Open House + A Freebie

Monday, August 28, 2017
Getting ready for Open House can be a crazy and exciting time! Not only are we prepping to meet our students and their parents, but we are also setting up our classrooms and getting ready for the first day of school! I really like to keep it simple for families to be able to pop in, drop things off and get excited for the school year! Here are a few things I get ready for my students and their parents on Open House night!
1. Folders: We have a school-wide take home folder, so I make sure those are available for my students right away. They always get papers and information at Open House, so this is a good place to store it all and get in the habit of using this folder for their children.

2. Scholastic Orders: I like being able to send home a few Scholastic orders for students at Open House and talk with parents about how easy and cheap it is to order, plus the added bonus of more classroom library books. Scholastic has a really great letter to send to parents with your class code already on it, so no need to recreate!

3. Moby Max: We use Moby Max often in my class and our school, so I also send a letter home to parents explaining the program. Again, Moby Max has a parent letter already available, so I print that off and send it home right away!

4. Newsletter: My newsletter before school starts is really simple. I include information about me, plus my contact information. I write about our homework policy to make sure students and parents are aware right away. I also give any upcoming important dates for the month of September so parents can put it in their calendar right away. This year, we changed our arrival procedure in my building, so I made sure to include that information as well. I made editable newsletter templates that you can find HERE to help you get started! These newsletters are easily adaptable for the entire school year.

5. Snack: I like to give a little snack to give the students something more exciting to leave with - the papers are generally more for the parents. Last year, I bought Starburst for the kids with a super cute tag you can grab HERE from The Applicious Teacher. This year, I decided to go a little healthier and grabbed bags of popcorn off Amazon for the kiddos. I created a tag you can grab for FREE HERE.
That's it! Super simple, super easy and super quick! How do you get ready for Open House?



Decorative Letters: A How-To

Friday, August 25, 2017
I have this awkward space in my classroom (not a bulletin board) that looked too bare, so last year I decided to cut out all these letters and make inspirational words for my students to reference all year...they fell down after two months...fail.

This space didn't get any better and looking at it for the rest of the year was an eye sore, so I took the summer to rethink the space. I found some great ideas using big letters from Hobby Lobby or Amazon, but I did NOT want to drop over $100 for this to work, so I had to get creative. Here is what I came up with!
The first thing I had to do was collect cardboard boxes. Luckily, my husband was able to get me a ton quickly from his job so I was able to get started right away. I cut the pieces to similar sizes to get them ready for tracing.

Then I opened a new file in Keynote (you can use Word, PP, Google) and typed in a letter in a text box with the font that I wanted. I projected it onto the screen of my SmartBoard.
Once I had the sizing right, I held up a cardboard piece on my SmartBoard with the letter projecting onto it. I traced the letter on the cardboard piece with a pencil.
After tracing all the letters, I cut them all out using a box cutter. The edges frayed a bit, but because of where the letters were in my classroom, I wasn't concerned about seeing the frays.
Once all the letters were cut out, I grabbed some cans of cheap spray paint from Walmart of my classroom colors and sprayed the letters outside. This took maybe 5 minutes. I sprayed on two coats.

When the letters dried, I hot glued the edges of the letters together to make one big word. Now the words are sitting on top of the shelf against the paper. They look great and I know they won't fall! They are set for the year (and hopefully years to come)! Win.
Super easy and super cheap! The entire project cost less than $10 with spray paint. Far better than $100 and it is something I know will last all year ;)





Bathroom Pass Labels FREEBIE

Monday, July 17, 2017
I found this idea on Pinterest a few years ago and have truly LOVED this procedure in my classroom. I was never really a fan of bathroom passes leaving my classroom and going with the students to the bathroom (in my school a hall pass is not required). I often had a missing bathroom pass because a student forgot it in there. AND I really didn't 100% believe students were being overly sanitary...yikes. Here is how the bathroom procedure goes in my classroom: hand sanitizer bottles!
Before school starts, I buy two large hand sanitizer bottles - one for girls and one for boys. You can grab the labels HERE for FREE!

1. Discuss appropriate times for students to use the bathroom right away on the first day of school. I am fine with them going during all independent work periods, but not during whole group instruction or if they are in a small group with me.

2. When the student needs to go to the bathroom, grab their bottle and put it in on their desk. This gives me a quick look at who is in the bathroom at any given time.

3. Student goes to the bathroom.

4. When the student returns, they pump some hand sanitizer (I tell them this is IN ADDITION to washing their hands) and put the hand sanitizer back in the appropriate location.

EASY PEASY! What is your bathroom procedure in your classroom?




Structuring Numbers Activities

Thursday, July 6, 2017
Teach those students to structure! It's a bit surprising how many students even in upper grades don't have these skills. Once these skills are solid, student understanding of deeper material will be much more fluid! Here is a roundup of all the ways I guide my students to structuring numbers to 10! These activities can easily be adjusting to 5s and 20s.
First, let's talk materials! For students to really understand structuring numbers, they need to see visual representations and get their hands on materials! Here are the materials I have in my class that I use regularly:
  • ten frames: you can easily print them off from various free resources or find a variety of them HERE; I also grabbed some amazing magnetic ten frames on Amazon HERE
  • rekenreks: grab some on Amazon HERE or you can easily make your own
  • dominoes: grab some on Amazon HERE
  • 10-sided dice: grab them HERE
  • irregular dot patterns: grab them HERE
  • deck of cards
Now, here are a couple ways you can quickly and easily use each of these materials. There are so many varieties that you'll be set for lessons!

Flash Materials
Quickly flash one of the materials at the students - they should see it for approximately one second. Then turn it back over and ask the students the following questions. How many on the top? How many on the bottom? How many altogether? How many to make 10? Students can also practice this activity with a partner. One partner flashes and the other responds. You can do this with any of the materials listed above giving you so many days of small group lessons!

Quick Writes
Flash a material like above. Students will then write the number on a whiteboard. You could also have students write the pair to make 10 or have them write a number model that represents the material.

Number Talks
Show students a material. Ask them what the students see and how they see it. Students start to build great conversations around combinations of numbers. Check out Sherry Parrish's Number Talks book. It is AMAZING and so worth it!

Screened Collections
Show a bead rack or counters and screen a portion of it. Students will then have to work out a solution while transferring to mental math strategies. This works really great for the rekenreks. Show an amount, say 3, and keep the remaining 7 screened. Students will have to figure out how many are missing.

Number Construction
Give students a material to work with. Ask them to construct a number. Watch and observe how students construct that number. Then ask them to construct another. Observe how they manipulate their setting - do they clear the setting completely or simply adjust it? You can build strong math talk around this as well by having students describe their setting to each other, what they see and notice, as well as how they adjusted their setting.

Adding and Subtracting Numbers
Give students addition and subtraction problems where they can use their setting to manipulate the beads or counters. This will give students a more concrete representation and students will start to notice they can use 5s and 10s as anchors.

Games
Games such as Make 10 Go Fish and Make 10 Memory with a deck of cards are super engaging for students. You can also find some engaging Bingo and Race games HERE. I also snagged this Shut the Box game on Amazon HERE that my students absolutely LOVE!

How do you teach structuring in your classroom? The best part is all of these activities can easily be adjusted for structuring numbers to 5 or 20!

You can check out another blog post I wrote HERE about some of the ways you can specifically use ten frames in your instruction!




The Book Whisperer: A Must Read

Sunday, June 25, 2017
This is not a sponsored post by any means, but I had to share some take aways from The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller. It was one of the best professional development texts I have read in my 7 years of teaching. It's a quick read with a lot you can do right away in your classroom. Here are a few of the takeaways I got from the text that I'm implementing now!
Model a Passion for Reading
Kids pay attention! If you show them your love for reading, students are going to recognize that and it could possibly get them engaged in reading as well! If you don't love reading, fake it 'til you make it ;) Honestly, I never thought of myself as a reader growing up. I don't think I even considered myself a reader for a good chunk of my 20s. Then I started reading young adult fiction so I could try to get my students hooked. Well, I got hooked. Now, I love young adult literature way more than adult literature. I find that I can read the books faster (I'm not the most patient person) and that's okay! Showing kids that you love reading can definitely make a difference in their lives as well. They literally may not see this in any adults they know.

Read, Read, Read
I started to read young adult fiction to see which books I could read with my students. It turns out I started loving it. Because of this, I can now recommend some great texts to my students. However, after reading The Book Whisperer, I realized I have to keep going and open up my horizons a bit. I LOVE realistic fiction - Wonder, Fish in a Tree, Because of Mr. Terupt - I could read them all day! What I realized is that I don't have many fantasy or mystery texts to recommend to my students. My next goal is to try these out! If I don't like them, so be it! It's okay if I put them down, but if I don't take risks in my reading, my students won't either.

Book Recommendations
Speaking of book recommendations, Donalyn Miller is a big proponent of this. Now, I thought in previous years that I was doing this, but not to the extent that I should. I created this Student Survey you can grab for free to get my students thinking about themselves as a reader right away at the beginning of the year. These surveys are also going to be a great way for me to find tons of books that I think my students will love right away! Additionally, I need to give students the opportunity to share texts they love with their peers! Having tons of recommendations at their finger tips will more likely give them more motivation to pick one up and dive in!

Take it Easy on the Book Units
One of my favorite things to do as a teacher is read a book aloud to the class and really enjoy it with them. I love hearing their reactions and their questions while they get hooked in the text. One thing I realized I need to do is lay off the formal, unnatural way my students are responding to the text like completing a worksheet or written a response where I'm looking for just the right answer. I want to change this up for the coming year. Of course I'll use the texts to teach important literary concepts such a plot, setting, character, etc. However, now I want those lessons to be built in the discussion and experience of the text rather than some packet or book report that needs to be completed.

Okay, so those are just a few of the fabulous things that I'm getting started with right away. There is so much more amazing information in the text and can be applied to any grade level or class! I would highly recommend reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller right away!



Student Interest Survey + a FREEBIE

Tuesday, June 13, 2017
I always love a good student interest survey! I usually give them out at the beginning of the year to get to know more about my new students in my classroom! Here are a few ways I use them, plus you can grab the Student Interest Survey I created HERE!

Building Relationships
It's great to get to know your students likes, dislikes, interests in and outside of school and their personality (which can really shine through these surveys). I love going through these together as a class before administering them so students know the importance and it shows the students how I really want to get to know them as much as possible right away!

Community Building
Using these as a community building opportunity is pretty great too! Students can share out their answers and find others with similar interests. It's a great way for students to get to know each other as well. Students can also feel a sense of pride in who they are, as well as start having some conversations about struggles to foster growth mindset.

Guiding Instruction
If I know a student is really into Star Wars, I might use that to guide some of my instruction, especially if I'm working one-on-one with a student. It makes their learning a little more exciting (hopefully ;)).

Recommendations for Students
After reading The Book Whisperer by Donalyn Miller, I realized using these surveys is the perfect way to recommend books for students - particularly those reluctant to read. If I know students are really into sports, I'm going to find as many sports books as I can that are quality texts to get in their hands right away at the beginning of the year!

Do you use student interest surveys with your students? How do you use them?

Don't forget, grab the Student Interest Survey for FREE HERE!



Conferring with Readers

Wednesday, May 10, 2017
Have you started conferring with readers during your literacy block? My amazing literacy coach introduced my staff to conferring this school year and it has made such an incredible difference. I am by no means an expert, but here are some resources I used to get started!

What is conferring? (my take, anyway)
Meeting with students where they're at, academically and physically (meaning, get down on the floor next to them where they are to read with them) and spending time discussing the book THEY are reading independently. Conferences take LESS than 5 minutes with a specific goal and time for you, as the teacher, to get to KNOW your readers!

What does conferring look like?
What?!? I move around the room and talk individually with students about their books??? And you're telling me the conference is less than 5 minutes? Are you kidding me? I had ZERO clue where to start. Thanks, again, to my lit coach, she showed us this great Jennifer Serravallo video. It was a great starting point. Now, do all my conferences look like this? NOPE and that's okay. I've adjusted my conferring style to what works best for me and my students!

What questions do I ask?
Again, NO clue at first. I started out with the usual questions - problem, solution, characters, setting, new information learned, blah, blah, blah. I wanted to go deeper, so I started researching. I started with the hierarchy of goals (check them out on her blog HERE) in Jennifer Serravallo's The Reading Strategies Book. This really helped me get started with what I should be looking for. I then, of course, cross referenced with multiple other reading resources I had (we all know we've got them collecting dust on our shelves) and of course, found some on the wonderful world of the Internet. I had STACKS of books, papers, and websites for great questioning.

Now, I didn't want to carry around all these stacks on stacks on stacks to the carpet, then to a desk, then at a corner table, then to a crate seat (yes, I do flexible seating), so I put together all the questions into categories and wrote them up on cards in two formats. Check them out in my TpT store HERE if you're interested!

Now what???
Give it a whirl! It may not be pretty at first and may not make sense, but once you get into the groove, you'll see the benefits of conferring with readers!




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