Opensourcereading.com

A few years ago I stumbled upon one of my favorite message boards- Scarlet Nation (Rutgers Sports).  I read the boards daily and feel like I have gotten to know John, the founder.  John is also a phenomenal teacher who blogs over at A Community of Learners.  He recently began a new venture that I suspect will become huge in he next few months.  As he describes it best, I will quote him:

There are dozens – perhaps hundreds – of books that discuss the basic principals behind the reading workshop and other programs that stress the importance of independent reading. There are also many groups and individuals who charge a hefty fee to share their knowledge of the program.

At the same time, there are thousands of teachers who are “in the trenches” with the reading workshop every day. Many have more practical knowledge than the authors who are writing texts and the staff developers who are delivering the high priced presentations. That is where opensourcereading.com comes in.Open Source Reading is an online community for anyone who teaches reading. The focus at this point are grades 3-8.

our philosophy: Children make the most progress when they spend large blocks of time reading “just right” books and sharing their texts with others.

our motto: Try it. Change it. Share it.

The motto is at the core of the site. Open source materials (units of study, conferring sheets, graphic organizers) are free for you to download, customize and distribute. Consider the materials on this site to be a starting ground. All that we ask is that, if you use a reproducible page, please support the site and its users by…
1) including a link to opensourcereading.com in the footer of any page that you use or customize
2) email a copy of all customized pages to John so that he may put them back on the site to share with others

Happy reading!

A Community of Learners

 

I’ve already signed up and explored the site.  It’s wonderful!  You should definitely check it out!

Where I’m From poems

Read this document on Scribd: Where I’m From poems

I absolutely love beginning the year with “Where I’m From” poems, a lesson inspired by George Ella Lyons. It’s not an easy assignment by any means but my students always rise to the occasion, with some prodding by me. I love these poems because learn so much about my students when reading their poems. You see what is important to them, what their families are like, and what makes them happy. They are a clear window into their lives.

Where I’m From poem template -Check it out!

Read this document on Scribd: Where I’m From poems

Last year, I developed a template for my students to follow, which helped their poems become much deeper. On Friday we started the poems with this year’s class and so far I am extremely impressed. We should finish them up next week, and I can’t wait to hang them up for Back to School Night!

Vista Print

For the last few weeks I have been having a lot of fun with Vista Print.  What is Vista Print?

With more than 13 million customers worldwide, VistaPrint is a leading online supplier of high-quality graphic design services and customized printed products to small businesses and consumers. We offer high-quality solution for graphic design and full-color printing in small quantities, without the premium price.

Vista Print is a godsend for teachers.  They have daily free items.  Yes, you read that right.  FREE.  All you have to pay is shipping and handling.  You can order up to 10 free items per order.  How awesome is that?  They carry almost any graphics product you can think of, from postcards to business cards to car door magnets.

If you are an office supply junkie like me, I guarantee Vista Print will become a vice, an addiction.  It’s crazy!  I have already placed 5 orders and received 3 of them.  The quality is top-notch and everything is perfect.  I can’t wait to start using everything.  Now if only school would start…

I put together a document with some of the items I have ordered so far.  I gleaned most of these ideas from all over the web, putting my own twist on them.  The best ideas have all been gathered on this great website, so be sure to explore it.  It seems that a lot of primary teachers use Vista Print, so I did a lot of tweaking to get items that were cool enough for 6th graders without being babyish.  Plus, I wanted each item to serve a purpose in my room, one that would help me stay organized

My Vista Print Ideas- Click to download!

Almost there…

I can not believe that we are already nearing the end of July.  I will be back at school in a month!  That just seems unbelievable.  Needless to say, I have been planning and preparing already.  Today I spent a lot of time on my new class website.

For the past few years I have bounced around between different services.  Last year I used the new service provided by the district but I wasn’t thrilled with it.  It wasn’t user-friendly, it was a pain to update, and parents had a hard time keeping up with it.  When I sat down to figure out what I wanted to do next year, I kept coming back to this blog.  I love the ease of of blog and the interactive aspects of it.  WordPress’ software allows me to design separate pages, upload handouts, offer subscription by email, and so much more.  But of course, I want to keep this blog separate from school.  That is when I discovered Edublogs.  I love this site!  I set up a blog a few days ago and have been playing with it ever since.   I have been writing welcome posts, designing pages, and otherwise tweaking it to my preferences.  The best part is, I know I haven’t even begun to touch on the capabilities of the blog as offered by Edublogs.  So if you are looking for a great place to keep your class website or blog, definitely check out Edublogs.

2007-2008 Class Book Lists

This year, my class read more books than we ever have in the past. In case anyone is interested in some great books for 6th grade, I made a list of the books we read, divided into read-alouds and class novels.

Class Books:


Flying Solo by Ralph Fletcher- This was the first book we read together (in my homeroom). We read it aloud during the first week of school and it was one of our favorites for the year! A great way to start off the school year, with the story of a class that has no substitute when their teacher is home sick.

The Talking Earth by Jean Craighead George (Class Novel)- I had never used this book before and probably would not use it again. The story is great for an environmental unit, but it was a difficult start to the year. As my kids put it, “Nothing happened in the book!”. George is a preeminent environmental writer, but this novel failed to grab my students attention at the beginning of the year.

Emma-Jean Lazarus Fell Out of a Tree by Lauren Tarshis- I am desperately waiting for a new book from Lauren Tarshis. I fell in love with Emma-Jean and Tarshis has a great grasp of middle school life. I chose this as the first read aloud for both classes once school started, and they loved it! A great story about a girl who is “different” and her struggle to preserve herself in the churning waters of middle school.

Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (Class Novel)- A gorgeous story and well-known as the greatest children’s book ever written.

The Postcard by Tony Abbott- My class read this in ARC form, and they really enjoyed it. A great mystery that tells the story of a young boy, his mysterious grandmother, and the circus!

The Giver by Lois Lowry (Class Novel)- This is my favorite dystopian novel for young adults, and one of the first I remember reading in school.

Drums, Girls, And Dangerous Pie by Jordan Sonnenblick- We read this as a companion to our Valentine’s Day charity work. Sonnenblick has crafted a gorgeous story of a young boy whose family is touched by cancer. It also made us laugh out loud a lot!

The Devil’s Arithmetic (Puffin Modern Classics) by Jane Yolen (Class Novel)- This is the anchor of our Holocaust study and one of my favorite novels every year. Yolen’s haunting story of a girl who does not want to remember is a powerful testament of the strength and courage of those who were persecuted during the Holocaust.

Guys Write for Guys Read by Jon Scieszka- Great short stories that appeal to boys (and girls!) by various authors.

Marley: A Dog Like No Other by John Grogan- The biggest tearjerker of the year, by far. I was sobbing by the end, as were many of my students. This is a beautiful story that most kids can identify with- the love and devotion of a family pet.

The Music of Dolphins by Karen Hesse- This is a wonderful book that combines children’s love of marine mammals and a new idea for most kids- feral children. Karen Hesse is a beautiful and gifted writer!

The Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians, Book 1) by Rick Riordan- Definitely oneof my classes’ favorites! A rollicking story that infuses regular kid problems, Greek mythology, and tons of adventure! A must-read!

Eleven novels in one year! That’s a lot of read-alouds, considering many of these books over more than 300 pages. Sometimes, it was a pain making time for the daily read-aloud, but it was worth it! It made a huge difference in my classroom, though. Reading aloud everyday really made it obvious to my kids how much I valued reading. And I made sure to read a variety of genres, styles, and authors. Everyone enjoyed the books this year, even if they didn’t love each and every one.

Summer Adventure Packets

Tonight, I finally finished the summer adventure packets for my kids! It was definitely a labor of love, but I feel like they are finally perfect. Jen Barney shared the packet she uses in her class, and I used Stacey‘s as a mentor/template and then added in my own activities. I can’t wait to see if any of my students take advantage of this….

You see, my students move on to the middle school next year, so they will be responsible for emailing or snail mailing their completed packets to me. That’s a hefty amount of responsibility in the summer! But I have some truly awesome 7th grade survival packs planned, so hopefully someone completes it!

I will also be handing out my list of amazing books, places to get books, and blogs to check out. This is the first year I will be doing this, too. This way,my kids will have a list of books I love and think they will love, even if I can’t booktalk them!

Summer Literacy Packet (6th grade)

Must-reads 2008

So Proud

Today, my students began presenting their Multi-genre Projects. I have never been so proud of them! Their projects and presentations were passionate, creative, and thoughtful. The pride they had in their projects was evident from the moment they stepped in the room. They were confident in their presentations, excited to share their passion, and willing to share bits of themselves with me and their classmates.

Many of the students went above and beyond the requirements, which is amazing for a project that was completed at the end of their last year in our school. Instead of the usual boredom and no-effort work I see at this time of year, my students worked diligently on these projects. It is absolutely amazing the effect that academic choice has on student effort. Because they chose their topics and cared about them, they were willing to spend the time to make their project “just right”.

We reflected on the project together, and they came up with a few reasons for their enthusiasm.  All of them agreed that choice was very important in this project.  It was the first time most of them were allowed to choose anything they wanted, with no restrictions.  Then, they were able to choose their genres (although everyone was required to write an encyclopedia article).  Even though it was overwhelming in the beginning, choosing anything they wanted let them pick something they were passionate about.  Thus, we had topics ranging from piano, to Hello Kitty, to Tyra Banks, to Greek mythology, to F-16s, to 9/11, to Pearl Harbor, to Lupe Fiasco, and even more.

The freedom to choose their genres allowed them to create multiple ways to communicate their research.  The girl who researched Tyra Banks created a modeling portfolio with photos, an autobiography, a birth announcement, an advertisement for America’s Next Top Model, and a diary entry.  The boy who studied F-16s included the specs, an advertisement, encyclopedia, and more.  Every project was just perfect.  And everyone chose amazing ways to present their information!  We had models of the Twin Towers that opened to reveal papers.  There was a traveling mythology museum, a model F-16, and a homemade suitcase.

I had tears in my eyes during the presentations today.  My students have grown so much this year, and no where was it more evident than in this project.  I am so proud of them!

48 Hour Book Challenge in the Classroom

No, I am not that crazy!  But today I brought in my stack of books, piled them on the desk in the front of my room, and explained to my students what I spent my weekend doing.  After that got over their shock, I told them that part of the reason I participated was to get a great pile of books to recommend to them for summer reading.

I passed out our summer reading plan worksheet to the class and explained that while I want them to complete their required summer reading, I also want them to read the books that they enjoy, just as they have been doing all year.  Because I won’t be there to make recommendations and pass out new books, I want them to have a list of books ready for this summer (and hopefully into next year).  For the summer reading plan, I planned to begin by booktalking the books I read for the Challenge.  Later this week the students will recommend books to their classmates.  At the end of the week they will formulate a summer reading goal.

Today’s booktalks went really well!  Most of the students wrote down 3-4 of the titles I read over the weekend, and many of them wrote down even more.  So thank you, Mother Reader!

Our Eco-art book!

Yay! Today my class’ eco-art photobook arrived, and it turned out beautifully! The book includes photos of both class’ eco-art and the poetry that it inspired in my students. The book was created as part of the Voices….From the Land project through EIRC.

The book, a 12×12 photobook made on Shutterfly

The awesome back cover, a collage of the art created in our schoolyard.

One of the photo/poetry spreads. (Made smaller because I don’t want my students to be recognizable!)

Another photo/poetry spread

One of the poems that a student wrote after creating his group’s artwork.

Another poem.

The final page in the book- a photo I took inCape May coupled with my favorite quote (and mantra).

I am completely in love with this project. It is a great marriage of art, science/ecology, language arts, and technology. We will also receive books from two other schools (including one in New Zealand!). How cool is that?  Even cooler?  The fact that I might get to meet that teacher from New Zealand at a workshop this summer.  Talk about making global connections in a new world, huh?  Absolutely amazing.

My favorite quote from today was, “Wow, Miss M!  I am published in a real book!”

Eco-art

Today, after a morning of standardized testing, I took my students outside to create eco-art.  In the tradition of Andy Goldsworthy we created art from the natural materials readily available around our schoolyard.  My kids were so amazing in this project!

After spending a good amount of time wandering the schoolyard, the students broke into small groups.  For the first time all year, there was no whining or fighting over working together.  Students seemed to naturally gravitate towards working alone or with a small group of friends.  They gathered materials together, brainstormed ideas, and even claimed their area without an ounce of anger or annoyance.  They quickly got to work and produced some amazing art.

Tomorrow, I will print out their artwork and we will use the pieces to inspire poetry and prose.  The words they write will then be combined with the photos before becoming a book on Shutterfly.  Through the Voices…From the Land project, we will share our book with another school and will receive one from another school.  We are very excited!

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