Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Thinking about the first day... {Freebies!}

I'm spending another afternoon at school today. I have a class list, and an almost set up room, so I started focusing on that first day. I went through my file from last year and found some things I thought might be useful for you guys as well. 

This is something I do on the first day. It's useful to have on hand for phone calls/conferences but it's also fun to give back to the kids on the last day to see how they've changed.

This is the list of procedures I go over with kids on the first day. I tried to make one that's more general that anyone could use. There are blank lines on the bottom for the students to list other questions they think of. 

Lastly is a classroom scavenger hunt. This was the first grade I took last year. After going over procedures I give students a chance to show me they were listening. It reviews most of the things talked about on the procedures handout, with a few added questions regarding classroom supplies and classroom library. 

Hope you find these helpful!  

Monday, July 30, 2012

New {School} Year Resolution Linky Party!

Like many of you, I'm linking up with Amanda from Teaching Maddeness for her New {School} Year Resolutions Linky Party! I still have 21 days of summer left (who's counting?), but I dont think it would hurt to start thinking about these things now! 

This year I hope to ... 

Resolution #1: Keep blogging during the school year. I vividly remember stalking all of your guys' awesome blogs around November thinking "How do they possibly keep up with this AND teach?" It's fun in the summer (when my daily "To do" list has two things on it), but I think it could really keep me focused and motivated when I see everyone else's great ideas. 

Resolution #2: Use my plan bell wisely. Somehow, 40 minutes comes and goes and I don't even make it to the bathroom 1/2 the time! :) I like my co-workers, but I need  to spend those valuable minutes grading, straightening and planning for the rest of my day. Especially since my plan is at 10am this year!

Resolution #3: Focus less on "the test". At my school, we live and breathe talking about THE TEST. We graph and analyze our previous years scores. Make lists of the kids we think we can pass based on what THEY scored the previous year. Give benchmark tests and calculate if we would have met our goal if that test were the state test. It's outrageous. And we never meet our goals. I think it's because we stress out for 9 consecutive months. My best friend, Bob Marzano, said at a conference this summer "Just teach and the test will take care of itself". He's not really my best friend, but I did get my picture with him, so I like to think we're close pals now :)

What are your goals for this year? Link up and share! 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Organizing your classroom

I don't claim to be many things, but one thing I am is organized. I've spent a lot of time this summer improving my systems and so far I'm really happy with things. I wanted to share some of my ideas in case anyone is in need of some organizational assistance :)

I have these adhesive pocket labels on each of my cabinets. I listed the items in each cabinet and I also have a red 'x' or a green 'check' that indicates rather or not the kids can access that particular cabinet. These were $6.99 at Michael's. 

This is the inside of our "supply center". Where I teach, the students cannot always bring their own supplies. I have a classroom collection that my students can use if needed. Typically I would say "If you have scissors, place them on your desk, if not I'll come around and give you a pair". This way things stay clean and there aren't 12 kids standing around this cabinet rummaging through things. The bins were $1.00 each at WalMart. Labels are free on TpT. 

This is another one of the cabinets the kids cannot get into. I have borders stored on the top shelf and the bottom two hold seasonal decorations, string, stickets, etc. The containers holding the borders were 4/$1.00 at a local dollar store. They are snack containers. 

Another "teacher" cabinet. These are posters, calendar parts, wreaths for my door, etc. My sentence strips are hanging from medium sized binder clips on command hooks. The hooks are about $4 for 2, but reusable and SO worth it. 

This is how my students make lunch choices. Their names are on popsicle sticks and they place them into the appropriate section. They are hot lunch, cheese sandwich, yogurt and packing. I wrote their options on standard size Avery labels. The container is from Target and I believe around $4 (but has lasted perfectly through an entire school year). The sign is on TN for free. 

"What time is lunch?" "When do we go to gym?" "Is it time for Math?" 
I hear these questions for months somehow, though it doesn't change. I like the clocks on Pinterest that you put around the clock pointing to the time, but I thought for 5th graders this might be better. It still saves me from those questions and it's great to remind me at the beginning of the year!  

I made this to eliminate the line around my desk (especially when we write). I got this idea from the photo on Pinterest that has students place their clip in different places based on where they are in the writing process. Students take the first available number and I call them one at a time so that they can work while they wait instead of standing around by my desk.

This is the inside of my cabinet. I have my pens, sharpies and pencils (these items "disappeared" from our supply center pretty often) as well as my curriculum. I have each unit of Treasure's placed next to the binder that holds tests, copies of handouts I give for homework, answer documents for tests, etc. Each is categorized by the story it goes with. I also wrote down the skills we cover in that story on each divider so I could supplement with additional materials easily.

Clipboards are SO awkwardly shaped. I had them in cabinets but they often spilled out when I opened the cabinets. That got old fast. Enter, my clipboard laundry basket :) I weaved my cute polka dot ribbon in and out and hot glued it where they met. I used binder rings to attach the sign to the basket and placed them in a nook of my room (under my sink). However, I've seen this picture from Step into 2nd Grade floating around Pinterest and I adore it too! My laundry basket was $3 at Bigg Lots and the ribbon was cheap at WalMart! 

I got these cute wire mesh containers in the dollar section at Target. I place my copies here Friday for the following week so that when I need to pass something out it is right where I need it. It bothers me slightly that they curl due to not standing up straight, but I try not to be too OCD. Ha

We've all seen the adorable toolboxes turned into teacher supply holders on our favorite blogs. My lovely mother purchased this for me. I used my handy label maker to simply label the sections, I didn't go to the trouble of covering them with scrapbook paper or duct tape because I could see inside. 

Have you seen the labeled binder clips at your local teacher supply store? They are legitimately $15. I quickly realized I could make some. Labelers are AWESOME. I have these clipped onto my supply holder on my desk and it helps eliminate piles of stuff. Mine say "to be graded" "to be recorded" "to pass back". 

One last thing! A lot of teachers comment on this being a good idea. I have an example of what a clean cubby is, and what a messy cubby is. I realized after some time, that I could say "clean out your cubby" all day long, but if they don't know what I want it to look like it's a waste of time. SO, I photographed two examples (not from my class) and taped it above their cubbies. Pictures are so great to show kids what you expect. Try taking a picture of a perfect line! [Sorry for the glare from the lamination!]

That's enough from me. Do you have any great organizational tips? Please share or link to your blogs below! I'd love to explore!

Enjoy your Sunday!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Let's Write! [freebie!]

Hello everyone! I'm excited about making it to 21 followers. Is it silly to start thinking about 50 follower giveaway already? :)

Anyways! I wanted to talk about writing. It's something 5th (and 6th) graders seem to be less than thrilled about. Sure there's the occasional poet, but I've never introduced a writing assignment and heard cheers. So, in student teaching, when my poetry unit was not met with the enthusiasm I had hoped for,  I came up with a plan. I handed out random words on cards, told them to leave them upside down on their desks. At that point they were already interested (and peeking, I'm sure). I set a timer for 90 seconds (or longer, you can work your way up) and told them to write about whatever was on their card until the timer went off. At first I got a sentence or two, but I always shared my own example and tried to steer them in the right direction.

They can:
-Write a list of synonyms 
-Write words that are in the same category with the word
-Write a poem
-Write a story about that word
-Word association (the word reminds me of ________, which reminds me of _________, which makes me think of __________). This is only a list of words. 
-Write anything else they want

 Somehow it turns into a game. They legitimately chose this for free time on a Friday once. This, by no means, turned my class into published authors, but they suddenly could brainstorm, put words on paper and share freely. It was allowed to be silly, funny, serious, outrageous. Basically the only rule was to stay appropriate.  They were hilarious, deep, thoughtful, gross. But they were writing. Eventually stories and sometimes they'd continue (ON THEIR OWN TIME!) for days. 

That leads me to my freebie. I had torn in half raggedy index cards I was using, so I got around to making some. In case anyone wants to try it out in their classroom I wanted to have it available. Click the link to get to my TN store and download!


Thursday, July 26, 2012

First Day Jitters and "Where are we" board

What a perfect blog hop for me today! Ashley from Fierce in Forth is hosting this fun blog hop! I don't know why, but I am really stressed out waiting for the year to begin. I'm going into my third year, but you would think it's my first with my nerves. 

Our class sizes are 26 this year (22 last year) due to our levy failing. I have this mental picture in my head that my room will be packed full. That I won't be able to walk in the aisles. I'm also somehow convinced that the first day will come and I'll have no plans made. Organizationally, my room looks pretty good. Academically, I'm at a loss. I want to run things differently than I have my last two years, but I can't wrap my mind around how things should run. I know everything will probably end up fine, but I still worry! 

Anyways, to make myself feel like I'm getting SOMETHING done, I wanted to share how my version of the "Where Are We?" sign and how it turned out. Our school mascot is an owl so instead of "Where Are We?", I decided this ... 

I think it's pretty fun! Hope everyone else is feeling a little more successful about preparing for the upcoming year :)  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Versatile Blogger Award & an Awesome writing resource

Vicky from "Keep Calm & Imagine..." nominated me for my first blogger award! Thanks so much  Vicky! I've only been blogging a few days, so obviously I'm very excited! 

There are a few guidelines that go along with this award:
-You must thank whoever it is that nominated you & link to their site
-include the award on your site
-Share 7 random facts about yourself 
-Nominate 15 other bloggers and tell them they've been nominated 

Here we go with the Random facts!

1. I have two furry children named Bo & Henry and I treat them as real children occasionally :) Here they are! 
2. I am the daughter of a teacher (my mom teaches 2nd grade) and the wife of a teacher (my husband is an intervention specialist). I love having people around me that understand my job!

3. I love a bargain! I regularly visit thrift stores, garage sales and dollar stores in search of a deal. I NEVER pay full price!

4. I got hired 6 weeks after school had started my first year, to teach 6th grade. 

5. I'm a vegetarian.

6. I haven't told anyone (except my husband) that I'm blogging for two reasons: 1) it may bomb, and then I don't have to explain myself to anyone 2) My grandma may take over my comments as she has my Facebook profile, and that, my friends is nothing short of embarrassing. 

7. My favorite color is grey, which I've been told is a weird favorite color.

Here are my nominations. I selected 5 excellent candidates, since 15 was a bit of a lofty goal for a newbie like myself!

1. Alissa from Fun in Fifth
3. Miss Johnson from How to Dress Like a Teacher
5. Miss B from Miss B, Busy Bee

These blogs are all great finds, and I'm glad I did some extra stalking to find them. 

One more quick thing, I found a really cool website (on Pinterest - of course!) that I think would be fun to use in the classroom. It's simply 100+ writing prompts, largely in picture form. The possibilities are endless. Upper Elementary and middle school teachers could definitely get some amazing responses from the kiddies with these prompts. Check it out here! These are just 2 fun examples. 

Have a great day! It's still SUMMER, after all :)

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Upper Elementary Word Work Freebie

If you an upper elementary teacher using the Daily 5, you may have had a hard time finding "word work" that's challenging enough for your students. There are A LOT of awesome resources out there, and many can be altered, but it's still been a bit of a struggle. So, my solution was to make something! 

I made this handout to use with vocabulary or spelling words. We have 20 spelling words/week, so I hated to use 1 page/word. The way I have it set up, you could run 4 "charts"/page back to back. 

I attempted to take bits and pieces of different strategies I've used/read about. I attended several phonics trainings this summer, and we discussed the value of breaking words down into syllables in an attempt to help students understand both prefixes and suffixes but also chunks and blends. I've also looked into the Frayer Model and the value of asking students to give an example and a non example. I left the boxes large enough for the students to write word examples/non examples or draw pictures. I don't know if this is something I will have my students use every week, but completing this would force the students to become a bit more familiar with words and the way they work! 

Click the image to download the handout from my Teacher's Notebook store. 

Have a great Tuesday!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Classroom photos

Happy Monday! I hope everyone had a good day. Mine was interesting .. I went with a few co-workers to our local "teacher store" for their Teacher Appreciation Day. The first 100 people received a gift card for $5, $10 or $20. We arrived 10 minutes before they opened. OBVIOUSLY, we did not know this was Black Friday for teachers. Check out that line! 

Anyways, we left empty handed and headed to school to do some work. I took some pictures because I'm starting to feel like I'm making some progress and I needed to celebrate! 

This is my classroom library. I have a little over 500 books. I've sorted by genre, but written the AR level on the inside cover. I worry I would limit kids by only allowing them to read close to their level. I've noticed that if they have a high interest level, they can get through almost any book! 

Also, I would not be able to keep up with these books were in not for Classroom Organizer. It's an app and a website where your students can check books out. They enter the ISBN or title to find the book. If they have not returned in (in the computer) within 2 weeks you get a reminder email. Talk about awesome!

This board stayed the same from last year, because it serves its purpose well. The kids keep track of our specials for me. Also, somehow along the line I've lost my August? Had to print one off :) 

Do you love my scrap booked Sterilite drawers? I got the idea when this bin I wanted was $70 at Michael's! But I got some awesome tips from the tutorials over on Kinder-Craze. Check it out!

Did I mention I LOVE organizational bins/trays/boxes .. pretty much anything you can sort things in. Here I have notebook paper, computer paper, reading logs, vocabulary charts. Pretty much any handouts I give out on a regular basis. 

 Thank you Target Dollar Spot .. $2.50 turn in trays! My kiddies turn in their work on the back counter. I've labeled trays for each section. Highlighters are in the cup, so they don't forget their name. I CANNOT seem to retrace my steps and find where I printed off this adorable sign. But if you know who I can give credit to, please let me know! 

How cute are these guys? I'm aiming for a "techie" theme this year. The kids love their phones, mp3s, etc. I figure if I can use things that peak their interest, why not? These were about $3.50 and made by Trend. I'm using these on my door with my student's names on them for back to school.

Are these iPod cubby numbers not adorable? They are a freebie from 2nd Grade Shenanigans. She has other "Rock and Roll" themed items in her store. Love it!

Sticking with my fun little theme, check out the job board ... on an iPhone (though my proportions are a bit off. Perhaps it's more of an iPad?). I was inspired by this photo I found on Pinterest. I just added a home button and some speakers. I love how it turned out!

This is how I'm tracking AR points this year. Each student will have a clothes pin with their name on it and move the clip accordingly as they accumulate points. I like how this turned out as well, but I'm going to need new border to match these prints! 

As I hand out papers, I put extras in these back bins (labeled Monday-Friday). Students can then pick up their missing work here, or even get an extra copy. When a new week begins, I put the remaining papers in another tray until the quarter ends. You can get my sign in my Teacher's Notebook store for free! 

This is right by my door. My students will have popsicle sticks spread out on this surface each morning. They then put them into the bin labeled "hot lunch" or "packing" as they enter. I hang the menu on the wall to help them. This is also how I take attendance, when I see popsicle sticks remaining after the bell. OH and my tiny little dustpan was $1 at Dollar General. We'll use it to clean up pencil shavings :) 

Is it too dorky to admit that I'm ready for our Back to School Night? It's not until August 20th! But I'm already partially set up. These are my brochures and parent question sheets.

I am from finished, but it's a solid base! I think need tell the people who think we set around in PJ's all summer watching soap operas that we're ALWAYS working towards the next year. Send any of your awesome ideas my way! 

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Newbie Blog Hop & Another Freebie!

I am really excited about starting this blog and encouraged by my number of hits! Thanks for stopping by. Hopefully you'll keep coming back! 

I found this blog hop for newbie bloggers like myself hosted by Grade 3 is the Place for Me. How perfect! There are some ridiculously great blogs out there, and this is a good place to browse and find some. I'm kind of amazed by how many great teachers there are out there! Anyways, let's get started! 

1.  what state you are in? Ohio
    2.  your current teaching position? 5th grade language arts and social studies
    3.  your teaching experience? One year in 6th, going into my second with 5th.
    4.  when you started blogging? Literally 2 days ago :)
    5.  share a blogging tip / blogging resource. I think it's important to network with other bloggers. Not just for great ideas but to make some new "friends". 

One other thing, I have spent some SERIOUS time lately researching literature circles and guiding reading. Thanks to some of my great college friends and their strategies and tips I THINK I'm ready to implement this year. My district requires us to use a basal series too, so more than anything it's a time struggle for me. And that means organization is KEY. 

So, I created something I think will help. I love binders for organization so this freebie has binder labels for both literature circles and guided reading and several other pages that will help you get organized (description on TN page). It's a 9 page PDF! If you download it, please rate it or leave me a comment/send message with suggestions.

Thanks guys! Hope you all had a great weekend. I ran in the Color Run in Columbus with my dad and had a BLAST.. I'll post pictures soon :) 


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