Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Summer Bucket List

Only 3 days left! I'd love to hear back from some public school teachers...how much time do you get after school ends to get grades done, clean up, etc. At my school, we are on contract for a week after school gets out and then again two weeks before school begins to set up the classroom. Do you get much less time?

Today, I'm linking up with A Cupcake for the Teacher for their linky on summer bucket lists.

Here's some things on my list for this summer: :)

1: Vacation. We have no definite plans yet, but are hoping to go to Hawaii. It's our fifth anniversary this summer, and we've never managed to do anything other than dinner, so we'd love to go somewhere this year.

2. Summer School. While this is not necessarily the most exciting thing to do, it's my last summer in school, then I just have to finish my Professional Project during next school year and I will be finished with my Master's in Literacy. Yay! :) It'll be a bit crazy with 16 credits (4 to be completed next year) and five weeks spent here. The plus side? Living with my sister, her husband, and nearly two year old niece while I'm there :)

3. Spending tons of time on the lake with last summer's addition to our family

4. Lots and lots of TpT products. I have many items in the works that I just haven't had time to finish. Hopefully I'll squish those in before and after summerschool. One of the products I'm working on is my classroom decor pack, which I'll be using in my classroom for next year. I'm excited to finish it so I can start printing, cutting, laminating, and getting ready to put it up in my room. You can see the preview and download the preview of it here.

5. And of course...plan out my entire curriculum for next year. I always say I'm going to type everything out - and intend to - just always run out of time. Do you have that same problem?

That's a little of my summer plans. What's on your summer bucket list?

Monday, May 27, 2013

Must Have Mondays: Reading A-Z

I'm so glad for the long weekend - especially right before our last week of school. I had grand plans for how much I was going to get done this weekend. However, I didn't plan on slicing my heel/achilles open and ending up with five stitches. It's been a sore weekend, but I was thankful for the extra recovery day so that I can walk almost normally when I go back to school tomorrow.

Today, I'm linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for Must Have Mondays.

What is something I must have in my classroom? A subscription to Reading A-Z. Have you used it in your classroom before? Reading A-Z is a website that you can use to download leveled reading books for your classroom. Their leveled readers go from beginning readers through fifth grade. In addition to being able to download and print the books, each books comes with a lesson plan for guided reading, worksheets, vocabulary words, and a comprehension quiz. I don't often use all of the features, but like that they're available to me.

They also have fluency passages and my favorite - Reader's Theater scripts! My students love readers theater, and it's a great opportunity to practice fluent and expressive reading.

After using it for 5 years, this last week I just found a new feature - you can sort all the books by teaching strategy. I was looking for books that would be good for inferring, so I just sorted by skill, and there was a whole list of books for inferring. They also had all the comprehension strategies, characters, setting, etc. I'm so excited to use that as I plan my guided reading for next year.

If you don't have a huge library of leveled readers or a huge budget to buy them, then Reading A-Z is great. They also have a free 7-day trial that you can try.

It may sound like I'm a spokesperson for them, which I'm not, but I spent my first four years of teaching in a one-room school (yes, they still exist) teaching grades 1-8 in one classroom. We definitely did not have the budget to buy leveled readers for every grade level, so the $80 per year (or so it was at the time) was a huge lifesaver for me. Even though I'm in a different school now with only one grade, it's still my preferred website for guided reading materials.

I hope you had a great long weekend! Enjoy your day back at school. :)

Monday, May 20, 2013

Must Have Monday: Individual Whiteboards

Today I'm linking up with Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for her brand new linky: Must have Mondays.

My must have for this week is: individual student whiteboards. I love these ones from Staples. They're double-sided and if you get them at the back-to-school sale, they only cost $2.50 each. The ones I bought have lasted 5 years so far and are still going strong. Mine also have the little marker holder at the top.

Expo® Double-Sided Learning Board

I use these whiteboards in my classroom almost every single day. Here's just a few things that we use them for:

1. Spelling Practice. Every week the students write their spelling words on their whiteboards three times. For whatever reason they prefer this to writing them on paper. We often do it first thing in the morning after they write in their planners. I check each student's whiteboard as they finish and check to make sure they've written everything correctly. Then it's erased and I don't worry about grading papers or entering it in the gradebook. Yay for less papers!

2. Social Studies or Science Review. We do this one all the time too. As we review each lesson or study for a test, I ask the students questions over the lesson - T or F, multiple choice, or short answer. Students write on their whiteboard and hold it up to see. That way I can check their answers immediately, and they know whether they've gotten the answer right or wrong. I love the quick feedback.

3. Math Practice. Most of the time I like students to show their math work on their papers. However, when we're just beginning a new concept, the whiteboards are a great way to practice. I write the problem on the board, the students write it down on the whiteboards and solve it, and I check each student to see if they got the correct answer. What I like about this is if they've done a step wrong, it's really quick to wipe off and try again and they don't get frustrated with the constant erasing on paper.

That's it for my must-haves for this week. :)

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Relief Maps

For Social Studies in fourth grade, our curriculum focuses on the regions of the United States. Our last region is the West (where we live) and I wanted to do something different and fun as we're all getting ancy for the end of the year. I decided to do relief maps with the students so they could learn more about their state's natural features and elevation.

I first cut pieces of cardboard (I used the sides of medium cardboard boxes), then traced the outlines of the states using the projector.

Instead of clay (because it's expensive) I made salt dough. It can be a bit messy to make, but is so much cheaper and is still easy for the students to use. I used a very simple recipe

1 part salt
2 parts flour
2 parts warm water

Mix the salt and flour together, then add the warm water until the consistency seems right. Knead for a while (if you knead longer it makes the dough easier to work with).

The first day, I had students simply research their state's features - they needed to find mountain ranges, peaks, valleys, rivers, lakes, plateaus, etc. I just gave them a blank map of their state and had them draw them on and label as they researched. Then they were ready to build.
You can bake these, but I didn't figure they needed to last for years, so we just let them dry for a night or two before painting.
Some were more accurate than others...
Students were to paint depending on elevation. They didn't need to know the exact elevation, just what was low, middle, high, and the mountain peaks. They also made a simple map key with this information.

Finally, the students added some labels to their maps and they were finished. I graded them the next day, because I wanted the students to take them home!! After almost a week, I finally have my reading corner back. :)

If you're interested in doing the project with your students, feel free to download the rubric below.


Thursday, May 16, 2013

Inferring with Stickies

This week, we started studying inferring as a reading comprehension strategy. As I only have two more weeks left of school, it will be a short unit, but I wanted to make sure we got some of it in.

I began a new bulletin board three or four weeks ago. I took the old one down and put a new color of paper up. Then it sat. And sat. I intended to do something solar system themed, but could never decide what to do with it. So there it was. 

I decided something needed to happen to it before the end of the school year - thus the inferring board  idea was started. I decided to make an interactive bulletin board. I first was acquainted with interactive bulletin boards through Beth Newingham's site. Have you been there? Check it out if not. She's amazing. 

Anyhow, I separated the bulletin board into three parts - inferring about the characters, setting, or inferring some kind of conclusion from the book other than the characters or setting. 

As a class, we read the book Smoky Night. Have you read it? I discovered that it was fantastic for inferring. I have never used it before for that purpose, but it was great. I asked the students to infer one thing from the book and write in on a sticky note. The book confused them a bit since none knew what a riot was and none of them caught the ethnic differences between the people because they pictures are purposely not clear about that.

I didn't answer any of their questions about the book, but simply wanted to see what they could infer on their own. Most did pretty simple inferences, but that was fine with me as we're still beginning the unit. 

We then read the book again, and I helped model by inferring many times throughout the book and answering questions they had about the text. Overall it was a very good lesson. 

Today, students read their self-chosen books and made three inferences that they could put up on our bulletin board. Can you tell which type of inferring they're most comfortable with? :)

Sometimes a simple bulletin board is perfect and students seem to love the interactive part of it. 

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Math Manipulatives

Today, I'm linking up to Workshop Wednesday from Ideas by Jivey. It's my first time linking up with anyone (a few weeks ago I didn't know what a linky was), so hopefully I do this right.

The topic today is on math manipulatives - your favorites, how you organize them, etc.

Let me start by saying that my math manipulatives are terrible this year. I teach in a closet (albeit a very cute closet), so there's not much space for storage. Also, in our school 3rd and 4th grades are usually together. We split third and fourth grade this year, but as I'm the newcomer, the third grade teacher kept all the manipulatives from her room and I had none.

I've slowly been building a collection, but mostly I just borrow some from her when I need them. Here's a sad picture of what my little manipulatives area looks like (with a few things obviously out of place).

One of my favorite things to use is the fraction tiles. I've used fraction circles and fraction cubes, but these are my favorite of the fraction things. I find them much easier to line up to find equivalent fractions than the circles. They really help provide a good visual representation of fractions for those students who really need it.

Also, they're easy to store even though they don't fit in my cute pink baskets.

My only complaint is that they don't have ninths, which are convenient when doing equivalent fractions.

Don't forget to visit Jivey's blog to read about many other math manipulative favorites!

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Feeling Appreciated

Do you feel appreciated after last week? Our school really gets on board for Teacher Appreciation Week. They send a note home with all the students of their teacher's favorite things, then tell the students to bring certain types of gifts on certain days. Here's how the schedule played out:

Monday: bring a treat

Tuesday: flowers or favorite food

Wednesday: lunch provided by Home and School (and they watch our students :))
Thursday: bring a gift (didn't get pictures of this one)
Friday: another free lunch day, plus student supervision until 1:00!

Just three weeks of school left for us. How was your week? Did you feel appreciated?

Monday, May 6, 2013

Classroom Inspiration

Do you have your classroom planned out for next year yet? :) Every year when I hit 6-8 weeks before the end of the year, I begin planning for the next one. It's not something I try to do - it just happens. I think my brain is all worn out for this year, but I love setting up my classroom, so I'm always looking forward to it.

I wanted to do something with a chevron design next year because I've been in love with it recently. Then I was going to do rainbow colors with the chevron. Then I found a beautiful paper pack by Megan that has chevron in many colors along with extras. Take a look-see here...Aren't they gorgeous? Now I'm working on designing a classroom decor pack that I will use in my classroom next year. I have a some sample deskplates available in my store for free. Download them by clicking the picture below:

I've also gotten some inspiration from Pinterest. Look at these shelves. Imagine them in the colors above. So excited (other than the actual painting part)!

Pinned Image
Also, I love love love this communication station from Schoolgirl Style. It has everything you need to stay organized and keep lines of parent communication open. I'm hoping to do something similar tho this in my classroom, just in the same colors/patterns as everything else.

For classroom decor and organization visit Schoolgirl Style

Am I the only one who plans this far in advance? Any other classroom themes coming together out there?

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Teacher Appreciation and a Sale!

It's Teacher Appreciation Week! The school that I'm at this year makes a really big deal out of this week, so I'm excited to experience it. Tomorrow the Home and School makes breakfast for us, and Wednesday and Friday they make us lunch. Also, they send out a list of each teacher's favorite food/stores/etc. to each of the students so they know what we like. I feel very appreciated! :)

Also, in celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, Teachers Pay Teachers is having a sale. My store will be 20% off for May 7 and 8, and you can get an addition 10% from TpT by using the promo code TAD13.

Click on the button below to go to my TpT store and have a great week!

Button by: Graphics From The Pond

Friday, May 3, 2013

Solar System Art

Last year, a friend of mine volunteered to teach art in my classroom every Friday. I'm not really creative when it comes to art, or very good at art in general, so I was thrilled. Now I'm in a different school and am teaching art by myself again. I find myself teaching many of the lessons she taught last year because the students liked them so much. One of these is a solar system painting.

My friend doesn't know where the original idea for this came from, but she saw them one time and thought they were neat. Here's one of the finished products:

Let me warn you in advance...this is a very time-intensive product for the teacher, so helpers would be nice. We took a 12 x 18 inch piece of white construction paper. Then students spray paint the whole thing with random colors to make a back drop (this is where it's time intensive, since I had my students go one at a time so I could make sure they weren't going to spray themselves). You could use any colors, but we did bright pink, orange, yellow, green, and blue. The kids have a great time with this.

This is before putting the black paint on.

Then take various sized round containers (yogurt containers, milk jug lids, etc. and place them on the paper wherever (these will be the planets). I put some rocks in mine to keep them in place. Then spray paint the entire paper with black spray paint. Then use a brush or toothbrush to splatter some stars on the page before removing the containers.

The projects are so pretty they look really complicated, but they're super easy. They simply take some time to let the layers dry.


Welcome to my new blog. I'm not much of a blogger (or writer, really), but after reading everyone else's teacher blogs I wanted to have the opportunity to share what is going on in my classroom and have a place to remember what I've done from year to year.

A special thanks to Megan from I Teach. What's Your Super Power? and A Bird in Hand Designs for the awesome blog design.

I've just updated my About Me page and the My Classroom page, so check those out.