Saturday, March 30, 2013

Five for Birthday!

I’m a day late linking up to Five for Friday, but I have a good reason.


(You can link up here at Doodle Bugs Teaching!)

#1- It’s my birthday! :) I’m still young enough to be excited about it.


My kids all sang happy birthday to me spontaneously yesterday, and a couple of them even got or made me gifts and cards. So sweet! (Plus, in FOUR DAYS, I get to see Phantom of the Opera on Broadway for my birthday. SO thrilled!!!)

#2 The leprechaun visited yesterday morning, too! (Yes, it was a little late, but we had Spring Break in there.) I made my traps optional for kids this year, but we still had some amazing ones come in.


I wasn’t sure if 3rd graders would still believe that a leprechaun visited, but I gave myself a great alibi, which helped!

#3- We have been focusing on non-fiction informational text this past week, and my kids are devouring it.


Next week we start researching animals to write our own non-fiction books!


#4- Another reason yesterday was awesome?


About 3 quarters of my class got a chance to be on Sparkling or the top of Sparkling yesterday. It’s mostly because I really really needed them to bring something back as soon as possible, and offered to let them clip up twice if they brought it back the next day- and, amazingly, 19/20 remembered it! Still, though, a couple of my kids earned their way to Sparkling for the first time ever, and they were so excited. What a great way to keep kids on their toes on a Friday!

And #5? We got over 90 new (and wonderful) books from Scholastic this week for our classroom, thanks to an amazing opportunity I have next week. My class went crazy over the new books.


Next week, I will be giving Scholastic some feedback about their Book Clubs. I would LOVE to hear your thoughts and any suggestions you have for me to take to them! :) If you have a couple of minutes, can you pretty pretty please answer these for me?

- Do you use Scholastic Book Clubs? If not, why not?

- What is your general feeling about Book Clubs this year? Has it changed since last year?

- What feedback have students/ parents given you about the program?

- What do you think of the online ordering system?

- What, if anything, do you do to encourage participation?

- How do you tie technology to literacy in your classroom?

- Do you use Scholastic’s app Storia? If so, what are your thoughts?

- What do you use teacher rewards, bonus points, coupons, etc. for?

- Do you have any other praise, complaints, suggestions, questions, or comments for Scholastic Book Clubs?

I’m going to have a giveaway later this week, and commenting with your thoughts about Book Clubs will help you get more entries- plus, I will be taking your feedback straight to the source to help make Book Clubs work better for you!

Plus… it’s my birthday! Thanks in advance for helping me out! :)

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Back to Real Teaching! Five for Friday

It's Five for Friday (on a Saturday).

It was a long week. Coming back from spring break was tough enough, but I spent a loooot of time in meetings or talking to parents or trying to solve drama. Does anyone else think "family mode" hits around this time of year and your kids start bickering like siblings?

At least we finished up round 2 of state testing (just one more to go!), and I finally feel like I got a chance to teach again!

We got out tangrams for the first time this week, and my kids had a blast trying to solve some puzzles.

We spent an afternoon trying to clean up mini oil spills. (You can read more about it here!)

We used Loreen Leedy's "Symmetry is Egg-citing!" product from TpT. (I wrote more about it last year here.) It's such a great authentic assessment for symmetry, and will look great in the hallway with some Easter grass next week!

My kids tested out some glider designs this week.

Of course, once they designed one, we had to fly them in some trials and compare their success to that of a control glider. (Such fun measuring practice!)

And now... (sigh)... It's a report card weekend. Time to power through some grading! Make sure you link up with Doodle Bugs Teaching to show us a little about your week!

P.S.- My linky closes soon! Don't forget to link up and share your...



Friday, March 22, 2013

Cleaning Up an Oil Spill- In My Classroom!

Can I just say HALLELUJAH that our second round of state testing is finally over?

When we test in the morning, I've been making a special effort to make our afternoons very interactive and fun. Tuesday, we did that through some themed learning about sea turtles and oil spills!

We started out on Monday reading a book I love- and picked up with a CD from Amazon for $6 a few years ago, One Tiny Turtle. I will warn you that it talks a lot about the dangers facing sea turtles, which means only ONE tiny turtle survives.

This is a good time to remind students that predators aren't mean (they're just hungry too) and explain that this is why sea turtles lay so many eggs. I also take this opportunity to tell them about the sea turtle farm I visited on vacation once, and talk about how they're helping more babies survive, so we leave it on a happy note!

This book has a narrative PLUS sea turtle facts, and gooorgeous illustrations. (Sorry for iPad photos- I promise, the illustrations are beautiful!

So we read this book aloud- once for the narrative, once for the facts- and then it's in our listening center for the week.

The next day, when we read about oil spills in this book, we connected the two stories together.

This is a Scholastic book club find... Totally terrific informational text!

After reading part of it, my kids were able use their knowledge from One Tiny Turtle to explain how sea turtles in various parts of their life cycle would be affected by an oil spill. THIS is real, meaningful text-to-text connection!

So then, before reading the parts about how oil spills are cleaned up, we tried to see what the big deal was.

We first studied oil and water, and how they don't mix, as a class. Then, each group got their own "ocean" with an oil spill, and I let them brainstorm how to clean it up.

We tried sponges...

We tried using a straw to make a barricade...

We tried cups...

We tried paper towels...

At the end, I let the groups try any combination of techniques. One group used the cup and paper towel to form a filtration system- so smart! (I can't believe I didn't get a picture!)

And while we got a lot of oil out, we found it was nearly impossible to get it all out of the water in our clear oceans. (See the bubbles above?) And most of our strategies wouldn't have worked as well in a real ocean, without the sides like our container had. The book confirmed that over 20 years after the Exxon Valdez spill, we are still finding oil in that area.

After cleaning up, we sat down to read more of the book, and the students were amazed to find out about some research kids did at the university 10 minutes from our school (where some of their parents work).

This was so easy to set up- the only thing I didn't have already in my classroom was corn oil (which I accidentally bought awhile back). I love simple science labs where kids have a blast, but learn a lot- and tying in lots of literacy made it even better!

What integrated science lessons have you done lately?


Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Teacher Binder Remix!

I’ve posted before about my teacher binder. As an organizationally-challenged person, I had to find that one thing that would hold me together as a teacher… and my binder is it.

I love this thing. It’s within an arm’s reach at any given moment (home or school) and keeps me sane. And honestly? Creating it was simple.

how to create a teacher binder ~ luckeyfrog's lilypad

Unfortunately, my teacher binder had seen better days, so it was time to perform a little overhaul.


While I’m working on my own, I thought I’d share 5 steps to creating your own teaching binder!

1. Plan first.

For me, the easiest way to do this was to gather all the papers I thought I wanted in my binder, and split them into piles. This will help you know how many dividers and what size of binder to buy. Don’t forget that you can use the space in front of and behind the dividers!

2. Get the supplies.

Pick a binder you LOVE (for me, color is huge) and splurge for the heavy duty one. Believe me- you’ll be using this thing a lot.

I also picked dividers that had pockets and were easy to write on (and erase, if I change my mind later).

how to create a teacher binder ~ luckeyfrog's lilypad

A friend gave me Vera Bradley binder clips, and I use this one to pin my lesson plans to the cover so that the 2-page spread opens instantly when I open the binder.

how to create a teacher binder ~ luckeyfrog's lilypad

This binder clip also adds just enough “cute” to make me smile whenever I look at my binder! It sounds silly (seriously who has designer binder clips) but I probably see it 20 times each day. Worth it.

how to create a teacher binder ~ luckeyfrog's lilypad

3. Think about the covers.

What are the things you constantly need to reference? For me, a cute cover with my name on it would be okay- but really, I need my class list, my current Post-It list, and the weekly newsletter (with spelling & vocab. words, academic focuses, etc.).

how to create a teacher binder ~ luckeyfrog's lilypad

Normally, this would have a class list, which I didn’t show for obvious reasons, and there’s usually a Post-It list or two. Still… I like how clean and neat my binder looks on my desk! (Plus, the color stands out if it does find its way into a pile.)

4. Think about order.

What papers do you need access to the most often? My lesson plan pages go in the front because I reference them throughout every day, and my calendar goes next.

how to create a teacher binder ~ luckeyfrog's lilypad

(I love Google Calendar, but a written one works best for me. I printed this one for free from The Twinery Blog.)

how to create a teacher binder ~ luckeyfrog's lilypad

I put any lists for quick reference (computer logins, school schedules, curriculum maps, policies, etc.) in the reference tab.

My Student Info tab holds my data (so useful when I plan my small groups at home!), but also copies of anything like IEP’s, ILP’s, RTI plans, and documentation.

how to create a teacher binder ~ luckeyfrog's lilypad

The back includes things I might need to look up once a week while planning, but not daily, like my standards lists and my archive of planning pages/ meeting notes.

Once you’ve decided, write on the dividers. (I used a skinny Sharpie- on most surfaces, nail polish remover will take it right off if I ever change my mind!)

how to create a teacher binder ~ luckeyfrog's lilypad

4. Hole punch everything and try it out!

This is the perfect time of year to give this baby a trial run and give you plenty of time to tweak it for next year!

I found out that having a “meeting notes” section was just not enough for me, so I added some extra subsections. You’ll find what works for you!

I plan my teacher binder as something that I will take to every meeting, take home every night, and use constantly throughout my day. It means that whether I’m at home, in my classroom, or somewhere in the school, I have everything I need to stay organized and up-to-date!

There are plenty of other guides out there to making a teacher binder, but it’s my hope that this can help you make the one that’s right for you. Yes, it takes a bit of time… but I put mine together in about an hour (minus shopping) and it has saved me so much more than that!

Sunday, March 17, 2013

End of Spring Break Bluuuues…

Do you ever get that Sunday night ugh-I-should-have-gotten-more-done feeling? Well, I have that tonight… multiplied by Spring Break.

It’s amazing how, when I get to a school break, I think about how much I can get done. Sure, I could relax, but it feels like I’ll finally have the time to catch up on all those things I never get to.

And then I end up being a big lazybones.

Again, I didn’t go in to school or finish all my grading or complete home projects like I’d hoped. To be honest, the To Do list is about half done. But I did get to visit some family, surprise one of my students, and take a little time to relax… so I guess that’s something!

To help me out this week, I want to link up with 5 goals for the work week! (You can link up with Jessica and Jenn, too.)

  1. Stay under my calorie limit on MFP at least 4 days. (I’ve lost five pounds and counting!)
  2. Back up my computer.
  3. Post 2 times on my blog. (Gonna be a busy week!)
  4. Grade and respond to all my kids’ reading journals.
  5. Finish all grading for the last 9 weeks and start my report cards BEFORE the weekend! (The grading pile is getting smaller, but it’s still way too big!)
  6. Annnd a bonus goal- get laundry done!

We have some more state testing this week (round 2 of 3 for my poor kids), but I’m excited to see my class again in the morning!

P.S.- Did you share your Two Stars & A Wish yet? :)

2 stars and a wish linky logo

Friday, March 15, 2013

Two Stars And a Wish Linky Party!

Well, Spring Break sure does go by quickly. Friday already?!

I can’t believe it’s already time for the last quarter of school for us. This is the time of year where I start thinking about what’s working and what’s not in my classroom, and I’m sure I’m not alone.

In my class, we’ll often give each other feedback as “two stars and a wish”- two good things, and one to work on. Want to join me in giving yourself two stars for things going well this year, and one wish for next year?

2 stars and a wish linky logo

(Special thanks to Ashley at The School Supply Addict for these great free graphics!)

2 stars and a wish linky star

This year, I switched to using a Daily 5-ish reading block with a CRAFT board and my reading journals! My kids get so much time to really read with 2-3 rounds each day, and the CRAFT board gives the students a place to reference the strategies we’ve learned, too. But the reading journals? They just might be my favorite part. I LOVE them. I posted about them last week.


My students have shown so much growth in responding to text and really showing their comprehension, and I am so glad I decided to change up my reading curriculum this year!

2 stars and a wish linky star

I love using data to track my students, but last year (my first in my own room), I didn’t keep up well with organizing the data so I could use it effectively. This year I feel like I’ve gotten a lot better at keeping individual data to show parents (like at parent-teacher conferences).


I have also worked on organizing my whole class data better in my teacher binder, which really helps when I’m building my small groups.


2 stars and a wish linky wish

For next year, my wish is that I will figure out a better way to organize small groups, especially in math. Especially after our success in reading this year, I know that my kids would benefit from the same kind of authentic practice and targeted small groups in math. I don’t think it’s going to get all organized and going this year- but I’m excited to work something out for next year! (Suggestions welcome! :)

So, what about you?
Feel free to grab the graphics from above!

Thanks in advance! I love reading about what works for others, and hopefully we can help share some advice, too!

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Teacher Emergency Kit

One of the things I always recommend to new teachers is to have that special drawer for “just in case.”

Because you’re going to have those days.

I have a desk drawer that, covered, looks like this.


The black part comes off, though, and here’s what’s hiding underneath. I know- not the cutest thing, but I like to be a bit discreet.



  • Extra glasses. My eyes are pretty bad, so if I had contact trouble or break my glasses, I would be completely incapacitated without backups.
  • Tylenol and Advil (including some extra-strength)- for those days when your headache just will not quit.
  • Extra tissues. Since this photo, I’ve found a pack of the lotion ones and I’ve stashed those instead for when I’m really sick.
  • *ahem* Feminine needs. Don’t forget this one.

  • Last time I needed new foundation, I put the almost-gone bottle in here for when I forget staff picture day or have a breakout out of nowhere. This is pretty necessary for a girl like me who goes sans makeup most days.
  • A basic eyeshadow. It’s not my favorite, but it’ll do in a pinch to make me look a bit more pulled together (or awake).
  • Face moisturizer and body lotion. (I usually go for a scented lotion so that if I feel a little gross I can smell a bit better. Nothing too overpowering, though.)
  • Chapstick.
Hair (plus a few other things)

  • Spare hairbrush.
  • Bed Head “Control Freak”- so great for controlling frizz.
  • Extra hair ties. Usually for me, but occasionally I’ll give one to a kid if they really need it (either for hair, or for something like a makeshift belt).
Others to Consider
  • Shout Wipe (or Tide pen)- you’re gonna need this at some point… probably on a day when you have a meeting/ conference/ observation.
  • Lock De-Icer. Or maybe it’s only my old car that doesn’t love Indiana winters. After one time of having to crawl in from a back door and climb over the seat, I decided to leave one of these bad boys at school juuust in case I can’t tug even the back door open next time.
  • Emergency chocolate. I, however, have zero willpower, so you’ll notice it’s not here.
  • Vitamin C drops. I love the ones that taste like candy for when I feel a cold coming on. I know a lot of other teachers who depend on Airborne or Emergen-C.
  • Cough drops or sore throat drops.
  • Some kind of granola bar or meal bar, and maybe a bag or two of microwave popcorn- something that will tide me over when I forget my lunch!
  • A sweater for when your room is cold. (A simple black or white cardigan will go with almost anything!)
  • Comfy flats (if you wear heels often).
  • Spare cell phone charger.
This stuff has come in handy over and over. Definitely something new teachers should put together! (And so I’ve linked up to my new teacher series :)

new teacher guide logo

So, tell me, teachers… what are YOUR must-haves for a teacher emergency?