Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A New Year!

This summer, I blogged and blogged and blogged.

Then school started.

And I taught and taught and taught.

Later, I planned and planned and planned.

And went to bed early.

And that was just one day! :) I have put that day on repeat now for 13 days!

But, that being said, I am LOVING this new school year! My students are absolutely precious, I love the subjects I teach (the same ones I've taught for years), and luckily, I love my coworkers, so I don't mind doing all that planning with them.

Thank goodness for common planning - it is saving us SO much work, and it helps make our lesson plans even better. I'm sure there's a more professional word to use here than "better." Maybe rigorous? Why not? Yes, common planning makes our lesson plans even more rigorous. And not in that rigor mortis-so-hard-it-kills-motivation kind of rigor. I mean in the critical thinking, giving kids an aha! moment kind of rigor. And if two heads are better than one, then four or eight heads are certainly better than two! I love bouncing around ideas for lessons, units, and assessments with my colleagues. We make awesome happen on a daily basis.

I've had a blast these first few weeks of school. I can't wait for things to slow down a bit so I can share some of the things we're doing.

I just wanted to check in with all of my friends and tell you that if the first few weeks are any indication, this year is pretty much going to rock my face off.

If you've started school already, how's it going? If you haven't started yet, I'm sending you positive vibes for your upcoming first days!

Saturday, August 4, 2012

My Classroom Tour

I have told a couple of friends that basically, my classroom is a Pinterest classroom (mostly). Here's the tour of my room, and if I found an idea on Pinterest, I've included the link to what I pinned below each picture. I've also included links to some of my templates and websites I like. Enjoy!

*NOTE: This is a VERY LONG blog post with LOTS of pictures.

This is what students and parents will see when they get to my classroom. 

Not a Pinterest creation - my own idea combined with the way another 5th grade teacher managers hers!
This is directly to the left of my front door. I attached a clear pocket with velcro to the wall and put my attendance list in it. The columns to the right are our 4 lunch options: brought lunch, regular lunch, grilled cheese sandwich, and peanut butter sandwich. When students arrive every morning, they will draw a mark across their names and put check marks in the columns of their lunch choices for the day. Then the attendance manager will come and check for absences.

This is the scrapbook paper pennant banner I made. The top banner says WELCOME and the bottom one says READERS.

Click here to see what I pinned

I made this poster on VistaPrint. I love making QR codes (because, in case you didn't notice, I'm a nerd). The top code takes parents to my website, and the bottom one takes parents to the students' blogs. If you want to make your own QR codes, try this website.

Click here to see what I pinned

This is the display I made for my front door. Click here to download my template for free! Just FYI, I trimmed a half-inch border around all the words. 

This is the view of my room when you walk straight into my classroom. The lanterns above each table have the table numbers hanging from them.

This is the view of the left side of my classroom.

This is the wooden set of cubbies I got from Target for $50. On top is my favorite dark brown basket which will hold library cards and library passes. The frame on the left has two pictures of my husband and me at the beach. The photo on the right is me accepting my college diploma! The top 3 cubbies have our Shurley English student textbooks. The middle row of cubbies have our social studies student textbooks plus several social studies resource books. The bottom 3 cubbies have English workbooks, Constitution workbooks, and spelling and writing how-to guides.

Click here to see what I pinned

Here is my teacher closet. I created the big pencil for the steps in the writing process. The eraser is as huge as it is because I needed room for everyone to be on Prewriting at the same time when we start a project, so it had to have room for about 24 clothespins. I measured them and then decided how big that eraser had to be. I know, it's huge. Don't hate. I also have a small spot for some student work that I want to highlight on the left door. I lined the closet with leftover bulletin board border. It makes it look so much better!

This is the inside of the left door of my closet. It's just a shoe holder thingy from Target. I made little numbers to go on each pocket. This will hold our Character Cash for our schoolwide incentive program. They use this money to buy rewards weekly in the classroom or big schoolwide rewards each quarter (movie plus popcorn, a Wii tournament, decorate cookies, tie-dye teeshirts, etc.).

This is the inside of the right door of my closet. It's a bag of bags. I stuff plastic grocery bags in here. The reason I really need this is because my classroom is right by the clothes closet. I often get knocks on the door asking if I have any bags because some sweet li'l thing has wet clothes and needed to get something clean. I'm happy to help, and I kind of secretly love it that I can be helpful :) They come in handy every now and then in my own classroom too.

Here's the area to the right of my teacher closet, aka the sink area. Above the sink are two of my posters. The poster on the left is the hand signals poster using American Sign Language symbols. You can buy it for $1.50 in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. Click here to shop. The poster on the right is a list of alternatives for "I don't know." I printed them off and had them blown up and laminated at our local teacher store. I added border around the outside so they wouldn't look so boring. The painting on the far right is the THINK saying I found on Pinterest. I liked it, so I painted it. Note: I am NOT an artist. 

Click here to see what I pinned

This counter and shelf to the left of my sink has a lot of stuff on it. I put a white wire shelf on top to maximize the space. On top, I have my 18-drawer organizer from Lowe's ($20) with odds-and-ends in it, a plant, a large purple amethyst, and my Un Maesto Especial award from Univision. Below that, my 22-drawer organizer from Lowe's ($17) with other doo-dads. Click here to read my post on the organizers. At the bottom, I have my CD player, a container for all my CDs, my hole punch, my pencil sharpener, and two straw holders, one for sharp pencils and one for dull pencils.

Click here to see what I pinned

To the right of the sink, you'll find my calendar, Drop Box, Turn-In Basket, globe, and Box Tops container. I'm planning to add another container with class clean up jobs to this area as well.

Just behind my front door are the coat racks and shelves. On the right, I have the birthday poster from Creative Teaching Press, and under that is my big Lunch Box basket. I love my alligator head; my aunt is a veterinarian, and she did the autopsy on this gator. The Department of Natural Resources tagged it and let her keep it. She is letting me display it in my classroom. My kids LOVE it. Beside that is the colorful picnic basket I got for $6 at Wal-Mart. It has a Books to Reshelve label on it. This will be for the class librarian to use. If a student isn't for sure where a book goes (or honestly just doesn't want to put it up), the book goes here for the librarian to put away in the proper place. I also have my wicked cool tie-dye playground ball and clipboard basket. Above all of that are two more posters I made from VistaPrint. The one on the left is the set of Morning Procedures for my class, and the one on the right is the set of Afternoon Procedures. I love them, and they were inspired by Harry Wong!

Here's a look at the area right beside my door.

I L-O-V-E my Writing Cart! It has all the supplies a student would need to write (minus dictionaries and thesauruses, which are on the bookshelves). The top drawer has pens, tape, and stapler. I have a cheap tape dispenser and a cheap stapler on this cart. My good ones are not available for student touching :) There are blue pens (self-edit) and red pens (peer-edit) here too. The second basket is notebook paper. This is for general use and for final copies of writing projects. The third basket is drafting paper. This is just yellow lined paper from a notepad. All classroom teachers at my school got a $300 budget to buy supplies for their classrooms from our school supply co-op for the entire year. I ordered something like a million notepads. I sat down and ripped the paper (quickly and easily, I might add!) from about 8 notepads and stuck it in here. I will ask a parent volunteer to rip the rest for me later :) This is for the rough draft part of the writing process. Students will be required to write double-spaced on this paper to leave plenty of room for editing. The draft will be stapled to the back of the final copy when it's been turned in. The bottom basket is for copy paper, which is for illustrating if students desire and/or have time. This cart has wheels, so it can go wherever it needs to go. Bonus! 

Under my light switch (which needed a major cleaning, yuck), I have one of my end-of-year gifts from a sweet student last year. It's called How to Really Love a Student. It's so pretty, and I just adore it! The big hanging red pocket chart is going to be filled with forms that the students need to access themselves, keeping them away from my desk and filing cabinet. Nurse forms, missing assignment notifications, self-assessments, group work assessments, book graphs, and things like that.

Click here to see what I pinned

I love my Reminders board! I hot glued ribbon to the back, all the way down, so it would be sturdy, then hung it on a Command hook. (I love Command hooks.) I even tied a really ugly bow at the bottom and hot glued that to it. Here, I will write reminders that the office gives me over the intercom. Example: Billy needs to be a car rider, not a bus rider. These are things I tend to forget and end up screaming at the student as the kids run off to the buses. I am a forgetful person because I'm so busy!!!!! Hopefully this will reduce my panic :) I used two more Command hooks (told you) to hold the boys' and girls' bathroom passes. When a student needs to use the restroom, he or she will need to put the pass at his/her seat instead of carrying it to the bathroom. There is NOTHING worse than having someone knock on your door and hold out a drippy bathroom pass and ask, "Does this belong to you?" EWWW.

This is my teacher desk. It's a small table that the library gave away last year. I've got some sweet pictures of my baby (not such a baby anymore, almost 8!), scissors and dry erase markers (don't ask me why I have a million), my dry erase pockets, and two organizers to hold materials for the week. The little green chair is from the Target Dollar Spot, and it is a cell phone holder. So cute! I also have the bell there, and I usually only use it during Spelling Bees. Don't ask me why. Above my desk is the News board. Students can hang articles of them that appear in the newspaper, or pictures from special events, and I will write down assignments in the calendar.

Click here to see what I pinned

Here's my rolly cart. On top I will have my laptop which is connected to my Promethean board. I also have a basket of notepads.

Under that, I have a big black crate in the back that you can't see; it's got some word puzzle books for special occasions in the classroom. In front, a utensil organizer from Target. I put wide-mouth plastic cups in there from the Dollar Tree. It holds all my highlighters. I use them ALL. THE. TIME. Under that, a trash can.

The filing cabinet is to the right of my laptop cart. On top, I have a mesh file organizer, my teacher guide for Shurley English, and 3 containers from Hobby Lobby. The orange one holds rulers (I liked it because it was tall), the blue one holds all my fancy scissors (the ones that cut fancy designs), and the green one has lotion because, let's face it, all that hand-washing leaves us gals with less-than-silky hands sometimes. I also have a ton of socks from the Dollar Tree. I'll pass those out to use as erasers when we use dry erase boards and markers. (PS - I love my "Bullies NO! Buddies YES!" poster!)

Seen a lot of divided boards on Pinterest, never pinned them though - whoops!
Here's my fiction library and my dry erase board. Notice the labels on the book bins are blank. We're going to organize the books as a class in the first few weeks. I had to cull several books that were beyond repair, so I want to make sure I have the right number of bins for each genre. All the books are already labeled by genre; we're just going to experiment with how many bins we need for each genre. This doubles as an introduction to the titles I have in my class library. Students will be able to look at several different titles in different genres (all the books are mixed up!!). They will have a "Books I Want to Read" sheet at their tables while they work, and if they come across a title that looks interesting, they will record it along with the author and genre so they can find it later when they need a book to read.

Above the library is my whiteboard. It's just a piece of shower board from Home Depot. It's sectioned off; the left section is for the Must Do board, the top middle-ish one is for the May Do board, and the bottom middle-ish one is for the weekly Boggle Board. This is a May Do activity I put up every week for early finishers. It's a great thinking activity, too. Lots of teachers have really cute ones with pretty letters that they velcro up each week. Not me. I just write mine up there. I created a document with 27 different Boggle board combinations using a specially-designed algorithm that produces over 35 common words for each board. Each week, students are challenged to find at least 35 words. It's hard to do! You can buy my list of 27 boards for $1.00 at Teachers Pay Teachers. Click here to purchase.

The rest of the board will be used for whatever I want to put up there :)

My two comfy chairs with pillows underneath.

This is my Spot Our Progress board. Students will put a new sticker up for every book they've finished. We celebrate every finished book in my classroom. If you like this, you should read Donalyn Miller's book, The Book Whisperer. Click here to read my post about her and her fabulous book! (We call it the reading teacher's Bible.)

Click here to see what I pinned

Here's my poem dry erase board (left), recess door, and my nonfiction shelf. The two big blue baskets on the bottom are for books that are too large for my smaller book baskets. The top big blue basket is for social studies books (people, wars, historical events) and the bottom one is for science books. I also have my tree and my green loveseat that thekids love. In front of the tree is a green basket with picture books. I don't have a lot of these since I teach 5th grade, but the ones that are in there are ones that I love! Above the loveseat is the reading journal rubric poster I made on VistaPrint.

Right beside the loveseat are my computers. I have a label with each computer number above it. The mats are nonslip placemats I got at the Dollar Tree. It helps keep the keyboards from sliding around. Above that is my His-Tree pocket chart. I'll put sentence strips with major history information in this bad boy. To the right of the tree are the two blogging posters I made at VistaPrint - one for Blogging Guidelines and one for Commenting Guidelines. I love my lanterns hanging in the corner! The blue pocket chart has a list of all the websites we visit frequently. I'm ALWAYS adding new websites. I'm kind of addicted.

My brand new director's chair! LOVE! The mailboxes there are usually used to file student work that goes home in their weekly folders, but I think I'm going to use it for unfinished work so I can see who still has work they need to complete! The green basket on top has my read alouds and bookmarks in there. The blue basket right now is just filled with stuff. I may end up moving the bookmarks into that basket. My kids love bookmarks.

The bulletin board and posters above my director's chair. Guess where I made these? Yep, VistaPrint. The left one is my class rules poster, and the one on the right is the consequence poster.

A view of one of my tables. It has the name plates hot-glued to the table. I only put two name plates on each table. The name plate on the right has the names of all the kids sitting on the right side (plus their numbers, #1-22), and the same goes for the tag on the left. I don't like a lot of tags cluttering up the table. I think this just looks neater. Each table also has a container for pencils.

Click here to see what I pinned

Each table has it's own set of Sterilite drawers with wheels. They are for my homeroom students' supplies. The top drawers are for the independent reading books they are reading, the middle drawers are for their supply boxes, and the bottom drawers are for their composition notebooks and folders. Each table has a table manager who sits right beside the drawers where they open. The table managers are in charge of the drawers, adding or removing supplies and keeping them neat.

Each table also has a little trash can from the Dollar Tree behind the drawers. These are for PAPER ONLY. It's someone's job to dump these into the big trash can at the end of the day. If someone puts liquid or something sticky in here, he or she can spend part of recess cleaning it out.

This is quite possibly my favorite part of the room. This is my guided reading table. I love the storage ottomans - color + storage? Dream come true! They are just the right height for my table, and I have supplies and reading group books inside them. Behind the table are my shelves with my drawers. I love those things, too.

The cup at the top has my numbered sticks for calling on students randomly. On the bottom of the shelves, I have bins for storing envelopes or other things I might need to put somewhere. The drawers have bulletin board border that I trimmed to fit with a 2"x4" Avery label on them. I used double-sided tape to affix them to the front of the drawer. These 6 drawers are labeled: Forms, Returned Forms, Weekly Reports, Weekly Folders, Mrs. Thompson (my keys, chocolate, gum, etc.), and Technology (ear buds, charging cords, etc.).

The blue bin on the right has my reading binders. On the bottom, I have two red crates. The one on the left is going to be for filing student work to go home in weekly folders, and the one on the right has all my Common Core reading resources. The drawers in this section are labeled: Social Studies, Language Arts, Instructional Data, Reading (Now), Reading (Future), and Reading Assessments. The reason I have 3 drawers for reading is because I usually have a BILLION things to use for reading group. I need a place for stuff the kids are using in reading right this minute, things they'll use soon but don't need right now, and any assessments/data I have on their reading progress.

The orange bin has my Guest Teacher Binder and my Everything Binder (click here to read more about these). The bottom shelf holds my rubrics (left) and other files (right). The drawers here are labeled: Parents, Team Teachers, Administration, Office/Copies, Pens & Pencils, Notepads.

I've already posted this picture, but in the front of the room, you can see more black cubbies with fabric bins in them. They have labels on the front, and they are for storing things like DVDs, craft supplies (like crepe paper, my hot glue gun, etc), art supplies (crayons and markers), index cards, pencils, notebook paper, my Sub Tub, and things like that. The reason I don't have a close-up picture of this is because I'm waiting on my shipment of more fancy cards to come in so all of the bins have a label. Right now, it's driving me crazy that they don't all have one, but I ran out. Eek!

So that's it. Welcome to my classroom! I'd love to see pictures of your classrooms, too! If you've blogged about your classroom, send me a link!

Advice for New Teachers Linky Party

I'm linking up with Linda at Tales of a Fifth Grade Teacher for her Advice for New Teachers Linky Party! (I'm loving that I've figured out how to do this.)

Go on over to her blog to read her advice for first year teachers! Here's the advice I'd like to add to hers.
1. Don't be afraid to change things. You will change a lot of things a lot of times. I changed my seating arrangement, I pulled posters off the wall and put them in a more visible location, I added morning meetings in the middle of the year, and I'm pretty sure we revamped a rule or two. It's okay to do this, not a sign of weakness. Just be honest with the kids and say, "This isn't working for me or for us, and I think this should change to make our classroom a better place." They'll get it. I STILL change things up during the year when I need to do it!
2. Tell the kids up front that even though you're pretty sure you're a genius, you don't know everything. There are some kids who will want to correct you at times, and there are some kids who will ask you a bajillion questions. This statement lets them know that you aren't perfect, and perfection is not expected. It'll be a relief for the kids. If you don't know the answer to a question, admit it and suggest they go look it up and share what they find with the class. If a student corrects you when you've made an error (math, spelling, or otherwise), be able to laugh at yourself! When that happens to me, I tell them it's because I need a little more caffeine, go sip my Diet Coke, and move on with my life. It happens!
3. At the beginning of the year, ask your parents to tell you about their child. I don't want them to actually tell me face-to-face; I just usually send home a sheet of paper with a penny graphic on it, and I call it "A Penny for your Thoughts." On this paper, the directions ask the parents to tell me everything that they think I will need to know about their child to make him/her successful. I take them home to read them over the weekend. I end up learning a lot about my students, and it makes the parents feel more comfortable with you! Win-Win! Click HERE to download a copy.

Veteran teachers, what's YOUR advice for the new teachers this year? Comment below, or link up with Linda!

Friday, August 3, 2012

My First "Currently" and Whole Class Journals

I've never done a linky party of any kind, but I've wanted to. (If you don't know what that is, I am not really sure I'm qualified to describe it for you as I'm just trying this myself for the first time - ha!)

I saw Jen's August "Currently" and decided I just needed to figure it out. I went over to Farley's blog, Oh Boy, Fourth Grade, to get the template for it and - voila! My first Currently! Yay me!

Head on over to Farley's blog to check out others who linked up for the August Currently!

I also made another little goodie I found from Pinterest. I've seen a lot of these floating around, and I'm not sure whose idea this was originally. This is what I pinned.

Basically, we will have 8 whole class journals for the students to write in. I will select 8 students each week to write in one of the journals. The next week, 8 different children will be selected to write, and so on. By the time we're finished, each journal should have about 25 different entries written in them. Students will be able to read what their classmates have written as well. I think it'll be great fun and a great experience for everyone!

I didn't type up all the instructions like Emily did, mainly because I have a ton of these 2"x4" labels and it wouldn't fit. Here are the 8 topics I chose for the kids to write about:

  • Your Weekend
  • Your Favorite Hobby
  • Your Favorite Sport
  • A Family Vacation
  • A Strange Dream
  • Your Greatest Wish
  • Your Pet(s)
  • Your Family
I know that some students might not have pets, may never have been on a vacation, may not remember their dreams, may not have a favorite sport, etc. Students will definitely be allowed to use these for creative writing if they cannot write a personal narrative for that topic. For example, if a student is writing in the Favorite Sport journal but doesn't like sports, I would encourage him or her to create their own sport or game and write about what it would be like. For pets, what would their dream pet be? For vacations, what would their dream vacations be?

These will not be graded. I will go over them and look for glaring errors. I want this to be more of a shared writing experience between the students. I can't wait to use these in my classroom!

So that's it for now! I'm preparing a classroom tour post for you soon! School is about to start. Are you ready?

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

I'm Lucky to Have You!

Dear Followers and Blog Readers,

I'm so lucky to have you! I love blogging, and I'm glad you take the time to read my rambling thinking!

Speaking of lucky (do you like my segue there?), I made these today for my students! This is a breakfast snack for the first day of school.

This is just a regular sandwich-sized Ziplock baggie filled with Lucky Charms cereal. It took me two boxes of cereal to make 26 baggies (happily, this particular cereal is on sale BOGO at Publix - sale ends today). I used one of my son's small cups to scoop it out; I wish I had taken a real measurement! Whoopsie :)

Then I cut some green paper. This isn't card stock; it's just regular weight paper. I thought it'd be easier to fold this even though I have some green card stock. 

I measured the top of the baggie, and it's 6.5" long. I cut the paper to be 6 3/4" long to cover a tiny bit over the edges. The height of the paper I cut is 4 1/4". I folded the paper over about 1/3 of the way. Check out the picture of how I folded it below.

Then I stapled the paper to attach it to the baggie. I covered the staple with the stickers I made that say, "I'm so LUCKY to have you in my class this year!" Want a copy of the stickers? Well HERE you go! This is for a 2x4 inch label, 10 to a page.


PS - I've been working really hard on my classroom, and I can't WAIT to show you pictures soon!