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July 19, 2019

Back to School: I ALWAYS Do This!!!


I love how things have changed over the course of my career with the addition of social media.  That girl (my first, second, third, fourth, fifth years of teaching) - all alone, teaching a single grade level without a team... would have LOVED social media to bounce ideas off of.  Switching grade levels would have been a little easier.  With the addition of TPT, life in the classroom has become so much simpler.  There is something there for almost everything I need, and if there isn't, then I have learned that I am capable of creating something myself.  

That all being said, I wanted to take a moment with an end of summer reminder of something you should put on your to do list before you head back to the chaos of setting up a classroom.   


Log onto your TPT account, slide into your purchases, and give feedback to all those products that you have used.  You earn points every time you review a paid product.  Those points can add up to a lot of free materials... now is the time to review so you are ready to go for that Back to School TPT sale (it's usually always the beginning of August).  As you can see, I'm not just preaching to the choir - I have a ton to review as well.  



Then change the sort by to Recently Updated and download all the updated materials.  Under each item in your purchases that has been updated you will see that red writing.  I'm so glad that TPT has added that Description of Update - it makes it easy to see what's new.   


Last, if your teaching buddy would love a copy of something you have used, maybe gift her/him an additional license.  

As for everything else that will have to happen in the classroom - here's my to do list that I follow pretty much every year.  I start it at the end of the school year to get my list together, and then add to it when I'm locked out of the classroom waiting for my keys.  It has lists and pages to fill in, PLUS it's a freebie.  Hope it helps someone!


July 18, 2019

Back to School: Setting Up Those Notebooks



Setting up those notebooks are a big task, but it's one that my class tackles the first week of school.  I really believe that my taking the time to do it all at the beginning, that it makes it easier to keep it organized the rest of the year.

For years I had 5 notebooks per student.  Reading, Writing, Math, Social Studies, and Science.  I was happy with that for years, other than there were still a lot of empty pages at the end of the year... Then switching to 5th grade I decided to try and only use 4 notebooks to see if I could get away with it, and it worked (plus it's cheaper)!

The last 2 years we have used four notebooks - Reading/Writing (we just call it ELA and divide it in half), Math, SS, and Science.  The first time we pull out the notebooks, we start out labeling the front covers and pulling out the highlighters.  That's something that I do - every student has a set of multiple colors of highlighters.  It's important to me to have different colors for different purposes.

Each notebook gets its own color highlighter.  I used to stand in Walmart during the back to school sales counting out 35 of specific colors (32 kids plus a couple of extras if kids move and come).  Then I realized that I could order them for about the same price through my district warehouse - the con is that they are all Black and White covers and look exactly the same.  To solve this issue, the kids take the specific color (that we all have only that one out) and holding the book closed, color the bottom of the notebook pages to be that certain color.

Last year:
Math - purple
ELA - green
Social Studies - orange
Science - blue

It really doesn't matter what color, as long as EVERYONE has the same color.  Looking in their desks they will be able to see that color easily and can pull out the correct notebook in record time.

Math Notebook - This is the notebook that we don't do much in until we are actually making the pages together throughout the units.  We do write in the Math Practices, a problem solving acronym, and this year I want them to also to write out a multiplication chart (they can do it by memorization and by using their table if they need).  Then the rest of the book is set up by units.

ELA - like I mentioned above, this notebook I let the pages fall down the middle.  The beginning half is our Writing/Grammar focus, the back half is all about Reading.  At the beginning of the year we go page by page (mine under the document camera) writing the headings for each page.  That's it, only the headings.  Everyone is literally on the same page, and it helps down the road when it's time to go back and fill in those specific areas with our brainstormed anchor charts.

Writing/Grammar:
The first pages we have the following:
-conventions that 5th graders are expected to ALWAYS use
-2 pages each (double spread) for each type of writing they are expected to master: Narrative, Summary, Informational, Research, Opinion - we go back to draw in graphic organizer examples
-one page per part of speech
-one page per type of figurative language
-then the rest of the Writing pages are for our weekly Mentor Sentences (they don't fill those in at this point).  Each mentor sentence needs a double spread.

Reading:
The back half of the book has the same type of thing - page by page, just the headings:
-Book List (this is where we write all the books that we read together both Mentor Sentences, Read Alouds, and Class Novels) - needs 2-4 pages
-Each genre gets it's own page.  We go back later to add definitions and specific examples/opinions.
-one page per comprehension strategy
-one page per text structure
-half page per common theme (I've tried it with quarter pages as well, it works UNLESS the kids write huge.)
-when we did AR the kids also had a running list of books they read by themselves and would make checkmarks when they had taken a test, nowadays they just keep track on their 40 Book Challenge paper (that is kept in their classwork folder).
-In the very back of the notebook, we take the last 5ish pages for our academic vocabulary words.
-Most novel work is done outside of the notebook when we do Novel Notes (in addition to the novel vocabulary words), but I do add at least a little bit into the notebook so the kids can see their own growth as a reader.

It's free if you need it! 

Overall, I love having both in the same notebook.  It's a ready reference that they really do refer back to.

Science and Social Studies: Both notebooks don't really get started until the first units (later on in the first/second week), but here's the quick run down.  In both subjects, I try to implement a lot of GLAD strategies.  When we start a unit, the kids write the unit title in the middle of the page in that specific notebook.  I have related images (just found on Google) that I have printed out and have sitting around the room, and the kids wander around making observations and wonderings in their notebook on that initial unit page.  They then head back to their groups to brainstorm and make a long list of both, then we share full class.

Each unit also has a vocabulary page where we continue to add content vocabulary words throughout the unit.

For Social Studies we make a 4 square for each article we read (in addition to the close read highlighting we do on the article):
-Important Dates and what happened
-People and Places mentioned
-Main Idea(s)
*4th quadrant - I choose one of the non-fiction comprehension strategies to focus on.

For Science - we add the NGSS Science Practices and the Cross Cutting Concepts at the beginning of the notebook, and a list of Science Sentence Stems for our discussion.  We refer back to them to see where each activity lines up... I think it helps kids to see the purpose.

Woah - another long post.  I hope this helps someone.


July 17, 2019

Back to School: Behavior and Motivation


Back to school means starting from the ground floor... again... It's a good thing for a refresh, but it's also draining as ever.  Let's just keep it real.  On the first or second day of school my class brainstorms this anchor chart.  We first talk about what we want our classroom to look like and what we want it to sound like.  They brainstorm in their groups, and then we share out and write it all down.  We look at all our brainstorms and it always boils down to respect... every year it always boils down to that one word.  Respect for yourself, respect for others, respect for our school...  So with that in mind, we write on this chart exactly what it means to Work Hard and Be Kind - practical, real-life examples.  

Then I tell them how I'm going to monitor their progress.  (Now most of these things I started back in fourth grade and moved it up with me.  When it's something that works, you don't change it... you just modify it to keep it the motivation fresh.)


Color Teams - it's our way to monitor group work.  Color teams are their table groups.  I have their color names on the board, and they can earn points for their team through teamwork, participation, etc.  It's a competition between the teams, and every week it resets.  "Winning" team(s) - because they can tie - win a prize on Friday afternoons.  It's something of my own choosing.  Maybe a reward card, or a piece of candy, or a new pencil... I mix it up.  
 Class Dojo is our independent motivation.  I have it set up with positive points (and some consequences as well).  The kids get reward cards when they reach certain milestones.  I log in first thing in the morning, and it's on a tab all day long.


For whole class motivation, I use Teacher vs. Student points on the corner of my board (similar to Whole Brain Teaching).  I've done it for years.  The ENTIRE class exceeding expectations and they get a point.  The moments that students as a group are not making good choices (could definitely improve) they start to spell out RECESS.  I used to just do a tally mark in 4th, but these 5th graders need to know their consequence.  In 6th grade they spell out ESSAY (5 letters), spelling our RECESS (6 letters) gives them more chances to turn it around.  What I've noticed over the years, is that if they have to serve it one time - just one time - then they never all want to lose it again.  Yep - ALL of them lose recess, they would have to stay inside with me and write me a letter of what they were doing to contribute to the letters, and what they promise to do in the future so it doesn't happen again.  Switching back to positive - the Student points add up to Fun Friday minutes - STEM time or a class game, an extra art project...  It's called motivation.

So, that's what I do in a nutshell.  Hope it helps someone.