Friday, July 18, 2014

A Cozy Classroom Library

I'm joining in on the Reading in the Wild Book Study today to talk about one of my favorite things, my classroom library!  It is by far my favorite part of my classroom and definitely the area that takes me the longest to put together at back to school time.  Last year my library was really a year long endeavor!


I love seeing my library fill up with readers in September!


I started leveling my library last year, which took me months to finish!  You can read more about that whole process here.  The end result was this.




I've thought a lot about the pros and cons of leveling my books and organizing them this way, and in the long run I feel it was worth it.  My below level readers finished more books by knowing where to look for books that were just right for them, and I still saw students challenging themselves by choosing a harder book now and then.  

One of my favorite additions to the library last year was the sign my father-in-law helped me make to go on top of my student book racks.  



On the first day of school I talk to my students about how reading can take you anywhere you want to go.  My sign has some of my favorite places to go in a book like Hogwarts...the Misty Mountains...Panem.  It's fun to listen to my students try to figure out what books those places are from.  My kids use these book racks to house the next few books they want to read.  



That way when they finish a book during workshop time, they just go grab another one off their rack instead of spending valuable reading time browsing for books. 

In the back of my reading area is my Recommended Reads section.  Throughout the year I suggest my favorite books to students and house them here.  


Below that on the bulletin board is the pocket chart where students place the cards for the library books they have checked out.  This pocket chart was one of my best garage sale finds last summer!  

Next to this is the bulletin board where I keep track of how many books students have read.  


We set four milestone markers on the way to reaching that goal and each time we hit a milestone, we had a reading celebration!

I'm very excited about my new finds this summer for my library!  I found these last week and couldn't resist them.  They even have wheels on the bottom!



I know it's not the best idea to buy stuff like this when I have to start packing to move, but can't you just see the potential?!  These will be my makeover projects for the summer.  Make sure you stop by Being Ladylike to take a peek at all the other great classroom libraries!

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Back 2 School Linky-Behavior Management

I'm linking up today with Mrs. D's Corner and Miss V's Busy Bees for a Back 2 School linky about behavior management.  



I have been teaching fifth grade now for 23 years and yet I still have those dreams every August.  You know what I'm talking about, right?  The one where you are standing up in front of your class, everyone is out of control, and no one will listen to you?  Yup, that's the one.  Kind of like this, only with bigger kids...



It's funny because managing behavior is the one thing that almost scared me out of being a teacher and yet I think it is one of the things that I have a real knack for.  

I will never forget the first job I interviewed for 24 years ago, when I was a fresh, out of college rookie at the age of 22, with only a few months of subbing experience under my belt.  It was for a 5th or 6th grade self-contained classroom in a district that I was very interested in working for.  I made it to the second round of interviews but was not hired. The principal who didn't hire me told someone I knew that I would have been "eaten alive" by the students. Obviously, I have never forgotten that comment, and I have often thought about that principal who missed out on hiring a teacher who has never had a student she couldn't handle!

There have been lots of tricks and tips that I have used over the years, but the number one rule for me is this...never let your students see you lose your cool!


I may be yelling and saying a few choice words in my head, but on the outside...it's cool, calm, and collected.  

The second most important thing that I think is key to good classroom control is setting up your consequences for breaking rules and then enforcing them consistently.  You can see the rules and consequences I use in my room in this letter I send to parents.



As soon as I have discussed this policy with my students, I begin following through on those consequences.  I do not have a chart or anything like that for my warnings, I simply tell them.  So, let's say a student turns to a neighbor and whispers something while I am instructing the whole class.  I just calmly and quietly say, "Jake, you have a warning for talking while I am talking."  I jot their name on a sticky note and write TWT (my own little shorthand I have developed for talking while the teacher was talking).  Is it hard to do that at the beginning of the year?  I'm not going to lie...sometimes it is.  Maybe it's the cutest, sweetest, little boy or girl who is talking.  It doesn't matter.  In my classroom, you don't talk while I'm teaching.  If I want them to follow that rule, I have to enforce that...EVERY TIME!  I don't yell at them EVER!  I don't embarrass my students or humiliate them.  I just matter of factly let them know they have a warning and why.  

I pick the example of a student talking while I'm talking because it's an epidemic at the beginning of fifth grade.  Sometimes I will have them say, "I was just asking if I could borrow a pencil!"  My response is always, "I'm sorry, but I can't stop and figure out what you were talking about and then decide it's okay for some talking and not okay for other talking."  My kids learn to break that habit pretty quickly.  I remember once a colleague asked me, "How do you get the kids not to talk while you are teaching?"  My response... "You just don't let them."  It's all about having consequences and following through consistently.  

I keep a record of every warning I give to students using an Excel Spreadsheet.  Each student has their own page, and my consequences are already at the top.  


On the bottom you can see tabs that say Student 1, Student 2, and so on.  I rename those with my students' names.  When you click on the tab, their sheet will come up.  I show this to my students on the first day of school, and I type in examples of warnings students might get.  I type in EXACTLY what they do or say to get a warning.  So I'll tell them...if you call your neighbor an idiot and kick them in the shin, that is exactly what I will type in the box.  Then I let them know that at progress report and report card time I print out the warnings for students that I feel have too many.  I love watching their eyes get really big at this point!

You can get the Excel spreadsheet I use for free at my TPT Store!  It's already set up for 33 students, and it's fully editable so you can make it your own.  If you need any help using it, let me know!



One of the best management tools I have found is instituting something called Fun Friday. Fun Friday is an extra recess at the end of the week that students have to earn.  I generally do not take my students out for any extra recesses other than Fun Friday.  So, my kids know if they want those precious extra minutes of free time they have to earn it!  


In my Fun Friday letter to parents you can see that in order to participate, you must have only two or fewer warnings for the week, your planner signed at least 4 out of 5 days, and no late work when Fun Friday begins.  My students become very aware of their warnings after missing their first Fun Friday.  I will often get asked on Friday mornings, "How many warnings do I have this week?"  It really motivates them to work on their behavior.  You can find my Fun Friday and Rules/Consequences letters along with many others in my Start the Year Out Right Letters to Parents set in my TPT Store!



Make sure you check out all the other management ideas at the Back 2 School Weekly Linky!          
  

Friday, July 11, 2014

Five For Friday-July 11

I think I am having the busiest summer of my life!  Between coordinating a summer literacy program, building a new house, and trying to get some new products created, I hardly have had time to breathe!  But I had to take a few minutes to link up with one of my favorites, Five for Friday with Doodle Bugs Teaching!



As busy as I have been, I still take the time to at least read every night before I go to sleep, no matter how late it is.  I finished a really good book the other night called The Forgotten Garden by Kate Morton.  


The story goes back and forth between three time periods...1900, 1975, and 2005 to unravel the mystery of why a small child was found abandoned on a ship travelling from England to Australia.  Just when you think you are going to find out the last piece of the puzzle, bam! Time jumps forward or back again, and you vow not to put the book down until you finish another chapter.  



I spent quite a bit of time this summer looking for picture books to use with the summer literacy program.  It is so hard to choose books just from seeing them online!  I went to a book store in the area to try to get a good look at the books first, and not one of them was available in the store!  Thank goodness for libraries!  I was able to request all of the books I was thinking of buying from the library first before I placed my orders online.  One of my favorite books that I ordered is Fireflies in the Night by Judy Hawes.  


It's written as a story but gives quite a bit of information about fireflies, why they light up, the history of people using them for light, and so on!  What a cute book!


I made a trip recently to IKEA to look for lighting for our new house.  (Talk about overwhelming!  How do you pick out lighting for every single room?!)  While we were there I picked up one of the necessities for starting my classroom in the fall.  I buy cardboard file boxes for my students to use to house all of their folders and spiral notebooks.  I have shelves they can put them on at the end of the day, and during the day they keep them on their desks.  You can see them on the desks in the picture below.


They are made of cardboard, so they aren't as sturdy as the plastic ones.  I have known some teachers who ask their students to bring in a file box that they purchase themselves, but then they are all different colors, styles, etc. and I wouldn't be able to stand looking at that!  If the students take care of them, they can last all year.  That picture is from March, and you can see that they are still in pretty good condition.  I have found that it helps to tape the bottom of the file boxes with some clear packing tape.  The best part about these boxes is the price!  


They come in packs of five for only $1.49!  Last year I think they were closer to $2 for the five pack.  A couple of my friends tried to get them towards the end of August, and they were all sold out.  So, don't wait too long to pick them up!


Besides lighting, another area that is a bit overwhelming right now is paint colors!


This is literally what my kitchen counter looks like right now!  My goal for this week was to have the color of every room identified...not gonna happen.


Last, but most fun, here are some photos of the progress on our house.  It is amazing how quickly things got moving these last few weeks after waiting so long over the winter.  

Here's where we were about three weeks ago.


Then we finally started to feel like we were actually building a house!


This is the view from our bedroom!  Love it!


Then we started to get walls!


Jake and Bonny are standing between their two rooms being their usual goofy selves.  The only normal looking one in the picture is Jake's girlfriend, Maddy!  Thanks for smiling, Maddy!

Next came the rafters...


Finally, we got windows!


Fun stuff, right?!  Check out all the other Five for Friday fun at Doodle Bugs Teaching! Have a great weekend!


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Two for Tuesday-Summer Bloggin' Week 6

I'm linking up once again for The Teaching Tribune's Two for Tuesday where you can find all kinds of great products for 50% off all day long!



My first product goes with my newest favorite read aloud, Kizzy Ann Stamps by Jeri Watts.  My Kizzy Ann Stamps Common Core Unit and Student Packet can be used along with the book as a read aloud or as part of a book club.  I love this book because it teaches students about integration and has a ton of figurative language.  It is chock full of similes, metaphors, personification, imagery, and idioms.  The book and packet cover thirteen different common core standards from 3rd to 6th grade.  



You can find my Kizzy Ann Stamps Common Core Unit and Student Packet at my TPT Store

My second bargain for the day is another of my most wish-listed items and one of my favorite projects to do with my students!


You can use this project to cover the Common Core writing standards dealing with research to build and present knowledge.  Students research one of the fifty states and create a 30-page book to show all that they have learned.  Included in the set is an introductory sheet for parents and students, a schedule template, a student checklist, a 2-page grading form for the final project, unit lesson plans, a 3-page packet on paraphrasing, a 2-page worksheet on how to write a bibliography, a 2-page practice sheet on turning notes into paragraphs, and a 20-page printable final draft packet.  It's everything you need, and it's half off today!  You can check it out at my TPT Store.  

Make sure you check out all the great deals at The Teaching Tribune today!  

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Worksheet Wednesday-Summer Bloggin' Week 5

It's Wednesday and time to link up a free worksheet with The Teaching Tribune's Worksheet Wednesday!  


This summer I am the coordinator for my school's summer literacy program for second and third graders called Camp Literacy.  I created sixteen fun poetry warm ups to use during this four week program which begins in a couple weeks.  Today I am sharing one of those warm ups with you for free!


You can find it at my TPT Store.  If you would like the whole set of sixteen poetry activities/warm ups you can find those at my TPT Store as well!


Hope you find lots of great freebies at Worksheet Wednesday!

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Two for Tuesday-Summer Bloggin' Week 5

I'm linking up once again this week with The Teaching Tribune for Two for Tuesday where everyone who links up offers two products at 50% off for one day only!  



So, you can shop to your heart's content knowing you are getting great bargains!  The first product I'm offering at half off today is one that I had so much fun making!  I was literally singing along sitting at my computer until my son started giving me funny looks.  It's my Grammar Rock Unit, one of my most wish-listed items.  I blogged about using it with my students way back in September of last year.  I used Grammar Rock to kick off writing for the year, learning about the different parts of speech.  You can read more about it by going here.  

Your students will love learning about nouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, pronouns, interjections, and conjunctions with the same songs we loved years ago on Saturday mornings!  (If you are saying...I don't remember those on Saturday mornings...I don't want to hear it!  You must be a year or two younger than me.  But I'm sure you will love them too!)

For each part of speech you will find a lesson plan sheet with a picture of a sample anchor chart, a note-taking sheet for students to fill in while they watch the Grammar Rock video (all can be found on YouTube), a lyrics sheet so students can sing along, an activity sheet for students to do in partners or groups, and an independent worksheet.  You can find this bundle at my TPT Store.



My second deal of the day is based on one of my favorite read alouds, The Kid in the Red Jacket by Barbara Park.  The kids absolutely love this hilarious book, and I've been kicking off my reading workshop with it in recent years.  The unit teaches drawing inferences, determining theme, summarizing, describing characters, and comparing and contrasting characters which are the first three Common Core Literature Standards for grades 4, 5, and 6.  

Included in the unit are lesson plans, handouts on character traits, theme, and author's message, a character trait chart, character trait analysis worksheets, an inferring about theme and author's message worksheet, a summary graphic organizer, and three comprehension questions worksheets.  You can also find this at my TPT Store.


I hope you find all kinds of bargains today at Two for Tuesday!  Happy shopping!