Sunday, September 30, 2012

Halloween Freebies

Today is my 27th Birthday!  I'm very excited it has fallen on a Sunday this year so I can relax and actually enjoy the day.

Since tomorrow is the first day of October, I figured what better day to start BOO'ing the teachers at my school.  It's simple.  Print off a "You've Been BOO'ed!" poem and door sign, purchase a spooky and fun treat, drop it off outside a classroom door when no one is around, and RUN!!!!

Let's face it, the first few weeks of school have been pretty stressful.  Add some fun to your "ordinary" school day and start a chain reaction at your school!  It's perfect for teachers, students, and staff in your building....and it's FREE!  You can download it here at my Teachers Pay Teachers Store!

Here is an example of what I am going to leave outside a mystery teacher's door tomorrow morning!


And, since it's my birthday and I'm in a giving mood check out my Spooky Stationary!   You can download them at my Teacher Pay Teacher store for FREE here as well!

Two versions are included: primary lines and intermediate lines.


Well, happy last day of September, happy first day of October (tomorrow), and Happy Birthday to me!

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Real Reading Salad

Today we made a real reading salad. 

Before we put on our chef hats, I started out by reading a challenging passage to my students fluently.  I asked students what they noticed about my reading.  They complimented my appropriate pacing and intonation.  They complimented my ability to decode tricky words and to not sound like a "robot."

Then I let students in on a little secret.  I told them that although I read fluently, I really had no idea what I read about.  I didn't know what any of the words meant and if they were to ask me a question about the passage, I probably wouldn't be able to answer it.

Students glared at me in awe and we started our discussion on the importance of thinking as we read and pausing if what we read does not make sense.

Then I introduced the ingredients for our real reading salad.  We started out with some lettuce (to symbolize reading) and tomatoes (to symbolize thinking).

I selected a volunteer to put on the big chef hat.  While I read our story for the day I had the student add green lettuce to the salad bowl when I was reading and red tomatoes when I was sharing my thinking.  We used little pieces of red and green construction paper for convenience.

At the end we had created a real reading salad, a great symbol for the importance of thinking while we really read. 

I told students that in fourth grade, we need to be really reading and always thinking.  For more information on making a real reading salad with your class, or for more great comprehension connections, check out Tanny McGregor's book:  Comprehension Connections.

Happy Friday's Eve!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Reading Workshop

This week was our 2nd week of school.  I spent our reading time introducing each center and providing time for students to practice our weekly rotation.  Next week we will be starting guided reading groups during this time as well.

Here is a little peak at our Reading Workshop!

Each morning we have reading from 9:15 - 10:55.  On days when we have a special in the morning, our reading time runs a little later.

Our schedule looks a little something like this:

This year I'm starting out with 3 guided reading groups, based on reading level.  Throughout the year I continuously regroup students based on reading level and skill.  In the beginning of the year I keep my groups short and sweet so that I can still keep an eye on students during independent reading and centers.  As the year progresses and I see that my students are on task I start spending more and more time with groups.

Want a closer look at each component of our Reading Workshop?  Here it is!

Read Aloud / Mini Lesson

I use this time for interactive read alouds and modeling thinking, talking about a text, and recording our thinking on graphic organizers.  The first few weeks our lessons focus a lot on our reading workshop procedures and expectations.  As the year progresses, our lessons focus on comprehension strategies.  Next week we will be focusing on determining importance and nonfiction text.  After our read aloud/mini-lesson students start independent reading.

Independent Reading

Students each have their own book bin.  As part of their morning routine, students select books from our classroom library.  They have over 2,000 books to choose from.  They keep 2-3 classroom books inside their book bin in addition to their school library books.  During independent reading students may sit at their desk, on the carpet, or in a cozy spot around the classroom.  Our rule is that, where ever they sit, they must stay in that spot for the whole duration of independent reading and they must read quietly and independently.  During independent reading students record notes on a post-it.  I often give them a sentence starter during our read aloud/mini-lesson time such as, "One important detail was..." or "This reminded me of...".  However, sometimes I give students free choice.  These post-it notes are shared during our share time later and help hold students accountable during this time.

I set a timer and when it goes off, students put their book bins away and start centers.  I have strategically placed the materials for each center in different areas around the room so that students spread out.


We are starting out with 5 reading centers.  Last year I had 10 but that turned out to be a lot of paperwork and a lot of "busy work."  This year I've toned it down to 5, meaningful and engaging activities that each last about 30 minutes.  We use a reading center wheel to help us rotate through the centers, no center cards to mess with.  Each student is grouped into a different, mixed-ability, color group.  I write students names on each color so they know what group they are in.

Here's a quick overview of each center:

Listening - Students listen to a story on their iPods, take notes, listen a 2nd time, and finish taking notes.  They then answer a few short response and extended response questions.  This is good prep for our NYS ELA Test.

ABC - All of the spelling worksheets that are in our Harcourt Trophies spelling program and copied and bound into books for each student.  They grab their book, and complete the assigned pages for the day.  This is great word work and practice for their weekly spelling test.

Writing About Reading - Students grab a copy of Scholastic News or Cricket, read the assigned passage(s) and complete a writing about reading task.  This week, students were required to read a few articles from Scholastic News and then write a letter summarizing their favorite article.

Comprehension - We will be using the computers this year for our comprehension center.  I purchased Raz Kids this and year created an account for each student.  Raz Kids is amazing.  You can assign students virtual books to read to themselves, they can listen to the story being read with the words highlighted and read along, they can record themselves reading, and they can take quizzes.  Each activity earns students stars to spend in the Raz Rocket.  My kiddos LOVE this site.  Our school also purchases Study Island so once that is up and running I will allow them to use that site as well.

Fluency - We have received 2 Kindle Fires from Donors Choose and I am bringing in my own so that students can work with a partner to read an e-book together and then complete an assignment about what they read.  If they finish early they can take turns playing some of the educational games we have downloaded on the Kindles.  I'm hoping to get a few more funded through Donors Choose.  My fingers are crossed!

When students are finished with their centers they put them in the colored bin that represents their group color.  This makes it easy for me to see who has and has not completed their centers.

Although the names of our centers stay the same throughout the year, the actual books, resources, and activities change each week.


After independent reading and centers students meet back together in a circle to share their post-it notes from the book(s) they have been reading.  Sometimes I require everyone to share, sometimes we roll a dice to see if it will be girls or boys, sometimes I let students pass.  I try to surprise them so that they are always prepared to share.

Shared Reading or Writing About Reading or Socratic Circle

For the last part of reading, before we go to lunch, we spend time doing one of the following:  shared reading, writing about reading, or a Socratic Circle.  We do a variety of tasks for each, depending on the day.  For shared reading, we sometimes read poems, short stories, or a group chapter book together.  Writing about reading can be interactive, shared, or sometimes I use this time to model writing responses or showcase exemplar student work.  Socratic circles are based on the read aloud from the morning or another familiar text.  I switch up what we do frequently.  Sometimes this spills over into our time after lunch depending on our task.

How do you manage reading in your classroom?

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Tell Me Something Good Linkie

Today I'm linking up with Rowdy in First Grade for a quick and easy post about good things from school and home.

Something good from school:

This week I introduced reading centers and we practiced our rotations.  My students have been extremely quiet and on task during independent reading and their centers.  I am really impressed with not only their role model behavior, but with the exceptional quality of their work.  I will post more about our reading time this weekend so stay tuned!

Something good from home:

My husband has been cooking dinner every night this week.  Monday night we had homemade pizza, Tuesday we had BBQ ribs, Italian bread, and mac salad. Tonight we had chicken and corn on the cob.  I am so thankful that he has been helping out so much at home while I try to get back in my back to school mind set!

Guided reading starts next week.  Look for my reading post this weekend.  I'll be sure to include lots of pictures!

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Stress Reducers

A happy, calm, cool, and collected teacher equals happy, calm, cool and collected students.  But with new Common Core Learning Standards, new teacher evaluations, new students, and a new year there is a lot on our plate to stress us out.  So how do we stay happy, calm, cool and collected?

Here are a few of my stress reducers:

Diet Cherry Coke/Pepsi
My favorite drink, this week, is Diet Cherry Coke, or Pepsi, whichever is on sale.  I keep my fridge at school stocked with it.  A sip of this stuff is like a little heaven in my mouth.

Long Walks
After dinner, my husband and I take our Springer Spaniel and Siberian Husky for a long walk.  We usually walk for an hour and a half.  There is a really nice park about a mile from our house.  It has a pond and ducks.  The walk not only relaxes me, but calms the dogs down for the night.  Where do I find time for a nightly long walk?  I make time for it.  It is one of my priorities.  My night does not feel complete with out it.  On a stormy night, my husband and I work out at our local YMCA.

If you haven't tried a Zumba class you are missing out.  Zumba is not just group exercise, it is a party.  Check out the Zumba website for a list of all the class times near you.  Classes usually last an hour and are high energy with fun music.  I always leave a class with my heart pumping and my mood elevated.

Calming Music
If I've had a stressful day I listen to some of my favorite music on the car ride home.  (I have a long ride - 50 minutes on a good day.)  Sometimes it helps to play tranquil sounds or calming music rather than my favorite tunes from the radio.  Rather than reflect on what frustrated me, I try to think about what went well and how I can make tomorrow better.  After a few minutes I try to focus on clearing my mind and living in the moment so I can transition to my home life and not bring home any baggage from school.

I love creating things for my home and classroom.  Pinterest is full of beautiful ideas.  In my spare time I like to create crafts, projects, and materials for my classroom.  Some things I post on my Teachers Pay Teachers Store or on Pinterest.  Somethings are just for my own simple pleasure.  Find a hobby you love and the "me time" spent working on your hobby will not only provide you with stress relief, but pure joy.

How do you stay happy, calm, cool, and collected?

What are your stress reducers?

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

1st Day of School

I survived my sixth 1st day of school teaching 4th graders.  I must say, I am one lucky teacher.  My class is amazing!  They are lively, energetic, full of personality, and loads of fun.  This is going to be a great year.

Here is a play by play look at our schedule for the day:

8:40  Students arrived - I anxiously stood in the hallway to greet my new fourth graders.  When they arrived, they read the morning message, found their new desk, hung their backpack off their chair, and quietly started their morning work.

9:00  Announcements

9:05  Morning Meeting / Get to Know You Activities - Our school follows Responsive Classroom.

9:30  Supplies - I created labels for each student with their name and subject.  It makes labeling their belongings a lot easier.  We just go through what they were suppose to bring, slap a label on each item, and I collect them or they place them in their desks.  If students are missing an item I use this time to provide them with it.

10:00  Student Ice Breaker - Find Someone Who .... activity.

10:25 Read Aloud - First Day Jitters (One of my favorite books)

10:45  Bathroom Break

10:55  Lunch

11:25  Read Aloud - Tales of a 4th Grade Nothing - Chapter 1 (Another one of my favorite books)

11:45  Ice Breaker - People to People Game

11:55  Reading - I taught a mini lesson on how to find books in our classroom library and how we use our book bins.  Students selected books and spent 20 minutes independently reading.  Then we grouped back together to share one good book we found in the library.

***I pulled students aside during independent reading to snap a quick pic of them holding our 1st Day of 4th Grade Frame!***

12:40  Snack - "Nuts and Bolts"

12:45  Math - Our first unit is place value.  I have lots to share about math so I am going to save it for a future post.

1:55  Art - I used this time to send a quick email to parents containing the pics we took during independent reading!

2:40  Lockers - Our school was once the middle school.  Each student, in 3rd - 5th grade, is provided with a locker and locker combination.  We spend the first few days just practicing how to open the locker and then by the end of the week we start using them to hold all our "stuff".

3:00  End of the Day Routine

3:24  Bus Dismissal Begins

Although it is hard to tell just by looking at the schedule above, a huge portion of our day was spent going over classroom routines, expectations, and practicing procedures over and over!  The hard work we put in now will definitely pay off in the end!

Congrats to my giveaway winners:  Kristin Adamson Buford, Heather Bevington, and Meghan Franklin Bennett.  You will all be receiving an email from me shortly!  Thanks to every one who entered!

I hope tomorrow turns out to be just as fabulous!  Now for some much needed rest, relaxation, and comfort food!  Can we say Pizza Hut?

Monday, September 3, 2012

My 1st Currently

2 posts in one day....oopsie!   But I just had to link up for my first currently.

Check out my giveaway in the post below...

...and link up for September's Currently on Oh' Boy 4th Grade's lovely blog.

1st Day Frame, Robot Snacks, & Quick 200+ Giveaway

Hurray for Monday Made It! Bless Tara's lovely blog for hosting such an amazing linkie party. You can spend hours searching through all the fabulous made-its from fabulous teachers.

This week I just had to create a 1st Day of 4th Grade picture frame.  Tomorrow (our first day of school) students will each get to pose behind this fun frame for a quick pic that I can email to their parents and/or mail home.  A bunch of these have been floating around.  Mine is modeled after one I found on First Grade School Box's blog.  I must admit, mine is not as durable as hers.  I snatched a piece of foam board from Staples, cut it out to look like a frame, and glued some letters and stars around the outside made with scrapbook paper from ACMoore.  It was quick and easy to put together.  I'm not sure how long it will hold up....but it will serve it's purpose on Tuesday!

I look a little tired in that picture....too many back to school dreams and not enough sleep.  The shadow in the background of my husband taking the pic doesn't help either....any suggestions for a good digital camera?  My birthday is coming up in a few weeks!

I also created some first day snacks for my kiddos. To coincide with our robot theme I made little bags of Nuts & Bolts (aka - M&Ms & Pretzels).  I was inspired by Wendolonia but had to tweak the baggie toppers to fit my bag size....and because I simply can not print in any more color.  My husband will pop his top if I have to purchase one more round of ink for our printer this summer.  He thinks I am turning into a print-a-holic.  You can download my baggie toppers here.  Just print them out, cut, fold them in half, and staple them to the top of some snack-sized Ziploc baggies!

Check out all the other wonderful Monday Made Its on Tara's blog!

Now...I want to take a moment to thank all of you with a mini giveaway now that I have passed 200 followers. 

Want a free item from my TpT store?  You have 3 chances to win: follow my blog, follow my Pinterest account, and/or follow my TpT store.  Already follow?  Just tell Rafflecopter that you do.

I will select 3 lucky winners to each pick an item from my store and I will email it to them for free! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway giveaway only lasts 1 day!  Enter now! 

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Classroom Reveal - Photo Tour

Eeeekkkk....I am soooo excited. My first day with students is this Tuesday! My tummy is full of back to school butterflies and I just can't seem to get a full night of sleep. I toss and turn and dream crazy dreams. Last night I dreamt that an hour before students were to arrive my new principal asked me to switch classrooms. She provided me with 2 shopping carts and a student helper (who had arrive early). The student and I had to throw all my classroom belongings into the shopping carts and race them down the hall to the new classroom, Super Market Sweep style. I woke up out of breath and covered in sweat. Needless to say, I am still ooberly excited to meet my new kiddos.

Over the summer I pop into my classroom at least once a week. I love rearranging my classroom furniture, cleaning, organizing, and decorating for the new school year.

Unfortunately, I am unable to hang too many things on the walls. The custodians are planning on painting my room sometime over the next few weeks (fingers crossed) and until they do, my walls must stay clear. However, I was still able to spruce up my classroom with my new robot theme.

Check out my classroom:

I'll elaborate more on each picture in future posts. 

Check out photos of other teacher classrooms here:

3 more days!  Yippee!!!