Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Reading Challenges Throughout the School Year

It's no secret that I ❤️ LOVE ❤️  reading...I taught 6th grade Reading and Language for 4 years before moving to 5th grade.  I also have my K-12 Reading certification, although I don't know if I ever want to be out of the classroom!

That being said, I enjoy seeing my students grow as readers.  There is SO MUCH we can learn from books; when students lose themselves in a book OR they find themselves in a story, my heart gets a little hug.

There are a variety of ways I challenge my students through the school year to read, read, read.


My team read Donalyn Miller's Book Whisper and Reading in the Wild {affliate links} a few years ago.

I have also seen her speak numerous times and love all that she stands for!  Although our system is not perfect, we have tried to incorporate a 30 book challenge into the school year.  This has evolved and grown each year as we learn and adapt to our students' needs.  This year, I redid our book review response book to include more graphic organizers that get to the heart of the reading and skills students need (vs. having to write summaries all the time!)  We are also only introducing a few genres each trimester and having those as a focus for picture and chapter book read alouds; thus making sure students really grasp the traits each genre brings to the table.


I thoroughly enjoy "teaching the month" to my students; although they are big kids, they still love doing month activities, learning about the holidays, etc.  I play into this by offering a few reading challenges throughout the school year:

Winter and Spring Break

I created these to push my students to read just a bit more during extended breaks, as well as practice their writing.  My students this past year loved the spring break challenge I created, so I went ahead and made a winter break one as well!  The best part is that these are {editable} to meet the needs of your students!


Olympic Reading-Aiming for a Gold

I just love the Olympics and everything involved with them.  Being from Minnesota, I am inclined to watch the Winter Ones, as I just "get" sports done in the cold! ❄️❄️❄️❄️❄️

4 years ago my team, on a whim, decided to do a reading challenge in conjunction with the winter games.  This year, I compiled all that we did into an easy to use resource for you!  Included are some fun ideas to introduce and build excitement for your students including:

  • Running in to the Olympic Theme with a torch (made of butcher/tissue paper, of course)
  • Creating a stage for 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place readers or books
  • Making medals from washers and ribbon
  • "Training" for the event by having reading parties!
  • Etc.

I am excited to introduce this challenge to them come February (the games are Feb 9-25,) and not only push students to read more, but also sharing their favorite "Gold Medal Reads" with each other and really build up our reading community!

How do you encourage reading in your classroom?  I'd love to hear your ideas and add to my list of great reading resources!

Sunday, November 12, 2017

The Global Read Aloud

The Global Read Aloud is fairly new to me, this was my second year participating.  I love that I stumbled across this a few years ago and took the plunge last year, as the tagline says it all: One Book to Connect the World.  Any time we can get our students thinking outside of their personal bubble (5th graders are pretty self-centered....) is a win in my book!

Over 1 million kids participated in GRA this year; it has grown each year from its first year in 2010.  This project is the brainchild of Pernille Ripp, a teacher in Wisconsin, who had the simple idea of choosing a book (or now an author to study, or book based upon age level) that can connect kids and students across the world.  Connections are made by teachers through various platforms, whatever technology they have available to them!

As I mentioned, this year was only my second year participating in the GRS, reading the middle grades book The Wild Robot by Peter Brown.

My students LOVED this story.  They begged me to read each day, and loved seeing the simple grey scale drawings that went with the story (I displayed them on my SmartBoard.)

To introduce the book, our class had a Google Hangout Session with a school in New York.  Each teacher put a few things into a paper bag, and we shared them one by one to get students thinking about the story.

My bag contained foliage (leaves/grass,) a feather, a solar powered robot my son had (from 5Below) and the book wrapped in aluminum foil and plain brown paper. <--Get it?  Wild (brown paper) and Robot (Tinfoil)

The other teacher's bag contained a stuffed bear, a fire starter, and a piece of camouflage fabric.

I love introducing books to students in a fun way like this, as it builds anticipation and gets them thinking about the items included.  As we read, I often hear students saying "Oh, that's why she included....."

Throughout the 6 weeks the GRA occured, we met with our friends in NY a few times.  We asked each other questions about the story, responded to prompts through Padlet, and one time the other teacher and I took turns reading chapters aloud!  This meeting was particularly interesting, as we weren't sure the "voice" each was using for the main character and others in the story, but we were pretty close in each of our interpretations!

My students already convinced me to order the sequel, not out until March 2018....I am not sure yet if I am going to do a read aloud or book raffle for this once it arrives. {affiliate links}


A few of the takeaways I have from doing the GRA this year:

  • Set-up a "regular" time with your connection(s) to meet.  Of course, things always come up, but in the 6 weeks I think we met 4 times.  It would've been nice to try to meet once a week.
  • We used GoogleHangouts which was super easy to navigate and use...I have used Skype before too, but this seemed a little more user friendly.
  • Checkout platforms before having students connect and respond to each other.  My students have 1:1 iPads and this didn't work as well to post on Padlet as it did for the students in NY who had Chromebooks.
  • Amp it up and make it a BIG DEAL. The teacher's enthusiasm when reading or getting ready to read the story is contagious!
  • Look at the resources....this is meant to be a FREE and FUN way for students to connect.  Many teachers created activities to correlate with the books/author studies picked for the year. and posted them through the Edmodo site teachers get added to.  I didn't have time to sift through them all, but found some fun ways to incorporate the story into other curricular areas besides reading (think STEAM and code breaking.)
  • Your students may like the book more than you do; don't be quick to dismiss it....I almost didn't read this story because I "read" it this summer as an audio book.  I don't know if I wasn't focused enough or just thinking abut too much while listening, but I didn't LOVE the story.  My students, however, and their excitement of the story changed my attitude about the book....it may be a staple read aloud now in my classroom, for years to come.

To learn more about participation in the GRA or sign-up for updates and such, head to https://theglobalreadaloud.com/

Have you ever participated in The Global Read Aloud?  If not, go check it out!  If you have, do you have any tips for teachers who are just trying this amazing experience?

**This same post can be found at Conversations From the Classroom, a collaborative blog I am a part of.  Check it out for other great ideas for all grade levels and disciplines!**

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Leaving my bag at school (or in the car) is making me an Awesome Teacher!

Check out my blog post on Conversations From the Classroom and how I am off the struggle bus (see last post) and in happy teacher mode! :o)

Sunday, September 3, 2017

I am driving the struggle bus....

I am entering my 6th year teaching 5th grade, and my 10th year total.  That's 10 "first day of school"s and I don't think I have ever been this reluctant to go back.

It's not just that summer is ending, or the days getting shorter.  This doesn't stem from coming to the realization that I have a 1st grader, or that our lazy days together and excursions are done for the next 9 months.

No, this is something more, something deeper, and I just cant's shake it.  I am not excited for school to start.

Before I go further, let me state clearly that my feelings are in NO WAY a reflection on my students (the kids) or their families.  I actually met 21/25 kiddos during assessments/open house activities last week and they couldn't be kinder, sweeter, cuter, etc.

I have tried to wrap my head around this feeling I have and I can't pinpoint or figure out what is causing this deep rooted sadness and anxiety about starting in a few short days.

There are changes in my grade level and building, again.  It seems like every time something "clicks" then a change occurs and it's back to square one.  This isn't the first time a change has happened, but there are just so many that have occurred this year that I am feeling overwhelmed trying to adjust or take it all in.  I really am trying to go with the flow and put on a smile, but it's eating away at me.

Overworked doesn't even begin to describe how I feel.  My list keeps getting longer and longer of things to complete, and it seems nothing ever gets checked off.  I even tried to get rid of some responsibilities this year, and no one else would take on the tasks.  I know I need to learn to say "no" and step back, and I am trying so hard to follow through on this...Worse yet is I don't want to do many of the things/tasks, so I procrastinate until the last moment and then feel bad that it's not my most quality work or effort.

Comparing myself to others is at an all time high, putting me personally at an all time low.  I've actually taken a step back from Instagram and Facebook the past week because it was making me so anxious about my own classroom and shortcomings.  As much as I know that what people put on social media is their best and filtered self, I have still let that eat away at me and my psyche.  I am feeling like I can't compare and that my ideas and thoughts of how to teach these kids and excite them about learning are dumb, unworthy of a second glance, not appreciated, etc.

Even now, as I hack away at this post, I want to cry.  Just get into bed and let the tears roll.  I don't want to go back Tuesday.  I need more time.  I need help and support.  I need something to get me through this funk.

I thought that writing this all down and "talking" through my feelings would help me, but I think I actually feel worse...here's to hoping I can figure this out in the next 35 hours or so until that bell rings.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

August Right Here, Right Now Link-Up!

I am part of an awesome group that blogs over at Conversations From the Classroom. On the blog, Susan asked what everyone was up to in her "Right Here, Right Now" post...below is mine as well as the template for you to create you own and link-up to the blog or IG by tagging @conversationsfromtheclassroom

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Last week of #SunSandAndSavings {Giveaway}

Can you believe that July is <almost> over????
This is the last week of deals and giveaway for #SunSandAndSavings!

Did you score any great deals on TpT during the sales? 

Below are the Rafflecoptors for this week...The more times you enter, the more items you complete, the better chance you have to win!  If you are already following someone, you can indicate that by typing "already following" :o)

5 Winners for EACH of these cards will be chosen!

a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, July 21, 2017

Giveaway week 3!

Week 3 of of the Sun, Sand, and Savings Giveaway is here!  Complete as many entries as you want on the Rafflecoptors to be entered to win a Target, Coach, or TpT gift card!

Don't forget to check back next week for more product deals-$1 Monday, Discount Tuesday, Bundle Wednesday, and $2 Thursday, as well as the last gift card giveaway of the month!

Good luck!

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Thursday, July 13, 2017

Sand, Summer, and Savings Week 2 {Giveaway}

Are you ready for week 2?  This week, the teachers I have teamed with are giving away TpT gift cards, Vera Bradley gift cards, and Oriental Trading gift cards....I don't know which one I would want to win <if I was eligible> because I want them all?

Good luck!  Remember, the Rafflecopters open Friday the 14th at 12AM and close midnight Sunday the 16th.  The more things you do, the more chances to win!  If you are already following someone's store, IG, FB, etc., feel free to type ALREADY FOLLOWING into the comment section.

What Kind-of Teaching Teammate Are You?

I blogged over at Conversations From the Classroom about being a good teammate and trying to avoid toxicity on your team.  Check it out by clicking the picture or click here.

What would you add to my list or the conversation?  I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments either below or on CFTC.

Thursday, July 6, 2017

Sand, Summer, and Savings Week 1! {GIVEAWAY!!!}

I have had so much fun connecting with other educators for a week of savings and deals!  We also have a giveaway happening; check out the Rafflecopters below for your chance to win a TpT, Amazon, or Staples gift card!  There are 5 of each gift card available--you have 15 chances to win!!

As educators, we have to support one another in all that we do and this is our way of saying "Thanks!"

The giveaway runs Friday, Saturday, and Sunday--Don't miss out :)

1 of 5 TpT gift cards:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

1of 5 Amazon gift cards:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

1 of 5 Staples gift cards:
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good luck!

Check back next week (and all of July!) for more deals and more giveaways!

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

Yes, only day 3 of break and I already was working on my classroom/lesson plans...

You read that title right, Day 3 of break and I was already creating items and working on plans to be used in my classroom this fall!

I am not one that can turn my "teacher brain" off during break....read my post on Conversations from the Classroom about that topic.

So, as the saying goes, "If you can't beat them, join them."  So I have embraced the time to be able to create for my classroom and focus on being the best teacher I can be for my classroom.

I have created 3 products for my room, so far....all are on TpT and the photos are linked to take you to my store, if you want to know more. :o)

1) Question of the Day Poster and Activity

I am so excited to work on building some classroom community, 
without going over-the-top with it.

Disclaimer: I am not a "huggy" teacher or touchy-feely person.  I teach 5th graders and we will fist bump at the end of the day, if they have a rough day I might side-hug them, but I am not sure I could handle ankle-biters little kiddos hugging me all the time.  My son (6yo) currently likes to walk right.next.to.me and wrap his hand around my waist, which is really just resting on my derriere.  I am trying to break him of this habit real quick.

My coworker actually had a hand-made poster like this posted in her room, after trying to think of a way to have a "morning meeting" with our very limited 5 minutes (student some in and then 5th graders go to specialists almost right away!)  She wanted to check-in with students, learn something about them, and get a general overview of who was in class that day (besides lunch count.) This idea blossomed and bloomed through discussion, and this poster/activity was born!

2) Book Bin Labels

I also have been always wanting to create more labels and a "uniform" format for the organization in my classroom, and so on day 4 and 5 of break, I created number labels for my students' book bins.  I am also working on labels for my library, as I have an extensive one (over 1200 books) sorted by genre.  The system I have works, but needs a facelift, so watch for those to be coming soon...
**EDIT, I created Library Genre Labels today!

I am IN LOVE with the way these turned out and cannot wait to get them printed and on my library book bins!

3) Multiplication Number Line

I think this is my favorite thing I created this week!  I am so excited to use this number line with my class to reinforce their math facts, as well as divisibility rules.  I am actually moving rooms this year, and the teacher who was in there before taught 2nd grade.  She had a number line up, and I just kept thinking, "How can I make a number line that works for upper elementary students?!"  BOOM!

Watch for more to come soon....I have a list a mile long of things I want to create to increase student engagement, up the rigor and differentiation, help with my classroom organization, etc.


**Note, I only create items and sell them on TpT if I am going to use them in my own classroom.  I just read a blog post {that irked me} where the writer was belittling teacher-authors on TeachersPayTeachers because they are selling items that should be shared freely, in his opinion.  I work really hard on the items I create, as I use them with my own students.  If my creativity and skills can be used by another teacher to make their teacher-life a bit easier, why not?**

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Heading into April...The Countdown Begins!

I am officially on Spring Break---whoop, whoop!  If you read my previous post, you know how crazy the last few weeks have been.  So, this break is much deserved!

So, the past few days I haven't been thinking about school at all {insert big eye roll here.}  Of course I have been planning out the month of April....and May too!  We did a countdown on Friday before leaving and we officially have 44 1/2 days of school left.

We come back to school and 3 days later start state testing...so needless to say, I want to make this month fun and as stress-free for my students, while also continuing to teach them all they need to know before leaving 5th grade.

How am I going to do this?  Well, to start out a local company is sponsoring an Arbor Day tree planting project.  20+ students form 5th grade are going to get bussed to a local park to help plan trees.  When they get back, the Zoomobile will be stopping by to talk to the entire 5th grade about some local animals and how to help them and their habitats.

My team had a hard decision ahead of us--how were we going to pick the students to go on the field trip?  We pulled together and thought of a Magazine Writing Project (PBL, yeah!)  Students are going to work in groups to create/write a magazine about conservation, Arbor Day, Earth Day, etc.  The students who create the best magazine from each classroom will get to go plant some trees!  We have a low-level, high-interest magazine from our book room to use with students as an example of what to create, as well as practicing labeling parts of a non-fiction text.  This project hits on standards in: science, social studies, writing, reading, etc. WIN-WIN!

Additionally, we just wrapped up our big City of Ember grade-level read aloud, so we needed another book to read.  I put a call out on Facebook and someone suggested Jean Craighead George's book: There's an Owl in the Shower.  I breezed through this book in one day, and decided it was the perfect fit!  It deals with conservation, is a quick/engaging read, and by an author many students know.  We looked at books too, but none seemed to fit:Hoot (too long,) When Eagles Fall (alcohol consumption by a minor,) Touching Spirit Bear (graphic scenes.)

So, naturally, I can't just leave this as a read aloud....I had to create some activities to go with it to draw students in even more!  You can find this for $3 on TpT:

Besides the Magazine PBL/Arbor Day Event, Owl in the Shower, state testing (in science, reading, and math,) my classroom also has the following things going on in April:
  • A mystery skype
  • Limo Lunch for students who fundraised A LOT for our yearly camping trip
  • Key Ceremony Lunch--a classroom management tool I use from Elementary Shenanigans
  • Finish up our Tournament of Books--Final Four are Holes vs The False Prince and Deep, Dark and Dangerous vs Pax (the Global read aloud book)
  • Counselor Lesson
  • Earth Day "stuff"--haven't quite planned it out!
  • Social Studies lessons on JA Biz Town to prepare for our May 3rd Field Trip, including applying for jobs and holding elections!
  • School wide Read-A-Thon
Whew--again, April will be a whirlwind month!  But, I can't forget to complete our monthly synonym/antonym activity...I change these out [roughly] monthly on the clothesline I have in our room.  I think they are a great reminder of word choice to use in writing!

April 6th is also my 5th graders 1000th (or so!) day of school...So we are going to celebrate by writing about what they would do with $1000 {FREEBIE}and list of 1000 words they know {$1}!

And of course, I sent students off with their Spring Break Reading/Writing Challenge, and already have their #SnapshotsOfSpringBreak printed for when they get back April 3rd!

How is your April going to be spent?! We'll just call mine "organized chaos." :o)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Placing students in the classroom....post at CFTC

Yesterday I blogged over at Conversations From the Classroom, check it out by clicking the link below and let me know your thoughts about student placement :o)

Friday, March 10, 2017

March and Spring...the busiest few weeks!

We are one+ week into March and already my head is spinning!

I sent my colleagues a list of March dates last week for our 5th graders, and just typing it out put me on edge....they/we are SO BUSY!  I was trying to keep our support people informed, but I just gave myself anxiety instead! :o)

To recap just this past week and a half since March started:
Scholastic Book Fair
Conferences with an early release (which means we were working on self-reflection and conference forms)
Read Across America Day
Comfy/Cozy Day in 5th grade and reading time all Reading/Language Block (<--The kids loved this time!)
Conference day 2
All-school assembly with a "Dress Your Best" day
Red, White and Blue dress-up day
End of trimester (GRADES!)
Trimester party

This next week we have:
Various rehearsals for our music concert
10-book trimester challenge party
History Comes to Life Presentation (Charles Shultz)

The following week (last week before BREAK, finally!):
More rehearsals, including an African Drumming Resident coming to teach the students
All school performance and night parent performance
Finishing The City of Ember novel study and watching the movie to compare
1st Grade Buddies

...and when we get back from break state testing starts, we start our month-long social studies unit on economy/citizenship, we have an Arbor Day project to complete, etc.

Are you still with me...or did you close the window just as I close my planner when I start to get overwhelmed?!?!

To keep things fun, especially after spring break with the dreaded T word, as well as make sure they are prepared for testing, I created 2 new resources for the classroom!  I am pumped about both of them, as I know my 5th graders are going to rise to the challenge and create some amazing things!

1) Spring Break Challenge-a reading and writing activity
My students loved when I sent them to winter break with More than a Worksheet's {FREE} reading challenge so I wanted to create something that mimicked that, but then took it a step further!  I added writing challenges as well, to really keep them thinking about literacy as a whole over the break.  Because I know all classrooms are a bit different, and things vary from grade-to-grade, I created an editable version for teachers, and included a reward certificate, reward coupon, and brag tags. Click the image to be taken to TpT.

2) Spring Break Snapshots
After break, I wanted students to reflect on their break and be able to share some of the fun things they did, so I created this activity.  My students LOVE all things photos and hashtags, so I know this will be a hit!  The picture will take you to the product on TpT.

And because it is March, of course we are working on St. Patrick's Day items and inviting a bit of the Irish into our classroom with activities like those below.  My students enjoy doing monthly themed activities, just as the younger kids do!  Because St. Patty's day is my favorite, you better believe it will be celebrated in style!

How do you deal with those busy months/times in the classroom?  I am going to embrace it--to the best of my ability--and smiling through the {controlled} chaos that it is. 

Monday, January 16, 2017

No TpT in Anaheim for me....

I am starting to see all these posts on FB and IG about heading to the TpT conference in Anaheim in July, and as much as I want to go, there is simply no way to swing it.

I know there are a bunch of great TpT author's in MN (or close by) who are feeling me on this front...so I thought I would try to plan a meet-up!  I posted this on Instagram...

If you're interested, make sure you DM me through Instagram or email me at drazsclass@gmail.com.  I will send you a Google form to gather a bit more information and start planning!

I am already getting excited!

Sunday, January 1, 2017

New Year, New Beginnings!

What a year 2016 has been....many downs, but many more ups--too many to list here!

Looking forward into 2017, I have a few new endeavorers/resolutions I am diving into head first!

1) I joined a collaborative blog!  The button is to the right --->
I am looking forward to gathering ideas and contributing to Conversations from the Classroom, a blog that is meant to be just that, a conversation!  It's a place where teachers are working together to make each a better teacher, learning from each other, and asking questions to improve their craft.  Please join us as often as you can!  I will be writing a post on the 13th of each month, but we have posts EVERYDAY that span PreK-7th grade and a variety of areas (classroom teacher, Speech, Gifted an Talented, Media, etc.)

2) Learner's Edge, stepping back
I LOVE the professional development I have received from being an instructor for Learner's Edge, but the time demands have taken a toll on me.  I am going to be a substitute now, filling in days here and there when needed.  I still get the PD I love, and the extra bit of income, but in smaller doses :o)

3) Bullet Journal, organization and time management
I have seen Bullet Journals floating around Instagram for awhile and thought I would give it a try.  I want to be more organized and manage my time better, so I have more time available for my husband and 5 1/2 y.o.    I found this cute notebook at the dollar store to get me started, and what better day to start than January 1st?!

4) TPT and Hand Lettering?
I love creating resources to use in my classroom, and then sharing those with others.  So, not a new endeavor, but rather a continuation goal to create more!  I also LOVE the hand lettering stuff I have seen on IG and around FB, and want to learn how to do it!  I am going to get Hand Lettering 101 with a gift card I received for Christmas and dive right in!

That's a snapshot of my 2017 goals and where I am headed.  What about you?
Happy 2017!