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Sunday, December 13, 2015

My Favorite Things

Wow! I have not posted in quite a while. I guess November just got away from me. So I thought I'd join up with Southern Fried Teachin' for a fun holiday linky. Here goes...
my favorite things
Click on the picture above to go back to the original post.

1. Carol of the Bells
2. Baklava
3. My kids and I have a book of inspirational and spiritual messages every day for the month of December along with scriptures and carols. We read it together each evening before bed.
4. Twas' the Night Before Christmas
5. Choosing names off one of the many giving trees around town.
6. Playing with all  my cousins at one set of Grandparents'  house on Christmas Eve, then playing with the other cousins at my other grandparents' house on Christmas Day. It's a good thing they only lived 15 miles apart! Pretty much any time to get together and cause trouble with my cousins was a good time!
7. On my 16th birthday, my grandma bought me a year's worth of piano lessons from a professional teacher.
8. Every year, my kids and I make a gingerbread village. None of us are very creative, so it usually ends up looking like a ghost town.
9. Charlie Brown's Christmas
10. Amazon...nothing beats shopping in your pj's with a cup of hot cocoa :)
11. books, books, and books!
12. My favorite subject to teach is reading, and my current favorite product is a Greek and Latin root packet with activities for the entire year. It is currently marked down to $7.50 for the duration of this linky (today through December 19).

Greek and Latin Roots Super Pack

Make sure you go back to the original page and check out more great blog posts. Merry Christmas!

Sunday, November 1, 2015

What can a teacher do to be a good mentor?

I was just featured on Mrs. E Teaches Math with this question: What can a teacher do to be a good mentor?

Here's my response:

What can a teacher do to be a good mentor?

Don't bombard them with "stuff"!  I know we all want to share, but the last thing a new teacher needs is piles of stuff to go through (no matter how wonderful it is) when they're already overloaded.  Instead, ask them specific meaningful questions: "How are you planning on introducing this novel?" Or "Do you have a plan for comparing fossil fuels and alternative fuel sources?"  Then you can share specific lessons, ideas, or activities that they can use right away.

Go to the original blog to see some more great responses!

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Trick or Treat

I'm participating in Rachel Parlett's blog hop to share some neat teaching "tricks", and maybe a few "treats" as well. When you finish reading my post, go on to the next blog in the hop for more tricks and treats.

How about an easy formative assessment trick...exit tickets! For me, these have always been something on the back of my mind. I know I should utilize them more, but when? So this year, I've made exit tickets one of my goals. I don't use them for every lesson, or even every day, but once or twice a week. I never get to hear every kid's thought processes, especially since I have 3 classes of 28 kids each, so exit tickets have opened up a little window into their amazing minds. 

Now for organization...I've seen some teachers who have students hand their tickets to them before they leave, or put them in a basket or bin, but (at least for me), it was too hard to keep track of who turned their ticket in and who just quietly snuck out the door. Rather than catch them the next class, or try to chase them down the hall, I gave each student their own place for exit tickets.

All of my students in all 3 classes are assigned a number. I have this nifty metal door on my room, so I just put up write on/wipe off magnets with their number on the door (there are a few extra just in case one of the classes gets more kiddos). Students place their completed ticket under their number on the way out. That way I can see immediately who hasn't turned one in. I can collect each set at the end of the class period so the door is ready for the next class.

Now about topic...these don't have to be elaborate questions based specifically on each lesson taught. The tickets shown above were students own conclusions about the results of a science experiment based on that particular day's reading in the text (you can see 3 students were absent), but there are many generic questions that will work for any subject and almost every lesson. Here are a few to get you started:

1. Name one important thing you learned in class today.
2. What is one question you still have about today's lesson?
3. Pretend your friend was absent. How would you explain the the lesson to him/her?
4. Write down 1 thing I can do to help you.
5. What concept has been most difficult/confusing for you in this chapter?
6. How did today's assignment go? What can you do to improve next time?
7. If you were writing a quiz for today's lesson, what are 2 questions you would put on it?
8. What do you need to do to prepare for the upcoming test?

For this week only, I'm offering 2 freebies at my TPT store as a blog hop "treat". 

Literature Theme Sort Genre Sort

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Keep "trick-or-treating" on around to the next blog! You'll know when you've finished the hop when you get back around to my blog. Happy Halloween!

Monday, October 19, 2015

Sunday, October 4, 2015

My Spooky Classroom

Because I have a student who is sensitive to visual stimulation, that is to say, he's easily distracted, I didn't want to go overboard with my Halloween decorations this year. I love to hear all the exclamations as my kids take in their new surroundings. Of course, they want to see and touch everything, and I let them...the first day. After that, they become part of our environment. Other than the "pumpkin patch" being the most popular spot for independent reading and the skull getting his head rubbed (for good luck, of course) on the way out the door, the new deco is pretty much left alone. With all the talk about rigor, school still needs to be a fun place. They're kids, after all! So I just laugh to myself when I hear whispered comments like "The skull is watching me" or "Did you shake the scarecrow's hand?" or "I swear I saw the bat just move!"

The Pumpkin Patch--everyone's favorite reading nook!

Monday, September 21, 2015

It's Fall Y'all!

My absolute favorite time of year!

I'm linking up with Denise from #teachermom for her fall blog hop. 

The kids are finally getting into their routine, now it's time to have some fun! One of my favorite fall activities is my apple tree paintings:

This is a great activity for following oral directions, and makes a beautiful fall bulletin board display. I've done this activity with 1st-3rd graders, and I'm trying to come up with a way to make it challenging enough for my 5th graders this year. The picture above was completed by a 1st-grader.

Here are the steps:

1. Fold the paper in half, and in half again to make fourths.
2. Paint a tree trunk in each fourth.
3. In the 1st fourth, paint bare branches.
4. In the 2nd fourth, use a sponge brush (I make them by cutting a sponge into strips, folding each strip in half, and clipping it in a clothes pin), to sponge (not wipe) pink "blossoms".
5. In the 3rd fourth, repeat the sponge brush procedure to make green "leaves". 
6. In the last fourth, repeat the sponge brush procedure to make yellow-orange "leaves"; then use the eraser end of a pencil to make the red "apples". 

That's it! Simple and beautiful. It is a great addition to my apple unit:

Apple Thematic Unit for Common Core Standards

Go on back to #teachermom by clicking on the link at the top of the page to check out more great fall ideas!

Friday, September 11, 2015

Friday's News


Week 2...always better than week 1 :)

Our 5th grade rotates classes for different subjects. The kids stay with the same group, but move to different classrooms throughout the morning. My day begins with a reading class from the teacher 2 doors down...just so happens to be my daughter's home-room class. Then the next class comes in for science and reading. After a prep period and lunch, I finally get to see my homeroom class for reading and science.

I have to say, I was a little excited and a little nervous when we started our rotations this week, but after today I L-O-V-E it! I get to teach my 2 favorite subjects all day long, I get to teach my own kiddo, and the time flies by.

I'm ashamed to admit, but after a very rough first week, I was afraid I would be stuck in survival mode all year long. Things are definitely looking up!

Next week will be our first full week of school, so I'm starting my Latin and Greek root of the week program. I just created it this summer, and I can't wait to try it out!

Check it out at my TPT store, marked down to $8.00 for the rest of September, then click back on the linky party button to see more of Friday's News:
Greek and Latin Roots Super Pack

Saturday, September 5, 2015

The Classroom Belongs to the Kids

1 week down...many more to go!

The first few weeks are all about building relationships, and, as you know, week 1 is critical. Our school is beginning the Leader in Me process this year, so I wanted my students to feel that my classroom really belongs to them.

To start with, I used the 6 Essential Questions activity in groups. Their responses became our class rules. I was really impressed with the rules and consequences they thought up.
They also put their names up...everywhere!
As part of the Leader in Me program, our school came up with a new mission statement, and each classroom came up with their own. We read a few examples, and then I partnered the kids up to see what they would come up with. The result was wonderful!
School mission statement

Class mission statement
Of course, all the artwork is their own! Finally, we needed leadership roles to keep the class running smoothly. The suggestion box underneath is to add anything they think we need. I've already had one suggestion in it!
We're really emphasizing the 5th graders as student leaders for the younger kids in the school. The classroom roles are one way to practice. Many are applying for schoolwide roles as well. 

One thing I love is our bathroom procedures. They put their clip on the first available number. When it is an appropriate time to go, the person on number one goes, then calls the next person on the list and moves all the clips up one number. This way, they're monitoring their own bathroom breaks and not interrupting the class.
The last thing we went through was Class Dojo. I absolutely love this program. It is a simple points system, but with the added advantage of immediate parent contact. Kids and parents can log on to their account online or with a smart phone app to see how they're doing. I can also send out class notifications and contact parents directly if there is an issue. 
Next week we start curriculum. I am teaching only reading and science this year, and I wanted to give the kids a preview of what we'd be learning. We'll begin next week with these anchor charts:
The first week is always exciting, and I can't wait to dive right in next week. Have a wonderful school year!

Monday, August 31, 2015

Building Back to School Writing Tools

I'm glad to once again join Denise Hill's linky. I missed last week because I was setting up my classroom. We start school on Monday, and I am so excited to get to know all (84) of my 5th grade reading and science students!

Here we go with writing tools--I love, love, love anchor charts! They work for any topic in any subject, but I especially used them for writing last year. The key to an effective anchor chart is to make it WITH the kids and build it gradually. Don't add all the information at once; it needs to be a work in progress. Once the chart is filled, display it somewhere that the kids can still access it.
This is one of the first charts I made with my first-graders at the beginning of our writer's workshop that stayed up all year long. We began with narrative, then added informational and opinion later in the year. I just kept unfolding the chart paper as we needed more of it, so this poster didn't need much space at the beginning of the year.

First grade again...this time breaking down a narrative into genres and adding guidelines for them to remember. Once again, this poster was made over a very long period of time (9 weeks). Each time we would add something we found examples in mentor texts and practiced using it on our own. Even when we were done learning about narratives, this chart stayed on the wall so students could refer to it during free-write time.

Short, but sweet, I know! Please head on over to these other blogs for more great ideas and possibly some terrific give-aways :)

Friday, August 21, 2015

Check out My New Classroom!

 It's that time of year again! Everyone is posting pictures of their super cute classrooms and sharing ideas on Pinterest. Last year my classroom was all bright turquoise and lime green...bright and happy: Click here for a peak. This year I changed rooms (once again), and my new room is painted a soothing blue and beige...clashed a little with all my bright backgrounds and borders. So I've decided to change my theme to a more zen-like 5th grade classroom. The only thing missing is the student names...I hate to label anything until right before open house just in case there are those inevitable last minute changes.
This is what I walked in to a couple of weeks ago.
Instead of butcher paper or a cloth background (last year I used bedsheets!), I've covered my bulletin boards in scrapbook paper. Thanks mom for helping me pick out a set. Any posters I put up will be based on what we're currently learning, so right now the boards are all blank. I'll throw up some anchor charts before the first day of school with information about the topics we'll cover during the year as a preview.


I'll be teaching 2 subjects this year: reading and science, so I divided my room up into 2 sections. The reading side has all my bookshelves plus a chalkboard/bulletin board. Honestly, who uses their chalkboard? Thankfully mine is magnetic so it is a perfect place for posters and anchor charts. The border is made up of smaller scrapbook pages glued onto the board (if I ever meet the inventor of glue dots I will seriously kiss them)!

The science side of the room includes a bulletin board and a forward-facing book shelf for ever revolving science trade books.

The computer area is one of the 2 blue walls. It has a weird bulletin board in the corner that I haven't decided on a use for yet. This could be where I display student work. I just couldn't give up all my bright green stuff! I had these hanging everywhere last year. The four here are the only ones that survived summer storage.
Teacher corner! I know a lot of people that say the whole classroom should be for the students, but I still think there should be an off-limit space for "teacher stuff". The kids have access to everything they'll possibly need for the school year. This is my spot for family pictures, teachers' manuals, and trinkets students have given me over the years. This also has a teacher-only computer where I can conference with kids about their grades without broadcasting them for the rest of the class to see.
I started using class dojo last year as a supplement to my behavior plan. This year it IS my behavior plan. You've got to check out this program if you haven't already: It has every aspect of classroom management covered, including parent communication, and is completely editable for your needs. I'm teaching 3 classes this year, so I set up a virtual classroom for each of them to keep track of their points. It is not a competition (although I've heard of some teachers using it that way), but a way for them to keep track of their own behavior and earn rewards for individual and class milestones.
I've even decorated the bathroom doors! These turned out so cute, I'm thinking of adding them as a freebie on TPT. Let me know what you think...

And that is it for my 5th grade classroom 2015-2016. I'll update pictures as I add posters and anchor charts throughout the year. Have a wonderful school year!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Get Inspired!

I joined up with TPT for their one-day sale. My entire store will be 20% off on Wednesday!

Tools for Language

I'm excited to be linking up once again for the Building Back to School Blog Hop. This week is all about language tools.

This has always been my least favorite subject to teach. Let's face's not very exciting. So here are 4 tips I always try to keep in mind.

1: Make it Daily

Whether you use a DOL program, journals, or (my favorite) choose an editing focus during your writing block, make language instruction a part of your daily ELA time.
September Daily Language for 1st Grade

2: Make it Authentic

Even though DOL is a great tool, studies show the most effective language instruction comes from authentic experiences. Here are some of my favorite activities:

  • Use mentor texts to model conventions such as compound or complex sentence structures.
  • Choose an author with incredible word choice (Jan Brett is always good) to model parts of speech.
  • Model editing in my own writing or in previous students' writing (I never use a current students' work for whole class editing practice).
  • Copy a passage from a current book you are reading and do a Notice It/Name It activity (Have students look through passage for anything at all, i.e. slanting letters. Give it a name: italics). Follow up with an explanation and a chance to use it in their own writing.
3: Make it Cumulative

Just because you've officially covered nouns for the year doesn't mean you are finished working with them. Language skills can't be taught in complete isolation never to be repeated. Language needs to be built upon and reviewed all year long. 

4: Build Vocabulary

Whether you are studying parts of speech or Latin roots, use language instruction as a chance to build vocabulary. Word of the Week programs are great for building vocabulary, but make sure you are consistently using and reusing all the words introduced this way. I have a great Greek and Latin root product in my TPT store that does just this: introduces a root with examples, offers activities such as journals and word hunts, games such as I Have, Who Has, and quizzes. The whole program is cumulative so it constantly spirals back on itself throughout the whole year.
Greek and Latin Roots Super Pack

Enter here to get a copy of my Spelling Tic-Tac-Toe and check out more great language tools!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, August 10, 2015

Building Back to School Blog Hop

I'm joining up with teachermom for her August linky.Displaying BBTS_Weekly IG Button_Classroom Tools.jpg

There is a new topic each Monday for the rest of the month. This week is all about "Classroom Tools". As we're getting our rooms prepared, we always find more and more "stuff" to fill up the walls. I personally believe that if my students aren't using it, it's just taking up space. So this year I want to use my beautiful posters as teaching tools before I put them on the wall. On a good note...getting my classroom set up will be so much easier! Here are some examples of  resources I used last year. Since I put them up before school began, they didn't get used nearly as much as they would have if I introduced them as a teaching tool first.
I was so proud of my math vocabulary sets for k-5 (5th grade shown here in blue) and mathematical practice posters. They're still a great classroom resource, but this year I'll use them to teach the specific skill before putting them on the wall. That way my kiddos can constantly access them for support.

I love, love, love these reading genre posters. This resource did get used quite a bit, but their placement made it difficult to refer to. This year they're moving to a better position on my reading wall.

Thanks for reading about my classroom resources. Now check out some other great resources by clicking on the blog hop picture above or using the links below. Happy Back to School!