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June 30, 2021

Kindness Club

Not last year, but the year before, we had Kindness Club. Last year it didn't work out. 

I was trained with Friends of Rachel, which is mainly a middle school and high school program. Then Joanne from Head over Heels for Teaching inspired me to include the upper elementary at school as well, so it became Kindness Club.  4th - 8th graders signed up to be part of the club. Because of our schedule, the 4th and 5th met once a month with me during lunch. The middle school 6th-8th would stop in after school on that same day.  I had Remind group chats with each group.  We had specific tasks to tackle, but it was mainly student driven.  They came up with so many wonderful ideas to tackle during each month, and then we tried to make it happen.  Sometimes admin had something they wanted us to tackle too.  

We started the year with a Kindness Kick Off. We got them excited to help out and volunteer their time.

That year the kids brainstormed a Fall Festival during the younger grades recesses, right after Halloween.  We took over a part of the playground, and the Kindness Kids helped to run the stations.  It gave the younger kids options to do during recess. We had seasonal games, we borrowed equipment from PE, and each grade level had 15 minutes to play before the next group came out.

Having 5 grades helping out sometimes got to be a little overwhelming.  I broke the kids into teams, with a specific task to complete during that month.  Then if anything else came up I would call on them to all help.  It worked out well.  

We had some kids volunteer to be on the Compliment Committee - writing compliments to staff, giving to me, and I'd stick them in the teacher mailboxes.  

We had other kids volunteer to be greeters.  They would stand by the gates in the morning and give Hi Fives.  

We had kids volunteer to be on the Welcoming Committee - When kids were added to our school in 4th-8th grade, the office would let me know their start date, and a buddy in that grade level went to the office to greet them. 

We had other kids volunteer to be Encouragement Kids - they would use big poster paper to create posters at home, bring to school, and I'd hang up near the office and in the cafeteria for the school to see.  

When there was a need, we'd try to help as well.  We had a sock collection in October (for Kid President's Socktober), and then donated to a local need.  All of us spread out to remind and collect the socks.

We created a rock garden with painted rocks and words of encouragement. Kids brought more from home to add as well.  

We had a Kindness Spirit Week, with a Kindness Kick Off, daily Kindness Quotes, and a Daily Challenge for them to complete. Some of the challenges could be done at school, but others done at home.

Kids also volunteered to be kindness readers in the primary grades (K-3rd). This was a yearly commitment - September to May. Once a month during part of their lunch, they would go to their "adopted" classroom and read the specific book to the kids.  I kept a list of the books and classes, and would make sure that nothing ever overlapped.  It worked well.  If someone forgot, I would get an email from the missed teacher, and I would send one of my own kids directly after our lunch when my class was doing silent reading.  So my own kids, not necessarily in Kindness Club, could also participate. 

Wanted to share some of the titles with you:

*The Invisible Boy
*The Hundred Dresses
*Enemy Pie
*The Juice Box Bully
*The Recess Queen
*We're All Wonders
*Be Kind
*Everyday Kindness
There are other ones that I added as well, but I'm blanking on the titles. Everything is currently tucked in the classroom, locked away until August.  

My readers had a specific day of the week that they would eat their lunch, then come to grab the specific book and a lanyard from a basket I left outside my door.  They would head to the classroom, read, and then bring the book back when done.  I wrote the reader's name on a post it note that was stuck on the book so they would grab the correct title.

Each class also was given this Kindness chart at the beginning of the year.  I just sent it through email, and put a copy in the teacher's boxes.  The goal was for classes to notice 100 Random Acts of Kindness within their classroom. When it was completed, the kids signed the bottom portion of the sheet, the teachers turned it into my box, and I'd notify the office for an announcement over the loud speaker.  You'd hear a cheer from across campus. Then they would start a new sheet.  ;)

Lanyards - When the kids were on duty, they wore lanyards with a badge. It helped them to feel official. I printed these 16 per page to slide into the plastic holders.    

Okay, wow - this turned into a big brain dump of everything Kindness Club related.  Like I mentioned, with distance learning the majority of last year, and then not being able to have kids go into other kids classes, and the min. days all year, well, it didn't work out.  I'm excited about this coming year with Kindness Club.  I can't wait to see what it will hold.  :)  

Hope this helps,

June 28, 2021

My Student Conference Binder - Easy Summer Project

I'm a binder girl. Tons of binders for different purposes, this one holds the info. for my student conferences.  I know I could do this on the computer, but once again- I’m old school and like paper/pencil. I think it helps me to remember things more if I just write them down. My binder has seen better days, and maybe I should get a new one, but I really love it. 

In my binder I have dividers for each kid in class. Each divider is labeled 1-32. Yep, 32 is our max. The class numbers let me reuse them from year to year. During the school year, I keep a class sheet in the front with the numbers and names to help me remember until I get that info. memorized. This is a July project for me to tackle since I was not in any mind space to tackle it in May.  I need to update each tab of the binder with the new sheets for next year, ripping out the old pages. Then I'll be ready to go. 

I use this binder for a few different things as I conference with the kids. I just flip to their section when it’s time to meet. Years ago I used a spiral notebook, one page for each kid - I just flipped to the correct page.  It doesn't have to be fancy. :)  

I call them over for our Book Talks and I keep track of their genres under their specific tab. They have a list going in their ELA composition book too. Book Talks usually happen during silent reading or independent work time. Kids sign up on a list on the board that they are ready to share with me. After they share their completed book, I give them the appropriate book bead, and they go update their pipe cleaner. I didn’t get to do book beads this last year, and I missed it!

In my binder I have the Reading Conference sheet that we are currently using from Joanne Miller - it has made it easy for me to remember the specific things I want to go through with the kids. Different focuses for different parts of the year. I try to meet with everyone during the week. If they don’t sign up for a time by Wednesday, then I start calling them to check in, even if they aren’t done with the book. I just jot their answers on a piece of binder paper that is tucked inside their section.

Another thing in the binder are the rubric sheets. I call them over when it’s time to update with new scores- usually after tests and before retests. They do the shading in my binder when we go over scores together. I have rubric grids for Reading, Writing, Math, and Science.  The little grids are printed 4 per page (little), but it’s big enough to do a quick highlight. I write the test/formative title on the side with the date, then they highlight their score. It's an easy way to show growth. It is so awesome to come back to the visuals after retests and update with the higher scores. They feel so good! 

I also put their goals in the binder so we can reference when it’s time. They make goals at the beginning of the year and then we review at progress report time, update again at the beginning of each new trimester. They have their copy in a sheet protector in their folder, and I jot them down in my binder as well. It keeps us on the same page.

During our conferences I love to go over compliments that I’ve noticed for them. Things I’m proud of them for, and things that I think they can work on. How can they improve if they don’t get feedback?  It helps me remember to spot the good. It also makes it easy for me to send a quick Class Dojo message to parents. As a parent, I love those messages. 

Hope this helps. Do you use a binder to keep organized? 

June 25, 2021

I Picked Up My New Planner!!!

What is it about a new planner? It just makes me feel hopeful.  

I'm not writing it in yet, just admiring how empty it is, the colors, and kind of figuring out how I'm going to do things different for next year.  I did print out the school calendar for next year, I couldn't remember what day I have to head back... ahhh, summer brain. :)  Yesterday I also forgot the day of the week.  Ha!

I've gone through quite a few different ones over the past 21 years, this blog has seen me through a lot of them.

When I first started teaching I used the Scholastic and Teacher's Press versions.  They were thin and got the job done. Those were the days that I would go into a teacher supply store and compare them in person. Oh, I miss the teacher supply stores. It was a happy place full of stickers and bulletin board sets.

Then I switched to printed pages in a binder. I could customize it all. My team planned together so we all had the same plan. 

Then I started the blog and found out about Erin Condren.  Y'all made me do it.  I went through the EC phase for years. Colors and prettiness. 

Then I went through the Plum Paper phase when I saw them on Etsy - where I could completely customize everything inside with the colors. What layout, what subjects and times already printed, what start date, it came dated too!

Then I went through the Blue Sky phase when I wanted something thin again. It also came dated. Had everything I really needed. The link is for the coming year.  

Then I started the Bloom phase where I get the colors I want, it's a vertical layout so I don't have to flip the book during the day, but I'm back to having to write everything in.  But as we've all learned, things can drastically change from one day to the next... The lines are big and since I write huge, well it works for me.  

My teammates really like the Happy Planner. Other friends really like It's nice there are so many options out there.  

This is the one I had last year.  

Anyhow, this is the one I chose for this coming year. I'm in a chalk board mood. Not that I ever want to have to write on or clean a real one again... I like that it comes with an extra clear cover for extra protection. Here's the link if you want to check it out. Love Amazon Prime.

And, like I say a lot - not an ad, just sharing because I like to share... 

Hope you have a great day!

June 23, 2021

See You Later Classroom

What does your classroom look like at the end of the year? Here’s mine as of our last day:

Desks stacked
Chairs stacked
Bookshelves covered 
Everything off the ground - all my plastic drawers with STEM materials get a lift onto my desk
Technology covered 
Walls... well I don’t do much with the walls... If they get dusty over the summer, then I'll just deal with it in August.  

Yeah, the office always has a checklist of stuff to do to check out, but this is just for me before I get locked out for the summer.

Things I always do:

One last look in all the cupboards to get it organized for next year. I have fun tossing the stuff I haven’t touched in a year. This year I tossed all my carpet squares. I haven't used them since 4th grade, 4 years ago... I also tossed all those old magazines and old workbooks, it freed up so much space behind my white board.  

I went through the furniture that I'd brought to class, and decided that I didn't need an extra storage rack anymore.  This year proved how little I really need and how floor space is necessary to space the desks.  It's now at home in my kid's closet.  

I went through my front teaching cart (a plastic 3 drawer under the projector table) and tossed almost all the stuff in the drawers.  Sometimes it's just easier to start from scratch again.  It felt really great.

Then I take pictures so I remember where things are. The pictures will remind me that I put (blank) behind the left cupboard behind the (blank). My son had prepped materials for next year's class - the folders and filled pencil pouches.  Those are tucked behind the board, ready to go.  I just keep them on my camera roll for the summer.  When I start stressing about something not being done, I can pull up the pictures and remember how much really is ready.

I make a list of things I need to pick up for summer. There's just some things that are cheaper in the back to school specials instead of ordering from the warehouse. For next year I still need to get some markers when they are cheap. 

I bring home any thing I might possibly need this summer. This year I really only brought home my planner and my pacing guide binder. I need a break. It’s been 4 weeks and I haven’t looked at it at all… 

Hope you have a great day!

June 21, 2021

Teach Me Something Project - Countdown to Summer

In our countdown to the end of school, I have the kids complete a teach me something project.  It's a way for them to share their passions and talents with each other... kind of like our own wacky talent show.  

First up, I give them this paper with directions:

-Figure out what you want to teach us - it has to be school appropriate. 
-Figure out how you want to teach us - and I gave some options for video, project board, powerpoint, pictures, or doing it live.
-Prepare for your lesson and practice 
-Be Ready to Volunteer

Then in a normal year they have to turn in their visual the Friday before the last 2 weeks of school, so I know they are ready to go.  If possible the presentations are interactive and hands on.  Kids bring supplies for their classmates to create as well.  For every one we do questions and compliments afterward.

Over the years I have had a chance to witness some pretty cool things.  Kids really are talented.  

I've watched gymnastic routines - kids bring in their tumbling mats.

I've made a lot of slime using different recipes.

Kids have taught us different languages and cool facts over things that they are interested in.  

I've listened to musical instruments and kids singing.

I've been able to participate in step by step drawing lessons and making origami.

I've tried to learn some of those Tic Tok dances.

I know they are probably laughing (inside) at my lack of talent.  

Sometimes it's not possible for them to do their activity at school - like riding horses or baking a cake... so they submit videos of themselves, we watch, and they still answer questions from the audience and gather compliments.  

It's a chance to have them shine.  

This year, we still did it, but it was a little different with a hybrid classroom.  More kids did the recording option or made powerpoints with pictures of themselves.  It helped fill our last days of school.

Hope this helps,  

June 18, 2021

Virtual Book Clubs

I guess weeks ago I mentioned that I would share how we tackled virtual Book Clubs this year, and I haven’t done that yet. Sorry about that. 

In a normal year the kids have a choice between certain books they want to read as part of a book club. It’s one of our units. Well, it’s not any book, but they have a choice between the options that I present. This usually takes place at the beginning of third trimester, when we are knee deep in the American Revolution.  Usually I give them the choice between Chains or Sophia's War. Different perspectives about the revolution. They usually sign up on an interest list, then I split the list into the specific groups with 4-5 kids per group.  I inherited a class set of both books when I moved to 5th, so I do have plenty for each kid to read their own book.

We have specific purposes for each meeting. Starting with making norms, timeline to read the book, having specific tasks each time. They have to read the group assigned pages either at home, or during silent reading, they have to be ready to be part of the group discussions.  

This year with distance learning they didn’t have the novels at home, so we used our anthology. They only had one to two weeks to tackle the entire process. We went through the process a few different times during the unit.  Starting with shorter stories in the anthology and bumping to larger options.

I flipped it from a normal year and first randomly sorted the kids into groups.  Each group had their own channel, and I put the specific daily task into their channel that they had to respond to. I didn’t start meetings every single day, but they did have to respond each day. 

When I did start the meetings, it was just like a normal year. All the reading was done on their own time, they had to show teamwork. They had to complete the tasks.

The choice came in as they were able to choose which story from the anthology they wanted to read. I did give them 3 options each time.  The groups had to vote on the story they wanted to read for that week. The groups then came up with a reading plan. 

Each meeting had to include:
Character Traits and Growth
Setting description 
Action and Plot 

Then they would have other discussions as well. Each kid has to say something.  Even if they don't want to.  There is accountability.  No one wants to let their group down.  The kids always love having Book Clubs, and it's a huge thing for me as it's finally time for me to hand off the reading process completely to them.  

Usually it goes:
1st trimester - novel studies mainly whole class
2nd trimester - we split it whole class and partner/groups
3rd trimester - book clubs, whole class, and partner projects

It's one of the things I love about these upper elementary kids - their growth as readers, their independence, and the discussions they are capable of having.  I love being able to sit on the sidelines and listen to their discussions.  My mom always said Readers are Leaders... and I love being a small part of their learning story.

Hope this helps!

June 16, 2021

DARE Program

In 5th grade we have a DARE program that we use. Our officer usually comes into our classroom once a week (for 10 weeks) for about an hour and tackles 10 lessons. The lessons cover everything from stress to confident speaking to staying healthy. This year he joined our TEAMs meetings to deliver the lessons. Kids had to be responsible to fill in their workbooks at home. 

It’s a big deal.

In a normal year we have a lot of community building and community service activities that we complete. Walking field trip to the park to clean it up, a bus field trip trip to a local nursing home, and then a lot of food and clothing donations. Kids earn community service points. 

All students must participate in a DARE Idol competition. They work together in small groups to take a song, and change the lyrics to make it DARE related. To show off some things that they learned.

When we tackled it this year we were still in full distance mode. We had already tackled Book Clubs in special channels, so I had the kids do the same thing. We picked groups, then daily I started meetings for them in these channels for them to work on their song. 

We were given a date to have all groups share their songs with the class and with our DARE officer. The kids met with me the week before and I used Screencast -o-Matic to record them. I simply put the record screen over the TEAMs meeting screen (while I was in large gallery with my camera off) to be able to get the kids as large as possible. It worked great! 

Even in this crazy year, the kids still completed the other requirements. Our officer still had them fill in their workbook lessons, complete their DARE essay, and tackle their DARE homework. The kids had to turn in their workbook and essay to the office for him to pick up and read. They had to have a passing grade on the homework and complete the requirements to be eligible to graduate. The simple thing of turning in a completed workbook to the office really showed their amount of dedication. 

In a normal year our graduation is a big celebration. It’s usually in the packed gym with parents, grandparents, and extended family there. Kids are presented with their awards, there are speeches and presentations, kids sing the DARE song. Parents tear up. 

This year was a lot simpler, more low key, but definitely more personal. We had a drive thru graduation. Kids wore their DARE shirts. Parents drove through our front driveway, we had balloons tied on chairs. Kids were announced over a loud speaker boom box as they drove up. They were handed their certificate by our officer and police chief. Some got out of cars to pose for pictures with them. Teachers waved. It was nice. It was nice that something was simple this year. 

Do your DARE too? 

June 14, 2021

Math Review - Shout Out

Backtracking a bit today... Wanted to share a few math review activities that my kids enjoyed as we were reviewing full class.  Now in a normal year we do a lot of playing with task cards and Jenga year round, and then they create their Math Board games for the major end of school review... but this year it was just hard... for a lot of reasons... I was searching for that classroom magic. I started searching through my purchases on TPT and found these math mysteries.  I had picked them up last year before the world shut down...  

These Math Mysteries by Mrs. J's Resource Creations definitely helped and are awesome! For a couple of weeks we did them together on our full distance days (Wednesdays). I would take screenshots of the pages to drag into our TEAM meeting conversations. The kids click on the images and it went larger so the kids could see, and then we would work together to find the codes. I tried doing them in breakout groups so the kids could work in small groups, like I would have had them do in the classroom.  But they needed the accountability that came with whole group.  We did them together.  The kids were so engaged. 

So a little different than what was expected. 

We did the Case of the Bee Bandits. It reviewed a little of everything which was perfect for one more review of those tricky units.  The kids used copy paper to solve the problems, and we had full class teamwork to figure out the bad guys. Major detective skills!

We also did Case of the Puzzled Pirate. Another winner! It reviewed Place Value.  Next year I think I'm going to add this to my Pirate Day.

I picked up some other Math Mysteries so I’m ready for next year. She has a lot to choose from.  I focused on the areas that I know kids usually have a hard time with, a little extra review is never wasted. I now have her Case of the Disappearing Donuts (Decimals) and the Case of the Divided Dragons (Division)

What other awesome resources do you use to review at the end of the year?

Hope this helps! 

June 13, 2021

Teachers in the Word Bible Studies

Today I wanted to share a little about the summer Bible studies 
I've done over the years.  You might totally already know about 
them, but in the off chance you don't, 
and have been looking for something... well I wanted to share.  

Teachers in the Word started years ago, and every year 
Bonnie and Bethany have put together a Bible study. 
The studies are geared for teachers.

Grace Changes Everything covers the book of Ephesians.

God's Promises for Life's Battles covers the book of Joshua.

Fruited is all about Galatians.

Just James covers the book of James.

Pits to Praises is this summer's, and it covers Psalms.  It just started.  :)  

There are also holiday ones for Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Easter.  
I've learned a lot over the years through these 2 ladies.

Amazon has copies to pick up if interested, 
and Bonnie Kathryn Teaching on TPT has digital downloads of many of them.  

Hope you have a great day!

June 11, 2021

Our Class Musical

One of the highlights of every spring is our class Musical from Bad Wolf Press. 

Check out their products! (not an ad, just want to share what my team does)

This year I still wanted to do it, even though it couldn't be in the normal acting, songs, costumes, props kind of way... so we did it on our distance learning day as a Readers Theatre.  

In a normal year, starting in March, I start playing the songs during our independent work time.  Then eventually we choose parts, kids start working with their scene teams on lines and songs, and we practice the songs full class. After spring break we always kick it into high gear with staging and props. Then at the end of the year, parents are invited to 3 performances where they watch their kiddos shine.

Each class in my grade level has a different musical they are working on, so during those 3 performances, each class is able to take a time to come and watch their grade level classmates.  It's really a highlight of the year.  

The plays we normally do:

Mrs. P - 13 Colonies
Miss P - American Revolution
me - US Presidents: Washington to Lincoln
Miss H - Incredible Westward Movement

Last year the world shut down before we could even start the songs.  I'm kind of glad that we hadn't started yet.  That would have hurt even more.  

This year, I chose a Wednesday in our end of year countdown - our DL day - and we picked parts. Everyone had something. I shared my desktop screen with the script so the kids could all see, and had the file folder of songs open so they could hear.  They read their lines with emotion. They didn't sing, like they normally would, but they were still able to hear the lyrics.  It was good and it did my heart good.  

When it was all done, they turned their cameras on and they took a bow.  I'm really glad I was still able to give them this experience, even in distance learning mode.  I'm also looking forward to being able to get back to normal next year.  :)  

Hope this helps,

June 9, 2021

USA Paper Pillows - End of Year Project

One of the projects we did in the countdown to summer were USA paper pillows. I learned about this idea years ago from Teaching in Room 6.  She would have her kids make pillows about the 13 colonies.  Back in those days I taught 4th grade, so would have the kids draw the outline of California (since that's what our SS was all about), decorate it, cut it out, staple most of it shut, and stuff it with the left over paper before the final staple. 

I stopped doing that project when moving to 5th... don't know why. I think because other projects started taking over. This year I needed to go simple with projects that the kids could do at home.  I was reminded about it when Timehop popped up with my old 4th grade Open House pictures.  Seeing the California pillows hanging from the ceiling, I was reminded of how easy it was.  

When I was in 5th grade my elementary school used to have all the 5th graders head to the gym, where we had a huge USA state test.  Big paper on the lunch tables where we each had to draw the USA outline, and then fill in all the states and capitals.  So I decided to combine the ideas to make the pillows. 

It was fun.  It took a good 30 minutes, easily could have taken more.  Kids online and in class were both able to do it at the same time. 

I had the kids get 2 pieces of copy paper.  Then I showed them an outline of the USA, did not have them try to free draw it - posting a picture in our TEAMS conversation for the kids at home, and leaving under the document camera for the kids in class... 

Here are the student directions:

1. Draw the outline of the USA on copy paper or construction paper. Make it big to take up the whole paper. 

2. Write our units in the middle of the map and decorate with little pictures. You can use color.

3. Put your map outline on top of another paper and bubble cut both papers out. One cut for both papers. Do not try and cut the lines perfectly. 

4. Tape or staple the 2 papers together, leaving one end open. 
(This year I gave in class students a long piece of tape, and they just used their scissors to cut little pieces - they couldn't share a stapler.)

5. Scrunch up the scraps of paper, fill the pillow, and finish closing. 

Then being almost 6th graders they tried to use the pillows to take a nap... silly kids.  :)  

This project is great as a review.  Choose a shape that has significance and have them review what they have learned on by writing notes on top. 

Hope it helps,

June 7, 2021

Virtual Field Trips

This year I used my email drafts to store important links for easy access.  Everything was just a click away.  One thing, maybe the best thing, I learned this year was this link for virtual FREE field trips.  

Here's the link: Virtual Field Trips by Wide Open Schools

A lot of them tied into things that my class was already going to learn about... and then others that I used in the countdown to summer, when I added onto my own "theme" days. Here are the ones we watched and how it connected.  

(The images below are screenshots from their webpage, look for these images over there.)

Lego - this was one that I had the kids watch during an asych. time.  They then had to give me a RACE paragraph to explain the steps of engineering that they observed.  

Pencil - This was one that we watched during the final summer countdown - I screenshared the webpage and the kids chose this.  They got a kick out of listening to the accents, but also learned how pencils were created.  

Tesla - We watched this together in class when we were discussing how machines are built to make things easier.  It tied into our science unit.

White House - We watched this in our summer countdown on our White House Day, and this one as well to go inside.  Then we created our USA Paper Pillows, and also used the Art Hub for Kids link to draw the White House.  

Mount Rushmore - we watched on our Presidents Day countdown to summer. We had gone over the musical that I normally do with the kids, and watched this as well.  When we were done with the field trip, I let them spend some fake money in the real online gift shop. They had to review adding and subtracting decimals, and then share what they decided to buy. We ended our time with having them drawing Mount Rushmore. 

Animal Shelter - We live about an hour away from Sacramento, so in our countdown to summer, the kids asked to watch this one about the animal shelter.  

National Parks - Back in March I had to take a day off of school.  We were in the midst of our earth sphere's unit, and this tied in perfectly.  It was an easy thing for my sub to do with the class, love how it was guided.  

Chocolate Chip Cookies - the kids asked to watch this in our last week countdown to summer.  It was really interesting!

Space - we watched these during our Space unit. It tied in perfectly.  

Toilet Paper factory - We watched this because they are 5th graders... :)  

The link above has a ton more, sorted by grade spans.  These were all from the 3-5th grade level. 

Hope this helps,