Tried it Tuesday-Student Tracker Board

I am really excited to be linking up for the first time with Holly from Fourth Grade Flipper! Her Tried It Tuesday linky is perfect, especially for this time of the year.  I have been trying out new ideas in setting up my classroom for the past two weeks!  

Today I am sharing my Student Tracker Board that I created.  I first saw it on Pinterest courtesy of April over at A Modern Teacher.  She did a post on organizing that had tons of great ideas!


This is the picture of the tracker board from April's post.

Mission Organization: Organizing Everything In-Between

Great idea, right?  I decided that I would put my own little spin on it.  Are there any other teachers out there that have forgotten that a student was supposed to stay in at recess because of a discipline issue or late work?  Guilty of that!!  So, I decided I would make my board a reminder for who has to stay in at recess.  

The only two things I had to purchase for my project were the cookie sheet (got it at the dollar store) and some Command velcro strips.  I really wanted to make sure it wouldn't fall off the wall!  The rest of my materials I made or already had.  I made some student numbers and labels on my computer.  You can grab them for free from my store!

Then I grabbed some leftover ribbon, magnetic tape, and my hot glue gun.  I glued the ribbon around the cookie sheet, printed the labels, cut them out, laminated them, and put the magnetic tape on the back.  I made two different colored sets of numbers, because I teach another section of Social Studies. 

That's it!  I put it on the wall right next to my door so when I line my class up for recess, it will be right there.  No sneaking out to recess anymore!

Tried anything new lately?  Head on over to Fourth Grade Flipper and see what everyone else has tried today!

Paint to Pencil Cans!

I was so inspired by all the adorable pencil cans on Pinterest that I thought I would try some of my own.  I thought about using soup cans but decided I wanted something a little wider.  I went hunting through the recycling and around the house and came across all the old paint cans under the basement stairs.  I thought the quart size would be perfect for my project!  I looked for the two that had the least amount of paint in them and settled on these. Emmitt looks thrilled about this project, doesn't he?

The first thing I had to do was clean them out, and that was no easy task!  I rinsed them out several times and them let them sit and soak for a while.  In the meantime I gathered my materials.  

I'm in love with polka dots right now, so I thought I would use my favorite designer polka-dotted duct tape.  The polka dots are clear, so I got yellow spray paint to spray the can. That way my polka dots would be yellow.  I found a scrap of felt to put in the bottom of the can to muffle the sound of pencils being dropped in (I do love a quiet classroom!), polka dotted ribbon as trim, primer, black duct tape to line the inside of the can (I couldn't get all the paint off, and my OCD wouldn't allow it to stay that way!), and my print-out of "sharp" and "dull" with my new favorite font.  

After cleaning the cans as best I could, I primed them, then painted them.  I let them dry overnight and then began putting the black duct tape on the inside.  I would simply cut a strip about 8 inches long and put it inside starting at the bottom of the can, working my way up to the top.  I folded it over the top and cut it leaving just a little bit over the edge.

  I traced the can on my scrap of felt and cut it out to place inside at the bottom.

Next, I put on the polka dot duct tape, starting at the bottom, going around horizontally, and working my way up to the top.  Then I used a hot glue gun to put the orange ribbon around the top and bottom of the can and used clear packing tape to adhere the labels to the outside.  Aren't they cute?!

Check out all the other Manic Monday freebies at Classroom Freebies!  

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

Great Back to School Finds Link Up

I am still in the chaos of getting my room ready for the first day back to school.  Why is it that things always look way worse before they start to look better?  I am trying to control that a bit by cleaning up after myself as I work, but my room is still a disaster area!  And to frustrate me even more, when I stopped by my room this morning, all the posters I had taped up last night had fallen to the floor.  If anyone out there knows of a miracle product that will work better than masking tape, I'd love to hear about it!

I decided to take a little break from my back-to-school preparations to join in a Link Up with Julie over at The Teaching Bug.  She is having a Great Back to School Finds Link Up for products you have purchased or made during this back to school season.  

So, I thought I would share my Classroom Helpers board that I created for this year.  I needed something that would fit in a smaller space, and I had just purchased some adorable kids clip art that I thought would be perfect.  Here is a picture of my completed bulletin board.  I love how it turned out!

I made two different banners, but then decided to use them both!  I just couldn't choose which one I thought was cuter.  The set includes 24 different jobs to choose from, but I am starting the year with just eight jobs:  lunch count, board washer, paper filer, bathroom monitor, errands, floor cleaner, librarian, and pencil sharpener.  The set also comes with 19 classroom helper kid pictures to use.  I put each picture that I wanted to use on a library pocket.

Then I stapled a girl one and a boy one under each of the job headings.  My plan is to use popsicle sticks with the kids names on them and put them into the pocket to show who has which job.  There is also a job application and pocket in the set which I put in the center of my board with copies for students to take and fill out.  You can find my Classroom Helpers Bulletin Board Set at my TPT store.

Now head on over to The Teaching Bug to check out all the other great back to school products!

Also, enter a chance to win one of the six amazing bundles of prizes at the Back to School Giveaway Celebration at A Grade 7 Heaven.  My 100 Vocabulary Words for the Wise Mini Posters are in the 4 to 6 bundle.  Good luck!

Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway

I'm super excited to be participating in my very first blog hop!  I've joined Laurah over at The ESOL Odyssey with her Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway.

Last week I talked about the very first things that I do on the first day of school.  If you haven't already, check out my post First Things First on the First Day of School where you will find my First Day Welcome Letter Warm Up freebie and instructions for the Name Game.

After I play the Name Game I talk to the class about myself, a little about my experience and my family.  Then I talk to them about my expectations as a teacher.  I tell them that I have always loved the first day of school because it represents a clean slate for them and for me.  None of us have made any mistakes yet!  I tell them that I don't know what they were like as a 4th grader, so it's up to them to show me, starting right now, what kind of 5th grader they want to be.

I explain to my students that I have very high expectations for myself as a teacher and equally high expectations for them as my students.  "You will be the best class in this whole school!" I tell them.  "When we walk in the hall, we will be the straightest and quietest class.  When we go to an assembly, we will be the most polite and most attentive class there.  When we have a fire drill or tornado drill, our class will be silent and listening for directions not matter what is happening in any other class."  It doesn't take long for my class to live up to these expectations! 

After my beginning of the year pep talk I introduce the rules and consequences of my classroom.  I pass out the rules letter that will go home to parents and discuss with the class what each rule means.  I have the students help to brainstorm what students should do to follow each of the rules, and I explain what the consequences are if they choose not to follow them.  You can find my rules letter and many others in my Start the Year Out Right-Letters to Parents set.  

The consequences that I use are as follows:

1st rule broken-Warning
2nd-5 minutes off recess
3rd-Loss of recess
4th-Call parents (I require students to do the calling.)
5th-See principal

My advice to all new teachers is to immediately begin enforcing your rules and consequences after they have been discussed on the first day of school.  This is so hard to do!  But it is vital to setting the tone and expectations in your classroom.  When a student breaks a rule in my classroom, I quietly tell them "You have a warning for...".  I write myself a note on a sticky to record later in my excel spreadsheet I have created for keeping track of warnings.  I never raise my voice or act angry when a student gets a warning.  I am always very calm and matter of fact.  I emphasize with my students that it is their choice to follow the rules.  If they choose not to follow them, there will be consequences.  So, on that first day when someone blurts out in class, I do give them a warning, just like I would on the 100th day of school.  If I don't give warnings on the first day, it just makes it harder on the second day.  

During the first few days of school I try to limit the amount of time that my students are required to just sit and listen.  So, I try to intersperse the day with activities that get them up and moving around.  Last year I began doing egg hunts in Social Studies to review before tests.  It was one of my students' favorite games to play.  I created a Back to School Egg Hunt that will only be free through August 17th.  So don't wait to get it!

I will be trying this version for the first time myself on my first day this year.  I hope we like it!

As I said, the Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway is being hosted by Laurah over at The ESOL Odyssey.  One grand prize winner will win: A pencil sharpener in their choice of color from Classroom Friendly Supplies, their choice of a blog design OR $25 worth of products from Tools for Teachers by Laurah J, and one copy of each donated unit. We will have one second prize winner who will get one copy of each donated unit and their choice of $25 worth of items from her store.  The Grand Prize Package has a retail value of $122, and the 2nd Prize Package has a retail value of $88! Here are the units you can win!

  • Elements of Fiction Posters
  • First Week Back to School Classroom Essentials Bundle
  • Write with Me Journal (Common Core Aligned)
  • Latin Greek Vocabulary Through the Year, Set 1
  • Getting to Know You- A Back to School Math Game for your Class
  • Place Value Safari
  • Back to School Icebreaker Pack
  • Ten Real Life Applicable Area and Perimeter Cards 
  • Back to school and end of year foldables
  • Common Core Writing and Editing Checklist
I've donated my Elements of Fiction posters to the giveaway!


So, start hopping and good luck!

How fun is this!?

I have quickly become addicted to this blogging thing, which is strange seeing how a year ago I had never looked at a blog before.  I'm not sure if I even knew exactly what a blog was.  Wow, was I missing out! Between the blogs and Pinterest my mind is swimming with all these great ideas for my classroom.  The only down side of that being that I am finding it a bit difficult to turn them off in my mind when I finally make myself shut down the computer and head to bed.  Not sure how that will work when school is back in session as I am normally in bed by 9:30 on school nights.  What will make me time on the computer or less than eight hours of sleep?  We shall see...

I was thrilled when Liz over at Floating Through Fifth nominated me for the Liebster Award!  What a great feeling to have someone telling you to keep doing what you have become addicted to!  Thanks Liz!

 To accept the Liebster nomination I must do the following:
1. Link back to the blog that nominated me
2. Nominate 5 - 11 blogs with fewer than 200 followers
3. Answer the questions posted by my nominator
4. Share 11 random facts about myself
5. Create 11 questions for my nominees
6. Contact my nominees to let them know I nominated them

Let's start with Liz's questions:

1. What are you most excited about this school year?
I am excited to see how my recent endeavors will impact what I do in my classroom this year.  I had never even been on Pinterest before, so I have been amazed at all the great ideas out there.  My "to-do" list for this year is growing every day!
2. If you had an unlimited budget what would you do to your classroom? much time do we have?  Unfortunately, my building is old and in disrepair.  I would like some simple (but costly) things like a window that doesn't drip condensation and end up moldy, built in shelves that don't have nails sticking out in the back, a sink and counter tops that can come clean...and so on!
3. If you could spend your summer anywhere, where would it be?
I would spend it in our cottage in Petoskey, Michigan.  Northern Michigan is so beautiful in the summer, and though we are able to go up on occasion, it doesn't ever seem like enough time.  Now that my kids are growing up (okay, grown up), we have three people with summer time work schedules.
4. What is your favorite thing about blogging?
I think my favorite thing about blogging is reading all the other great blogs out there and finding a wealth of creative ideas!
5. What is your #1 teacher must have?
There are a million!  Probably the #1 thing I couldn't do without in my room would be books.  I think every classroom has to have an enormous library for students to choose from on a daily basis, not just each week when they go to the library.
6. Who would you love to have come and speak to your class and why?
This was a hard question for me for some reason.  I thought about it a long time and finally settled on J.K. Rowling.  The Harry Potter books are magical for me and my whole family. I would love to have her talk to my students and inspire them to write!
7. What is your favorite topic to teach?
My favorite topic to teach is the Revolutionary War period in Social Studies.  I think it is one of the most interesting time periods to learn about, and there is so much material to get kids excited about history for the first time.
8. Where are your go-to stores for teacher outfits?
I would have to say The Gap.  I am typically a khaki pants and turtleneck sweater person. But the turtleneck must be very tight around the neck!  I have often been teased about the fact that I wear a turtleneck every day from October until March, but I must admit it's the truth.  Last year, Gap had the best "tight necked" turtlenecks ever!  I think I bought two in every color!
9. What would you say is the most difficult part of our job?
 Wow, Liz, you are really asking some tough questions here!  Many things that are difficult boil down to never having enough time.  There's never enough time to do the prep work that you need to do, never enough time to work with students as much as you would like, never enough time to get through the curriculum...
10. Any advice for first time teachers?
Find people (in your building preferably) who are willing to share.  It doesn't have to be the same grade level, just someone who will tell you everything you need to know about working in that building and troubleshooting with you throughout the year.  I have also learned to always go back to my lesson plans after the lesson and immediately change what didn't work so that next year when I look at that unit, I will already have those adjustments made.
11. Tell a funny school story.
There are a ton of funny stories over the course of 22 years with fifth graders, but one in particular I remember was two years ago.  I had a student named Sean who was on the spectrum.  It's not often that a student's meltdowns are funny, but for some reason, Sean's almost always were.  One day he had obviously had enough of school.  He walked up to the board, looked at the agenda, and said, "Math...boring!  Social Studies...boring!   Writing...boring!  Homework books...I don't even know what that is, but it's boring!"  I cracked up!  Thankfully, he never got mad when I laughed.  It actually seemed to bring him down a bit.  

All right, 11 random facts about me...

1. I don't feel that old...It's hard for me to believe, but I have been married to my husband, Timm, for twenty-two years.  We have a daughter, Bonny, who is nineteen, and a son, Jake, who is seventeen.  I knew I was getting old when I had the daughter of a former student, and that was several years ago!
2. I am allergic to many foods but the hardest one for me is chocolate!  I am really good about avoiding my other ones like wheat, cheese, yeast,... but who can truly live without chocolate?  
3. I love doodles!  Dog breeds that are mixed with poodles, that is.  I am constantly looking at adorable doodle puppies on line, labradoodles, sheepadoodles, ever seen a Bernedoodle?   Oh my gosh! 
4. I am a huge Michigan Wolverines fan.  My favorite song is Hail to the Victors, which is my ring tone, and yes, I do the fist pumps when my phone rings, and no one is around! (Would I be going too far to say I want my ashes spread on the field at the Big House? Okay, I won't say that.)
5. The best book I read this summer was The Fifth Wave.  It is more of a teen fiction book along the lines of The Hunger Games about an alien invasion.  I am not normally into science fiction, but I couldn't put it down!  I got my son  and daughter to read it too, and they both loved it as well.  My son said it was the fastest he had ever read a book.

6. My favorite sport is hockey.  I was raised in a hockey family.  My dad was the coach, and my brother was the goalie.  I used to get so nervous when my brother played, my mom gave me a marble worry stone.  Apparently, I have the goalie curse.  My son turned out to be a goalie too.  Unfortunately, a worry stone can't touch the worry of a goalie mom!
7. I love reality tv!  Hey, at least it's not the trashy stuff.  I love Top Chef, Project Runway, Flipping Boston, Survivor, American Idol, and (okay, it's a little trashy) The Bachelor and The Bachelorette. 
8. I love to read!  I feel like I grew up in a library, because my dad was a librarian.  The books I read as a child are still so special to me, Anne of Green Gables, Little House in the Big Woods, and too many more to mention.  When I got a book at Christmas, I was thrilled!  I think Meg Ryan said it best as Kathleen Kelly in You've Got Mail, "When you read a book as a child, it becomes a part of your identity in a way that no other reading in your whole life does.
9. I have a sweet tooth! If it wouldn't immediately go to my hips, I would bake something every single day!  I can make pretty much anything I want gluten free, cake, cookies, pies...If you are sensitive to gluten, you have to get The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free.  The Strawberry Cake and Honey Bun Cake are two of my favorites!

10. I bought my dream car...a Prius!  My son, Jake, does not understand how a Prius can be my dream car, but it is.  Every time I drive it, it's like a game to get the best gas mileage ever.  One time I got 99.9 miles to the gallon!
11. My labradoodle, Emmitt, is the best dog ever!  He is the sweetest, goofiest dog you could ever meet.  It is impossible to be lonely living with Emmitt.  He literally goes everywhere I go.  If I go in the bathroom without him, he scratches at the door until he is let in!

Wow!  That really took some effort to think of that many things to talk about.  Sorry it's so long!

These are the people that I have nominated for a Liebster:
1. Whitney at At Whit's End.
3. Elizabeth at Seconds at the Beach.

So, for all of you, here are your 11 questions:

1. What is the best book you read this summer?
2. What is your hardest food to resist?
3. What is the best thing about the grade level you teach?
4. If you had to move to a different grade level, what would it be, and why?
5. What is your favorite vacation destination?
6. What is your favorite thing to do unrelated to school?
7. If you could meet any celebrity, who would it be?
8. If you weren't a teacher, what would you be?
9. What is your all-time favorite read aloud?
10. Are you a dog person or a cat person?
11.What would you tell a college student considering being a teacher?

First Things First On the First Day of School

I have this theory about the first day of school, and for the last twenty-two years, it has proven correct.  My theory is my students walk in the door in the first few minutes is an absolutely scientific indicator of how my entire year is going to go.  

I have had more than my share of years where a handful of fifth graders walk in with a little smirk and a jaunty step calling out, "Yo, dude! Sup?!" to their buddies across the room.  High fives and loud laughter ensue, as I think to myself...Oh boy, here we go.  Now I must admit that some of those students did turn out to be my favorites (secretly, of course), because I do have a special place in my heart for the mischievous fifth grade boy with a sense of humor.  But those years inevitably require much more effort in the management department.  

The other (usually preferable) scenario is this...the students walk in quietly, look around shyly, and seem a little bit frightened to be entering fifth grade.  Of course, I try to immediately put them at ease and welcome them to my room, but those years do tend to require less of me as the disciplinarian.  

Either way, I am always glad to get the first day of school under my belt.  I am at least as nervous, if not more nervous, than the students.  I don't know why, because I have yet to have a class I couldn't handle and ultimately love.  I guess it's the fear of the unknown, the source of all my summertime dreams (nightmares?) where I am standing in front of a classroom of kids who could care less what I am saying or doing to try to keep them under wraps.  It just takes me a day or two to feel better, to know what they are going to throw my way, even if it's a chair!  At least I know what to prepare for each day.  

For as long as I can remember I have started my first day of school in the same way.  At the end of the previous year, I have my students write a letter to a student who will be in my classroom the next year.  It is a great way for them to review what fifth grade has been like for them.  Feel free to grab this great freebie to use at the end of this year!

So, when my new students walk in on the first day of school I have a welcome letter on their desk telling them to read the letter from last year's student.  Then I direct them to do some sort of writing activity, thoughts, feelings, questions about the first day.  Below is my latest version of this First Day Welcome Warm Up, and you can grab that for free as well!  I also include a version that does not mention reading a letter from last year's student (since you may not have done that yet!).

After the students arrive, do their warm up, and I take attendance and lunch count, I play the Name Game.  With this simple game, I am able to learn all the students names in a manner of minutes, and they are able to learn each other's names as well.  

1. Have the entire class (including you) sit in a circle.  

2. Tell the students that you are going to play the name game which will help all of you to learn each other’s names.  

3. Explain that the first person to begin will be the student sitting immediately to your left.  That student will simply say, “Hi, my name is ___.”  (I don’t do last names, because it’s too hard!)

4. The student to that person’s left will go next.  He/she will say, “Hi, my name is ___, and this is ___.”  At that point he/she repeats the name of the person that came before him/her. 

5. The next student will say, “Hi, my name is ___, and this is ___ and ___ (naming the two people that already went).”

6. At this point, the students toward the end of the circle realize they have to name everyone that came before them!  I always assure everyone that we will help them out if they need it, and I am going to go last.  So, I have the hardest spot in the game.  By the time the students' names have been repeated 30 times, I know them all by heart!

Find the Name Game and more activities in my First Week of School Activities set.

Check out all the free printables and tips at the Teaching Heart Tuesday Link-Up!

Teaching Heart Blog

Monday Made It-All Spruced Up!

I spent the last week working on my three great finds to add to my reading area, trying to get them done in time for Monday Made It.  I was up late last night, but I made it!  I knew they all had potential, but I wasn't exactly sure how I would fix them up. I started with what I thought was the easiest piece, this organizer from a pharmacy.  

It didn't need much work actually.  It was already perfect for holding books.  It just had a bunch of old sticky tape on the front, and a lot of dirt and cobwebs.  So, I cleaned it up and added some 1 and 1/2 inch ribbon around the bottom and a couple of bows.  I fastened the ribbon with hot glue and my husband's staple gun.  This was the result.  

Pretty cute, I think!  And it actually holds quite a few books!

Next, I worked on the biggest bargain, the $5 garage sale find.  It really is more like an end table, but I thought it would be adorable next to my rocking chair in my reading area. I think I will put a book stand on the top and put the current read aloud on it.  I thought I could keep my extra book cards and pockets in the drawer.  This is what it looked like before.  

This is what it looks like after it's extreme makeover!

I love how it turned out!  The first thing I did to fix it up was find some wallpaper at the local wallpaper store.  They actually gave me a scrap for free, which was awesome!  I took the wallpaper to Lowe's and found a can of spray paint that miraculously matched it exactly.  I love it when that happens!  I sprayed the whole table and then put the wallpaper in the back of the shelf.  I decided to dress it up a little more by adding a touch of white to some of the trim.  I knew I had done pretty well with it when my daughter and her college roommate both commented that they wanted one just like it for their dorm.  It holds about 15 books too!  

The last project I worked on was the most challenging, because I had to find something to put along the back of the shelves to keep the books in place.  This is what it looked like before.

It was a nice display shelf in good condition, but not meant to house books.  I found some plastic cross-stitching canvas that came in big sheets at the local craft store.  I cut it with scissors and stapled it (with my son's help) on the back and sides of the bottom two shelves with the handy staple gun.  I have to admit my son was a little hesitant to put his fingers anywhere near me and a staple gun!  I spruced it up with a bit of paint and voila!

I think it turned out great, and I love that it will be a different look in my reading area as opposed to the boring book shelves I had been trying to find all summer.  

It holds a ton of books, too!  :)

Check out everyone else's great stuff at 4th Grade Frolics!