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August 27, 2021

Week 3 Reflections

This week seemed to be slightly easier because we are now in a routine. 


1. We started our new novel - Indian in the Cupboard. I love how this ties into our SS unit, and gives them a taste to learn about different Native Tribes, and then how that information connects to nowadays. We start our research team projects next week... 

2. I read Totem Tales to them, and then they created their own totem poles and tales. I used the clipart from here to make a small sheet to give them as ideas. 

3. We had a moment and did I wish my teacher knew… it’s sweet and heart breaking all at the same time. Man, I love these kids. Have you ever done "I wish my teacher knew...?" Basically I give them an index card, and they finish the sentence, then turn in.  I told them that it can be anonymous or they can put their names on it if they want.  They tell me information that means something to them.

4. We also tackled our Context Clue Travel Adventure! The foam flyers worked wonderfully as a mini STEM project to build, then sort the kids to mix them up a bit from their normal team groups before they hit the stations to review context clues.  

5. The kids got to attend music class for the first time in years. It was amazing and they absolutely loved it. And I loved the extra prep. :) It's amazing how much one can get done in a short amount of time... It feels good to tackle the to do list and actually get something accomplished.  

6. I read Noteable Notebooks. It's a great story to show pictures of real scientist notebooks.  

7. We also worked on our science observation note booking skills- working on those A,B,C,D’s. 
This week we closely observed shells.  Last week we observed classroom objects, and the first week we observed rocks.  Our drawings are getting more accurate, bigger, colorful, and definitely more detailed. 

8. I ordered a bulk pack of ear buds for our class set of laptops.  This is the link I used, so far they are working great. It's helping now that I'm letting them use the computers more for, Scratch, and for Prodigy as a May Do.

9. We tackled a Growth Mindset Escape Room on Friday afternoon. This is the product I used.

It kept them moving and they needed to use that growth mindset because it was tricky! I ended up taking the 4 included puzzles and putting all 4 on a single page before I made copies for my class, it saved on paper. Then each table group had a specific task and code, and the kids rotated around to complete it all.

10. I taught them the game "Hello Mr. President". 
Hello Mr. President is a listening game, and it's quiet. Key word - silence... A kid stands in the front, eyes closed.  Silently, pick a second student to stand in the back of the room and say "Hello, Mr. President" - in whatever voice they want to use... kids get into the disguise. The "President" with their eyes closed has to guess the owner of the voice. For some reason the kids LOVE this game. 

11. The kids are reading!!! Silent Reading seems to be our favorite time of the day.  Kids are stretching out all over the room, in chairs, under desks, on the rug... I'm over in my chair also reading (currently Poison in the Colony), and there's a groan when we get to the point we HAVE to move onto workshop.  They love to read, and I'm getting to hear all about their books during our Book Talks.  Book Talks, with the 40 Book Challenge, and Book Beads are filling my time during Workshop.  It makes my day!

And now I'm ready to go curl up with my own home book... Have a great weekend!

Disclaimer - These are not sponsored links, just things that I LOVE and that I'm currently using in my classroom. I love to share ideas.  :)  

August 25, 2021

Theme - Including a Poetry Slam

Last week our ELA focus was finding theme in songs, movies, and poems- and then connecting it to books. 

For songs, I used Joanne Miller’s Close Read to Music to share 4 songs. 



*Man in the Mirror (my old school)

*Let it Go (their old school) 

We listened to the safe share link, they noted on copy paper what they thought the author’s message was, and then we discussed. 

For movies I used Gay Miller’s Animated Short Clips to view. Love this entire product, how it’s organized for different types of strategies. 

*Fishing with Sam


We ran out of time for the others…

Then the next day we had a Poetry Slam. I seem to have at least 8 poetry books (mainly Shel Silverstein), and I charged up my Karaoke machine. I passed out the books one per group, and then called one person per table group to choose a poem to present into the microphone. They sat on my stool, They read with emotion. Even my shy kids eventually wanted a turn. After they read, other kids called out their theme ideas. Then we moved onto the next speaker. They LOVED it! 

Then we took everything we learned and transferred it to our textbook and novel, and eventually took a formative assessment. They now have a better idea what theme is and isn't. 

It was a fun ELA week. :)

Hope this helps! 

August 23, 2021

First Things First and Context Clues

It was a wonderful weekend. I’m trying out this whole balance thing. School during the week and relaxing on the weekend. I hope that I can move into relaxing during the week as well. 

I’m learning (again) to let things sit. I can grade that stack of papers during the week when I’m getting paid for it. My plans are ready. My copies are made. My plan book and that stack of papers took a nice ride home and back this weekend.  It's all good.

One thing that does help me is planning out the entire unit at a time. Then even if something comes up, or timing has to change a little, well at least I know what’s next. It’s a little stressful at the beginning of the year, but it becomes easier. It's also easier when you can look back at past years and have the reminder of what you did...

Copies can be made in advance. Links can be grabbed. The big picture makes it easier for me to see clearly. 

This week I’m excited about our Context Clues Travel Adventure. Last week the focus was on dictionary skills, this week is all context clues. We have whole group practice on Monday, task cards for Tuesday, and then the adventure is going to be on Wednesday, then a formative check on Thursday. I use this product by Teaching with a Mountain View

For a small room transformation I hang this backdrop over my window, and these country flags around the classroom. 

I set up the stations around the room. One country at each station. I have the country context clues page and pictures of the country that I have googled. Each country has a specific color, so by the end the students should have completed the rainbow. 

We will start out with each kid making their own travel booklet. It’s just a few pages of copy paper folded together. They will use the markers to color code their booklets. There is a booklet included, but I don’t want to deal with the copy machine. 

This year an Amazon search for airplane stickers ended up with a purchase of airplane foam flyers. Since it won’t be their table groups flying around together, they will have to match up with those that have the same type of airplane. So 6 groups instead of our normal 8. 

We will do America together, then they will be flying around to the other countries. I’ll give them 10ish minutes at each station, and will use my best stewardess voice to let them know when it’s time to transfer to their next destination. After our last landing we will take a moment to go over answers for them to check their papers before turning them in so I can take a peek. 

I hope you have a great week! 

August 20, 2021

Week Two Reflections

I had high hopes for blogging this week. But that didn't happen.  Life happened. Here's a recap of my week.


We started homework this week, and even though the kids had to write it down in their agendas, I did post a picture on Class Dojo so parents could keep an eye out as well.  The last time these kids had homework was 18 months ago in third grade... they need some help with being responsible.  

I also taped up my computer cart with electrical tape so students could easily find their specific classroom laptop.  Tape went on the bottom groove where the computer slides in and also around the charging cord, I numbered it with sharpie. We also wrote our specific computer number in our agendas so they could "prove" it to others.  It's not sticking as great as I thought it would, but it's doing the job so I won't have to redo.  


I'm back to using TEAMs again. I had added channels for a Class Chat, Helpful Websites, and Homework Help channels last week... but then added more...

*Workshop Activities has images of papers that I used to copy. Last year really proved the kids don't need their own copy to tackle it, so I just uploaded for the week, and will take it down on Monday and upload the new information.  I added their Math Spiral and list of spelling words for easy access.  

 *Absent Kids... I already have my first kid at home due to a cold... but since it's the same symptoms as something else, well I realized I needed a way for the kids trapped at home for weeks to keep up with in class students.  Or at least have access.  Every day that someone is absent I will now snap pictures of the math workbook and upload on a post in that specific channel. I let parents know they can look there. 

We started Workshop today! The kids had to do part of their math spiral, part of their Your Turn (Reading) workbook, and 1 spelling option per day Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.  Then on Friday we went over it all and they graded their own papers.  When they were busy working individually or with partners, I was calling kids over for Book Talks and Conferences.

These are the workshop resources I use:

Your Turn reading workbook is part of the Wonders curriculum.


I moved the furniture around again during prep. So that picture above isn't exactly what it looks like anymore, but I forgot to take a new picture.  My brain is tired... Tried to make the outside edges a little more fluid since there are SO. MANY. KIDS. The big table on the right edge is now next to the paper towel holder, the back white bench is now where that table used to be... it opens the room so much better. The desks also got moved a bit.  I wanted to give kids a little more breathing room, so there is a small gap between table groups.  It's enough for the 4 kids by the gap to put their backpacks, or me to walk through. Feeling squished is not a pleasant feeling, and then being stuck inside due to air quality was feeling slightly claustrophobic.


Mrs. Granger (from Frindle) stopped by.  We were wrapping up our novel, and she tends to arrive right when the kids happen to need to do some dictionary drills aka the Dictionary Scavenger Hunt... Ha! I love how EVERY year there are kids that do not realize that it's me.  Throw a skirt over my capris, wear a cardigan, a gray wig, different glasses, carry around my college dictionary, and have an accent, and some are completely fooled.  Then I start preaching about the importance of the dictionary and my distaste for the word "Frindle" and it's a hoot.  


We started Friday Fluency today. Something we learned last year with distance learning is that MANY of the kids did NOT practice reading aloud while at home.  So it'll be a weekly practice until our words per minute improve. I time them for a minute, they read aloud to themselves, hands over their ears they are able to hear only themselves speak, and then I yell "TIME" when done.  They circle the word that they got to in their workbook, then we do it again, the goal to pass by their first word.  I'm not worried about numbers at this point, I just want them to have that feeling of accomplishment.

I also found some Keto ice cream that really hit the spot now that I have to watch carbs and sugar... It was a NEED for chocolate ice cream kind of night.  It's been a doozy of a week. Here's hoping it doesn't affect my blood sugar that bad... I found it at the grocery store, and it was tasty.  

Hope you had a great week!

August 13, 2021

Is it Bedtime Yet? Reflections from the First Week

It's Friday night of the first week of school.  I've had a diet coke and iced tea this afternoon to try and stay awake until my real bedtime.  But I'm dragging big time.  I've been sitting and reflecting on this last week.  Here are the highlights: 

1.  I LOVE my class.  I have 31 kids in the room, very respectful, yet I'm already seeing their personalities.  It's going to be a good year. 

2. So far most of the kids are able to track with me through the different activities.

3.  Fun Friday still works like a charm. Better get that work done to do those awesome STEM activities.  

4.  The kids aren't being bugged with wearing masks or my reminders to sanitize indoors.  

5.  I've been wearing my voice amplifier in the afternoons because my voice hurts by that time of day. I keep forgetting to drink enough water.... 

6.  We have 4 vacancies at school, but other teachers are also currently out.  We do not have enough subs, so I have been able to teach middle school during my prep as class coverage.... Turns out that it's my pandemic group from 2 years ago when the world shut down, so a lot of catching up with the kids.  :)  

7.  I sent out messages to all my parents over on Class Dojo this week, just little things to show them that I've noticed their child. :)  As a parent I like those type of messages, so it's one of my goals for the first week of school to get to everyone.  

8. We had Back to School night last night - virtual sessions again.  I had almost forgotten how to share my screen for my powerpoint... totally had a mental block.

9. Teaching 31 kids again in person for the first time in 17 months is exhausting, but very rewarding.  I hope we stay healthy.

10.  We had a lot of fun this week between Growth Mindset STEM challenges, Book Tasting, I Like My Neighbor Who, and This or That.

Now onto the beautiful weekend and then to hopefully have a calmer week next week.  :)  

Hope you had a good one too!

August 9, 2021

Back to School Paperwork - Seven Things I Tackled Lately

When this post goes live, we will currently be having our first day of school. I hope it's going well.  

For today's post I wanted to give you my list of all the Back to School paperwork that has filled the last days.  I'm ready for the paperwork to be over.... Ha! I know it's just getting started for this year.

Class Word Search:
I want to start with actually the last thing I created, probably the only fun thing I was able to do...  I wanted to do something fun for the kids, but would also be helpful for me as a time filler, as I learn more about the speed that students complete different tasks.  

It was so easy to do!  Once you have your list of names, head over to  a Word Search Generator to add them into a list.  I like this one. For my 32 kids to fit, I have it set for 20 letters x 20 letters. I copy/paste my class list (first names only) into the website, and it spits out a word search for my kids to find that first week of school. The square is pretty small if I were to print directly from the webpage, so I take a screenshot of it, add the image to a powerpoint to enlarge it, and then add our class list of names to the bottom of the page. Fifth graders seem to always love a word search, especially when it's their names they are finding.  :)  

Okay, now all the other paperwork... 

Updating the Welcome Packet: 
My grade level works together to create our plan.  We do that so that we are all on the same page, and also so that we can refer to it as "Fifth Grade Policies" when chatting with parents.  We have different sections in the 3 pages.
-Greeting and sharing a little about who I am
-All the ways we communicate (Email, School Phone Number, Class Dojo, School Website, Microsoft Teams)
-Supplies (Donation $, need for an agenda, Wish List)
-Behavior (Rules, Class Motto, Class Dojo, Rewards, Consequences)
-Grades (Grading Policy, Grading Scale, Homework, Reminders)

Parent Survey (online):
Way back when, I used to send out a paper sheet that parents filled out.  Then we switched to a free online survey website (this year Survey Planet) that has made it super simple for parents to fill it out from their phones.  Here are the questions that we ask:
-Child's Name
-Parent Name(s)
-Best email for communication (Our student portal has a ton of other resources already, so I just try to narrow down on which one is the best.)
-Share something about your child - strengths, challenges, health related, etc. 
-Acknowledgement on reading the welcome packet and agreeing to what is listed.
-Movie Permission for those PG videos we watch, listing the specific ones.
Short, sweet, and to the point.

Class Lists and Grade Sheets:
When the list is finally finalized, I take their information and create a table over in Word with my checklists. I have 32 students, so I make it with 34 rows x 9 columns.  First column is for student numbers 1-32, second column is for student names, and the rest I leave blank and easily spaced for our weekly information.  I love having a template on my computer, rather than in a grade book. It's easy to just print a few copies, and alter it when kids move, and new kids come.  I use one page per week, and jot the week # on the top (in pencil/pen). Then my goal is to have at least 1 score per subject per week.  Those can be handwritten in the 7 blank columns. It makes it easy for me to then upload it to the online grading portal which parents then view.  

Looking at Student Information on the Portal:
Before the kids come, and definitely before I make a seating chart, I go through the student information and gather some information. Here's what I'm looking at:  
-Medical Information (Inhalers, epi-pens, who is supposed to be wearing glasses, etc...)
-EL level to know if have a pull out class
We don't have any past testing for this group of kids, so in many ways I'm flying blind into this next year.  But the information I do have does help to give me a heads up to setting up a seating chart. 

Initial Welcome Email:
Sending out that initial parent welcome letter is a huge deal.  It's like the bandaid is pulled off, and all the kids know that I'm their teacher. I tend to always include the same information.
-First Day Reminders (Where to line up and when the gates open.)
-Heads up about Supply $ and Agendas
-Link to our Welcome Packet
-Link to our Class Padlet
-Link to our Class Dojo account
My goal isn't to have an entire Back to School night presentation in that email, just what they need to know for the first day, and resources that I need them to do as soon as possible.

Creating the Email Distribution List:
We have a teacher portal that we can view all email addresses connected to our class. It has a way to automatically send a message to all emails on our class list.  However, every year we learn that some of those emails are not the best to contact families.  That's why I ask for families to send in their best contact, and I copy/paste those emails into a group distribution list.  This past weekend it is what I've been working on.  Parents are filling out my survey, and I'm grabbing those emails to add to the list and adding to Class Dojo to send invites.  Not a fun task at all... 

Can anyone commiserate with me? Mental effort on top of physical effort to start the school year.  But at least when it's set up, it's good for the year. 

Hope this helps! I'll let you know how the first day went. 

August 6, 2021

Setting Up the Classroom

I still love my classroom. It just takes me more than 1 day for me to set it up. I usually need 3 different occasions to tackle it, since each time has a different mental outlook. 

First Day:
It's moving all the furniture.  

All the desks, tables, carts, chairs, bookshelves, bench find their home. I check spacing. 

**Brand new teachers - please pull out the chairs as if a kid is sitting there, make sure they can easily sit in their desk and see the board.  

I have had different arrangements over the years.  With this space, there is a lot more walking room if I can put them into 3 table groups.  I hope I can. This is my starting off place for the year.  Pods of 5 or 6 work well too. If I have to change to rows I'll do that, but it's hard since all walking space is gone.

First days are always more of the physical effort.

Second Day:
It's about unloading the cabinets, fixing the walls, and prepping the white board.

This is when I think it starts to hit me that the classroom comes to life.  When personality goes back in.

This is the day that I get easily distracted and start puttering around the classroom - placing items as if I don't remember what I did last year, or what I've learned from the past. I know this bulletin board is always better at this spot, why did I want to change it? 

I bring a Swifter duster to tackle the walls, and check to make sure the bulletin boards have another year of life in them.  

Third Day:
This is when I'm making sure that everything is ready for the first day of school.  Any copies that need to be made? Everything on the desks that should be on their desks? Things written on the board. Lesson plans ready to go, read alouds pulled out... Class list finalized? Time to write names on name tags and participation sticks, and go through my first day plans to make sure I've pulled everything.  I try to think of everything I'll need and get it in easy reach.  

Today I'm in the classroom, day 3, prepping for Monday.  Final push... The kids are coming!!! 

I hope this helps,

August 4, 2021

TPT Sale Reminder - 10 Recommended Stores

Yesterday and today there is the annual TPT site sale going on.  There are a ton of things that I have loved using in my classroom, some of which I have already shared about on here.  

I haven't added any 5th grade items into my store since I bumped up from 4th.  I wanted to get used to the new grade and become an expert before I made anything, and in the meantime I found some wonderful 5th grade teacher stores that I highly recommend.  

If you are in need of some retail therapy, may I suggest the following TPT stores to wander down the aisles? You might find that perfect new product to test out in your classroom.  

Jennifer Findley - I pretty much own her entire store.  Math task cards, math center games, error analysis, ELA stuff, lots of things that I use on a weekly basis - basically I love her store.

Joanne Miller - I use a lot of her ela and math ideas all year long - love her Reading Conferences.  

Create Teach Share - I have quite a few math and ELA resources - love her math interactive notebooks.

Hello Fifth - I have a lot of her social studies and math ideas - love her STEM ideas with history.  

Miss 5th - I have quite a few math activities - kids love her escape rooms.

Mrs. J's Resource Creations  - I have a lot of her math mysteries - love how engaging they are.  

The Book Umbrella - I have units for all the novels that we read in class - I love the format.  

Science Spot - I have a lot of fun activities for Social Studies, Science, and Math - love the cootie catchers.

Lovin Lit - I have her interactive notebooks for both ELA and also her powerpoints for SS - love all the information.

Jenifer Bazzit - Thrive in Grade Five - I have quite a few ELA and Social Studies projects - love the history snip its.

If you do need to go shopping, I hope you find the perfect product. :) Don't forget to use the code for extra discounts.

Have a great day! 

August 2, 2021

Goodbye Summer

Anyone else have a pile of stuff in their dining room, ready to head back to school? Today is the last day of my vacation... and I have yet another doctor appointment.  Yeah, it is what it is...

Summer... what a blast it has been. 

A relaxing blast.  

A stressful blast.

A life changing blast.

This summer was the one that we pretty much stayed home.  We didn't have any big trips.  We stayed close to home.  It is what it is... sometimes autism and anxiety limit our family adventures. It is our life.

My oldest chauffeured me around a lot and then got his license.

We tackled well child checks, eye appointments, dental visits, etc...

We visited multiple colleges.

My youngest had a dental procedure which required general anesthesia. Kind of a stressful mommy moment...

I read a lot of books - none of which were professional development.  The Kindle Unlimited membership came in handy.

I watched TV shows and movies. 

I met up with friends. Adult conversation is the best.  

I did a lot of miles on the bike.

I walked a ton. When it got hot, I found videos on Youtube that helped. My kids joined me.

My husband quit his job and is transferring to a new career.  

I found out I'm diabetic. 

I'm learning a lot. I'm being stretched. There have been a lot more appointments to fit in before school starts.  

But now school is starting. Year 22. It's hitting me that I was 22 when I got my first classroom.  Half my life I've been teaching... That makes me feel old.  

And my own kids now being a senior, sophomore, and sixth grader aren't helping either. I'm almost the shortest one in my house.  Getting ready for an emotional senior mom year. 

I'm hopeful though.  It has to be easier than last year, right?

So on this last day of summer, I'm trying to relax and do one last thing for me. I hope you are able to do something for you too.  

Hope you have a great day!