Friday, January 24, 2014

My Fourth Grade Homework Routine

One of the most frequent comments/questions I get from my readers is about my homework routine.  

My thoughts and feelings on homework have evolved over the years. During the course of my career, I have done weekly homework, packets, and nightly homework.  There are many sides to the homework debate.  Many agree it isn't effective or beneficial, and some argue that does have merit. 

I fall somewhere in the middle. I believe that homework can promote responsibility and study habits.  I also believe that what if I'm asking my students to work hard at home, what I send home should have merit and should be beneficial. The text that you read below is an update (8/7/19) with my current homework routine. 

My students main responsibility for their homework is studying and preparing for our weekly spelling test.  To promote my students learning study skills/habits, I have my students take a pretest to know which words they will need to spend extra time with.  Our list is a district mandated list from our reading curriculum. 

For the first few weeks of school, I give the pretest in class.  The students then choose spelling activities from our monthly spelling contract to help them study.  You can find the monthly spelling contracts file {here}

Below is our classroom guideline for our spelling contract.

  • 1-2 words missed- Earn five points 
  • 3-5 words missed- Earn fifteen points 
  • 6+ words missed- Complete a five point activity nightly/daily.
We also teach the students to use cover, copy, compare to give their own pretest, in case they aren't able to have someone at home to give him/her a pretest. I also utilize high school helpers for pretests as well. 

You can even implement this pretest idea in your classroom for word work! The number of words missed determines how many points your students will need to earn throughout the week.  The directions are editable, so can come up with a routine that best meets your classroom needs. 

Some weeks, but not all weeks, I may include a reading sheet. Typically these reading sheets practice our weekly skill.  Below is an example of a week that studied theme.  Most students received the "Amusement Park" passage, and my enrichment/gifted students received the "Getting Away With It" passage. 
I mainly include a passage here and there for for students to independently practice written responses, going back into the text for the answer, and to give parents a peek at what we are learning in class. 

Typically, homework goes home on Friday and is due the following Friday.  I also encourage my students to read at home, but do not require a reading log. The title of any books that they have read go on their 40 Book Challenge Log. 

This sums up my CURRENT homework routine, however, I have left the original post from 1/24/14 below, as many pins direct to this post... 
My kiddos are expected to read 60 minutes a week.  Packets originally went home on Monday and were due Friday, so this was twenty minutes a night.  A lot of families wanted the spelling homework/words available so they could start studying over the weekend.  Packets now go home on Friday and are due the following Friday.  Some of my kids also work towards their reading minutes on the weekend too. Most of my kids LOVE reading so it's not uncommon to see reading log minutes in excess of one hundred or two hundred minutes. :) 

The next two pages have to do with their spelling homework.  I'm not in love with our spelling program but it comes with our basal and we are required to use it.  The kiddos earn ten points from my monthly spelling contracts each week and also complete a word sort page with their spelling words. 

The last two pages are response questions for their at home reading that week. 

My students choose four questions each week, they can't repeat questions, to answer on the recording page each week.   It's a great way to get even more practice responding to the texts they read! Currently, I use this file as a reading response activity in class.

I look over the homework on Friday afternoons before I head home.  It's worked out great because we don't loose any additional class checking homework together each day and the additional practice at home with our spelling words and reading have really benefited my students.  

If you are interested in the reading response sheet that I use with my students, I have added it to my Reading Response Questions for Practically any book freebie. 

I just gave the entire file a facelift! I originally blogged about how I use this resource {here}.  To download, just click on the image above or {here}

Happy weekend, friends! I'm off to cuddle with my puppies. It's so cold here in Ohio! 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Similes and Metaphor Activities on Tpt and a Freebie for You

One of the things my sweet fourth graders have struggled with this year are similes and metaphors.  Most time they can tell me the meaning of them in their context, which is great because that's what L 4.5a requires, however they have often have no idea what which is which on test questions or in their own reading. 

We've gotten better as the year has gone on BUT we still needed more practice.  I had a little spare time this week, since we were off school yesterday and had a snow day today, to develop some hands on activities to use with my kiddos the next time similes and metaphors come up again. 

So let's take a little sneak peak at what is included.  

Inside the preview is something special for you. :) Can you guess what it is? :) 

The pack is on sale through tomorrow and you can head to my TpT store by clicking {here} or by clicking on any of the pictures above. :) 

A few Instagram followers have asked me about my homework routine, so hopefully I'll have a post ready for you about that this weekend. :)

Have a great night and an awesome day tomorrow!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

A Day Our Way Link Up

Happy Saturday! I hope that all of you have a little extra time for some R&R this weekend. :) We have Monday off and I'm excited to have a little bit more time to relax this weekend, even if the snow ruined my plans to hang out with some of my dear blogging friends.  

A question I commonly get asked since I shared that I am using the Daily Five literacy model in my class is how I schedule it.  It wasn't easy to come up with a schedule but luckily I have a coworker who loves doing that sort of thing and we have found a plan that works for us.  I have four groups and meet with three out of the four each day. I think that's the beauty of the Daily Five.  It's so adaptable! 

To answer some of those questions and to collaborate with others in the blogging community, I'm linking up with a fellow Buckeye, Amelia, today for her A Day Our Way Linky.  :)  

I spent some time last night looking through all the other entries,  and I got a lot of great ideas! Fabulous idea, Amelia. :) 

I teach ELA, reading and language/grammar, to two classes.  I keep my homeroom until after lunch and my afternoon class until dismissal. 

My students start arriving at 9:25. Until 9:45, we conduct our morning business.  Since so many of my students participate in our school's breakfast program, I do not do any type of formal morning work.  My students come in, vote for their lunch count on the Smartboard, fill out their planners for my class, return their classroom library books, read, or write in their journals.  They really value this amount of choice and I typically have no problem with behavior during this time.  Our school announcements also are shown on the TV at this time. 

At 9:45, we go to specials and I have my plan period.  First period plan takes some getting used to but I really like it! Especially on the mornings where you have other meetings.  

At 10:25, I pick up my students and we go back to our room.  Then most students do fluency tubs while I work with a group of students on cloze reading passages.  You can read more about my fluency tubs {here}.  My students love this time of the day, they love playing games! It's made a huge difference in their Dibels and Daze scores too! 

At 10:40, some of my students leave for Title One reading or Junior Great Books, an enrichment program.  During this time, I start to pull my first guided reading group.  This time is a little longer than the other groups, which works out great.  For the first ten minutes, I do fluency checks or reading conferences.  Sometimes we do a Text Detective sheet together OR we just have a longer group time. 

I often start off with a little vocabulary activity for the vocabulary/language activity we are working on.  Then we work on our comprehension skills/strategies.  Our district uses a 2008 version of Treasures.  Often we read part of the weekly story, use the leveled readers, or work with a passage from Storyworks.  We have to supplement a lot. I don't mind as I really enjoy being creative and have wonderful bloggy friends who have helped me out tremendously.  

At 11:10, all my students come back and I do a ten minute mini lesson on one of the skills we are working on.  This is very much a work in progress.  Sometimes we read a short passage and practice our comprehension skill or a game related to our vocabulary strategy of the week.  It varies. Some days, like on Mondays, I combine the two together to introduce our weekly vocabulary works and make an anchor chart for our comprehension skill.  
As the week goes on, I plan what I do with my mini lessons based on misconceptions I see in small groups or on formative assessments I give.  

At 11:20, we typically have our second rotation of the Daily Five.  

I try the best I can to differentiate these group lessons as much as possible, especially if it's the second time we've worked with the skill.  Sometimes a lot of groups need more concrete practice, so we often do a lot of task cards.  While some groups are ready to apply the skill with another text.  I also use their Descartes reports from our MAP tests to help plan as well. 

At 11:40, we have another mini lesson if I didn't combine them.  For vocabulary/language, I download a lot of free little games from Smarttech Exchange.  Typically we will have a mini lesson on vocabulary and a mini lesson on comprehension if they aren't combined. 

At 11:50, I see my last group of the day. Typically this is one of my higher groups.  I spend most of time working with them, trying my best to enrich them, and then spend time explaining their extension project of the week the first time I meet with them.  These projects are completed during the rotation times where they don't meet with me. 

Often these are journal prompts or response menus about a text we read that week from my sweet friend, Amanda.  They often work on Jen Jones, Hello Literacy, Shades of Meaning Center as well.  As the year has gone on, and most students are aware of our expectations, and I am introducing these activities to my other groups as well. :)

At 12:15, we clean up and begin writing.  We use the Being a Writer program.  I do supplement a bit with units on TpT, especially when it comes to organizing their writing.  I usually begin with a mini lesson and then giving the kiddos time to work on their pieces while I try my best to conference with some of them.  

At 12:45, we start to get ready for the recess and lunch.  If we have time, we pack up our book bags too.  We have recess before lunch at my school this year and I love it! This way, I am not dealing with all kinds of recess drama when I pick them up from lunch.  It's great!

After lunch, we head upstairs and my partner teacher and I switch classes and my day starts all over again.  The only real change then is that I haven't quite found the ten minutes to do fluency tubs with them.  Ideally, this is right after we switch classes but most of time after the kiddos are done unpacking, telling me about any dismissal changes, etc., we only have five minutes until many of them leave.  It's my goal in this second half of the year to really find the time to do it! They do make such a difference. Many of the kiddos in my morning class saw gains of 20+ words per minute in their Dibels scores. 

My schedule isn't perfect, but works for us. Somedays, our groups run over a few minutes, so writing starts a little later, but that's okay. I love teaching reading this way this year.  I've seen huge growths in a lot of my kiddos and I feel that I know them as readers in a much more personal way.  Sometime soon, I'll share how we do Word Work, Work on Writing, and Read to Self, the tasks my students complete when they aren't working with me, in my room.  

Thanks, Amelia for a great link up! Have a great weekend, friends!

Saturday, January 11, 2014

Five for Friday: January 10th 
Hi, friends! I am so happy to be linking up with Doodle Bugs this week for Five for Friday.  One of my goals for myself this year was to blog more.  I love blogging.  I love sharing ideas with other teachers, collaborating with you all, and I feel it makes me a better teacher.  Blogging has helped me become so much more reflective as a teacher, and I feel that my instruction has been so much more effective and purposeful since I started blogging two years ago.  Holy Cow, I'm just processing that for a minute...two years. :)  

Our week started off with two cold days.  The windchill had temperatures in the -25 range.  Now it is raining and it's 51 degrees outside.  #thatsohioforya

Even though we started the week a few days late, we were extremely busy this week.  With a few reminders, we jumped right back into our Daily Five routine.  For that I am extremely grateful.  We did a chapter book study for two weeks before break and it was awful.  I mean the book itself was good, but the disruption in routine really did a number on my kiddos.  When I announced Daily Five was back in action on Wednesday they all cheered. :) 

Rather than tweaking my plans, I just started my plans for Monday on Wednesday.  
We are hitting prefixes and suffixes hardcore over the next few weeks.  So I tried to do a fun game or activity with them before starting reading groups this week.  On Wednesday, we played a fun prefix/suffix decoding game from Deana's Read Like a Champion Pack.  Even though my kiddos are bigger, they still love fun games like this.  Every week, I try to do a Find the Evidence sheet from my friend Jenny's Text Detectives Pack for January.  My kiddos love them.  The passages are highly engaging and it's a great concrete way to reinforce the fact we need to use the text whenever we answer questions about the text, even "right there" questions.  Our main story this week was My Brother Martin from our reading series.  In our small groups, my students read about Coretta Scott King or Harriet Tubman, which they loved.  We also broke the ice and did my Winter Break Find Somebody Who sheet and my teaching partner did my Snow Day Find Somebody Who.  Fourth graders are very social and love any opportunity to socialize with their peers.

Thursday was another busy day in language arts.  Each group started with another activity from Deana's pack.  They matched up works with prefixes with their meaning.  Most groups finished reading their biographies on Coretta Scott King or Harriet Tubman and we started working on non fiction sharing boards, which are available from Laura Candler here.  I tweaked what we did in each box a little bit, but it was a great way to practice lots of informational text standards!  Some of us started working on the outlines for their fictional narratives and some of us finished up the story lines we planned on using for our fictional narratives  The organizer seen above is from Third Grade Doodles.  We also watched the video of the book Martin's Big Words.  After we watched the video, we did some shared research by taking notes on what we learned about Martin Luther King.  


Friday kept us busy as well.  Since we didn't give a spelling test this week, we used the extra time we had to watch and discuss the Brain Pop video on Martin Luther King.  It's a free one in their library,  and you can find it here.  We also read My Brother Martin together and took notes on what we learned about Martin Luther King together.  On Monday, I will print off the notes and my students will use them to write short essays on Martin Luther King.  Hello, RI 4.9. :)  My afternoon class needed a little inspiration/break in the middle of the day, so we watched this Kid President video.  My kiddos love Kid President, and so do I! It was the prefect mid afternoon pick me up.  Most groups finished up their non fiction sharing boards.  I was SO IMPRESSED with their work.  They did a great job using the text to support their answers and their answers were AWESOME.  It was hard to find an example because the paper we used was darker, but I was super impressed with this gal, who is actually in one of my lower reading groups. :)

This year I want to take better care of myself.  I got frequent migraines due to stress last semester, so I am taking a semester pause from graduate school.  Even though I've only been back to work for a few days, it has already made a huge difference.  Classes will be there in the summer, and I'm loving the extra time to spend with my little family and being able to be creative again in the classroom.  It makes a huge difference.  When you are excited about what you're doing in the classroom, so are your kiddos. :)  

I've had more time to cook dinner at home, which I've loved.  I've focused on eating more whole/natural foods this year and I've loved it.  I've had more energy and I just feel better. 

Though this picture makes the former food blogger in my shutter, this chicken sausage jambalaya from one of my favorite cookbooks, was a hit this week!


Since winter break is over, I am back to writing lists and making routines to keep my sanity.  

While parts of me hates that I'm tied to lists/routines, part of me knows that without them, I'd be doing laundry and cleaning my house all weekend.  Or being left to my own devices while shopping and buying all kinds of things I want but don't need. :) 

I'm off to savor one last cup of coffee before tackling that closet and making my grocery list for the upcoming week.  I've finally been struck with some creative inspiration for some new resources and I can't wait to share them with you. :) Happy weekend!

Monday, January 6, 2014

Snow Day Find Somebody Who Freebie

Please don't hate me, but I haven't gone back to school yet. :)  We had a longer break to begin with, but extremely cold temps have caused school to be cancelled the last two days. 

It was great to relax today and really tackle all my teacher to dos that I didn't quite get to over break.  I even got to make a delicious healthy and dinner tonight. We had Low-Carb Spaghetti Squash and Meatballs from Iowa Girl Eats and it was amazing. :)I even got to work on a freebie for y'all.

I love to do Find Somebody Who activities in my classroom, especially when we go back to school from a long break.  They are perfect for getting my kiddos moving and interacting. :) Last year we did my Winter Break Find Somebody Who, which you can find in here

Since a lot of you went back last week and have had school cancelled this week due to snow and/or frigidly cold weather, I revised the winter break version to make a snow day one. :)
Just click the image or {here} to download! :) 

Have a great Wednesday.

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

One for Me in 2014

Hi friends! Remember me?  I've said it a million times this year but my goodness, the 2013-2014 school year has been crazy!  Tonight I'm linking up with Tara for her One for Me Linky. :) 

There are so many things about this school year that have been wonderful.  I'm only teaching ELA this year, which I love.  I share students with a wonderful teacher who has become a good friend.  My husband and I have developed friendships with our neighbors and spend a lot of time hanging out them.  

However, the first half of the 2013-2014 school year has also been busy and stressful.  New evaluation systems, transitioning to the Common Core, graduate school, and being a wife, daughter, dog mom, and friend took a toll on me.  I got frequent migraines, almost weekly, was constantly exhausted, and ate very unhealthy. Essentially, I stopped taking care of myself.  

I stepped on the scale today, and well obviously, I didn't like what I saw.  At all.  

My one goal for me this year is to take better care of me.  Once upon a time, I ran frequently, ate healthy, and had a beautiful cute wardrobe that now resides in my basement.  

I've joined MyFitnessPal, my name there is fourthnten, and am committed to take care of myself by eating healthy and being active.  While  
I don't quite have the time I did a few years ago to go run 8 miles after work, I do have time to take my dogs on walks or run a few miles.  I also love to cook, and really look forward to cooking healthy meals again.  

I also decided to not take a break from graduate school this semester.  It will be nice to have a little bit more time on my hands.  Which will hopefully lead to more blogging and creating, which I love and miss so very much. 

Thanks, Tara for a GREAT link up!  I'm so blessed to have a great friend like her. :) 

Happy New Year, Friends! May 2014 be great for all of us. :)
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...