Sunday, April 29, 2012

Need some Cinco de Mayo activities…look no further!

If you are looking for some ideas for Cinco de Mayo, you don’t have to look any further.  This is what you need to do:

1. Go to my TpT store and buy: Hot Tamales: Activities to accompany the reading and study of The Three Little Tamales by Eric A. Kimmel.  (CLICK IMAGE BELOW!)

2. Go to the library and get: The Three Little Tamales and The Three Little Pigs.
Three Little Tamales

That’s it!  Then just peruse Hot Tamales and fill your week with fun activities that compliment any formal study you might be doing on Cinco de Mayo.  But this pack works great with or without Cinco de Mayo – you can use it any time to add some fun flavor to your classroom!

Do it! You won’t regret it! Your kids will love the story and the activities! 

But hurry because it’s on sale, and I won’t keep the sale going forever!

No pienses mas, hazlo, no te vas a arrepentir!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Making Change and Fishy Adjectives

We’ve moved on in our money study and are officially starting to make change. I know that this has been a very difficult skill for some of my previous third and fourth graders to master…so I’ve been semi-dreading this.

I've thought a lot about how to present it to my students to take advantage of the skills they’ve been working so hard to master this year. Here is what I came up with: Fact Families. I don’t know if this is how other teachers are teaching this, my curriculum does not present it this way. It just kind of magically expects them to start counting up, while simultaneously drawing the coins that match and then adding up what they counted up to say how much change is needed…that’s a lot of steps in 1 lesson!

Here is the Making Change Anchor Chart that I used:
I talked about fact families with the kids and how if we know 2 numbers we can find the third. We practiced with familiar fact families.Then we did some really easy making change word problems all together, I plugged in the numbers always referring to the anchor chart.

Example: “Max bought a toy for 30₵. He paid with 50₵. How much change does he need?”

Then we practiced counting up using mental math or the hundred chart.
Then my students went to their desks and we did this with white boards. Students had to make a fact family triangle and then plug in the numbers in the right spots on the triangle as I told them word problems. Then they would try and find the missing number by counting up – showing me their number sentence.


This is how I started and time will tell if this is successful or not. In this very brief first lesson most of my students were getting the hang of this, but this was guided and not independent work. I’ll keep you posted!

On another note, my future teammate and I got together for another 1/2 project.  This time we worked on adjectives and cognates (those words that are super similar in English and Spanish).  We worked on describing the ocean, fish and creatures in the ocean.  We had to think of the adjectives in both languages – this can be a challenge for all involved.  I find it interesting how some words just don’t translate well between languages. Here you an see our first step:

It was fun, a little bit stressful, but overall worth it. We did our adjective work and then did a fun art project.

Step 1: Paint paper to look like ocean – we mixed green and blue and some fun sparkly paint.

Step 2: Pass out tinfoil to students.  If you have rubbing texture plate thin-a-ma-bobs you can use those too!  We got some from our art teacher, but it didn’t work very well.  Crumpling up the tinfoil works too!
Using sharpies students draw the outline of a sea creature.  We could fit 3 on our sheet.  They need to color these with sharpie as well (some regular markers worked and some didn’t).  Don’t use fine point sharpies, only the thick tip sharpies.

Step 3: Cut out and glue onto the dry ocean.

Step 4: Add adjective work and display!

Mrs. Castro Pin It

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Persuasive Pet Letter Freebie

Are you getting ready for Open House?  We’ve been working hard getting ready and I feel like there is still a lot we want to do…one of the projects we’ve been working on is our first persuasive writing project of the year.

I’ve found animals are always a good way to engage students.  Max and Ellie are constantly a great source of inspiration.  Very few of my students actually have pets and so they have adopted Max and Ellie as their own.  The book I Wanna Iguana inspired my students to write letters to their parents trying to convince them to get a family pet.

I’ve put together a freebie so if you’re looking for an idea for persuasive writing you don’t have to look far!  This will work for English or Spanish writing, for all my bilingual/dual language friends.  Click the image below to download it from my TpT:
The BEST part about the whole project was today.  Last night I found all sorts of fun images of different cats/dogs/fish. I had a thought bubble saved on PowerPoint and projected it on the white screen.  Then each student was able to choose from the selection of pictures.  I took a picture of the student standing in front of the giant thought bubble with their dream pet.  We put these pictures on their final draft – very cute!

Here’s mine, trying to convince the “angry mermaid” to get another cat (but not really!)
Here are the cutest kids (smiles) ever:
I believe for Open House we will put the final draft together with our brainstorming organizer, cloze sentence letter and rough draft.  I want parents to see the whole writing process.  I’ll share when that’s done…Until then here you can see what the final draft looks like…(in a washed out sort of way)
The weekend is in sight!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Sunday, April 22, 2012

WIDA Can-Do Classroom Template–Freebie!

As any teacher who works with ELLs knows it is incredibly important to know your students’ proficiency levels.  Most states require ELL students to take the ACCESS English proficiency test each year to determine proficiency levels.

SIDE NOTE: I can’t wait to get our scores back and see how my kiddos did!

WIDA is the place to visit to learn more about language proficiency and the different language domains: listening, speaking, reading and writing.  They even provide an amazing resource to help the teacher figure out what the scores mean in terms of day-t0-day performance and abilities.  That resource is the Can-Do descriptors.  They break down a level 2 speaking level really means a child can do.
What I’ve found is that the Can-Do descriptors are helpful, but I needed a resource where I could see all of the kids together…flipping between a bunch of Can-Do sheets wasn’t practical, just looking at an Excel sheet with the scores wasn’t either.

So, at the suggestion of a good friend I put together a template that allows the teacher to see all their ELL students scores in each domain and proficiency level on ONE page – with a brief synopsis of each Can-Do descriptor…it’s hard to imagine, take a look: (I don’t know why but the table doesn’t show all the grid lines, they’re there, but don’t show up in the image)
You can see that students do not gain language proficiency the same way.  Some students are excellent readers in English but struggle with writing.  Others are good listeners but struggle with speaking, etc..

Often times we have higher expectations of a very articulate ELL, but just because they’ve mastered English speaking more quickly than the other language domains, does not mean that we can have the same proficiency expectations in the other domains…

This template helps the teacher keep it all straight.  I wanted to share this resource to help all other bilingual teachers – or even the regular education teachers who have several ELLs in their class.  You can download it on my TpT store by clicking the image below.

It’s a Word Document so you can easily edit it and make it look fancier – I wanted to make the template as generic as possible.  I hope this helps you keep all those proficiency levels straight and helps you meet your students’ needs a bit more easily. 

Let me know what you think!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Whirlwind of a week = long post!

This week sped by, but somehow in slow motion.  Does that make sense?  You know, it was fast but slow…

One of the exciting things about this week was the Debbie Diller conference I was able to attend with some colleagues on math work stations.  I haven’t wrapped my head around the whole presentation completely yet, but I’ll be sharing some of what she said, and what my teammate and I are imagining for our classrooms. 

Debbie Diller was very pleasant, I actually met her on my way in to the conference.  I was speed walking towards the building and a lady was walking close by…she let me know I wasn’t late, and not to worry because she was the speaker and they couldn’t start without her. (Later she even signed my book! – would have taken a picture, but of course I left the book at school!)

I did feel bad for D.D. because the conference was mismarketed.  The title said something about Math Work Stations and Common Core…so about half of us went wanting info on the work stations and the other half wanted more about the common core.  D.D. was unaware of the marketing and was planning on addressing the work stations, NOT the common core.

I guess the first day was not successful because so many people were expecting her to address the C.C.  So, we went on the second day the conference was offered, and poor D.D. had been up nearly the whole night reworking her presentation to include Common Core…trying to make everyone happy. 

Needless to say you can’t make everyone happy.  I would have liked much more on the work stations and didn’t really want to hear about the common core.  Someone sitting next to me – a math coach, already knows all there is to know about math workstations but wanted to know more about linking them to the common core…see where this is going…

I learned a lot at the conference, I feel bad for D.D., because she was put in a terrible position.  I think someone might lose their marketing job…and I think the conference probably could have been better if it hadn’t been mishandled. 
I will share more about what I learned later, when I have a chance to look over my notes and my book…

I also wanted to share some of what we’ve been doing with money, but I realized I have been terrible about taking pictures this week.  So I only have pictures of one of our activities, but links to the others…

Here is what we’ve been doing after our whole group lessons:
For my students who didn’t know the coins and/or coin values we started with this activity from Keen on Kindergarten:
Other students started with the race to a dime/quarter/dollar games, from First Grade a la Carte:

Then my students moved on up to a game that uses coins, tallies and coordinate pairs…AMAZING!  I found it at mathwire – a great site for math activities, lots thematic for the season/holiday.
The original game has numbers on the vertical axis and letters on the horizontal axis…I didn’t have any dice with letters, so I just put post-its over the letters and drew the dots for the dot dice (very technical language here!), before making copies.

Each student needs a half sheet to record what they are able to get off the grid.  The pair of students needs a set of dice, and coins (3 of each coin), and the grid itself.  It’s easy and the students LOVE this game!  In the end they add up their coins to see who won.

That’s about it for now…off to get my super squeaky brakes worked on, my car is truly humiliating to drive right now. Then I’m off to the gym to start my second week of Couch 2 5k (C25K)…have you seen this app?  It’s amazing!  It helps you start running after being a couch potato – I LOVE IT!  Before I would always struggle deciding how much to run, and go to hard and then hate it, or get bored, but with this app, it’s all planned out and gradual…you should use it if you’re thinking about starting to run…

Happy Saturday,
Mrs. Castro
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Monday, April 16, 2012

Me on the Map–Bilingual Set

I wish I would have shared this sooner!!!!!  Sometimes I don’t think very strategically about what I share and when…(must do a better job!)
I have been working on making a bilingual Me on the Map activity.  I’ve seen a bunch on different blogs, and knew we had to do this activity, but I didn’t see any that were bilingual and downloadable.  So I’ve created one.
I did not follow the more traditional circle pattern for this activity.  I have a couple of students who struggle very much with O.T. and I wasn’t there the day my students did this activity…I wanted it to be as painless as possible for all involved.
Take a look:P4121065P4121060
They turned out very cute, and really brighten up our room.  The students enjoyed the activity, and were able to tell me all about it the next day!
The set I’ve created has the materials to make this a Spanish or English final product.  It’s on sale on my TpT store this week only – click the image below to head on over.
Happy Earth Week and cheers to Monday being nearly over!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Sunday, April 15, 2012

My one and only item is on sale & and what do you think about FONTS?

Just in case you were really hoping to win my new unit that goes perfectly with Cinco de Mayo (and I know most teachers like to plan in advance, so you probably wanted to get a hold of it ASAP), I wanted to give you a chance to get it on sale…so I followed the rest of my bloggy friends and am having sale on my 1 item!  (semi-lame, I know, but hey, why not?!)
tpt sale april 15th
Hopefully the next time I’ll have a sale there will be more items!

As to the second part of the title, I might be thinking about having a linky party, but I’m scared because it would be my first.  This is my thought, do you like fonts?  I love fonts, and I see so many cool fonts that other teachers are using…with this linky maybe you could share your top fonts, and discover new ones from other teachers…what do you think?  Worth it?  Would you join?

Happy Sunday!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Los Ganadores son…The winners are…

FIRST, I have to share how pleased I am with this giveaway.  So many new people have stumbled on to my blog, which in turn means I get to stumble on to their blogs – and I love finding new blogs!  Thank you to everyone who participated in this giveaway, previous followers and new followers alike.  This has been a rewarding experience, and I’m already looking forward to another giveaway!  I
SECOND, I was working hard all week trying to get my comments to be numbered.  NOTHING worked.  So, I knew I was going to have to actually count out the comments to do the random sorter – BUT when I pasted the comments in to word – the numbers were there!!!  Which is exciting, so I had 63 comments (not including threaded comments)…so here it goes!
Winners are # 6, Krista from The Second Grade Superkids and #62, Tamera from My Heart Belongs in First.  Congratulations ladies!  I’ll be sending you my portion of the giveaway today, you should receive your book in the mail soon!


I wish I could everyone could win, I haven’t won a single giveaway yet – but I keep trying…sorry if your number didn’t come up this time, but there will be a next time!

Have a wonderful weekend!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Friday, April 13, 2012

Giveaway Reminder - HOT TAMALES!!!!

It’s Friday – I don’t know about everyone else, but it’s been a long time coming this week!
Just a quick reminder to head over to my giveaway post for your chance to win my new unit AND The Three Little Tamales by Eric A. Kimmel. 
Three Little Tamales
My students absolutely adore this book, and I’m sure yours will too!  It will go perfectly with my unit and any fun cultural activities (i.e. Cinco de Mayo) that you have planned for the end of the year.
Click below to head over to the original post! 

¡Feliz viernes!

Mrs. Castro Pin It

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Professional Development – I’m one lucky teacher!

Have you read Debbie Diller’s Math Work Stations?  I bought it back in the fall thinking I would be able to sit down and somehow magically absorb its contents and implement its ideas without any need for outside expertise.
math workstations
I was wrong!  Almost as soon as I started I became overwhelmed – I LOVE the idea of doing guided math.  But I can’t wrap my head around all of it…and I’m not good at implementing something until I have a very good understanding of what its about…

But next week there is a Debbie Diller conference that I get to attend!  I know you are all very jealous of me right now!  And I don’t want to brag, but I am lucky to be a bilingual teacher in my district.  We do have to deal with teaching in 2 languages (which is mostly great), but we get so much professional development! 
I get to go with my “new” teammate from next year too!  We need all the help we can get when it comes to developing classroom routines and instructional practices that inherently meet kids at their level – bilingual 1/2 next year!!!

So a couple of questions.  Have you read this book?  What do you think?  Have you had any successes implementing its structures into your classroom?  Any advice?  Things to be on the look out for?  Questions I should make sure to ask next week? 

I’ll be sure to share what I learn next week with you all.  I’m sure this summer I’ll be creating math stations like a loca!

There was a linky book study over the summer and you can find the first one here:
    • I’m going to check this out before next week!
Ok, that’s it for exciting news for the day.  Except for a quick reminder to sign up for my giveaway – you’ll win an amazing read aloud The Three Little Tamales and a ton of activities to go with it!  Click the link below to go directly to that post and sign up.
50 Followers Giveaway2
Mrs. Castro

P.S. - I just found out I get to go to another conference over the summer by Linda Hoyt - so lucky, I know!  AND, I have been tagged by a couple of bloggers and will answer their questions soon! Pin It

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Donors Choose and Giveaway Reminder

I wanted to share some of the images of my kiddos with our books we got through Donors Choose.  I had a project titled: Chapter Books – the Coolest!  Which was fully funded (with a little help from me?!  I just couldn’t stand not having it funded!).  My kids were so excited when they saw all these chapter books that I’ll use in guided reading/lit. circles.
Check out these smiles!

They went crazy for the Mercy Watson books!  I can’t wait to get started using these books in my classroom!
Any tips on lit circles? I’ve never been able to them before (for lots of reasons) and am excited/anxious to try!
Donors Choose is the BEST!'
ALSO, don’t forget to take advantage of my giveaway and earn your chance to win my latest unit, Hot Tamales filled with literacy and math activities AND Eric A. Kimmel’s book The Three Little Tamales.  Click the image below to head on over to the original post:
50 Followers Giveaway2
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Monday, April 9, 2012

Giveaway Update (it’s gotten better) and our money unit has begun…

O.M.G.!  I am so excited!  Blogging makes the most amazing things possible.

So, as some of you may have realized, Eric A. Kimmel has written some of my favorite classroom read alouds.  I’ve just finished creating a fun packed, literacy and math unit to accompany his book The Three Little Tamales.  I’m offering up that unit as a giveaway, but I thought it needed something more.  I couldn’t think what, since I haven’t made a lot of sellable materials yet, nor do I have a lot of money to offer towards a fun prize, nor are vendors asking me to have giveaways for them…

So I did what any poor desperate teacher would do, I emailed the publisher of the book.  I emailed yesterday afternoon, and I’ve heard back from Mr. Eric A. Kimmel’s Author Relations Manager – wow – double wow – can’t believe it -

She has generously offered to provide the two winners with a copy of The Three Little Tamales!  The two winners of my first giveaway will get a copy of my 70+page unit and a copy of the book mailed to them!  You won’t even have to go to the library…AMAZING!

Isn’t that exciting?  I would never have dreamed that a publisher would support my blog, but it’s happened!

If you haven’t followed the steps to be a part of my giveaway you can still do it!  The giveaway will close on Saturday night 12 a.m. C.S.T.  Click the image below to be taken to the original post and for your chance to win these two amazing resources!

On to other things…we’ve just started our money unit.  I’m sure this happens in your classrooms but I can’t believe the fact that some of my students can answer two-step word problems involving money and others, well here you go:

Me: “how much is a quarter worth?
Sample student: “penny?”

All of this to basically say that my curriculum just isn’t going to offer the degree of differentiation my kiddos need…which means I’ll be busy creating a bunch of money worksheets, activities, and stuff…

Here is what we did on day one just to see what kids could do and have a bit of last minute Easter fun.

Each student got a jellybean filled egg.  
We chose a value for each color of jellybean.  
Sorted them from largest values to smallest values.  
Wrote the value underneath and added it all up. 

The priciest egg was worth $5.50, mine was worth a measly $2.65.  The kids had a lot of fun and I was able to get a very good feel for what each student was able to do.

That’s it for now, go become a part of the giveaway – you really want to win!!!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Sunday, April 8, 2012

50 Fabulous Followers Giveaway

Yay!  I have 50+ followers!  ¡No lo puedo creer!  I can’t believe it.  There are 50 lovely people out there who think what I have to say on my blog is interesting/relevant/worthwhile!!!!  It’s so encouraging!  Gracias to all of you!
50 followers means my first giveaway EVER!  Which is rather exciting! 
50 Fabulous Followers Giveaway

TWO lucky followers will win my Hot Tamales pack. 
You want this unit if:
  • You are going to do anything with Cinco de Mayo
  • Your students like the story The Three Little Pigs – then they will love The Three Little Tamales
  • If you need to teach/reteach your students how to compare and contrast
  • You need end of the year projects/activities
  • If you desperately need a lot of activities to fill a week (70+ pages people!!!)
  • You want differentiated writing prompts in English or Spanish
  • You want to expose your students to some Spanish/Mexican culture
  • You want to support a bilingual teacher and newbie blogger!!! 
This is not a study of Cinco de Mayo – it would just make it easy for you to add some Mexican flavor to that week of school!
Check out the preview:

Here is what you have to do to enter – worth 6 entries!  
1.  Follow my blog – Leave 1 comment that you are a follower.
2.  Follow my TpT store – Leave 1 comment that you follow my TpT store.
3.  Like my Facebook Page – Leave 1 comment that you like me!
4.  Blog about this giveaway using my giveaway image– Leave 3 comments, with the link to your blog.  (yes 3!)

I will announce a winner on Saturday, April 14th.
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Friday, April 6, 2012

So close to 50 Followers…potential giveaway?!?!?

Ok, so I’m this close to finishing up my first big super amazing fun unit to actually, maybe sell on TpT.  BUT, I would really like to have a giveaway with it as well.  I’ve noticed that a lot of bloggers have giveaways when they hit a follower milestone. 

It’s humbling to see how many followers some bloggers have – even newbie bloggers.  I am chugging away at blogging, and slowly figuring it all out, but I’m not a power blogger yet, and I’m definitely NOT good at self-promotion, so I am building followers slowly and steadily.  I’m always THRILLED when I see I have a new follower. 

I’m hoping I can hit 50 followers PRONTO, so I can have my first giveaway!  I’ve been working hard on a unit that is great for the end of the year, Cinco de Mayo, summer school, etc.  I’ve given away a couple of freebies from it, but it has SOOOOOO much more!  Here is just a quick pic. of what it looks like:

Was that a shameless enough attempt at self-promotion?  I hope so!

Speaking of giveaways, here are two I want to share with you all.  Teri at A Cupcake for the Teacher has hit 1,000 followers and is having a huge giveaway to celebrate.  Check it out by clicking the image below. Also
Also, check out this giveaway on Kreative in Kinder.  You'll have the chance to win a super cool color-coded timer for you classroom.  I WANT THIS!!!
Happy no-school Friday!
Mrs. Castro Pin It

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Spicy Story Map Freebie

I can’t believe how fast this week is flying by!  It’s wonderful that our first week back from spring break is a 4-day week.  It makes it much less overwhelming!  I feel so lucky because today our boxes arrived from my Donors Choose project that was fully funded!  I’m not sharing more today because I didn’t get a chance to actually bust anything out today – so stay tuned tomorrow I’ll post more about what we got!  It’s so exciting for a class of book nerds!!!

As I continue to work on my Cinco de Mayo unit of fun, I’ve prepared another freebie to share with you guys!  Yay!

I have a usual story map that we use, but this one is just more fun!  Sometimes change is good, and most of the time it’s good to add some spice!
Here are the three different story maps that are included.  We used the first two printed front and back.  BUT, sometimes we want to focus more on the sequence and other times we want to focus on the problem and solution – so I tried to make it easy for you to pick and choose.  You can download these from my TpT store by clicking any of the images below.

Mrs. Castro Pin It