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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!

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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!

Friday, August 7, 2015

Summer Vacation 2015

I feel so behind right now! We had a wonderful "unplugged" (almost) vacation in Montana, Wyoming, and Utah, and I refused to bring my laptop with me. I didn't work on any "teacher stuff", but we did have a great time, and I took some fabulous pictures.
Fishing in Montana

T-Rex attack at the Museum of the Rockies 

Grizzly Bears, Jake and Jenny

Riding Fabio

Raiding the Raspberry Patch

Rock climbing...
...and climbing rocks in Wyoming
Devil's Tower

Chillin' at the lake

I can't believe summer's almost over! Now it's time to get back into "teacher mode". I've been shopping and writing up plans. I'm almost ready to begin setting up my new classroom for the year. I'm so excited to be teaching 5th grade again this year, and can't wait to get started! Classroom makeover pictures coming soon...