Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Fiction and Nonfiction Summary Writing FREEBIE!!!

As I sat here this afternoon grading the summaries that my students had written using Jen's Comprehension Strategy Posters For Nonfiction Text (which I LOVE!!!) I was disappointed to see that several of my students didn't seem to understand how to write a summary...even after all of my modeling. 

One student had written his opinion, a couple had written their thoughts about the text, but few had been able to actually pull out examples from the text and summarize it in their own words.  So, I decided to create some scaffolding sheets that will help them when writing summaries (Which we'll be doing a lot next week as I re-teach!)

Click on the picture below if you'd like a copy :)

Sunday, November 3, 2013

What's Your Schedule Linky!

Hello friends!
I'm linking up with Susan over at TGIF (Thank God It's First) for her 'What's Your Schedule?' linky!  I love this idea...I'm curious too, and can't wait to check out other teacher's schedules!

I teach at a private, Christian school with grades TK-8.  We aren't affiliated with a church or archdiocese, but are completely independent.  When you hear this, you may think "spoiled, rich kids in a fancy school", but that's far from the truth.  The majority of our parents are not wealthy, and are sacrificing 'nice to have' things to send their children to a private school (unfortunately, the nearby public schools are really struggling).  We also have a good number of full and partial scholarship students.

My scheduled hours are from 7:45 to 3:45, with the morning bell ringing at 8:25 (kids start arriving at 8:00) and dismissal beginning at 2:50.  By the time car riders, after school clubs & sports, and after-school care kids (we offer various clubs and sports for students after school, and have our own after school care program) are all picked up and my room is empty, it's usually about 3:15, then I have planning from 3:15 to 3:45.

I'm the 5th grade homeroom teacher, and I teach Language Arts and Social Studies to 4th and 5th grade, while the 4th grade homeroom teacher does Math and Science.  Other than specials, which have assigned times, we're able to make our own schedules.  This is what mine looks like:

The times over on the side look really crazy, but it's because our schedule changes a bit from day to day depending on specials, etc.

Depending on what we need, I might use the flex time on Friday afternoons as an additional Writing Workshop or Social Studies time, Ketchup & Pick-les time (students with unfinished work 'catch up', and those with everything finished 'pick' something fun to do), or Fun Friday.  I'm with the kids for lunch, but am blessed to have a 45 minute planning period each day during specials. 

I like to get to school early, and usually arrive between 7:15 and 7:30 to make sure I've got everything ready for the day.  My youngest son goes to school with me (he's in 7th grade) and usually has some kind of sports practice 2-3 times a week, so we're almost always there until 4:30 or so.  It's a long day, but I LOVE my school, so I don't mind :)

Go and link up with Susan to share your schedule!!!

Saturday, November 2, 2013

November Currently

How can it possibly be November already?!? 

So, I'm linking up with Farley at Oh Boy Fourth Grade for the November Currently...

Listening...everyone else in my house is still asleep, and I'm trying to catch up on Bloglovin' when I should be doing other things.

Loving...that parent/teacher conferences are done!  Yesterday my teaching partner and I cranked out all of our conferences together (except for two who didn't show up, and one who had to leave because we were running behind and she had to be somewhere for an appointment...I felt SO bad!).  We started at 7:45am and finished at 7:30pm.  It was a LOOONNGG day, but it was worth it!  All of our conferences went GREAT...even the ones I was a little worried about.  And the best part is, after getting to know my students' parents a little better, I love my kiddos even more!  It was so amazing to sit across from parent after parent and hear from them:

1.  How much they love their children
2.  How much they want to support their children and their childrens' teachers
3.  How they know their kids aren't perfect, and they want to be told about any problems...academic or they can be part of the solution
4.  How much they love our school
5.  That they think we're doing a great job teaching their children

I KNOW that conferences are not always like this, and I feel SO blessed to be teaching in a school with so much parent support!!!

Thinking...our refrigerator is dangerously close to EMPTY and I really need to take a shower and go grocery shopping (I will in just 5 more minutes!!!).  I love that my daughter has been planning our dinner menu and writing a grocery list for the past few's a little thing, but it makes a BIG difference to me.

Wanting...nuff said. husband wants to go hiking at Linville Gorge today, and we'll go, but I hate that in the back of my mind I'll be thinking about all of the things that I need to get done around here...laundry, lesson planning, know how it goes.

A yummy pin...Frozen Chocolate Chip Cookie Balls.  I'm SO making these as one of my Christmas cookies.  I know the link to the pin is hard to read, so just click on the pic below to access it.

 I hope you're having a wonderful and relaxing weekend!  Go and link up with Farley to share your November Currently!

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Vocabulary Poster Project & A Question For You

Hey friends...its been a while!  I've been SO busy planning, teaching, and working in my classroom I haven't even been able to read anyone else's blog, much less write a post of my own! So I wanted to pop in and say 'Hi!', share something that I've been working on, and get some advice.

But first, just a little catching up about life in September.  I'm LOVING my new school!  You know how sometimes you start a new job, and each new thing you find out after you start makes you wonder if you really want to work there?  I've had the exact opposite experience so far...each new thing I learn about the school and administrators makes me feel like I'm exactly where I belong.  This school is SUCH a good fit for me!  The only thing I'm having to adjust to is how much more communication parents expect at a private school.  But, I guess I'd rather have parents who want to know every little thing, than parents who don't care at all...we all know there's too much of the latter going on out there.  And it's such a blessing to be able to pray with my are a couple of pics from 'See You At the Pole' day this past week.

I'm also very excited that my youngest son decided to join me at my new school!!!  He'd been attending the public middle school near us.  It's a great school, but really big, and I felt like he was getting kind of lost in the shuffle.  I know it's been a big adjustment for him, but he's doing great, and I love knowing that he's just down the hall (and I have easy access to his teachers to make sure he's staying on track...he's not so crazy about that part...ha!).  I get to drive back and forth to school with him and see him at lunch every day.  It's been SO nice to have this time with him.  I've always felt like he got gypped in the 'one-on-one' department, being the youngest of four.  He's running Cross Country for our new school and is doing great!  He's the one in the dark blue... moving on to what I've been working on...

We just finished our first Social Studies unit and are moving on to the next one, and while I was planning, I wanted to come up with a way to get the kids engaged with the vocabulary.  You know how they GROOOOOAANNN when they hear 'vocabulary words'?   They're picturing being given a list of words and having to look them up in the dictionary to write down the definitions.

So, I'm going to have my kiddos make vocab posters.  I know this isn't a new idea, but it's still a good one.  They're so much more engaged, and learn more deeply, when they're given one word to make a poster for, and when they learn the other words from their friends' posters!  I'm planning to have each student do a quick (2 minute) presentation of their posters, and then have the kids do a gallery walk to write down all of the definitions.

I put together a Vocabulary Poster Project that includes instructions, objectives, criteria, and a quick and easy grading rubric.  If you'd like to check it out, click here, or on the picture below...

And finally, here's my question for you.  I know that one of my biggest challenges as a teacher is time management.  I'm always catching myself going over the amount of time I have for one subject, thereby shorting myself in another area.  How do you keep yourself on track, timewise?  Any suggestions, tips, etc would be appreciated!!!

I hope all of you are having a great school year so far.  Let me know how things are going!

Sunday, September 1, 2013

Pics of My Classroom...FINALLY!!! (and a freebie)

Hi Friends!

So, after three weeks of madness, I feel like I'm j-u-s-t starting to settle in to the 2013-14 school year.  My first week with kids was great!  I teach ELA and Social Studies to 4th and 5th graders (my teaching partner teaches Math & Science, so we switch groups for part of the day).  I'm loving all of my kiddos (and have already identified the two that I'm going to have to keep a tight rein on!).  We had a great week learning and practicing routines and procedures (although I did get some eye rolling when I actually made them come into the bathroom with me so I could model EXACTLY what I expect their behavior to look like in there...including washing hands thoroughly and throwing the paper towel IN the trash can...not AT it!).

The kids did an AWESOME job of building reading stamina for the Read to Self piece of Daily 5!  I only had to stop my 4th graders once the first day (the 5th graders took 3 attempts to get it right) and they just took off.  We made it to 15 minutes this week, and I'm hoping we'll be at 30 by the end of next week.  Then we'll add in the next component.  Any opinions on what that should be?  I was thinking of either Word Work or Work on Writing.  I know that I'm saving Read to Someone for last (I use our read aloud for  Listen to Reading).

We also set ourselves up for success by putting together our Reader's and Writer's Notebooks, including putting in a Table of Contents and numbering EVERY page!  And the kids wrote their first letter home in their Friday journals.  I had them include 3 things that we did this week, 2 new things that they learned, and 1 goal for next week.  I hope some of the parents write back!  I made a cute cover for the front of their here or on the picture below if you'd like a copy :)

Ok...on to the Classroom Tour!!!  I don't know if I have ever worked SO HARD in my entire life as I did during the four days before our open house.  We couldn't get into our rooms until Monday, 8/19, and open house was on Thurs, 8/22.  The first two days I didn't stay very late because I could only get so much done, and then needed to wait for other people to take care of some things (like taking down whiteboards, hanging bulletin boards and moving a piano out of my classroom used to be the music room).  So I felt like I was working against the clock on that Wednesday and Thursday.  The end result was SO worth it.  I LOVE my classroom and feel like its a place that my students will enjoy spending time in (at the open house one of my girls told me that she wished it was her bedroom!).

Welcome to my classroom!  I got this cute Welcome printable from Creekside Teacher Tales.  I'm still thinking about changing it out to match the pennants that I made for my room (you'll see those in a minute) but I haven't had time yet.  I have a feeling that May will roll around before I know it and I'll still be thinking the same thing!

I was standing in the doorway when I took this 'desk' (a semi-circle table and a credenza) is in the far corner below the world map.

Just to the right of the door is my 4th grade reading board...this has the Essential Question for the current reading unit, the Concept Question for the week, Daily Questions, and Words to Know.  These will change weekly as we move through the reading curriculum.  We use Reading Street, and I'm planning to use the stories as mentor texts for us to read together as I model/teach reading strategies.  A matching 5th grade board is on the other side of my SmartBoard.

Just below my 4th grade reading board is my birthday display.  It took me FOREVER to decide what I wanted to use for this, and I finally decided on this one from...ummm...I thought this was from Second Grade Shenanigans, but when I went back to look, it's not hers.  Hmmm...well, if you know who gets the credit, can you let me know?  I just got all of my kiddos' birthdates last week, so I'll be finishing those up tomorrow so I can add them on Tuesday when we go back to school.

To the left of my door is this little piece of heaven!  My wonderful administrators let me go and buy these Expedite shelves from Ikea...LOVE!!!  The book boxes are from Ikea too (Flyt magazine holders, 5 for $1.99).  I spray painted them earlier this summer and they turned out great!  I have the 5th graders' boxes on the right and 4th grade on the left.  I made the seat cushion from some fabric I had at home, upholstery cushions from Hobby Lobby, some plywood that was in the garage, and a staple gun.  This, and my classroom library, have quickly become the favored reading spots for Read to Self time :)  The bins under the bench are filled with all of the supplies that parents sent in.

Another view of the shelves and bench...and there are some of my pennants :)

A closer look at my FACE board.  I decided to rearrange the letter in CAFE to say FACE.  I'm going to talk with the kids about the things good readers do.  As we add reading strategies to the board, we'll talk about how the 'FACE' of a good reader looks like this (it ties in really well with using VOICES for writing - both are freebies from Ladybug's Teacher Files)!  The sweet little wreath above the board was a Valentines gift from one of my 2nd graders last year...I think that's the perfect spot for it :)

This is my classroom library!  I still want to get some bean bag chairs, but that will have to wait until I get my next paycheck :)  I love the paper lanterns AND the polka dot rug (Ikea again)!  The backs of the bookcases are painted with chalkboard paint and outlined with bulletin board borders.  I'm planning to get some chalk markers so the kids can write book recommendations on there.  I hate to admit it, but I ran out of time to organize my books (I was planning on sorting them by genre) and now I don't know how I'll ever find the time to do it.  I guess I could put genre stickers on the books in each basket as I have time, and sort them on our next work day.  We'll see.
Another view of the library...and more pennants above the window :)

A closer look at the VOICES board.  We'll be adding strategies under each header as we learn them in our Writer's Workshop mini lessons.  Using these strategies will give us the VOICE(S) of a good writer.  I was SO excited to find out that many of the teachers at my new school share my love of Writer's Workshop!  In fact, a few of them got together this summer to put together a wonderful curriculum for our school called 'Write From the Heart'...LOVE!!!

This is looking from my 'desk' back toward the other side of the room.  I've got the daily schedule on one side of the whiteboard in a pocket chart and our objectives on the other side.  The pocket chart closest to the right side of the pic is the one I use for our Daily 5 rotations

And looking back across the room from my 'desk' toward the door. 
Thanks for sticking with me through this ridiculously long post!  I just had to share pics of my classroom...I worked my tail off getting it all put together and am really happy with the results.  I can't wait to make lots of great memories in this space with my students :)  

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Oh. My. Word...and Some Classroom Management Tips

Wow...what a CRAZY two weeks this has been.  I have now been officially initiated into the whirlwind of setting up your own do you do this year after year?!?  I know that it was my first classroom, and that I won't have to do some of these things every year, but I feel like I still have so many things I want to do, and no more time to do it.  I talked to a couple of veteran teachers and they said that even after fill in the blank years they still feel this way.  I guess this is just part of being a teacher.

I'M A TEACHER!!!  I HAVE MY VERY OWN CLASSROOM!!!  (Can you hear me shouting from the rooftops?)  I don't feel at all nervous about school starting tomorrow, just really excited, and SO ready to begin this journey :)

And I have to tell you, I'm already IN LOVE with my new school and new colleagues!  If I had designed my own school I couldn't have made one that would be a better fit for me.  I know there will be things I don't like...there always are...but right now I feel like this is exactly where I'm supposed to be.  God is good!

We had Open House on Thursday night and I met most of my kiddos and their parents.  The kids are so sweet (one girl told me that she wished my classroom could be her bedroom...I'll post pictures later today) and the parents are WONDERFUL and very supportive...yay!

I'm going in to school to get a few last minute things done this afternoon, and then HOPEFULLY, I'll feel settled and ready for tomorrow.  AND I'll remember to take pictures of my classroom!  In all the madness I keep forgetting :(  Too much going on in my's been a blizzard in there this it's slowed down to a steadily falling's that for a metaphor?)

OK...switching gears to classroom management.  I have written incredibly detailed plans for the first week of school, because I don't want to forget any of the steps that I want to take to teach my kids routines and procedures.  I know how important that is during the first weeks of school (and feel like I botched it when I did my 1st grade interim last year).  This time I want to make sure I get it right!

Has anyone read either of these books?

Both of them are on my Amazon wishlist.  I subscribed to Michael Linsin's emails last spring, and every week when it shows up in my inbox, it's always GREAT advice that is practical and doable.  This week's post is about taking the time to teach those routines and procedures...don't rush it!  Click here to read his latest post, click here to subscribe to his emails, or follow Smart Classroom Management on Bloglovin'.  You'll be glad you did!

I'll be back later today with a classroom tour...see you then!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Social Studies Linky

Happy Saturday!
With only a week before teacher workdays begin, I've been busy trying to wrap up the things I wanted to do at home before the school year starts, including putting together my Long Range Plans.

I spent much of the past week mapping out my Social Studies plans for 4th and 5th grade, and I'm so excited to get started!  My school uses the Core Knowledge curriculum, which is a little different from what most public schools use, and I was pleasantly surprised to find out what a great curriculum it is :)   However, when Diane from Fifth in the Middle posted on Facebook that she was having trouble finding things to go along with her Social Studies units, I had to agree. 

Now, we know that teachers are problem solvers, and when we see a problem, like a lack of resources, we come up with a solution.  And so, the Social Studies Linky is coming to our rescue!

Diane did an informal poll and found that most of us begin the year with either Native Americans, the American Revolution, or Reconstruction.  So, she's hosting a linky party that will help us pool our resources!


( worked!!!  This was my first time using the code that will put pictures side by side)

Pull out your favorite lesson plans, books, and other resources that fit into one of these categories, head over to Fifth in the Middle, and link up!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Student Teaching Linky Party

I'm linking up with Ash at The Polished Teacher for her 'A Tale of Student Teaching' Linky...what a great idea! 

There's nothing like student teaching, huh?  Paying someone (a LOT of money) so you can work a more-than-full-time job...ugh.  And it can be a great experience, or one you'd rather forget.  I'm sure we all know teachers who had one extreme or the other during their student teaching.  Fortunately, I had WON-DER-FUL co-operating teachers and learned SO much from both of them!

I did my student teaching in Wisconsin., and with an elementary ed. license we were required to student teach for 9 weeks at the high end of our license, and 9 weeks at the low end (ie. If you have a K-6 license, you'd spend 9 weeks in K-2 and 9 weeks in 3-6).  Here in NC, the student teachers I've met stay in one grade level/classroom the whole time. 

Anyway, I ended up doing 9 weeks in 6th grade at the school I worked at during that time, and 9 weeks in Kindergarten with a teacher I'd worked with during one of my field assignments (in my program we had to spend 40 hours each semester in a classroom observing and teaching a specified amount of lessons).  As I said, both of my co-operating teachers were great! 

My 6th grade co-operating teacher, Mrs. Bladow, amazed me with her creativity.  She could take the content from a ho-hum language arts worksheet and turn it into an interactive, fun lesson that really engaged her students.  It was a wonder to watch her!  I think the most important lesson that I learned from her was to trust yourself enough to teach in the way you know will work best for your students. 

My Kindergarten co-operating teacher, Mrs. King, was the most loving and genuine person!  Her classroom always had such a sense of could feel it the moment you walked into the room.  She had so much fun with the children, and was so nurturing and loving toward them.  When we walked down the halls, her former students would all reach out to hug her :)  Without a doubt, the most important thing that she taught me was that children thrive in environments where they feel loved and accepted.   

So, here's my 'best of times' and 'worst of times' from my student teaching, along with a little advice!

 Don't forget to go and read some other student teaching stories at The Polished Teacher.  That's where I'm headed!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Monday Made It w/Freebie Links

I'm linking up with Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It!

I was VERY busy yesterday afternoon...printing, laminating, cutting!!!

All summer I've been finding goodies I want to use in my classroom, and saving them in a B2S folder on my laptop.  Well, yesterday I went through and printed, laminated, and cut out quite a few of them.  And now, I'm going to share them with you.  So even though I didn't create any of my MMI's, I did make them :)

Check out all of this classroom goodness...

Just looking at the picture makes me want to jump in my car and go to school to get my room set up, BUT...
I can't get in until the 19th...
Believe it or not, every single one of these printables was a FREEBIE from some of our favorite blogger friends!  If you'd like to use any of them in your classroom, I'll be sharing the links below.  When you go and grab these freebies from TPT or TN, don't forget to leave some feedback for the sellers :)
 Tada!!!  My sharpened/unsharpened pencils containers!  I LOVE these flipped labels from Ladybug's Teacher cute!!!  I found the little buckets at Ikea (by the planters)...79 cents people!  I printed, laminated and cut out the labels, then attached them to the containers with hot glue.  Click HERE if you'd like to grab these labels for your classroom :)

Another use for a cute little bucket...I've been seeing similar signs all over Pinterest, and had to put one together for my classroom.  I'm hoping it will cut down on the number of no-name papers (fingers crossed!!!).  This cute freebie is from Amazing Documents.  She's got a lot of cute stuff in her TPT store...go and check it out...and get the 'Highlight Your Name' freebie HERE
These little cuties are my effort to stop my students from coming to me for help when I'm busy working with another student.  The pencils have numbers on them (which you can't see in the pic...sorry!).  When a student needs your help, but you're busy, he or she can grab a numbered pencil, place it on their desk, and you'll know who to go to next (like at the deli counter..."Now serving...number 3").  Genius!!!  These are from Valerie at All Students Can Shine.  You can find them HERE (scroll to the bottom of the blog post and click the picture to download from Google Docs). 

Oh. My.  The brilliance of vocabulary combined with classroom management.  Love it!!!  The 'Today's Password' file is from The 2 Teaching Divas and can be found HERE.  I'm planning to use these to help my students become familiar with our Social Studies vocabulary words for each week (you could use these for anything you want your kiddos to practice...sight words, state capitals, etc).  We'll talk about the password during Morning Meeting and make sure everyone understands the definition.  Then, throughout the day, when I'm giving directions I'll say things like, "When I say today's password, please push in your chairs and line up quietly at the door."

Tara at 4th Grade Frolics has been instrumental in helping me decorate my classroom this year.  I'm SO grateful that she's using the same colors as me in her classroom AND that she's so creative and generous!  I love these Showing Your Understanding posters.  They're great for either a quick self-assessment after a mini-lesson ("Show me your understanding by putting up 1, 2, 3, or 4 fingers"), or for a more thoughtful, written self-assessment following an assignment.  This is Tara's current Fan Freebie on her Facebook page.  You can get your copy HERE, but only if you 'like' her page ;)
Another fabulous freebie from Tara at 4th Grade Frolics!  I'm going to be using a modified version of Daily 5 and CAFE in my classroom this year (I'm going to call it Reading Rotations).  And, I'll be using the 'Rotation Board and Daily 5 Posters' printables for my rotation pocket chart.  Click the link to get your free download from Tara's TPT store!  BTW, I'm not using the 'Listen to Reading' cards because I'm going to use my class read aloud as our 'Listen to Reading' time.
Are you still with me???  Only two more to go...
Like I said, I'll be using Daily 5 and CAFE in my classroom.  I LOVE this version of CAFE for the upper grades called CRAFT.  As you can see in the picture, CRAFT stands for Comprehension, Respond to Text, Accuracy, Fluency, and Text Features. This freebie is from Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files and can be found HERE.  I'll have these up on a bulletin board, and as we learn a new strategy, we'll post it under the appropriate header.
In my Writing Workshop I'm going to use the VOICES acronym to teach six of the 6 + 1 Writing Traits.  This is also from Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files and can be found HERE.  Just like with CRAFT, I'll have these up on a bulletin board, and as we learn a new strategy, we'll post it under the appropriate header. 
I hope you can use some of these awesome freebies in your classroom...don't forget to leave feedback for these generous and creative ladies!!!  Then head over to 4th Grade Frolics to check out some more Monday Made Its :)