Texas Teaching Fanatic

A look inside a 4th grade classroom

I’ve Moved to WordPress.org

Friends and followers:

I have moved my blog to a self-hosted site through WordPress.org.  Follow me there at www.texasteachingfanatic.com.  Those of you who were followers here on WordPress.com have already been transferred.  I’m currently just having trouble with my Bloglovin’ followers.  Sorry for multiple posts if you are receiving them.  Just delete!  🙂

Leave a comment »

Remember Sandy Hook

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School.  We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children.  We honor their memory with our service.  Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.

Leave a comment »


My first time ever to participate in the CURRENTLY linky.  It’s late and I REALLY need to go to bed, so this one is short.  (The pic in the post is really small and I can’t seem to make it any bigger, so click on it to see what it actually says without having to grab your spectacles!)

December Currently

I hope y’all had a great Thanksgiving and had some quality time with family!  I’ll be back soon to reveal more expository writing samples!  Then we will be back to narratives to finish out the 2013 year.  😉


The First Installment of Expository Writing Samples

Again I failed on getting these posted in a timely manner.  I wanted to have this post completed about two weeks ago, but I’m just now finding the time to get it done, mostly because I need time to type them up.  It’s easier to read since we publish our papers on colored paper with designs and what-not all over the sides!

For this very first expository piece, we wrote about someone who we admire.  We used the following text structure: Whom I admire–>Internal Characteristics–>External Skills–>How this person has influenced me.  The text structure was evident in the writing samples I chose to share.

I’m still using a rubric from The Writing Academy because I like it, it’s easy to use, and it helps me give them a number grade based on the different categories of their writing.  I plan to develop one of my own (which I will share), but for now I need time to breathe!

Keep in mind: these are 4th graders who have NEVER written an expository piece before.  I thought most of them were pretty awesome considering their previous lack of experience!

To view 5 Expository Writing papers, click here.

If you are interested in how we planned out our papers, see my blog post titled, “Expository Writing: Gretchen Bernabei Style,” to see our planning sheets and flip books.  You can also access the planning page by visiting the Writer’s Workshop page and clicking on the very last resource listed.

**Question: Do you have a rubric that you use to grade writing?  If so, would you share it with me?  You can send it to me in an email at kaylashook06@gmail.com, or leave a message in the comments as to where I can find it (aka: blog post or website address) if you are a fellow blogger.  I would love to take a look at how you are assessing your students’ knowledge of writing!  Thanks in advance!


Narrative Student Writing Samples (4th Grade)

Here it is: the post you’ve all been waiting for–the one I’ve promised for some time now!  STUDENT WRITING SAMPLES!!!  😉

I don’t have a lot of time today, but I wanted to go ahead and post these samples for those of you who have been waiting on me to post them.  Our internet is still not working at my house, so I’m having to type this quickly (after school hours) on my school computer.

These are samples for our first narrative of the school year.  These kids stood out above the rest, so I wanted to show off their mad writing skills.  Here they are:

Stealing Candy  A narrative written by Blake Sterling.

Go Kart Race  A narrative written by Andrew Pensiero.

Is It Me  A narrative written by Avery May.

Yes, I have permission from these students and their parents to post their work with their names.  They are all super sweet kids who are totally stoked that I am using their papers as examples for the world to see.  They were even made famous in a workshop presented by Gretchen Bernabei!  You will see them on her blog soon if you visit www.bernabeiwritingresources.com.



100 Followers! Time for a Giveaway!!

I recently reached 100 true followers on my blog!  Woo hoo!  To celebrate, I’m hosting my first giveaway with Rafflecopter.

I have teamed up with Lisa Hamilton from Teaching & Learning Stuff for a $50 credit to her educational store! You can enter the drawing by clicking the link below. The drawing will close on Saturday, October 12 at 12:00 PM. In order to win, you must be a current follower.

A Rafflecopter giveaway for $50 to Teaching & Learning Stuff

I’d also love for you to leave a comment telling me how you would use the money if you won!  🙂

Good luck, and thanks for following!




1 Comment »

Budding Blog

Jess, over at I {heart} Recess is hosing a linky party for bloggers with fewer than 200 followers, so I’m linking up to answer a few questions about myself.

I {Heart} Recess

1. Why did you start blogging?

I started blogging because I had heard a lot about blogs and how helpful they can be to teachers searching for new, creative ways to teach kids.  With encouragement from the most amazing technology teacher on any campus (Kelly Bost), I set up my new blog back in April of this year.  I wasn’t very consistent with posting, and started out posting mostly about school happenings.  Over the summer, I found a new addiction: blog stalking!  The more I read, the more I knew I had to be a part of this awesome online teaching community! I really started upping my game and taking this whole blogging thing seriously in July. Since then, I have reached a little over 100 followers! Thanks guys!!

2. What is your favorite subject to teach and why?

I LOVE teaching Writing to my fourth graders!  When I first started teaching this grade, I was terrified of teaching writing.  I’ve always been a good writer, but I just didn’t know how to teach writing.  I’ve attended numerous workshops and countless trainings to get to where I am today.  And I found my new love for writing resources–Gretchen Bernabei.  She makes writing make sense to kids, and in turn, they are much more successful writers than they (or I) ever thought they would be!  (If you haven’t heard of her, you HAVE to check out her writing resources.  You won’t be disappointed!!  I have lots of them linked to my Writer’s Workshop page.)

3. Describe your teaching style.

Being a tactile and visual learner myself, I tend to lean on these methods to do most of my teaching.  I like to give my students the opportunity to recall the information presented in as many ways as possible, so I incorporate music, movement, and visuals with almost everything.  We use manipulatives, technology, and try to have fun every day!

4. Give 3 interesting facts about you.

1. I have a supportive husband who stays home with our 2 year old son.  Although times get tough (money-wise), it’s worth every penny of it.  Our son has a unique opportunity to stay home with someone who loves and cares for him dearly.  He wouldn’t know the things he knows (ALL of his ABC’s, sounds, and numbers to 20) if we had to send him off somewhere else every day.

2. I was able to do my student teaching in 2 different grades: 2nd grade and pre-k.  Yep, those little snotty-nosed kids stole my heart, regardless of their limited life experiences.  Even though I now really enjoy my 4th graders, I loved the lower grades.

3. When I was younger, I used to go tubing in the ditches after a big rain.  My friend and I would ride the currents of the rainwater washing down to the bay.  We had great times living out in the country during the times when we weren’t scared of strangers picking us up or causing trouble.  Those were the days…

5. Do you have a TpT store?

Yes, I just recently opened my TpT store.  All of the items I have posted are free, so be sure to check it out and follow if you like what you see.  I have other projects in the works, so be sure to check back for updates.  You can visit my TpT store by clicking here.

Thanks for stopping by my blog!  Be sure to head over to I {heart} Recess for more budding blogs.

1 Comment »

Math Games and A Peek at my Week

I’m linking up with two other blogs today for my Sunday post.  The first linky party is with iSurf for their Math linkup.

Math Linky Party Graphic

Rounding Game

Students in 4th grade are usually proficient in rounding to the nearest ten or hundred, but once they see the comma and hit the thousands, they forget what to do, so I created a simple game to spiral this skill through my math stations.

I found a wooden cube that I had from an old set of math manipulatives and wrote tens, hundreds, and thousands on it (twice each, since there are 6 sides).  I also found some cube printables online, but chose the wooden one since I will be using this for awhile!  I then pulled out our math cards that have numbers 0-9 on them.  You could use a deck of playing cards, but you would lose 0 and 1, or you could find a printable set online, print them on cardstock, and use those.

The game: Pull out 4 cards from the deck.  Write the numbers down on a whiteboard.  Roll the place value rounding die.  When you know what place value you will be rounding, underline the numbers you will work with to round, and round your number.  Have your partner check your work.

It’s simple, but for some reason, when you add dice to a game, the students are more engaged and feel like they are really playing a game (when, in fact, they are reviewing their rounding rules).

I want them to be able to round to the hundred thousands by the time they leave, so I intend to transition them from my homemade dice to real dice.  They would then count over the number of places shown on the die they are rolling, and then round their number.  They will need to pull more cards with this version, too.

For more fun math games, be sure to head over to iSurf and check out the linkups!

And now for A Peek at my Week with Mrs. Laffin’s Laughings.

Peek at My Week


This week we will begin multiplication in math.  This is always fun interesting!  There are so many different levels of learners in the room, so we will all start out very basic with base 10 blocks.

In Writer’s Workshop, we will be putting Gretchen Bernabei’s writing resources to the test!  I LOVE her stuff.  If you haven’t heard of her, you HAVE to check out her lessons and strategies.  She has a WEALTH of knowledge and shares what she knows.  There are numerous free printables on her website, and I have most of them on my Writer’s Workshop page.  We will start Monday by writing our “kernel” essays.


We will continue to use our base 10 blocks to explore multiplication in math.  In writing, we will begin our transfer of our kernel essay into a flipbook.  It’s amazing how much more students will write when you break it into smaller chunks.  The flipbook allows them to focus on one paragraph at a time using a text structure. (You can find the text structures on the Writer’s Workshop page, too!)


We will transition our multiplication practice to using pictures.  The students will put away the base 10 blocks and begin drawing pictures and looking at arrays and other pictures instead.  In writing, we will continue to fill out our flipbooks and ask questions about our writing to be sure we are adding in all of those juicy details our readers want to read.


Today we will continue using pictures and arrays to understand multiplication.  We will also continue in our flipbooks, adding those finishing touches to our stories.


Historically, Fridays are assessment days.  We will assess to see how far the students have come with their understanding of multiplication.  In writing, we will take our spelling test, and with our time left over, we will go back and reread our stories and make sure we are happy with what we have written.  We will celebrate those stories by walking around the room and reading others’ stories and writing down feedback for the authors.

It’s jam-packed, but it will be fun!  Have a great week!

1 Comment »

Teaching Math with Movement

Our year is off to a great start!  Even though I feel a bit rusty with my math teaching skills, my students are (so far) really interested in learning and I’m seeing progress already.

We began this year with place value.  Our 4th graders are expected to read, write, and understand numbers through 999,999,999.  In 3rd grade, they are only expected to go up to 999,999.  For many students, the transition to millions is very simple, but for others, it’s a nightmare!  Seeing that many numbers all squished together makes them cringe.

I’m lucky enough to have in-class support from one of the best Special Education teachers I know.  Today she gave me an idea about using some simple movements to make this place value concept more concrete.  Boy, am I thankful, too!  This one, simple little trick made a WORLD of difference in the understanding today.  Curious yet?  Good.  I’ll let you in on this little “secret.”

Total Physical Response.  This is a term that has been thrown around quite a bit, but I just seem to forget about it at times.  TPR is basically putting movement to words to make certain concepts more concrete for kids.  When we talked about place value, we discussed how each set of numbers (hundreds, thousands, millions…) is read in groups of 3.  I told the kids that if they can read a simple 3-digit number, that they should be able to read any number, as long as they remember the “family” where each group of digits belongs.  When we see a comma in a set of numbers, it represents a family (hundreds, thousands, etc.).  When we see the comma, we make a large gesture with our hands like a comma in the air while saying the family name.  Then when we get to the last set (hundreds), we make a signal like “safe” in baseball so that the students know not to actually say that family name.

Here is an example for 789,646,210:

789 (big comma gesture while saying, “Million”), 646 (big comma gesture while saying, “Thousand”), 210 (“safe” gesture).

After doing this, 100% of my students actually understand how to read those numbers.  No longer are they saying those wacky numbers.  It’s amazing what a small gesture like this can do for struggling learners (and those that think they already know it all!).  Try it–you WILL see a difference!!  😉

Is there something that you do to make your students understand this concept even better?  If so, I would LOVE to hear your suggestions!

I’m hoping to be able to post more freebies over the weekend, as well as more pictures of great things that are happening in my classroom.  Stay tuned for more!


Super Cute Fonts (Personal & Commercial Use–TOTALLY FREE!!)

Totally Free Fonts

I admit it.  I have a new addiction…other than blog stalking and Pinterest!  FONTS!!  I love fonts!!  I know, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy right about now!  That’s OK, you will find your font addiction soon, too, if you visit this website that I just found.

I know that there are lots of websites out there that offer “free” fonts, but many of them do not allow you to use their fonts on products that are not for personal use only.  So be careful!!  You don’t want to use a font on TpT or even on your website/blog that is for you only.  I just recently downloaded like…50 new fonts from www.fontsquirrel.com.  There is a plethora of fonts to choose from, and all of them allow you to use them commercially!

If you are looking for new fonts for back to school, head over to Font Squirrel for some awesome new fonts!!  I included the picture to show off a few of the new ones that I downloaded.

What is your favorite *FREE* font website?  I would love to hear from you!!  (It’s OK, if you admit you have an addiction, it’s not as bad….right??)  🙂

1 Comment »

%d bloggers like this: