Friday, July 31, 2015

Five for Friday

I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching with another Five for Friday.  It's been a very fun and busy week.

On Monday, my niece, Madison, and I headed off to Gatlinburg and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. We hiked up to a beautiful, but crowded, spot called Laurel Falls. It was an absolutely beautiful day!

On the hike back down from the falls, we were lucky enough to spot a mama bear walking through the woods followed by three cubs! It was an amazing experience. I wish I could have gotten a better shot of the bears, but this is the best I could get using my cell phone.

My niece and I took a break from our Tennessee adventures to paint some more Space People for my writing center. I always have a few kids who forget to leave a space between their words and I've found the Space People are a great motivator and reminder. I made my first set a few years ago, but I was down to about 4 of them in my writing center. Luckily my niece agreed to help me make some more. We just used some old-fashioned clothespins and some craft paint that I picked up at Michaels. We painted on faces, hair and clothes.  They dry quickly, so it didn't take long to make several of them.


On Wednesday, we decided to go roller skating!  Since the last time I was on skates was about 12 years ago, I admit to feeling a little nervous.  I was fine, though and after a bit I was skating just like Olivia Newton-John in Xanadu. (It's a movie from 1980 - roller skating used to be a big deal. Yeah, I just dated myself. LOL)

The book store!  It's the absolute best place in the world, don't you think?  I just picked up a few books. Some for me and some for my classroom. I confess - I'm a bookaholic.

My big TPT project this week was revising my Conference Forms for Reading, Writing, and Math Workshops.  I had been wanting to make them editable for awhile. I know that makes it easier for teachers and I'm all about making things as easy to use as possible. I had to teach myself how to create editable forms using Adobe Pro. There was a lot of trial and error, but several versions later, I finally did it! If you already have these, make sure you redownload. You'll love the new fonts and graphics, too.

Well, that's it for this Friday!  Don't forget to check in for the first week of Math Tip Monday! It starts on August 3rd. If you'd like to link up with us, I included the information in  last week's Five for Friday. And don't forget to check out all the other great bloggers on this linky!

Until next time,

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Getting Ready for Back to School: Amazing Children's Books that Teach Social Skills

Two years ago, I wrote one of my first blog posts about some of the books that I like to read to my students during the first week of school. Since then, I've added a few more to my collection and I wanted to take this opportunity to link up with Primary Polka Dots and share them with you. I hope you'll add some of these great books to your read-aloud collection!

1. This first book is great for getting the school year off to a good start:

Have You Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud is an absolutely wonderful book for teaching kids to understand how their actions affect other people. They find out that everyone carries an "invisible bucket" that holds their feelings about themselves. Students learn that people who fill buckets are those that show kindness and help others. People who are bucket dippers say and do mean things, act out of negative emotions, and hurt others. We do a lot of work during the first week that relates to this book. This is the anchor chart we created last year to think about ways to fill or dip into someone's bucket.

It really helps young children to use this language throughout the year.  I found whenever we started having some difficulties with getting along, revisiting the book and our chart really helped.

2. This next book generated discussions about respecting individual differences.

In The Sandwich Swap by Queen Rania Al Abdullah, Lily and Salma are best friends until an argument over what each of them eats for lunch causes hurt feelings and escalates into food fight. While my students laughed about the idea of throwing food in the cafeteria - don't worry, we had a talk about that, too! - they also understood the book's main idea: friendship can and should overcome any differences.  We talked about how friends can disagree or like different things, but still remain friends. This was one of the favorite picks in our classroom library after I read it.

3. This next book also became one of my class favorites and gave me a lot of bang for my teaching buck, too!  I used it for writing mini-lessons, in an inference lesson, in a lesson about wants vs. needs, and to teach about generosity.

Those Shoes by Maribeth Boelts tells the story of a little boy who lives with his grandmother. He really wants a pair of cool shoes like other kids in his class, but his grandmother cannot afford them. His quest to get "those shoes" is both amusing and poignant. His act of generosity at the end of the book was touching.  Many of my students could definitely relate to the boy in the book and we had some lovely discussions about why giving can feel better than getting. 

4. Finally, this book is an amazing story about how acts of kindness, of the lack of them, can affect others.  I used it to start discussions about empathy and compassion. It's a great book for discussing bullying behaviors, as well.

We actually read Jacqueline Woodson's Each Kindness about mid-year. My students were more sophisticated readers by then and could make inferences throughout the text.  Behavior sometimes starts to slide about then and it was good to revisit the importance of showing kindness to others. I will warn you that many of my students were disturbed by the lack of a happy ending.  However, that actually drove home the point that sometimes we don't get the opportunity to make up for hurtful behaviors. We talked a lot about how both girls in the story felt and why they acted the way they did.

I'm looking forward to reading these books to my students this year. I also would love to hear about what books you read with your students.  Share in the comments or by linking up with Primary Polka Dots.

Until next time,

Friday, July 24, 2015

Five for Friday!

I'm so excited to be linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five For Friday.

It's 11:00 PM as I'm writing this, so technically it is still Friday. It's been a very busy week, so here we go.

My mom, my sister and I went to the mall today.  Isn't shopping a great summer activity?  Air conditioning, pretty clothes, no one yelling your name, and nothing to clean up.  So relaxing. Sometimes I don't even need to buy anything to enjoy myself. Look at the cute backpack I saw at the Disney Store.

As soon as I saw it, I had to take a picture of it to post on Facebook. Why? Because my niece, now a beautiful young woman, was obsessed with lambs as a young child.  She had a stuffed lamb named Lamby that looked just like this.  She carried that lamb everywhere and couldn't sleep unless it was with her.  This cute backpack (which was only $15, by the way) reminded me so much of Lamby that I had to tag my niece on Facebook to make sure she saw it.

Such a nice family memory and I didn't even spend any money.

On Tuesday, I headed to Greensboro for a meetup with some of my fellow North Carolina TPT sellers.  It was so nice to meet other educators who care so much about creating products that help other teachers.  We ended up having a three hour lunch!

Lisa, Lynda, Sarah, Crystal, Kayla, and I

Check out the great T-shirt I got from A+ Images!

I was able to choose the color and size and then upload my own design into their design tool. Within a few days, I had my shirt!  They have some wonderful shirts in their teacher store, too.  I had to get a couple of more!

Aren't they great!  One can never have too many teacher shirts, I always say! 

One of the things on my wish list is their classroom faces shirts.  I want my class to be able to design a shirt that we can all wear on things like field trips and field day.  They are so cute!  Follow this link to find out more about them.

I have been working hard this week on my TPT store! Well, also on stuff for my classroom. It's really two things at once!  I've been thinking about how I want math workshop to run this year. I really want my kids to think of themselves as mathematicians, to take responsibility for their own learning, and to participate actively every day.  I need something to make that expectation visible, so I decided to create posters to teach and display in my classroom.

Isn't the clip art from Educlips adorable? I'm pretty proud of how the posters turned out and I can't wait to use them in my class! If you'd like a set, they are now available in my TPT store. Click HERE to check them out.

Finally, my friend, Kayla at K's Classroom Kreations and I have been planning a Linky Party called Math Tip Monday.  We have a lot of ideas we want to share with other teachers. We'd also like to hear from other teacher bloggers to learn about what they do in their classroom. So, each month, on the first Monday of the month, we and some other great bloggers, and hopefully you, will be sharing our ideas about teaching math. 

If you are interested in participating, please fill out this google form and we'll send you some more information.

Well, that's it for this Friday. Oops, I guess it's Saturday now.  Oh well, at least I started this on the right day. 

Until next time,

Thursday, July 16, 2015

Getting Ready for Back to School: Thinking About Classroom Decorations

It's the middle of the summer and I'm already anxiously awaiting the day I can get started on setting up my classroom.  This year, that's even more uncertain than normal because I'll be moving into a portable classroom.  We have to wait until they are installed on our school grounds before we can move in.  On a side note, isn't it sad that my 2 year old school building is already in need of portable classrooms to house all of our students?

While I'm waiting to actually move my classroom, I've been giving a lot of thought to how I want to decorate this year.  The first idea I've been exploring is focusing in on a theme. In the past, I haven't really fully embraced the classroom theme trend.  My decorating style is usually made up of a hodgepodge of materials I already have.

Here are a few pictures I took as I was setting up my room last year:

The view from my classroom door.

Our Reading Center

My Welcome to School Display  (Can you tell I like owls?)

The Writing Center

Our Meeting Area and Word Wall

As you can see, aside from the color blue, there's nothing that really pulls everything together. My word wall is a train, my alphabet strip is fairly generic and I have owls sprinkled across the room.  One shot I didn't take was of my student cubby area.  I used apple cut-outs to label my cubbies and I had a display of my students' first day of school pictures on their cabinet doors.  The apple frames that I displayed their pictures in are some I made available for free in my TPT store and I've loved using them for the past few years.

So, while I think everything looked nice, nothing really pulled the room together.

The other area of classroom decorating that I've been pondering is how I can make my room more learning focused. While I find all of the busy chevrons and polka dots I see on Pinterest personally appealing, I worry that a busy decorating scheme will prove distracting to my students. I've been reading some interesting articles about studies that show students learn better in less heavily decorated classroom.  One of the articles, from The New York Times, is called Rethinking the Colorful Kindergarten Classroom. I teach second grade, so I don't think I need to take the article too much to heart, but I definitely don't want to add distracting elements to my classroom. My kids have a hard enough time focusing as it is!

Another challenge I will have in my new portable classroom: space!  Everything on my walls will need to have a purpose.  I'll need to make sure my attempt at decorating does not compete with space for learning tools and anchor charts.

So, I've been working on some practical ways to make my classroom look warm and welcoming with a more cohesive classroom theme. At the same time, I want my walls to help students remember and apply the strategies I'm teaching.
Since I have a lot of owl-themed stuff already, I decided to expand on that theme.  I purchased some adorable die-cut magnets that I got with my last Scholastic Book order. I plan to use these to create a student work display - that is, if I have a magnetic whiteboard.  It's so frustrating not knowing what my classroom will be like!

I found some more cute owls that I can use at the dollar spot in Target. I have several vague ideas for using these. What can I say? They were owls. I had to have them.

Because I'm going with owls, the apple picture frames for the first day of school were no longer going to work for me.  I had to create new picture frames that went along with my owl theme.  Here is a picture of the second grade ones that I'll be using.

They are available in my TPT store and they also include matching number labels that I'll use for my students' cubbies.

After I created these, I started thinking about my math wall. I've had the same number cards for years. The only thing I loved about them was that they included Spanish number words as well. Since I have several bilingual students, I wanted to keep that feature.  I looked at the teacher stores and I couldn't find anything that really fit my needs.  Most sets were either too busy or too expensive. Again, I decided to create my own.  Once I finished creating the number cards, I decided I could create some other math resources that would match.  Here's what I ended up with:

So now, I have new number cards, a decade number chart, 50 charts, 120 charts, 200 charts, and three place value charts.  I kept the design very simple in order to keep focus on the math.  Each number card has four representations of the number: numeral, number word, ten frame, and base ten blocks.  I included the Spanish number word as well.  I'm very pleased with how they turned out and I can't wait to put them in my new classroom.  (Hopefully, very soon!) If you like them, they are available here.

Once I get into my portable, I'll post some Classroom Reveal pictures to show how my theme is coming together.  My next Getting Ready for Back to School post will focus on some of the books I'll read to set the tone for my first week.

Until then,