Thursday, September 19, 2013

Common Core Quandries

Some many growing pains and changes this year! I'm so looking forward to the CCSS, but this limbo year is killing me! California has passed a bill through the Assembly that would essentially stop our state testing this year, and would have each school take EITHER the ELA or math pilot Smarter Balanced assessment. The Governor won't sign or veto until 10/13. That means that I won't know until mid-October which standards I'm going to be tested on, which means that right now, I'm trying to cover BOTH! Our school has decided, for now, not to purchase bridge or new CCSS aligned materials. The Primary teachers are using our basals, but from 2nd on up, we are all doing Daily 5 and CAFE. I don't have time this year in my schedule to read aloud as much as in years passed. I don't know when/where I'm going to do explicit teaching on things like citing from the text. I'm considering moving back to lit circles for one round of books so I can get in some of those ELA standards. 
Daily 5ers: How are YOU handling this in your room?

Monday, September 9, 2013

Monday Made It, Finally!

Yay! It's finally time for...
I am so glad I get to link up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for her Monday Made It! 

Tomorrow I'm rolling out Word Work... I've pushed it to the very last!  I use Words Their Way for spelling, so I am actually starting both tomorrow. I've been super stressed about starting Word Work this year.  In other years, I've been able to glue a spelling work "menu" into my kid's Word Study Journals.  This way, they can just do the written activities as homework or in class. When I started Daily 5 last year, I decided to have this be their Word Work.  Some liked it, but most found it boring after a while.  I really wanted to add some of the fun activities I kept seeing on Pinterest, but I didn't have the infrastructure set up in my room.

So all summer I've been ransacking Target and Dollar Tree to get my hands on Word Work activities.  I really lucked into some great values. Bananagrams (Espanol) and Scrabble (Espanol) were on sale at Target for $5 each!  Funny story, my 11 year old daughter saw the Bananagrams and grabbed them for me.  They stayed in the Target bag for a month until I was ready to put them in my room. I had told a friend of mine that she should go to Target and snag them too.  She told me that the only ones that were on sale were Spanish.  I looked in the bag, and sure enough, 3 sets of Bananagram en Espanol!  Oh well, I just need to take out the Spanish characters and the set works perfectly...

In order to have my kiddos know what to do for each activity, I've created these fun activity cards. I've made them in full size and in mini-card sizes.  You can snag them for free here...

I've also made a real world rounding activity using population data.  It was great for my kids.  I'd share it here, but I need to create a key first.  Does anyone else find that rounding is particularly difficult for kids to "get"?  I use "5 or more, let it soar.  4 or less, let it rest."  What do you use?

Monday, August 26, 2013

Missing Monday Made It!

Well, it's that time again alas, it's NOT that time again... boo!  I was SO looking forward to this week's Monday Made it.  I only made one thing, since school has been sucking up every last minute of my life, but I'm pretty proud of it and wanted to show it off!

Here it is anyway!!!
This packet comes with game boards with 9 digits (millions place), 6 digits (100 thousands place), and 4 digits (thousands place) to meet 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade place value standards.  Also included are number tiles, directions, and a follow-up worksheet asking students to write their opponent's number in standard, word, and expanded form.

So I saw this awesome pin yesterday and was totally inspired to make my own version of it for my kids!  Place Value Battleship!  Here's the original post (from 2012). I saw that so many people had asked for the template, I thought it'd be easy to make one that was a little snazzier.  = )

That's it!  You can snag it here!

I'm having a parent laminate and cut mine tomorrow.  I can't wait to use it!

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Common Core

Okay... Common Core... Thoughts? Feelings? I just spent many posts on a Facebook thread defending the teaching profession in general, and common core specifically from someone who clearly had no idea what they were talking about.
My school has been preparing to switch to Common Core for the past 2 years. We have had many trainings and opportunities to plan and incorporate them into our science and social studies units.
One training that I attended recently (on writing) talked about common core peripherally. I was surprised to hear a few teachers who continuously talked about the test and how they needed to change their centers in order to prep for the test. 

My take on the Common Core is that it encourages higher order thinking skills. We shouldn't worry about the test! If we are teaching using best practices, then the kids will do fine on THE TEST...

Just my two cents.... What do you think?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Community Service Projects

Yesterday (our 4th day of school) I assigned out first project, a community service project. In the next two weeks, my students will need to perform a service and then write about it. We brainstormed a list of needs in our community and where/how we could help out. My kids were very excited about it. 
One of the places that I mentioned was our local homeless shelter/soup kitchen. Now, as is usual, this is not in the best or most affluent area. I simply added it to the list. Apparently one of my students was deeply moved at the idea of helping the homeless and told his/her parents that s/he really wanted to serve food at the soup kitchen.  The parent was very upset that I included a place that wasn't "safe" on our class brainstorm.
How would you react to this? I simply said that as the parent, it was up to them to guide their child to participate in activities that meet their family's comfort level and values.  I don't know what else to say. Would YOU have included the only homeless shelter in your area or not?

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Half room reveal

Like almost every year of my teaching career, I was in my classroom until 11 prepping for our first day of school. I like having this crazy yet zen-like time to be alone in my room, but together with the other teachers who've stayed way past bedtime.  I didn't complete two things on my list, but neither were critical to opening the door this morning. (I did, however, come home and revamp my class website and make my welcome letter). So I have pictures of half of my room. I don't have anything on my boards on the other side yet, so that will have to wait!
This one shows my new ribbon jobs chart and my book boxes, waiting to be decorated by their new owners.
Here are my Character Traits and CAFE board (I'll have to find the credits on that one!)
My super adorable alphabet by Ladybug's Teacher Files . (My welcome sign went on the door in the am. :) )

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Monday, August 12, 2013

Monday Made It

It's crunch time in my little neck of the woods.  Sorry I've been gone for so long.  We get kidlets on Wednesday.  YIKES!  My classroom is coming along... very, very slowly.  I am quickly realizing just how little wall space I have.  Since I moved rooms (and have a hard time with change) I ended up trying to put everything in my new room in the exact configuration as my last.  This would work out nicely if the rooms were the same, but they are just slightly different.  Next year I'm going to have to reconfigure the whole room in order to maximize the wall space.  This year however, I'm just going to have to make do! = )  Be on the look out for my room reveal!

I have been super busy making stuff this week, but I don't have much to show and tell...

Made It #1

 I'm excited to make my first ribbon sign!  Yes, I'm just now learning about that. I got my idea from Aimee at . You can see her fantastic post about ribbon signs here .  I plan on having a bow at the top and then having the jobs run parallel down both sides.  I've only posted a pic of some of my jobs.  I was thinking about sharing them on my TPT site, but I don't know.  Jobs are so classroom specific... what do you think?
I have a bow-riffic friend who I plan to enlist to help me create and hang. I'll post a picture when it's done!

Made It #2 

I decided last minute that I'd like one of these little gems on my door, so I created one!  I think I just might hang this one with ribbon too...  You can snag a copy here!

One more thing, and this isn't a Made It, but rather a shout out...
As I may have mentioned a few times, I'm moving over to a clip chart for behavior management. I was planning on making one, but I saw this cutie on TPT and just HAD to have it!  The thing was, my school has uniform colors for our clip charts.  This meant that Ashley's awesome chart wouldn't work for me.  However, I dropped her a comment and she custom made one for me!!!  Make sure to check her out and give her some love!  

Anyway, that's about it for me this week. Busy, busy, busy! Stay tuned for my room reveal... I should be posting it around 11:59pm Tuesday night.  LOL

Monday, July 29, 2013

Monday Made It!

I'm super excited to share my first Monday Made It with 4th Grade Frolics!

Made It #1

My school focuses on one character trait a month. I decided these would look nice above my whiteboard. Traits include: caring, effort, responsibility, leadership, citizenship, respect, integrity, courage, cooperation, and honesty. I'll be putting these up in my TPT store for free soon!

Made It #2

With my impending move over to a clip chart, I decided I might as well make some adorable clips! I was totally inspired by Jen at Runde's Room.  I ventured into the world of Washi Tape, never to return.  That stuff is miraculous!!!

My wonderful daughter helped me (for about 20 minutes, LOL) with the taping. The last ones look way better than the first.

 When we were through, I did a layer of mod podge over the tape. I think I'll varnish too, as was suggested by a few bloggers.

So much left to do and not nearly enough time to do it all!  As my last summer hurrah, my daughter and I are going to Raging Waters tomorrow!  I can't wait to soak up some sun.  Hopefully my tan will last into November... hahahahah

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Reward for Myself

After spending two weeks trying to customize my blog to make it look as awesome as all the other ones out there, my husband told me about a little trick. He showed me how to look at the coding for each site. You know what I learned? I learned that EVERY single site that I love has been custom made. Here I was trying to replicate professional products. Sheesh! So I made myself a deal... If I could keep blogging for a month, not just let this be a passing fad, then I'd buy myself a custom design. I'm super excited!
Who did you use? Was it an easy experience? Advice?

Sunday, July 21, 2013

Let's Get Acquainted! Advice for First Year Teachers

This is my first Linky Party! Yay!

Today I am linking up with Latoya Reed from Flying into First for her:

This year, I am honored to have been asked to mentor/advise a few of our new teachers.  My mentor teacher filled me with all kinds of fabulous knowledge.  I hope I can provide the same level of support!

BUY a laminator!  It doesn't need to be expensive.  I've worked in 3 schools and even when we've started the year with a laminator, it usually wasn't working by November.  This is a great investment.  I purchased the Scotch laminator from Target. It was $25 and the pouches were $15. Year before last, I was the only one on campus with a laminator... it was one busy machine!

ALWAYS be kind.  This seems obvious, but it has many layers. (This is a long one...)

First, be kind to your kids.  No matter how much Ghandi-like zen you have, there will come a time when a kid (or whole class) gets on your very last scrap of a nerve.  It's sometimes hard to do, but it's important to remember that each child in your room is somebody's baby.  I like the phrase, "be kind, yet firm."

Second, be kind to your parents.  Be open and communicative!  During the school year, you spend more time with their little one than they do.  If they ask you how their pride and joy is doing, try to dig up an anecdote to share.  They'll really appreciate it!

Third, be kind to your fellow staff members - this especially includes the office/custodial staff! Most likely, your administrative assistant and custodian run your school.  Don't ever demand things from them, ask nicely (chocolate or coffee helps too!).

Lastly, and most important... be kind to yourself! Give yourself a break. Not every lesson is going to be perfect, your room is not always going to be clean, your kids are not always going to follow directions, your Principal will walk in during complete chaos, and IT'S OKAY. Remember that every day is a new day (and your Principal likes chocolate too!).

NEVER, ever, gossip to parents!  It will always come back to you.  Even if you really, really, really trust a parent, keep top secret details to yourself.  Remember, parents have all kinds of opportunities to talk to each other; baseball games, dance recitals, playdates... facebook.

FIND plenty of resources for your content.  (And make sure you know your content) As a parent, nothing is worse to hear from my child than, "Mr. Smith had to stop math today because he got confused." Do research, buy books, USE PINTEREST!  Learn about your content before you have to teach it.  If you aren't prepared, it's better to push the lesson a bit, than teach it incorrectly.
I once taught an entire class how a wind turbine worked... incorrectly. Even though I went back and corrected myself and we did an activity with the correct info, HALF of my kids got it wrong on the assessment, writing my original description. DOH!

 MAKE sure to ask for help!  When you start feeling overwhelmed, even a little, ask for help!  When you don't know what an acronym means, ask for help.  When you have a situation in your class that baffles you, ask for help! No one expects you to do everything on your own. = )

BE happy and flexible!  No one likes a complainer. If things aren't working out the way you'd like, find out how to change them (or just deal with it). Be flexible!  Remember, there will come a time when you'll need someone to take your recess duty too... 

That's it!  There are some of these that I still need to remember.  It's easier to hear them now, then have to learn them the hard way.

The Great Classroom Move

What a day! Our charter school just inherited the entire campus where we are located. It's a very exciting time! In order to get the most out of our site, many of us (6 + the library and office!) are moving rooms. Today was phase 1...

My classroom is moving to one of the empty "new" rooms. I had the first room move, so that others could move into my room, and so on, like one big domino track. Unfortunately, with a baby at home and a hard-working spouse, I haven't had as much time as I'd have liked to get in and pack. (It's amazing how much you feel like a hoarder when you have to pack your whole classroom!!!) Anyway, this morning, before the volunteers arrived it became "randomly throw stuff into boxes" time. Here's a quick picture of half of my "packed" room...
What a mess!!!

Our volunteers came, and in a HOUR my classroom was completely emptied! I have no idea how we they moved 30 desks and chairs and everything else in that time; miracle workers I guess. So now I have everything in my new room and the adventure starts.

See all those lovely under the counter drawers? I was lamenting their loss because the configuration in my new room is slightly different. However, I was beyond thrilled when I realized how much storage I have in my new room.

I normally don't do well with change, but I am so so so excited to set up and decorate my new room! If only I knew what was in each box...

Pictures to come of my new room!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

So much to learn!

The past two days I've spent a great deal of time learning about how to format my blog.  Man, is it time consuming!  I started working on it tonight around 8 and it's past 1 already!  I also learned how to create some more basic signage.  Here are my new CAFE signs. (Obviously my next lesson is how to appropriately add pictures to my blog without looking like a dork!)

Awesome frames by Ashley Hughes! If you're interested in a copy of the signs, feel free to comment and I'll send them to you. = )

*Also, I just saw this on my iPhone, not sure why it isn't formatting correctly... Boo!*

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Freebie Shout Outs!

I am a dedicated follower of  4th Grade Frolics. Her creativity and design aesthetic continuously amaze me!  So I decided to try my hand at making a few things myself.  I'm currently using powerpoint to create signage. Here's my first attempt:

(Does anyone know how to center a text box on ppt?)

This year I'm begrudgingly happily switching from cards to a clip chart to match the rest of my school.  Black is our highest level...

Over the past two days I have learned SO much about creating printables.  There are a few angels out there that offer their hard work for FREE.  Here are a few:
Kimberly offers all of her fonts FOR FREE!  They are incredible. The one above is called Strawberry Limeade. 

Another incredible site is
Mel generously has offered ALL of her digital paper/overlays for free.

The last that I've come across is Rachelle at LittleBigDesigns. Her collections are fab!  The background above is hers.

That's about it for now.  Off to play some more....!