Saturday, September 27, 2014

A Spelling & Vocabulary Program for Common Core

I've had so many people ask me over the past few months for more details about the spelling program I've been using, so here's the skinny on it.

When I learned that I'd be teaching spelling this year, I set out to find a program that would be useful beyond spelling a list of random words each week. If I am going to spend time each week on spelling, shouldn't it be on something that is transferrable? Yes! Shouldn't it be aligned to Common Core? Yes! And.. Shouldn't it be super easy for me to implement? YES!

I'm so glad I found Margaret Whisnant's Word Trek program!

Let me walk you through what we do each week.

On Mondays, we start by updating our Word Part list on the first page of their spelling notebooks. You might remember that our spelling notebook is simply the back (upside-down) of our English (Writing/Grammar) notebook.

This was Week 1, when we only had two word parts. We're now up to thirteen!

Then, students write the words and definitions (there are ten each week) in the notebook. The entire program is in ABC order, so when we're finished, they'll have a mini-glossary of words we've learned.

I have them write on the backs of pages and not skip lines in order to make sure there aren't any wasted pages (or space!) in the notebook.

Then, I'll give them the spelling homework packet for the week. I assign it on Monday, and students have until Thursday to finish it. The packet is run off straight from the Word Trek book and includes matching definitions, fill-in-the-blank sentences, synonyms, antonyms, and a section on etymology and word study! The last few are always more challenging and give the students something to think about and make connections to the real world. Here's a peek at one of the lessons:

On Thursdays, I check to see that the students have completed the assignment (I don't grade it, but give points for completion) and we go over the answers. There's always plenty of content that's interesting and leads to more discussions and connections!

Then, we take two tests on Friday. One is a traditional spelling test, and the other is the vocabulary test that is included in the program. If the students study the words and their meanings and complete the lesson for the week, it isn't too hard to ace the test. Most of my students have gotten the hang of it now that we've finished Week 6. Here's a peek at that test:

And there you have it! Easy, simple routines, and NO PREP for me. The students are learning SO much about Greek and Latin root words - and let me tell you, SO AM I!

There are even more components to this program that I haven't mentioned, including connections to writing assignments and more. You really need to download the 40+ page preview file that includes four complete lessons, background, instructions, and so much more to help you decide if (THAT!) this is the program that you need.

Margaret Whisnant has been my favorite seller since long before I ever thought of selling anything myself. Any time you purchase from her, you can count on the highest quality. If the $99 price tag has you nervous, DON'T BE! You won't find a spelling program from any publisher that is anywhere near this good, and even if you could, it would no doubt cost considerably more. You can also download one unit at a time (six weeks) for around $20, making this more than affordable.

Have you already started another meaningless spelling program? Cut your losses and get with the program, sister!

A few more things about the program: There are actually three books in the series. I asked Margaret before purchasing which one she thought I should use for my above average sixth graders, and she said to start with Book Two, which has turned out to be just the right amount of challenging. Margaret has told me that she spent over ten years working on this program, and let me tell you, it shows!

I could work for Margaret selling these books, but just so you know, the only motivation I have for telling you about them is the wonderful results I've been getting in my classroom.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Victory Freebie #1!

Woohoo! Thanks for being patient while I fixed a few links!

I've got some awesome stuff for you this time!

First, I've had this product FREE on TpT all week celebrating my recent milestone. If you haven't grabbed it already, head over there now! It's normally $4.50, but will be free for only a few more hours.

Now, here's an excellent Close Reading lesson from Diane at Fifth in the Middle! It's perfect for NOW because the topic is FOOTBALL! I just finished up a football unit and this was a great addition! You'll find original leveled passages (4 levels for differentiation!) and several common core activities for each one. Trust me. It's good stuff! And it's only available FREE here!

Be sure to follow Diane's TpT store by clicking here, and check out her blog here.

And finally, another one perfect for the occasion is this math lesson on uniform choices from Mrs. Renz's Class. Check out her TpT store here and give her a follow! You can also follow her blog here.


Woohoo! Here's to hoping we do this again next week!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

September 11th Lesson, Part 2

If you missed the first part of my September 11th lesson, find that post here.

This year I'm taking advantage of my students overwhelming interest in all things September 11th related and adding a few more activities to my September 11th literacy unit. All components can be downloaded free on TpT.

I've already discussed Day 1 (walking them through the events of 9/11 with the interactive timeline) and Day 2 (students completing independent questions in the computer lab so that each has his own computer). Here's what I'm planning for Days 3-4.

I made my own timeline of what I thought were important events from 9/11. Of course, they're all important, but we're working on discerning and extracting the most relevant information. Here's mine:

Of course, there are ways to slightly alter this activity in order to simplify it for other students, use it with more immature students, or differentiate within your own classroom. You might have them create a timeline that focuses on only one aspect of September 11th. This is easier than looking at all of the events on the timeline and discerning which ones are most important.

You might have your students look for

  • all events related to flights
  • all events related to the North Tower
  • all events related to emergency response
You get the idea. I made a few blank timelines with different numbers of events.

I also created some activities that were more scaffolded. Here they are, in order of increasing difficulty. Easy first.

Given the events, find the times. Great for ESL or struggling students.

Given the times, find the events. They'll have to shorten the event descriptions. An example is shown.

Find the time or event. Once again the students will have to do some shortening of the event descriptions.

If you're using partially completed timelines, challenge your highest students with this one! Find an important event to fill in the blanks on the timeline. Remember, each event must be between the times indicated above and below the event!

I went and added all of these additional pages to my original Interactive Timeline Freebie on TpT, so simply download the updated version to receive these new activities. Here's a link to the updated product.

Finally, I'll have my students write a short summary to practice writing in chronological order. Because I want my students using quality, vivid verbs, we'll first brainstorm vivid verbs that might be used in a 9/11 summary. I'll start students off by suggesting words like crashed, devastated, terrified, and my students will typically come up with better verbs than I had even thought of.

Also, because it's the perfect time to practice using where parts in sentences, such as:
  • At 8:19am
  • After both towers collapsed
  • As officials notified South Tower tenants to remain in the building
  • Once the FAA grounded all flights
I'll have my students underline all of the where groups and color code them. If you're using any of my writing units, this will fit in perfectly!

And we are going to make and wear our 9/11 ribbons on Thursday in remembrance of those who lost their lives in the tragedy. I made them for my students and also posted them as a freebie on TpT. Click the product below to download on TpT. If you decide to use it, please consider leaving feedback.

I'm linking up today with Mrs. Laffin for A Peek at My Week! Be sure to check out what other teachers are doing this week.
Wait a minute. I suddenly have the feeling that I've been misspelling her name for a long time. What!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Saints Victory Freebies are BACK and BETTER THAN EVER!

It's been a long six months waiting for the return of NFL football! Last season, I offered a freebie for each Saints victory. There were definitely some bumps in the road, but I decided to do the victory freebies again. Then, I decided to make them even MORE exciting! So, I've teamed up with some fellow TpT sellers to offer you even MORE freebies! That's right!

Every time the Saints win, I'll still post a freebie from me. It might be a flash freebie for a paid item, it might be an exclusive freebie not offered on TpT, or it might be a brand new TpT freebie.

 In addition to my own freebie, I'll bring you TWO MORE exclusive freebies from other TpT sellers! That's right!

But to catch each of these freebies, you'll need to watch my blog and Facebook page carefully and look for the posts within an hour of each Saints victory.

 Don't want to miss out on anything? Here's the BEST way to stay in-the-know:
1. Follow my Facebook page, I'm Lovin' Lit.
2. While on the I'm Lovin' Lit Facebook page, click the "Liked" button for a drop-down menu. Select "Get Notifications."
3. That's it! Now you'll be notified via Facebook when I post Victory Freebies.

Something I learned from doing this last season is that there definitely needs to be some rules and regulations in place. I don't want anyone to get their feelings hurt if they miss a freebie, but I also want to be fair to the integrity of the game. So, here's the nitty gritty.

1. Victory Freebies will be posted within an hour of each Saints victory. They will be available for a limited time only. The window of availability for the freebie can range from 1 hour to 24 hours.
2. You must be present to win. If you miss it, you miss it. Freebies are offered on a one-time only basis, no exceptions.
3. If you don't watch football, don't own a television, or have a similar debilitating situation, I suggest downloading the Saints season schedule at Games last approximately 3 1/2 hours.
4. If you'd like to receive Facebook notifications when Victory Freebies are posted, follow the instructions in purple print found earlier in this post.
5. Please do not distribute or post online any freebie obtained without permission from the teacher-author. Handing a copy to the teacher next door? Fine. Posting it in a Facebook group or other social media based group for sharing products? Not permitted. We reserve the right to refuse freebies to participants. Please play fair.

6. If you don't like the New Orleans Saints, then you are not eligible to participate. Bandwagon fans are welcome! Preferring one's own home team over the Saints is perfectly legal. Proud and/or loud fans of the Atlanta Falcons or the Carolina Panthers will be shamed.

I love combining my love of football with showing appreciation for customers and followers. I hope to be posting a victory freebie SOON!

And check back tomorrow for Part 2 of my September 11th lesson walkthrough!

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Thursday Throw Down #9: My Interactive September 11th Lesson! and... An Announcement!

Happy Thursday, Friends!

Here's to hoping my back-to-school hangover is coming to an end as I'm finally adjusting to my new school, new classroom, and new students! I've also been through a dental pain NIGHTMARE that I definitely hope is officially OVER!

So, grab the Thursday Throw Down button above, and link up your blog post about anything that you do to make learning interactive for your students! Blog posts only, no product link-ups, please!

Today's Thursday Throw Down post will be a walkthrough of one of the most important lessons I teach all year - my September 11th Literacy Lesson.

clip art from Stephanie Ackerman

I find it fascinating that each year, my 6th grade students know less and less about this poignant day in American history. And since 6th graders in my district study world history all year, I take it upon myself each year to teach a 9/11-themed literacy unit around the anniversary of September 11th.

I start this lesson by showing my students the amazing 9/11 Memorial Timeline found at I use my SMART Board (this year, I'm adjusting to my not-so-SMART Promethean board, but you get the point) to walk students through the morning of September 11th and try to bring that day into focus for them so that they can feel the heaviness of what happened.

So, what's so great about this interactive timeline? I'm so glad you asked! Let me show you...

By clicking on each element of the timeline, you'll open some type of multimedia or artifact to bring that day alive for your students.

Examples of this include a screen shot of a security camera that captured a terrorist walking through airport security.

A seat map from one of the flights. Go ahead and take a closer look at the names of those souls who were on board. Because I teach at a Catholic school, we'll stop and pray for the souls.

The students are silent as they listen to an audio recording of one of the hijackers.

We also listen to an audio recording of one of the souls on board as we discuss the many messages that were left for loved ones on the morning of September 11, 2001.

There are also videos taken by individuals and narrated as we get to see others' perspectives on the events unfolding.

Those are only a FEW examples of the wonderful media included in this timeline to hopefully convince you to use it in your classrooms next week! If you're like me, your mind is spinning with the many concepts you can apply to this timeline.. artifacts.. firsthand accounts... primary sources... point of view.. perspective.. wow, right!?

After I walk my students through the timeline - and that typically will take up an entire class period - I'll spend the next class period in the computer lab so that my students each have access to a computer in order to complete the timeline activity. I've formulated 20 high-quality multiple choice questions that will have the students interacting with the timeline in order to find specific information. And, I've made this lesson free on TpT in hopes that you will share it with your students.

And of course, as I do with everything, I have included an answer key to make your life (or this lesson) a little bit easier for you. If you decide to use this lesson in your classroom, click here to download it from Teachers Pay Teachers, and please consider leaving feedback to let me know how it works for your students! =)

And this year, I'm improving upon this lesson and adding some to it. On the third day of the unit, after the timeline and independent activity above, I'll have my students make their own interactive timeline, choosing for themselves which events of the day should be part of a summary. Finally, they'll use this timeline to practice writing an order and sequence structured paragraph detailing the most important events of that day. I'm still working on that, but if you are hanging around my blog near the beginning of next week, I'll bet you can pick up that part of the lesson free, too! that leads me right to the promised announcement!

It's that time of year again.. you know the time I'm talking about... FOOTBALL SEASON!

Oh, NFL Football, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways!

That's right! She's BAAAACK!

Saints Victory Freebies are back this year and EVEN BETTER! Be sure to check back on Sunday for complete rules and guidelines for this year's Victory Freebies!

Until then, I hope you'll link up for Thursday Throw Down!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Thursday Throw Down Returns Tomorrow! Get Your Post Ready! And..

That's right! The Thursday Throw Down Linky Party returns TOMORROW, along with an exciting announcement! You won't want to miss out on the fun, so grab the button above and get your post ready about anything you do in your classroom to make learning more INTERACTIVE! Think... music, dance, technology, cooperative learning, activities, or my personal favorite, interactive notebooks, and I'll see you here tomorrow morning!