The BEST Planning Move I Made!

Friday, November 17, 2017
It was the end of the first quarter and the other 5th grade teacher and I sat down to do some planning. Both of us sat there overwhelmed, a bit frustrated and tired. Just straight up tired. We wanted to be innovative, we wanted to try new things, we wanted to enhance our curriculum, but we just couldn't find the time. Then we said, wouldn't it be nice if we could just take one thing off our plate? Well, we did. And it is amazing!

We immediately called down our administrator (who is so supportive) and asked her - what did she think about me taking over reading and my partner taking over math? We would align our schedules to make it work, give the 5th graders a middle school feel and divide and conquer. Of course, she said yes!

We took about a week to get ready. I organized my room to be more reading focused and she designed hers to be more math focused. I gave her all my math materials and she gave me all her reading materials. We prepped the kids, told them the routine and procedures for how it was going to look and feel, then dove in! We teach our own classrooms every morning our respective subjects. Before leaving for recess/lunch, all the 5th graders put their materials on the top shelf of their lockers for their afternoon class. After lunch, the students gather their materials then travel to the opposite classroom - they don't even have to stop in their own classroom at all. It's seamless and smooth. And the best part...the kids LOVE it!

Since starting, I cannot express enough how much better I feel! We both still teach writing, language and content (however, I try to incorporate content into our literacy as much as possible), but just taking math off my plate has been incredible. I feel focused, excited, innovative and I am feeling the results after just a few short weeks! I am on my game, I can focus my energy and my students are making gains! I had some hesitations in the beginning because I do really enjoy teaching math. However, after just a few weeks of this schedule switch, I'm wondering why we didn't think of this sooner!

Rights of a Reader

Tuesday, October 17, 2017
After reading Donalyn Miller's The Book Whisperer (which I HIGHLY recommend), I wanted to start the year off fostering a love of reading. I really wanted my students to take ownership of their reading, choose their own books and fall in love with our independent reading time. I used some of what Donalyn shared in her book and chose 10 Rights of a Reader. 
At the beginning of the year, I share these rights with the students and we briefly discuss them. Then throughout the year, I revisit and discuss the different elements so students are very aware of what they are able to do during our independent reading time. You can find the posters HERE in my Teachers Pay Teachers store! The blank letters are also available, as well as white background versions for easier printing.

I love having these displayed in my classroom above my classroom library for students to reference so they know they are readers and have rights in their reading habits!

Displaying Student Work + FREEBIE

Monday, October 16, 2017
I always make sure I'm displaying student work in my classroom, as does about every teacher, right? We are really focusing on building grit and growth mindset in my classroom, so I wanted to tie a quote with the student work display. I created the quote Grit + Growth = Success on my board to make sure that students understand how important grit and growth are! You can find the words for FREE HERE.

The options for work to display are completely up to you! On this board below, I post my students' Moby Max badges they have earned throughout the school year. You could post writing samples, math achievements, reading goals, etc!
You can print however works best for your classroom. I printed each word on different colored card stock. You could also laminate if you plan on keeping them for the long haul. Hope you find them useful for your classroom :)

Student Autobiographies + FREEBIE

Sunday, October 1, 2017
My favorite beginning of the year writing project is student autobiographies! It builds community in my classroom, builds writing stamina and is high interest.
Before my students write their autobiography, I give them a planning page to start writing ideas. You can find the planning page for FREE HERE! I make sure to tell them to include more if they want! Also, some students don't want to include all the information on the planning page and that is okay, too! The planning page just gets them to start thinking about what to include and organize their writing.

Now, after the planning page is completed, I make sure to tell them that I expect an organized 5 paragraph autobiography. Most of my students use the headings from the planning page to help them, while others are able to change theirs to make it their own. The planning page really just helps them get started and stay organized in their piece!

Once we're done editing their autobiography, I trace their silhouette on a blank white piece of paper. You can easily do this by turning on your projector, have them stand in front of your board to make a shadow, tell them to stand very still (hard for some :)) and trace away. I chose to cut my students' silhouettes out to prevent noses being cut off, etc. Then I gave them stacks of magazines and told them to find pictures to create a collage that represented them. They had so much fun with this! Students started recommending ideas to other people or would ask the whole group if someone liked pizza because they found a picture of a pizza - it was super fun! Once students finished, I cut off the extra edges (turn the silhouette over and you can easily see if any of the pictures are overlapping) and then I had them use their favorite color to color in the white spaces if there were any.

The finished products are perfect for right outside my classroom for the first quarter! So many teachers, parents and students have walked by to take a look! Such a great start to the school year!

Mindfulness in the Classroom

Saturday, September 30, 2017
Do you use mindfulness in your classroom? This is one of my favorite times of the day. We switch it up, try new things and it's still a work in progress, but I'm learning more each time. Here is how I got started and a few resources you can use in your classroom!
First, we talked about what mindfulness is and why we should practice it. I found this great YouTube video you can find HERE that has kids explaining mindfulness. I thought this was really engaging for them. We spent some time talking about how it calms your body and rebuilds your brain. We also talked about how it takes time to practice and get really good at it.

Now, the first time was hard - for me and for them. I felt uncomfortable leading their mindfulness the first time, so I found this great website that plays recordings for your students. Check it out HERE! It is honestly a lifesaver and really helpful. There are a lot of different options!

I also purchased a few books on mindfulness for kids! My first recommendation would be Cultivating Mindfulness in the Classroom. Find it HERE on Amazon! It gives you TONS of options and lessons you can quickly implement in your classroom! My second recommendation would be the Mind Up Curriculum you can find HERE. Make sure to check for your grade level because they have different texts for different grades. This resource really teaches students how their brain works and how we can rewire our brain.

Another resource I use is Go Noodle! They have some amazing mindfulness videos that show up right in the categories to practice breathing techniques.

Finally, we have a mindfulness bell that I like to use with students when we only have a few minutes to practice. I ring the bell (in the picture above) and students spend time listening and being mindful of the sound. I usually ring it 3-4 times depending on how much time we have. I grabbed mine off Amazon HERE.

I have loved implementing mindfulness into my classroom and the kids love it too. It doesn't need to take 20 minutes a day and doesn't need to be scheduled lessons. You get to decide how often to bring it into the classroom! Even 1-2 minutes a day can make an impact! It's a really great way to help students regulate their emotions and feelings, as well as helps them refocus on our content and my teaching. Truthfully, it's been really great for me to practice as well!

I encourage you to try it and know there is no wrong way to practice mindfulness!

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

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 ;)

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