Sunday, December 21, 2014

On the move!

So this year has gotten away from me.  After you read this post, you'll hopefully understand my lack of recent posts.  (Not to mention my blog design keeps disappearing - I gotta get some help with that!)

I don't think I've mentioned before, but I've been in a holding school for the last year and a half.  My school was built in the late sixties and was long overdue for a makeover.  The building had been designed with that open floor plan where one classroom joined another.  And then later, when the powers that be decided that didn't work so well, they divided it up and put in walls.  My  classroom was a bizarre pie shape.  Fitting desks, not to mention all that other stuff was a creative feat every year.

So at the end of the school year in 2013, we packed everything up and moved into a temporary holding school.  I spent about 6 months sorting through my 18 years of accumulated teaching stuff. Some got tossed, some passed on to others, and much of it packed into over 100 boxes.  And in August we came back to a holding school as they tore our old one down and built a brand new one!

Now the building we moved into, ironically enough, was about 20 years older than the one we just moved out of and hadn't been used as an actually school in years.  My mantra became "18 months."  In all honesty, it wasn't that bad.  My room was a normal rectangle shape and had plenty of storage.  However, whenever I tried to turn on the AC a swamp developed in my room.  But we learned to adjust.

And now it is time to move into our brand spanking new school all two stories of it with the latest technology.  I am super excited about!  Having to move twice in less than two years...less than exciting.  But ultimately worth it. Hugs, Heather
Friday, August 29, 2014

Five for Friday - The First Week

Yeah,  I know, I haven't blogged in a while.  Bet you can't guess why?  Ah man... you did.  That's
right... we are back to school.  So last week I was all wrapped up in planning and decorating.  And then Monday... they walked in the door, 20 little second graders.

So here are my five from the last 2 weeks.

1.  Walking into my room for the first time.

That table is full of all the supplies we ordered and the papers from the
copy center I had ordered last June.  Thank you mom for divying up all
those copies between me and my teammates!

Before we went back for our professional days, my sister-in-law challenged my husband, myself, and my daughter to the ALS ice bucket challenge.  This was special to me.  My uncle had ALS.  He battled it for 7 years...that's two years longer than most people who are diagnosed with the horrible disease.  And my father, while he didn't have ALS, he did have an even rarer degenerative muscular disease called Inclusion Body Myositis.  As our neighbor poured that ice water over my head, I was hearing my dad's belly laugh and my uncle's chuckle at our antics, knowing they were proud of all the attention being brought to this cause.  If no one challenged you over the summer or you want to learn more please check out this website.  My uncle was passionate about funding research to try to find a cure for ALS.

Isn't funny  the things you find when you begin unpacking your room.  This year I lost my two teammates and gained two new ones.  One of my new teammates found these shoes in her closet!


I've kept my Hollywood theme going this year.  And I wanted my kids to have a way to share themselves keeping with the theme.  So I created my own All About Me poster. I will be putting these up on the board for Back to School Night.

And finally, my big third grade, and our bundle of fur, ready to head off to school.  Those of you who are teachers and parents know who bittersweet that first day of school can be.  So as I headed off to my school, and had to leave my daughter at home with her dad.  Her amazing dad who has always taken off the first day of school, so he could take her when I couldn't.  She was so excited and has had a great first week.  Oh, forget to mention, she decided to take down all the princesses from her room that had been there since she was two.  She's growing up.  At least she put up puppy posters and not One Direction.

So to all of you who have been back at school for awhile Kudos!  And to those of you starting next week Good Luck!


Wednesday, August 06, 2014

Narrative Writing with Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street

I've linked up again with Deanna Jump's We Love Books!

I love when a book just seems like it was written to match my lessons!  And so it is with Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street by Roni Schotter.

This book is about a young girl named Eva who has been given a written assignment by her teacher.  "Write about what you know" her teacher says, but Eva complains that nothing ever happens that is worth writing about.  As she is sitting outside her neighbors come by and give her some advice.

First, Mr. Sims, the actor, and his cat Olivier, came by.  He tell's Eva "The whole world's a stage -- even 90th Street -- and each of us plays a part.  Watch the stage, observe the players carefully, and don't neglect the details.  Eva immediately starts writing down details about Mr. Sims.

Next Mr. Morley advises her to "Try to find the poetry in your pudding.  There's always a new way with old words."  Eva tries to come up with new words to describe Mr. Morley's chocolate mousse.

Alexis Leora, the dancer, tells Eva "Stretch, use your imagination.  If your story doesn't go the way you want it to you can always stretch the truth.  You can ask 'What if?' and make up a better story."  Eva begins asking 'What if' about her neighbors.

Finally Mrs. Martinez comes out with her soup.  She tells Eva stories are like soup.  "Add a little action.  A little this.  a little that.  And don't forget the spice.  Surprise yourself"

As Eva ponders all this advice, things begin to happen on 90th street.  A baby's ball rolls away causing a pizza delivery man to crash into Alexis Leora.  A car stops with a famous actress stepping out into the fray and offers Mr. Sims a job.  The cat runs off knocking the coffee into the chocolate mousse.  As Eva takes all this action in an idea comes to her.  Her friends should combine their talents and open a restaurant together.  As the story wraps up and problems get solved, we are left wondering which parts of the story really happened and which parts were Eva's newly discovered writing skills.

I must admit it took me a couple of years to fully appreciate this book, but now I love it.  We take this book apart and look at all the advice the characters offer and put it into practice in the kids' own writing.  What I truly love is the fact that throughout the year the kids refer  back to it.  "Don't forget the spice" I hear them say.  "We need to include action"  "Be sure to include descriptive words."  

So I took the activities we did with this book, polished them up some, and created this mini-unit.

Included in this unit are numerous anchor charts including each characters' advice, the characteristics of a narrative, and the story map for the book.


To help the kids totally understand each piece of advice, I have them work in small groups to discuss each and rewrite it in their own words.  Then we take each piece of advice and practice using it together and independently

Finally we work on our own personal narratives.  We map out the events from the book (beginning after all the advice is given) and then map our the events for our own narratives.  Then we revise our work using the advice from the book.  

You can pick up your own copy of this mini-unit here at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  
To keep your kids working on those writing techniques, you should consider my daily writing journals. These journals are ready to go, quick writes for your students and include  narrative, informational, and persuasive writing prompts.  So have your kids add some action and spice, don't forget the details, and find the pudding in their writing!



Sunday, August 03, 2014

Teachers Pay Teachers Sale Must Haves

If you haven't heard yet Teachers Pay Teachers is having their annual back to school sale and so am I!    When you use the code BTS14 at checkout, you can save up to 28% on all my products.  Click on any of the pictures to take you to my store.

Do you need new decor for your room?  I'm going with a Hollywood theme.  My kids love being the stars in the classroom.  Most of the products are also available individually.  

This bundle includes everything from desk tags to a word wall, number posters to a job chart.

word wall headers
desk name tags

number posters

job chart

Do your kids need practice with basic facts?  These are two of my best sellers on fact families and turn around facts.

Looking for something to go with your writing units?  We use the mentor text Nothing Ever Happens on 90th Street.  Love this book.  And it's a great intro to personal narratives.

To keep the writing going I use Daily Writing Journals.  These packets include a different prompt for each day of the month...just copy and go.  No cutting and pasting prompts into journals!


Are you using Words Their Way?  We started using it this past year and I've started creating games and centers to go with them.  This dominos game follows the beginning blends unit from the Letter Name/Alphabetic speller book.

And don't forget, before you check out, make sure you have given feedback on all your previous purchases.  You earn TPT credit towards your purchase.  Just like you will when you come back and leave me feedback too!

The sale starts tomorrow so go shopping, get ready for school, and save money!


Saturday, August 02, 2014

Using Daily Writing Journals -- Effectively

I have always wanted to use daily writing journals in my classroom.  However I never found a good system that worked well.  For a while I tried the topic calendars and had the kids pick a topic each day, or at least that was my hope and goal.  After their bell work they were supposed to write in their journal, but without my checking daily (and that just didn't happen) most of them just didn't do it.  I also tried writing a prompt up on the board with about the same success.  Eventually I just gave up on the idea of writing journals.

Our new curriculum is emphasizing all kinds of writing, including quick writes.  Seems our students need to be ready for those testing situations when they have to respond in a limited amount of time.  So I decided to give journals another time.  But this time on my own terms.

Last summer I created my own writing journals.  I collected all kinds of different prompts for each month.  Rather than use a spiral notebook or composition book, I decided to create the journal with the prompt and writing space together all bound up and ready for the kids.  I'll admit it took my a while to get everything worked out.  September's took a long while.

Finally I came up with something I liked.  Into the classroom it goes.  At the beginning, I tried to just have the kids write after bell work as I had done before.  We went to specials first thing, so they should have had enough time to do the morning warm up and then do one journal entry. My thought (and misguided hope) was they would be more likely to get it done since I could tell them specifically which page to do.

We tried that for a couple of months with some success.  There are always the kids who never seemed to get to it though.  Or those kids who could never think of what to write.   So I modified my method.  They were still expected to write everyday.  Then on Friday's (when we weren't rushing off right away) I would grade one of the writings they did that week.  They could pick which one.  I would remind them, that if they wrote everyday they would have more to choose from when it came time for me to grade one.

This did help.  I had more kids getting more writing done. And I was getting one more writing grade in my grade book.  But there were still those kids...  What could I do to tweak it a little more?

I went back to think about my goal. "The students will be able to write to a given topic in a given time limit" or something like that.  I was giving them the daily opportunity, but not the time limit.  Aha!  The next change was the time limit.  We started doing our journals after we came back from specials.  Everyone would get ready and I would set the time on the smart board where everyone could see it.  I started with a longer time limit -- 15 minutes and slowly worked down from there.  As further encouragement, those students who did get their 5 or 6 sentences done on time earned a Dojo point for completing work.  That was the lucky charm!

By the end of the year, all of my students were getting some writing done during that time and all be a couple were reaching the goal of at least 6 sentences.  Many of my students were writing 10 or more sentences.  A few were even running out of room.  And all of my  "I don't know what to write" students were writing! Having too much time was actually keeping them from writing.  With a time limit, they didn't have time to over think the topic, they just wrote.  Yay!

I was thrilled with the progress the kids made in their writing and with finally finding a successful daily writing program.  You can get my journals at my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Each journal has over 20 prompts, including choose your own topic pages.  I tried to make the prompts fit the month and included creative writing, informational writing and opinion writing in each journal. I am sure you will see a difference in your students writing too.


Friday, August 01, 2014

Big Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers

Everyone is getting ready to go back to school and so is Teachers Pay Teachers.  They are having their annual Back-to-School sale Mon. Aug. 8th - Tues. Aug. 9th.  Everything in my store will be 20% off.  Combine that with the site sale and you can save 28% on all my products.  What a great deal!
Tuesday, July 29, 2014

My Teacher's Bag

I was browsing through everybody's blogs today and saw Jen from Teacher by the Beach was showing her
new teacher's bag.  I have gone through so many different teacher's bags.  There were the boat bags, but you need a free hand, not always convenient.

Here is one of my boat bag/kiddo gifts.
This one is so old it has my "maiden" initials!
Now it holds my TPT stuff.

There were the bags that were gifts from the kiddos. This was one of my favorites until it was time to retire it a few years ago.  It was starting to show its age.

Now, I used to be a Creative Memories consultant and had many of their totes.  So I have been using one of their Daisy Totes for the last couple of years.  And I love it!

Tons of rooms and a nice outer pocket.
The clipboard sticking out the top is actually legal size.

Of course after looking at everyone else's blogs I now want a Thirty One tote.  However since my current one is still in good condition, and that new air conditioner out there (see this post) I have to curb my spending this summer.  So it will go on the Christmas list for now.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Five for Friday

It has been another lazy summer week.  Not as much rushing around, and not as many photos. Sorry.

1. The swim team season came to an end this week.  We had two last morning practices Monday and Tuesday, and one make-up relay meet Tuesday evening that was cancelled when the thunderstorms hit.  As K said "I can't wait til Wednesday!"  "Why?" I ask.  "We can sleep in -- no more practice"  and boy did we, at least for us.
The Swim Team

2.  We've been doing some cleaning up around the house, or at least trying to.  I don't know about you, but some how my house is messier in the summer when I'm actually home than in the winter.  So as soon as I start cleaning up, the mess just comes back.  I will admit, some of the mess is my "school projects" that are spreading out more than I intended.

3.   I looked at so many people's versions of their planners and binders and organization techniques that I sort of became obsessed. I searched and viewed tons. There were many that I  loved, but none of them would totally meet all my needs.  So I did what every teacher does... created my own.

Thanks Ashley Hughes for the paper and Scrappin Doodle for the label box.

4.   We've been catching up on Once Upon a Time.  Do any of you watch this series?  K got into it this spring and we bought the first season.  We've been watching this summer and now Hans is totally hooked as well.  So much so that Sunday I had to go out and search for season 2.  I absolutely love how they explore the fairy tales we all know, weave them together and teach us about love, loyalty and family.  What I love even more is watching K watch and explore these characters and worlds.  I'm thrilled every time she makes connections between the story lines and events and how she is able to predict.  I only hope she does this in school when she reads.  Love it, love it, love it, love it!

Snow White from "Once Upon a Time"

5.   A day spent with Nana.  Once a week we try to spend one day with my mother who lives about 20 minutes away.  She loves summer as much as we do because it means more time with her girls.  Not sure what is in the plans for today (Friday).  There has been talk of a movie.... maybe "How To Train Your Dragon?"  We will have to see what we all feel like doing.

K and Nana (taken a while ago...)

So that was our week.  We are loving summer.  I try to avoid looking at the calendar too frequently (are there really only 4 weeks left?)  How was yours?

Thursday, July 10, 2014

1800 and Counting

  Last year I was on a "center - gathering" mission.  Trying to meet with more small groups meant I needed something for the others to do.  So thanks to Teachers Pay Teachers I was able to get so many! (Although I find myself still looking for more...could this be an addiction?)  I quickly got the new centers laminated and ready to go for the kids.  And while the kids loved them and I was able to meet with more small groups, I didn't have a good system for storing and organizing them.  Some were in zipper bags, some in file folders and some in pocket folders.  I needed some consistency and organization!

So that became my summer goal.  I brought home all my centers -- 4 milk crates plus some. After much thought I decided to go with file folders.  But since things fall out the sides, I chose to staple the sides up.  I know... I could have gotten folder jackets.  I even researched it.  But they were more than I could afford and I could get the file folders from school.  Having 200 plus centers meant a lot of stapling!  In fact I have used 1800 staples since June.  (I know this because I bought a brand new box of staples before starting my project !!)
Three staples on each side = 1800 staples so far.

Evenings have been spent with me on the floor, stapling folders, printing out missing pages, pulling out what needs to be laminated, and in some cases throwing things out when I couldn't for the life of me figure out what it was or what it went with.

My little corner of the family room as I sorted.  You can see the mix of folders and storage.

Originally, I had kept extra copies of all the recording sheets in binders, one for ELA and  one for math.  At the time I thought it was a great idea.  I'd always have a clean sheet to make copies from.  However, it ended up just sitting there and I would forget to put the new ones in or copy the old ones.  Then, one day, I accidentally sent the record sheets off to be laminated with the games.  I decided to put them in the folder with the game.  That way the sheet was always with the game, but the kids couldn't "accidentally" use the last one.  So I took apart the binders, matched them up with the correct center, and added the needed ones to the laminate box.
My stack of "To Be Laminated"  I've got a lot of cutting in my future.

My binders waiting to be taken apart.
Next step in the process, organizing each box.  I haven't decided how to do that yet.  I've considered keeping them alphabetically - always a trusted way to organize, but some of the titles don't match the concept.  That would mean typing up a list of centers and the objective or skill it works on, which I'm not totally opposed to.  I've also considered organizing them by when I use them during the school year.  Which makes perfect sense...just go straight through the boxes.  But then there are those concepts that cycle through the year and I use more than once.

These are just the English/reading/language arts centers!
I'm am open to any other suggestions as well.  How do you organize your centers?  I'd love to hear your thoughts and feedback.  Now it is off to the swimming relay carnival!