Sunday, August 31, 2014

Scripture Sunday Linky

Ashley and Amanda are hosting a new bi-weekly linky on their blog: For His Glory.   I'm excited to be linking up with them this Sunday.  This linky is one I'm particularly excited about.  There have been many times when I've felt tired, discouraged, and impatient in the classroom.  I've found that to be the teacher my students need, I need the Lord's strength, wisdom, and love working in my life.

Here's a verse that's been helping me lately.   Teaching can be stressful, and we often feel less-than-appreciated.  I've been downright disgruntled at times.  This verse reminds me that I didn't become a teacher to be appreciated.  My purpose is to love my students and to work as hard as I can to be the best teacher I can be for them.  That's what matters. You can download and print the scripture if you would like to. Just click on the image to grab it. 

Happy Sunday to all of you!  Have a great week.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Five For Friday! I'm late!

I'm linking up with Doodlebug Teaching again for another Five for Friday.  This week, I'll actually have some school-related things to share!  This was my first week of school, and it was hectic.  I'm going to apologize in advance for the poor quality of my pictures.  They were all taken with my phone.

On Monday, I arrived at work for our first staff day.  My plan was to take pictures of my room, so I pulled out the camera.  NO DATA CARD!  All week, I kept forgetting that data card.

Yesterday (Friday), I brought our really nice camera to school.  I pulled it out to take pictures. DEAD BATTERY!  I just couldn't keep up with things this week!

This was SO ME this week.  I love going back to school, but it takes me awhile to find my groove.  I always feel like I had 4 or 5 or 30 more things to do before the kids' special was over.  It will get easier once I get more comfortable with our new schedule.  Hannah over at The Classroom Key shared this meme.  If you ever need a giggle to cheer you up, visit her blog.  Of course, she has other great ideas to share as well. 

My first day with students was Wednesday.  I absolutely adore my class.  Of course, we've spent most of our time this week reviewing classroom rules and expectations.  I read aloud Have You Filled a Bucket Today? and How Full Is Your Bucket?.  We sorted "bucket filling" and "bucket dipping" behaviors.  Then, I showed the Pixar For the Birds video clip.  It's an extra feature on the Monsters, Inc. DVD.  We talked about the bucket-dipping behaviors we saw in the video. As a follow up, students chose a sheet to write about what they would do if:
  • They saw a student making fun of someone else.
  • They saw two students yelling at each other.
  • They saw students telling rumors.
  • They heard students yelling and complaining about another student.
Some students were immediately able to share ways they would step in and try to help.  Others immediately said they would tell a teacher.  These sheets were created by Tracy at Creekside Teacher Tales.  Click to go to her blog.  You'll need to scroll down to get to the sheets.  If you don't have the DVD, the video can be found on YouTube.  Be sure to preview and check for inappropriate ads before you play the video in your classroom!

One highlight of my week was when a student told me his bucket was overflowing after I gave the class a compliment. 

On Friday, I had students work with partners to read several mini stories.  Partners were chosen randomly.  I learned a lot about my group by watching them interact.  After reading and sorting, the students needed to read the stories again to fill in the kind and unkind behaviors on a two-column sheet.  These materials are a freebie in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Please click here to get them!

Yesterday, I taught students how to choose "perfect fit" books.  After our mini-lesson, half of the students shopped for books while the others listened to a read aloud. Then the groups switched.  I was fortunate to have my friend and teammate in the room, so she supervised the book shopping.  We'll be team-teaching inclusion writing and inclusion reading this year. It's going to be a great year!

These are my students' book bags.  Ziploc bags are inexpensive, and they work.  They need to be replaced more than once through the year, though.  I considered purchasing cardboard magazine files this year, but I really have no place to store them.

Meet Samuel!  Samuel has autism, and he communicates using a letter board.  He has written several 
guest blog posts at Joni and Friends.  I encourage you to visit the blog and read what he has to say.  He has a heart to share with others what it is like to live with autism.  He is a blessing! I'll leave you with a quote directly from one of Samuel's blog posts.  I have his permission to share!

"Today I want to tell you what it is like when people don't believe you are smart. Having autism is fiercely difficult! Oftentimes, my face looks blank which can be confusing to others. Inside I might feel happy, sad, mad, interested or even laughing. Sometimes I can tell people think I am empty because my face looks flat. I told my Mom once that, 'My face betrays me.' Do you know that betray means to do something that a person does not agree with or want? My face is not able to show how I really feel or how I think. It is a trial for sure, but now that I can communicate it is so nice to be able to express what is going on inside of me. It hurts when people treat me like I am five years old and sometimes give me high-fives when it is not appropriate. After all, I am a teenager now! I ask the Lord to help me to forgive and to show grace. He can help you forgive others when they hurt you too, so ask Him to help you!" -Samuel at Joni and Friends

Friday, August 22, 2014

WHAT? Blog Hoppin' Back to School 2014 with a FREEBIE

It's the last day of Teacher Week at Blog Hoppin'.  Today we are sharing WHAT we love to teach.

Honestly, it's hard for me to pick a favorite subject to teach!  I love to teach reading, math, and writing equally.  I even like to teach grammar, because it's so easy to incorporate games and fun activities.

I like to start the year teaching reading comprehension strategies and reviewing word attack skills. I will be spending a significant portion of the first few weeks teaching students about making inferences, creating "mind movies", asking questions, and summarizing.  We'll also learn about what it means to "read closely". Once we get some serious strategies under our belt, we'll dive into our first CCSS-aligned reading unit.  The unit focuses heavily on inferring character traits and supporting those inferences with text-based evidence. Last year, I created this collection of activities to use with any story.  Click on the image to see it in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.

My favorite page of the packet is "Character Chit-Chat Tic Tac Toe".  The students LOVE this! I've used it with several different stories.  They choose three squares to make a tic-tac-toe. Then, they discuss the questions they chose with a partner or in a small group.

Later in the year, we begin a unit that focuses on traditional literature.  We talk about folktales, fables, and legends from various cultures.  We also discuss proverbs and how they are similar to fables.  When I created my Emergency Substitute Plans for Grade 3, I decided that the reading materials in those plans would be fables.  So, I wrote my own versions of four different Aesop's fables.  You can get two of them as freebies in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Click on the images to get them. 

Last year, I created a new activity to use with my traditional literature unit.  I introduced proverbs and then used this group activity.  (Click on the image to grab it for FREE!)

Math is always fun to teach, because it's so easy to incorporate engaging activities.  Below are some photos from last year showing how I introduced the concept of multiplying one-digit numbers by multiples of ten. Work stations were set up so that students could explore the concept.  The students worked in small groups and rotated from station to station.  We used beads & pipe cleaners, buttons & cups, books, base ten blocks, and links.

Once we finished with our stations, I had students complete a "solve the room" activity.  I hung task cards around the room, gave students recording sheets, and let them walk around solving the problems.  It always amazes me that the students don't copy each other.  They are really motivated to do the work themselves. I circulate and help as needed.  Students are allowed to coach one another.  Everyone is usually SO engaged and eager to figure out the problems. It's amazing that simply getting them out of their seats makes such a huge difference.  

What do YOU love to teach?  Don't forget to head over to Blog Hoppin' to see what your fellow teachers have to say.  

Thursday, August 21, 2014

WHEN? Blog Hoppin' Back to School 2014

I'm back for another TEACHER WEEK post.  Head over to Blog Hoppin' to read what other teacher-bloggers have shared.  Today we're writing about our schedules.

Just typing the word schedule makes me cringe just a little bit.  It just seems that there is NEVER enough time in the day to do everything I want to do.  You'll notice on the schedule I'm about to share that we have only 30 minutes for content time.  Grammar, spelling, and cursive share a teeny-tiny time slot.  You may be wondering about Math and Reading F.I.T.  The acronym F.I.T. stands for Focused Intervention Time.  It is helpful to have that time blocked out to provide interventions, reteaching, centers, and enrichment.  This schedule might change a bit once we meet as a team on Monday, but here's what it looks like now.

Don't forget to head over to Blog Hoppin' to see how other teachers order their days.  

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

WHY? Blog Hoppin' Back to School 2014

Blog Hoppin' is having a fun back to school link up.  Today I'll be blogging about WHY my classroom organization works.

Organization has been a process for me.  It isn't a strength! Since I started teaching in 1997, I've improved dramatically.  When I was a first year teacher, my mailbox in the office was STUFFED.  I was so overwhelmed by all the memos and whatnot.  I would look at them and promptly stick them back into my mailbox.  That way I'd know where they were!  Looking back at photos of my room a long time ago is good for a giggle. There were piles everywhere. Sometimes they got dusty from sitting so long.  Here's a photo that's an oldy but a goody. This is my sister-in-law and my son years ago on the last day of school.  See the piles? The heaping piles?  Ugh!  I try not to let piles like that happen anymore.  I won't lie and say my classroom is pile-free.  It isn't.  But it's better!

The proverb "a place for everything and everything in its place" is my motto!  My classroom gets messy when there isn't a home for something. 

I've shared this before, but it is probably my greatest defense against piles!  In this bin are five weeks of dated file folders.  As I write lesson plans, I jot down notes on a notepad about what I'll need to prepare and copy.  When I finish prepping materials, they immediately go into the correct file.  Another file bin sits next to this one with copies of things I need frequently. Some examples are timed multiplication quizzes, word work copies, and recording sheets for math games. 

I bought the blue pocket charts in the dollar aisle at Target.Students know to look at the pocket charts for their center assignments. There isn't anything fancy about my center assignments, but the system works.  In our building, we have what we call FIT (Focused Intervention Time).  We have Reading FIT and Math FIT. Some students receive Tier 2 and Tier 3 interventions during these times.  The rest of the students are working on center activities or in a small group with me or a paraprofessional. Typically, I do rotating centers four times per week. On Friday afternoons, I prep the materials for the following week and put them into bins or removable drawers.  That way, students can just take the bins and work on the floor or at a group of desks. I simply write the name of the center on an index card and place student names next to each card.  Each day, I rotate the index cards.   This works well, because students know where to look to find out what they need to do.  They know where to get the materials they need as well.  After a month or so, the students are able to quickly settle in and start working with little to no help from me.

I will NOT show you the inside of my filing cabinets.  They are reasonably organized but could definitely use some attention.  I have files by math standard.  There are seasonal files with center activities and task cards. Common Core reading units are in binders which are stuck into a drawer in my filing cabinet.

Hop over to Blog Hoppin' to read about how other teachers organize their rooms.  Maybe some of them have a great system for organizing filing cabinets!

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

WHERE? Blog Hoppin': Back to School 2014

Blog Hoppin' is having a fun back to school link up.  We're answering those "wh" questions... One each day!

I teach 3rd grade in a rural town in Connecticut.  There are several dairy farms. Sometimes, my ride into work is a bit slower than usual,  because I am stuck behind a tractor hauling hay bales. There have been times when I've been forced to stop for a family of ducks.  Once, there was a cow just grazing beside the road.  It obviously escaped from where it was supposed to be!  In case it isn't obvious, I LOVE the town where I teach.  As long as I'm not running late, I kind of enjoy tractors and stray farm animals.

The top photo is the main entrance to my school.  The other photo is the view from my classroom windows. I LOVE that my room overlooks the field.  If you look very hard, you can spot turkeys.  They visit rather frequently.  I've also seen deer and an owl.

Next, here are a few photos of my classroom.  I'm not sharing lots of photos, because my classroom is NOT finished.  I go back officially on Monday the 25th. Students start on the 27th.  I have a few more things to finish up before then.  I do not have a theme.... just lots of blue and green.  My goal was to have a room that is organized and cheerful.

Here is the view from behind my desk.  It probably will not be this clean a month from now. Beyond the desk are my pocket charts where centers will be assigned.  My drawers and bins for center materials are on a table and my Smart Board is hanging next to the table.

This carpet area on the other side of my classroom serves as a meeting space.  We also use the space as a small-group work area and a spot to read silently or with a friend.  I have shelves and baskets of books by topic and theme.  The drawing on the board is one my daughter created in June.  I won't be erasing it until I'm sure she won't visit the classroom again!  In the back corner under the flag is my clip chart and a nook-like area where students will be able to work on the floor.  

Here's my sink/bulletin board/counter combo! We'll start the year learning about trees and the forest habitat, so I've hung posters related to that.  Usually, this board holds student work.  

Head over to Blog Hoppin' to peruse more classroom photos!

Monday, August 18, 2014

WHO? Blog Hoppin': Back to School 2014

Blog Hoppin' is having a Back to School link up.  Here's how it works.  post will go live at 5 am Eastern time. Stop by and link up to each individual post and then link back to Blog Hoppin's original post in your post.  If you don't have a blog of your own, hop over to get new ideas and read up on your favorite bloggers!  Here are the topics:

Okay. Day one. 

Let me start by saying that this photo is as natural as it gets.  I'm happy and enjoying time with my children. And... My hair needs to be colored.  I always procrastinate.  The whole POINT of coloring your hair is to do it frequently. That way no one realizes that you color you hair!  They think that shiny vibrancy is just how you naturally look.  Well, apparently I just can't get that through my head.  So, here's my natural but happy photo.  I live in Connecticut in a quiet town.  It isn't exactly rural, but it is definitely not a city.  I'm married to a wonderful man.  He's the best.  My son, Seth, just turned 11. He'll be entering 6th grade.  My daughter, Gabrielle, is 5 and will be entering 1st grade. She's a November baby, so she started kindergarten at age 4. I love to hang out with family and friends. Staying home on the weekends is my favorite thing to do. Sunshine is our only pet.  He was rescued by our local animal shelter after being attacked by something.  When we got him he was half-shaved and stitched up. My kids are his favorite people.  He'll walk into their rooms while they're playing and plop himself down in the middle of all their toys. My daughter refers to him as "Mr. Fluffer Ears" and kisses him on the head at least once a day.  

Historical fiction is my favorite genre.  I don't mind suspenseful books, as long as they aren't too graphic. Digital scrapbooking is another favorite hobby, but creating products for Teachers Pay Teachers has become my new creative outlet.  So, I haven't been scrapping much lately.  Here are a couple of fairly recent pages.

1997 was my first year of teaching. My first two years were spent teaching special education.  Then, I moved to my current school to take a position as a remedial reading teacher.  I moved into a grade 2/3 looping position in the same building. Looping has gone away in our district.  Now, I teach a regular 3rd grade class. Having the same students for two years was so wonderful, and I miss it.  It's so nice to only have one curriculum to teach, though. 

Sunday, August 17, 2014

SALE... Freebies... Why'd I buy it? Linky

First things first!  Teachers Pay Teachers is having a ONE DAY back-to-school BOOST sale on August 20th.  All of the products in my store will be 20% off.  You can get up to 28% when you use this code at checkout:  BOOST.  Click on the image to head over to my store.

Now... A fun linky.  You know as teachers that we LOVE to see what everyone else has purchased for their classrooms!  We all love to browse the back-to-school aisles.  When I saw that there was a monthly linky where I could share the stuff I've bought, I knew I had to participate!

Welcome to the "Why'd I buy it?" linky hosted by Elementary AMC.  Here are a few of the things I've spent money on lately.

These trays came from the dollar aisle at Target.  They are colorful and fun, and I really needed new paper trays.  These will probably be a one-year solution.  They are heavy cardboard and won't hold up long term, but I like how cheerful-looking they are.

These black baskets also came from Target.  They were on sale!  $2.49 each!  I chose these baskets to make my "Lost Items" and "Book Hospital" bins.  I also use these baskets for my book bins.  I will probably pick up a few more and store them in case I want to expand my library. I created the labels myself, and attached them with glue dots.  I'm offering the labels as a freebie.  Click here to get them.

I bought the blue basket and the green containers at the Dollar Tree.  The blue basket is used to store stickers.  My OLD sticker box was purchased when I started teaching 17 years ago!  The lid had broken off, and it was looking ROUGH.  The little green bins are on my desk holding paper clips and binder clips. You can just see the colorful assortment of binder clips, which I bought at Staples. I might need more. Really.  I'm a bit of an office supply nut.  That lovely crystal container was NOT something I purchased.  A sweet, sweet student gave it to me as a gift.  I think of her and smile whenever I look at it.
More Dollar Tree items!  The aqua bins will be my tabletop trash bins for students to use when they are cutting.  I probably won't use them often, but we end up with lots of scraps when we do interactive math notebook activities.  I bought stickers, because I go through lots of them!   I put stickers on corrected work all the time.  The pencil sharpeners will go into my group bins.  Each group of desks has a bin that is kept on a shelf. I place markers, colored pencils, glue sticks, and pencil sharpeners into each bin.  When we need the materials, I send a student over to get the bin for his/her group.

The puzzle is for a mini-lesson on predicting.  Students will predict what the picture will be once the puzzle is assembled by looking at the pieces.  Then we'll CHECK our predictions by putting the puzzle together.  I'll connect this to reading by explaining that when we make predictions about text, we use clues. Then, we read on to check our predictions.  This is NOT my idea.  It came from Jen Jones at Hello Literacy.  She's written a blog post about how to use puzzles and artwork to teach prediction and inferencing.  Click here to read her blog post. You can visit her TPT store here.

Flip chart markers! Do I even need to explain this one?  Juicy, bright markers for making anchor charts are just a necessity. Right?

I purchased this file tote from Staples to use as my sub tub. It sits near my desk and will be ready if I ever need to be out unexpectedly.  I had planned to share the contents of my sub tub today, but I got kicked out of the building on Friday before I could finish putting it together!  I'm sharing my Sub Tub label as a freebie as well.  You can get it by clicking here.

I also bought lots of things that I did not take pictures of.  I bought a bunch of spiral notebooks at Staples for 17 cents each. I bought boxes of crayons at Walmart.  My Dad is in a nursing home now, but he used to buy me notebooks and crayons every year when the back-to-school sales started.  I think I might always buy crayons and notebooks just to keep the tradition going.

I'd love to read about what you bought and how you plan to use it! Which purchase are you most excited about?