Workshop Wednesday ~ Acing the Big Test

Perhaps you have seen my posts about testing ideas before, but I wanted to link up with Jivey for Workshop Wednesday and share what has worked for me.

I began by playing this clip from Rocky:

My students (all of whom have special needs) dread the big test.  My goal was to change their thinking so that they would think of it as something to which they say "Bring it on!" like any other sports champ.

So I made a little story that compares the big test to a sports championship and published it!

In it one will find a little story about how sports champs and students alike prepare for the big test/championship.  Following the story are some reading skills questions about the text including compare/contrast, cause/effect and so on.  There's even a quick reference guide to all these reading skills as well as a mentor sentence and even a foldable!

You can see the whole book here:

Acing the Big Test by Elizabeth Spangler | Make Your Own Book

After I used the book to get us in the right mindset, I too used lots of great task cards mostly from Teaching With A Mountain View (she has a super bundle!).  

I kept using the stairs analogy from Rocky as as we practiced using the task cards to help the students see their purpose.

We recorded our scores on the steps.  

Next I used this cute clip:

And then we went over some test-taking tips from Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching.

It's called "SPARKLE" and each letter stands for strategy.  We even made little bookmarks with the strategies to take home.  There are some other great goodies in the pack too!

Finally, we all signed the pledge from this pack:

Now we are in the testing window and since most of our tests are now on the computer, our testing schedule is 4.weeks.long. I have been scouring through all the best ideas for things to do while we are in test mode.  In middle school that means we have a modified schedule where we have very few regular classes.  In fact the last 2 days, I have had my homeroom for 5 hours and am supposed to teach "life skills".  But that's a post for a different day.  :)

Thanks for stopping by!

It's Monday: What are you reading with a freebie!

Yes, we are in testing mode and will be for the next few weeks, but in between tests, I will likely get a chance to actually have a class or two with my students.  It is during that time that we will be reading Catching Fire - the second book in the Hunger Games trilogy. 

My special needs class read the first book last year (with the audio CD and my guidance) and actually asked if we could read the second one!  Yes, they actually ASKED to read!  :)

Must-Read Monday Linky

So I am re-reading the book and have prepared a simple preview for my kids.

First, a synopsis of the first book (to refresh our memories) -  The Hunger Games:

Then we will use this anticipation guide: 

You can have one too - just click on the image above.  :)

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday
I'm hoping we will all thoroughly enjoy the book together!  

Thanks for stopping by!

Peek at My week & a SALE!

I'm posting this from my husband's computer because mine is at the "doctor". 
His uses Windows 8 and it is totally frustrating me because it won't save the linky picture from Mrs. Laffin's Laughings!!! 
(Sorry, Jennifer, truly sorry)
My week will be testing, testing and more testing sprinkled in with bits of "Catching Fire" (This is what I am looking forward to!)  and much too much life skills (that I can't post about because it's locked in my sick computer).  It should be very interesting so I'm sure I'll have plenty to post soon on either a fixed computer or a new one.
 My week to be is what happens when you have 1000 kids at your school and only 130 computers to use for testing combined with Special Ed kids that need separate testing.  Sigh.  All we can do is the best we can with what we have - in school and in spite of a sick computer. 

Perhaps a little retail therapy will help...

Here's hopin' !  Thanks for stopping by!

Positive Thinking with Five for Friday

I am a bit tardy to the party for Positive Thinking Thursday, but am still excited about it and I wanted to wrap up my week so here I am and I hope you'll indulge me.  :)

I found this on author Patricia Polacco's Facebook Page:

"Believe you can and you're half way there" - Theodore Roosevelt.

I found a new way to keep track of my students' behavior points - links on a chain!  At the end of the period, if they have 8 or 9 out of 10 points, they can earn 1 brag buck (to be spent in the school cafeteria) or 1 link.  They can save up their links for various rewards they picked, such as lunch in the classroom.  They love seeing their links on the wall!

Next week starts our state testing and I have to move rooms so I am packing my essentials.  I hope I don't forget anything...I so wish I had one of those crate carts now! 

We wrapped up figurative language with a game of ZAP and then a test.  The test mirrors the style of questions they will see on the state test so fingers crossed that they will do well on both!!

And now for something fairly random but a highlight of my week:  I received this note in my lunchbox from my son yesterday....

Wordless Wednesday ~ School Store

How is your school store run?

Sunshine Blogger Award!

A big thank you goes to Alison from Rockin' and Lovin' Learnin'  AND 
Angela at The Teacher's Desk 6 
for nominating me for this award!

This is my "Tried it" for Tried It Tuesday with Holly at The Fourth Grade Flipper because I have never tried anything like this before!  :)

The rules of the Sunshine Blogger Award are:
1.  Post 11 random facts about yourself.
2.  Answer the 11 questions asked by the blogger who nominated you.
3.  Nominate 11 other bloggers you think bring sunshine to the world.
4.  Make up 11 questions for your nominations to answer.  

My 11 random facts:
1.  I love Disney! I have an annual pass and go at least once a month!  (probably more because we also have DVC.)
2.  My favorite color is blue.
3.  I love traveling!  I've been to the former USSR, England, Spain, France, Italy, Mexico, Canada and I'm not done yet!
4.  I thought I wanted to be a teacher of the gifted but in college my friend told me she thought I had a gift for Special Education.  Turns out she was right!
5.  I can play the piano (not terribly well but I don't practice enough either.)
6.  I am trying to learn how to play acoustic guitar.
7.  I like to paint - not artwork, just the inside and outside of my house.  :)
8.  I've never broken a bone! (And I'm no couch potato but then again I'm no work-out/hiker/biker/runner queen either.)
9.  I love turtles and dogs (I have a Great Dane).
10.  I have been married for as long as I have been teaching.  August makes 20 years for both.  :)
11.  I have been on Teachers Pay Teachers since it began.  I even remember when it was sold and re-acquired.  

My 11 questions from Alison:
1) How long have you been teachin' and what is your absolute favorite grade to teach? (I know that's two questions, but they go together)

I will have been teaching for 20 years in August.  My favorite grade is 6th grade.

2) If you had an opportunity to change one county, state, or national law about teachin', would you change anything?
I think I would change all the laser focus on data and testing.  There's so much more to a person than just the numbers.

3) Have you ever thought about teachin' abroad?  If so, where?
When I first began teaching, I thought about teaching with the Department of Defense and going to where ever they sent me.  I actually applied because I have wanderlust and then turned it down to get my Masters.

4) If you could go on a shoppin' spree for one day and buy anything you wanted(money would be no object), what would you buy?
I would buy a new, bigger house.  I have it all picked out!

5) What is your favorite "me time" activity to do?

"Play" on my computer (blogging, making resources for my class)

6) What is one food that you could eat every single day and not get sick of?
Italian food or chocolate - but not together...

7) What is your all time favorite children's book title and why should I read this book?

When I'm Six, I'll Fix Anthony.  This is special to me because my Dad used to read it to me and we had some exceptional quality time with it.

8) What is one app or piece of technology that you could not live without?
I love my cell phone with internet and Siri.  I use it

9) If you were in charge of your school for one day, what would you plan for that day?
I would plan a big 'ol community building day.  

10) What made you decide to start bloggin'?  
Well I love playing on my computer and reading blogs, so I thought it looked like fun and a way to meet other teachers to get more ideas for my students!

11)  Where should I go on vacation and what should I do there?

Depends - in the USA or out?  In the USA - The Grand Canyon and nearby Flagstaff and Sedona.  It's all so absolutely breath-taking and it really grounds you.  Outside of the USA - Rome:  You must see the Colosseum and all the other ruins.  Plus the city has some great wine.  But watch out for pick-pockets - they got me on my last night.  :(

Now for my 11 questions from Angela:

1. Describe your teaching style.  My friends call me the "kum-by-yah" teacher.

2. What is your favorite non-teaching thing to do?  Go on vacation or to Disney!

3. If you could live anywhere in the world where would you live?  I'm not sure - but definitely somewhere warm.  Maybe on my own island.  

4. What are your three MOST favorite things? My husband and my 2 sons.

5. If you could change anything about the school year calendar what would you change?  I would change Spring Break - it needs to be AFTER state testing - kind of like a reward.  :)

6. If you were a color, what color would you be?  blue

7. Are you an introvert or an extrovert?  I think of myself as an introvert but my husband says I'm not.

8. What is your least favorite thing to do?  At school - grading papers!

9. What started you blogging?  It looked like fun and a great way to meet other teachers!

10. How did you choose your blog name?  I just decided to go with the best description of who I am and what I blog about.

11. Do you have a vice?  chocolate! (That's why I gave it up for Lent.)

My Nominations:  I would like to nominate the following blogs and bloggers for bringing sunshine into my life:

My 11 questions for them are:

1.  What inspires you?
2.  What is your best blogging tip?
3.  What is your best TpT product?
4.  What is your favorite book? (adult or not)
5.  How do you manage time to balance school, home, blogging and creating?
6.  What do you use to write lesson plans?  (Do you have a template?  A required form?  Will you please share? :)  )
7.  What is your best classroom organizational tip?
8.  What is your favorite technology to use with students?  
9.  Do you belong to any professional organizations?  Which ones?
10.  How do you individualize learning in your class?  (Or another way to say it is:  How do you handle the different ability levels in your class?)
11.  Do you use inquiry to teach Language Arts?  (I could use some ideas...)

Thanks so much for stopping by ~ I will be very excited to read all the answers to the questions!  :)

A Peek at My Week ~ 4/6/14 ~ Testing Countdown!

Yay!  It's time for a Peek at My Week which always help me organize my weekend thoughts that I get which require me to change my already "finished" lesson plans!

This is our last week before our state test.  So...

1.  We will get a Pep Talk from Kid President:

2.  Then we will sign the pledge:  I will do my best on the test!

This is from Head Over Heels for Teaching's Testing Goodies Pack!

3.  We will wrap up figurative language and decide what other skills we may need to brush up on.  I plan to do this by asking the kids to tell me what each of these are using "window paning" in a foldable.  The ones where no evidence of knowledge is shown will be the ones to focus on!

4.  Once that is decided, we will make some flashcards.  I made some already at - and you can too!  They can be used online and you can print them out.  I pre-made them so my kids can theoretically pick and choose which ones they need.  

5.  Last but not least, we will complete some stamina passages with state test like questions to record on our steps.

Get a copy of the stamina page HERE on Google Docs.

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

And that should do it ~fingers crossed for the week after this one!

You might also want to take a moment to check out this fundraiser for a fellow blogger who has two miracle boys that could use a little help.

Thanks for stopping by!

Five for Friday + a Winner!

I'm happy to join the fun with Doodle Bugs Teaching today!

This is week one of our countdown to state testing.  I showed a video clip from the movie Rocky and have built on the stair analogy all week.  

I even made a little "worksheet" where we will record the scores on the stamina building reading passages we have been working on.  We'll write each title and score on each step.  

Next is getting the room ready for the last 5 days with a great test prep kit I bought from Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching.

We've been working on figurative language this past week as this was one of the areas that showed up as a need on our benchmark test.  I ended up using Flocabulary to help review today.  The kids love it!

And last, but not least, I am very excited to announce the winner of the pdf version of my book Acing the Big Test!

The winner is.... Crystal N. !  

I have already sent your prize to your e-mail.  Enjoy!

Well I guess that about wraps it up!  Thanks for stopping by!

Tried it Tuesday ~ Publishing with Blurb

I am very happy to link up with Holly at Tried It Tuesday this week because I have recently tried something pretty cool (if I do say so myself).

What I have tried is using the online book publisher, Blurb.

You may have seen that I recently finished a big project of mine which was making a book out of an idea I had to get my students energized for our big state test.  I used Blurb to make this book.

First, I enjoyed the ability to download their program "Book Smart" onto my computer and manipulate & edit to my heart's content.   

Then, once my book was done, I could preview it and ensure that none of my content would be cut off.  Of course, my book was "done" and "previewed" about a 1000 times before I was ready to order!  

Finally, when I was ready to order, all I had to do was click "order book" and since I already had an account from downloading their program, it uploaded automatically to their website.  Once there, you can not only order copies in softcover or hardcover with color or black and white pages and/or in pdf or e-book format (I love all the choices and possibilities!), but set up to sell it on Blurb too!  What I especially love about this is the preview feature:

Now maybe some of you know how to do something fancy like this without the help of Blurb, but for someone like me this is awesome!

I found Blurb because my son made a book using this service in his classroom.  Not only did he love making and having his own book, but then grandparents can get their own copy from the site too!  And honestly, the quality of the softcover book is quite nice for a base price of $4.99 for a 20 page black and white 6x9 sized book.  What is a bit pricey is the shipping especially considering the amount of time they take to get the book to you.  But if you order several books - like one for each student in your class, then the shipping is more reasonable.  

All things considered, I am very satisfied with my Blurb experience and am excited about my new book!  You can enter to win a pdf copy of it here:

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for stopping by!