Saturday, August 31, 2013

Spark Student Motivation Saturday (FINALLY)!

Well...I survived my first week (2.5 days) of school. I am all ready for next week, especially since we have Monday & Thursday off, and even have plans for the following week! I am sure I will have plenty of changes in my plan book. By the way, I am absolutely IN LOVE with my Erin Condren planner that I splurged on this summer. It makes me happy every time I look at it. Do you know what makes it even more exciting? When Robyn and I plan on Friday's with our Reading Specialist (who is also one of our BFF's) we all have the same planner! Our other teammate received her planner for a birthday present from Robyn and I and loves hers too! We were afraid to write in them at first, but erasable gel pens are GENIUS!

That brings me to my post today. We wanted to link up with our sweet friend Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her linky: 

I'm pretty sure this was posted before and I think it was either from my friends at Collaborative Cuties or Jivey, maybe even both, but since this works, I will blog about it again. :) Not only are colored pens fun for teachers, but they work wonders for students. This year my class HATES to write. When taking our beginning of the year classroom survey, 80% of the class put writing as their LEAST favorite subject.

This is unacceptable in my class. I absolutely LOVE writing. We started with our writing territories this week and created our writing heart, a giant heart containing favorite memories that trigger emotions that would make potential awesome stories to write about. I made mine first and embarrassed myself over and over again telling my students silly stories about my life. I really do love this lesson because it really bonds us together as a class. They realize I am not perfect, they are not perfect, and we basically share stories verbally for the afternoon. At first the heart was a turn off for the boys, but when I told the kids they could use colored pencils or colored pens to write down their memories they perked right up. "Can we use RED!?" is what I heard the most. I think they still associate a red pen with a grade, but I usually grade with pink or purple because they are my favorite and red seems so harsh! I gave my class ten minutes and then checked in with the students. I couldn't believe how many ideas they had written down in just ten minutes. Everyone was motivated, excited, and writing as fast as their little hands would move!

Check out these adorable boys! They were working so hard and I was so impressed! Notice how full that pencil pouch is! Hopefully it will stay like that throughout the year! haha

So all in all, I have a feeling we will be using our colored pens MUCH more than I ever have this year. :) 

As an added bonus, check out my classroom door! 

This is another student motivator. We use a PBIS system called Johnson Pride. Our School is Johnson School. I made my students a sign for the first day of school that said, "My first day at Johnson School!" and took their pictures holding the sign.  (Our school is only 4th & 5th grade.) I gave each student a print of the picture to take home to their parent on the first day and put another copy up on the door. Looking back at these pictures throughout the year are amazing. It is crazy how much my little fourth graders will grow in just a few months!

When students show Johnson Pride, they get a Pride sticker and slip. When they fill out the slip (saying what they received the sticker for) they enter it in a raffle in the office. The principal calls winners from the raffle every Friday for prizes. The students also get a "footsie" a little plastic paw that goes on their shoe lace. The kids LOVE these. While walking in the hallway and looking at feet, you can tell who has received a ton of Johnson Pride stickers and who still might need some support and encouragement to earn one.

Happy Saturday! I am now off to enjoy a fun filled day of finding tag sales with the family and spending some time on the lake!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Super Saturday!

Since there are only a few days of summer left for us here in Connecticut, I've decided to cram as much into each day as I can. Because of this, my house is suffering, I guess I need to dedicate a good day to cleaning and Today I wanted to work on the wreath I was planing on making my daughter's new preschool teacher. I've never met her, but I think she is a new teacher, so I wanted to make her first days of teaching extra special. From one teacher to another, I know it can be challenging...especially dealing with four year olds all day. Now I am not the crafty one, that's Robyn, in fact she made a similar wreath for our daycare provider for Christmas and it came out adorable! So if you want to mock me, like my husband, you can just say that I m copying Robyn, but actually it's from Pinterest! I of course needed Robyn's help and opinion as I worked on it today.

What you need: 
Two hoops (the kind you use for needle point). They need to be different sizes. I chose a pretty purple set 10 inch and 8 inch. You can use the wood ones, but I would paint them first because some of it is visible. 

3-4 boxes of 25 crayons. Be sure to get the same kind so the labels are the same. I only had two boxes originally and had to go back to the store. I ended up using three full boxes.

Ribbon! I followed a Pinterest tutorial on how to make a bow for a wreath, but I needed wire ribbon and didn't feel like going back out. So get thick wire ribbon if you want a fuller bow. 

A hot glue gun with plenty of extra glue sticks. 

Stickers for decals. 

Letters for the name.

Paint if your letters are not painted. 

Glitter if you want glittery letters. 

To start, take the hoops out of each other. Technically you can make two wreaths because each hoop has two pieces and you need one of each, per wreath. (I have an extra two if any of my local friends want them!)

Place the smaller hoop in the middle of the larger hoop and put hot glue on a crayon. The bottom of the crayon should be almost even with the smaller hoop. The crayons are what is going to hold the hoop together. You want to keep the crayons close together and form a circle. I also glued the same side of each crayons, so it would look more uniform. 

Crayon by crayon, just keep glueing! My glue gun got clogged and then all the glue exploded on my poor pinky finger causing a huge blister! Ouch!

Be sure to buy enough crayons, I ran out. I needed 75 crayons for the 8 & 10 inch hoops. 

I painted the letters because they were plain wood. I love glitter and I think all elementary school teachers do, so I "glitterfied" the letters. After the second coat of paint I dumped glitter on top. It seemed to stick well, hopefully it stays. (I let Isabella help me with this step and she thought it was the best thing in the world!)

I quickly went back to the store and finished glueing the crayons and letters on top. I also bought some cute pre- school scrap book stickers at my local craft store and hot-glued those onto the wreath. I tied a bow (by following a Pinterest tutorial), and glued it on as well. To hang the wreath, I simply tied white ribbon around the wreath. Overall, I think it came out adorable! This was much easier than the ribbon wreath (that i made for my classroom) and I would definitely make it again! 

The best part is my daughter thinks it is AMAZING and cannot wait to give it to her teacher. Robyn is proud of me too, so I guess it was a successful craft day! ;) 

Don't forget, get your carts ready on Teachers Pay Teachers! The huge back to school sale starts tomorrow! At check out, use the code BTS13, for 28% off of my store! 

Check out this amazing linky sponsored by Jo-Ann's Craft Store!

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Back to school TpT SALE! What's on your wish list?

It's here, it's here! It's finally here!

As we are all prepping our classrooms, going through professional development, or in survival beginning of the school year mode we have been anxiously waiting to hear when our favorite and most wish-listed products will go on sale at TPT.

Well friends, I am happy to announce it is finally time!

In celebration of this momentous event, myself and a group of wonderful wonderful bloggers came together to create a fun linky to showcase our shopping carts and our favorite products.

If there's one thing we teachers love to do, it's shop for our classrooms, right?

Join us by linking up with 2 of the top wish-listed products in your store and 1 product on your wish-list you just have to purchase! *If you're not a blogger or TPTer, still feel free to comment with your most wish-listed item!
Our ABSOLUTELY AWESOME REWARD COUPONS! Some people call them brag tags, other people call them heaven, but we call them reward coupons. We used these last year as part of our behavior system and they were an amazing success. The best part is I didn't have to buy a bunch of junky prizes to clutter up the classroom AND the students really bought into the idea! They loved the prizes and we even received positive feedback from parents regarding the rewards. This is our most wish listed item and we can see why. Believe me, you do not want to start your school year without these! They took a LONG time to create because we thought of rewards that were fun, easy to give (as the teacher), would make students excited, and DIFFERENT. With 60 different options students will always be guessing what reward they could possibly earn!
Grab them while you can get them on sale! I promise, you will be happy you did!
 Number two on our most wished for list is our set of Close Reading Posters. I absolutely love these posters because they are completely aligned with the common core. By now everyone has heard of the CCSS and even Close Reading. Are you comfortable with it? Is it still new to you or your students?  This is a teacher created, student approved poster set containing 13 posters. It also includes a student friendly check off list of questions to consider while close reading. The posters are bright, colorful, and clear and would make a great bulletin board in any classroom.

With the new CCSS suggestion "Close Reading" in every Language Arts classroom, this is a great way to introduce it to the students in your classroom.

In my classroom we discussed the questions displayed on the bulletin board and then practiced with a read aloud. I then passed out the check off sheets and students preformed a close read on a poem with a partner. They used the check off sheet as a guide to be sure they were on the right track to thinking. I make sure to explain these questions are suggestions and they are free to wonder or question anything else. After completing more close reads in class, I was then able to gradually take away the check off sheets and now students can close read without any problem.

The check off sheet is still great for small groups, literature circles, struggling students, or to keep as a reminded in reading folders!

Like most of our bulletin boards, this set is available in the plain theme (as seen below), a Jungle theme, a Dog theme, a Zebra Print theme, & an Adorable Owl theme!

Do you have a bulletin board that needs to be dressed up pretty? Check out this set.
 I am SUPER excited for this legend (waited for it) dary (hahaha) TpT sale so I can finally scoop up Jivey's awesome Mentor Sentence unit. If you haven't heard about the mentor sentence idea, then you need to click on the image below and check it out. I was lucky enough to test out the first unit last year and not only did my students learn and grow from it, but I did as well. I can't wait to implement it from the beginning of the year on. I know it is going to be an excellent addition to my teaching! Thank you Jivey for putting this amazing product together. You have saved me a lot of time and made me excited to teach grammar again! :)

Don't forget to use the special code from TpT (BTS13) in order to save when clearing our your wish list! What's on your wish list? I'd love to know!



Wednesday, August 14, 2013

The BEST/QUIETEST Pencil Sharpener EVER! Giveaway!!

SO have you heard about it? Have you tried it? Have you seen a colleague's sharpener or fellow blogger's post and gotten jealous? Is it on your "wish list" or "must have" list? If you have answered YES to anyone of those questions or if you haven't heard about MUST read on!

A few months ago, I blogged about how much I adore my new classroom pencil sharpener, from Classroom Friendly Supplies! Our class burnt out two $50+ pencil sharpeners last year and I was at my wits end! I spend $100's of dollars a year in my classroom and REALLY didn't want to buy another sharpener only to have broken in a few weeks. I stumbled across a fellow bloggers post and read about this sharpener. I immediately ordered it and FELL IN LOVE. In fact, I love it SO much, I wanted to share the love with one of my lucky friends. Personally I love this sharpener so much I wish I could buy it for all of my teacher friends! Who couldn't use new sharpener for their classroom for the start of the school year?

Just in case you don't win, or if you want to find our more information about this amazing little gadget, click on the image above and you will end up on the site where the sharpener is sold. I promise it is COMPLETELY worth it!

The contest is all set to run for a week and there are plenty of options to enter! Good luck! :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

I've Got the Back to School Blues!

It is that time of year again. Sorry, but you can't close your eyes, hide under the covers, tune it out, or avoid it any is BACK TO SCHOOL TIME! Alarms must ring, lessons must be prepared, rooms must be set up, and routines must be made. It is an emotional time of year for everyone. I know personally my "little girl" is going into her second year of preschool (although she acts as if she is heading to high school), and after spending an amazing summer with my two babies, I must send them off to daycare all day and head to work.
I will admit I usually cry for the first few hours, especially every time someone comments on my adorable summer Facebook pictures of the kids, asks how my babies did at the daycare drop off in the morning, or I see another mommy teacher (ahem...ROBYN) crying as well. The worst part is, my husband is a teacher in the same district and he laughs at me while we walk through the halls together and I sob. Ugh MEN. It takes a while to get into the routine again, but eventually we will all get used to it and start living for the weekends. I am truly blessed to be able to spend summers with my kids...positive thoughts! :)
  • We have a week and a half left.
  • Our computers have been taken back to update (so Robyn and I are going through withdrawals).
  • Our class lists seem to be changing daily.
  • I have a million and two things to still do at home before school starts.
  • I have five million things to do in my classroom, although I can't bring the kids to school to work because it turns out to be pointless.
  • I have to go clothes shopping.
BUT I am not complaining, I am excited. Nothing is better than a clean classroom, an organized filing cabinet, and a sharpened new pencil! :) I am ready for a productive, positive, new year.
Check out my new clipboard! I am super excited to use it. It's the little things that make me happy at school!
For my friends who started school this week, good luck, I've been thinking about you! Hope you are off to an amazing start!
I will end this depressing post with a haha. Robyn and I literally LOL'ed at this today!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Amazing Bloggy Buddy Package Revealed!

Today was a "blah" day until I heard the mailman throw a package at my house (yes, I'm serious)! I ran outside in my pajamas and was so excited! Right away I knew it was from secret blogging buddy, but I couldn't open it until I put the kids down for a nap. They would have taken everything! As soon as they went down, I grabbed the scissors and got to it! 

How cute was Sara from Kinderaffe Kindergarten to have researched my blog before shopping! I'm obviously obsessed with pink and zebras and have incorporated this theme throughout my classroom! 

The funny thing is I had Sara and she had me! She really put me to shame with the packing! I basically stuffed everything in the box and taped it up tight before things fell out! Sara lined it nicely with my favorite colored tissue paper and included a sweet note on cute teacher paper. You know what's even cooler? She works 20 minutes away from my house! 

I am in love with everything in this package! Life Savers, nail polish, a zebra pad, adorable stickers, gum, sticky notes, "S" notes, a lime green bandana, a neat water bottle holder, mini storage containers, and even zebra treat boxes! 

I am so thankful for my amazing package from my new friend, Sara! She is a new blogger so you should definitely check out her blog, Kinderaffe Kindergarten, and follow it. She teaches an all boys kindergarten class, God bless her! That sounds tough!! 

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Monday Made It: Featuring my lovely welcome cards!

Well the time has come... I had to hand in my laptop today at school. I am heartbroken. My MacBook Pro was my BABY. I don't know how I am going to survive without it for the month of August. I won't be able to create anything else for my classroom, TpT, and I'm sure my blog posts are going to look less attractive. Can I even link up using an iPad?

Anyways since I just got my class list, I wanted to send home a welcome note to the students. I've done this in the past, but this was the first year I used Costco to print. It was ready within 24 hours and came out AWESOME! I thought the size was going to be a small notecard, but it was actually a 5X7 and even came with envelopes! 

Since I only teach Reading/Writing/LA, I have a switch partner who teaches Math/Science/ and S.S. I love teaching this way and I love having two classes of kids. I blocked out our last names and school name (so I promise, it looks MUCH better in real life).

I just made a quick collage on Power Point, sized it to fit the card and printed them at Costco for $14 for 50 cards & envelopes! The tricky part is, I am not a Costco member, but luckily my partner teacher is and she was nice  enough to pick them up for me. I created some quick address labels and mailed them off to my students today. I know our students are going to LOVE getting mail and having a look at their teachers. Our school only houses 4th and 5th grades so normally the students have no idea who I am until they meet me on the first day. I wish we had a meet and greet earlier on. Hopefully this will take away some of their jitters! When students scan the QR code, they hop to my class website, which shows the supply list! Clever, huh?  :) Anyways, I'm kinda in love with them! 

Fly Away Home: Lesson Ideas { A Must Read Mentor Text }

Today I am linking up with the Collaboration Cuties for their Must Have Mentor Text linky. 

I absolutely LOVE Eve Bunting. I especially love Fly Away Home. Just looking at the title and cover you could possibly think this book is about a father and son taking a plane back home, maybe coming from a vacation or a relative's house. It is not that at all! This book is actually about a homeless boy who lives in an airport with his father, moving from terminal to terminal trying not to be noticed. 

There are so many amazing teachable moments in this book. Why are they homeless? Where is the mother? Why don't they go to a shelter? Why can't Dad work?

We plan on using it this year for our first unit (that Robyn and I rewrote this summer). We are focusing on homelessness. This is a great mentor text because students get to know this completely normal boy, who happens to be homeless. They understand it can happen to almost anyone and it leads us to the big question what makes a home? It really triggers empathy in my students and I love that it empowers the students to want to help others. Homelessness is a difficult subject to teach and talk about to young kids because you don't know everyone's past and history. In fact, in my eight years as a teacher, I have had some students who lived in local homeless shelters while coming to class everyday. 

I also love this book because it is something the students really have to think about to understand. The students take the story very seriously. 

Besides teaching about the subject matter, I'm sure you all agree that all Eve Bunting books are filled with descriptive language, amazing illustrations, and a touching story plot. I think all Even Bunting books bring out emotions when I read them. Some of my favorites that I read every year are A Wednesday Surprise, In a Day's Work, A Train to Somewhere, The Wall, The Other Side, and A Memory String.  

Anyone know of any other books that discuss homelessness? I'd love some ideas to implement into our first unit! :)

Friday, August 2, 2013

FIve for Friday! August already!

Well August brings us to Sunday...We always say the last day of school is a HUGE FRIDAY, July is our Saturday and August is our Sunday. Although we still have four weeks before we go back, summer just FLEW by! I have a huge bucket list of things to accomplish that I haven't even started yet. 

We are happy to be linking up with Doodle Bugs for their always wonderful Five for Friday post! They even have an adorable new sign:

So I am going to cheat a little bit and take the pictures from our Instagram account. 

This one is pretty self explanatory! Chopped a TON of hair of last night. It's the shortest it has ever been and it will take some getting used to, but I think I like it. I got a reversed bob. I dyed the bottom chocolate and had high and low highlights put on top. Pretty fun! My hairdresser has been one of my great friends since college, so I trusted her to do whatever she wanted! 

 #2. Robyn and I are both trying out the Homework Club this year. If a student doesn't bring in his/her homework (after a warning) they take their number down. At the end of the month the students who still have their numbers up will stay in the room at lunch time, for a special treat. I am going to keep changing the treats so it will always be new. I have two classes, that's why there are two sets. I think this will be a great homework motivator. There are little buckets hung on the wall, but aren't visible in this picture. That's where the students will keep his/her numbers once they come down. 

 #3. LOVE my new clipboard. I have a few more to do now! I have a class set, but picked up a few extra at the Dollar Tree! Great deal!

#4. I am IN LOVE with my new cursive alphabet from Ladybug's Teacher Files!

#5. We just updated some Character Education posters and added new posters. There are now 13 character traits. Great posters with realistic student expectations! :)

Well that was our week in a nutshell! :)