Thursday, July 31, 2014

Classroom Decor 2014-2015

It's that time again! I have been reading that some of you are already back to school. Wow.

Our first inservice day is August 15 and the kids come to school on Monday August 25.

At the end of last year I pulled almost everything off my classroom walls. I was ready for something new. I spent about an hour and a half on Monday decorating one wall.

Day 1

This is Azure paper from Mardel. We don't have this color butcher paper at school, so I splurged! I have been buying a roll every other week. I might visit Mardel too often...

Do you see all the furniture piled at the front of the classroom? Fun.

Day 2

On Wednesday, I subbed for summer school and then spent another 2 hours moving things around. I got my workout!

There is so much work to do, but I love it.

Thursday, July 24, 2014

New iPad Parent Letter

Hello again! Thanks for stopping by and reading my post.

Do you have iPads in your classroom?

Last year I wrote an iPad letter to give parents some basic information about my 1:1 iPad classroom. I have amended it for this year. I felt like I needed to talk about internet safety.

Take a look at this:

A new poll released by Netmums revealed shocking statistics on internet use by children. The survey of 825 children aged between seven and 16 and 1,127 adults showed that 16.7% of parents allowed children three years old or younger to go online. However, the most alarming statistics show how exposed and vulnerable children are online.
1. 42.1% of kids admit they have seen online porn. One in 16 have been exposed to hardcore pornography.
2. One in 12 have exchanged messages with sexual content to other people, while one in 25 have sent graphic photos of themselves.
3. 25% of children get away with pretending to be older to get an account online.
4. One in 20 children admitted arranging a secret meeting with someone they met online.
5. Almost three in 10 parents (29%) let their kids use the internet without any restrictions or supervision.
 I just have to say, wow. Isn't that scary? This needs to be a discussion we are having with families everywhere.

Our kids are hearing things in music that they don't really understand. They are seeing situations and hearing words on television, movies, and YouTube that get their attention. They are curious and the internet has all the answers! All they have to do is type in a word in the Google search box and it will pop up suggested searches. Then they can jump over to see the image results. Those images can take them to horrible content. Just imagine all the families that don't have filters or parental guidance software!

All it takes is one word guys. ONE WORD. I just think of all the kids 12 and under I have seen at PG-13 and R movies. They are getting an earful.

We need to protect the innocence of our kids. Those images can't be unseen. Those actions can't be undone. 

What does your school do to help families prevent or deal with the aftermath of internet safety? 

Our elementary filters are really good in my district, but there are always some loopholes. I am going to be very proactive this year, as you can tell after reading this letter. I am going to be very clear about my expectations with my students without going into the inappropriate stuff. (Believe me, I don't want to go there!)

If you want a generic form of this letter, you can download it HERE.

Email me if you would like the editable version.

I would love to read any comments you have about internet safety. Specifically how you and your school handles it. Also, if you have children, how do you handle it at home? I welcome any pointers and suggestions!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

BTS Classroom Management Linky

So I am a week late to this party. I like linky parties! There are usually some great ones this time of year.

Here are some past posts about classroom management:

Classroom management is the determining factor on whether your students will be successful during their year with you. A teacher who doesn't have a plan will not be an effective teacher.

When I taught 2nd grade, I used the clip chart and it worked wonderfully. I know that there is some dispute about it being too punitive or embarrassing, but I didn't find that to be the case. I think it has a lot to do with how the teacher approaches it. I used it in a positive way. There was always a chance for a child to turn their day around and make better choices. I focused on that and it was a good thing in my classroom.

In 4th grade, I have focused on a classroom economy. It has been wildly successful! I love it, even thought it is a ton of work. I also like Whole Brain Teaching. I have never fully implemented all the techniques, but the ones I have work great. I have started the last two years with WBT's 5 rules and this year will be the same!

I always start the year by explicitly teaching my expectations. We practice lining up, leaving and coming into the room, walking in the hallway, raising hands, and answering questions. I encourage them and offer extra practice if they struggle to follow the expectations. I am a very strict teacher the first few weeks, as we are all getting to know each other. I can always become more lenient, but it is impossible to move the other way effectively once classroom management has taken a turn for the worst. I am not an ogre, but I hold everyone to a high standard and as the kids get used to that, I can relax a little.

This year I am stepping away from my classroom economy. I am going to try Class Dojo.

I used this toward the end of the year and I really liked it. You can customize the behaviors and message parents and kids!

Online views:
Positive behaviors that I have added for my class.
Negative behaviors for my class.

Here are some iPad views. I open the Class Dojo app, take attendance (so that absent kids won't show up that day - you don't want to give them points on days they aren't at school), and then you just tap to add or subtract points. You can give individual points or select several or all kids at the same time.

I think the messaging feature is the best! I plan on using this for parent communication a lot this year.

There are tons of free resources for Class Dojo on TPT! 

Class Dojo just made class sharing available. So if you are departmentalized, you can share your class with all the teachers.

What do you think?

Dollar Tree Group Organization

Sometimes I can find great things at the Dollar Tree. Yesterday was one of those times.

I put my students in groups of 4 or 5 depending on how many I have in my class. Here is a picture from last August.

So where are these containers going to come in?

The little ones will be for group supplies. I am going to supply a set of markers, 2 scissors, tape, glue, and a box of crayons to each group. It will be up to them to keep track of them. It seems that there is always someone who forgot their scissors at home or has lost their glue. You feel my pain, right?

The large ones are going to be for carrying our iPads when we switch classes. Since the kids will be carrying a notebook, folder, and possibly a supply box, we don't want them to pile on their iPad, too. So one student will carry their group's iPads when we switch.

What do you think?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Cool BTS Finds

I was so excited when I saw these on the top shelf at Walmart. I don't usually spend too much time looking at the top shelf... (I am short.  :)

You slip this over any composition book and voila! It's almost like a binder. Love it.

I put one on my math journal for you to see.

I love that it's clear so the kids can tell whose journal it is, even with supplies in the pouch.

The best part?? They were only 97¢! So of course I got a class set. We are departmentalizing this year, so I am thinking these will be useful.

Next up:

After attending a Gretchen Bernabei workshop and reading up on her writing resources, these are going to come in handy. They are sentence strip post its! She puts a writing rule on an anchor chart and then the kids use that rule in their writing. She asks a few of them to write their sentence using the rule on a sentence strip to add to the anchor chart. 

These probably make me a little too happy...

My cat says hi!

He is a bit of a creeper.

Monday, July 21, 2014

Monday Made It - Personalized Pens

It's Monday again!
Go check out all the wonderful posts!

My principals made pens like these for the entire staff last year! We all got 2. That is a pretty big feat since we have around 100 staff members. They are two great ladies!

These are absolutely my favorite pens. I used them in high school, but I had forgotten all about them until we were handed that thoughtful gift during staff development last year.

You can't find them everywhere, so that is frustrating. I have been looking this week and on my trip to Walmart I found this pack! Yay for me. I might or might not have been in the school supply section...

All you have to do is type up the papers with your name on it.

You want the text to be about 0.3 inches high. If you think that is a little too large when you look at my pictures, than adjust yours a little. Then print and cut them into strips that are about 2.5 inches long. Unscrew the end of the pen, roll up your small strip of paper, slide it in, and screw the end back on. 

Super simple! What do you think?

I am sure you can make yours much cuter than mine, but I wanted something simple.

Happy summer!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Writing Foldable for Journals - BaDaBing!

Click HERE to download!

Gretchen Bernabei shares this great strategy to help our students beef up their sentences. Do you read sentences like these from your students?

I went to the store.

My friend likes my shoes.

He walked home.

Those just don't cut it. Especially in 4th grade!

How about this version?

The young boy sauntered through the park on his way home, when suddenly he saw something glinting in the dry grass. He thought to himself, "Could it be?"

I wish I had some examples of my kids writing from last year. We did this and I couldn't believe the difference! You start with a blah sentence, think about where your feet where, what you saw, and what you were thinking. Kids can try to put it all in one sentence or write several. I don't want to constrict them, since it is all about making their writing more descriptive and full.

Now, how am I going to use the graphic above? It is a flip book for their journals. The yellow piece stays whole, but you cut the flaps apart, so you can lift them like tabs. We will write the blah sentence at the top of the page, then lift the tabs to write what each means underneath. That way they have a reminder of what each symbol means. We will then beef up our blah sentence!

This is something we are going to practice quite a bit at the beginning of the year. I have decided to go back to the basics and build our writing muscles slowly. So we will start with writing sound sentences. You would hope that 4th graders would start the year with sentences that started with capital letters and ended with punctuation, but that hasn't been my experience.

I am also going to share this with my kids. I found it on Pinterest!

It didn't link back to a website.

We will move on to paragraph writing by October. Stay tuned to see my strategy for teaching paragraphs.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Writing Journal Resources

Click HERE to download yours for free!

I have these set up to print 4 to a page. They will be for my kids to reference in their writing.

After these lessons, I will supply these small cards for the kids to tape into their journals.

If you haven't visited this blog, you should. She is a great teacher and posts a lot of teaching resources. She uses Gretchen Bernabei's methods for teaching writing. I got these from her blog post HERE.

I have to say that I am excited about teaching writing this year.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Grammar Cheat Sheet

Click on the picture to download.
I was lucky enough to attend a Gretchen Bernabei Writing Workshop last week. I feel like I learned so much about who to break writing down into manageable pieces for my students!

I think I am pretty good at breaking math down into the basics. There are plenty of steps to follow and I feel like it is just a process to getting kids where they need to be. I have been wanting to know how to do that with writing.

I have a confession to make.

I am not a good grammar teacher. 

Sad day.

Gretchen Bernabei gave me some tools to help me be a better teacher and my kids better writers.

You should definitely check out her website and blog. She posts all kinds of free resources. Her chart is posted there, so I felt like I could share my version with you guys. I took a few things off that we really don't need in 4th grade and made the boxes a little larger to accommodate kids with large or sloppy handwriting.

We will be taping this onto the inside of the back cover of our Grammar journals.

This chart is for the proof kids will write to help them write correctly. Here are some examples of journal entries. We did these during the workshop.

She teaches grammar mini-lessons every day. Then challenges her students to use the proof in their writing. I can't wait to do this with my kids. Here is a list of all the proof she teaches kids.

This is a great way to teach kids to figure out if something is a complete sentence. I will be using this without a doubt! I have been a broken record just asking kids, "Is that a complete thought?" That doesn't really help, but I didn't really know what else to do. Pitiful, I know.

My grammar instruction is going to rock this year!!!
What do you think? Would you use any of this?

Monday, July 14, 2014

Monday Made It: Math Word Wall Cards

I saw a pin... I start way too many conversations with that phrase. Do you?

I love this idea! Click the picture to go to the original post.
I wanted to have a better way to focus on math vocabulary this year and this seems like a great solution! I have cards ready for each unit I will teach this year. I will put them on a ring and hang them under the unit name. They are available for easy access for review whenever we need. 
Great, right?

I'm not going to use the yard sticks. I will just staple the cards for the current unit after we discuss them. I will probably put the unit title and cards underneath the current stapled cards. I will put a picture up in August when I get it set up in my classroom.

I didn't want to pay for the cards, so I did some hunting around the internet. I found a great resource.

These are great, but I wanted mine to have a border. I decided not to color code them by unit because of the wall color and my color scheme. My classroom will be aqua, black, and gray with some white. So multicolored word wall cards wouldn't look too great on my aqua wall...

The unit titles have gray chevron backgrounds and the vocabulary cards have a dark gray background.

You can download all 86 pages of my math word wall cards HERE for free!

Units include:
Place Value
Adding & Subtracting Whole Numbers
Multiplication & Division

Friday, July 11, 2014

Google Form for BTS

This was one of the best things I did last year. You can see I have my form all ready for this year's Back to School night. We have our BTS night the week before school starts, so I won't know any of my kids or parents at this time. Families come to drop off school supplies and meet their new teacher. 

I love that I can email this to parents who don't make it to our BTS night!

This is the one from last year:

I found out that, although it had a lot of good information, it was too long. Parents didn't want to sit at the laptop this long. Plus I didn't really use this information enough to make it necessary.

I think my shorter version will go over much better!

How I Use This Form

  1. Set up 3-4 laptops in the classroom.
  2. Open the link I posted on my class website.
  3. Rotate parents through the laptops. When one finishes, hit the back button, and reopen a new form.
  4. When the night is over, go look at the spreadsheet!
Quick and easy!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Voice Level Poster

These aren't my original words.
I volunteered to make this poster for my principal. She is color coding our building this summer. The hallways will have a strip of blue near the ceiling, letting students know that the hallway is a silent zone. I think she said the cafeteria would be purple. (Don't quote me on that.)

She wanted a poster we can blow up to post around the building and give to all the teachers. That way we can all use the same language when we talk about voice levels. I think this is going to be a great tool to use with our students!

Do you use something similar?

You can get a free copy HERE.