Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Back to School Projects and Purchases!

I decided NOT to go in to school today.  After completing the organizing phase of my classroom yesterday, my brain started going in about 100 different directions.  I decided that I needed to go shopping for craft supplies to work on Pinterest inspired projects.  Ironically, I didn't end up working on ANY Pinterest projects today, because while I was out shopping, I hit the jackpot!  I came up with my own little ideas instead, and I couldn't wait to put them together to test drive them!  :)

First, I'd like to show you my newest word work idea!  I found foam counting blocks at the ever fabulous Dollar Tree, and I immediately knew what I wanted to do!  I just started writing letters on each side with Sharpie, and viola!  Letter cubes that can be manipulated to make words.  Easy!

The next picture isn't really a project, per se, but I LOVE these magnets!  I found them at Target, and I love how they look like ransom notes and magazine lettering!  I always wanted to have kiddos cut letters out of magazines to spell words at school, but I had no idea how to keep my magazine supply nice and plump.  Now I don't even have to worry about it.  LOVE, LOVE, LOVE them!

While I'm off-topic and blabbing on and on about Target, let's take a looksie at another purchase, shall we?  I saw a cute pin for listening ears a while ago from Jennifer Jones.  (LOVE her!)   When I saw this headband in the party aisle, I knew I had to have it!  Yes, even third graders love to see their teachers act silly, and I totally plan on making the listening ears as a beginning of the year craftivity when I lay the groundwork for Reader's Workshop and active listening!  Check out my listening ears!

I found these mini-tools at the Dollar Tree, so I added them to my metacognition tool belts for  some extra flare and support during small group work!  :) Again, I use this with my metacognition tool kit
and Cindy Gilchrist's Toolbox of Strategies!  I also plan to use it with this fabulous free resource for synthesizing from Ms. Smarty Pants!

I love the little wooden critters they have at Pat Catans, and I know that there have been a lot of posts in the past about how to use them to create pointers, but I decided to make a "Brainstorm Box" instead.  Since they were 50 cents or less, I picked up a TON.  I wanted to have a concrete way for kids to think about topics to write about when they are feeling stuck, and I can't wait to use this with my kiddos! :)  I'm hoping it will be a fun way to spark idea generation!  You can pick up the label HERE if you think you can try this with your kiddos!

*Note: Pat Catans is a craft store.  :)  I didn't even think about it being a regional chain.  They are all over Ohio and Pennsylvania!  It's basically like a Hobby Lobby or Michael's. 

While I was at Pat Catans (our craft store), I also picked up several costumes/vests.  Even if you don't have a Pat Catans nearby, you could probably find them at your local craft store.  They are by Darice, and I am pretty sure that's a fairly large company.  I see their stuff all over the place.  Anyway,  I have passed the vests by so many times, and I always think, "Oh, that's cute, but that's too primary."  Seriously, I am such a primary teacher at heart, because I LOVE cutesy activities, and truly, third graders eat it up with a spoon.  Today, when I passed the vests, I was practically struck by lightning.  Maybe it was because of the brainstorm box idea.  Maybe having all of the wooden critters in my cart struck a nerve of some sort.  Whatever the reason, I realized how much fun it would be to put them in a center to practice reading with voice and showing point of view.  The vests were less than $2.00 each, so I couldn't pass them up.  Hi, my name is Amanda, and I am a teacher hoarder! ;)  You can download the label for this tub HERE, if you're interested!  I'd love to hear what you think! 

I think that this tub will be a HUGE complement to my Talking the Talk cards, and I cannot wait to launch all of these fun lessons this upcoming school year!  (Although, truthfully, I am not about to wish away the rest of my summer just yet!  I still have LOTS of projects to finish!)  

Lastly, before I throw in the blogging towel to spend a little bit of QT with my cutie on our official anniversary, and before I go on another blogging hiatus to spend some time with the in-laws, I want to share one last photograph of props too good to pass up!  I am so excited about my new chef hat that I'll be using with Cara's Cooking Up Compound Words bundle to review with my kiddos.  I might even break it out to do some Synonym Roll activities since the OAA puts a lot of weight on synonyms and antonyms.  So cute!  :)  Also, I picked up this cute surgical cap and mask for our contraction surgery later in the year.  I even picked up neon band-aids.  Friends, I am BEYOND READY for some rigor, relevance, and straight-up F-U-N!  :)  Have a fab week!  I'll be back soon-ish!  I'd love to hear your thoughts, so please babble away.  Do you have any other ideas for my goodies?  Any extensions?  Inquiring minds want to know!!!!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Behind Closed Doors: A Classroom Organization Linky!

Eeeeeeek!  It's almost AUGUST, and you know what THAT means!!! School is just around the bend, friends.  I am kind-of frazzled right now, because I want to be simultaneously working on 345,281 things, but so far, I have not figured out a way to clone myself.  Shame! :)  I want to finish the Common Core Math I-Can Statements, and I am really close to wrapping that project up, but truthfully, since I don't teach math right now, it's getting bumped around a bit on the priority list. 

Today,  was exciting though!  I woke up, and I decided to check my work email.  I saw that we were cleared to go in to work in our classrooms, so I showered, threw on some comfy clothes, put on a little make-up, packed up some school stuff, and drove to the school.  I probably should have actually eaten something first, but I wasn't planning on being there long.  Ha!  Seriously!  I do the same thing every single year.  I kid myself into thinking that I will just stop in for an hour or two.  Deep down, I realize I'm lying to myself.  A few hours came and went.  I ended up messing around in my classroom for five hours!  Lesson learned.  When I go in tomorrow, I will eat something first.  :)

Okay, I am sure you could care less about my food consumption, soooooo moving on!

Let's take a looksie at my progress, shall we?  There's nothing really special about the space YET, but considering it was a blank slate when I went in this morning, I am feeling pretty good about it.  I think I can confidently call Day 1 a success!   In somewhat related news, I was also super excited to get some laminating done today.  I brought it home to cut from the comfort of my own home, but obviously I am putting it off, because I am blogging instead of cutting.  I also managed to put some of the beach towels and mats into the washer and watered our plants, because LET'S FACE IT, it's just a lot more fun than cutting lamination!  I'll get around to it eventually.  :)

Please excuse my lack of focus!  My brain is zipping in so many different directions right now.  I am sure that you can all relate!  Back to the classroom.  I was a tad overly-obsessive today.  I am in a bit of a frenzy, because my in-laws are coming up from Maryland on Wednesday.  So, essentially I won't be doing ANY school work or projects until maybe next Monday. We will be going to a parade, boating, riding bikes, and watching the Saints play the Cardinals.  (Love this time of year in my itty bitty city!)  While I am super excited about having fun and spending time with my hubs and our families, I am also acutely aware of how soon school starts.   If you know me in real life, you already know that I am 12 kinds of stressed out about it (as Abby would say).  Maybe even 100 kinds of stressed out about it.  I am NOT a "Que sera, sera" person.  I'm as Type A as it gets!  So, naturally, I tried to get as much done at school as I could today. Fortunately, I am pretty sure I morphed into a robot person.  I don't think I have ever gotten so much done in one day in the history of my teaching career.  True story.

Since I am flip-flopping on bulletin boards, and I have been flip-flopping on my classroom designing plan, I decided to get to work on something that I can't be wishy-washy about.  My CABINETS.  Seriously, once I pulled everything out of storage and started to put all of my classroom goodies back onto shelves, I realized that I needed to revamp some things.  I did decorate a little, but I didn't touch a single bulletin board or create a single display... yet.  That's my favorite thing to do, and I like to let it marinate.  I think that decorating my classroom will be SO much easier now that I've laid the groundwork.  Today was all about organization.  Sure, it was painful, and there were times when I wanted to cram everything back into a cabinet in disarray... to forget about it and keep it behind closed doors.  Ultimately, the neat freak in me won out though, and I painstakingly reorganized my supplies.  In the end, I am glad I took the time to do it.  Here's the run-down.

I organized my centers and activity cards into tubs by season/purpose.  I need to make labels for the tubs, so that's on my ever-growing To-Do List.  :)  I bought the tubs at Walmart, and I am definitely going back to grab a few more of the larger tubs.  They are the perfect size! I bought the smaller tubs two years ago, and I haven't been able to find them ever since.  All of my centers are laminated and they are kept in gallon-sized baggies.  I keep one copy of each recording sheet inside of the baggies as well for easy grab & go copying!  Now that they are organized more efficiently, I'm hoping that utilizing my centers will be a SNAP!

I have a really large library, and I love giving my kiddos access to lots of books, but if you saw the amount of books that landed in my book hospital last year, you would understand why I keep some of my more precious read alouds in a safe place.  I rotate them in and out throughout the year, and put them in my "Books in the Spotlight" center for kids to read.  After a read aloud, I leave them out for about a week before returning them to this little book nook.  This approach usually makes the read aloud an especially popular choice, but it minimizes wear and tear.  :)  Just the way I like it!

I took a few snapshots of my other storage spaces.  I clearly have a thing for containers.  :)  I like to have containers that match my color scheme even if nobody ever sees them.  It makes my heart happy!

The other area I spent some time tweaking was my small group area. Luckily, this was much easier to tweak, because most of the tubs were already organized from last year.  Essentially, I like to keep everything close to our work area.  I like to be able to grab a resource at the drop of a hat, so it's really important that all of my goodies are close to where I work with small groups or pull individual students.  

I put some of my teaching props inside of numbered tubs.  Each tub has a different "theme".  This keeps me from spending too much time searching and digging around in each tub for supplies. If it's small enough to fit inside, and it also fits a theme, then it goes into a tub. Let's take a look inside.  :)

This tub is filled with lots of visualizing goodies!

This tub has Slinkies that we use to "flip the sound" and cars for some of my struggling kiddos to use Elkonian style.  :)

This tub has a few metacognition resources tucked away inside. I use this with the metacognition tool kit in my TpT store.

I keep all of my comprehension inflatables in one tub for easy access.

I like to use these little touch lights for syllabication practice, but they can be used for phoneme segmentation too.

I like to call this my hodgepodge tub.  It has different concrete models from Comprehension Connections, and Silly Putty to use as a demonstration of how seed stories start out small and can be stretched out.  I am so excited, because that idea was recently published in the Aug/ Sept 2012 edition of the 2nd/3rd grade Mailbox Magazine.  Yay!  :) 

This tub contains resources that I like to use for determining importance.  They were from Target's dollar bin last summer.

This tub holds my easy button from Staples, and buzzers from Learning Resources!
I hide other tools away behind the curtain.  I haven't filled all of the tubs yet.  Soon enough!
This photo shows how close the resources are to my small group area.  I wouldn't have it any other way.

I hope you all enjoyed taking a look "behind closed doors".  I'd love to see how you organize your classroom wares, so I'm hosting my first official linky party!  If you link up, please post the following graphic on your blog.  Thank you, thank you, thank you!!!!  I can't wait to learn from all of you! :) 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

FREE Spelling Test Template! :)

I'm still taking a break from the Internet today, but I feel like a dieter sneaking a cookie, because I had to pop on to share a FREE spelling template that I created last week.  It's hard to break an addiction, eh?  I wanted to share it on Thursday or Friday, but I couldn't get it to upload to TpT.  Now, the problem has been resolved, and it's available for your downloading pleasure! ;)

This spelling test template was created to be used with a 15 word list. The file is intended to be copied front to back with the 5 challenge words and reflection piece on the back of the test. I am always looking for opportunities for reflection, and this is an easy way to work it into our weekly routine! :)  If you're interested in using this file with your kiddos, you can pick it up HERE! Enjoy! I'm off to spend my Sunday away from Blogland.  I hope you have a good one!

Friday, July 27, 2012

Celebrating Two Years = Blogging Break!

I realize that I've been compulsively updating my blog this summer, but as this weekend rolls in, I'll be taking a much needed break to celebrate two years with my hubs.  :)  I'll be back next week!  Have a wonderful weekend, friends.  Make sure that you spend time taking care of YOU before you head back to the classroom this fall.  Balance is soooooo important!

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Vocabulary on Parade!

This lesson is way up there on my favorite's list!  I LOVE it, and the kiddos really get into it! Essentially, this bundle is inspired by "Miss Alaineus: A Vocabulary Disaster", and most of the lessons in the packet center around word explorations.  The culminating activity is the word parade.  Each child wears a costume to school and chooses a word to describe their costume.  I encourage them to think of a really challenging, precise, WOW word, and I've been so impressed by words that they have come up with in the past, like "hypochondriac" and "foliage"!!!  Seriously adorable!!!  My older files weren't quite as cute as I recalled, so this bundle was totally rebuilt from the ground up.  This time around, I added a little word work activity to build words with pumpkins, costume cards to practice generating descriptive words, and I created much prettier templates.  I feel so much better now!!!

I personally prefer to do this lesson around Halloween, because the kiddos typically have costumes at home.  I don't want parents to feel like they have to go out and buy anything, so I encourage the kids to wear their existing costume or to use materials that they already have at home.  If they already have the costume, then they just have to focus on coming up with a fabulous word to describe it and work on a mini-presentation of their word and definition.  Not too shabby!  Even though I could plan this lesson (technically) any time of the year, I prefer to do it around Halloween, not only because of the costumes, but also because some kids don't celebrate Halloween. At my old district, we always had Halloween Parties, and the kids dressed up in costumes.  Inevitably, I would have a student that didn't celebrate Halloween, and at times, those students were pulled from the party or didn't come to school that day.  I was able to navigate around this by having a Word Parade.  The kiddos still got to dress up... just like everyone else did... but they wore a costume to represent a word.  I changed the focus from Halloween to vocabulary, and made the Halloween Party our big Word Celebration.  We did our presentations during that time... then we ate a few snacks.  Of course, it could go the other way too, and the unit could be another way to celebrate the holiday.  It depends on the spin you want to put on it with your kiddos!  :)  I like having a seasonal file that easily fits into an intermediate classroom.  It's SO hard to make holiday lessons fit sometimes!  :)   If you're interested, you can check out the file HERE!  :)  It's on SALE for 20% off as part of the "Christmas in July Sale!"  If you want to get a head-start on the holidays, you may want to check out the sale link to check out files from my blogging buddies at Blog Hoppin'.  :)  Have a great day, friends!

Title p.1
Directions p.2
Read Aloud Lesson Plan p.3
Tea Party Activity p. 4-9
Name Nouns Lesson Plan p. 10
Word Bracelets Lesson Plan p.11
Extra Lesson Ideas p.12
Photos p. 13
Vocabulary on Parade Parent Letter p. 14-15
Planning Sheet p. 16
Rubrics p. 17-21
Word Cards for Necklaces p. 22-25
Hallo-Words Word Work p. 26-35
Costume Words (Describing Lesson) p. 36-45
Thank You p.46

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

We Wish You a Merry...Christmas?

After the hot and  humid DROUGHT we've been experiencing in the Midwest, I am more than excited to think wintery thoughts.  :)  My friends and I are throwing a sale!  All Seasonal items have been placed on sale tomorrow... for JUST ONE DAY! Merry Christmas... in July!
A huge thank you to Babbling Abby for making this adorable picture!
NOTE:  Teachers Pay Teachers will be off line on Wednesday until 9am, so sadly there will be no earlier birds...
Do you want to participate?  Quickly link up over at Blog Hoppin and let everyone know!