Saturday, October 25, 2014

You Oughta Know About...ReadWorks!

It's that time again, friends! Mrs. McClain from Buzzing with Mrs. McClain is hosting her monthly "You Oughta Know" blog hop! I am just so in love with this blog hop! A great group of bloggers will be sharing their tips, tricks, and resources that you "oughta know about!" Make sure you check out the other blogs in the blog hop at the end of this post to get more great tips and tricks!

As you can see by the lack of posting on my blog, this school year has be BUSY! So I'm going to share a resource that has saved me so much time!! My tip this month is in the form of an awesome website! You may have heard of it before, but if you haven't, get ready to be excited! It's called ReadWorks and it is FABULOUS!!!
PS. I have no affiliation with ReadWorks. I just love this site!

ReadWorks is a website completely devoted to helping teachers teach the most difficult of skills: reading comprehension!

ReadWorks features many great tools that teachers can use, but in order to keep this post from becoming a novel, I'll share just a few of my favorite features!

My favorite tool that ReadWorks offers is their Skill & Strategy Units. Teaching a difficult skill like theme next week? No problem! Head on over to ReadWorks, select your grade, and ReadWorks has 3 ready-made lessons about theme for you! And as you can see below, ReadWorks has lessons for TONS of comprehension skills and strategies!

What I love about the lessons is that they are structured in an 'I do, we do, you do' format. Students get a lot from these lessons! They even include all the practice passages you need! If the lesson features a trade book, it is listed in the materials list!

Many of the lessons include direct teaching, guided practice, and independent practice passages for the skill being taught. This has been a lifesaver for me because I can use the guided practice pages during small groups! If I'm working with a lower group, I get the 2nd grade passages for the skill I'm teaching and if I'm working with a higher group, I use the 4th grade comprehension passages for the skill I'm teaching! Differentiation made easy!!

ReadWorks also features a database of passages that you can search through by Lexile level, comprehension skill/strategy being practiced, text type, and domain. You can find passages here to use for close reading, assessments, or just extra practice!

Also, most of the passages come with question sets that include multiple choice questions and constructed response questions. AWESOME, RIGHT?!

Did I mention that ReadWorks is a FREE resource?!?!?!?!? You heard me right! It is completely free! You do have to create an account but it is ABSOLUTELY worth it!! I sometimes think it's too good to be true, y'all!

ReadWorks saved me a lot of stress and planning time during my first year of teaching when I was still pretty clueless. I have been using ReadWorks all throughout this school year as well and I'm still obsessed with it! I'm teaching theme next week and ReadWorks is going to make it really easy to teach theme (a skill I dread teaching)! I cannot say enough good things about this site! It offers a ton of other great features as well like novel units, comprehension units, science and social studies passages (integration, anyone?!), and vocabulary passages. YOU HAVE TO CHECK IT OUT!!! Seriously.

Now that you've checked out my tip for the month, make sure you hop on over to the blogs below to check out their great tips and tricks as well!

Thanks for stopping by!

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

How to Play Mingle...A Versatile Game to Get Your Kids Up And Moving!

Today, I want to teach you guys a fun game that I play pretty frequently with my students! Mingle is a fun, versatile game that I made up last year when I was in a pinch for a fun game to play when teaching prefixes. Now I use it for just about everything! Let me tell you more......

I am all about movement. I hate when my kids are sitting for too long. It gets boring for them and it gets boring for me. Sometimes we all just need to move! That is how Mingle came to life! Here's how you play.....

Make some cards for whatever skill you are working on. I was working on linking verbs. I wanted to give my students a fun, active way to practice linking verbs (grammar can be boring, am I right?!).

Give each student a card. I explained to my students that today we were going to play Mingle (we've played once before). This time, we were going to to meet up with 2 other students to make a sentence with a linking verb (last time we only paired up with one other person).

Turn on the KidsBop Pandora station. As the music plays, students walk around the room and "mingle." This step is mostly to get them mixed up and moving. I tell my students that they shouldn't show anyone their card during this time. They mostly dance around. You'll get to see some sweet dance moves! When the music stops, I usually tell the students to "pair up." Students rush around the room trying to find a match. This step may get noisy, but don't worry! It's good noise!

Students find a match for their cards (or make a sentence) and then sit down so it is easier for students without a match to find a match!

We then go around and share our matches/sentences. For this version of the game, I had my students read the sentence, tell me the linking verb, and tell me what it was linking together.

After every group has shared, the music comes on and we mingle again! When the music stops, they pair up with a new set of people!

This game is a BLAST! And it is so easy to put together! Just make some quick cards with half an index card and you are set!

I have used this game with so many different language skills: linking verbs, prefixes and suffixes, and subject/verb agreement, to name a few. I don't teach math, but you could easily adapt this game to practice math skills!

Next time you need a quick, fun, active game to practice skills, give Mingle a shot! Your students will love it!

Saturday, September 13, 2014

You Oughta Know About...Managing Absent Work

Hi friends!! It's that time again! I'm linking up with Mrs. McClain over at Buzzing with Mrs. McClain for the monthly You Oughta Know blog hop! We'll be sharing tips, advice, websites, and products that teachers just oughta know about! Make sure that you check out the other blogs at the end of this post to discover more things that You Oughta Know!

My tip this month is simple and such a time (and sanity) saver! I'm going to share with you how I organize my absent work! Now I know what you're thinking......just put it on the child's desk and let them get it in the morning. Wouldn't that be great?? In a departmentalized classroom, that is not an option. I've got 2 other sweeties that sit where the absent student sits throughout the day, so leaving the work on the desk is not an option for me.

Enter.....this beauty!

I was cruising through a local teacher store this summer and happened upon this nifty pocket chart (you can click the pic to check it out on Amazon).

 Pocket Chart

The color is actually what drew me to this adorable pocket chart. I knew I was going to buy it regardless of what it was going to hold :) When I picked it up, I saw that it held 5 file folders. And that's when it hit me....ABSENT WORK!!!

Last year, I had basically no system for absent work. I don't know how I went the whole year without a system for managing absent work. That is so not me! I seriously just threw the papers on my desk and prayed that they would eventually make it to the students (just being honest here, folks).

I found these adorable file folders at my favorite store, Target.

I put one folder in each pocket and then typed up some quick, cute labels for each day of the week.

Now, when a student is absent, I let their work collect on their desk or pull it in the morning. Near the end of the class, I grab a paperclip and clip the work together. Then I attach one of these babies to the top:


You can grab this as a freebie HERE. I keep plenty of copies of this form in my pocket chart so they are handy and ready to go when I need them.

I write in everything the student missed. If the parent wants to pick up the student's work during the day, I'll send it to the other teachers to attach their absent work as well.

Now when my students are absent, all I have to do is tell them to grab their absent work from the day they were absent. SIMPLE!

I hung my pocket chart on the back of my door with some Command Hooks. It is in a central location that is easily accessible!

No more misplacing absent work for me! And now my students can be independent and grab their work themselves! Everyone needs a system that will work well for them. This works for me because it is easy, keeps work off desks, and takes up no room (I would love to do a hanging file but I just don't have the room).

So that's it folks! Simple and organized.....just the way I like it! Now make sure you hop through the other blogs below to learn some more cool tips and tricks!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Totally Random Proper Noun Activity

So have you guys ever just looked at your plans in the morning and said, "Man, that is just going to be boring." Sometimes I do that. Sometimes I'm so rushed to get plans made on the weekends that I don't plan the most spectacular activities ever. Just being transparent here folks! Luckily, I'm pretty good about going over my plans before I teach them and if something isn't sounding super awesome, I just change it up. Don't get me wrong: I love lesson plans. And I'm super organized. But when it comes to teaching, some of my best lessons have been lessons that I spontaneously came up with right before teaching them. Sometimes you just have to flexible, y'all!

Language can be boring. So I knew that I wanted to get my kids up and moving while still reviewing and discussing proper nouns. So on the fly, I threw together a little activity to get us moving and having fun! Some people call these little activities gallery walks. Mine tend to be a little upbeat and loud for a gallery. But there's nothing wrong with that!

I made a few simple posters like these on colored copy paper:

Super fancy....I know. But hey, when you're more worried about getting a fun activity together before your kids get back from P.E., fanciness is not a priority.

Next, I posted the signs around the room. I put some on tables. I also, taped some to the doors and walls. An activity is always more fun when stuff is hanging from the walls. Am I right?!

My next step: choosing sticky notes to use! Please tell me I'm not the only sticky note hoarder. I literally have them located in about 5 different places depending on what they are used for (my own personal sticky notes, small sticky notes, large sticky notes, fun shaped sticky notes, and sticky note overflow). Check out this collection:

Ha! On a side note that has nothing to do with this post, please look at these adorable pig sticky notes that I got from Wally.....

So stinking cute, right?! I bought two packs. I'm thinking a Charlotte's Web activity?? I need to make that happen.

Anyways, back to choosing sticky notes. I settled on the small ones. I think they're some random 1 7/8 x 1 7/8? Or something like that. Perfect since we're just writing one word on them. And as you can see, these are Wally brand sticky notes. Ain't nobody wasting precious, brand-name Post-It notes on this sort of activity. Just sayin'.

I gave each student 5 sticky notes (even though I made ten posters, I wanted this to be a quick activity). You can make this activity as long or as short as you want! I turned on the Kids Bop Pandora station and the students rotated from poster to poster turning the common noun on the poster into a proper noun. Here are some fun examples:

Then we went through the results as a class. As you can see, some of us need reminding that proper nouns get capital letters. We'll work on that.

I also need to inform our social studies teacher that the kids definitely do not know the difference between a city and a state. Ha! See example below:

Gotta love 'em! Hey, look! I integrated a S.S. assessment in with my Language assessment! INTEGRATION, Y'ALL!!

This activity was fun and quick. It took very little prep. It was also a great assessment tool, as I could see if we needed more practice with proper nouns or not. I think we've got this one down (with the exception of a few reminders that proper nouns get capitals)!

Just a fun little activity that I'll definitely adjust for my needs and use again! The kids loved it. I loved it. It was fun!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

2014 Classroom Reveal...Warning: Photo Overload!

Y'all. Can you believe we are back at school?! I'm sorry, but what happened to June and July?? I think summers get shorter when you're a teacher...just sayin'.

Anyways. Back to business! Back to school means classroom reveal photos, guys! I'm so excited to share my classroom with you guys! I love decorating my classroom almost as mush as I love teaching itself. Seriously. It's just fun. So if you're all cozied up and we go!!!!

Here's my classroom from the door. As you can tell, I don't have the biggest classroom in the world. But guess what? I make it work for me and my students, y'all! There is not one inch of my classroom that goes untouched! Ha!

Here's my actual door. Simple, cute, and colorful!

As you enter the door, I have my command center. Here you'll find lunch envelopes, tissues, disinfecting goodies, and a three-drawer organizer that my students use to turn in anything and everything (remember I'm departmentalized). I also have my reminders sign (perfect for jotting down little notes about transportation changes and announcements). Then I have this adorable 4S line posters that I got from Valerie King for FREE that you can find here.

Behind my door, the command center continues (because of security reasons, my door has to remain closed and locked, so this area is very accessible). Here I have my class schedule, gifted pull-out schedule, special of the day, lunch calendar, and.......

MY JOB CHART! Y'all. I love my job chart. I just think it's so darn adorable (but I may be biased). Last year I hung my job chart up with pretty patterned duct tape instead of using the border. I love it both ways!

On the back of my door, I have necessary forms, a clip board that has a "How We Get Home" chart on it, and a pocket chart that I use to manage absent work (which can be very overwhelming in a departmentalized classroom, especially during cold and flu season). You can read more about how I manage my absent work HERE!

Moving is my Daily 4 rotations board! On it I have 2 pocket charts: one for weekly tasks and one for my rotations schedule. I know, I know. Choice is the foundation of Daily 5. I know. I get it. But in my classroom, it just works better for me if I choose their rotation (because I group my kiddos). More on that later, though. Under my rotations board is a bookshelf that houses stuff (games, dictionaries, supplies).

Here is my pencil station. Now guys, I see tons of posts about trying to keep pencils around and managed, but no one understands the nightmare that is the great pencil battle better than a departmentalized teacher. At the beginning of last year, I started the week with 50 pencils in the can and ended the week with 5. It was insane how quickly my pencils vanished. Every time students switched classes, they took my pencils with them! Now I have figured out the most fabulous system. All it takes to keep your pencils in your classroom is a little bit of fun patterned duct tape! I just put a small flag on each pencil. Now it is really obvious when a student accidentally takes a pencil to another room and they are almost always returned as soon as possible! I started this last year (using the same tape) and now the 4th graders (my babies from last year) can spot my pencils in the hallway quicker than anyone! They've even returned a few pencils that they have found in the hallways! Love them! No more misplaced or lost pencils for me!

Next up is my technology. My precious little computer from the early 2000's :) Hey, better than no technology right?? I also plan to bring in old iPhones that I snatched up from family members to up my technology factor :)

Beside my computer desk is my writing area (which is sadly naked right now). I just can't decide how I want to set up this giant writing table. I have two milk crate stools under the table so that students will be able to write at this table once D5 really gets going. The bulletin board above the table will be strictly for writing "stuff." I got my VOICES board from the Down Under Teacher and you can get that here. I really hope I do it justice! Above my VOICES board are my writing process posters (which you can find in a fabulous pack HERE). Also, if you're wondering, those green curtains hide the ugliest AC unit you have ever seen. I just couldn't look at that thing all year. When I first moved into my room last year, it was the first thing I wanted to hide. Mr. Cain is responsible for hanging those curtains. He's the best :)

In this corner, I house a bunch of different stuff. The plastic drawers house extra supplies (I have literally no storage). The black shelf houses all my Word Work stuff. The tubs house my different Word Work stations (they're still leftover from last year because we haven't started Word Work yet).

There's my homework board! I write down all of our weekly homework on this board. Obviously, I have a BUNTING OBSESSION.

In this corner of my room, I have a shelf over my coat hooks that houses our Reading Street readers and workbooks. The white wire shelf holds all my small group goodies (I use table 4 as my small group table since we do D5 scattered throughout the room). Below the coat hooks, I have my book baggie storage for D5. You can read more about my resourceful book baggies HERE!

I numbered my coat hooks because I am too OCD to leave them unnumbered (is that a word? Whatever.).

And next you have my whole group meeting area. Love my cheetah rug! I got it for a great deal at Ross when I was still a broke first year teacher :) The meeting area is of course, centered around my Smart Board.

Now. Notice the beautiful background behind the Smart Board?? Well it didn't always look like that. This is what it looked like before.....

YIKES! I got my Smart Board back in March (PRAISE THE GOOD LORD!). But there were literally THREE (ONE, TWO, THREE) boards layered over each other where I wanted my board to go! Well they could only remove the front whiteboard so the other whiteboard and the chalkboard behind it had to stay. So they just installed my Smart Board over the old, nasty whiteboard. And from March to May, that's what I saw up there. And it made my skin crawl. So my first project this summer was covering that nasty board! So after some poster board and a little boarder, I have a gorgeous Smart Board backdrop (fancy, huh)???

To the left of my board, I have 3rd Grade Thoughts' Whole Brain Teaching Rules which you can find for FREE here.

To the right of my board, I have my happy face board (also part of Whole Brain Teaching). I keep tally of the happy faces and sad faces and the kids compete in a little class competition which I also keep track of here. The classes compete for a whole class prize every month (this month we're working on a homework pass). Finally, on top, I have my Class Dojo rewards! You can read about how I use Whole Brain Teaching and Class Dojo in my classroom and snag my Dojo Rewards Menu for free HERE!

In the next corner of my room, I have random junk (just kidding). I have a cabinet that is literally my only storage in my classroom. You don't want to see inside, trust me. I use anchor charts in my classroom so an easel is a must! When I was a first year teacher, fresh out of college, I couldn't afford a fancy pants easel. So how did I solve this problem??? Mr. Cain made me one! And even painted it my favorite color! In case you haven't worked this out yet.....he's the greatest.

Along the wall, I have three ottomans and two pillows pushed together that I call "the couch." We can pretend, right? Above the couch is my focus wall. I think it's really important that the students start learning with the end in mind, so I like them to know what standards we are working on each week. I made the bunting and I got the focus wall headers and standard cards (not pictured) from One Extra Degree HERE. They are fabulous!!! Beside my Focus Wall, I have my learning scale which you can learn more about HERE!

Next up, we have my teacher area! I love the stuff on the wall, y'all. My OU flag shows my Sooner pride, my Mrs. Cain bunting is adorable, and eventually my whole wall will be filled with "happies" from my students (I've got a great collection started for only being back for 2 weeks)! I also have my teacher toolbox and a giant printer (ignore him. He's a big, ugly monster). I'm so mad that I forgot to take a picture of my day of the week magazine file organizers! You can see them to the right on top of my filing cabinet. I store all my books and activities for the week in a magazine file for each day of the week. I glued Monday through Friday labels onto clothespins and clipped them to the front of the boxes. Totes adorbs and totes orgs (as in, organized). Just kidding. If I ever talk like that again, slap me.

And now guys......for my favorite part of my classroom.....MY CLASSROOM LIBRARY!

I just love my library. Seriously. Love. I could sit in it all day and just soak in all the beautiful, book happiness. I've got a few different book bins that I use. Chapter books are in plastic shoe boxes and baby milk crates and picture books are in dish pans (remember, last year I was a first year teacher on a BUDGET). Eventually I'll invest in pretty book bins, but for now, these work for me! I have all my books labeled by genre or topic so that students can easily find what they are interested in. All the levels of the books are on a sticker on the back of the book but I don't want students to pick books solely based on levels or points. I want them to read what they're interested in and learn to love reading! Each book has a circle garage sale price sticker on it with a number that matches the number of the box that it goes back into. This makes it easier for the kidsters to return the books to their proper bucket!

On the wall in my library, I have a few fun things. Above the bulletin board, I have Rachel Lamb's genre posters which you can find here. I just love them! So adorable! On my bulletin board, I have my CAFE board (which I'm trying for the first time this year). I mix and matched my headers and strategy cards. The headers are from Cute Classroom Creations and you can find them here and the strategy cards are from Down Under Teacher and you can find them here.

And here's a few whole class pics! Don't mind the child in the library. He is a teacher's child and was in my class last year. He was in my classroom pics last year, too :) Love him!

And there you have it, friends! That is where I teach and love and learn! I love my little piece of elementary happiness!

If you're interested, you can find all my chevron decor pictured as well as a ton more in this fabulous little chevron-y bundle! You can also purchase many of the pieces individually so make sure to explore my store! Enjoy!

If chevron isn't really your style, you can check out my Polka Dot Classroom Decor Mega Bundle!