Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Hopeless Homework Struggles.... Answered!

If you're like me- homework can really be a headache! Many times it doesn't come back to school due to lack of help or reinforcement at home. It is a constant struggle between finding something that will really be effective, but also something that the students will be able to complete independently without much help. As we all know- and research proves- it is so important for children to be reading every day and night. After all, practice helps to make perfect, right?!

When I first started teaching, I sent home a simple reading log-- you know the one. Children write the title of the book they read, log the time spent reading, etc. Later I realized and asked myself, what are the kids really getting from this? Half of them weren't even reading anyway! How would I know if they just listed books that were on their bookshelves without even touching them, much less reading them! And let's be real... how many of us really have the time to pull each student aside and conference with them about their homework while we're working with small guided reading groups and performing individual reading conferences from in class reading?!

Then came at home reading journals. Students each had a spiral notebook with lovely little reading reflection prompts glued in the front. Alright- all my problems would be solved! The students would be held accountable for their reading, and they would learn to love it by choosing what they wanted to write about it at home! YESSSSS! Welp- didn't take long for this to be a bust, too. The lovely littles would choose the same prompt every night.... even with me telling them that wasn't ok and implementing a "Write it Once and Done/Week" rule. Little stinkers!

This year, after trying several other ways, I decided to create reading logs based on what we were working on that week. The students shouldn't need too much help since they were practicing the strategies and using them everyday in class. So not only were they now REALLY READING at home, but they were getting reinforcement of the current strategies as well. How awesome is that!

After a few months of using these logs, I can honestly say I have NEVER in 10 years of teaching, seen my students do so wonderfully on their homework reading. So thrilled with these! See for yourselves..... please disregard the wrinkly papers.... Lord knows what they've been through! HA!

If you like these reading logs, they are available at my TPT store by clicking on the link below. :) 

Get my Reading Logs 

Thanks for reading! :) 

Sunday, October 18, 2015


Analyzing of my favorite skills to teach! I love watching my students infer great traits to describe their characters, and then provide awesome evidence to back it up. It always amazes me how when we begin the unit, their favorite words are nice and mean, and by the end of our study they have a plethora of descriptive words from uncooperative to humble. 

To introduce the skill, I always begin discussing the difference between physical traits- how a person or character is on the outside, and character traits- which describe a person on the inside. We then think about words that would describe ourselves- physical and personality. As we were in the middle of a class discussion- the idea for #SecretSelfie came to me....because kids love to tell about themselves, and they love to play games! What better way to learn about inferring character?! 

Each student was asked to describe their physical traits as well as their character traits and provide examples of how they believe they possess those certain personality traits. Once students finished their descriptions, I taped their "selfie" to the back of their papers. I numbered each paper and hung them around the room. 

The students took clipboards and were then on a mission to infer which of their classmates fit each description. They had tons of fun guessing who their friends were, and we learned a lot about each other, too! Apparently the skill was one that stuck with them well because our class received a 100% on character trait questions on our last district assessment! Whoot whoot!! 

 If you are interested in learning more about #SecretSelfie and using it in your classroom, visit my TPT Store by clicking the product below!


Wednesday, August 26, 2015

New Year, New Look, New Adventures!

Happy 2015-2016 school year! I'm so glad to be back in the swing of things...or getting close to being back in the swing of things anyway, and I hope you are too. I'm also so excited about my new blog look! I'm in love with how fresh and bright my page turned out to be. Thank you so much Chalk and Apples! I am hoping with this new bright and sparkly look I'll be more likely to update my page more than once a month. ;)

While we're on the subject of newness... I made the very hard decision this summer to make a BIG change. After spending 9 years teaching in Duval County at the same sweet school, I made the decision (after much persuading from a dear friend who had already made the move) to transfer to not just a new school, but a new county all together. I am now teaching 3rd grade Reading/Language Arts in Clay County about 25 minutes from my former school.  It has been a bittersweet experience for me. I love my new school home and I am excited about all of the things I am going to learn and the new people I will meet, but I will always miss and be forever grateful to the teachers who helped me start out and shape me into the teacher I am today.

I'd be honored if you'd accompany me on this new journey as I start blogging again about my new classroom adventures with a little bit of sass and a whole lot of sparkle!

(.... a peek into my PORTABLE. Yes- you read me right. I am in a portable this year. It's not as bad as I thought it would be though..... stay tuned for a more detailed classroom tour soon!)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Inferring with Chris Van Allsburg

I loathe a reading textbook. I am sure that is an awful thing for a teacher to say, but I have my reasons. I made a commitment a long time ago to be the kind of teacher that gives MORE to my students than just what is in a reading basal series. With that said, I still do use the reading series as required by my county, however, no one ever said exactly how we have to use it. Enter creative teacher thinking here. ;)

After pleading my case with my new 4th grade team, they were all on board with my idea! We simply rearranged the stories in the series to work for us! I know...we are so smart! ;) As we were coming up on the inferring strategy, I selected a story out of the textbook, which is one that I consider one of the better stories in the series, and one of my personal favorites- The Stranger by Chris Van Allsburg. Now, I may be a little biased as Mr. Allsburg is probably in my top 3 children's book authors, but that is beside the point.
The Stranger is a wonderfully mysterious story of a man who is hit by a truck one autumn day in the middle of the country, and loses his memory. Many strange things begin to happen around the farm that he's taken into after that day. The story is a PERFECT story to teach the strategy of making inferences. As the students listened to the story read aloud, the light bulbs began to burn bright! Hands were shooting up in the air with all sorts of ideas as to who this "stranger" could be. 

The students were put into pairs and asked to provide their theory for who they thought the stranger was, and to support their theory with evidence from the text. I was so impressed with their inferences! I learned however, that I definitely need to preface this story next time with a lesson about autumn and how Florida's autumns are much different from those in other places around the country. In the end, only 3 or 4 students made a correct inference, however, I'll take what the others inferred (the stranger was fall or autumn) because I don't know if I've ever seen "Jack Frost" here in Florida...especially during the fall! :)

In the days to follow this lesson, we used several other Allsburg books, including an interesting story from the perspective of ants- Two Bad Ants, to continue with our making inferences strategy practice. All in all, I am so thrilled as to how we're doing with making inferences! I can INFER that my student's heart Chris Van Allsburg just as much as I do now! 

Stay tuned for more inferring activities this week as we begin our Mystery Genre Study! :) ...

Loving our kids,

Monday, September 24, 2012

"THAT" Writing Test...

4th grade is one of those years that looms over the heads of not only students, but parents and teachers as well. Why, you ask? This is the first year that students in Florida take the FCAT Writing test. The test is given three different years throughout a students career, with the second assessment given in 8th grade, and the final assessment in 10th.

This year, the students will be given a writing prompt that will be one of two genres- Narrative or Expository. No one will know the prompt until the test begins and each student opens their testing booklet. Students will have 60 minutes to plan and write their paper, which has changed from the previous years 45 minutes.

As promised, I am including a link to the FLDOE website with downloadable information about the test. Click the link below and you will be taken to the FCAT 2.0 homepage. From there, you will find the 2013 FCAT 2.0 Writing PDF file. This is worth reading as it is three pages of FAQs and information about the test.

The FCAT 2.0 Writing Calibration Papers can also be found on this page. Please take a moment and look through these anchor papers. They will give you an idea about where we are headed this year and what the expectations are for your student.


We are going to tackle this milestone together. Remember- "Teamwork makes the dream work"! Looking forward to discovering the amazing authors inside each of our students! :)

Until next time,

-Mrs. Kidd

Friday, September 21, 2012

Remembering 9/11 In 4th grade

This year was very different for me, as an educator, on September 11th. In the past, I have felt like focusing too much on one of our nation's most horrible events, was inappropriate because I was teaching younger children (1st & 3rd graders). However, this year, now that I am teaching 4th grade, I decided the students were mature enough to handle a discussion about some of those horrible events. It is our country's history, and many of the students have heard stories from this day before.

Have you ever saved newspapers, only to pull them out of boxes years later, faded with layers of dust, and wonder why you ever saved them in the first place?... Well this is NOT what happened when I found these babies... copies of the Florida Times Union the week of September 11th, 2001!! I immediately thought of how amazing it would be to share these with my students. They might not have been born yet ;), but they could still experience a piece of that day!

After some discussion about that day, and where I was when the towers were hit, the students shared some of their thoughts. Wow at some of their amazing ideas! Once I had their attention and they were seriously engaged- then came my special surprise- the newspapers. The room buzzed with excitement as students oohed and ahhed over the front page. After a quick lesson about how to treat old (oh my!) newspapers, the students were split into small groups and each group given a piece of the newspaper. They were fascinated initially, and after a few minutes of reading and dissecting pictures and diagrams, a hush fell over our room. I knew that was a somber silence...

Once we had finished our discussion of the events on that day, we read a wonderful story about a small warrior tribe in Kenya, Africa. 14 Cows For America is a book written about one young warriors recount of when he learned of the tragedy of September 11, 2011. The story of generosity crosses boundaries, nations and cultures.

You could hear a pin drop in our classroom. And of my sweet, sweet students had an idea. Here is a snapshot of the conversation... "Mrs. Kidd...just because we are kids doesn't mean we can't help other people in need!". "Wow, __________, you are exactly right!". Another child piped in- "Hey...let's do something to help out!". Yes...I was speechless...once again. These kids NEVER cease to amaze me. So...on we went to brainstorm some ideas of how we could help. The students came up with some great ones!!...
After much thought and a little bit of voting, we decided to collect soda pop tabs for the Ronald McDonald House. Here is our current status...
All in all...I am so glad that we spent so much time this September 11th discussing history. I love how the tragic events of one day, led to the generosity and thoughtfulness that is shining through my students today! :)

With a happy heart,
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Sunday, September 16, 2012

Open House=SUCCESS!

A BIG thank you to all who came out for our Open Hose on Thursday! We had a packed house! I apologize to those of you who may have had to stand in the hallway.  It is so nice to see parents supportive and active in their child's education! Mr. Campbell and I are looking forward to a great year!

If you missed our Open House, please browse through our powerpoint by clicking on the link below. This is an overview of how we run things in our classroom. We went into much greater detail during the presentation on Thursday night, so if you have any questions, please contact us!

Open House Presentation 2012-2013