Monday, July 29, 2013

I *heart* Zip Ties

I was planning on posting last week with my Monday Made It being . . . I made it through the first day of school, but, as we all know, the first days of school are extra exhausting. I guess this Monday Made It is that I made it through the first week of school!

The first week just flew right by, and I hardly took any photos! But, I wanted to share a bit of what we have been working on. This is my first year attempting Reading Workshop. Last week my new 5th graders went through our classroom library and reorganized it by genre and type. I had to give a few mini-lessons, but they started to get the hang of it. I put some of the books back on the shelf and labeled the shelf with my label maker. I had also bought some little baskets from the Dollar Tree to hold small bundles of books. We managed to find a lot of books that could be categorized by author too!

I whipped up some simple labels and then attached them to the baskets with one of my favorite classroom ties! You can get a colorful bundle from Dollar Tree with two sizes included. These are PERFECT for attaching labels to baskets. I've had some on baskets for years with no sign of breaking!

Labeled book bins at the top, and student book boxes and Reader's Notebooks in the shelf. 

Some books grouped by author. Tags attached with cheap zip ties! 

Some of our series books, on the shelves, labeled. 

A close up of one of those amazing zip ties!

Another Monday Made It - a simple wooden sign. I forgot my wall is white, so I guess I need to paint it again in another color!

And of course I'm linking up with 4th Grade Frolics and her awesome Monday Made It Linky!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Back to School 2013

Wow, I really can't believe that school starts on Monday - the start of my 10th year of teaching! This past week was filled with inducting our new teammates, a couple of short meetings, some good PD on RTI and co-teaching, lot's of prep, and meet-the-teacher night!

I'm kind of proud of this sign I made to hang in my window. The lighting wasn't ideal, but it says: Orange you glad to be in 5th grade!

I made a few changes to my classroom. You'll notice something a bit different about my tables. If you were following me last year I posted about putting contact paper on my tables. The main reason I did this was so that my tables would match; I had a few different styles of tables, and the contact paper gave it a cleaner, more cohesive look. As I was removing the contact paper from last year the custodian came in and said that one of our teachers was switching from tables to desks and could get me MATCHING tables! I was thrilled. I was even more thrilled that none of them were loose and creaky (this drove us mad last year). These tables are also a bit longer and so the kiddos will have a bit more room.

I don't know how I got it in my head that I wanted plants on each table (could I have possibly had an original idea and not something seen on Pinterest?!?!). Don't they look lovely! When they are in our way there is plenty of room on the window sill. Plus, they were cheap! Ikea pots = $.50 each, Ikea placemats = $.99 for 4, and 99 cent store plants = $.99. 

Last year my tables were continents. When I taught 6th grade my tables were the 7 Wonders of the Ancient World. I wanted something more creative this year, but inspiration has yet to strike. For now they are just color coded. I love these FREE frames from Ashley Hughes.

I now have more room in the back, although you can't tell in the photo, to meet for Reading/Writing Workshop. You can see my book boxes on the shelf. I wish I had taken a photo because I added numbers from the lovely Ladybug's Teaching Files, and they look great! I used her FREE labels for the boxes and their Reader's Notebooks.

Meet-the-teacher night went great! Most of my new 5th graders stopped by and it was great to meet all of the wonderful families I will be working with this year. It was also great to see some of my class from last year.

I still need to finish scripting out week one, but I'm really excited for Monday!

Don't forget to join in on my Pinterest Top 10 for Next School Year Linky Party! You have until the end of the month to join in!

Monday, July 15, 2013

Monday Made It - Book Boxes

Today is the last official day of summer vacation 2013, I have to report back for the first contract day tomorrow. Guess where I spent my last day of break? In my room of course! I got quite a bit accomplished and had an unexpected helper (one of my students from last year). 

I've been reading up on Readers/Writers Workshop and I am so excited to start both this year! A couple of weeks ago I stopped by Ikea and purchased some magazine boxes for my students to use as their book boxes. They were super cheap at $1.99 for 5. You can also get a great deal on them from Amazon. That also means the quality isn't great, they are just basic corrugated cardboard. So, I bought 2 rolls of duct tape  and have some reinforced book boxes for my Monday Made It (link up from 4th Grade Frolics). 

It took me a few of hours (enough time to watch a couple of movies) and they were all taped up. Today I placed them on the shelf in the classroom. Lovely! Now all they need is student numbers and to be filled with great books!

Now I get to spend the rest of my afternoon in the pool with my sister, nephew, and niece, and then celebrate my sister's and brother's birthday (they were born on the same day, four years apart).

Sunday, July 14, 2013

What is your New {school} Year Resolution?

My summer is almost officially over *sad face*. Tomorrow is the last day of freedom before returning to work on Tuesday. Of course I'll probably be in my room tomorrow (as I was for a couple of days last week) getting a head start. I have to say, though, that I am super excited about this school year, it's a big one for me, year 10! I'm looking forward to meeting my new 5th graders and having an awesome year together. I have two new team members which I've already chatted with quite a bit, and I get to catch up with my teacher pals! Plus, this is the first time in about 7 years that I will be able to see my former students around campus.

My real-life colleague and friend Angie from Fall into First is hosting a linky party to help kick off the new school year.

Resolution #1 - Launch {and maintain} Readers/Writers Workshop

I am SO EXCITED to start Reading/Writing Workshop this year. I had "heard" of other blogger teachers using this in their classrooms, and my friend Dana from Learning Required, started using it in her room already, so I just had to find out more about this amazing program. This summer I read four books on Reading/Writing Workshop, and I have one more on it's way. I love all of the ideas I've gathered, but I am still shaky about getting started. I know that the lessons (especially those for the first few weeks) are already outlined for me, so I know I'll get the hang of it soon enough.

Resolution #2 - Just Say NO

As teachers we are expected to accomplish infinite tasks, yes, we ARE superheroes, but even superheroes have limits. In the past few years I have found my self stressed out, physically exhausted, and emotionally drained, and it isn't helping me to be a better teacher (rather it is having the opposite affect). I hate to say no, but I am learning to do it, and it is already helping me feel calm and ready. I'm planning on using time I would have spent on those extra tasks for deeper lesson planning and me time (getting to the gym more, reading that pile of books by my bed, and spending time with my family/friends)!

Resolution #3 - Track Student Data

I've mentioned this before, but there has been a lot of talk in education about the importance of tracking individual student progress. I see value in this, but I think it will be even more valuable to have the students involved in and in charge of their own data tracking. I want to keep it simple this year to get a feel for data tracking, so if anyone has any ideas/resources to share I'd grateful.

Your turn! Blog about your New {School} Year Resolutions and link up with Fall into First.

Also, I am so overwhelmed with the blog love lately! Although I prefer Feedly, I'm lovin' that BlogLovin' helps users find other blogs they'd like. I almost have 200 BlogLovin' followers! Wow! Also, I've had about 5 or 6 Liebster Award nominations from some awesome bloggers. Including:
Teaching in Cardigans
Life in Room 24
Shepard's Shining Stars
Nerdy Nerdy Nerdy
The Teacher's Desk 6

If I missed you, please let me know!

Do you know what the Liebster Award is? Well, basically it's a chain letter for blogs. Continue reading after the jump.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Design a Planet!

When I taught 5th grade years ago one of my team members created a wonderful set of task cards for students to imagine and design their own planets. This was a perfect creative writing and art activity to finish up our study of space and to keep students motivated and engaged at the end of the school year. These task cards were lovingly hand written by her and that year I typed them up (this was before I discovered pretty fonts and cute borders). Well, after that year I moved to 6th grade, leaving her behind in 5th. The 5th grade team continued to end the year with this project and when I returned to 5th grade last year I was excited for this project. I knew my kids would love it, and they did! I had one student in particular who, all year. struggled to stay focused and get assignments completed on-time. Once we started this project he was immersed and didn't want to stop. It was even an incentive for him to get some of those missing assignments in!

I allowed students to be as creative as they liked, but teachers could easily add more parameters to the project. We had a variety of planets inspired from things like Minecraft, school supplies, Justin Beiber, shapes, pets, and even a disco ball. Here is a last minute photo I snapped of their planets (this is only one component of the project) before sending them home.

I re-typed the task cards again this year and prettied them up a bit. With permission from my teammate I'm posting these on TpT for others to purchase. I've encouraged her to set up her own TpT store, but although she is tech savvy, she doesn't feel as confident as she should. I'm excited to split earnings with her because she did an amazing job coming up with these super tasks for students!

And don't forget to link up with your Pinterest Top 10 for Next School Year! The link party is up until the end of the month. Browse your pins and post about the cream of the crop, then link up here. Then check out the other posts for more awesome teacher blogger's pins!

Thank you to those that have already linked up, I've loved looking at (and re-pinning) your pins.

Friday, July 5, 2013

Pinterest top 10 for next school year Linky Party

With just over a year of blogging under my belt I can honestly say that there are two tools that have made me a better teacher: blogging and Pinterest. My most popular blog post, by far, has been my Pinterest top 10 for next school year post from last summer. I had started to become overwhelmed with the amazing ideas and resources that I had pinned, so I decided to sift through them and pick my top 10 that I wanted to try to do for the next school year. I only used some form of a few of them, but that is ok, I was inspired nonetheless. I decided that this Pinterest Top 10 should be an annual post for me, and then I thought, hey, this would make a great linky party! I know there are a lot of Pinterest link-ups, but I hope mine is a little different and that others want to join in. I'm excited and nervous about hosting my first linky party...I hope I do it right! If you'd like to join in just follow the easy peasy steps below.

1. Look through your pins and pick the top 10 that you want to use in your classroom this coming school year.
2. Write a blog post about your top 10 and include the Pinterest embedded widget for each pin.
3. Include the linky party image.
4. Link your post below. Link up will close at the end of the month.
5. Optional: Use this code to share the collection on your blog post get the InLinkz code

And here are my Pinterest top 10 for next school year:

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Goin' on a blog hunt

It's kind of nice that July 1st has come and gone and we don't have to hear about the retirement of Google Reader anymore, but wait, here I am posting about it again, stay with me...

Laura Candler is hosting a Goin' on a Blog Hunt link up to help us blog lovers find new teacher blogs to follow. I already follow quite a few teacher blogs, but I'm excited to discover new ones! Head over and check out some of great blogs!

As you know, I'm a Feedly user - I love the smooth design of this reader - but I know BlogLovin has been heavily promoted. Either way I've provided easy links for both in sidebar to the right. And welcome to any new followers from the link up! Thanks for stopping by!

Monday, July 1, 2013

To-do list for my scattered brain!

Our summer break is exactly 6 weeks for teachers. To non-teachers this sounds like a massive amount of time, to most teachers, this sounds like nothing! I remind myself that it is worth it because we get three 2-week breaks through the year, but it doesn't make me feel a whole lot better. Pity party - table for one! Our two week trip out of country, although fabulous and memorable, has made this summer seem even shorter. Last week I gave myself permission to take it easy, recover from jet lag, and my husband and I both caught a cold, so it was a needed rest week. Today I have a mere TWO WEEKS (nope, not a typo!) left before I have to return to school (but of course I'll be heading in sooner to get a head start). But, like many teachers, I can't seem to turn off my teacher brain. The conflict between my teacher brain, and my lazy side is making me even more miserable. So, today I installed an app (Astrid - the one with the cute little squid) to help keep me more focused and less stressed and scattered. And, as if on cue, I am linking up with Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies, for her To Do (before the first day of school) Linky. While helpful, it also reminded me of a million other things that I need to do!

Here is my list-in-progress...most of the things need to get done in the next two weeks before returning to school!

I am loving the Astrid app because I can set it up on my phone, but also have the option of using it on the web - both synced together! Sometimes I need a physical paper in front of me (it feels so much more satisfying to actually check something off the list) and Astrid creates a simple and effective print-out!

I'd love any other advice on staying focused and organized, but also taking time to actually enjoy my break!