Image Map

July 22, 2019

A Big List of ALL the Novels I Read

Switching grades is hard.  I mean, there are some perks to it when you already know some of the same kids going into the next year, but switching classrooms, standards, materials, activities, and all the novels - well, that was the tricky part.  

I had gotten attached to the novels that I would always read with my fourth graders.  Books have always been special to me and saying goodbye to some of them was really really hard.  But since we read so many of them as a grade level, it's not like I could just take them with me to do the next year...  

That just wouldn't work.  

So before I dive into my new fifth grade novels, let's take a moment of silence for the memory of my fourth grade favorites:
*Tales of a Fourth Grade Nothing
*The One and Only Ivan
*Charlotte's Web (this has since moved to 3rd grade)
*Island of the Blue Dolphins (tied into our CA Native American unit)
*By the Great Horn Spoon (tied into our Gold rush unit)
*What Was the Gold Rush
*Percy Jackson (tied into out Mythology unit)
*Stone Fox 
*Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
*Who Was Milton Hershey
*Chocolate Touch
*Chocolate Fever
*Lemonade War (tied into our Business/Money unit)

Now, onto some NEW favorites in fifth grade.  I really really LOVE reading novels with my students.  We can have some great conversations about them, and they are (in my opinion) so much more engaged in them than using basals.  It's also a way to teach our history through novels, so that's what we do.  When I switched grades, I bugged my new teammates about the class sets they already read, and then tried to get another set for myself.  Thank you Scholastic books, Donors Choose, my colleagues for sharing, our school library, and definitely Mrs. H. for the stacks of books you left behind.  It has really helped.  

Here is what's in my cabinet:

*Frindle - great novel to start the year.  Our focus is on learning the meanings of unknown words
*Wonder - we read this just as a read aloud and to have class discussions - this is our beginning of the year, right after lunch book
*Indian in the Cupboard - ties into our Native American study
*Tuck Everlasting - all about that fantasy (after so much Realistic Fiction it's good to switch it up)
*BFG - great for figurative language
*Long Walk to Water - read aloud - great to compare characters
*Blood on the River - I start it as we are finishing up Explorers and heading into Colonial times
*Hatchet - all about survival, great for character development and growth
*Rules - great reminder about empathy - my January, right after break book
*Woods Runner - our start to the American Revolution, same author as Hatchet, we do an author study for comparison of the books.  We have two SS units that deal with the Revolution - the causes and the actual war itself, so lots of books during that time of the year that helps give students more context
*Holes - I read this during the American Revolution to compare the freedom America was fighting for with the characters in the story and their lack of freedom.  It has led to some big class discussions.  
*I Survived the American Revolution - they LOVE I Survived Books, they are so engaging and they can make connections PLUS there is a great Scholastic webcast. 
*George Washington Spy - short read aloud, gives insight to the spies of the Revolution
*What was the Boston Tea Party - we focus on non-fiction text features
*What was the Declaration of Independence - focus is on those non-fiction strategies - the beginnings of unity and government
*Chains - Book Club project - kid choice - great book to talk about slavery during that time period
*Sophia's War - Book Club project - kids choose this or above, they work together in groups to spiral review all the comprehension strategies and skills over 6 weeks - this book is great to talk more about women's roles as spies during the Revolution
*Ben and Me - short read aloud about inventions of Ben Franklin
*Electric Ben - kids work in partners to create newspapers based on the information they learn from this nonfiction 
*I am Malala - great to use with our government unit
*Westing Game - it's a murder mystery, fun way to end the year

Yep, lots of books.  Most novels we read 1-2 chapters a day and finish within 3 weeks.  That's with having a daily focus and doing different activities with the books.  Sometimes we have a second book going as a read aloud right after lunch (like Wonder, Long Walk to Water, Rules...)  If a book is really heavy, then I portion what we read, and balance it with a lighter book later on in the day.  Sometimes we have 3 books going at a time - like if we have a read aloud, novel study, and a non-fiction project happening during SS time.  The kids can handle it.  It's a wonderful way to tie the books together, to learn more about different characters, different character traits, different plot lines, etc...  

Hope this helps someone!

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.

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!

July 14, 2019

Kindness Club Ideas

The last two years at school we have tried to purposefully add more activities to promote kindness to our days.  We have adopted an Ohana mentality, we are family, and we have tried to help the students (and staff) connect outside our classrooms to bring unity to the entire school.  Being in a K-8 that has been a challenge, trying to connect over 1,000 kids on a daily basis.  

We are Ohana, Start a Chain Reaction -
All 1,000+ kids stamped their hands during lunch,
leadership students designed the entire thing.  
We brought in the Friends of Rachel program this last year with an assembly and to train some of our middle schoolers.  Our Kindness Club is set to grow from 18 students to about a 100 this next year.  The plan is to have 2 groups of students - a Varsity level with the middle schoolers, and a Junior Varsity with the upper elementary students (4th and 5th grade).  Both groups will have specific events and activities that they will help to run.

The logistics?  Last year we held meetings mainly during lunch and some after school for middle school.  It was kind of difficult since my lunch was different than theirs, but I teamed up with the middle school leadership teacher to help facilitate.  Since we are more than quintupling our numbers, we will be breaking up into the different ages for lunch, and every once in a while meet together after school.  

Our students are great at brainstorming ideas to spread kindness both in our school and in the community.  The Friends of Rachel program had lots of ideas in their training as well.  We had a school supply drive to help a town in need, we had a canned food drive and a shoe drive that benefited a local charity.  In school, we held a Kindness Kickoff where we had daily quotes and a daily challenge for students to complete.  The classrooms made kindness chains, each link representing an act of kindness that was witnessed, then we linked them all up.  We stood outside the gates and gave High 5's entering school.  We wrote chalk notes on the sidewalk and made posters.  We held a spirit week... and we didn't launch it all until the beginning of February.  

It's easy to just write a question on your classroom board and have the kids brainstorm on sticky notes.  Then collect the stickies and you have an instant list to refer back to.  

For this coming year I have SO many more ideas running around my head to talk to the kids about.  It's their club, and they have to take ownership and run with it.  I can bring ideas, but they have to vote and decide what's important to add.  I asked for some teacher input over on Facebook and on Instagram, and they delivered.  

*Smiley Face stickers delivered to each classroom for the reminder to smile.
*Door decorations for nursing homes
*Handwritten notes for community helpers
*Animal shelter donations
*Cafeteria lunch bin for extras (we already have a share table) - last lunch taking those non perishables from the share table and packaging them up to keep for those kids that need something for dinner.
*School supply drive for our own needy kids
*Teacher love cart - ask for donations from families and give teachers a treat
*Kindness Kid of the Month - teachers choose a kid from each grade level or class, and that kid is recognized from the office.
*Heart attack on doors
*Random Kindness notes delivered
*Give one/Take one board in the cafeteria
*Challenges bulletin board - kids sign their name when completed
*Mix it up table lunch
*Gratitude snaps
*Get well cards for the hospital
*Kindness cards for the nursing home
*Testing quotes/banners for motivation
*Monthly service project
*Used eyeglasses to the Lion's Club
*Blessing bags for the homeless
*Help with Teacher/Nurse/Bus Driver Appreciation
*Christmas rocks painted and hidden around campus - when a student finds they take to the office for a candy cane
*Sock, Glove, and Winter Hat drive

So many ideas, I can't wait to see what the kids can think up too.  

I made this Kindness Matters a couple of years ago, maybe it can help you too.  
Link goes to Google Drive.  

Have a great day!

July 12, 2019

Building Your Classroom Library

Years ago a colleague and friend told me the secret to getting class sets of books for cheap on Scholastic.  It has everything to do with their Birthday Book Coupons and their Back to School deals.  Do you know the secret too?

During that first order of a new school year, this year pick up a set of their Birthday Book Coupons.  In past years it's been 32 coupons for $32-34.  Yep, that makes each of those magical coupons only $1, BUT each coupon can be used for up to a $5 book.  That makes my teacher budget very happy!

Yes, I have gotten a lot of my class sets of books when they are $1 each (don't use the coupons for those books), save them for those $5 books that you have been eyeing.  Last year I picked up THREE of those coupon books, my goal to add a couple more sets of class novels to our mix, for our monthly book clubs, and to add some surprises into our class library.

Another way to add more free books to your classroom is to get a gigantic order together first thing in the school year (when they are giving out TONS of extra bonus points).  I send home an email to parents to give them a heads up that the order is coming home.  I put ALL the 4-5 book club orders together to give the students a lot of options.  I give students a challenge to see if everyone could order at least one book to help our class... with the idea that if everyone orders at least one book, that our order will reach those higher bonus points.  

We go through all the catalogues together (I have mine under the document camera), and I make a list of everything they see that they would want me to order if I get enough bonus points.  I show them where those dollar books are, and with their highlighters they circle everything they are interested in.  I tell them that as a mom I love buying books for my boys, but I need to know exactly what they want - so they need to let their parents know too.  I log onto my Scholastic account and show the kids exactly where to put in our class code... I also tell them that I use all the bonus points that they order on them - meaning they will see all the rewards that our class earns.  It's motivating!

That's with adding new books, but there are so many other places to get more books that may have been used.  Here are my list of places to beg and visit:

*friends cleaning out their child's bookshelf
*asking my class families for donations when their child is done 
*cleaning out my own child's bookshelf
*public libraries in their for sale room
*thrift stores
*retiring teachers
*garage sales
*Scholastic warehouse deals
*clearance racks
*Half Price bookstores

Just mention you're a teacher and some places have thrown in additional discounts.  Where else have you picked up books?  

I hope this helps someone!

July 10, 2019

First Week of School: Team Building and Growth Mindset Activities

The first week of school is a time to build relationships and become a class family, learn and practice routines and expectations, and hopefully have some fun in the process.  Of course you have to figure out what works well for your own classroom, but these activities help me to fulfill many purposes at once.  I wanted to take today and share what Team building & Growth Mindset activities we complete the first week of school.

*Help Harry STEM -
This is a free building activity from The Teacher's Studio.  Basically the kids have to work together to help this little puff ball by building a perch for it to see the classroom.

*Toilet Paper Squares -
I don't do this the first day, but I do have the toilet paper sit out on my front cart for a day or so, the kids of course notice and start wondering what it's for.  When it's time, I pass around the roll and have the kids take what they need.  Some take one square, some take a whole handful.  For each square they have to share in their groups that amount of facts about themselves.  The ones that only take one have the option of sharing more about themselves, the ones that took A LOT don't have a choice, they have to share.  It does help to teach the importance of moderation in group discussions - that we need to have a balance between the talkers and the listeners.

*Growth Mindset Yoda -
This is a youtube video.  After we read the first week book, What Do You Do With a Chance, we complete the paper folding Growth Mindset challenge (from Teaching in Room 6), and then after discussion we watch the video.

*Name Game -
It's the basic game that we play midweek that first week.  We stand in a circle around the edges of the classroom (gets them out of their desks) and I start with my name and a hand motion (which everyone copies), then the person to my left says their name with a hand motion.  Then everyone says their name with the hand motion, and my name/hand motion, then it goes to the 3rd person, 4th, etc.  Sometimes an oldie is a goodie.  Since it's hard for me to remember names, I do this to help myself and others.

*I Like My Neighbor Who Game/Back to School Scoot -
Another oldie but goodie.  We move the chairs into a circle - either inside or outside, one chair is missing.  The person without a chair says "I like my neighbor who _____" and completes the sentence with either something people can see, an opinion, or a fact.  "I like my neighbor with black shoelaces" and those students with black shoelaces have to quickly change spots to another chair, the speaker moves with them.  The next person comes up with another idea - I like my neighbor who loves pizza" and more kids move, I like my neighbor who plays football, etc...  I play with the kids, it's fun, and if I am the one missing the chair then I usually choose something that ALL kids get up and move - I like my neighbor who is in 5th grade.

*Beach Ball Questions -
It's another simple thing.  I have a cheap beach ball that I have written a lot of random questions all over.  Throughout the first couple of weeks I have it close by and will toss it when we have a couple of minutes (that first week timing is off as I get to know the kids and how long things take them).  The kid who catches it has to read the question under their right hand and answer it, then they throw it back to me.  I keep track who has shared and toss based on my list.  I want all kids to participate.
Sample questions: Best pizza topping? Best summer activity? Future career? Best video game? Captain American vs. Iron Man? Sharks vs. Whales? Birthday? How many siblings?

*Find Someone Who -
There are so many out there on TPT.  I use this one from Blair Turner as part of her Back to School booklet.  The booklet the kids have on their desks from day 1 and work on it when they have extra time that first week, before I collect it on that first Friday.  Find Someone Who is a game where kids wander around the room finding people with those specific facts.

*Pineapple Project - This product from Leslie Ann is a great one regarding hospitality and being a friend.  I love the partner activity game and the interview sheets.

*What Can You Learn from a Cactus - This product from Layla Henry is great for Growth Mindset.  We read the close read passage, and then use the included questions to have a class discussion.  I bring in a cactus (that stays on my counter for a reminder), and the kids are welcome to bring in their own mini cactus to take care of throughout the year.  This year I want to do this cute craft (The Best Idea for Kids ad from FB), but I don't know if it's going to be a whole class project, or just be trying to be creative this summer (with my own boys).  Either way, it's cute!

Hope this helps someone!


July 8, 2019

First Week of School: Purposeful Mentor Texts

I love a good read aloud!

The first week of school is a time to build relationships and become a class family, learn and practice routines and expectations, and hopefully have some fun in the process.  Of course you have to figure out what works well for your own classroom, but these activities help me to fulfill many purposes at once.  I wanted to take today and share what I read to the kids the first week of school.  

I love to use picture books for a specific purpose.  The kids learn that about me right away in a new school year.  Here are my favorites - Links go to Amazon, not an affiliate link.

I read one per day the first 2 weeks of school, short stories that teach about responsibility, organization, priorities, friendships, etc. and we do short activities after each.

I read this in the afternoon of the first day and they do an art project from Teaching in Room 6 that describes themselves.  They trace their arms and write characteristics inside, then I display those arms on a year long bulletin board.

It's our first Mentor Sentence book, but also a good reminder to treat people the way they want to be treated.  

This book is great to help build character.  We make a class promise (Idea from Head Over Heels for Teaching) after reading the book and display it by our arms.

This book is great to read right before you brainstorm your rules for the year.  It talks about the importance of manners, and the kids easily can brainstorm how they want their classroom to look like and sound like.  

This book is great to read for a growth mindset message.  We read it and then do a growth mindset challenge, then we watch the Growth Mindset Yoda video.  

*The Dot
This book is great to get their creative juices flowing.  It's also great to talk about expectations, how we don't just do the basic, we push ourselves to do our best.  It talks about growth mindset, leaving a mark. We do the Dot project that's in the book after reading.

This book is a fun one to use as a kickoff to have the kids learn more about you.

Yep, tons of books that first week of school.  A lot of great discussions come from them and I wouldn't change that for anything.  This post was getting pretty long, so I'll come back another time and write more about the other activities we do.  

Hope this helps!

July 6, 2019

Lunch Bunch Book Clubs

This last year I started a new (to me) idea and had a monthly Lunch Bunch Book Club.  It was SO SIMPLE to do, I don't know what took me so long... At the beginning of the month I would display the new book on the whiteboard after reading the first paragraph to the kids.  The interested kids would then sign up on a nearby piece of binder paper.  

I have multiple copies of the monthly book (thank you Scholastic bonus points), and the kids would take a copy to read.  I have my books labeled, so on the binder paper I wrote the number of the book they borrowed.  If kids had their own book, they were welcome to bring it home, but if more kids signed up than copies available, the kids would just take turns in the classroom during silent reading time.

On the last day of the month (or the last Friday), the Book Club would meet during lunch.  The kids would bring their lunches into the classroom, and we'd talk about the books - their favorite parts, what they thought the author's main purpose was, anything surprising, the parts they didn't like, etc.  

Then we'd do a little craft or game that had to do with the book before they headed outside to play a bit before lunch recess was over.  No matter what, I always picked up some di-cut shapes (month themed) where the kids would write their name on one side, and their favorite part on the other side.  I put these di-cuts on the wall as a little reminder of the importance of book club for that month, then they would come down and be sent home with the specific kids.

Overall, I'm definitely doing this again this next year.  I love talking books with the kids, and spending time together during lunch helped to build relationships.  :)   

This next year my books for Lunch Club will be How to Steal a Dog, Save Me a Seat, Restart, Ugly, Pay it Forward, Loser's Club, Mudshark, Field Tripped, and the Great Gilly Hopkins.  Some of the same books, some different.  

I hope this helps!

July 5, 2019

Book Tasting

 On the 5th day of 5th Grade I like to celebrate making it through the first week of school.  The last couple of years I've hosted a Book Tasting in my room on that morning.  It's pretty easy set up, and it's really the first "taste" of what I hope are memorable activities for the year.

I use Joanne Miller's (Head Over Heels for Teaching) Book Tasting product.  It has all the print outs I need to set up the tables.  (To be honest, it has everything I need to have my sons set up the tables before the kids come in that morning.)  With parents' Back to School night always the night before, there is NO WAY to get everything done early by myself - especially if I have morning yard duty.

Here's my shopping list for those extra things:
*plastic table cloth for each table
*small battery operated candle per table
That's it.  When the kids get in there, and the books are on the table, well there really isn't that much room for decorations.

Quick set up:
1.  Tablecloth on the tables.
2. Candle turned on in the center.
3. Placemat at each seat (I have the kids write books they want to read directly on the plate portion of the placemat - it's included in the product.)
4.  Label the tables with a number and a genre type. (They are included in the product.)
5. Stack of books (10ish) at each table.  My classroom library is grouped by genre, so it's easy to just grab a stack from each to set in the middle of the table.
6.  Project the Book Tasting Today sign (saves some ink).
7.  Turn on some instrumental quiet music.
8.  As kids enter the room, stand in the doorway with an apron and (this next year a chef's hat) with the included reservation form.

During the Tasting:
*We start out the tasting by reviewing the different genres that are featured.  I get a little background information from them to see what they already know (or think they know).

*I wander around watching them read - noticing who dives directly into a book, who is barely sticking their toe in... so much to notice about a new batch of readers every year.  I ask them questions about the books they are looking at, what they notice, and what genres they have liked to read.  It gets them set up for our Reading Conferences later on in the year.

*I time them for about 10 minutes per table, and then we rotate through so they can experience all the genres.  They take their placemat and pencil with them as they move to write more books down.

*Near the end I pass out the reflection paper (included in her product) and have them give me some feedback.

*Then for clean up, the classroom library is open for business.  Students can look at their placemat and go and get the books they are interested in reading.  They slide their placemat into their classwork folders in a sheet protector to save for future, and they help me put the remaining books back into the book shelf.  I give them a few minutes to get more of a certain genre for their desk.  I want each kid to have 2 books at their desk to read at all times.

*An idea I have for this year is to add a stack of post it notes to each table during the tasting.  I'm thinking that if kids see a book they are interested in, then they could write on a post it -

"Give next to:"
and then add their name and stick it in the front cover of the book.  Many kids may write their name on that single post it as they are looking at the books during the Book Tasting, but when kids are done reading a book during the school year then they know who is next in line to give the book to.  I may try it and see what happens.

It's a fun activity and I hope that you try it out too this year!

Hope this helps!

July 3, 2019

Donors Choose Project Ideas

Who has used Donors Choose?  Who has never taken that first step?  Let me make it easy for you.

Donors Choose doesn't have to be difficult, and it's not scary.  Here are the basic steps:
1.  Go too
2.  Click "New Project"
3. If you have a "campaign code", enter it at the bottom of the screen where it says "Got a campaign code?"
4.  Fill in the next screen about your students (Who page) - once you've done it, it saves for future projects as well.
5.  Go shopping, using their links on the What page (Amazon things need to be Amazon prime), lots more other options too.  I mainly stick with Amazon since it's fast and easy to do returns if needed.
6.  Fill out the Why page about the project.  They have text boxes to fill in with a specific word count.  
7.  Review everything and submit.. you'll get an email to let you know when it's live.  

Helpful things to do to help it get funded:
*Send the link to your social media pages, so many people want to help your classroom.  
*Send the link to your classroom families, so many families want to help your classroom.
*If you can, give a donation yourself - it will help get it jump started.  

After it's funded:
Do the thank you package soon to earn points - photos, thank you notes, etc. 

I've used Donors Choose since December of 2012, and have added so many great resources and experiences to my classroom.  Need an idea?  Go wandering around their site or talk to your colleagues to spark ideas.  

Here are my past funded projects in case you want to see what I wrote, what I ordered, etc:

*Class set of Frindle books
*Class set of Who Was books
*5 Boogie Boards (LCD Writing Tablets)
*Class subscription to Scholastic News
*Class set of Bouncy Bands 
*Mentor Texts for Mentor Sentences Volume 2
*Mentor Texts for Mentor Sentences Volume 1
*Everything needed for an Owl Pellet Dissection experiment
*Class set of Wonder
*Class set of Blood on the River
*Everything needed for a GLOW Day
*Class subscription for TIME for Kids

I'm so thankful for everyone that has helped my students throughout the years.  Large companies and individuals alike, friends, family, and strangers.  It's such a powerful site.  I now have to think of what I really want for next year... I'm thinking room transformation materials... We'll see!

I hope this helps!