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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.

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.

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.  

July 16, 2019

Back to School: Organizing Supplies

It's really the little things that make me feel all warm and fuzzy - like a neatly organized supply drawer.  Throughout the last 20 summers, I have been a collector of school supplies.  Kind of crazy to think about the amount of supplies that passes through a classroom.  I've done independent, and I've done collaborative, and here's what I've learned works for me in the classroom.  

Collaborative items - I store these in drawers by my sink.  I have large baskets that are kept on top of the counter, and when students need something for their group they go "shopping" in the drawers, taking what they need, and then putting them away when done.  

Independent items - Students store these in pencil pouches.  For years I bought pencil boxes and just about had a heart attack with all the banging/falling/noises that came from them.  Since switching to 5th grade, I bumped to pencil pouches and that holds everything they need at their desks.  The first week of school I pass out the black sharpies and they label everything (and their pencil pouch) inside with their class number, so it's easy to trace the random floor supplies back to the correct owner.  

Let's talk supplies - the links on here are NOT affiliate links, it's just what I found that I want to share with you that have worked great.

Markers - Collaborative
Markers are kept in quart size plastic bags in our drawer.  I get a mixture of both the thin and thick markers at the back to school sales.  We only use them for our group projects, and we switch classes, so it's easier for me to glance at them after a project to see that all caps have been put on.  I only put out half our supply of markers at the beginning of the year, and save the other half until January.  

Crayons - Collaborative
Crayons are kept in those little Dollar Tree soap boxes.  They seem to hold up better when they are in something sturdy.  Same thing - I save half of them until January.  At that point all the "old" markers and crayons go into a tub that are used when needed.  

Sharpies - Collaborative
These I keep in a separate box (away from the group supplies).  I pass them out when needed.  My colorful ones are kept separate than the black only ones.  Every year I always get myself a new pack of colorful sharpies, and I add my old set to the big tub.  It's been a way to save from replacing it all at once.  

Pencils and Erasers- Independent 
I started up the Great Pencil Challenge years ago.  I give the students 2 pencils at the beginning of the year and it's the challenge to keep them as long as possible.  I only give students a new pencil at the beginning of each trimester, and I have a tub of lost pencils that students can use when they misplace theirs.  They learn pretty fast that they have to keep track of their stuff. 

Whiteboards - Independent
For a long time I kept clipboards in a tub on the side of the room, kids grabbed one when needed.  Then I switched to these whiteboard clip boards that have a very small profile.  Since they are used also as our whiteboards, they slide in their desks for a moment notice.  Kids have to be in charge of them, or else they lose them (and just use their folder and a piece of paper instead).

Expos - Independent
They get a total of up to 3 markers through the year, one per trimester.  They keep them in their pencil pouch.  I give them one at the beginning of the year with the knowledge that they have to keep it until 2nd trimester, then 3rd.  If they run out early, they just switch to paper and pencil during whiteboard time.  It's not a big deal, and it saves me a lot of money. 

Rulers - Collaborative
Rulers are not toys.  Rulers are not swords.  Rulers are not light sabers.  There's a lot of things I say throughout the year.  They are kept in the drawer and are pulled out when needed.  

Scissors - I have had the same class set of scissors since my early days of teaching.  Switching to 5th graders, I am in the process of bumping them to the adult size.  They are kept in the drawer too - same thing:  Scissors are not toys.  We do not cut our arm hair.  We do not play with them.  Since the classes switch, I wanted to keep them handy for all classes.  

Tidy Tubs -  Collaborative
In the drawers I have a stack of little nesting tubs (Dollar Tree) that the kids pull out when they are cutting little pieces.  It makes clean up so much simpler.  

Glue Sticks -  Independent and Collaborative
Each of my students have a glue stick in their pencil pouch.  Last year I turned it into another challenge and I refused to give out new ones until the end of the trimesters.  For back to school I tried out the Target brand jumbo glue sticks - Up and Up brand.  They worked PERFECT and most lasted the entire year.  I'm going BIG again this year.  I keep a class set of glue sticks for the other classes that come in too.  

Highlighters - Independent
Each of my students get a package of 5-6 colored highlighters at the beginning of the year - the brand changes based on what's on sale - I don't want to spend more than $2.50 per set.  This is where I spent the most of my supply budget, but I really believe in the different colors for different purposes.  We use them for Rainbow editing, for vocabulary, for notes, for our Sense making Science notebooks...  so many uses when you have multiple colors available.  

I hope this helps someone with all the stuff that kids use on a daily basis.  Just my thoughts on how to organize the chaos.  Have a great day!