Sunday, August 28, 2016

Sticky Note Summaries...A Reading Strategy -- And a FREEBIE!

Today I'm here to share a reading strategy that was a major hit in my classroom with my third graders!

Remember how I told you awhile back that I'm OBSESSED with sticky notes?? Remember this picture??

Well, I turned that obsession into a great reading strategy for my students to use!

At my school, we used Accelerated Reader. Now I'm not here to share my opinion on AR. It was part of our reading curriculum and I made it work in my classroom! Students had to get so many points every year based on their reading levels. They really loved it!

Third grade is a big year for readers. Some students are transitioning from picture books to chapter books. Some students are transitioning from beginner chapter books to more complex chapter books. And some students are transitioning from elementary chapter books to middle school-level chapter books with tons of chapters. Reading levels are usually all over the place in third grade!

I quickly noticed that many of my students who were starting to read longer chapters books and my students who were just beginning to read chapter books were having a hard time remembering what they were reading. By the time they finished the book and went to take the AR test, they had completely forgotten everything that happened in the book! Not good.

Enter my obsession (and my students' obsession) with sticky notes! I knew that this would be a great way to help my readers!

The only materials you need are a book, sticky notes, and a writing utensil. I used a flair pen because...duh. You'll also notice that I used my all time favorite book as an example: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone! I did my summaries while I reread it for the one millionth time.

The idea is that at the end of each chapter, students write a short summary about the chapter and leave it in the book. When they get to the end of the book, they pull out all their sticky note summaries, put them in order, and review. After they refresh their memories and put their summaries away, it was quiz time! This strategy helped my readers so much!! I saw a vast improvement in AR test scores when we started using this strategy. And they LOVED getting to use sticky notes!!

We did have to have a mini-lesson on what to include on our sticky notes because our summaries were getting long!! To start, we included the chapter number at the top of the sticky note (just in case it fell out of the book). On the back we also wrote down our initials (also in case the sticky note fell out of the book). I liked for students to put the setting of the chapter at the top of the sticky note as well. We made sure to include new characters, new settings, and important events. I liked the students to underline any new characters. This was great practice on how to summarize a text!

After we started finding sticky notes all over the classroom, I knew we needed a way to contain them after they were taken out of the books. Students didn't want to just throw them away after they tested because they worked so hard on them and it was great to go back and refer to if they were talking to a friend about a text. So I made this cute little organizer for them to store their sticky notes!

I numbered the boxes to make it easier for my students to organize their sticky notes.


And today I'm offering it to you FOR FREE!!!! Just click HERE to download it :)

I hope this strategy helps your readers who need a little extra help remembering their books! I know it really helped mine! I even had parents comment on how much they loved this strategy! They noticed an improvement in their child's retention of the story and AR test scores! That makes me one happy teacher!!

I hope this strategy helps your students as much as it did mine! Enjoy!

Thursday, August 4, 2016

Creating a Teacher Binder That Works for YOU! (FREEBIE)

Okay, let's talk organization. I'm a very organized person and there is one organization tool that this teacher CANNOT live without! Why, it's my teacher binder, of course! My teacher binder is my absolute favorite teacher tool that I have used every year! I put mine together before I started my first year teaching and I can actually say that I used it! It kept me so organized and on top of everything! I took it to every type of meeting ever (IEP, faculty, parent-teacher, RtI, team, district, etc). I pulled it out every time I lesson planned. No wonder it looked so worn after a year of use!

Today, I'm going to share with you how I put together my teacher binder and maybe you can pick up some tips for putting together your own binder! I'm going to show you pics from my old binders as well as the one that I'm putting together to use as a home binder while I'm doing the whole stay-at-home mom gig.

Look at those beauties! The far left was my very first teacher binder. The middle one was my second one (and comes from my best-selling Chevron Teacher Binder Bundle). The one on the right is my newest binder (and comes from my brand new Bright Colors Teacher Binder Bundle).

Alright let's get this binder going! Gather up your supplies!

First thing you'll need: a HEAVY DUTY binder

I know they cost more. I understand. But trust me. You are going to want a heavy duty binder because you will use this thing ALL THE TIME! My binder from last year was a heavy duty binder and it still looked worn out by the end of the year. Think what that thing would have looked like if I hadn't sprung for the heavy duty binder!

Here's the binder I used last year. I opted for a black binder. I'm kind of obsessed with colorful covers on a black background. It really makes the colors pop!

I would definitely suggest using a 1.5" binder for your teacher binder. By the time you add all the necessities, it gets pretty thick!

I love these binders because they have the easy open rings. I HATE pulling rings apart and then closing them. I'm always sure that I'm going to pinch the skin between my thumb and pointer finger and die a slow painful death. So the easy-open is a must for anti-anxiety purposes.

*Sidenote: Look at my cute school picture! HA!

Go ahead and put your cover in the front and your spine label on the side.

TIP: Cardstock works really well for your cover and dividers because it holds up really well BUT don't use cardstock for your spine label. IT IS A PAIN TO GET IN THAT THIN SLEEVE! Trust me. My first year I did cardstock and it took all sorts of extra tools and effort to get it in. The next year, I just used plain printer paper and it slid right in and never fell out! Learn from my mistakes, y'all.

In the pic above, you can see just how beat up your binder will get after a year of use! Can you imagine if I hadn't sprung for the heavy duty binder?!

Next you'll need some dividers. You really can get whatever dividers your heart desires but I like my dividers to have pretty covers so I buy these clear page protector dividers:

TIP: During my second year of teaching, I bought the Avery Page Protector Dividers which were very durable and great but the labels that went on the tabs started falling off and the ink rubbed off pretty quickly. That's why I decided to go with these Office Depot ones this year. They have the standard paper that slides into the tab. Hopefully they'll last a bit longer!

Now here's a little warning for you. The heavy duty binders have the rings on the back cover of the binder instead of on the spine. Because of this (and because the dividers are wider than standard dividers), your tabs will hang out the edge of the binder. This may annoy some people so I wanted to give you a fair warning. Honestly, I hated it when I first made my binder. But I didn't want to compromise on my heavy duty binder or my pretty dividers so I sucked it up. I can now say that I honestly loved it in the end because I didn't even have to open my binder to flip to a section. Oh you need to see my lesson plans, BAM! I can flip right to them without opening my binder first. Fancy, I know.

You can find the divider covers in my teacher binder bundle at the end of this post :)

Next, you need to decide what sections you want in your binder. I played around with what sections I wanted once the school year began. I ended up not using all the sections I originally chose so I went back and changed them out. That's okay, guys. Remember, you want this binder to work for you, not the other way around! Here are the sections I chose:


In my calendar section I have monthly, 2-page calendars where I can keep all my important dates written down and organized (this is also a part of my bundle).

As you can see, I used my calendar A LOT! That's the reason why I keep a binder clip on my binder. I clip the previous month's calendar pages together so I can easily flip to the correct month. You could also clip your lesson plan pages if you use those the most and need to flip to them quickly!

Here's another tip for you: print those babies on CARDSTOCK!! Don't you dare print them on regular printer paper. If you are a serious calendar user like myself (as in: if it ain't on the calendar, it ain't happenin'), you had better use cardstock. Printer paper just is not going to hold up and your calendar will be hanging on by one hole by the middle of the month and you will be sad. Trust me, guys.


This is where I kept my lesson plans! I also included all my favorite lesson planning pages that I use to plan before I get to the weekly plans (monthly plans, 9 weeks plans, quarter plans, etc). I promise that someday I will make those editable for you guys. There is just not enough time in the day, ya know?!


Here I keep all my standards. I liked to keep my standards in my binder because I liked to have them handy for lesson planning and for meetings. We used our standards in PLC meetings A LOT so it was nice to have them handy! I also kept all my district pacing guides in this section to help keep me on track throughout the year!


Next, I had my student info section. This section was really important to have handy. In it I included my 'How Do We Get Home?' page, student passwords, the class roster that the school gave us with their addresses and phone numbers, student birthdays page, a medical information page where I listed all allergies, medications, and medical conditions, and then our Class Dojo Points page. Of course, I can't show you any of this for real (to protect the innocent) but I will show you the blank pages so you can get an idea!

***TIP! Put important pages that you'll reference a lot in sheet protectors! After a whole year of flipping through these important pages, they'll probably start falling out and you'll have to redo them every so often. Save yourself the work and put them in page protectors! Or print them on cardstock. The choice is yours, my friend.


This section is where I kept the most important data on my students that I used frequently. This data was used a lot during PLC meetings and during my planning of small group activities.

In this section I kept all my STAR Reading results. I liked to print out the graph as well as the benchmark page to help me remember where my students were as far as reading goes. I could easily see who my intervention kids were which was helpful for RtI and PLC meetings.

I also included term grades and 9 weeks test scores in this section so I could go back and look at them quickly. Also great for RtI meetings! We kept grades online but I did like to keep a few grade sheets in this section that were needed during RtI meetings (homework grades and test grades). You're going to want to keep any important assessments or grades that you need to reference frequently during meetings or planning!


The first page in this section is the Parent Night Sign-In sheet from my Back to School Night post. I had the parents write their emails on the sign in sheet so I had everyone's email in one spot. I emailed parents A LOT so it was nice to be able to access email addresses quickly! Obviously I can't show you my actual page so here's a blank one to give you an idea:

Next, at the beginning of the year, I filled my binder with tons of blank Parent Contact Forms. That way, whenever I met with, emailed, or called a parent, I could flip to this section and fill out a parent contact form quickly while we were meeting! It was so nice to be able to do this. It's great for accountability!


Here I kept all the schedules I needed to keep track of. Things like district calendars, class schedules, planning schedules, duty schedules, pull-out schedules, etc went in this section. Seriously, so many schedules. No picture of my schedules, because, well, they weren't very pretty.


Last but not least, I had my notes section. At the beginning of the year, I printed off a ton of my Meeting Notes Pages and put them in this section so they were ready to go when I had a meeting to go to. It was so nice to be able to quickly reference my notes to remember important information from past meetings.

Last but not least, I always printed out our weekly newsletter and put it in the very front of my binder. I referenced it a lot for spelling/vocab words or homework for the day so it was great to have it right there in the front for easy access!

Oh yeah! One last thing! On the back cover of my binder, I include a My Information page! Just in case I ever lose my binder (which would be a tragedy). But with this, it can easily be returned to me!

Alright friends! There you have it! My teacher binder. My pride and joy. Seriously, make this thing work for you, friends. The possibilities are endless! Maybe you would prefer to have multiple binders for each section instead of one 50 pound binder with everything in it. That's great! You do you! Make it work for you!

If your interested in my best-selling Chevron Teacher Binder Bundle you can check it out by clicking the pic below:

I also have a Polka Dot version that matches my Polka Dot Classroom Decor Bundle perfectly!

You can also check out my brand new style! My Bright Colors Teacher Binder Bundle is my new fave!!!

If you aren't interested in the whole binder but just want the organizational forms (these come with both teacher binder bundles), you can get them by clicking the cover below:

Well, if you read through this whole post, you are amazing and I love you. I hope you found something helpful!! And because you are so dedicated, I'm going to give you a freebie for being awesome!! Click the pic below to download my parent contact form! Enjoy!

Have a great school year, teachers!!

Tuesday, August 2, 2016

Ask and You Shall Receive...a FREEBIE!!

Remember when I posted about how I use Class Dojo in my classroom and I shared my Class Dojo Rewards Menu (pictured above)? Well if you don't, you can find that post HERE.

Well anyways, my pin of my Class Dojo Rewards Menu BLEW UP! At least, that's blowing up to me. See below:
Well since that post, I have had TONS of requests to make it editable. Ask and you shall receive, people! I finally got a free minute to make an editable version of my rewards menu! And I'm going to give it to you FOR FREEEEEEE!!!

In this freebie, I offer you two varieties of my Dojo Rewards Menu that you can edit to fit your needs! The first version is a completely blank chart (except for title) where you can add your own text. The second version has the point values added in and all you have to do is add the reward to correspond with the value. 

If you are wondering, the font used on my original menu and used on the values on the editable file is from my all time favorite font artist (is that a thing?), Kimberly Geswein! It's called KG Miss Kindergarten and you can download it for free HERE

To download the editable file, click the picture above (you'll need PowerPoint to edit it)! I hope you LOVE it!!

I know it's been a long time since I've posted and I promise I have a lot of posts in the works that you are going to love!! Be on the lookout for more fun posts in the coming weeks!

Happy Back to School Season, y'all!!