Thursday, July 23, 2015

Then & Now

So, I'm waiting like a kid at Christmas to get into my new classroom at my new school! Here's my Timehop showing how nice and decorated my room was 4 years ago, and how it looks today. (Of course, it's not the same room...)

Look at how clean and shiny it is! And look how empty it looks! It's just BEGGING me to come in and set it up!

Tomorrow's the day, so I'm spending some time cutting out some last minute pieces of lamination to hang up in the room.


Do you get that way when it's time to set up your room every summer? Or do you dread having to get up early and climb up on step ladders?

I'll post pictures as the room starts to develop... woohoo!


Thursday, July 16, 2015

Why Instagram Is Good For Your Classroom

I pinned something early this morning about 5 ways that Instagram is good for your business. It reminded me of the ways I use it in the classroom! So, being the nerdy, nerdy, nerdy teacher that I am, I whipped this up to show you 5 ways that Instagram is good for your classroom! Feel free to ask me questions, and share it with other teachers, too!

To read the original post I wrote about how I started using Instagram in the classroom, click HERE.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gearing Up for Interactive Notebooks

As we're gearing up to start a new school year, I'm getting ready for interactive notebooks (INBs) for my middle schoolers in ELA this year!

Today, I'm going to let you know a little bit about how I'm getting ready. There are so many blog posts out there about how to create an INB - my recommendation is to look at Erin Cobb's stuff (I'm Lovin' Lit on TpT, and you can visit her website HERE). She's amazing, and she has INB products available for ELA for 4th-8th grades.

If you're looking for math INB products, check out Jennifer Findley (find her TpT store HERE). She has math products for 3rd - 5th grade.

I do a little combination of cut-and-fold interactive items and some creative artsy designs in my notebooks. I do like the foldables, but sometimes, if we need something quick (and you know some days are like that), we take notes and I allow students to draw pictures, comics, or diagrams that help them process and understand the information.

So before my kids come in, I make INB kits. Last year, I had them in clear plastic shoebox bins with lids. This year, I'm putting them in zipper pouches. I like these because you can see in them. I purchased these at Walmart for $0.97 each. I have 14 of these, so in a class of 28, they can share a pouch for every two students.

I've included skinny markers (or do we call them "thin" in this day and age?), colored pencils, and scissors. I will include glue once I purchase some. Walmart and Target both have Crayola skinny markers for $0.97 a box. At Walmart, you can get the 12-count Crayola colored pencils for $0.97, or you can get the RoseArt brand for $0.50 a box. At Target, the 12-count Crayola colored pencils were more expensive (I don't remember the price - sorry!), but the Target brand for 12-count was $0.74. Maybe you're like me and you price shop!

I have a great Thirty-One bin that I'm going to put these in. I'm hoping I can swing by Home Depot and Lowe's to grab some paint stirrers for free so my students can use those for straight edges when needed/wanted. I'll toss those in the bin along with these kits. On days we need the kits, I'll post a note on the board, and kids can grab a kit and have a seat, getting ready for class to begin! I think the zipper pouches will be easier to grab than the plastic bins, and they take up MUCH less space.
*I actually have multiple of these bins. You can view them on the Thirty-One website HERE. I love these because they are really large, and if you buy the lid, they are stackable! I also like the fact that you can see into them. Visibility is huge in the classroom so you (and the students) can easily figure out where things go. (If you don't have a Thirty-One consultant, just let me know and I'll hook you up with mine - Kaitlin is awesome! Visit her page HERE.)

For the covers, I love to have students decorate their notebooks and make them their own! You can see mine above, and my son made this one this summer. (This is not a school INB for him - he just wanted to make a personalized notebook!) I purchased full-sheet labels off Amazon for $11.64. (HERE's the link.) You get 100 labels in the box. For ours, I printed out logos or pictures of the things we love. We colored them, cut them out, peeled off the back, and had instant customized stickers!

When the students decorate their notebooks in class, I'm going to give each student a half of the label page. They can draw, write, or decorate to their hearts' content! Then they can cut and peel too, and they will have beautiful, personalized notebooks. I really believe that if they make them specific to their interests, they take greater pride in what they put in the notebooks.

If you look closely at the picture of my INB, you can see a ribbon coming out of the bottom. It's so easy to tie a ribbon to the top of the coil, then let it be used as a bookmark for their notebooks.

So that's how I'm setting up my INBs for this school year. Do you use them? Feel free to share your tips below!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

A Summer of Waiting

If you read my last blog post, you know that I'm leaving 5th grade to teach middle school language arts next year! I am very excited about it, but this has definitely been a summer of waiting!

I don't know which grade I'm teaching yet. I don't know what room I'm working in. I don't know much of anything... except that I have a job! (I am very grateful for that fact, by the way!)

This time of year, I'm usually already in my classroom setting up. (Teachers go back in our district on July 30th this year.) Since I can't do that, I've been doing some projects at home and hanging out with my ten-year-old son instead!

Right now I'm working on decluttering... oh my word, do you ever look around your house and think WHERE DID ALL OF THIS COME FROM?! That's kind of how I'm feeling this summer, so I'm using my downtime to get rid of things I don't love or use. That can be a pretty big undertaking!

I'm going to share some of my declutter plans for the rest of this week. This is the kind of stuff we don't make time for once the school year starts. If you're anything like me, you're going ninety miles a minute once you set foot back in your classroom!

Clean out your medicine cabinet! (For me, it's a drawer.) Get rid of any medications that are old or expired. Do you have big boxes of tablets, like children's medicine or OTC sinus meds, and they only have a couple of tablets left in there? Get rid of that big box. I have tons of big boxes of children's Tylenol and Benadryl, but the boxes aren't full anymore. By getting rid of the big boxes, I have a little more space, plus I know to stock back up on those things. You'll definitely need lots of cold and headache medicines once school starts back, so if you spend a little time decluttering, you'll be able to purchase those important items before you really need them (and are likely too sick to go out and get them!).

Declutter your makeup drawer. Maybe you're like me and have about 7 or 8 similar shades of lipstick but only stick to one or two signature colors. Repeat after me: IF I DON'T LOVE IT OR USE IT, IT'S OKAY TO THROW IT OUT. I used to have the hardest time doing that. I'd say to myself, "Oh, but I spent money on that..." Now you're just taking up space - get rid of it!

Sort out everything in your dresser drawers. I mean everything. This terrifies me. I've moved to the dreaded land of plastic bins all of my closet to contain everything from scarves to extra pajama sets. IT'S GOT TO STOP. I am pretty ruthless when it comes to getting rid of clothes I no longer wear. (I went through my hanging clothes last week and took two big bags to Goodwill today.) Now it's time to tackle the drawers. I think this is so hard for me because I have so many drawers and so much foldable stuff. I have to conquer this!

Closet time. I've done this already - but if you haven't worn it during this season, get rid of it. You're a creature of habit, and you probably won't wear it in the future. Stop lying to yourself. I know. I did it for years.

Declutter that nightstand. Why is mine so full of crap?! I think I just need to chuck it all in a garbage bag. I'm fairly certain I haven't used the drawers in months.

Those are the things I plan to tackle this week. Next week will *hopefully* be my last week not knowing what I'm doing for school next year, so it will be my last ditch week to declutter. Here's what I'll probably tackle then:

*Kitchen junk drawer (God help us all)
*Linen closet (I feel like I do this all the time and it NEVER EVER gets better)
*Laundry room (It's truly a disaster. I don't want to. But I really should.)

Do you get the urge to clean out and declutter during the summer? If you have any advice or tips, I'd love to hear them!

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Moving to Middle School

I fully realize that I haven't blogged since October 2014. HOW ON EARTH do all you other bloggers balance teaching, living, AND blogging?! I am in awe of you all!

I have contemplated committing myself to one day a week to blog, but then real life pops up, and then I think about blogging, but then I say to myself, "I have nothing interesting to write about!" But I don't let my students take that attitude when it comes to writing...

So here I am. I'm going to blog more often. Hopefully. Will you hold me to it?

At any rate, here's my first blog post of 2015!

Big announcement... I'm moving to Middle School!

I've spent the entire 8 years of my career at the same elementary school. I taught 3rd grade the first two years and 5th grade for the last six. I have L-O-V-E-D teaching elementary, I loved the people I worked with, and I loved my school. So why the move?

Have you ever just felt a deep yearning in your heart for change? A desire for something different? A want for challenge?

Yup. That was me. I really found myself loving literature and teaching writing, and I felt in the deepest parts of my soul that I wanted to do that - and only that - all day long. I wouldn't have that opportunity at the elementary level, so I knew I had to move up to either middle school or high school. High school scares the bejeebers out of me, so middle school it was!

I took the GACE for middle grades and interviewed for an ELA position, and voila! Here I am - about to embark on a journey as a 7th grade ELA teacher!

Do any of you use Timehop? According to the app, I have noticed in the last couple of days that around this time in summers past, I have been working on classroom decor, new classroom ideas, cutesy organizational tools, etc. This summer is a bit different.

I don't know which classroom I'm going to be in yet. I don't know which exact classes I'm teaching. I don't really know a whole lot! For the first time ever, I'm having a hard time finding things to do this summer.

I do know that middle schoolers aren't going to want any of the cutesy-wutesy stuff of elementary school. I am, however, a firm believer in a classroom being a comfortable, beautiful place to be. I've switched my organizational tools from my sweet primary colors to more grown-up designs in red, black, gray, and white. But for other things... it's hard to plan when I haven't seen my classroom yet!

Even though I am waiting on the details, I am thrilled to become a middle school teacher. The teachers are so welcoming and fun at my new school. I am sarcastic and love to be a little crazy, so I am hopeful I will be a good fit with 7th graders.

For those of you who teach middle school, do you have any advice for me? It's a kind of surreal going from knowing the routine to embarking on something new. Any words of wisdom would be welcome!

Til next time,

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Why I Hope I Never Want to Give up Teaching

(I know I haven't posted in a while - busy doing this thing called teaching - but I felt like I needed to post this. Let me preface this post by saying these are MY views, not the views of my administration, fellow teachers, or school system. And - I love my administrators. They are awesome people. Now, without further ado...)

So I’ve seen this post floating around the Internet, and honestly, I’ve refused to click on it in the past to even read what it had to say. The article is titled, “Why I Want to Give Up Teaching.” After seeing six or seven teaching colleagues post the same article, I finally gave in and read it. This blog post is my opinion, and it’s the opposite… ”Why I Hope I Never Want to Give Up Teaching.”

To Mrs. Natale, the teacher who wrote the article, I completely understand your frustrations. This is only my eighth year teaching, but I have been through similar situations. We started off in Georgia with the QCC standards, then moved to the GPS, and now we’re part of the CCGPS – Common Core Georgia Performance Standards. I’ve seen a shift in the field from using tests to see how kids are doing to now using tests to measure my own effectiveness. No, I’m not a fan.

I’m with you. I don’t think it’s fair that my performance as an educator will be tied to whether or not one of my precious students passes a fifth grade reading test when she is reading on a first grade level. (We’ve been working on phonics during our lunch times together; b-a-t, stretch out each sound, tap it out, put them together… good job, that’s “bat!” Now let’s try another…) I don’t think it’s fair to assess how effective I am in my classroom when I have students who break down into tears because they miss their dad who’s passed away, or a loved one has gone to jail, or their mother is too busy working three jobs to help them with their homework. I refuse to say, “Buck up, buttercup, you’ve got to work harder on this long division.” Sometimes, I put the math away and bring out the hugs and a piece of bubble gum instead. (Hopefully an administrator won’t pop in for a walk-through during one of those moments, or I’ll have documentation that I’m ineffective.)

HOWEVER, these are the exact reasons I refuse to quit teaching. My students need an educator who sees all these crazy shifts in education but still stands as a rock for her students. When times in education are changing – and when times in my students’ lives are changing – they need someone strong to whom they can cling. They need a rock in the storm. They need a shelter to help them weather all the winds of change that blow their way. And I honestly, truly, completely believe that God has created me to be that safe place.

No matter how tough educational mandates may be, they are likely harder on my students. I cannot allow testing requirements, TEM (teacher effectiveness measure) scores, or changes in standards to sway me from my goal. And my goal is to teach children. I don’t teach standards. I don’t teach to tests. I don’t even teach novels or math concepts. No, this lady right here teaches CHILDREN.

I know the pressure – it stares me in the face every day. I have to prepare my children for the fifth grade end-of-year test. I also have to prepare my students for middle school. Those pressures do weigh heavily on me. BUT I cannot change course. I cannot let it affect me. I cannot let the pressures of teaching make me less effective. And I don’t mean “effective” by my administration’s standards (though I do hope they think I do a good job). I mean effective by my students’ standards.

I saw a former student at the store today, and as soon as we made eye contact, a huge grin came upon his face. I taught him 6 years ago, but he immediately began to tell me how fifth grade was one of the best years of his life. His mom recognized me as well, and we were instantly transported back to the days when her son was just a scrawny ten-year-old boy in my class. Now he’s a tall, beefy ball player. I was honored that he remembered me, humbled by his mama’s sweet words to me, and blessed by our conversation in the checkout line. HE, the countless children I’ve taught in the past, and my students today are my fuel; when my energy tank seems low, they keep me going.

Yes, education is a crazy field. But to all my brothers and sisters in this career field, it’s probably not going to get better. My friends who have taught for twenty years or more tell me that education is like a pendulum. It swings back and forth. What was all new twenty years ago will swing back into popularity. What was all the rage in education 10 years ago has gone out… but just wait, we’ll see it again with a fancy new acronym. We can’t let change keep us from doing the jobs that our children NEED us to do.

Mrs. Natale, you seem like a passionate lady. Please don’t quit teaching. Your children need you. I think I’m a pretty good teacher, and I also think my children need me. America’s children need strong men and women to weather the craziness we call “teaching” and show up ready to defy all odds on a daily basis. Because we all know that the odds won’t always be in our favor, but if we can sustain our passion, we CAN defy those odds. I may be a little biased, but I think teachers are heroes. To all of my teacher friends who have felt this way in the past, please don’t quit. You never know which child sitting in your classroom is desperate for a hero. So suit up, friends. Your cape is calling.

Friday, August 1, 2014

Classroom Tour 2014-2015

Well, my friends, I've decided to go with a Jazz theme for the year! In 5th grade social studies in GA, one of our units involves the Harlem Renaissance and the 1920s, so having a jazz theme fits in perfectly! Take a look around my room - I just finished it today! (Our kids start on Thursday.)

This is the first thing parents and students will see when they walk through my door. Student tables are labeled with famous Americans we'll study throughout our social studies year!

Speaking of door, this is on the front of my classroom door! I love the positive message it sends to parents and students.
Okay, this isn't INSIDE my room, but it's right outside the door. Our entire grade level is setting up a spot to showcase students' writing for the year! We laminated card stock and have large paperclips at the top so kids can simply slide their work above their names :)

Students sign out to go to the restroom, library, office, etc., at this station. Also, notice the "Negativity Goes Here" sign above the trash can :) Love the message!
The dry erase board hanging on the back of the door is where students sign their names when they leave. This way I know who's out of the room during an emergency or at any moment!

Some fun colorful character signs I found on Pinterest!
(Find the signs HERE.)
The blue buckets are for kids who brought their lunches - this is the storage spot.

We are going to have expectations, not rules, in my class this year! Be nice. Work hard. Let the teacher teach!
I am also using the 4 stages of behavior from Discipline without Stress, Punishment, or Rewards. Those are listed on this wall as well.
In this same spot, I have crayons divided up by colors in the red drawer container (warm colors, cool colors, and neutrals - trying to incorporate some art terms there) and my pencil drawers with the chevron front. That has a place for erasers, dull pencils, and sharpened pencils.
Something new I'm trying this year is the crate with the Ketchup & Pickle folders. This is a really great idea I've adapted from the way I used to use Ketchup & Pickle in my classroom. Find out more about how it works in my post about it HERE.

Student cubbies with African artifacts on top (from my mission trip two summers ago)

Student work area with the computer that's hooked up to the Promethean Board... this is where they will turn in work, sign out books from the classroom library, and get simple class supplies (more staples, rubber bands, push pins, etc.).
This cabinet also stores lots of classroom supplies. 

This is just half of my class library, but I added the red curtain above the Promethean board to "jazz" the room up a little! I can open it all the way when the board is in use. 

Our ELA bulletin board complete with our stages of the writing process clip chart! Students move their clips down the chart as they progress through the steps. And I LOVE our GROUPS poster! There are several versions on TpT.

Computer station, complete with the "What STUCK with you today?" board! Students can place their "ticket out the door" sticky notes here. There is a spot for each child to place his or her sticky note. 

I just love these character posters from Creative Teaching Press!

I absolutely love my fabric drawer storage! All classroom supplies are easily accessible by myself or the students. I love having everything at hand. The kids know where to find whatever they need. This makes them more independent (and helpful when I need something, too!).

This is my small group area. The drawers behind the table are for teacher storage. I keep copies for each class, supplies, papers to be filed, important papers from administration, and other items handy in these drawers. These are TEACHER ONLY DRAWERS! That's why they are behind my chair :)
Beneath the drawers are crates. I have one crate per subject with all kinds of master copies in the crates. 

This is my table - a basket for read alouds and hard-back Reading Bowl books, a fun lamp, and a cool quote by Hank Green! "Read books. Care about things. Get excited. Try not to be too down on yourself. Enjoy the ever present game of knowing." Plus, a cute picture of my son! Oh, and the hole puncher. Just because it needs a place, yo.

I love the black on the walls with the colorful accents around the room. 

I have a folder ready with all the students' open house forms that need to be completed and returned.

Each student gets a special treat for open house - a bag of white cheddar popcorn (yummy and healthy!) that says, "Thanks for POPPING by! Love, Mrs. Thompson"

The room... with my fancy rolling podium! I love that!
So that's a quick tour of my room. Have you set your classroom up yet? Posted pictures to your blog? Leave a link in the comments below! I love looking at room decor!