sister.  I was always the teacher, of course.  We had two old-fashioned desks and a blackboard (actually it was green) and I would spend hours teaching them anything and everything!  I was also the one that taught my youngest brother how to write his name and how to ride his bike.  It was ingrained in me to be a teacher, it's just who I am!

95% of the jobs I had growing up dealt with kids in some way or another.  Babysitting, nanny, tutoring, camp leader, etc.  I just loved being around kids and loved teaching them and seeing their faces light up when they learn something new!  

5. What do you consider your best ever TPT purchase? 

There are so many great items on TPT, but being a teacher in a French school made it harder for me to buy certain things because I'd simply have to translate it all anyway.  BUT I did have to purchase Runde's room interactive math journal.  Teaching the same grade as her this year (5/6) and in the same province (Ontario), made it a no brainer.  It's full of foldables for so many math concepts, it was an amazing tool that I enjoyed using this year and will use for many years to come!

If you've never visited Runde's room blog, head over there now.  She's an amazing teacher and blogger with so many great ideas!  Her Interactive Math Journal is available here

6. Have you ever had a job outside of education?  What was it?

When I was in teacher's college, I also worked retail, at Northern Reflections.  I actually really enjoyed it! I met some great women that I'm still in touch with and was able to learn about the "other" side of retail shopping!

I also started my own photography business a couple of years ago, focusing mainly on maternity and newborn sessions.  I really enjoy my own business and photography is a great creative outlet.

7. What is the best gift you have ever received from a student/parent?

My first year teaching, I had quite a rough year with the principal and decided to leave that school after a year.  It was a very hard decision to make, but one that I know saved my career.

At the end of that school year, I received two letters.  One from a student.  She went on and on about me as a teacher and how I taught her to feel great about herself and her skills, especially in math.  I still keep in touch with this student today and am so proud of her achievements!  

The second letter was from a parent who wrote how much she appreciated everything I did for her daughter and how much I touched her daughter's life.

That, to me, is what teaching is all about.  Making a difference in students lives and allowing them to reach their potential.  I have had many other moments like that in my career, but those two really stand out to me.

8. Do you have a favorite pen?  What kind is it? (This is for all us school supply addicts!)

Right now, by far, my favourite pens are actually cheapo coloured pens (light blue and purple are my faves right now) from Walmart.  They glide so easily and write really nicely.

I do have my second favourite pens - Sharpie pens!  I love the way they write, almost like markers but they don't leak through paper.  

9. When do you do the majority of your lesson plans?  Are you way ahead or do you plan as you go?

Usually I plan a week ahead of time.  I have many, MANY ideas in my head and am continuously thinking of ways to teach and introduce new concepts to my students, but to write them down, it's always at the beginning of the week.  Although sometimes (most of the time) my schedule changes and I think of new lesson plans in a matter of minutes, but that's sometimes the fun part of being a teacher! 

10. Are you involved in leading any extra-curricular activities at your school?

I used to be a lot more involved than I am now, coaching various sports teams and creating various clubs (reading club, knitting club, etc).  Last year was a rough year for me in my personal life and decided to take a break from everything extra-curricular.  It was a nice break, very much needed, but I can't wait to get back at it when I go back from my maternity leave!

11. What is your favorite school outfit?

There are so many!  It all depends on the weather, but I love my black skirt with a glitzy top and a black blazer.  Very professional but with a touch of whimsy.  But honestly, it's not about the outfit, it's about the SHOES!  I love shoes!  The right pair of shoes can really make or break an outfit, and I'm all about making sure it all looks great!  My favourite pair of shoes are these red shoes with a very small heel, a pointed toe that fades to black.  I always get compliments on them, they go with every outfit and they are so comfortable!

Well, there you go, my 11 questions answered!  Thank you Lauren for the nomination!

And now for 11 random facts about me :

1 - I am the oldest of 7 children, and LOVE being the oldest!
2 - I walked up Machu Pichu (Peru) and threw up once at the top.  Next time, I'll take the bus!
3 - Walking is my favourite activity to do outdoors.
4 - I live in the middle of nowhere, and last night, there were 23 deer in my backyard!  I love living here!
5 - I love having a smart phone, but I secretly wish I wasn't so addicted to it!  I sure hope my husband never reads this...
6 - I love to cook and bake.  I very rarely follow recipes and I am proud to say I've never ruined a dish yet!
7 - Actually, scratch that - at the beginning of my pregnancy, I accidentally substituted cumin for cinnamon while making homemade hamburgers.  I did ruin that meal! lol
8 - I am addicted to having fresh flowers in the house!  It is so refreshing to see bright living colours.  Right now, there are purple (go figure) tulips on my kitchen table.
9 - I have a dog, named Peanut, who is 12 years old and I dread the day she will leave me.
10 - I want to travel the world!  Scotland and Ireland are on my MUST SEE list.
11 - I love to read.  I mean, I LOVE to read!  My favourite author is Jodi Picoult, I devour her books.

There, now you know a bit more about me, let's learn more about someone else!  

It's my turn to nominate someone for the Liebster award, and I found Top Priority Teaching, a grade 4 teacher in Alberta, Canada (a fellow Canadian!) who has been posting and blogging with great pictures of her classroom!  So, Top Priority Teacher, here are your 11 questions :

1 - When did you know you wanted to be a teacher?  What made you pursue this career?
2 - What is your proudest moment as a teacher?
3 - What is one tip you would give new teachers today?
4 - What's the best TPT resource you have ever purchased?
5 - Describe your teaching style.
6 - If you could live anywhere in the world, where would you live?
7 - What is your favourite meal?
8 - If you had a magic lamp, what would you wish for?
9 - What is your favourite colour and why?
10 - Who is your inspiration?
11 - What motivated you to start a blog?

Can't wait to read your answers!