Saturday, September 3, 2016

Hosting a Book Tasting

Kate and I follow a lot of blogs. We LOVE learning from others! And when we started seeing this activity pop up on a few of our favorites, we knew we HAD to try it out! And, boy are we glad we did! The first one we read was TEACHING WITH A MOUNTAIN VIEW. If you don't follow SHOULD! She's amazing! This activity was a PERFECT way to launch our Reading Workshop this year! We will definitely repeat this one probably mid and end year! We ran ours a little bit differently than Mary did, but you really have to work with what you have and what your needs are! So, here's the deal:

The premise is that you are "hosting" a "book tasting" for your kids. Kids will get to "taste" or sample different books from different genres. They reflect on what they liked and didn't like in their "menu." They were given opportunities to read, write, and discuss their "tastes." From this activity, we launched our Reading Workshop with a fantastic discussion about "Who are you as a reader?" Our next step will be to set some goals (but we didn't get that far yet). 

We really played this up and welcomed them to the "TEAM TOGETHERNESS Restaurant!" in the hallway by handing them their menus before they even walked through the door. I even wore a paper chef hat and apron (thank you to my kindergarten friends with their endless dress up materials) Check out this incredibly unflattering picture Kate snapped of me. The kids really thought I was crazy...remember...we did this on the 2nd day of school! :) Thankfully, we have looped with this class up to 5th grade, so they all already know that we have a flare for the "dramatic" and are never afraid to make fools out of ourselves!

After this, I explained the process. They were going to experience a "5 course meal" of books! Each course would be a different genre. I went over the menu, the timing, and put them into random groups of 10 (we have 50 kids). Then, we got started!

We completed all 5 rotations in about an hour. I gave each "course" about 10 minutes. Those 10 minutes included:

  • 5 minutes of pure stamina reading
  • 2 minutes of jotting down their thinking in their "menu"
  • 2-3 minutes for discussion and clean up to move to the next rotation

At the end of the "meal", kids wrote down their "must reads" on a bookmark to keep. Then we followed up the activity with our lesson of "Who are you as a reader?" The discussion was absolutely amazing!

Have we piqued your interest? Are you ready to try it yourself? Here is what you need to do!
1. Purchase THIS RESOURCE from "Head Over Heels for Teaching"! It is worth it! Everything you need to print out is in it! She also has lots of pictures and examples! She even provides multiple options, so you can pick what you like! Print the resources from here that you want! We used the teaser posters, the "menu", the table numbers, the place mats, the bookmarks, and the genre descriptors.

2. Head to your local dollar store. I purchased 5 table clothes, 5 plastic platters, and sets of battery operated tea lights

3. Decide on what genres you want your kids to "taste"--the resources has LOTS! We used her posters as mini anchor charts and hung them in our room. We ultimately only had time for 5, but you could always do more. We chose: Realistic Fiction, Fantasy, Biography, Mystery, and Historical Fiction for our "tasting". Collect enough books for each table. We had 10 kids per group, so I made sure to pull 10-12 books per genre. We are fortunate to have a fantastic classroom library, so almost all of our books were from there. I pulled a few copies from the school library of titles I have "lost" over the year and need to replace.

4. Set up your room. Each table had a table cloth, a "serving platter" filled with books, a table number, and a genre description. I put a few of the tea lights around for effect, as well. I also put a few of the place mats from the resource on the tables. We did this after lunch, so I could surprise the kids when they came back. It was so much fun to see the looks on their faces. We don't have a lot of "traditional tables" in our space, so we made the best of what we had. We also didn't have "seats" or "place mats" for every kid. With 50 kids in our space, we certainly don't have 5 tables of 10! The main genre table was set up, and kids sat anywhere near that table. Some sat on the floor or other cushions. They were only reading for 5 minutes, then they got up and joined their group again.
5. HAVE FUN! Fun is a HUGE part of our school this year! We want our kids to have fun with learning. We need to have fun, as teacher, too! Dress up! Be silly! Use a funny voice! Even 5th graders get a kick out of it!

6. Follow up with a discussion. This was critical. Debrief. Share. Use it as a launching pad for your year! Or, possibly, a check in mid year. Or even an end of year reflection...have your tastes changed? Have you discovered a new genre that you love that you didn't think of trying before? What do your tastes say about you as a reader? Where could you stretch yourself?

It truly was a magical hour of reading fun! The kids loved it, and I'm sure they will remember it for quite some time ("remember that time when Mrs. Patterson dressed up like a weird chef??") I hope they remember that it felt good and was FUN!

I hope you all have had a great launch to your year, as well! Rest up on this long weekend!
Happy Teaching!


Friday, September 2, 2016

Writing On Google Slides

Have you ever had one of those moments...where you accidentally do something, and it turns out to be one of the best things ever? Today, my friends, was one of those days! Kate and I were literally jumping up and down and cheering (all while our students laughed hysterically at us!) Now, perhaps some of you already have figured out what we did today, but if you haven't...for us...this is LIFE CHANGING!

We have always been frustrated with the fact that you "can't" write on a Google Slide Presentation when it is in "Present Mode" on our SMART board (I'm honestly not sure if it is the same problem with Promethean boards?) We absolutely LOVE the ease of making our mini-lesson slides with Google. We love that we can share them digitally with our kids...Kids can work through things at their own pace, view from home while sick, traveling the world, out of state for an athletic meet, or just for review. BUT...when we are can't write on the board while in present mode. You can't model things. Write problems. Have kids draw something or share. It has always frustrated us.

Today...on complete accident...we figured out THIS:
What? You don't see it yet in that tiny tool bar? Let me blow it up larger for you...
When you click that part of the tiny tool bar, It takes it out of "full screen", but still keeps it in "present mode." The main difference is that you see the "tabs" in your web browser. It looks like THIS: Still WAY larger than in your regular view (before you hit "present") and only slightly smaller than full "present mode."
Voila! And just like can WRITE ON YOUR SMART BOARD! Because it isn't in "full screen", I think it somehow tricks the SMART board into allowing an "ink layer." It won't "save" your writing on the slide like it would in SMART Notebook software, but it is still LEAPS AND BOUNDS better than what we were dealing with before.

Maybe we are the last teachers on Earth to figure this out. Maybe we aren't. But seriously, friends, this was a highlight of 2016 for us! Total game changer in how we work with kids in the classroom!

So, in case you didn't know either, we hope you are as excited as we are! If you did know about it...SHAME ON YOU for not showing us all sooner ;) 

Hope everyone's first week back was amazing! We have LOVED looping with our kiddos!

Happy Teaching,