11.05.2016

Calling all 4th grade teachers!



I just have to share this awesome offer but it's only for 4th graders. The U.S. Government is offering every fourth grader free passes to U.S. national parks! All you have to do, as a teacher, is register on the website and print the passes. No strings attached, nothing else to do. How great is that?

You can get passes for your students here: Every Kid In A Park


9.13.2016

Pencil Problem Solved!

So I've had this issue with pencils for the last year or so. You see, I bought a really great electric sharpener from a catalog. It had awesome reviews and was supposed to stand up to really heavy use. Supposed to... key words there. The problem is that a classroom full of students who will stick anything (such as crayons, paper clips, and even scissors) into the sharpener is a different level of "heavy use" than these manufacturers are referring to.

Within about 3 months, it was groaning and grinding and sounding like it was ready to die. Every time I sharpened one of the cheap pencils (You know the ones I'm talking about), the leads would just fall out. The thing was so noisy, I banned the students from using it at all during the school day. My dreams of a constant supply of sharp pencils at the ready were over and I gave up trying to find the perfect pencil sharpener. I even started this school year out with nothing. For the first two weeks, I relied on the supply of pre-sharpened pencils some of the kids had brought in.

Then, this came in the mail....


Now, I am not one to write product reviews (unless I really HATE something and feel that the world needs to know). But this sharpener has changed my life! Yeah, really... at least my life between the hours of 7:30 am and 2:30 pm.

First off, yes it is a manual sharpener. Let's get that out of the way. But don't worry... this is not like the manual sharpeners you're accustomed to. 

The first thing I thought when I opened the box was, "Hmm, nice color." (It actually comes in a lot of colors - take your pick!) Blue matches my classroom. The next thing I thought was, "No way this is going to be better than an electric." I mean who wants a line of kids standing and waiting to sharpen their pencils, right? Boy, was I wrong.
  1. This sharpener is FAST. A couple of turns (as in 2 or 3) and you're done.
  2. This sharpener is QUIET. Barely any sound at all.
Using this sharpener is a little bit different than any other kind. You don't just stick the pencil in and start turning. Here's a quick video from Classroom Friendly Supplies that shows how it works...


Looks easy, right? It is! My third graders have no problem using it at all. Now the video shows the pencil being sharpened until the guide plate goes all the way in but this really isn't necessary. Just a couple of turns produces perfectly sharpened points...


I am able to sharpen a full pack of pencils in the same amount of time that it took me with my electric sharpener with none of the problems (like loose lead and gnawed up looking wood).

So where can you get one of these lovelies for yourself? Go to ClassroomFriendlySupplies.com or click the image below:



They are super affordable (way less than a "good" electric one) and you get to choose your color. I highly recommend this company!



8.15.2016

Back 2 School Blog Hop & Giveaway


Wow, back to school time already! I can hardly believe it. Summer really flew by and my family is in the middle of moving to a new house right now (during the first week of school!!!). So instead of my usual month of obsessive pre-planning, I've been packing and living out of boxes. Yes, it's insane, I know. I actually considered going into full panic mode today. But then I decided it would be better to to take a deep breath, pray, and focus on just one little thing at a time. Whew!

So, today my goal is to get my Friday folders ready. Sending papers home used to be a real pain in the you-know-what. Sorting them into student mailboxes every day, getting them from the mailboxes into the students' folders on Friday afternoon, and then into backpacks seemed like a monumental task or at least a never-ending one. But I've come up with a system that really works and is absolutely ZERO work for me. My students do it all. What was that? No work, students do it all, tell me more!

First, I got some plastic envelopes like these...


These particular ones from Amazon are a little pricey but they last all year and never fall apart. Even the little snaps kept working. In fact, they held up so well, I was able to save about half of them to reuse this year (unheard of!). See, here are some left over from last year. They still look pretty good...


Next, I get hanging files and put them in plastic crate like this...


I have one file for each student. These don't have names on them yet because I don't have my final class list.

Now, here's where the zero work for teacher comes in. I keep a paper tray next to my Friday folders where I toss all of my graded papers and things to send home. The stack just keeps growing, but I don't care because students will take care of it. 


These are the two most important jobs in my classroom. The paper filer checks the paper tray every day and files all of the papers into the hanging files. He or she does this whenever there's some free time, when their work is finished early, or sometimes in the morning before the bell rings. Then on Friday, my Friday Folders person takes the papers out of each student's file, puts them into their envelopes, and passes them out to go home. Totally painless!

Now I don't just send these folders home and hope the parents look in them. Inside each one is a parent log sheet. Parents sign off that they looked at their child's papers and then send the folder back in on Monday. The log sheet looks like this...

(Download an editable version HERE.)

I fill in all the Friday dates for the year so I never have to think about it again. The log just stays in the Friday folder. And since the folders are transparent, I don't even have to open them to see if it was signed.

This is the PERFECT paper management system for me and I hope it helps you too! Now that I've gotten you all excited about organizing your papers (woo-hoo!!), how about a giveaway? That's right... you could actually WIN something for reading this far! We're giving away a $50 TpT gift card and some awesome goodies. Check it out (and enter!)...

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Thanks for visiting! You can continue to the next stop on the blog hop by clicking the apple below:




8.13.2016

Classroom Decor... or Not

This week was pre-planning and I really got almost nothing done. I just can't figure out what to do with my room. I don't like distraction and clutter and lots of stuff. Most of the other teachers have cute themes in their rooms but it's visual overload to me. So my room tends to look pretty plain and dare I say, boring, compared to everyone else's. 

So far this is what I've got...



As you can see, I'm painting my walls light blue. (They're actually finished now.) I figure it's a nice calm color. But I have no idea where to go from here. I did make some things to hang on the walls...


I also put up our schedule...









And that's about it. School starts on Monday!!! How will I ever be ready? Is it ok to decorate later? Will the kids be sad about their plain room? Stay tuned...


Math Workshop Teacher Tips

Have I mentioned lately how much I love math workshop? I'm sitting here looking through my math games and centers and thinking how different teaching math used to be. Math games were relegated to the little bits of free time I could carve out of our day. But when you follow a workshop model, the kids gets plenty of hands-on practice using games and activities. Plus, you get the benefit of working with your students in small groups. There's really no better way to teach math. 

So today, I am really excited to share with you an awesome free e-book full of tips, ideas, and resources for starting math workshop in your classroom! I was invited to collaborate on this project by Literacy Loves Company and I think it turned out great.


To get your free copy, just click on the cover picture above. I'm still setting up my classroom for the new school year, but once it's ready, I'll be posting some pictures of my math centers and rotation chart. So be sure to come back...


5.03.2016

Teacher Appreciation Gifts For YOU!

Wow, it's May already and my favorite week of the school year.... Teacher Appreciation Week! Teaching is a lot more than just hanging out with kids all day. You are one of the most important people in your students' lives and you work hard to make a difference! So THANK YOU for all that you do.

To show my appreciation for my fellow teachers, I've got some awesome surprises for you!










And last but not least... don't miss out on the Teachers Pay Teachers special TEACHER APPRECIATION SALE!!! Click the image to visit my store for 28% off of everything (even my big, already discounted bundles!)...



Have a wonderful week!!

3.05.2016

Earth Day Posters Freebie!

Earth Day is coming up in a few short weeks (April 22). Here are some Earth Day posters you can grab for free!

Earth Day Posters

Just click the image to get them from my TpT store. Enjoy!

2.22.2016

Guided Math 101

Guided small-group reading has been around for a looong time. In fact, in most districts, it's a required part of the literacy block. And for good reason... Guided reading provides differentiation for students and lets the teacher keep close tabs on where each child is as a reader. It's become a best practice in the world of education. What I can't figure out is why guided math hasn't found the same level of discipleship.

Once a child learns letters and sounds and basic phonics skills, reading becomes more of a practice in a specific set of comprehension skills - word meaning, main idea, author's purpose, inferencing, cause and effect, and so forth. There's not much new in reading from third grade on except for text complexity. My third graders are learning about character traits in folktales right now while my high school daughter has been discussing character traits in Shakespeare. If I don't quite get main idea this year, I'll get it again next year and again and again and again.

Math is different. Math continues to build and change from year to year. Math in third grade looks NOTHING like math in high school. In fact, I cannot even begin to decipher one of my daughter's trigonometry problems. (It looks like gibberish to me - a third grade math teacher).

In math, if I miss something essential early on, I may find myself falling farther and father behind because that skill likely won't be explicitly taught again next year. Actually, it may never be taught again.

So why, when teaching essential math skills that can make or break future mathematical success, shouldn't we embrace guided instruction?

Yeah, I know... we teachers have enough on our plates. But planning for guided math isn't all that hard. You just need 3 things: a spot to meet with your groups, a rotation schedule, and some math centers. Let's talk about each of these...

1. A Spot to Meet - I would guess that the majority of teachers use their "reading table" to meet with small groups. Why can't it also be a "math table"? I don't even use a table at all. I meet with students on the rug in front of my big whiteboard easel. This gives us a place to spread out with manipulatives, math journals, individual whiteboards, or whatever else we need. I LOVE my whiteboard easel because I can use it to model strategies and the kids can use it to share their work. It looks like this:


Notice how the picture of my classroom shows the easel close to the ground? Yeah, that's right, my easel can be raised and lowered! Did I tell you that I love it? I use it every, single day, usually multiple times. Best $70 I ever spent (yay Amazon!)

2. A Rotation Schedule - This is actually the trickiest part of guided math groups. But it's no different than scheduling your reading groups. I can't tell you exactly how to do it because each class is unique. It will depend mainly on the number of students and how much time you have each day. However, one thing that should be the same across all classrooms: your groups should be fluid and based on your formative assessments and observations and you should meet with your low groups as much as possible. (Don't forget your high ones though! They need enrichment and can be pushed further than the curriculum goes.)

3. Math Centers - These won't look the same for everyone. Your grade level, standards, and student abilities will dictate your centers. One thing to remember though: Keep it simple! Math centers can quickly get out of hand if you give too many choices or constantly change them. I like to use the same 4 every week:

  • Technology (math websites and apps) - Scootpad, Frontrow, IXL, are all good choices if you don't know where to start.
  • Partner Work
  • Games
  • Task Cards
I also count "Meet With Teacher" as a rotation. 

Guided math takes a little bit of time to set up, just like reading groups do, but it's well worth it! Once I implemented it in my classroom, I saw a dramatic change in the amount of math learning that was happening and a positive change in the "mathitude" of my students. 

If you need some help setting up your centers and structuring your groups, you might like to check out my Math Workshop Starter Kit on TpT:

Math Workshop
If you do guided math in your classroom, please leave a comment below with your best tip. I can always use some new ones! Here's my #1 tip: Go to Home Depot or Lowes and get a piece of shower board cut into small rectangles (12x15 works well). They make perfect individual whiteboards that can be used during your math groups. Students will also use them at centers to work out problems. They are invaluable! For erasers, just cut up an old towel or use old socks. 


1.19.2016

Hooray For A Sale!


I'm really excited for a January sale! Click the image above to visit my store and save 28% on everything - even already discounted bundles! Happy shopping!
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