Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Monday, May 30, 2011

Fantastic Giveaway

Clutter Free Classrooms is having a fantastic giveaway!  If you don't follow this blog, you really should.  There are fabulous organizational tips and more.  Head on over there and find out how you can win some fabulous items!

WOW! 40 Followers!

I couldn't believe it when I woke up this morning and saw I had 40 followers!  When I started this little blog, I wondered if I even had anything worth contributing.  There are so many creative teacher-bloggers out there, that I wasn't sure my ideas even measured up.  I am so grateful to all of you who have validated my teaching ideas, and to all the other teacher-bloggers who I have learned so much from!  In appreciation, I will be having a giveaway when I reach 50 followers!  And as a bonus, if I reach 50 followers before school is out June 4 (at 3:15!), it will be a double giveaway!  

Happy blogging!

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Summer To-Do List

Littlest Learners is having a linky party, and I'm going to join in!  Summer is right around the corner for me.  Four days to be exact.  The grill is ready, pool pass has been purchased, and vacation plans are set.  

"It's the most wonderful time of the year..."

My summer to-do list isn't lofty.  My little boy will be 2 in July and I plan to spend as much time with him as possible.  During nap times and after bedtime, I will be doing the following this summer:  

1.)  Prepare what will go in my Literacy Binders that I will receive from Donors Choose.  Since my project was funded within 35 days of the end of the school year, they will not ship my binders until after the new year has begun.  A total bummer for a teacher who likes to do things over the summer. 

2.)  Read Teach Like a Champion and The Book Whisperer

3.)  Review The Daily 5 and The CAFE Book.  I've read both at least five times, but I always feel better prepared for launching at the beginning of the year after reviewing them again.  

4.)  Edit the video letters my current class will be recording for the incoming fourth graders.  

5.)  Learn more about The Six Traits of Writing.  My school has adopted this as our writing curriculum and bought each grade level a kit.  I plan to bring it home this summer and start to plan lessons.  

6.)  Work on revamping my classroom library.  I currently have them organized by AR levels, but I would like to start dividing them by genre as well.  I want to make some cute labels for the bins as well.  

7.)  Attend our third annual school retreat.  This year it's in Michigan and always a fun time!  I love our staff!  

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Year-End Activity

Each year I have my students write letters to the incoming fourth graders.  They tell the "newbies" what they can expect in fourth grade; fun projects, rules to live by, etc.  They are always fun to read, and the incoming students love to receive them.  This year, I decided to do the letters again-but with a twist.  

I'm going to videotape my current students reading their letters to the incoming fourth graders.  Then, over the summer, I'm going to edit and make a cute little movie to show on the first day of school.  

I'm super excited about this little project!  

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Things I've Learned

The school year is coming to a close and Life in Special Education is having a "Live & Learn" Linky Party!  I thought I would join in, not only because it is so important to reflect, but because I've been really lacking in my blog posts as of late!  

So, here goes...
Things I've Learned

1.  You can teach two different classes the same exact thing and average assessment results can vary plus or minus 30%.  True story, and my #1 reason against merit-based pay.  

2.  Reading is not learning how to take a test.  My students leave my classroom with reading skills from authentic texts, not just short practice tests.  My primary goal is to create lifelong readers.  

3.  Kids come from all walks of life and have experiences no young child or adult should ever have.  It is important to be understanding with those students and pay them even more attention than you normally would.  

4.  Watch how your students interact with their parents and vice versa.  It will explain A LOT.  

5.  Having a friendly relationship with your co-workers helps you to get through the day.  So does a Friday happy hour.  

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Donor's Choose Projected-FUNDED!

I am so thrilled to announce that my Donor's Choose project was fully funded!  My project was for binders and dividers to create "Literacy Binders" for my 60 Language Arts students next years.  In my generic thank you letter, I let my donors know that more than my 60 students for next school year will benefit from their generosity.  These binders will be able to be used for many years to come, touching hundreds of students.  Donor's Choose is a truly wonderful organization!

Monday, May 16, 2011

Dollar Tree Finds!

Admit it.  You love Dollar Tree.  Every teacher does.  
I went today in search of these storage containers for my son's bookshelf.  
I couldn't stand the books falling over anymore, so the teacher in me needed to sort them by genre and series.  I had purchased three of the green polka dot containers before, but that wasn't enough for all the books a teacher's son owns.  I couldn't find the polka dots, so I settled for a solid green.  They don't really match, but I'll deal. For now.   

I also found bingo daubers.  I have never seen them at either one of my Dollar Trees before, so I was super excited about this!  I picked up about 15 for my word work station next year.  See post below on why 15 is probably necessary.  

I also picked up some word strips, useful for a word wall, or in my case my CAFE menu for next year.  
Lastly, I picked up some more clipboards.  The Dollar Tree ones are definitely not as cute as the clipboards that can be picked up in Target's one spot as of late, but they seem sturdier.  After today's purchase, I will finally have a class set!  

They had a ton of other stuff that I could have purchased but decided against:  Honor Roll & Good Student certificates, silver and gold bulletin board border, cute homework passes, etc.  Happy Shopping!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Procedures, Procedures, Procedures...

As I'm very much looking forward to next school year, I am looking back at some of the main "issues" I had this year, and previous years.  My biggest issue is teaching the students to be respectful of property.  They also need to learn to be respectful of people, but that's another blog post!  

Anyways, as most of all you fabulous teachers do, I spend a lot of my own money on materials in the classroom.  I've bought hundreds of books, and lots of supplies:  glue, pencils, colored pencils, crayons, markers, etc.  The last two years, I had a check out system for my personal books.  My students this year did not go along with the check out system, and honestly, I was beyond caring.  If they are reading, and they need a book at home that bad, they can keep it.  Next year, I'm not going to have a separate shelf for my books, I will just intermix them with all the others.  So..not worried about that one.  

Other supplies, though, I really wish they would care more to respect them.  I bought letter stamps and stamp pads at the beginning of the year from Target.  They were perfect for my word work station.  I had to throw them out before the second semester because they were just a mess.  Same thing with the play-dough.  

I have a "Have a pencil, take a pencil" policy, where students turn in their pencil supplies at the beginning of the year and I keep them.  The pencils are sharpened each night, and students pick up a pencil in the morning to use.  If one breaks, they can pick a new one up out of the container.  I've done this for three years, and this is way better than supplying students with pencils all the time.  The only problem is that a lot of times, the pencils don't get returned at the end of the day, so there are none to sharpen in the morning.  It is a "job" to collect pencils.  I have to open new packs every day it seems.  Needless to say, we were out of student-supplied pencils about two months ago.  I bought 50 right before our OAAs and the school supplied us with 30, and I told my students I was done buying pencils for the year.  

I also bought tote bags (like from Kroger & Walmart) this year for my students to use instead of book boxes.  I was very clear from the beginning that the only things to be stored in their bags are their books, their binder, and their spiral notebook.  The bags started falling apart before the end of the first nine weeks!  I see students dragging them on the floor, stepping on other bags that have fallen off the chairs, etc.  

I welcome any suggestions that will help me with the procedures so that my students will learn to respect the classroom supplies a little bit more.  I'm sorry if this sounded more like a gripe than a blog post!  

Finally in First: GIVEAWAY!!

Finally in First: GIVEAWAY!!:

Jenn is having an awesome giveaway! Check out her blog for more info!!!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Music in the Classroom

Do you let the kids listen to music in your intermediate classroom?  

My students love to have music on, but they get tired of the same stuff.  I have an Ohio State Marching Band CD that I play a lot in the Fall, I also have some piano jazz music, and Ocean/Nature sounds.  I also have a Christmas/Holiday CD & Halloween CD that I play during those holidays.  

I'm looking for some different music.  I played some Easy Listening on Pandora this afternoon and it was a nice change.  So...what music do you play in the classroom?

Some Comments Missing??

Blogger was down yesterday, and I think some comments got deleted in the meantime.  To those of you that commented on my co-teaching post, Marilyn Friend is the person who taught the seminar through BRE.  You can visit her website for some more co-teaching ideas or to find out if she will be doing a seminar near you!  I highly recommend it!  

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Co-Teaching: Ever Tried It?

I went to a professional development yesterday on co-teaching.  My school is making a big push for more inclusion next year and co-teaching is the way to go.  I had an IST in my room for my morning Language Arts block this year, and after this PD I have realized we really didn't utilize the opportunity in the best way possible.  Actually, I knew all along that we weren't, but I didn't know any other way to go about it.  We are going to try out some co-teaching techniques throughout the end of this year to get some practice before next school year.  One thing that I think will really work in my (I mean, our) classroom--the seminar facilitator said there is no I, me, mine in co-teaching--is parallel teaching.  This is where the co-teachers each take half the class and teach the same thing.  In my class of 30 students, I think doing this will really benefit them.  There are other techniques, such as One Teach, One Observe, useful for data gathering on both students & teachers; Station Teaching, which would be especially useful in my Daily 5 classroom; and Teaming, which was described as "one brain, two bodies."  

I really like the idea of co-teaching and I am excited about doing it out again next year, and working to maximize it's benefits.  Has anyone else done co-teaching in their room?  I would love to hear about your successes!

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Mother's Day Poems

Ok..so I know I'm late getting this out, but I wanted to make sure I posted these since I actually took the pictures!  

This week, the students made poems for their Moms/Grandmas/Aunts/Important people in their life.  Since I have students from varying backgrounds, I wanted to make sure to include everyone.  I even had a young lady make a poem for her Girl Scout troop leader.  It was so sweet it brought a tear to my eye.  Anyways, students could choose between an acrostic, cinquain, or diamante poem.  They completed the rough draft on an organizer, then rewrote it on a blank sheet of paper and glued it onto a piece of construction paper.  Some chose to decorate them with yarn and glitter glue.  I just don't have the resources to make all the fabulous projects I've been seeing around the blogs, but I thought they turned out pretty cute.  

Here are a few I would like to share:  

I like that this student was able to find one word for every letter in his mother's name.  (Aside from the A)

This student had some trouble getting started.  He is in my room for inclusion and his teacher wasn't in the room all week due to testing.  When I sat down to talk to him about which poem he would like to do, he told me, "Whichever one is the best."  He wanted to really take his time and make the best one for his mom.  How sweet!

I like how these students really personalized their poems.  And I like how fourth graders still call their moms "Mommy"!  It shows how young they still are!  

Although this student didn't do a lot of the fancy stuff...boys...I love the "Giving me the gift of life."  

Friday, May 6, 2011

Smart Boards and Skinnybones

We started reading the book Skinnybones by Barbara Parks this week.  I was getting tired of the same read-alouds.  And so many books are movies these days that I really just wanted something different.  Our librarian suggested this book and said it was hilarious.  She is right.  We are only five chapters into it, and the kids are cracking up.  Today, we did a venn diagram comparing Alex Frankovitch, the main character, to T.J. Stoner, his arch-nemesis.  One of Marzano's high yield strategies is "identifying similarities and differences" and venn diagrams are an excellent way to do this.  First, I had the students do their venn diagram in their reading journals independently.  Then, we came together as a whole group to complete the venn diagram on the Smart Board.  Smart Boards are an excellent tool that encourage class participation.  While I love anchor charts, the students are just not as eager to participate than when having the option to write on the Smart Board.  

And the final product...

Little Treasures: Giveaway! Check It Out! 50+ Followers

Check out this blog Little Treasures for an awesome giveaway!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Mints-Good for the Brain or the Breath?

This morning a student asked a fellow teacher, "Why do all the teachers think we have bad breath?"  The teacher asked, "What do you mean?"  and the student said, "They've all been passing out mints a lot!"  

As most of you probably know, mints are supposedly useful for recalling information and improving brain function.  I'm not even sure that research is accurate, but at my school, we need every little bit of help we can get.  So this week during the OAA, we've been giving the students mints while they take their test.  

I guess some of the teachers didn't explain the mint theory...

Get the most out of your Scholastic orders!

Who doesn't love Scholastic Books?  They have thousands of books for very reasonable prices.  And, now, with online ordering for teachers and parents, it is so easy!  Here are some tips to help you increase your orders and earn free stuff for your classroom.  

First, I started sending home a letter along with my catalogs.  As many intermediate teachers know, when you give something to a kid, they stuff it in their desk or book bag and it enters that black hole of things never to be seen again.  The letter makes it more official.  And usually, if something is dressed "Dear Parents"  the students do take it home.  Unless, of course it's a discipline referral!  In the letter, I always put the date the order is due and the directions for online ordering.  Sometimes, I highlight specific titles that may interest the students.  You can download my latest letter here.  

Second, I pass out the catalogs about 10 minutes before it's time to pack up and I let the students browse.  Giving them this time to shop makes them more likely show mom and dad the catalog.  Kids are smart, and lots of times they'll even take the catalog straight to Grandma.  

Third, during the holidays, I offer to collect orders in secret.  Again, online ordering makes it super-easy, but I will also hold onto the books for the parents to stop by and pick up before or after school.  Scholastic even has things that I call "junk," but do make great stocking stuffers.  

Last, whenever possible, have the due date near a payday.  

I also place orders with my classroom orders.  I buy books for my own child, my niece and nephew, and for prizes.  Why go to the dollar store and buy silly prizes when you can buy $1 books AND receive bonus points to use later?  

I hope you find these tips helpful!

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Test Day-It's Here!

It is a cold, rainy, dreary day in Columbus, Ohio.  I know May only comes around once a year, but I'm pretty sure we're supposed to see the sun and feel it's warmth.  It's one of those days when you just want to stay in your bed underneath the covers and watch all your favorite shows saved on your TiVo.  

But, we can't.  It's Test Day.  As I had a hard time getting out of bed this morning, I was thinking about my students.  I was sincerely hoping the weather was not going to affect their mood.  Especially for the kids at my school, but I'm guessing like many kids, if one thing goes wrong for them in the morning, it can ruin their whole day.  

The class and I talked yesterday about the importance of getting a good night's rest and eating a good breakfast.  A teacher across the hall suggested her fifth graders take a shower in the morning because it can revitalize you and make you feel good about yourself.  As I'm in the midst of the chaos of arriving to school later than normal (..you know, that whole staying in bed under the covers thing), signing that ever-so-lovely paper saying you're not going to help your students cheat, getting the test booklets and snacks ready, moving desks, and sharpening pencils, I'm hearing whispers.  

"I ate pancakes and sausage and eggs this morning!"

"I took a shower this morning...it really does make you feel good!"  (I literally laughed out loud at this one.  What a novel idea fifth graders...)

"I went to bed at eight o'clock last night."  (whispers from another student)  "Yeah, my mom made me."  

It was quite amusing hearing all of these things in the hallway before school started, and it definitely made my morning feel not quite as hectic.  Why was I all worked up?  I'm not the one taking this test.  They are.  And they're fine.  

The bell rings, and here comes the quiet line of test-takers down the hallway.  The third, fourth, and fifth grade teachers stand outside their door and clap for them, chanting "Do your best on the test!"  The students transformed into rock stars.  Their faces lit up, they were high-fiving the teachers, and they were confident.  At that point, the weather outside was all but forgotten.  

Monday, May 2, 2011

Who is Miss Malarkey?

Have you heard of Miss Malarkey?  Miss Malarkey is a character in the book Testing Miss Malarkey.  Her students are getting ready to take a very important test, "The Test," and she is very nervous about it.  

If you are a teacher in a high-stakes testing grade level, I'm sure at some point in time you have thought to yourself "I am Miss Malarkey!"  I know I certainly have.  I read this book to my class today.  We begin our state testing tomorrow, and I thought it would be a fun way to discuss "The Test" and the anxious feelings that comes along with it.  

So who else wants to admit it...who is Miss Malarkey??  

In The Teacher's Lounge: 100 Followers Give-Away!

Cindy, In the Teacher's Lounge, is having a give-away for reaching 100 followers! Follow her blog for a chance to win!!

In The Teacher's Lounge: 100 Followers Give-Away!: "I am excited to announce my 100 Followers Give-Away !!! I am so close to hitting 100! I am very psyched and have been thinking of what to..."

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Testing Anchors

Testing week is upon us....

I know a lot of people have differing views on testing anchors.  I believe there is a lot to be said for them.  I was actually surprised when I read a book recently that was very anti-anchors, if you will.  Do I teach to the test?  No.  Do I teach test taking strategies?  Absolutely.  I have to.  I have nine and ten year old students being asked to take a very tricky test.  My students need strategies to help them think about what they are reading and what the question is asking.  

I have found that my students can use reading strategies beautifully, but they don't relate those strategies when taking practice tests.  Check for understanding is a reading strategy we have used since the first day of school.  They practice it when reading with partners, and  by writing down what they read on sticky notes.  When I told them to check for understanding in the margins of their test, it was like a lightbulb went off in their heads...  Oh yeah, that makes sense!  This was the same when I told them to back up and reread when they don't know an answer to the question.  You would think that is common sense, but it really is not.  When they can't remember what they read in a chapter book, they use that strategy, but again, when it comes to "The Test," they need to be taught and reminded of these things.  

I created a "Remember your Testing Anchors" checklist that I am going to laminate and tape to each student's desk.  Since it doesn't have any actual content, I believe it is OK for the students to have on their desk while taking their achievement test.   Of course, I will double check with my principal, just to be sure!  

If you want your own copy of the testing anchors you can download it here!