Monday Made It #6

Ok…lots and lots of Monday Made Its today…so let’s get started!  (I was a little bit of an overachiever this week, so stick with me!)  I actually had a few more ideas to share, but I’ll save those for next week and give myself a week without creating something new…NOT!
Shades of Synonyms
Have you ever done those “dead words” with your kiddos?  You know, substitutions for the word “good” or the word “bad?”  I’ve personally done the dead word activity, complete with headstones, as part of a lesson on using the thesaurus to find synonyms for those words….or if you are a 6+1 sort of person…Word Choice! 
Independent practice of this skill in the form of a center activity will give me more time to work with my writers…that headstone activity takes up a lot of time and gets…old.  Student practice here is important!
Anywho…I have created this cute little center called “Shades of Synonyms.”  Playing off the cute colors of these ADORABLE little lucite boxes that I picked up at The Container Store (love this joint!), I put together an activity that is based on a great vocabulary activity I picked up at one of the sessions offered at The Model Schools Conference in Orlando last month.

The presenter had us write 1 word on a sticky note with a total of 12 sticky notes.  Each word was a synonym for another word.  Think wonderful, terrific, brilliant, nice…all for the word “good.”  Then, working together in a small group (partners, triads or foursomes), the group focuses on the words and puts them in order, kind of like on a paint chip sampler, with the lesser intense (weakest) word at the start and the most intense (strongest) word at the other end.  
The conversation we all had about the “word strength” of the words in the activity was pretty animated and lively and, at times, we checked out the meanings of the words and reset our rankings!  
Rigorous and relevant it was!  (This is a Model Schools thing…maybe your district or school is a part of this!)
To make your own Shades of Synonyms:
I have prepared two sheets of words with some synonyms that you can download, just by clicking on the list number. I felt that 12 synonyms for one word might be a little daunting for my 4th graders, so I culled the list to 7.   List #1 and List #2 have the lists that I have prepared for this activity.  Additionally, there is a word work sheet that you could prepare and laminate for your students, or, if you are like me, we keep a Word Play notebook and your kiddos could use a similar format…your call!  Find this word work sheet here.
In making the little lucite boxes, I just used 1 1/2 inch squares (using a square punch) and wrote the words on these little cards made of cardstock that I had in my scrapbookin’ stash.  They were quick to make and my little sweeties will love handling these!  
If you’d like, include a box with a dictionary and thesaurus as this would be a marvelous opportunity to reinforce using these tools.  If you have technology readily available, do allow your students to use as another tool.
In my opinion, there are really no wrong or right answers that would require an answer key (unless having an answer key makes you feel better!).  In my classroom, the discussion that students would have in working their way through a Synonym Box would be plenty to observe and evaluate!

All the Colors in the Crayon Box Investigation:  Vocabulators…with a twist!

I’ve seen something called “Vocabulators” out in Blogland for quite a while.  Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics has them prominently displayed and has some great “how to” information on these wonderful word manipulatives.  Check out her blog entry here for more info.  There are others out there, but Tara’s is my “go to” on Vocabulators and their uses!
I tried something similar with these mini paint cans from The Container Store.  I did find out the hard way that gumballs are a little heavy for these cans, so you really need to secure the bottoms and tops.  Hot glue works well here.  Then I put in the words.  You could use heavy cardstock or make little word blocks out of Fimo clay…I prefer the “Shrinky Dinks” medium myself.  I stamped the words on the Shrinky Dinks and threw them in the oven for about 2 minutes.  They turned out cute.  Here’s one of the Color Cans for you to see, up close and personal!

Click here to get the recording sheet to go with the All the Colors in the Crayon Box Investigation Center!
The colors I used were red (scarlet, ruby, cardinal, crimson, vermillion), orange (tangerine, apricot, coral, salmon, cataloupe), yellow (gold, goldenrod, citrine, amber, blonde), green (emerald, chartreuse, loden, forest, olive), blue (azure, sapphire, periwinkle, cobalt, indigo), purple (amethyst, plum, violet, magenta, lilac) and pink (carnation, blush, rose, rouge, fuschia).
You could certainly choose your own shades.  I just went for color words that often pop up in a fourth grader’s reading.  It seems to me that kids are always coming up with a question like “What’s crimson?”  Expanding that vocabulary could never hurt!

Random Facts of Weirdness
Ok…I did take a little liberty here with a play on “Random Acts of Kindness.”  You all know that our kids are prone to picking up the weird, strange, and just plain odd facts that are floating around out there. (Think about the cute kid from Jerry McGuire, telling Tom Cruise how much the human head weighs.)  It seems like every morning, I get at least one little honey telling me something interesting.  Unfortunately, when you are trying to wrangle kids, collect homework, respond to notes from home and send lunch money to the office, these great facts get lost.
Enter Random Facts of Weirdness!  Last year, I decorated a composition notebook with a goofy pair of glasses and some neat scrapbook paper and text and set it out in my classroom for my students to collect these weird facts.  The student writes their name, the date, the interesting fact and where they found that fact.  (Sidebar here:  This is a great place to work with students on citation and great resources!  Sometimes, we find that we hear these interesting things on the radio…and radio is truly a source that is valuable!)
Eventually, the Random Facts of Weirdness takes on a life of it’s own, and my students start seeking it out during silent reading time (Oh my goodness!  We can find facts in our independent reading…even fiction!), center time, math, science, and Morning Meeting time!  Any time of the day is an appropriate time for Random Facts of Weirdness!
When it’s finished for the year, the previous version makes its’ way to a place of honor in your classroom library.  I love that each year’s class has the opportunity to make such a contribution to our classroom library!
Here’s the 2012-2013 version:
I just picked up the composition notebook and the goofy glasses at Dollar Tree and attached using a hot glue gun.  The text stickers came from my scrapbook stash.  
Writer’s Notebook
My wonderful 4th/5th grade team was fortunate enough to attend an AMAZING Writer’s Notebook workshop series two years ago.  Aimee Buckner is a fantabulous presenter and was so inspiring!  She recommends that teachers keep a Writer’s Notebook alongside their students.  Here is my third (I can’t believe it!) Writer’s Notebook.  
I show this to my students on the first day of school and then send them home with their own composition notebooks.  They have three days to personalize their notebooks and bring them back to share.  
We use the Writer’s Notebook to collect seed ideas, lists, and the like.  It’s a place where we send our ideas to germinate and we “harvest” those ideas when we need to take our writing to a published piece of work.  The kids love it and I’m always thrilled with their response to this notebook.
My colleagues and I have developed an approach that allows us to take this notebook to the next level.  Flip the notebook over and upside down, and then have your students record writing “mini lessons” in the back.  Your Writer’s Notebook becomes much more functional as a resource for grammar and 6 Trait features, entered by the student no less!
Check out Aimee’s book for more information about using the Writer’s Notebook.  It’s a quick read with lots of great ideas!

Teacher’s Organizational Tool (TOT)

I’ve been seeing these binders all over Pinterest and have been dying to put one together.  Of course, each teacher has his or her own system, but this idea really does put everything together in one handy and super-convenient place!
I considered the digital version of this, until I came across these really great binder dividers at Staples.  I pulled everything together with some cute polka-dot frames and added a few finishing touches from my scrapbookin’ stash to create something that’s really going to work for me.
Here are a few pix of the finished product:

Keep Calm and Teach

Every year, I put together a little Back to School gift for my team.  This year, our school’s theme is “Rock Star.”  I turned to Melanie over at Schoolgirl Style and found her Rock Star theme.  She had these really cute “Stay Calm and Teach On” graphics, suitable for framing in her Teacher’s Notebook store as a download.  I believe I paid less than $5.00 for all eleven color choices in one easy-to-use PDF.  
So, after downloading and printing these cuties, I mounted them on some great glittery paper and put them in frou-frou frames (IKEA, $2.50) for the girls and I to use as part of our rockin’ good theme!  Lots of fun and really easy on time and the wallet!
So, if you are feeling the pinch and need a little decorating inspiration, stop by and check out Melanie’s blog.  You’ll be glad you did!

Don’t forget…sharing is caring!  I made a second set of each activity for my friend, “The Wonderful Linda!”  How about you?  Could you take one of these ideas (or any idea from a Monday Made It) and make a duplicate for a colleague/wonderful wonderful friend?

Here’s to a creative and fun week!



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