Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Settling In--Favorite Routines

Day 7 of school is completed, and let me tell you...it has been a whirlwind! We're all settling in to a new grade level (myself included), and I have to say I LOVE fifth grade! It's been such a great experience to see how my kiddos have grown and matured over the summer, and I also enjoy learning new curriculum. (Yes, really).

I know many of you haven't yet started school so I wanted to share some of my favorite routines with you...Many of these are old favorites, but some of these I literally didn't learn until two nights before school started and I've implemented them easily. I knew I wanted to integrate more signals and group responses into my teaching and went searching. Here's my list of favorites:

Attention Signals:

  • Class/Yes (Teacher says "Class?" and students stop what they're doing, turn to teacher and reply "Yes?") I try and vary the way I say it.
  • Did you know there's a student response to the old "1, 2, 3, eyes on me?" I didn't until I watched a video the other day. Who knew? The students stop, turn, and look at the teacher and reply "1, 2, eyes on you!" I love it!
  • Super Scholar Style: I think this came from one of the videos below. When I say "Super Scholar Style" students sit up straight, clap twice, turn to look, and rest their hands on their desks or in their laps.
Hallway: "1, 2, 0" One line, Second tile, Zero talking. This is actually from a good teacher friend of mine from another school. There was a school rule there that required students to walk in a straight line on the third tile from the wall. The rule there was 1, 3, 0. At my new school, the hallways are a little more narrow so I changed it to "1, 2, 0." I love this procedure because it gives the students specific guidelines and visual reminders.

Restroom Sign-Outs: I used to use silent signals for restroom and water, but a few years ago I implemented a sign-out sheet. It's just a three-column chart labeled "Time Out, Name, Time In." Students are taught that they may sign the sheet and leave the room to go to the restroom as needed as long as I'm not directly teaching them. (For emergencies they just go!) They're expected to use our regular class restroom breaks, and use the sign out sheet sparingly. I've never had to say anything to them about overuse because they know it is a privilege. Our class restroom breaks are any time we are outside the room as a group: To and from PE, to and from lunch, to and from computer lab.We don't necessarily all line up and wait at the restroom during all of those times. If a child needs to go, they just get out of our line, go to the restroom, and join us when they're finished.

Hand Signals: This is one I've done for years for oral group responses. I say the question, hold my finger next to my temple (think time), then bring it down palm-up in front of me. When the hand comes down all children respond orally. Here are a few new ones I've incorporated this year. I absolutely love these signals! We've incorporated every one except for the "complete sentences" signal because I haven't had a need for that reminder yet and the "unsure" signal. This video is pretty amazing and details silent hand signals:

Whole Brain Teaching: Okay, this is not new for me, but I HAD to add it to the list because I use at least the Class/Yes routine and the scoreboard every year. This year, I'm hoping to add the multiplication practice portion.

Morning Meeting: Here's another favorite I've been doing for years, but the way I'm doing it this year has changed thanks another fabulous video from Mrs. Noonan:

Do you have a favorite? Maybe one of these above is a favorite of yous? 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Back to School Sale!

Tomorrow is the first day of school for us, and I'm really excited to get back in the swing of things and be with my students. In honor of this awesome time of year, I'm joining TPT's sale. All of my items are 10% off.  Be sure and use the promo code to get the extra 28% off!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Tech Tuesday: Vocabulary and Spelling City

You know that tech tool that you don't think you could survive without in the classroom? One of my favorite online resources is Vocabulary and Spelling City. I know, I know, you've heard of it before...but have you used it lately? One of the great things about VSC is that they are constantly upgrading and adding features. Having met many of the company executives personally, I can honestly say that they really care about teachers, students, and education. They strive to create a valuable resource that enhances learning and makes management of activities a snap.

Here's one of my favorite new features:
See that red circle in the middle? VSC has a new feature that allows you to search for lists based on your state's standards and your grade level. Here's a sample of what I get when I search mine:
I love how it lists the standard, then the available lists in blue.

Another one of my favorite features is the Assignments. I created assignments all year last year for my kids and it was super easy. Best of all, you can easily differentiate instruction by assigning different tasks to specific groups of students. Here's a quick overview of the assignments feature:

Of course VSC has lots of great features that you can use for free, but the premium membership is well worth the cost. I've been using Vocabulary and Spelling City for years and can't imagine not having it. 

How about you? Do you have a favorite tech tool that you just can't imagine having to go without?  

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Classroom Reveal Part 2: Library Organization

Part two of my classroom reveal is all about the library. I happen to be a little obsessive about children's literature, and have amassed a pretty large collection of books. I had a pretty good system in place for organizing them, but was getting a little tired of all the multi-colored baskets, so I decided to streamline everything. Here's a peek:
I swapped out my colored baskets for white. I think this gives it a clean look.

I kept my books organized by genre, authors, etc... but I wanted the look to be color-coded but easier on the eyes. I decided to use a small space on my new basket labels for the color codes. From left to right, this is a close up:

I always get the question from other teachers or parents, "How do the students know where to put the books back?" My answer to that is coordinating book labels. I make matching stick-on labels that I print on Avery shipping labels. I had a super parent volunteer come to school and place the matching stickers on every single book in my room.

Finally, I went through a few ideas for attaching my labels to my baskets. I started with book rings, but didn't like how they looked and how they labels swung around. I decided to use plastic cable ties that I found at Big Lots for less than $1. Since my baskets are white they blend in pretty well.

If you're interested in my basket/book labels, you can find them in my stores on TPT and TN. They come with pre-made labels as well as a fully editable file of each color so you can add your own labels if you'd like. 

I'm so excited to have this section of my room finished, and love the way it turned out!

Friday, August 9, 2013

Classroom Reveal Part 1: Focus Wall

I've been working like crazy in my room, just like many of you out there in blog land, and finally think I'm almost done. Isn't fixing up the room so much fun? I just love organizing and decorating in preparation for the kiddos!

When you first walk in and turn left, you'll see my closet small group area. A few years ago I covered the closet doors with black sheets and added a cute polka dot border. This year I've added clothes pins (hot glue is my best friend) so I can easily change out the weekly skill/strategy posters.
My table is at the bottom of the picture.

Here's a close up view. See my clothes pins? (I spray painted them black).
Now, it is admission time. I love having my focus wall visible because I can refer to it often and it's a great reminder for the kiddos. However, I inherited a storage system for our previous series focus wall materials that just didn't work for me. All of the items for the week were put in manila envelopes, but the vocabulary cards were in a box, and I had to write the spelling words each week. Needless to say, I didn't keep up very well with this every week. Since we're starting a new program and a great friend of mine pre-made all of the focus wall materials for my grade level for the whole year I decided it was time for a new system:

Our new program didn't provide storage boxes or crates for our leveled readers, so I decided to put them in the pink, green, and blue crates. They're in that particular order for a reason. You see the ties on the curtains above? Those colors correspond, so I'll always know that pink holds units 1-2 materials, green holds units 3-4, and blue holds units 5-6. Here's a look inside the pink crate:

I love these crates because even though we have 4 sets of leveled readers for each week, I can easily fit two units worth of readers in them, plus all of my focus wall materials. The focus wall binder also serves as a divider between the two units. You can't tell from the picture, but there are also file folder dividers between each week's set of leveled readers. Here's a closer look at what's in the binder:

Let me say up front that I did not create these awesome resources so I can't share them, but my friend who created them will probably either place them on her website or maybe in her store. (She's still trying to decide if she wants to go the store route). I basically printed all of the materials, including spelling and vocabulary words and placed them in plastic sleeves in my binder. Each binder can hold 2 units worth of materials. When it is time to change out my focus wall, I'll take the full page resources out (sleeve and all) and clothes pin them to the wall. 

It did take some time to get all of this printed and put away, but I know that it will keep me efficient in the long run, and it is a system that will help me keep my focus wall up to date. How about you? Have you tried something like this before? Or do you have a different system that works for you? I'd love to hear your ideas. 

Friday, August 2, 2013

Student Blogging Challenge 2013

Are you looking for a way to connect your classroom to others while at the same time practicing communication skills? Have you heard of the Student Blogging Challenge? It's one of the many gems I've been exposed to thanks to Twitter. Let's face it. We live in a global community, and it's important for our students to make connections outside the four walls of our classrooms. They need to learn what it means to be a global citizen and how to communicate and collaborate with other cultures. Since my students already blog using KidBlog, I decided this awesome project would be a great opportunity to become even better bloggers.

It starts in September and consists of 10 weekly challenges for children to complete. September is good for my class, because we will have been in school already for a few weeks. If September doesn't work for you, they do another on in March. Each challenge is designed to help students become better bloggers AND write better comments, as well as write for an authentic, global audience. For some examples of the challenges, check out their FAQ page (scroll down).

I can't wait to get started with student blogging again this year! If your students aren't already blogging, this challenge is a great place for you to start. You can create free classroom blogs on KidBlog that are very easily managed. (Here's a post I wrote last year to help you get started).

Are you ready to try it yet? Click here to sign your class up! Hope to see you and your students in the challenge!

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