Saturday, December 29, 2012

What's Ahead in 2013 {linky}

I'm linking up with Michelle at Making it as a Middle School Teacher for a 2013 New Years Linky. Here's what I'm looking forward to in 2013 {now let's see if I can do it all!}. Head over and link up too!

Science Fair

Before leaving for break, my kiddos turned in their science fair projects {yes it's that time already!}. I must admit, there are SO many things I will do differently next year. This was the first year I've dealt with science fair projects on my own. We used to have a full time science lab teacher {I KNOW!!} who would take care of all of our science fair needs.

So, this year as the 5th grade team leader and Science Committee Chair, I was given the duty of handling the science fair. Luckily, I have an AMAZING co-worker who volunteered to head the Science Fair, and I just had to help her out with planning.
Saturday, November 10, 2012

Miss McDonald had some CHICKS

With a peep peep here, and a chirp chirp there!

Last month our fifth graders incubated 12 eggs as part of an inquiry into animal life cycles. We studied and researched the incubation process and the life cycle of chickens. We checked for heartbeats, monitored their temperature, and tracked their growth and development.
Sunday, August 19, 2012

Back to school, Back to school

Back to school! It's that time of year again, when bulletin boards are freshly decorated, supplies are brand new, and desks are neatly organized (the teachers' and students'!). Anyone else getting First Day Jitters!? Best wishes for a new school year to all of you!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Linky: Must Haves for Reading Workshop

I'm linking up with another Lindsay from My Life as a Third Grade Teacher to share my Must Haves for Reader's Workshop. She's asking us to share what items we cannot live without for our Reading and/or Writing Workshops. These are items that either you or your students use on a daily basis.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Math Inquiry

So, I've been trying something new in my math block lately. Used to, I'd start off with introducing the Essential Question (How do you multiply fractions? for example) then get right in to modeling the strategies and procedures, followed by guided practice and independent work based on what I showed them. Sounds like a typical math lesson, right?

When I visited Lori Conrad's 5th grade in Denver, CO I saw her using inquiry strategies within her content areas, specifically social studies. I thought, 'Oh wow, I can totally do that!'. It seemed to just make sense.

I've been starting out with posing the Essential Question still, and providing an example problem. My kiddos then have to brainstorm using their schema on ways they think we may be able to solve the problem. For example, last week we learned strategies for multiplying and dividing with fractions. They turned and talked to a partner about strategies they could try. Many of them suggested repeated addition and arrays, strategies we had learned for multiplying and dividing whole numbers.

We put their plans into action and tested out each idea. We discussed how we should set up the numberline, and what benchmarks to include. They decided to use 25s as our benchmarks, because it's like counting quarters. They knew that 25s were also fourths because there are 4 quarters in a dollar, so we labeled them as fourths since we were working with fractions.  We then used repeated addition on the numberlines to solve multiplying fractions, or repeated subtraction to solve dividing with fractions. We also looked closely at how to set up an array for multiplying fractions, which surprisingly went pretty well! We took what we know about how to draw fractions in rods, and simply "squished" them together! For example, drawing 3/5 as a row of 5 blocks with 3 colored in, then repeating that however many times you're multiplying. (See anchor chart pic if this isn't making sense lol).

The best Ah-Ha! moment was during lunch last week. We were eating outside since the weather was so nice, and I overheard some girls from another table talking about our math lesson. "I love the way Ms. McDonald is teaching math-it just makes so much sense! She doesn't just tell us how to figure it out like the other teachers did, she lets us try it together and we get to work out a bunch of ways to get the answer!" Best. Moment. Ever.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Book Clubs & Inquiry Circles

So let me preface this by saying this is my first time at the rodeo! I'm trying my hand at book clubs with my kiddos, and I cannot be happier with how things are turning out! If only I'd done this earlier in the year, it's so much fun and they're learning SO much!
Wednesday, May 9, 2012


Summer's right around the corner for most of us in teacher land. Dreaming of far away places, warm sand, and no students! But...if you're anything like me, it also means you're thinking back about this year with your kiddos and reflecting on what went well, and what you can improve for next year. Like many (or probably all) of you, I have a Professional Development Plan, or PDP, that I've been focusing on this year in regards to my personal goals as a teacher. My most essential goal was to add rigor to my 90-minute reading block by focusing on Thinking Strategies, aka "The Big 7". You've heard me talk a lot about these in previous posts. Coming from a Reading First background, I didn't know much about The Big 7. We focused on the 5 reading components (phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension) within basal texts and scripted programs. I had never heard of schema, or inferring... 
Friday, April 27, 2012

Denver, Here I Come!

This weekend I'm taking off with a couple of colleagues for a week in Denver, Colorado to attend the Spring Thinking Strategies Institute. I am beyond ecstatic at this opportunity to learn more about the thinking strategies our Literacy Team has been so focused on over the last two years. Coming from a Reading First background, this was all new to me upon my move to Florida. I must say I welcomed it with open arms! It has been an eye-opening experience to learn and understand what strong readers do, and being able to pass this information on to my kiddos is so rewarding.

Saturday, April 7, 2012


I don't know about you, but I am LOVING this long weekend. It started off kinda rocky for me--thought I had the flu on Thursday and spent the day sick on the couch. Turns out to be a bad sinus infection (yuck!) and not the flu (yay)! Now that I'm back among the living, I'm putting off chores to catch up with you all!

This is my first "currently" link up! I'm starting to feel like a "real" blogger, ha! Now if only I could be better about posting more often...

Monday, April 2, 2012

Plant Study Guide

We are in the crunch zone! Our state tests begin in 7 school days, and we're still working on completing all units of science before the big day. Luckily we have an extra week until the science tests begin!

Today we started our plant unit. In fifth grade, that means understanding what the functions are of a plant's parts and how plants reproduce. However, that's not all my kiddos will be tested on in a few weeks- our science tests are cumulative from 3rd-5th and cover a huge range of information.

This study sheet covers the main ideas my kiddos need to know about  plants from the 3rd, 4th, and 5th grade test specs. Hopefully your kiddos will get some good use out of it, too!

Thursday, March 29, 2012

It's a Small, Small world

This morning I'm going about my usual routine, checking my box before picking up the kiddos. Leafing through the papers, I notice something that's a little off. There's a strange envelope- strange because it's not from any school supply wholesaler or a note from the secretary. It's a real letter, addressed to Ms. McDonald's handwriting!
Monday, March 19, 2012

Take a Peek...

 Here's a quick look into my classroom. More pictures coming soon! (please excuse paper piles!)

We were celebrating Dr. Seuss' birthday. We studied character traits from The Lorax and Yertle the Turtle. The kiddos also loved revisiting some of their childhood favorites they don't normally get to read. We have P.A.R.T.Y. Time (Pick Anything And Read To Yourself) at least 3 times a week for 15 minutes, and these went flying off the shelf each day!

 This is our Homeworkopoly station (courtesy of Ladybug Teacher Files!). The kiddos must turn in all homework assignments for the week to take a turn on the game board. Their game pieces are those school pictures we always get as stickers and I put them on card stock circles, then laminated them. They get to roll the fuzzy dice, move their token, and follow the directions on the space. They might get a prize (homework pass, sit in teacher's chair, prize box, pencil, etc) or answer a math or vocabulary question.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Intermediate Linky Party and Awards!

Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies is having an Upper Grade Linky Party! I liked up and so should you. Stop by Lorraine's site to check out more great intermediate blogs!

Sunday, February 26, 2012


This week we're starting my favorite unit in math- geometry! We'll be learning about polygons and polyhedrons, congruent figures, and lines and angles.

I usually start this unit with a read aloud of The Greedy Triangle by Marilyn Burns to build schema and review what they already know about polygons. My friends will identify the polygons that the triangle becomes in the story and we'll discuss real world examples of each kind of polygon. In the past I've had then create the polygons on geoboards. (After moving around so much, these seem to have disappeared along the way.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Independent Reading

Sorry for the lull in posts! It seems that the past month has been packed with To-Dos,  and I'm just now getting a breather!

This may seem more like a beginning of the year kind of post, but I'm finding my friends need a little reminder about what independent reading looks and sounds like. We spend at least 30 minutes a day in Just Right books, busy tracking our thinking and sharing our ideas with partners.

Usually most students are engaged in their text, but some rarely track quality thinking or share their ideas with their partners. So this week we'll spend some time refreshing ourselves to Reader's Workshop. I made a bookmark and a few rubrics for my friends to use during independent reading. Please feel free to use them in your class too!
Thursday, January 19, 2012


I hate to say it, but we're quickly approaching the end of the year assessments, in my case FCAT! I know many teachers at my school teach the QAR strategies early in the year. This encourages the students to use and feel comfortable with the strategy.
Sunday, January 15, 2012

Character Traits

We've been working in narrative nonfiction in our reader's workshop this month. Reading narrative nonfiction is very similar to reading narrative fiction. Narrative nonfiction readers do the same kind of work that narrative fiction readers do. They track their thinking and pay attention to the main character. Only this time, your main character is a real person!

Sunday, January 8, 2012

The Versatile Blogger

Thanks Jen at The Go-To Teacher for awarding me with my first blogger award!

Saturday, January 7, 2012

Using and Creating Rubrics

We started back at school this week with a full day of professional development. I attended a workshop on using and creating rubrics for assessing reading. I've never really used rubrics, other than a hand full of times when assessing projects in science, or book reports/projects, so this was a real eye opener for me!