Saturday, July 23, 2016

How Teachers Relax

Is that an oxymoron? Teachers relaxing? It seems unlikely, but it's true, teachers really do relax and summertime is the much needed time when teachers unwind. I'm happy to link up with Laura from A Grace Filled Classroom to share how I've relaxed this summer!

I love to take the summertime for crafts. The school year is filled with fun crafts with the kids, bulletin board making, anchor chart creating, etc. and I usually have tapped into all of my creativity by the time the school day is done and don't have much time to do any crafting of my own. Once summer hits, I always love to take on a few new projects! This summer I've been learning to use and playing with my new Silhouette Cameo. I have made a few gifts for friends and some for our home too.

Summer is also the time teachers love to relax and spend time with family. We have had a busy summer and with three little ones, trips to the beach aren't exactly relaxing, but they sure are fun!! We are loving our family time together this summer!
And what would summer be without binge watching a show? My choice this summer is Game of Thrones. Most of the time I have no idea what's going on, but I still love it! What are you watching this summer?

Summer is an important time to unwind as we get ready for the next school year. It's time to recharge and rest. And while you are most likely thinking, planning and get ready for back to school; don't forget to take some time for yourself too. 

What have you done to relax this summer?


Sunday, July 10, 2016

Five Favorite Read Alouds to Teach a Growth Mindset

Sometimes new ideas come along and we feel like it's just one more thing to squeeze in to our already busy day. Confession: I kind of felt this way when I started hearing "growth mindset." Is this something I really need to teach? Can't I just give my students daily encouragement and model this in my classroom? But then I started doing some research, as teachers love to do, and I soon realized that teaching a growth mindset would quickly become a part of my classroom routine without any hesitation.

So, what is a growth mindset? A growth mindset is the belief that hard work and dedication can develop our capabilities. With a growth mindset you learn from your mistakes, you are open to learning, you believe you can do better, you use positive language, and you accept mistakes as a way to learn. Wow, that sounds amazing, right? 

So, how can you teach this mindset? Integrating growth mindset lessons into your day does not have to feel time consuming or like an extra thing to plan for. It is easy to do a mini lesson & discussion without much planning involved! I always like to work this into my morning meeting time; we are all fresh & full of positivity in the morning & the ideas (hopefully) stick with us for the day! Here are some of my favorite read alouds to help teach a growth mindset:

1. The Most Magnificent Thing by Ashley Spires
I just love this book! The girl has an idea & knows it will be the most magnificent thing, all she has to do is make it, should be simple! But she tries & fails numerous times. She feels frustrated, but NEVER GIVES UP!! It tackles the topic of quitting & wanting to give up, but taking a break and going back to try again. I love the discussion this book brings!!
Image result for the most magnificent thing
2. My Fantastic Elastic Brain by JoAnn Deak
This is such a great book to teach a growth mindset because it talks about growing your brain! Your brain will learn new things and remember if you JUST TRY! Just like lifting weights makes your muscles stronger, trying new things helps your brain grow. What a wonderful lesson to teach.

3. Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
I love the message of this book, so clear even just in the title, "Beautiful Oops." Mistakes can be beautiful, we can learn from them, we can fix them, we can turn them into something new. Every mistake is the opportunity for something beautiful. A beautiful message for all of us!

4. The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett
This is a super cute story about a girl who never, ever makes mistakes. Until she makes a big mistake. This will help teach your students that no one is perfect! We all make mistakes & the best we can do is learn from them!!

5. What Do You Do With an Idea? by Kobi Yamada
I love reading this book with my class and it can be read in so many different ways and in different subjects too.  It tells how one child's idea can grow as the child's confidence grows too.  No idea is too small; when you have an idea, you should go for it!  The pictures are amazing, the concept is amazing, and it is sure to bring about an amazing conversation too.

If you're thinking of introducing a growth mindset into your classroom but don't know where to begin, or if you are teaching a growth mindset and looking for new ideas...I hope these books are helpful to you, they are perfect for any age!

You can find a more complete list of books, along with songs, videos, posters, interactive activities, a bulletin board, student certificates, and a parent letter in my store.  It is everything that you need to teach a growth mindset!  Click below...

Happy teaching!

Tuesday, July 5, 2016

Getting Started with Book Clubs

One of my very favorite activities in my fourth grade classroom is book clubs. I absolutely love watching the students discuss their books & take ownership of their learning. Participating in book clubs is so important because it not only fosters students' comprehension but also encourages students to use accountable talk & participate as a part of a group.

There are a few options to choose from when you're getting students started in book clubs. While grouping students, you may:
1. Group by their reading level & have students in each group read the same book. 
2. Pick a topic or theme & have students read different books within their groups that focus on the topic. 
3. You can group students according to their interests & let them choose their own book for their group.
4. Choose an author & have each group read a different book by that author.

In my class, I group students into leveled reading groups & each groups reads a book that is at their independent reading level.

Getting Started
At the beginning of the year, to get book clubs started in my classroom, my whole class reads the same book. I usually try to pick a short, fun read that I know they will like. I choose to do a whole class book because it helps us get our feet wet rather than diving right into small group book clubs. We can really focus on the expectations for each job in the group & how a book club can run smoothly. 

Each student receives a folder with prongs, notebook, pack of post its, bookmark, glue stick, pencil & a large size ziploc bag.
If you'd like extra protection for student folders you can use sheet protectors in the folders. I always get the name brand Ziploc bags & they really do last a long time, even through the wear & tear of desks, lockers & backpacks. And the large size bag fits most books & composition notebooks too. I have students keep their books, notebooks, & post its in the bag to protect them.
I've had many ripped covers & missing pages over the years, and I can honestly say the Ziploc bags truly work to prevent wear & tear!

In the student folder are important pages such as: expectations, planning pages, job descriptions, when to stop & jot, using accountable talk in groups, & a contract. These pages can remain for each book club throughout the year. And pages that are specific for each book can be changed in & out.
If you don't like the idea of a folder, you can have students glue these pages right in the front of their notebooks. I also make a quick reference guide for students to refer to about each job. They love using this little flip book as a guide, it is especially helpful when just getting started! You can also stick a magnet on the back of this guide & encourage students to keep it right on the fridge at home as a reference.

Week 1: I show the students THIS TeacherTube video of students participating in a book club. We make an anchor chart of things we notice about the discussion students are having. This anchor chart stays up for students to refer back to. 

We go through book care, expectations for book clubs, our reading contract, each job, when to stop & jot & how to stop & jot, how to plan out the reading, and the schedule. As we review each of these pages, students add in to their folders.

When it comes to our book club on Friday, we sit in a large circle and everyone participates; sharing their notes, questions, thoughts & job they completed. They are usually timid in this first meeting & that is why we sit as a whole group. The students that are not comfortable yet can easily observe. 

Week 2: When we meet for our book club, I use a fish bowl model. I do two groups of students: remembering those that were very active last week & those that were timid, I mix them up so each group has students that I know will participate & some I hope will open up more. Group one sits in a big circle on the outside, observing, as group 2 sits in a small circle inside the bigger circle so group 1 can observe their discussion. I sit in group 2 & participate in the discussion to model what a good participant & listener does. When group 2's discussion is over, group 1 gives them positive feedback. They point out everything they noticed about their discussion. Then they switch! This gives everyone a chance to observe & to participate!
Week 3: We discuss the accountable talk that we noticed in the TeacherTube video from week 1 & from our friends in week 2. We also discuss any struggles students may be having; keeping up with reading, taking notes, participating in the book club. And as students are sharing their struggles, others can help by sharing how they've managed to keep up & prepare. We continue with the fish bowl model as we did in week 2, but I create two new groups so they are different groups from last week.

Week 4: At this time, students have had a chance to participate & observe some great book club discussions for 3 weeks. I usually spend 4 weeks on a book, so by this week, they have now finished the book. I separate them into small groups.
My class is grouped by their reading level for our guided reading groups, so I have them get into those groups. I sit with each group for their book club, but I try to be much less active than I was in the previous weeks. They may still need some help, but they're definitely ready to discuss & starting the small, leveled groups at the end of the book works well because they love to discuss the ending! I also introduce the reflection page & model in each group how to reflect upon their discussion & participation.
At the end of the 4 week book club, students usually work on a project, whether alone or with their group, referencing the important story elements of the book they've read. Student work time on the project then gives me time to reassess student reading levels with running records & create new groups for the next book club. They work on the project for the week & then we start new book clubs; for a total of 5 weeks for each book. After the whole group trial period, we start small, leveled book clubs. And after the whole group modeling, students are usually very clear about their role in the book club. Book clubs then become a regular part of our guided reading block & students can run them on their's a beautiful thing! 

I have seen student comprehension strengthen immensely through book clubs in my classroom. Students are not just reading & answering questions, but discussing, answering each other's questions & digging deep into the meaning of high interest books with their peers. It is always a favorite time of the week for me & my students.  Here is a free page from my book club pack.  My students keep this in their folders to help guide them in their book clubs.  Click on the image below to grab this freebie!

You can check out all of the materials that I use for my book clubs HERE.

I'd love to hear about your book clubs too! Leave me a comment & let me know what book clubs look like in your classroom!

Happy Teaching!

Monday, May 16, 2016

End of the Year Reflections


The end is near, my friends! It's so close you can almost taste it! I know you're tired. Like, really tired. Like, end of the year teacher tired. And there's no tired like end of the year teacher tired, amirite?

While the end of the year is exhausting, it's also the perfect time for reflecting. You are probably having your students reflect on their year by creating memory books; reflecting on what they've learned this year, their favorite memories, and the fun they've had. Now it's your turn!

At the end of the year, I like to sit down & reflect on the things that worked, and the things that did not work. Taking the time at the end of the year, even when I'm tired & feel I cannot add one more thing to my to do list, makes it easier for when I'm in full on summer loving-flip flop-mode & it is time to return to the classroom. I make a few lists for myself to reflect on my classroom management strategies, classroom setup, small group management & classroom supplies. This makes the return to school much easier, because let's face it, as much as I think I'll remember the little things, if I don't write it down, it's long gone!


1. Classroom management strategies
Each group of students is different & because of this, management strategies change from year to year, sometimes even within the year! Take a minute & think about the strategies that were successful throughout the year and even in those last few months, when I'm sure you had to change things up a little bit! Noting changes, strategies, successes, & flops will help as you prepare for next year. And consider what you'll need to get in place for next year; do you need any new supplies, do you need to make any copies? Take care of what you can now, you won't regret it later! 

I use a classroom economy & at the end of the year I always copy student check books for the next year so it is one less thing to worry about during the back to school rush!

2. Classroom setup
I also always think about how the classroom setup was beneficial for myself & my students & how I can improve it. Take a quick look around your there anything you did NOT use this year? Pack it up, bid it adieu, and send it on its way! If you have not used it recently, you probably will not use it in the future. 

I did a major overhaul in my room over the past few years & getting rid of filing cabinets, old books, shelves & papers that I did not need freed up so much space in my room! I am reclaiming my space. And you know what kids love to take home? Your old stuff! 

After taking a close look at what I can get rid of, I draw out a diagram of how I'd like my classroom set up the next year. This always comes in handy & makes me really think about where & why I place things in my room. I know I will definitely move one of my tables next year, it didn't leave easy access to my whiteboard. And I'll leave my writing center where it is because it gave my students a quiet place to write. And I loved having an open space for class meetings & discussions this year, so I'll be sure to keep that space clear.

3. Small group management 
Reflecting on how my small groups functioned throughout the year is so important to me. Getting to the point in the year when your groups can basically run themselves is an amazing feeling!! And at the beginning of the year, you sometimes feel like it will never happen! 

Take a few notes; what changes did you make throughout the year & what worked out well for you? I always want to learn from my mistakes & make sure I have the tools I need to make my small groups successful each year. 

The past few years I have worked hard to get a math workshop in place that does not feel like I'm doing math all day (you know that feeling, right?). I will definitely be reflecting on the changes that I made throughout the year to get my math workshop running so smoothly. What works for your small groups & what can you eliminate?

4. Classroom supplies
I know how you're feeling right now...where are all the pencils? Seriously, where did they go? The end of the year always means that supplies are running low, just like your tolerance for missing supplies! You may have implemented a new pencil system to alleviate the problem or found a way to store supplies that prevents the ever so imminent supply drought. Write it down! Note what's working, you'll thank yourself later.

I tried to have group pencils this year & each group only had a certain number. It did NOT work. I will definitely be going back to each student being responsible for their own pencils through a pencil challenge; the group challenge was a flop! A big, huge flop!

Keep track of what supplies are low & make a list; add those things to your student supply list for next year. Any supplies that are old, dried out, worn out, or know who to give them to, the kids!! Their parents will love this reflection process you're doing! 

These are just a few simple things that you can do now to leave you & your room refreshed & ready for a new year. 

Here are a few templates to help you get organized as you reflect on what was working for you this year! Click below! I'd love to know if you find these helpful!

Check out more end of the year activities here:

I hope you have a wonderful end of the year! Happy teaching!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Empty Your Wishlist...

Have you heard that TpT is having a site wide sale Tuesday and Wednesday? In honor of Teacher Appreciation week, you can get up to 28% off of resources from your favorite TpT stores! This is the perfect time to take a look at your wish list & empty it out! Stock up on end of the year goodies, and start to think ahead to next year too!!

Are you ready to stock up on some great resources? Well, here are the top three wish listed items from my store and the reasons why I love them. You can click on each image to check them out!

1. Teaching a Growth Mindset
I have used my morning meeting time this year to instill a growth mindset with my students and have compiled some of my very favorite activities into the pack. It includes everything you need: a suggested book list, videos and songs shared with Safe Share links, posters, student recognition cards, seven lessons and activities, a parent letter and more. Each lesson is meant to be a short lesson, perfect to start your day!  I kind of love that it is my most wish listed item because that means so many other teachers are thinking about teaching a growth mindset in their classrooms and that is exciting for you AND your students!

2. QR Code Listening Centers
I LOVE QR codes & I LOVE these listening centers! There are 40, yes FORTY, favorite children's books in this set. Each card's QR code links to a Safe Share site where the book is read aloud for students. Kids love scanning the codes & listening to the wide variety of stories. There are also 20 differentiated response pages included.  This is one of my favorite resources because it's perfect for a listening center but also can be used for early finishers too.  The end of the year is a perfect time to try out these centers and see how they work.  Then they will be tested and all ready for next year too!

3. A Growing Bundle of Close Reading Passages
Oh, how I love this resource!!  This is a growing bundle of close reading passages & is still at a low price as it grows. It includes 3 close reading passages for each month with 3 days of activities for each passage and teacher answer keys. This is an easy, low prep way to implement close reading in your 3-5 classroom. Students love the monthly themes & you will love the variety of questions offered for students!  I love these passages so much because I truly love creating them; I love learning about each topic and creating meaningful passages for my students that I know will keep them engaged. 

As you're getting ready for the end of the year, you can check out "End of the Year" resources from my store HERE.

If you're thinking ahead, check out "Back to School" resources HERE.
You can also find some great deals for $1 or less HERE.
Stop back and visit Jen from Teaching in the Tongass, the wonderful host of this fun blog link up, to check out her top wish listed items as well as some of my favorite TpT'ers!

Happy teaching and happy shopping!

Sunday, April 24, 2016

Three Ways to Engage at the End of the Year

The end of the year is quickly approaching and as testing comes to a close (FINALLY!) and the weather gets nicer, it becomes more difficult to keep students engaged everyday. Here are three things that I like to do at the end of the year to keep the students engaged while still having fun and learning...

1. Get the chalk out...
When the weather is nice, no one wants to be inside and it's hard to keep student's attention. Take your lessons to the sidewalk! Students can work independently or in groups, give each student a square to work in and chalk becomes way more fun than pencils! This was a lesson on complementary angles that I took my students outside for.  They worked out each problem on the sidewalk and then wrote their answers in their workbooks.  We moved from one square to the next to check friend's work too.  Students were up and moving, loving the outside air, and learning a sometimes difficult, win, win!!
Anything that you would have students use white boards for can be done on the sidewalk! And students loved showing their friends & families at dismissal the work they'd done on the sidewalk. It's a great way to get outside for some quality learning.  And once it rains, you have a clean slate to start again.

2. Project Based Learning...
The end of the year is the perfect time for PBL. A great idea to practice researching and gathering information, reporting and presenting the information is to implement Genius Hour. Genius Hour will give students a chance to report on something that they are passionate about.  And when students are given their choice of topics & projects, they're sure to stay engaged!  My students always LOVE Genius Hour and then they love watching their friends present too.  You can check out a quick video about Genius Hour HERE.

3.  Have a party...
Because, really, who doesn't love a party?  Bribing...I mean, using a behavior the end of the year is a great way to keep your class engaged because again, who doesn't want a party! And at the end of the year there are usually lots of popsicle and lemonade breaks already, so why not make it an incentive?  When students are on task, showing their best behavior, working well together, following class and school rules; you can add a letter to your board.  When the word "lemonade" or "popsicle" is complete, have a party!  You can check out this freebie HERE.  There are two choices with this freebie: popsicle and lemonade.  

The end of the year brings so much fun and excitement but it is overwhelming too.  Make sure to keep your students engaged as you push through to the end of the year!  You can check out other end of the year products I have available in my TpT Store!

You can continue on our blog hop by visiting Coffman's Creative Classroom for more end of the year tips.  To follow the blog hop, continue on each blog until you end up back where you started.  You will have a phrase to enter into the awesome giveaway! 

My letter is:

Enter here for a chance to win a $50 gift card to Teachers Pay Teachers or a $50 gift card to Target: a Rafflecopter giveaway

I hope you have a wonderful end of the year with new projects, engaging learning, lots of sun, and plenty of fun!

Happy Teaching!

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Making Your Own Light Box

Getting good pictures of resources to share is always tricky. I noticed my friend Lindsay from Elle Pea Tea had some great photos of her skin care line. I asked her what kind of a light box she was using & she told me she made her own photo light being the teacher that I am, I started researching what I would need & how I would be able to do it.

You will need:
-3 foam boards
-tissue paper
-tape (I chose white duct tape)
-box cutter or knife
-poster board 
-straight edge

**I bought a three pack of the foam board from Target rather than buying individual boards. The problem with the three pack was that they are rectangular rather than square. I would suggest splurging (an extra dollar or two) & getting three square boards, then you will not have to cut the poster board, as you'll see I had to.

Step 1:
Use your tissue paper to measure and see how much space it will cover of the foam board. I measured 1.5 inches around the perimeter of the board. I did not have a box cutter (which would have been easier) so I used a knife. I made a frame out of all three boards.

Measure the tissue paper to cover the open space of the boards and tape it over the openings. Careful with the tape, once it's on the tissue paper, it's not easy to get off!! I started by just doing small pieces, with one on each side of the frame, but then just spread the tape across each side completely so the whole perimeter was covered in tape and the tissue paper was really secured.

(This is before I covered the whole perimeter. The corners where folding over and the paper wasn't as secure.)

Step 3:
Tape the boards together but make sure to leave a small space between them so that they can fold down. If they are too close together it will not be able to form a hinge. Took me a couple tries to realize that part.

Step 4:
Tape the poster board to the middle board. Since my foam board were not square, I had to cut the poster board to fit. I think it would have been easier if I had gotten the bigger, square boards.

Fold the sides in, flip it over & stand it up. The poster board will hang from the back & create a floor for the light box. Because I had to cut the poster board, there was a small space in the back , but since the resources I was taking pictures of were flat, that space was not visible. I could also place another poster board behind it to cover that space.

Step 6: 
Set up lights on each side of the light box. This will help eliminate shadows, with light from both sides. I used desk lamps & just bought 100 watt bulbs so they are a little bit brighter. 

Step 7:
Take your pictures!! Here are a few product pictures I took.

In total, I spent about $10 at Target for the foam boards, duct tape, poster board & light bulbs. As you can see, I did this all right in my living room (hence the toys in the background of all of the pictures.) Let me know if you try to make a light box & how it turns out!!

Happy weekend, friends!!