Saturday, September 6, 2014

Classroom Reveal! {Pictures and Freebies!}

Our first mini week of school is over, so I wanted to pop on and show you around my room!

This is the view from the door.  You can see my {only} window and the garbage cans I forgot to move!  Oops!
Right in front of the door, you can see a polka dot table cloth that covers up two really hideous filing cabinets.  I use this space to store my materials.  I also have our pencil sharpener in this space.

I also keep my lesson plans on this cabinet so they are available to any one who pops in.  I moved the cart on the right because it was obstructing traffic into the room.  That cart holds my math and literacy centers.

The never ending pencil struggle.  My first grader came to help me set up my classroom and over the course of two days he sharpened a TON of pencils for me!  He hated the electric sharpener, and used the cheap-y target sharpeners for each pencil!

Right next to the entrance, I have a welcome board.  This area has our calendar, homework club, daily attendance and "Flow of the day" - our schedule and learning objectives.  I write my objectives on a dry erase sentence stripe that has magnets on it.  You can find the Homework Club Sign {Free} Here.  The calendar numbers, welcome sign, schedule cards and labels for the 10 drawer center cart are in my Bright Animal Print Decor Pack {Editable}.

On the same wall, behind the file cabinets, I have four bulletin boards: math, college, concept board and literacy.  Above the boards, I made  a simple cursive bunting.  You can download the cursive alphabet HERE. You will need to edit the font to be KG Eyes Wide Open (or your favorite script).  I printed on colored card stock; the file is just in black and white.
Yikes, blurry!  But you can see the full alphabet and all of the boards.  The college board shows where I went to school and the concept board is for ReadyGen, our literacy program.  We display the anchor and supporting texts, big idea, essential questions, enduring understanding and the vocabulary from our current module.  On the left of the bulletin board, you'll see Kristine Naninni's self assessment posters.  These came from her Student Data Binder Pack.  The banners on the bulletin board (not the concept board) are in my Bright Animal Print Classroom Decor Pack as well.

On the south facing wall, I have my word wall.
 My homework board is really on its last legs.  It won't hang on the hooks any more and I don't know where to put it!
The bottom of the board is covered now, so please ignore the sloppy cutting!  You can grab the word wall sign HERE.  The letters are in my classroom decor pack.

On the floor, under the SMARTboard, is where we will keep our literacy book boxes.  They aren't ready yet, so I just have a box of journals and text collections waiting there.  Storage options in my room are very limited.  There is NO built in storage at all!  No cabinets or closets to hide things.  I have one metal closet that is P A C K E D.

I don't have a desk, so I keep a round table by the SMARTboard for my computer and document reader.  I also keep my teacher toolbox there.
I made this last year and I still really love it :-)  {Also, I originally had green backing paper on the word wall but I really didn't like it, so in the last twenty minutes of our PD day I decided to change it!) You will find the labels in my classroom decor pack or you can get them for $1 HERE.

The next corner of my room, under my only window, is our library area. We have a TON of books, collected over twelve years of teaching. The mess in the corner is me trying to keep my literature circle books separate.  The mess isn't there any more.  And I added a few pillows from IKEA!

This is my favorite spot in the room.  I love how the Brown Bag Teacher's Subway Genre signs look!
In the next space above the library, I have the outline for our vocabulary chart.  I'm not sure how this is going to turn out, but I heard about it at a training this summer, so I wanted to try it out.  I envision that the students will write the information on sentence strips and we will hang them for the module.

Next, you'll find my writing and media area.

This space has characteristics of narratives and papers for student examples.  Below the board, there is a listening center and writing organizer.  I keep dictionaries and reference materials on the cart below the organizers.  The mess is mostly covered by the table skirt.

I have a little table right in front of the coat rack and writing area.  Right now this is student seating, but it will become our small group work area.  The crates of text books will be distributed next week and I won't have that eye sore under the table.  The dots on the table are vinyl and dry erase.  I bought them on Amazon for under $10!  I'm pretty in love with them.  It looks even nicer when I don't have my lunch and coffee on the table!

So that's it for now.  I'll post the rest of the room - it's just one wall and the kids' desks left.  

Tell me, what's your favorite spot in your classroom?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Teaching Students how to Organize {Freebie! and Giveaway!}

Upper elementary aged students NEED to be organized.  They have so much on their plates, what with the number of assessments, projects, and deadlines they need to complete in a school year.  Some of our students are naturally able to handle multiple assignments and demands at a time.  These are the students that dutifully copy the homework, word for word, from the board without reminder and probably without need.  These are the students that don't really need to look at their homework logs to know what needs to be accomplished each night.  And these are the students that remember those little reminders we blurt out that we ourselves often forget!  And then there are those other students.  The ones with the disastrous desks.  With rumpled, stained (ugh!) homework.  With missing folders and half eaten pencils.  These students need organization in their lives.  They need some system for keeping all of their responsibilities straight.  And they desperately need this help before they head off to junior high school!

Last year, I had a simple homework log that I used for all of my students.  It was mostly successful, so long as I remembered to make my photocopies before Monday morning.  All the students needed to do was copy the homework into their log under the correct day.  Simple.  Every Monday, they'd receive a new log and throw out the old.  Great.  Except for long term assignments.  Or deadlines that might fall on the next week.  I did include a "special reminders" box, but I still noticed some students having no concept of time and how close next Tuesday really is! So for those students, I started working on a student planner.

Truthfully, I was also inspired by the Erin Condren planner that just shipped today (exciting!).  My instragram is filled with teachers loving all over their new organizational pieces for the school year, and I thought it would be great for my students to have something similar to begin the school year.

I started out by creating calendars:

These two page calendars will be great for students who need a visual reminder about time management.  Also, the boxes are big enough for students to copy a few lines of homework assignments, as long as their handwriting is reasonable!

Then I created one page calendars for students who might still need a traditional homework log:

All of the pages are available in color and in grayscale.

Generic, I know.  But will get the job done if you have students who need more space to write or need to have their homework copying monitored daily.

From the calendars and the log, the planner started to grow.  I thought about other areas in which I want my students to be more responsible.  A huge focus in my school is on having students monitor their progress and self assess.  So I created some easy to use data collection sheets:
Students can slip this into a page protector or keep in their binders/folders.

I also want them to track the number of books they've read.  Our school sets a goal of 25, and I know many bloggers who participate in Donalyn Miller's 40 book challenge. This is a simple sheet to keep students on target.  (Also, RL5.10 CCSS is "By the end of the year, read and comprehend literature, including stories, dramas, and poetry, at the high end of the grades 4-5 text complexity band independently and proficiently.")

Of course goal setting is also super important, so I made two goal setting sheets.  The first one allows space for students to list three goals. The second allows room for an action plan and perhaps a deadline down at the bottom. 

And a few additional forms for kids to keep track of birthdays, long term deadlines and events and a weekly reflection.

 After taking filling this "Important Dates" page in, I realized it should begin at the beginning of the school year rather than the calendar year.  The file has two versions: one beginning in August and one beginning in September.  Of course, both versions are in color and in grayscale.

That's my three year old!  She won't need this binder for many years!

I think you can see from these pictures that it isn't just for those kids that really struggle with organization.  I had more than a few girls last school year that would really swoon over a little binder or folder filled with these sheets!

You can take a look at the listing on TpT: HERE (It's on sale for the next week!)

And you can grab the goal sheet with action plan sheet HERE

So what started out as a quick calendar project ballooned into about 60 pages of color and 60 pages of grayscale forms!  Want one?  Leave me a comment below with one awesome organizational tip and your email address before 7pm on Friday August 22, 2014.  I'll choose two winners and email you the file :)

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Falling In Love with Close Reading: Chapter 7

Well teacher friends, we've come to the end of the book study.  I hope you've gained a few ideas about how to teach close reading this fall!  Here are some of my final thoughts on the book and what I've learned.

1.) Close reading is not just asking students to return to text.

2.) Close reading must be taught explicitly, just as you teach any reading strategy.

3.) Model, model, model.  Teach your students how to read closely by thinking aloud as you read closely!

4.) Build your students' vocabularies so they are better able to critique an argument or a claim made by a text.  (The charts in the text are very helpful!)

As for me, for next year, I'll much more explicit in the way I teach close reading.  We have a scripted program for literacy that includes close reading, but I will definitely draw upon the sitcom and music lessons in the text for additional ELA lessons.

So that's it!  Be sure to check out all of the other blogs and enter the raffle for a chance to win a copy of the text and your choice of ($5 or under) product from all of our stores on TpT!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Falling in Love with Close Reading: Chapter Six The Family Tree

 Welcome back to our study of close reading!  I'm linking up again with Savvy, Sassy Teaching's book story to bring you a quickie synopsis of chapter six: the Family Tree: Closely Reading Across Texts.

In this chapter, the authors offer a great lesson on creating comparisons by playing clips of sitcoms.  They invited their students to study "family" while watching several shows (side note: my fifth graders LOVE Full House.  It must play on the Hub or some throwback channel.  It's crazy to me that they watch a show that I loved when I was ten!) By viewing the clips, students can learn how to carefully compare, contrast and interpret characters.  Of course, the authors use this lesson to engage the students in lessons on how to closely read across texts.

As in previous chapters, the authors use lenses.  Students decide what they will compare - characters, themes, settings or authors.  Next, students decide how to compare. Will they use text evidence?  Word choice? Structure? Or point of view?  Finally, students create ideas about their lens, the author's choices and the messages sent by the author.

I created this little graphic organizer as a way for students to hold their thoughts. You can grab it from Google drive HERE.
I love lessons about finding theme!  My favorite author to use with the big kids is Eve Bunting.  My students are always able to relate well to the texts, especially Fly Away Home and A Day's Work.  Her books are so rich and always help create great conversation in the class.  I plan to use this graphic organizer for an Eve Bunting study of two texts.  Students will read through lens (probably looking at character and characters' reactions to conflict) and take notes in the top boxes.  In the bottom box, students will write their ideas about the message the author is trying to send us through these two stories and the characters in each story.

I hope you all are having a great weekend!  

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Falling In Love with Close Reading: Chapter 5 Through Your Eyes

Hi all!  I am linking up with Sassy, Savvy, Simple Teaching's Close Reading Book Study once again to share my thoughts on chapter 5.  This chapter advances to a study of point of view, a complex task that absolutely requires students to be able to read closely for word choice and nuances of argument.

Through out this book, one of the ideas that I know I will use in my practice next year, is using more domain specific vocabulary.  Thinking about the artifacts of my students' writing from last year, they did well using transitional phrases referencing pieces of evidence from text.  They knew they needed to use text based evidence as the foundation for any argument.  To grow for next year, I need to teach my students to "use language that describes what makes it successfully compelling and persuasive, or what detracts from that" (pg.78).  Teaching my students to use highly specific vocabulary will bring their analyses to a new level.

The author recommends teaching students how arguments are crafted and how to determine the effectiveness of these arguments with the use of videos.  The authors used Mayor Bloomberg's ban on large, sugary drinks as a controversial topic to get students to think about arguments. The authors showed videos to the students to get them to think about the ways in which arguments appeal to our emotions or how the speaker uses powerful reasoning.  The students viewed the videos multiple times to help them take notes and evaluate the arguments.

This is the area in which my past students would need further support.  The authors use the ritual of  reading through lenses twice (as opposed to once with other standards).  First, students read to find the point of view/argument.  Next, the students read to find what makes the point of view/argument persuasive.

A real strength of this chapter came at the end of the chapter. The authors include a chart listing different fallacies for dissecting poor arguments.  You can bet this will have a place in my classroom next year!

Hope you all are having a great weekend! Don't forget the TpT Back to School Sale starts tomorrow!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Five for Friday!

Hi teacher friends!  I'm linking up with Doodlebugs Teaching to share five things from my week with you!

1.) We are back from Disney World and I have Disney fever.  We had an amazing time, despite the intense heat.  And I want to go back. Like right now :-(  I've priced out half a dozen imaginary vacations (any other crazies do that???)...but my husband is not as enthusiastic as I am. Boo!

Leah at Beaches and Cream.  You are adorable if you think she ate that ice cream.  She was just happy to have it in front of her!

We stayed at Animal Kingdom!  We saw animals!

 By the end of the week, Jacob was calling Mickey "the boss."

Minnie is Leah's FAVORITE!

2.) We've been spending a lot of time at the pool.  We have a great county pool nearby. It has a kids training pool that's only 2 feet of water, perfect for a two year old.  There is also a fun spray area with water cannons and waterfalls.  (No pics because they aren't allowed!)  We are actually in a great routine of lazy morning, pool, gym, afternoon coffee (just me, not the littles).  I am really loving summer!

3.) Speaking of the gym, I just got serious about training for my fall races.  I'm running three half marathons, although the first two are really training runs for the big one:

I'm running the Philadelphia Half Marathon for the second time! I had a great experience here in 2011!
Any readers from Philly want to give me Center City food recommendations? I like pizza the night before races, but the meal after the race can be anything!

4.) Confession: I haven't been thinking about my classroom.  We aren't allowed back until the week of the 26th anyway, so I haven't really thought too much about my room configuration much.  I don't plan on changing too much since I liked my classroom last, but I will have a LOT more kids than I did last year.  In 2013-2014 I had 18 - a perfect number for upper elementary.  Next year I have 26.  Yikes.  That's a lot more paperwork than 18!

5.) Have you heard about the Back to School Sale on TpT? I'm sure you have :-)  My entire store, bundles and already discounted items will be on sale August 4th and 5th.  Don't forget to use the promo code!

Have a great weekend! And tell me about Center City food I shouldn't miss!  Or tell me about Disney resorts you've loved :-)