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

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

HELLOOO 4th Grade!

Stay tuned for a classroom photo tour! :)
Welcome back to another great year at CSE! It's been a long awaited day...the first day you were able to walk up those stairs to the unknown... the 2nd floor where the oldest kids in the school spend all of their time. What a great feeling :). You were not the only one walking up those steps to a new world...I was, too. Just as you begin 4th grade, I am beginning the journey as well.

Our theme this school year is "Teamwork Makes the Dream Work".  Together we are going to learn the ropes of being a part of our fabulous 4th grade! We are going to make this year the greatest one yet!

To "Kickoff" the year, please see the welcome letter below(click on the titles) for Team Kidd and Campbell, if you were not able to make it to Meet the Teacher last Friday. Also attached you will find our supply list/wish list. Anything you can provide would be greatly appreciated! Thank you to those families who have already sent in items. We are VERY grateful!!

Welcome Letter
Team Kidd's Supply List

I look forward to getting to know you and your family this school year as we strive to reach our goals! Our team is going to SCORE BIG!

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Presenting...The Poetry Cafe!

 Last Thursday was an exciting day for my students and I! We hosted a Poetry Cafe in our classroom! After FCAT testing each morning back in April, we "took it easy" in the afternoons by celebrating April being poetry month! As a class, we explored the poetry genre, the many different types of poetry, and the students had a chance to express their own feelings through poetry. I knew that I had some amazing kids, but let me just say...they shocked the socks off of me!! :) I never expected such DEEP poems from some of my kids! The awareness of society and the world around them was very evident, and eye-opening, in some of their writing. They enjoyed personification poems the most, imagining themselves as an object or a place, and writing what that object was thinking, or their objects actions. A-Mazing!! 

Each day we worked on a different poem. By the end of the study, the students had their own collection of poems that they were able to choose from to compile their poetry book. The computers were in use daily by students typing out their poems. The end product was an awesome collection of each child's deepest feelings and writing from their hearts, as well as some funny limericks and "just because" was even written about Lysol Wipes!! :) I LOVE the creativity!

The culmination activity was our "Kidd's Poetry Kafe" which we held last Thursday! We all decided to wear black, and some of the students even wore sunglasses and berets, which was common when poetry cafe's were popular. Many students shared their poetry, and were celebrated by the audience snapping for them.

What a successful cafe filled with lifelong memories for the students and their families! Also, thanks to all of the families who were able to come and support our students. We are glad you were here!

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Because of Winn Dixie

If you have never read the story, Because of Winn Dixie, by the amazing author Kate Dicamillo, do it!! Our students have been mesmerized over the past month as we have been reading this novel. It is a wonderful, heartwarming story about a little girl from a single parent home, who takes in a dog as a best friend. Opal, the main character, meets several interesting friends along her journey of moving to a new town. It is a sweet story and one that people of all ages can connect with.

The book discusses some very serious issues that are present in our world today, and many that my kids related to. It opened up some serious conversations about life, as well as endless talk about reading and strategies an author uses to write! After several weeks of studying the novel, we ended our study with a celebration just like the party they had at the end of the book! The students were given permission from parents to view the movie that was created based on the book(the movie is PG), and we enjoyed "egg salad sandwiches cut into triangles", pickles, Dump punch, and Littmus Lozenges. As they watched the movie, they completed a venn diagram comparing the events from the book to the movie. I was THRILLED at how they filled their page...and then another page...and another! It was very evident that the students were completely intrigued and engaged in this book study! I was SO proud of them!
Our spread for the party! Complete with Littmus Lozenges. The students said they could even "taste the melancholy"! :)

Friday, April 13, 2012

We aren't scared of that FCAT!

This week we have been busy preparing and reviewing for our state's standardized test next week- The FCAT, or Florida Comprehensive Assessment Test. We've been reviewing through fun games like classroom jeopardy, centers, and sample test items. It is such a huge test for the kids this year because as we all know, the FCAT 3rd grade reading test must be passed in order to be promoted to 4th grade. The kids have been awesome and in high spirits until yesterday when several of them experienced their first tinge of testing anxiety as we took a sample test. In order to scare away some of those fears, our school had an AWESOME FCAT Pep Rally this afternoon. We also made a HUGE banner for the hallway to show our FCAT spirit! :) These kids are going to...

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Text Mapping and Context Clues

This week our focus in reading is reviewing context clues. Recently, our school purchased an amazing resource to support the informational genre- The Comprehension Toolkit. The more that we use this resource, the more I. LOVE. IT!!...and so do the students! :) Each reading strategy is centered around several informational articles taken from sources like National Geographic for Kids, Discovery Kids, Time for Kids, and many others. The articles are all centered around high interest topics and subjects that the students can really relate to! THANK YOU to the creators of this toolkit.

It just so happens that our strategy of using context clues this week, leads us to an article in the Toolkit about the Titanic. The students have been so interested in this amazing "colossus", because the 100th anniversary is approaching. What an awesome time to introduce this article! The students had a great time sharing their "BK" (background knowledge) about the subject. It was very interesting listening to them discuss what they know about the ship! :) My favorite was that there were "signs" in the water that an iceberg was there but the captain wouldn't listen!

We reviewed inferring the meanings of unfamiliar words by discussing the different types of clues to help us in figuring out the unknown word. We also discussed the equation- BK+TC=I...Background Knowledge+ Text Clues= Inference.

The students then went into their groups and used the Titanic article from Kid's Discovery magazine to infer the meanings of unfamiliar words. The Titanic article is a lengthy 9 page article, so for the students to work easily together without flipping back and forth through pages, we used a strategy called text mapping. In text mapping, an article's pages are laid out side my side to make it easy for many to see all at one time.

The students then read the article and charted words they were unfamiliar with on a context clues graphic organizer. They were to apply their background knowledge plus context clues to infer the meanings of these words, and then use each word in a new sentence.

Each pair of students completed a graphic organizer. All in all, they did an awesome job with inferring the meanings of unknown words. It makes me so happy to see that they have also transferred our equation- BK+TC=I into other avenues of their learning. I. LOVE. IT!! Way to go guys! :)

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Spring is here!

I hope that everyone has a safe and restful Spring Break! Plan to return to school on Monday, March 26th ready to go the extra mile! FCAT is only a few short weeks away!

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Autobiographies are IN! :)

It is so much fun on the day a project is due!! Students walk in to school with their best work, ready to show it off! The excitement that they have always puts a smile on my face! They work so hard on their projects and they are so proud of themselves. The students turned in some amazing autobiographies this year, showcasing some awesome text features. I was so proud of them and truly enjoyed reading all about their lives. I was highly entertained by many of them and I must say, I believe I have a class full of creative writers! :) Take a minute and look at some of these wonderful timelines!!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Our Autobiography projects are underway....!

On Friday, the students were given a nonfiction text features project to complete. You can find the project and the rubric below for reference or to reprint...

I have had some parents questioning how this project should be completed. In this project, the students are to write a short autobiography using the nonfiction text features we have learned so far. They are each listed on the project sheet. To help them organize their "life so far", we completed a Life Map together in class, and they were given one to complete as a planning sheet for their autobiographies.

For each major event on their Life Map, they should create a subheading and then write about that time period/event in their life. This can be done with one event per page, or several events on multiple pages with the subheadings in special type, or honestly, however your child decides! PLEASE be CrEaTiVe!! :)The other text features should be fit into the autobiography wherever they see long as they are there and they make since with the overall theme of the project. 

I am getting excited to see all of the awesome autobiographies! The kids are so excited about them and from their feedback- they're having a BLAST! :)