Wednesday, July 31, 2013

You Gotta Stay Positive...

With school starting soon for so many of us, I think it's important to stop and check our attitudes. It's good to have a positive attitude going into the new school year! So, of course I had to link up with Kristin from Teach n' Text for her PMA Wednesday!

Here are some of my favorites....

 If you're looking to turn some of your favorite PMA's into cheap posters, check out my wonderful colleague Amy's blog, The Art of Teaching for her post on Inexpensive Classroom Posters. She has links to free posters & tips! Plus check out her amazing blog!

Have a great Wednesday,

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Goals for Back to School...

I received an email from our principal today that our building will not be open until August 5th... Our open house is on the 15th! Yikes! That's cutting it down to the wire! I still have about 150 books to scan into Classroom Organizer. A new genre wall to create. Plus a huge African American achievers bulletin board to set up, laminate, and plan out... I'm feeling the pressure! Plus, I have to unpack all my stuff from my counters. I just need to remind myself to do as much as I can at home and...

On that note, I'm taking my own advice. To relieve stress this Tuesday, I'm blogging about my goals for next year. I'm hoping to organize all my thoughts and get some positive mojo flowing for next year! Thankfully, Jess over at I {heart} Recess has a fantastic linky party going on right now - Monthly Goals: Back to School edition!

Personal: The first few weeks are always late nights... I don't know why I do it to myself! It's not like it can't wait or I can't do a little bit at a time. I always say, "I'll just pick up working out after this week or after this..." And then... I get out of the routine of everything. This year, I'm taking some time for myself. I'll stay an extra half hour and commit to what I'm working on but then, I'm out to do something for me. To help myself, I'm going to bring my gym bag packed and ready to change at school.

Organization: I always have the best intentions of keeping track of meetings but then they start slipping through the cracks. This year when we get our Building Handbook, I'm going to record all the important dates in my planner - as well as print out the important dates page to carry around in my planner as well! I hate being caught off guard by a staff meeting or data meeting. I like need to feel prepared.

Planning: I'm not afraid of new but sometimes I don't always stop and reflect on unit plans that "work" and I've used over and over. I'm not saying reinvent the wheel but adding iPads or throwing in a new video - never hurt! With that, I'm not going to focus on dates too much... I'm going to do what's best for kids!

Professional: I really want to revamp my grammar mini-lessons. I feel like I read Jeff Anderson and I'm like YES! ... OMG! ... This makes sense! Then it doesn't always translate into the teaching portion when everything comes together. This year, I really want to work on getting authentic instruction to fit into my writing workshop.

Students: Last year, I felt I was little too focused on Common Core and piloting new units to cut loose with my kiddos. We did have fun and I really worked hard to find great readings, sources, etc. But, I still need to remember - sometimes fluff or digging deeper is okay. Plus, who doesn't love doing the cha-cha on the way to lunch?... or how about learning the sprinkler? Cheesy dance moves are important too ;)

Motto: Ralph Waldo Emerson was on to something when he said, "Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm." I don't want to lose that spark and enjoyment. I want my students to know I love my job and I want to use that excitement to accomplish great things in my classroom and beyond!

Can't wait to see everyone else's goals and ideas for a great 2013 - 2014 year! I've learned so much this summer from all of you! Thanks to all my followers and all the great blogs I follow! This is truly a supportive and insightful community. 


Monday, July 29, 2013

Last Made It's and Must Haves of July!

I'm definitely a creature of habit. So in typical Monday fashion,  I decided to link up with Tara from Fourth Grade Frolics and Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for their fantastic Monday linky parties!

Now, I'll admit, I wasn't as productive as I would like to be. Last night I was at the Blake Shelton concert until very, very late and so today, I just didn't have the hustle. Plus, I was working a guest blog post that I'll be sharing with you next week!  So here are the my Must Have's and Made It's for the week!

My laminator! I know, I know I just purchased it last week... but it's already helped me with so many projects before school has even started! I couldn't live without this little guy. This week's Made It's were all thanks to my handy dandy laminator and Teachers Pay Teachers! I couldn't have "made it" without them both! 

New genre posters from Teachers Pay Teachers. You can find them in Elise Stoddard's store or by clicking here. At first, I wasn't going to purchase them because I just created a new genre wall last year but I wasn't really "in love" with it. These posters are super bright and colorful but they also include example texts with lexiles of 700 or above! Perfect for older readers! Many of the genre posters I've found previous are more primary than intermediate. These posters are perfect... Adventure Fiction for example includes Hatchet, The Hunger Games, and Island of the Blue Dolphins! I made these my own by backing them with neon cardstock from Target and then laminating them! 

New labels for my nonfiction book bins! I bought so many new books this summer at the public library's used sale, I had to create some new labels! My goal is to expand my nonfiction section and I think I'm slowing getting there! I used a zebra board and bright colors for all the tags. I made 8 tags total and also sent them through the laminator!

Here is my pile of "stuff" I'm still working on... laminating my classroom rules thanks to The Tattooed Teacher's TPT store. They are so bright! Check them out here. I'm hoping to find some zebra ribbon so I can string them all together. I also found a great vertical expanding file for organzing graded papers at Deals for only $2 dollars! I made a cute sign to go inside the front pouch. I also cut out tons of words (reading, writing, etc.) for around my room with my Cricut. I used the same neon cardstock I found at Target... but I forgot to take a picture. I also need to laminate the Text Structure posters I purchased from Pinkadot's Teachers Pay Teachers Store. You can find them here. I'm going to create a display with text structures above my nonfiction section of my library! Whew! I'm exhausted!

 What did you make with your must have this Monday?
(Say that ten times fast!)


Sunday, July 28, 2013

Social Studies Mentor Texts

It's no secret, Social Studies tradebooks are my weakness! If I see a tradebook that I could use in a Social Studies setting... I just have to have it! I pulled three of my favorite books today to share but I could have shared 20+ books. I have quite an extensive collection. If only I could get in to my classroom and show you a picture of my cabinet... On second thought maybe it's for the best!

To share my favorites, I'm linking with amazing ladies Amanda & Stacia from Collaboration Cuties for their weekly Mentor Text linky party! Here are my three highlights...

 First up is the story, Henry's Freedom Box. If you teach the Underground Railroad, Slavery, or even Civil Rights... this is a story you need in your collection. The story sounds almost poetic and pictures are breathtaking...but the story is the best part! The story is of the true story of Henry "Box" Brown who mailed himself to freedom during the slavery. I love this book because it shows the reality of slavery during this time period but ends on such a hopeful note. This unit can be very weighty and dark and it's nice to find a true story that is so inspiring! 

Next up is the picture book Encounter. This book is fantastic for incorporating Language Arts & Social Studies! The premise of the book is about the European conquest of American Indians. The book however is told from the perspective of a young Native American boy. This book is great for teaching inferring as well as reading like a writer to examine craft. Jane Yolen did her homework and this book contains lots of research even though it's a "fictional" account. The author's note in the back of the book is just as informative as the story! This book also a great "after" Columbus Day read. I feel it's so important to try and get "both" sides of any historical event. My fifth grader's loved debating if Columbus deserves a holiday... I also created a handout to work on inferencing that goes along with the story - there is a quote from the story of what the young American Indian is describing and before showing the pictures, I have students use context clues to make an inference. You can check it out at my TPT store - it's only $1! Click here for my information.
Lastly, if you teach regions of the United States, you need My America! This book is FULL of poems about states & regions of our country. It's a great look at the vast differences and beauty of each region. There are also great maps of region before each section of the book. I borrowed this book from my curriculum leader and after using it for a week, I decided I needed my own copy! It's that good!  I use selected poems to introduce new regions of the United States. Students use the poems to make inferences and predictions about each regions' climate, geography, economy, and wildlife. I've found the poems really help create a picture of each region for the students in a way that is very different from our textbook.

Click the covers to learn more about each book!

Can't wait to see everyone else's favorite Social Studies tradebooks! My library can always use more picture books!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

Saturday Snapshots

Woke up this morning to a drizzle... not even the dogs wanted to get out of bed! Here is a picture of my fur-baby Iggy sleeping the morning away! I think he eventually woke up around noon...

Then while the house was still quiet, I decided to start working on my Read Box that I saw on Pinterest. This morning I made the QR codes for all the books I wanted to feature first and then found the cutest labels from Miss Math Dork's TPT store! They have a math background but when I printed them out it wasn't noticeable at all! The finished labels looked something like this...

You can get your free labels from Miss Math Dork's Store here. Aren't they adorable? I was going to try and cover my presentation board with red paper but then I saw that Office Depot & Staples both sell red boards. So that's where I'm going tomorrow! So it's not quite finished yet... check back on Monday ;) It'll be perfect for my Monday Made It installment!

While I was working though, I did find this amazing video of how to make an emergency Origami Yoda by the author of The Strange Case of Origami Yoda. My fifth graders will love this video!

Then, I decided to tackle one more project. Since my erasers arrived from Quill on Friday, I've been waiting to set up my gumball eraser machine! With a little help from the boyfriend the erasers went from this....

To this....Tah-dah! 

The rest of my Saturday was spent lazily around the house. School is approaching fast and I wanted to spend my rainy day wisely knowing that soon there will be papers to grade and things to do around the classroom. It finally stopped raining long enough for me to check out my garden and I discovered two ripe heirloom tomatoes! The first "biggins" of the season!

Hope everyone had a great Saturday! Don't forget to link up to Run! Mrs. Nelson's Got the Camera to share your Saturday Snapshots! Don't forget to follow me on instagram! I'm finally on board!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Nothing makes me giddy quite like school supplies!

If you're like me, you're a little giddy and a little sickened by the fact that school supplies are out in force! As you start to shop around, I thought I'd put a few ads out there with some great deals! Who doesn't want to save some money?

Target: Not a lot is on sale right now at Target. But they do have a sale on Target glue & glue sticks for .25 cents a pack! Plus, an assortment of basics for just .99 cents!

Menard's: If you have a Menard's close by, they are also having some amazing deals! They TONS of items for under $1. Check out the ad below.

Walmart: Walmart brand markers for only .50 cents and Crayola markers for .99cents regular price! They also have good prices on glue sticks, sticky notes, scissors, and pencil boxes. All regular price.

Still no ads for 1 cent folders or glue... but the office stores usually run those sales in August.

What deals have you found?

Lastly,  I broke down at bought a Classroom Friendly Pencil Sharpener after my teaching partner raved about it and took photos of herself sharpening pencils... if it's that good, I have to have one too! I bought a Cool Blue one to match  my room! Plus, you can pay with Pay Pal Pay so thanks to all my TPT customers, I have a new sharpener! Look how pretty!

If you're interested in purchasing on, you can get 5% off by going to my referral link! And remember, there is NO SHIPPING! Woo hooo!

Who else has one of these amazing sharpeners? Are they true to all the hype?

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Workshop Wednesday: Integrated Workshop Set-Up

Today, I'm linking up for my first Workshop Wednesday with Ideas by Jivey! I've been working on this post for quite while and it fits perfectly with this linky party! Thanks Jivey! Since it's the month of July, the focus of this linky is on how you prepare for Workshops. Our school has been slowly transitioning all the grade levels into reading and writing workshops. As a fifth grade teacher, we were one of the last grades to be transitioned. It's been an amazing three years and the workshop model has completely transformed my way of thinking and preparing!

When our district started with the Reading and Writing Project, all the intermediate teachers were given a set of Lucy Calkins' Units of Study Grades 3-5... Yet, I find Lucy a little verbose and as a fifth grade teacher I kept finding that earlier teachers had done nearly all the lessons presented in the books. The first year there was a chorus of... We read that! We've done this! I wrote about this before!... My worst nightmare! Then, I found these gems!... My holy books of reading and writing workshops....

 You can preview the Reading Workshop and Writing Workshop online books at Heinemann Publishing.*It appears they are no longer in publication but I found them for FREE on Plymouth Public Schools Literary Connection. Click here.

Lucy paired it down for these online grade level versions and gave teachers just the "teaching points" without all the theory. Thank you Lucy! These are great! She has created an entire year of lessons and plans for grades K-8! They are only $10 online for the digital copies! They are worth every single penny! Plus, there are no "repeats" from previous years! Luckily, our school calendar aligns almost perfectly to Lucy's books - so I can dig in right away and get started with my workshops (after the first 15-20 days of setting it up).

After consulting "Lucy",  I start hitting up the primary sources & trade books that can help supplement or enrich a lesson. Our historical fiction unit was new this year so I had lots of reading to do about the Civil Rights movement! Luckily, I was working with a fantastic group of teachers and curriculum leaders - we were all able to find such great resources!

Here are a few of my personal favorites:

From there I start creating my own simplified plans that use Lucy's books as a reference. This past year, I was really trying to integrate reading and writing workshop into social studies as much as possible. Here is an example unit plan for Reading Workshop & Civil Rights. This was not just my plan... My fantastic teacher partner and collaboration group all had a hand in writing up this great unit! We also created an aligned Writing Workshop unit plan that had students writing historical fiction about the Civil Rights movement! Then, another fantastic colleague of mine drafted a letter to be sent home to parents, explaining the purpose of unit. If you want my version of the letter with level book club books you can download it here. My teaching partner and I worked really hard this year to create letters for each reading workshop unit. We wanted parents to know what we would be studying, what students would be reading, and the big "teaching points" of each unit.

After all this prep.... read Lucy Calkins, find books, find more books, find fiction & nonfiction books, read novels, create a unit outline, write a letter to parents.... the fun can begin! Here are some "Social Studies" stations my classes worked on after all our history / nonfiction reading front-loading during workshop.
 Students were also able to "tweet" about famous quotes and their overall impression of the Civil Rights movement. Wish I would have taken a picture of my second class - they really #hashtagged it up and had some fantastic insights and reflections! This was a great spring board for discussing our  book club novels later in the unit! 

That's my Reading & Writing Workshops in a nutshell. Do you have a plan you like to follow or a go to reference for lesson ideas?

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Showing off my "stuff!"

This linky party has been going on a while but when I found Christina's blog Bunting, Books, and Brainbridge -- I knew I had to link up! This party celebrates all our "stuff" we collect over the summer! Click the image below to join the party!

I have "stuff" scattered around our house...from projects in the office, the front entry way, and the garage! In addition to new stuff, I have two full boxes left over from summer school that need  to be hauled back into my classroom. Here is entry way/ living room after a trip to Target, the used book sale, and some great finds at my mom's house!

Don't forget to link up and show us your stuff!
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