Saturday, June 30, 2012

Classroom Library Company Review- part 2

I got out of work early today!! Yaaaay! Bloggin' time :) And yes, there really is a giveaway in the works!

So, the other day I posted my review of some supplies sent to me by the Classroom Library Company.

They have fantastic book boxes,

library bins,

and systems for organizing your classroom (or school) library, including leveled libraries. (Make sure that if you didn't see it, you check out part 1 of my review here.)

Well, they also sent me this book about classroom libraries.

It was really fantastic. It didn't self-promote (although their products would work very well with the ideas in the book) and talked very practically about what you need in a classroom library to build a community of readers.

Full of color photos, too! I could definitely see this in the teacher resource library at my school.

The catalog, though...


From the book-shaped business card (totally adorable!) and throughout the learning-focused selections, you can tell that TEACHERS are behind this company.

As a new teacher, you know I have been building my classroom library though things like library book sales and Scholastic Book Clubs, but I have to admit that even my skinny wallet is sorely tempted by this catalog. Seriously, it was worse than when I walk into a bookstore- because these aren't books sold one-by-one, but organized into groups of books I want.

The book collections you can buy from them have such an incredible range.

The books are sorted by topic, by season, by level, by grade, by teaching strategy, by author study...

And many of them come with a teacher's book to give you teaching ideas.

They come in guided reading packs, class sets, audiobooks or audiobook sets, and basically just about any way you want them.

And the books and collections will always come already sorted and labeled in a cardboard box like this, ready to slide onto a shelf if you don't have book bins.

Sorry, I know I already talked about that, but it blows my mind. Really, as someone who spent hours just sorting (and not even labeling yet!) my books, I can't believe there is a company that sends you a library so ready to go.

How great would this site be for setting up a school leveled library, like with Title I funds? No one in your school would have to volunteer to spend hours and hours setting it up, and yet they should stay organized anyway.

(Not to mention that you can use the Book Retriever app to keep track of the books checked in and out!)

And you could order these thick, nice plastic level equivalency cards and bookmarks. I love the hole in them- mine will fit exactly on my nametag, so I'll have it with me all the time!

So, yes, these book sets are easy to use. But it would be hard if they didn't already have a set you liked, right?

NOPE. They have a form specifically for Creating Your Own Custom Library- and they will walk you through the choices you have and help you make it perfect.

And if the customer service is anything like my contacts with the company, it will be fabulous.

The BEST part of all of this?

They have a 30% discount off of list price ALL THE TIME. No minimum purchase, no outrageous shipping- just a discounted price for buying through the Classroom Library Company.

And when CLC builds a book package, you can see from the examples that they include quality literature that are probably the ones you read aloud every year anyway! (Unlike the 50 Books for $50 that got me volume, but not many favorite books.)

If you check out their website, you'll notice that it's still being built- but if you click to view the virtual catalog, you can see everything they offer. And if you're anything like me, you'll go to glance through it and end up spending forty minutes poring over all of the possibilities that exactly match the things you teach!

I know that collections can be expensive, and most are still out of my personal price range at the moment. But I am really hoping that my principal won't be able to pass up the chance at Common-Core aligned additions to our library, especially when we could get specific sets to share that already come with a teacher book (just perfect for professional development).

Thanks to Classroom Library Company for sending me some free products! They sent them to me without any obligation to review them, but I couldn't help but share. Seriously... the containers seemed to be excellent quality, the organizing materials make sense for what teachers really need, and the book collections are made and shipped in a way to make teachers' lives easier- all at a discount, with personal customer service.

If you're revamping your library this summer, definitely check this company out!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Encourage Talking in the Classroom! (Yes, really!)

So many times, kids at school are expected to be quiet. And I do this, too- my students need to be quiet in the hallway, quiet during work times...

I feel like I'm talking about the Milford Academy from Arrested Development. Anyone?

But I also try to build some talking time into my day, particularly for my language learners, because, really, talking is SO important.

Two years ago, my class was about 1/4 ESL, but all Spanish speakers of varying English skills. Even still, the other non-ESL students generally had a low level of vocabulary, probably because the school was low-income. This year, in a higher-income school, many of my students spoke at least one other language, but they were from India, Germany, Korea, Russia, Morocco, Canada, and all over the world.

Two very different classes of very different families, but in both cases, opportunities for talking in the classroom make such a huge difference. And I've found that not only do they help the ESL kids, but they help all kids explain their thinking, build vocabulary, and learn better social skills (especially given a structure). Plus, so many times, I'm able to use talking times as informal assessment, and having talking times helps students stick to the quiet times.

Our district ESL coordinator gave us a few activities that are perfect for talking during the day while also using content, and I want to share them with you!

Think- Pair- Share
Surely, this is something you already use. Basically, give students a moment to think (I always have them mime "putting on their thinking caps") and then pair up to discuss, and then share. Sometimes, I have them share what their partner said, to encourage good listening.

Examples: What do you think the character will do next? Which strategy could I use to solve this math problem?

Four Corners
Choose a question with four possible answers, one for each corner of the room. Then, send students to go to the one that matches their answer and then share justifications for their choice. A dollar store play microphone makes this much more fun. (As an added bonus, the kids are up and moving, and the activity doesn't have to take very long!)

Examples: What is your favorite season? Which operation should I use to solve this problem?

Inside-Outside Circle
Have half of your class make a tight circle. Then tell everyone else to stand facing someone else, making an outside circle. Have the students rotate and talk to each other student.

Examples: Hold a solid. When you rotate, find 1 similarity and 2 differences between your shapes. Choose a science vocabulary word or historical figure and rotate, giving clues until your partner can guess what's on your card.

Value Lines
Ask a question without a yes or no answer, and let students line up along a line on the floor. (I use painter's tape- comes right up on carpet or tile!) They can stand at either end, or somewhere in the middle, and then go to a few students to have them justify their placement on the line.

Examples: Do you think Harriet's friends in Harriet the Spy should have forgived her for what she wrote in the book? In the Civil War, do you think the South was fair to try to secede from the Union?

As you can see- you're getting students talking, but also using such great higher-level thinking skills. They're the kind of strategies that can be used across all grade levels, content areas, and language levels. AND they get kids up and moving!

Do you use any strategies like these in your classroom? I'd love to add some ideas!

Google Calendar for the Classroom

I am exhausted.

This past weekend, I got to see my husband! Woooo! (He's in Dallas this summer for an internship.)

We went to northern Kentucky (just outside Cincinnati) to see his brother get married, before the Air Force sends him and his new wife off to Germany for a couple of years.

Saturday, after the wedding, we took a nap for about 3 hours before waking up at 3 in the morning. I drove him to the airport in Indy and then drove myself home. All things considered, I got home at 6:40 and took a quick nap before going to start our high school science camp first thing Sunday morning, which goes 8-5 and 7-8:30 in the evening.

The sky when I got home Sunday morning- so pretty!

Now, this program will only last for 9 days, and another 9 days later in July. So, it's not all that long- but between prepping for it, actually being social some evenings, spending time with my husband, traveling for the wedding this weekend, and of course the program itself... well, let's just say blogging has not happened lately!

I'm happy to have had some fun and be making a little money, but... can I just say that I'm incredibly jealous of those of you who are crafting and creating and coming up with adorable things for your classroom right now?

Anyway- I've discovered what I'm going to do to make my schedule planning much easier this year.

I always come up with my custom lesson plans (and don't forget, you can get a free template here or I'll make some personalized lesson plans for you if you want!), but I have always worked out the schedule by hand first. Paper and pencil- not great. Paper and Post-Its- better. But I've discovered something even better.


Yes, it's wonderful to use as an actual calendar (although, if you're like me, you prefer a hard copy in your teacher binder anyway). But it's also fantastic for schedule planning.

We have used it this week to plan our summer camp, and... wow.

I can drag things to a new day, stretch them out longer or make them smaller, and color code with such ease that I kind of can't believe I ever did this another way.

Click anywhere on the day. (You can move it or make it longer/ shorter later!) Add the name of the "event" and click to save.


 Stretch it out as long (or short) as you want by clicking and dragging on those two little lines.

Click anywhere but the title, and then here if you want to change the color.

You can even set it to repeat when you want it to. Just click on the title, and then click Repeat to have this screen pop up.

Click on any event, hold, and move to another day or time as you wish.

After you've adjusted to your heart's content, you can tell it to print. Choose the date range and landscape or portrait. But be warned, it won't come out with your pretty color-coding all colored in (which is actually great if you want to save ink!)

I'll still convert it into my lesson plans later (and delete the events from my calendar), but to figure the usual schedule out at the beginning, I am so excited for this! I printed before making my Word file, just so I wouldn't have to constantly flip back and forth between the calendar and Word.

I really want to do a classroom blog this year, too, and I think having a Google Calendar widget that specifically has all our school events will be fantastic!

Just when I think I can't love Google any more... *happy sigh*

P.S. -- Thank you for those of you who have left comments or sent me emails lately! I will be getting back to you very soon if I haven't already, but they make me even happier than Google. And pretty soon, I'm going to post about a giveaway that will make one of you 252 followers (!) very happy- so keep checking in! :)