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Monday, April 30, 2012

Teacher Invention Linky Party

At my school, we use the Treasures reading series. Our story this week is African-American Inventors.

(Has anyone else noticed that this series puts anything remotely connected to a holiday or special month about as far from that time of year as possible? Perfect story for Columbus Day? Let's put it in the Spring! *soapbox off*)

I always spend part of Monday building background knowledge and gearing kids up for the story. Most of my kids know what it means to invent, so it was time to dig deeper.

We discussed why inventors create new things- because of a need, to solve a problem, or to improve what we already have in some way.

We also looked at how products that satisfy the same basic want, like listening to music, have changed over time. (The record is John Denver because that was my mom's favorite artist! I don't know what's up with the 8-track, or why the CD looks so... ahem, inappropriate- but you get the point!)

This particular example is always interesting to me, because I had a stereo when I was little that had an 8-track, even though that was pretty old technology by that point (yes, I'm young). Still- to think of how many changes there have been in JUST my short lifetime of a quarter decade... it's pretty crazy. (I mean, my uncle sold car phones when I was a kid- remember those things?!)

So I asked the kids to imagine what kind of inventions they think they will see in their lifetimes.

I gave them the day to think, but tomorrow they're going to discuss with a friend and then write and draw an invention they think someone will have created when they are 100 years old! They will also need to justify why that invention will be created.

This could also work really well for a short 100 day prompt! I included a more traditional prompt, too, about "if I could invent anything, it would be..." so feel free to snag a copy of my invention writing paper here. I kept it very simple because I plan on backing it with construction paper and I have a feeling my kids will make their illustrations plenty 'busy'!

If you're visiting from Classroom Freebies' Manic Monday, welcome and thanks for stopping by! I hope you'll grab the freebie, leave a comment, and stick around awhile!

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

If you're a regular around here... don't forget to stop by Manic Monday for some fabulous freebies!

Now, for the fun part- as a teacher, what invention would you love to create? I'm hosting my VERY FIRST linky party, and I can't wait for you to join up and spread the word!

As much as I would love an automatic paper-grader tonight, I think the invention I would love most would be some kind of armband that automatically vibrates every minute or so to remind some of those super-distractable kiddos to get back to work

Imagine, me not having to say "______, get back to work" and "______, keep going" all day! I think both the kid AND I would enjoy that!

What about you? Snag the image below (thanks to The 3AM Teacher and for the frame and fonts, respectively!) and join the...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

Simple Ideas to Make Life Easier in the Classroom!

There are a few things that I am just plain loving lately.

When kids come in the room, they turn in homework to a tray by the door, and anything else (lunch money, permission slips, etc.) to a special basket on my desk. It works so well to collect everything, but if I had any notes about dismissal, I used to tend to forget about them by the end of the day.

My solution was to hang this cute bulletin board by the door! One of my best friends made this for me as a gift, and I love it. Now, it's not super thick, so the pushpins stick out a bit, but it works great for keeping dismissal changes right where I will see them at the end of the day!

This cute Crayola tin is filled it with binder clips (which I LOVE). I leave it under my paper clip dispenser, which was cheap at Wal-Mart and has a magnetic wheel in the middle. I can spin the wheel towards me, and it picks up the paper clips!

Yes, kids are tempted to play with it, but honestly... I think it's fun too so I don't mind having to remind them occasionally :) Plus, keeping it out on my desk has helped the two kids with the new classroom job of putting papers in number order and then clipping them together. I'm really not sure why I didn't make this a job sooner, because it is one less step I have to do while grading!

Target had these for $1 a few months back, and I snatched them up. I have one for each Treasures unit, and inside is where I keep spelling and vocabulary cards for each week. I have List A in one color, List B in another, and vocabulary words in a different color. 

 For $1 each, they're keeping my many many index cards organized! Worth every penny!

Ahh, my PaperPro stapler. This isn't really an idea as much as it is a thing, but... I am in LOVE with this thing! I had one that broke after a few years, and bought one that looked similar...  but it won't open like the PaperPro to staple flat. And I need one to open flat to do bulletin boards!

I put up with it for a few months, but finally broke down and bought another PaperPro. Lesson learned. Don't get one that 'looks' similar. Get the PaperPro one. It's loud, but it's the best stapler.

 A few weeks ago I was going to have a sub, and plans changed at the last minute. First thing in the morning, a student threw up in the classroom. I realized that, if there had been a sub, that person would've had to go through my plans to find the number of the nurse and custodian.

I realized it would make more sense to have important numbers right on the phone- so I put them there. So much quicker than looking them up every time! (I know- should've been a no brainer!)

So... those are some things making my life easier in the classroom lately. Considering the crazy that is the end of the year, I'm trying to take the time to appreciate some recent changes that are working for me!

Also, this is completely unrelated to the rest of the post... but does anyone know where I can find some cute footprint clipart? I really want to digitize this game and share it with you!

P.S.- I've added an 'email me' button over in the sidebar! :) Feel free to say hi or ask a question!

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Easy, Organized Center Storage

Whew! The end of the year is CRAZY. I have some new followers, and I am excited to check out your blogs... but that just isn't happening right now with all of the things to be done at the end of the year! I promise- I will check them out when I can!

I am not a naturally organized person, as I've told you before. When I started downloading freebies from other teaching blogs, I needed a way to keep track of them all. Literacy center storage, especially, was a challenge.

Here's my solution for storing centers and keeping centers organized!

First of all, if it's something I'm looking at at home, I save it to either Google Docs or pin it to Pinterest (follow me here) so I can find it easily again at school.

(Would anyone have an interest in hearing how I organize my Google Docs?)

Once I print it, I laminate everything including the recording sheet, if there is one. Laminating the original helps me keep kids from using it, and it helps it hold up to (hopefully) years of copying. I can actually still run it through the automatic feed on our copier!

The cover sheet, if there is one, goes on the front of a manila folder. Eventually, I would love to laminate my folders, too, and just cut a slit for the opening with an X-acto knife, but it hasn't happened yet! Maybe this summer?

If there is a directions sheet (separate from the cover), like this free possessive nouns sort from Pitner's Potpourri, it goes on the back of the folder.

Inside, I put the laminated recording sheet and enough copies for my class (with a couple of extras because someone inevitably loses theirs or accidentally does it twice...)

All pieces go inside, too. Usually, I try to put small pieces in a Ziploc bag. Otherwise, they tend to get mixed in with the papers.

(Isn't this an adorable free nouns, verbs, adjectives sort from Tales of a Teacherista?)

Since the little claspy things don't especially hold up well, I don't bother using them.

Once the center is ready, I just store the envelope. Right now, I'm using a plastic filebox and they just stick out of the top. This worked this year, as I was a new teacher just starting to print/laminate all these wonderful freebies. I need to come up with a better solution for next year, though, especially so I can sort them into different topics/ holidays. I could just get more of fileboxes, but I'm open to other suggestions!

Because so many of my math centers are just one page games with no extra pieces (except for dice and counters), those centers are put into a binder and kept in plastic page protectors until I need them.

When it's time to use a center, I just pull out the manila envelope, copy the recording sheet if it's not already done, and stick the folder in the cheap plastic basket at that center spot. If students will need dice or counters, they know where to go and get them in the classroom. I keep them in little cups for easy storage!

I love storing centers in these envelopes because everything is already together and easy to move around the room. The students know that everything they need is in the folder, and everything goes back in the folder when they are done.

How do you store all your center materials? I am always looking for center organization tips! :)

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

My Accidental Classroom Theme!

Welcome to those of you heading over from Facebook... did someone link to me? (I'm so curious where the sudden traffic is coming from!)

Anyway- I don't know if you've noticed... but I'm kind of obsessed with frogs. I grew up loving horses, and then went to camp and spent time in a nature center that had tree frogs. I think by that point, I'd realized I was never going to own a horse. (Frogs are a much more realistic pet. And SO cute!)

I mean, look at this adorable little guy! (Okay, I took a picture of him at a zoo. I don't have pet tree frogs anymore. But I would totally LOVE to!)

Anyway, frogs have kind of taken over my classroom. Not in a crazy way, where EVERYTHING is frog-themed... but there's definitely a trend. I didn't actually plan on making my room froggy, but I either had some of this stuff already or other people knew I liked frogs and bought me frog stuff for my classroom!

One of the big frogs in the library was definitely in my senior picture of me with my frog collection. The frog bulletin board was a gift from my brothers years ago, but he works perfectly for displaying a few random things in the classroom, like these adorable Thinking Clouds from Shenanigans in Second (they are totally free- how wonderful is that?)

 The bucket is one of the few things I picked out... but the two little frogs below are from kids in my class. Awww.

Not all of the froggy stuff is just for the cute factor, though!

One of my favorite things in my classroom this year was gifted to me by my first co-teacher. (I started my teaching career as an interventionist/ assistant for a really great teacher.) It was really frustrating at times being an assistant despite having my degree, particularly the second year, but this teacher and mentor continually told me that she believed that I was ready for my own classroom (even when the principal didn't). For Christmas, my birthday, and the end of the year, she gave me teaching supplies and cards packed full of encouragement that I so needed.

One of the things she gave me was this great frog-themed number line (that I put into a hundreds chart). It came with some extra blank lilypads, frogs, and dragonflies. The frogs are all different colors, and some of them are sitting like this guy in the picture, and others are long and leap-y with their legs stretched out.
Of course, we use this for mental math all the time. I taped one of the short frogs and one of the long frogs on each end of a pointer, and made 2 simple rules.

Short frog can only jump by ones.
Long frog can only jump by tens.

Having to "hop" for movements works perfectly. It's laminated, too, so dry-erase markers can write on it and then be erased away easy as can be! Great for showing the 'hops.'

In January we made a class resolution to read 100 books together before the end of the school year, and I keep one of the extra frogs on the number of books we've read and move it each time. Then I can ask how many more we have to go, and students can come up and share their strategies with the frogs.

One last frog I love in my classroom, and this is not a new idea at all. This little guy was at a garage sale with a beanbag around the time I was buying beanbags for my classroom, and I couldn't resist. I mean, could you?

This little froggy likes to sit at a group that's working hard and is quiet at the right times. When we have groups, I just set the frog in the middle of the best group, and... that's the reward. That's it. And they love it. I know, I know, you've probably all been doing this for years.  :)

So, basically... I didn't ever plan to have a frog-themed classroom, but it kind of worked out that way! Do you have a sort-of, kind-of obsession that carries over into the classroom classroom theme?

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Cracking up!

Grading is one of my least favorite parts of teaching. Yes, it's important because it gives me feedback, but that doesn't mean I enjoy it (no matter how many colorful pens and markers I use).

Still, every once in awhile, I am in the middle of grading when I come across a gem of an answer that makes it all worth it.

You can ask my husband. He's usually sitting next to me watching Modern Marvels or How It's Made when I'm grading along silently and suddenly crack up and can't stop.

In this case, I was grading a worksheet where they ask kids to write a caption for the picture. There's a picture of a girl in a wheelchair. She's pointing ahead while a man pushes the wheelchair.

Most of the kids looked at this picture of a girl pointing and put something like, "Go left, Dad!" or "Let's go that way."

This girl- who is full of personality?

Yeah... our job rocks!

What's the best hilarious answer you've gotten?

Monday, April 23, 2012

oops! and grumpytimes

Today I'm feeling a little grumpy. Unlike Grumpy Cat (great book!), it's not because I don't have friends- but I could use some advice. Those of you who have had to make retention decisions before... any advice on how you know the right call, or how it's worked out for those kids in the past? I can't post details, of course, but I'm struggling with it right now.

Anyway, this makes me think of something I find really important as a teacher- but I'm not sure everyone does. I'm curious to hear what you think!

One thing I always try to get my students to understand is that adults aren't perfect. We have bad mornings sometimes, or don't sleep well, or have a stomachache, or have people we don't love working with, or make mistakes, and we still have to deal with it and do our jobs!

I think some teachers try SO hard to put on a happy face and pretend everything is okay when it's not, and honestly, while I don't think you should sulk, I don't think it's a terrible thing to let the kids know when something is on your mind. (Especially since they can probably tell anyway!)

I don't do it often, but every great once in awhile I've called the kids over to the carpet to start our day and said something like, "I have to admit something. I have a really awful headache today, and it's making me feel a little grumpy and impatient. But I am still here, and even though I don't feel great, I'm going to try my best to smile and have an awesome day!" And I try to suck it up, and usually they take the hint that they should probably be on their best behavior because I mayyyy not be as patient as normal.

Sometimes I think teachers are afraid to let kids see their 'weaknesses,' but I make it a point to talk all year about how every person has things that come easier to them, and things that are more difficult for them. Why wouldn't I let them see that I have challenges, too?

We all make mistakes. And I think it's important for kids to see adults model how to handle mistakes, or a rough morning, or not feeling good. They need to see that we don't shut down, even when we feel like it!

On that note, here's a mistake I made.

After my husband and I dyed Easter eggs (because it's our first married Easter and we're trying to do ALL the holiday things!), I decided that this beautiful blue dye shouldn't just go to waste.

I decided to try to make one of the Shakers that Denise over at Sunny Days in Second Grade created. I even had a "Simply Lemonade" bottle ready to go. I put some rice in a bag with the dye and shook it up.

Pretty blue color! Yay! I poured it out onto paper towels...

...And didn't think about the fact that paper towels would wrinkle up.

Um, oops.

This is after I shook off the rice that would come off on its own. I picked off some of it... but gave up on a lot of the rest.

Oh well. Rice isn't all that expensive. Could've been a lot worse!

Also, do you tell the kids when you're in a bad mood, for whatever reason, or am I weird?