Thursday, July 31, 2014

My Five Favorite Back to School Books

What are your favorite back-to-school books? I'd love to read about what you use, so please leave a comment.  I have a few favorite books for the first week of school.

I spend a lot of time setting expectations for kindness and respect.  I also try to encourage a willingness to take risks.  These books help me to do that.

Vashti thinks she can't draw and refuses to even try until her teacher says, "Make a mark and see where it takes you."  Vashti discovers that she is an artist after all. I always read this book aloud during the first week of school.  This year, I plan to have students create their own dots. I'll display them along with a summary of the story, which we will write together as a class.  

#2  Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

Ramon LOVES to draw, but he gets discouraged when his brother makes a careless remark.  Ramon struggles until his sister shows him that thinking "ishly" is more important than creating perfect products.

#3  Have You Filled a Bucket Today? A Guide to Daily Happiness for Kids by Carol McCloud

I discovered this book last year, and it set the tone for the entire school year.  Many of you are probably familiar with it.  The idea is that we all have invisible "buckets".  We fill people's buckets when we show kindness and respect.  We dip into people's buckets when we are inconsiderate, rude, or unkind.  There are so many ideas inspired by this book on Pinterest.

To get a set of absolutely adorable posters to go along with this book, you can go to

#4 Mr. Peabody's Apples by Madonna 

In this story, a boy assumes that a teacher, Mr. Peabody, is doing something wrong. He doesn't have all the facts, but he spreads a rumor anyway.  Mr. Peabody creatively teaches the boy at the end that there is really no way to completely heal the damage that can be done by spreading gossip. We all have those students who sometimes blame others without all the facts.  I use this book to address that.  

There's an activity that goes perfectly with this book. Students squeeze all of the toothpaste out of a travel-sized tube.  Then, you give students a toothpick and tell them to try and put ALL of the toothpaste back!  Of course, it's impossible.  The point of the object lesson is that you can't ever take your words back.  You can apologize, but you can't ever change that you said something hurtful.

#5 The Hundred Dresses by Eleanor Estes

This book won a Newbery Honor Award in 1945.  It is the story of a poor girl named Wanda who is teased by the girls in her school.  It is similar in some ways to Mr. Peabody's Apples, because the teasers form judgements without all of the facts.  It's interesting that this book is told from the point of view of the girls who are doing the teasing.

Here are some related free activities. Click on each description for a link to the resources.

Classroom Guide for The Dot and Ish by Peter H. Reynolds

A Bucket Fillers/Bucket Dippers sorting activity to do with the whole class from Stephanie at 3rd Grade Thoughts

Thanks to Ashley Hughes and Krista Wallden of Creative Clips  
for the graphics used to create the "favorite books" image.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Timely Feedback Freebie!

When I was in 3rd grade, I clearly remember my favorite two parts of every Friday.  First, we read through our Weekly Reader on Fridays.  I loved that!  Another every-Friday activity was creating a take-home folder. The teacher (Miss Johnson) gave each of us a piece of manila paper, which we folded to make a folder.  We then decorated it while she passed out corrected work from the week.  All the papers went into the folder and were sent home.  I would definitely NOT feel comfortable using instructional time that way, but the idea of putting all of the students' work together to send home is a good one.

A colleague of mine puts a packet together each week of corrected student work. He then sends the packet home with a cover sheet asking parents to look over the assignments.  I plan to follow in his very organized footsteps this year. I've created a simple cover form to use, and you can get it by clicking here.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Still clipping

To clip or not to clip?  To be honest, I haven't decided yet!  I used a clip chart last year in my classroom.  It worked well for most of the students.  However, there are always those students who struggle and need something more individualized.  The clip chart just doesn't seem to work well for them.  So, as I said, I'm undecided about whether to use a clip chart this year.  I'm leaning toward YES I WILL, so I made one that would match better with my classroom color scheme.  I'm offering the clip chart to any of you who have decided that you will, indeed, use a clip chart this year.  You can get it here.  I would love to read some comments about the strategies you use for classroom management.  I'm a collector of ideas in this area, because all of the students are different.  What works with one child won't always work with another.  Please share your thoughts!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Do missing pencils make you crazy?

I never knew that a small problem such as missing pencils could drive a teacher crazy!  You have students who constantly lose pencils.  Of course, there are students who intentionally break pencils.  There are pencil-chewers.  There are students who have plenty of pencils, but the erasers are all ripped off.  Then, there's the over-sharpening, which results in pencils that are an inch long!  It was always so frustrating when I would ask students to begin an assignment and someone would frantically blurt, "I DON'T HAVE A PENCIL!" Last year, I happened to find a wonderful solution.  The "Wise Owl Teacher" shared a freebie in her TPT store. You can get it here.  It was amazing.  All of my students had pencils.  For every assignment!  All the time! For the entire school year! I couldn't believe it.  The system works pretty simply.  Every student starts off the week with 8 sharpened pencils.  On Friday, students turn in their pencil boxes. Checking the boxes on Friday took a few minutes, but it was SO worth it.  If a student had 8 pencils in good condition, he or she would recieve a "friend of pencils" card and a small prize.  If a student did NOT have 8 pencils, he or she would get an "oops" card.  That student would start the new week with 8 pencils, but no prize.

Walmart had some great prizes in the office section: tiny clothespins, spiral paper clips, post-it flags, and colorful pencils.  Target often has tiny seasonal erasers and felt stickers in their dollar section.  Most of the time, the prize was a simple sticker.  I would throw in something more exciting on occasion to keep the students interested.  I'm usually not a fan of tangible rewards, but I will be using this system again next year. It was fantastically effective!


Monday, July 21, 2014

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Parent Survey FREEBIE

Last year, I created a parent survey and sent it home with students on the first day of school.  It provided some very valuable (and interesting) information.  As we all know, connecting with students is so important. Having a parent's insight into the student's personality and interests helps so much!  I plan to use the survey again this year, and I thought I'd share.  Click here to get it!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Welcome! I've finally taken the plunge!

Welcome to my brand new blog! I have been an avid READER of educational blogs for the past year or so.  The idea of starting my own blog was rather daunting, but I've finally done it!  I am right in the middle of my summer vacation, so I am not sharing anything school-related today.  Instead, I'd like to say that after four weeks of summer vacation I FINALLY got my kids to the beach.  We are blessed to live within easy-driving distance of the ocean.  There are beaches with "largish" waves, but I prefer calmer water.  Last year, I couldn't get my daughter anywhere near the water.  She wanted no part of it.  Today she was ALL ABOUT the waves!  My son, as always, was completely soaked in the first five minutes.

I'll be back soon with some classroom set-up photos!  Thanks for stopping by!