Image Map

December 30, 2015

Classroom Treat Fund

My students will do just about anything for a treat, and they have this almost obsession with bringing in change for different causes. As a school we've collected change for Pennies for Polio, brought in change for the Holiday Shop, etc.  I saw this ice cream bank from Shop Bando (my newest favorite online store) and I was compelled to buy it for my classroom.  I don't have a lot of spare funds to get treats for my kids, but maybe if we work as a class then we can have them a little more often on a Friday afternoon.  Find a penny?  Add it to the bank!  Don't need the quarter?  Add it to the bank!  Class gets a compliment from another teacher?  I'll add to the bank!  When we reach enough, then we can vote for our class party... maybe hot chocolate in the winter, or popcorn during silent reading, or an otter pop on a warm afternoon.  Just something to make learning extra fun... with a side of motivation tucked in there too.  I'm so excited to share this with my students.  

December 29, 2015

Starry Night and Factor Flowers

This year I decided to do something different for their parent gifts.  I had them create Van Gogh's Starry Night on an 8 x 10 construction paper.  I've done the project in the past using pastels, sometimes with watercolors, but this time I chose this mixed-media design by Deep Space Sparkle.  It involved tempera paint, pastels, and construction paper - all completed in about one hour.  I liked how she broke down the steps and made it super easy for students to visualize the project.  

When completed the projects were put into Dollar Tree frames, and wrapped up for parents.  The Dollar Tree cashier just looked at my cart with 34 frames and said that I must be a teacher... I guess it showed.  :)  

The week before break we started our Fraction unit... which starts with a lesson on Factors.  We've been doing Factors for a while, so it wasn't anything new... to make it a little special I had them create poinsettias (or their version of poinsettias).  I gave them either a piece of pink or red construction paper and a piece of black.  They folded up the pink/red into smaller rectangles and cut out the petals, then had to create 4 petal flowers that were glued onto the black background.  Each petal had one factor number pair.  For example if they chose the main number of 24 - the petals had 1 x 24, 2 x 16, 3 x 8, and 4 x 6 written on them.  So many main numbers had exactly 4 factor pairs, so these flowers have a lot of variety.  It also makes my classroom look extra happy.  :)  Just a little thing to combine math with art... and that makes my students a little more engaged the week before break.  

What parent gifts did you give this year?  How do you solidify the factor concept?  Please share!

December 28, 2015

Sugar Cube Missions

That day before break, I once again had my students create Sugar Cube Missions.  It's pretty simple to create and it doesn't give me a headache.  :)  I should explain that the last day before break it's basically a full day party in our PJs.  

Here's our schedule:
Before PE/Recess: Correct HW, Listen to the choir singing, open presents (so I can write thank you notes during the movie), start watching the movie "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory".

Between Recess and Lunch: Play a Book Swap game (like the White Elephant game) - students bring in a book and then we pick numbers, choose books, and swap when needed.  It's fun and totally optional.  We also watched the rest of the movie and had hot chocolate (in the crockpot) with popcorn cups.

After Lunch: Friend Friday Reading (partner reading), Sugar Cube Missions, clean up/pack up, Fun Friday with the grade level.  

See - an easy fun day!  

Families were asked to bring in sugar cubes and white frosting.  I picked up a couple of lasagna boxes (for the roofs), spice drops (for bells), and then pulled out our candy box and grabbed other options (peppermint candies, smarties).  The leftover marshmallows from our hot chocolate that morning also were pulled out for use.  Each student was given a heavy duty paper plate, and they went to work creating their mission. 

Now why do I do missions, instead of gingerbread houses?  Because we have been knee deep in learning about them. We learned about how the Spanish built them, and all the disasters that have occurred.   

This year it wasn't raining (Praise God!), so we completed the creating outside.  One long piece of butcher paper kept everything neat and tidy.  Super easy to just roll up the paper afterward to throw away.  When done the students had the option of doing an "Earthquake Challenge".  They had to walk to the far building and back while carrying their creations.  If they didn't fall apart then they were deemed earthquake proof.  When we do this inside the challenge is to maneuver through the desks in an obstacle course.  It's fun and an easy way to see who will be able to carry them home at the end of the day.  

How did you celebrate winter break with your students?  

December 27, 2015

Christmas at Home

Hi Everyone!  I hope you are having a fabulous break.  Goodness knows, we NEED it!  I wanted to share a few pictures of what my Christmas has consisted of so far... I love this time with my family.  

 My boys have kept me busy.  Hubby had to work a lot last week, so I had my boys help tackle all those before Christmas projects... We hosted the big family meal (which meant a lot of extra cleaning since my parents and inlaws would be coming over - ha ha), so to keep the boys busy I had them make the place cards and decorations for the table.  These little trees were wooden doll bodies that they painted in different shades of green, and then decorated with puffy paint.  I had these little star/snowflake stickers that they attached to toothpicks, and placed in the top hole of the tree.  All in all they were so cute and helped make our table festive.  

I had to go to the grocery store on Christmas Eve for fresh bread and ended up finding three of these five drawer units too.  It's a wonder what the grocery store carries... Now, my boys didn't know it at the time, but they were getting new "big kid" desks and I wanted everything organized... no more pencil boxes upon pencil boxes of art supplies.  I ended up taking rainbow color stickers to help them sort their supplies and they fit perfectly on the shelves of their new desks.  

My older boys have been using folding tables as desks for the past 2 school years, so between their excitement over a real desk, and my kindergartener's excitement over having a big boy desk - well it made for a happy, functional Christmas present.  

We hosted the big (both sides of the family) dinner on Christmas.  It's a family favorite to have Party Chicken so I wanted to share the recipe with you.  :)  It's a flattened chicken breast, with a chunk of swiss cheese and a piece of ham tucked in the middle... then rolled up within a slice of bacon, and held together with one or two toothpicks.  Yes, it was delicious... then the sauce is cream of mushroom with sour cream (equal parts), and optional to add a little cream of sherry.  Bake for 3 hours at 275...  We had this and lobster tails, Napa Cabbage Salad, Baked Mac and Cheese (since the kids aren't adventurous), and Roasted Green Beans.  So good...

Hope your holiday was fabulous!  

December 9, 2015

Charlotte's Web Writing Craft

I'm just going back in time, catching up on what's been new this year.  This is the first year I am incorporating writing into novel art projects.  When we finished Charlotte's Web, the students took a piece of red paper and folded it to make a barn, the outside edges have white crayon X's on the barn doors, with the brown piece of paper for the roof.  They then used pink and gray paper to create Wilbur and Templeton, with a black sharpie to create Charlotte's Web, and a plastic black spider glued onto the web.  Their writing was pretty simple, they wrote about their favorite part of the book. 

December 7, 2015

The One and Only Ivan

Oh Ivan... We finished the book the week before Thanksgiving, so for a culminating opinion writing activity my students created their own version of Ivan.

I took 2 shades of gray construction paper and cut them into 3 different sizes.  
The dark gray was 9 x 12, the light gray were 9 x 6 and another 4.5 x 6.  

To create Ivan:
1.  The students took their fists and placed it on the top of the dark gray paper.  They drew a large half circle around their fist to create Ivan's head.  From there we drew diagonal lines from the base of his head to the outer edge of the paper for his shoulders.  We then cut out that portion of the paper.  We moved to his feet and made 2 cuts into the paper as far as their scissors would reach with one snip.  From there we cut a curved lines on each side from his shoulders to his feet.  

2.  The light gray paper was a different story.  The students took the larger of the 2 pieces, and turned it horizontal.  We drew a W on the top middle, then cut it out for Ivan's chest.  Then we drew a large U from the outer edges of the W.   You can see the shape in the pictures.  :)  This became Ivan's belly, where they had to write their opinion paragraph.

3.  For Ivan's head, we took the smallest of the papers and drew a large heart on it, then we drew an oval at the base for his mouth.  We cut out the outside lines of the heart and oval, then glued it down so we couldn't see any of the other lines. 

4.  They then had to write an opinion paragraph on where they felt that animals should live.   

December 5, 2015

Stickers and Folders - They Help!

This week I was reflecting on the new things that have worked well this school year, those things that I use on a daily basis that didn't cost me any money.  Maybe they can help you too, or maybe you have done it for years and somehow I was the last to the party. :) 


At the beginning of the year I put stickers on all their name tags.  Just these four colors to divide them up into 4 basic teams.  These have made it so easy to have them easily split up for grouping.  

For example:
*Yellows find a blue... Reds find a green... (16 groups)
*Or all yellows head to corner #2 (4 groups)
*Or one of each color in a group (8 groups)

These aren't for everything, but when I want to mix them up and still give them a little choice about their partner/group, then it works well.  I waited until about the 3rd week of school before I added the stickers to the name tags, since I wanted to make sure I knew who I wanted to be in which color (making sure what students should be together vs. separate). 


This year I also implemented these 3 folders.  Super easy... I usually have specific dates that things are due.  Reading logs are due on Thursday, Grammar and Spelling on Friday.  In the past I would always have things come in on the specific days and then I would be grading all weekend long...  This year I decided to let kids turn things in early.  By using these 3 folders it keeps it all organized.  Every morning the kids come in and get out their homework.  Their math stays on their desk to correct, but if they have any of these three done early they hand them to me directly so I can sort them immediately.   I'm usually standing by my desk during morning work/getting organized time as kids are bringing up their materials. By letting them turn it in early I know they won't lose their papers, and I'm able to start grading the early birds early on in the week.  This has really cut down on my end of the week grading.  

I'm sure you have other ah-ha moments to share!  I hope this helped you in some way.  :)  

November 29, 2015

Mission History Freebie

Know what I love? FREEBIES!  Click the link above to snatch up this Mission History Freebie with you.  It's a peace offering because this little blog has been sitting pretty empty for a while, and I'm sorry about that.  This school year has just done me in... between teaching 32 kids and carting my own 3 boys to school with me... and then homework, grading, cooking, laundry, cleaning, and... and... and... I'm just tired.  

I sometimes wonder if anyone ever comes over to check to see what I've been up to, wonders where I've been... or if everyone already sees my posts over at IG or FB and knows I haven't jumped off the bridge (yet).  ;)  Just kidding...

So, let's talk for a moment about how my classroom is going this year.  This Fall at our PD we were told that we would be doing RCD - ELA (SS) this coming year.  I didn't even know what that was... the acronyms change all the time, but I've learned it's Rigorous Curriculum Development, and my grade level would be taking our Social Studies curriculum and diving deeper to apply our reading standards in a new content area... to make the units integrated.  Sounded great until the part that we needed to find resources to do that...

So I started researching our different units and created reading passages for what my students need to know.  Those informative, interesting, and fun facts that glue their attention year after year.  The passages led to spiral strategy grids... which led to thinking maps... which led to comprehension questions... which led to unit tests... which led to research opportunities for my students to grow deeper with their knowledge.  

California History Reading Passage BUNDLE (5 products - 22

I have always LOVED teaching my kids about our California History, but this year it has really flourished with these passages in addition to the research, writing, and activities that we were already doing.  

California History Bundle (8 Products)

Reminder: this Monday and Tuesday everything will be on sale over at TPT.  Don't forget to use the code (though if you do forget you can contact their customer service to get some help).  

Have a great day!

October 30, 2015

Owl Week

Wanna see something gross?  Yes, please!

I love focusing on owls during the month of October.  We have a full week of everything owls - we read the mentor text Owl Moon, do a paired owl passage, and then complete Owl Pellets.  This year my class was fortunate to have Donors Choose donors fund this project for us.  We were given a class set of pellets, forceps, owl posters, gloves, and a nonfiction owl book as part of our project.  

Once again it was a hit. The kids got down and dirty, and some wonderful parents were there to help the kids.  Some parents spritzed the pellets with spray bottles, some parents offered encouragement.  I always do this project outside - 2 huge pieces of butcher paper create a "table" for the kids.  Each partner group has a styrofoam plate (because of all the water that is used to break up the pellet a paper plate just won't do).  Each student also received a little bathroom cup to collect their bones and a pair of those blue forceps.  I used to use metal tweezers, but these blue ones do not get lost as easily.  I switched this year to the little bathroom cups since with big bowls they never clean the gunk off as well.  When done, they dump their little batch of bones into a snack size ziplock bag and then head inside to sort and label their bones using the information sheet from Ideas by Jivey... Who am I kidding?  I use a lot from Ideas by Jivey during this owl week of learning!  

Owl Moon Mentor Sentence Lesson & Interactive Activity        Bats, Owls, and Spiders Paired Texts Grades 4-8 (Construct

Owl Moon: Figurative Language FreebieOWLS: Common Core Nonfiction Unit for Grades 3-4

Hope this helped!

October 29, 2015

Charlotte's Web Dialogue Practice

Remember that time I tore a book a part to use it in a lesson? Yeah, I did that last week.  

We have started really working on narratives, specifically we were looking closely at dialogue and the kids needed to see ALL the different parts - the quotation marks, the punctuation, the REST of the quote...  so I tore up a Charlotte's Web book (that was already ripped in half), and each student ended up with a different page.  

Charlotte's Web is the novel we have been reading for the past 3 weeks anyway, so they were familiar with the story and the different chapters. I had them glue the page to the middle of the colored copy paper, and they had to rewrite 4 different quotes - one had to be from the page that they were given, the others could be something that stuck out for them in the book.


The kids really GOT this activity.  As they turned them in, so many of them had to go back to look at it once again... to fix this or that.  Did you know that quotations marks need 2 sets?  That you can't forget the comma or the punctuation mark before the second set of quotation marks? That usually there is more to the quote, for instance how the character is saying it?  So many little things that the kids learned.  I counted this as really good practice that was relative. I've already seen improvements in their narratives.  Win win! 

October 27, 2015

Ecosystem Dioramas

We've been working on ecosystems in my classroom.  LOVE the energy that the students have when they are learning about the different places.  Every year I have them create a diorama to "showcase" their special choice.  This year I decided to make it a formal project, and added clip art to help them with their thinking.

They were first allowed to choose an ecosystem from 4 choices (Ocean, Arctic, Forest, and Rainforest).  I gave them a piece of construction paper that had been precut and they decorated their background.  I put some options on the board as ideas, but being the copy cheapskate that I am, I didn't print them off for them.  :)

I did print out the specific ecosystem animal and grid sheets so they could focus on details for their dioramas.  The sheets are filled with animals on the top, and the grid on the bottom portion.  

Students filled in the grid and then glued it onto the back of their diorama.  They had to identify producers, consumers, prey, predator, living, and nonliving parts of the ecosystem.  It was then easy for me to use the included rubric to give a grade - did they really understand the concepts?

I loved all the unique ecosystems that they created.  I also loved that I didn't get a headache, and that the project didn't take forever to accomplish.  :)  Little things people!  

Create an Ecosystem Diorama {Forest, Ocean, Rainforest, an

Check it out!  Hope you had a great day!