April 26, 2015

Goodness Inspires Goodness

So, this post is going to veer off into being personal for a minute, and I hope that's ok. 
I got engaged this week! At school! In front of my students! It was amazing.

My new fiancĂ© is an amazing man. He's smart, funny, and handsome...all of the obvious things. But he challenges me, and teaches me. And that is the number one thing that I love about him. (I know...awwww.) I will spare you all of the cheesiness. If you've ever loved someone, you get it. 

As I was saying, he teaches me things. He doesn't always know it, but he always challenges me and makes me think differently. This proposal was a great example of that. He was thoughtful enough to include my students, and it was completely transformative for them. I mean, I don't know how long this will last, but it is like love is literally in the air right now! I decided to harness their sweetness on Friday so I would have hard evidence that, even though it's the end of the year and we're all tired, they truly do care about our class. 

And that's where this post really begins. It's no secret...testing season is here. I feel like I've been saying that since January (oh wait...I have). But now it's REALLY here! The ELA test is this coming Friday! 

All of the warm fuzzies going around lately inspired me to create an encouragement project for TCAP week. I had already planned on writing each of them a nice note for them to read before the reading test, but I initially thought I would write a sweet poem and attach a piece of gum and it would be quick and easy. But Friday I changed my mind completely. 

I am in the process of writing each of them a personalized encouragement letter. I am writing about how much they have grown this year, what they are good at, how intelligent they are, etc. etc. I am trying to enlist parents to do the same for their child so the kids have a second letter to open on the second day of testing. And for the third and final day of testing...the kids have written each other letters!

Oh my gosh, you guys...the sweetness of these letters. Here are some of the best quotes:

"I am so glad that I got your name, because I could write about you all day. You are so smart and I hope you are not stressed about this test. You've got this!"

"You are going to do so great on this science test! Honestly, I think you should be a scientist when you grow up. You are so smart in class, and I know this will be a breeze for you."

"We are all cheering you on! Don't worry-just bring your smart brain to class and remember all of the strategies that our teachers gave us."

Needless to say, tears were flowing when I was reading this after school. I have never seen so many sweet words in one activity, and those are just excerpts from THREE of the letters! 
This is what I learned from my proposal...goodness inspires goodness. If we shower these little minds with kind words, and sweet gestures, they begin to model it. Just the way that we as teachers find ways to model everything from our handwriting to our thoughts while we are reading...when we model goodness, they begin to mimic. 

Have a wonderful week. :) 

April 20, 2015

Monday Made It-Study Groups

I am trying something new, and linking up with 4th Grade Frolics's Monday Made It! I am so excited to be joining in on the fun!!
As we know, testing season is upon us. I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that I resist the urge to just curl up in a back corner of my classroom for a nap during planning just about daily. We are BUSY PEOPLE RIGHT NOW. 
What I know I don't have time for  is reteaching every concept that I've already taught...ESPECIALLY when the foundation for the skill was given in previous grades. (As an ELA teacher, of course I'm talking about grammar. I mean, if you have a 4th grade class where every student can tell you the difference between a proper noun, possessive noun, and pronoun without batting an eye, I would like to personally shake your hand.)
Therefore, my Monday Made It was born. TCAP Study groups with fancy cards. 
First: I made the cards on my computer. 

Then: I copied them two sided so each page had space on the back for definitions and examples of each term. 

After that: Each student got their own set to cut, color, and fill in with all of their TCAP knowledge. 

Finally: I placed them in TCAP study groups to quiz each other. This has been the CUTEST. They created their own mini-competitions today. My study groups are mixed-ability and it has been equally engaging for my advanced learners, as well as my approaching-grade-level kiddos. 

To create these cards, I simply went through the list of 4th Grade Grammar TCAP SPIs, and created one card for each skill listed in the standards. After students finish centers every day (if they aren't in my group), they are expected to get in study groups and start quizzing. It has been an easy, effect, student-centered method to get the kids memorizing those pesky grammar skills that they always get confused.