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Brainy Apples: July 2014
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Vegas 2014, Baby!

Holy macaroni! I am finally getting back to a normal routine after spending almost a week in sunny (although it was actually quite cloudy……this pale girl was pretty happy about that!) Vegas! I mean, how could I sleep any while I was there?! So many people to meet, hug, laugh with…you get the idea.

So here is my Vegas 2014, Baby, recap :)

I got this party started off right because my friend Jen from Out of This World Literacy, whom I had never met in person, drove to my house the night before we flew out for Vegas. Can we say pre-Vegas slumber party?! I was so excited to finally meet her in person! And it's always more fun to fly with a friend than solo. And, we even met Christina from Sugar and Spice on our flight! We were like, "Come sit next to us!" Even though we had just met, it was an instant friendship.

I don't even know where to start once we got to Vegas. It was so overwhelming, and exciting, and crazy, and unforgettable! I met so many new friends, and we had such a blast! From Paul-on-a-Stick to photo bombing, I haven't laughed that much in a LONG time!

I loved meeting Jessica from Second Grade Nest (she's a Chalkie!) and Sarah from Sarah's First Grade Snippets, and along with Christina and Jen, we kept tally on who had the most photo bomb points. Silly, I know, but oh so fun!

Another unforgettable moment will be finally meeting my fellow Chalkies from Primary Chalkboard!

I knew I was lucky to be asked to be a member of this amazing collab blog, but I didn't realize HOW lucky until I finally met them all! Sweet, caring, smart, genuine are just a few of the adjectives I can use to describe each and every one of them. Many of us roomed together, and our evenings (and days) were filled with laughter. If you haven't met them yet, head over to Primary Chalkboard and meet 'em! We are planning some HUGE things real soon!

Not only did I finally get to meet my Chalkies, I also got to meet so many of my bloggy friends FINALLY! Terry from Terry's Teaching Tidbits, Greg from Kindergarten Smorgasboard (a Chalkie, whoop whoop!), and I had a little reunion since we met at the Georgia Blogger's Meet Up last July. Not only did I finally get to meet John from Created by Mr. Hughes (An Educator's Life is his blog), I got to listen to his amazing presentation on how to effectively use Pinterest. He will be receiving lots of emails from me in the future :) Anna from Simply Skilled in Second (another Chalkie. Whoop whoop!) was every bit as funny and fab as I thought she would be, and Blair from One Lesson at a Time was an absolute sweetie pie, too! I am thrilled that Corinna from Surfin' Through Second (and another Chalkie! Whoop whoop!) made the trip our from Hawaii (I almost hid in her suitcase for her return trip), and she brought this amazing coconut/mango chapstick with her! How thoughtful is she?! So glad she did because I forgot mine and the desert heat is unforgiving on your lips and skin! Vicky from Teaching and Much Moore (un, another Chalkie? Why, yes!) is a doll and totally saved me when my printer ran out of ink and I couldn't print my name tag (yeah, I know #teacherproblems). And Michelle from Well Michelle? and Cyndie from Chalk One Up for the Teacher were so kind in picking Jen, Christina, and me up from the airport. Actually, Jen and I totally invited ourselves, but they agreed! :) And they were the two who helped our idea of Paul-on-a-Stick and Amy-on-a-Stick come true. #imwithpaul #imwithamy

Yeah, I have no idea how we came up with the heads on a stick idea, but once it got in our minds, there was no stopping us! Cyndie and Michelle printed out the heads and brought us supplies to construct them :) Michelle was in charge of Amy, and Jen and I took Paul. Cyndie actually made multiple Paul heads, so we were able to pass him out to broaden his adventures. Who are Paul and Amy, you ask? Well, Amy is one of the amazing members of the TpT team, and I was so happy I finally got to meet her! She helps keep all of us on track and inspired. And Paul is the founder of TpT. He has changed so many of our lives for the better, and I was so overwhelmed to finally get to meet him. I was glad he thought our Paul-on-a-Stick was funny. Whew! But, seriously, because Paul didn't give up on his dream and vision, so many of us are blessed beyond belief. I could never repay this man for his belief in himself and all of us. He is one of the most humble, down to earth, genuine people you will EVER meet. And I can't wait to give him his gift from Jen and me with all the #imwithpaul photos. Oh yeah, it's coming soon! :)

Another highlight was getting to meet Holly and Taylor from GoNoodle. Back in March us Chalkies promoted GoNoodle as an amazing brain break on-line resource, and boy, has it taken off! If you haven't heard of GoNoodle or signed up for a free account yet, do it before school starts back. You'll be happy you did when those kiddos walk through that door! Two more fun gals I got to meet were Lisa from Growing Firsties and Laura from Peace Love and First Grade (both Chalkies. Whoop whoop!). While we were visiting all the booths, Corinna went missing, so Lisa, Laura, Christina, Jessica, and I went on a search and recover mission. We were successful!

There are so many more pics, but I can't share them all. And so many more people I met whom I adore. Next year it's supposed to be a 2 day conference, so there will be more fun and adventures! If you want to see more of Paul's adventures, just search #imwithpaul, or Amy's adventures search #imwithamy. If you want to see even more fun from Vegas, search #tptvegas2014.

Oh, and one thing I WISH I had taken pictures of was the New Kids on the Block show I went to. Yeah, I did. And it was awesome. And I totally felt like I was back in middle school. Yeah, they are still Hangin' Tough, and they put on an awesome show. All their old dance moves. Oh my goodness. I can't say it enough. Awesome! :) I just wish I had worn my puffy paint t-shirt proclaiming Jordan and Joey to be the best.

I could have talked about the amazing sessions I sat in, but to me, this trip was more about relationships with people. People are what makes TpT absolutely amazing and special to be a part of. And I can't wait until Vegas 2015, Baby! I just hope I can see all these beautiful women and men again before then! My heart was so full, and I was so sad to be leaving them. I was super excited to see my family again, don't get me wrong, but I also felt like these women and men are now family, too, and I will miss them dearly!

I linked up my Vegas post with Deirdre from A Burst of First, so head on over to her blog to read about her Vegas adventures and many more!

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Chalkies Take Over Vegas! Whoop Whoop!!

Can I just say how stinkin' excited I am right now! On my way to Vegas with my friend Jen Bengel from Out of This World Literacy, and can I just say HOW EXCITED I AM?!?!?!?! Jen stayed at my house last night for an early morning flight, so it was fun to finally meet her and have a pre-Vegas slumber party! We had some great entertainment watching my two sons pluck tobacco caterpillars off our tommy-toe plant. That's their new daily chore :) Our flight leaves at 10:30am, but we have to get up and leave early to beat Atlanta traffic. Before I head off to bed (which I am super tired because I had to pack and unpack, and repack a gazillion times because my suitcase was over 50 pounds!), I wanted to let you all know about a little something me and my pals over at Primary Chalkboard are doing to celebrate our Vegas trip!

Why are we all heading to Vegas, you ask? (Sorry, had to go a bit Yoda on you).
For the 1st ever TeachersPayTeachers Conference, of course! This place is amaaaaaazing! 
I am here meeting up with teachers and bloggers from around the WORLD. How cool is that?!
Not to mention, my girls (and Greg) from The Primary Chalkboard are here! 

(Check back soon for our Vegas group pic!)

If you can't be here with us, what better way to celebrate than with a SALE?! 
We are hosting a *Las Vegas Style* Double or Nothing Sale!

20% off my whole store July 10th and 11th!

It is the perfect time to stock up on things for Back to School!

If you are in need of daily math practice, check out my Daily Math Reviews. I created a daily spiraling math review for grades 1-5 and one for every month. I have received many great reviews on this product line. You can purchase each month separately, or you can purchase in either a 3, 6, or 12 month bundle. The greater the bundle, the greater the discount! You can click on the following links to be taken to each grade level's page: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th. Starting off the year with these reviews will help your students learn new material more quickly because they will have already been exposed to the skills daily, AND your students will keep learned skills sharp. Each week is a different them that relates to that particular month, so students really enjoy completing the problems. Each grade level has the same theme each week, so if you have a split-grade class, or students who are struggling or advanced in math, you can use different grade levels but students will be completing similar problems. Plus there are answer keys so students can self-check, and you can quickly assess the pages.
 Here is a page from my August 4the grade edition.

Here is a page from my August 2nd grade edition.

You may also want to check out my Word Problem of the Day, too. Many teachers have used both my Daily Math reviews and my Word Problem of the Day to thoroughly review and teach math skills. Like, my Daily Math Reviews, each week has a theme that pertains to the month, and it goes along with the Daily Math Review themes. I am currently working on the fall months, and they will be available before the month begins (i.e. August will be ready in July, September will be ready in August, etc.) You can buy these by the month, too, or you can purchase a 6 month bundle at a discounted price. You can click on the following links to be taken to each grade level's page: 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th. Start of your year with these and your students will become proficient problem-solvers! And I have included answer keys because who doesn't love answer keys?
Here is a page from my March 1st grade edition (I am working on August).

Here is a page from my March 5th grade edition (I am working on August).

Need some reading items? You will definitely want to look over my Close Read products! I have created an Interactive Notebook that incorporates Close Reads so you can have the best of both worlds! I have grades 2, 3, 4, and 5 available. For each of these grades there is a Literature INB and an Informational Text INB. Or you can buy the bundle at a discount! Be sure to look at my freebie sampler for each one, too! Not quite ready for the leap yet? Look at my Interactive Notebook for Close Reads Beginner's Kit to get your feet wet! You can use this product in grades 1-5. This is my 2nd best-selling product with over 100 positive reviews! It's a great way to get started implementing Close Reads. Need help writing Close Read questions? My Question Stems for Close Reads will help you! It's my best-selling product with over 150 positive reviews, and it contains stems for both informational text and literature. Perfect for grades 1-5.

 Peek at the Beginner's Kit INB

Peek at the Informational Text INB

Peek at the Literature INB

Needing some integration help? I have started a new product line that integrates Close Reads and the content areas. Right now I have my American Revolutionary War Heroes pack available for grades 3, 4, and 5, or you can purchase the bundle at a discount and for the varying reading levels in your classroom. Each pack has a freebie sampler you can check out, too. I am going to be adding more to this line because so far the response has been awesome, and they are pretty popular! Each grade level pack has 11 informational text passages written by me, with approximate reading level listed, and there are 2 pages of Close Read questions for each person. That's 22 pages of questions! Each question page comes either labeled with the CCSS or without the label. That way you can use a 3rd grade and a 4th grade version and you students won't know :) And, of course, there are answer keys for quick and easy smeazy grading!

Here are pages from the 3rd grade pack for Abigail Adams.

Here are pages from the 5th grade pack for Sam Adams.

And, lastly, here are 2 products that are quick and easy for your first day back to school. I love having my students complete a Graph of the Day, and this one is perfect for getting to know your students, and them getting to know each other! And I ALWAYS have my students create a class procedure book called "How We Do Things in Our Class." It helps students learn the routines and your expectations as well as letting them have a hand in it.

Be sure to follow to stay updated with my Facebook page, because I am going to be posting a week long Double Down Giveaway, too! And if you want to know about some of my Vegas happenings, be sure to follow me on Instagram, too!
**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Notice & Note Book Study: Post 10

Welcome back to our book study! We are now ready to move onto the "meat" of this book: the actual lessons for each signpost. I have found it hard to read all the lessons at one time, because there is so much information contained. I have found it is far more beneficial (for me at least) to decide which signpost you want to teach, and then flip to that particular lesson. Otherwise all the info tends to run together (for me at least!). 

The two signposts that I will be discussing today are Contrasts and Contradictions (C&C) and Aha Moment (AM). I am going to abbreviate because I like to be efficient with my time :) So let's get started!

What I really like about each lesson is the overview at the beginning. The authors list the materials you need, the materials the students need, a brief overview of what each signpost signals, and an example of an anchor chart you can create with your students. The authors also use a gradual release model of teaching, which I totally agree with using. You explicitly model for the students what you want them to do, then you use guided practice being there to guide and redirect students, then allow students to work with a partner or small group before moving onto independent practice. 

Part 3
Lesson 1: Contrasts and Contradictions
This signpost helps students recognize character development, internal character conflict, and how the setting relates to the plot. All very important components of a text that students need to be able to understand. Contrasts and contradictions are 2 different things: contrast is when 2 or more characters, for example, are compared and differences are found; and contradiction is when a character acts differently that what the reader would expect, for example. The authors give us one question to ask ourselves for this signpost: Why would the character act or feel this way? I really like how the authors give us one important question for each signpost. Students can easily get overwhelmed with an abundance of questions, and giving them one important question like this can easily keep the discussion open for other points to be discussed. The authors suggest teaching this signpost first because all novels have contrasts and contradictions, and pretty much all expository texts have contrasts and contradictions, too.

Now, we get on to the actual lesson. The authors point out it is very important to help students make a real-life connection to what this signpost means so they can understand how it applies to their own lives and then eventually to the text. You can use a book you have read aloud to the class, or a book students have read themselves. You could even use a TV show or movie most students have seen. But what it important is to give students an actual example of how characters can differ and how characters can act differently then what you would expect. Once students understand how contrast and contradiction can be presented in a text and what they mean, you can move onto applying the signpost.

The authors use a specific text excerpt to apply the signpost. For this example they used an excerpt from "Thank You, Ma'm" and each student had a copy of the text and sticky notes. The teacher uses the gradual release model. First modeling the thinking and thought process of finding the C&C signpost, the next time the C&C signpost is seen, the teacher pauses for students to confer with each other (the teacher listening in and helping guide the discussions), the next time the C&C signpost is seen students jot notes about the signpost before conferring with another student. This gives students independent practice, but then they also get to share with each other so they can see how on point their thinking is. Each time the C&C signpost is seen, it is important that students discuss the anchor question (Why would the character act or feel this way?) Just by discussing this one question, the conversation will be deep and rich with students naturally using evidence from the text to support their thinking.

I really appreciate how the authors include the text excerpt so we can see how the signpost is presented in the text, as well as a transcript of what was said by the teacher and students. This helps me see how I can implement it in my classroom, as well as identify the language I want my students to use. 

The end of this lesson contains some questions you might have with the lesson and texts you can use for follow-up mini lessons because we all know students need more than one exposure to a skill to actually apply it correctly themselves. I find these questions to be perhaps one of the most valuable pieces of the lesson because it helps me troubleshoot before I even begin. 

Lesson 2: Aha Moment
This signpost is a moment when a character understands something he/she did not before. This signpost helps the reader understand how a character's actions are related to the conflict, the progression of the plot, and the theme sometimes. There are clue words that also signal the AM such as I realized or Now I understand. The authors give us one question to ask ourselves for this signpost: How might this change things? 

The authors set up this lesson just like the C&C lesson: tying the signpost to a real-life example for students to latch onto, moving onto applying using the text "Crash" and the gradual release model. The process is the same as the C&C lesson, so I am not going to repeat it all. And the end of this lesson also contains those questions that most of us have with regards to teaching this signpost, and additional texts you can use to reinforce this skill. 

I love the way each lesson is laid out the same with the same components. After I had taught a few signposts, it became very natural and easy for me to teach the rest because the process is the same. Only the content changes. And I did have to reteach through mini lessons many times before my students were able to consistently and independently identify the signposts and carry on a deep conversation with text evidence. It takes time, so you will need to be patient. I would say in my experience, it took about a month of reteaching and modeling a particular signpost before my students were at the level I wanted. And, for some of my students, it took even longer. But, I think it is very important to remember that the goal should be by the end of the year students will be able to identify and use the signposts. And, all of my students were able to do so by the end of the year. Practice, practice, practice. Model, model, model! :)

I did not want to give specific information regarding the lessons because I don't want to overstep copyrights, but I hope I did give you enough information to entice you to give them a try and purchase the book, or hopefully clarified the content of these 2 lessons some.

I would love to hear your thoughts/questions on this portion of our book study! Also feel free to link up below if you have a post to share :)

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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Notice & Note Book Study- Post 9

So glad to be back to our Notice and Note book study! I haven't been posting because of summer traveling, and today's post will be short and sweet because I am STILL traveling. Now, before you get jealous, please know that we have driven over 20 hours the last 3 days…SO….yeah, not the tropical vacation traveling that I desire ;)

There are 2 sections for today's book study, and I will be covering the 2nd half which is in Part 2 Section 8 called "Questions You May Have" and if you are like me, you have a lot! If you want to read the post about the first part of today's study, Part 2 Section 7 "Assessments and the Signposts" head over to Teach-A-Roo.

This section listed 8 common questions many people have before and during implementation of the signposts for Close Reads. It's a very easy-to-read section because the layout is so user friendly. I am sure each person will be drawn to different questions depending on experience. The authors answer questions pertaining to:
~Will students actually be able to use to signposts after I teach them?
~If students need a review, what do I do?
~How do I know if students find the signposts in books that I have not read? (THIS question was great for me because I have lit circles in my classroom and there is no way I can pre read 5-6 books at a time)
~What do I do if students disagree about a particular signpost?
~How many signposts should I expect to find in a novel?
~Do the signpost lessons work for expository text?
~Are there other signposts in a novel that deserve discussion? (THIS was also a great question for me because we all probably have our own "signposts" we look for in a text)
~Am I going to squash my students' love of reading by making the take notes on a novel they read? (ANOTHER great question because while I want my students to be careful, close readers, I also want them to be able to get lost in a book and not worry that they didn't write any notes down)

This section is one that I have placed a sticky note on because it will be very helpful as I continue implementing Close Reads in my classroom, and it will be referred to many times during my journey.

Be sure to come back here Thursday when I lead the next section. It's packed full of great info!

I would love to hear your thoughts/questions on this portion of our book study! Also feel free to link up below if you have a post to share :)

**Please excuse any typos as I don't have the super power of being perfect :)

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