Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Back to School: A Few of My Favorite Things For Upper Elementary to Middle School

If you are like me, you are wondering where in the world the summer has gone and how on earth it can possibly be a new school year...I feel like I was just blogging about how I was going to manage three kiddos at home for the entire summer.  I was just enforcing Xtra Math and reading during quiet time, planning play dates to the park, packing and unpacking our vacation bags, making nightly ice cream cones and milk shakes to eat while playing with buddies outside, and like that, it has come to an end!  Here are a few of my favorite pics from our summer adventures...

Ice cream fun!
Hula hoop dinners!
Tricycle rides with "sweet" shades!
Boat rides with Pappa!
Adventures at the pool!
More ice cream...
Today, I will be sending two kiddos on their way to the elementary school, my sweet girl to kindergarten, and my oldest to third grade.  YIKES!  It has truly been a flash and they are BIG!  Not one of my favorite things.

To make me feel a little more upbeat, I have linked up with a few of my teacher friends to focus on the positive...

As teachers head back to the classroom, I wanted to share a few of my favorite "teacher" things that you can find on sale tomorrow (a favorite thing), and I know will quickly become a few of your favorites, too...especially at 28% off!

Here are my top 5 must haves and tools I have used in my classroom...

#5:  Hello Fonts by Jen Jones!  Have you seen her fonts?  They are A-M-A-Z-I-N-G!  She can make even the most unexciting lesson more fun when you create with her fonts.  Check this out!
#4: Catching Fire Novel Unit by Tracee Orman
I have never had more engaged readers than when my students read Hunger Games and Catching Fire!  Her novel units are packed with EVERYTHING you might be able to come up with yourself, but you'd gladly pay someone to create because it is done so well!  She thinks of it all!  I want to be a student in her class.  If you are even thinking about reading this book with your students-you NEED this novel unit!

#3: Hunger Games Novel Unit by Tracee Orman
Well, of course you needed this one first!  Again, incredible resource that has it all!  She includes project ideas, powerpoint games, EVERYTHING!

#2: Would You Rather Questions for Kids! by Rachel Lynette
Do you ever have those moments at the end of class when a teammate isn't quite ready to switch classes, but your crew is in line waiting and ready to go?  Look no further, this is the perfect tool to keep those kiddos ready to transition successfully and keep their minds engaged, thinking...and not causing problems!


#1:  Reader's Theater MEGA Bundle for Middle Grades to Middle School by ME!
Finally, here is a favorite that I am really proud of...I wrote each of these 15-reader's theater fun packs that your students will LOVE! Each script includes: word work, reader response questions, and other reading literature tools that will enhance fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension skills.  Each fun pack is also the perfect resource to leave for a substitute when you are forced to be away from your classroom.  This is the perfect tool for your ELA class.


Be sure to snag some of these MUST-HAVE resources! Your students will thank you!
...and keep me posted on any tried and true tools that you love for your upper elementary classroom!

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Sunday, August 17, 2014

Daily 5 in the Upper Elementary Classroom

 As you prepare your upper elementary classroom and begin your planning, I wanted to share some ideas for implementing the Daily 5 into your teaching.  The Daily 5 turned Daily 4 was a huge undertaking in my 6th grade classroom, so I wanted to share some tips and tricks as you begin the year in your upper elementary classroom…
My focus for my 110 minutes of instructional time was word work, writing, read to someone, and read to self.  Before you get the idea that all of these tasks were happening each and every day and in seamless fashion, don’t fret, they weren’t!  I realized that each had a place and I needed to find that spot in the day/week in order to make the schedule work for my students, the demands of testing, and the expectation of administration.

Here is how it worked best for my students and me

Word Work was the easiest component to incorporate because I begin every day/class with a morning starter/bell ringer.  Three different tools for this are:  Word of the Day, Boggle, and the spelling component from Reading Street.  A huge weakness for my students is vocabulary, therefore having it in three different resources proved invaluable.

The BOGGLE Board was an enrichment activity that students could work on any time they finished classroom work.  I changed the letters on the board weekly, they could grab a new sheet from the board, and turn in on Friday.  Some of my students AMAZED me with the words they found.  For those that love puzzles and word searches, this is a classroom must-have.

My Word of the Day resource was something I created to meet the needs of my students.  I was unable to find a vocabulary resource that I could utilize in only minutes per day.  In addition, my students STRUGGLE with identifying synonyms, antonyms, prefixes, suffixes, and roots, so this was created to enhance their understanding.  Twice a week the word would be posted on the MIMIO or Smart board, and my students would record the definition, identify any synonyms, antonyms, affixes, create a picture of the word, and use it in a sentence.  

This is the student page that can be completed with Word of the Day.

The spelling component of Reading Street was my other word work source.  On Monday we would go over the rule of the list, define the words using context clues as a whole class, and my students would write the words 5X each.  That may sound a bit dated, but the only practice my students get with these words is in the classroom.  Studying at home is a challenge for the majority, so I need to make sure their understanding and grasping of words truly takes place in the classroom.  On Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday we will do different word games and activities with the spelling list words, so that by Friday, spelling test day, they are prepared, and can not only spell the words correctly, but incorporate them into their writing pieces and written responses.

Spelling game in action.
Students are paired up in the seating arrangement based on their reading ability.  This makes transitioning to different tasks-read to someone, much more efficient.

Writing is done in multiple ways in my upper elementary classroom through written responses to reading, Photo of the Day writing, end of novel projects, and general writing instruction.   I just completed this Writing Rules! resource that incorporates lessons, prompts, and rubrics for every CCSS for grades 4-6.

This tool is an example of how I teach essay writing.  Click the image to download this FREEBIE…

Photo of the Day picture prompt writing.

End of novel unit writing.

Essay writing.

Publishing compare and contrast pieces.

Read to Someone is done daily in my classroom.  One method is through partner reading novels or mentor texts, but another tool I utilize is a modified version of 6-Minute Solutions, which is a fluency tool that is a necessity for 90% of my 6th graders.  Because students at the 6th grade level should be reading grade level text at a rate of 120-150 per correct per minute, and many of my students are not quite there, I have to incorporate fluency practice into my instructional time.  Here is how it works…I pair up students based on their fluency rates, each student is given a reading passage at their current reading level that is marked with the number of words.  Before the first person reads, the students exchange texts, the student on the left (the stronger reader) always reads first for one minute, which I time, data is recorded (number of words read in the minute minus any miscues), and then repeat with the reader on the right.  The passage is read Monday-Friday with a fluency partner, and then on Friday, I progress monitor each student for the 6th read.  I keep this data in order to keep students, parents, and administrators aware of student progress.  If you are looking for a tool to enhance speed of reading, this is a great one.
6-Minute Solutions in action.  She is following and marking the text as he is reading aloud.

The boys are partner reading the assigned text and working on reader response questions.

Read to Self is another daily component.  We are always reading a novel or navigating a reading selection to enhance our knowledge of reading literature or informational text.  While I will instruct or work with reading groups for a period of time each day, students will also be given designated time for read to self.  I can’t say it is a period that we build stamina for, instead it is a time students are allotted daily.  When they have completed reading that is assigned during class, my students have the opportunity to read their library books or magazines, books, or other texts from around the classroom.

Read to self time.
Struggles in implementing the Daily 4…

  1. Book box organization due to the need for 65 books boxes
  2. Allowing students to choose the focus of learning without me directing them
I would love to hear how you manage these components in your upper elementary classroom.

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Sunday, August 10, 2014

ELA Back to School EBook for Grades 6-12...A Must-Have FREEBIE Download!

It is finally here!  I am a little excited about page 41!  Be sure to check it out for some tips, tricks, and FREEBIES for getting your classroom ready and your lessons planned...if you are already back in school, this is the resource for you!  If you are still a few weeks away from your first day, this is the resource for you!  Enjoy!


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Friday, August 8, 2014

Five for Friday Linky Party


I just love this weekly linky that gives me the opportunity to think about all of the great things that happen during the course of the week.  Check out all of the fun we had in my household...I guess it was much busier than I thought!
 Last Sunday we went to a really fun Green Market at Gorman Heritage Farm.  I went with two of my other mom friends with six of our little ones.  My oldest son chose to stay home to practice his football hits with my husband.  The fun we had making healthy treats, seeing farm animals, and walking through flower fields was a blast.  This was my favorite pic...my littlest digging in the garden.  At 17 months he is EVERYWHERE!  He couldn't have been happier digging in dirt and loading it in a wheelbarrow!  I HEART these kind of events for kiddos.

Here is my "Holy, Moly, When-Did-This-Happen?" moment of the week!  My son has started tackle football this past week, and my daughter, in addition to soccer, will be cheerleading.  I feel like it was just yesterday they were itty-bitty, and here they are posing for pics in their uniforms!  Slow down, time!

 Do you have Touch-A-Truck events?  I loved these when my oldest was a toddler and now I love the fact that my oldest is showing my littlest around all of the trucks.  His current favorite is the garbage truck.  I think the recycling driver in my neighborhood thinks I am in love with him because on morning runs with my littlest I seem to be running down every street he is getting recycling from.  Oh well, a momma's gotta do, what a momma's gotta do!

I finally took this novel unit from looking like the pic below with a bazillion pages of notes to a completed, ready-to-use classroom resource.  I love those productive days!  I love poetry and this is an awesome book!



I was really excited to get this guest blog posting spot on my friend, Diane's blog.  She is an awesome teacher and blogger.  This was a fun opportunity!  If you are looking for any tips or tricks to start the year and incorporate Daily 4 in your upper elementary classroom, check out my post! 

Happy Friday!  Don't forget to link up!

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Wednesday, August 6, 2014

JT says...

I was so busy yesterday, I forgot to check out!   My cart was loaded with some awesome goodies, but in working on some things, sending e-mails, and catching up with some teacher friends, I missed the big 28% off.   I hope that didn't happen to you, but just in case...


Don't forget about these GIVEAWAYS still going on...


Click the image to head to The Language Arts Classroom, an awesome high school blog by my blogging friend, Lauralee.  She and Julie Faulkner are hosting this huge back to school giveaway with all middle school and high school items. 

...and this upper elementary blog hop is still going on with prizes and TPT gift cards...click the image to take you to the hop!


I would love to hear about any and all of the purchases you have made in getting ready for back to school!  Happy shopping and entering!
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Monday, August 4, 2014

Blasting Back to School: Giveaway and 5-Back to School Classroom Decorating Tips for a Time-Challenged Teacher

Are you ready for Back to School? I'm joining several other upper grade teachers to help you get ready for the next school year, and to give away some AWESOME prizes! You'll have the opportunity to win something different on each blog in our group, so make sure that you visit the next blog in the blog hop at the bottom of this page. To enter to win the HUGE gift certificate to Teachers Pay Teachers, visit our group blog, Lesson Delicatessen. Make sure you hop through all the blogs to read all the great back to school tips and be entered to win over 20 different prizes!

Everyone thinks teachers have it so easy...ten months of teaching and two months off!

Yeah, right!  Unless you have been an educator in a school building awaiting the arrival of a homeroom full of students, you truly have no idea what it is like to get a classroom ready for another school year!  Many of us are moved grade levels, classrooms, or to different buildings during the summer months, some right before the first day arrives, and the task of organizing an entire room is daunting.

On top of that add the fact that many of us have kiddos that we are juggling while we are tackling this endeavor.  Working for 10 months, and relaxing for 2 months is truly a legend.  I know my summer months are always filled with preparing for the next year, so here are a few tricks to help you get started and feel excited about the arrival of the new year...

#1:  FABRIC:  Use fabric on your bulletin boards.  I leave mine up for the year or longer and find that it doesn't show staple holes, or fade.  You can purchase inexpensive fabric at JoAnn Fabrics or Walmart.  Teacher discounts are available at Jo-Ann Fabrics, which is perfect for all of us who spend a fortune on supplies for our classrooms.

This is just a piece of red gingham fabric that cost a few dollars.  We have to post our CHAMPs procedures, so this is the perfect board to keep this classroom must-have in place.

#2: CLOTHESLINE:  Use a clotheline with clothespins for hanging student work, anchor charts, classroom posters, etc.  It is inexpensive and requires only hooks to hang. 

The clothesline serves a dual purpose...it holds all of our anchor charts for quick reference, as well as blocks some sunlight from our faces during the sunny morning hours.

#3:  ART WORK:  Use inexpensive IKEA frames to showcase thoughtful messages for your students around the classroom.  I downloaded these from:  http://www.technologyrocksseriously.com.  Click the image to find some of your favorites.   Here are a few of mine:


I place these on bookshelves and in windowsills as reminders for my students.  The frames were $2 a piece and I printed out the colored copies on my home printer.  I have heard of people finding frames at yard sales and spray painting them as well.  If you want to reuse and recycle, that is a great plan, but I found this to be easier.

#4:  BOGGLE BOARD:  Have a spot in your classroom from the very first day where students can find something to work on when they finish early.  I find that in those very first days, I am really getting to know each of my new learners and some work much more quickly than others.  While I have a library FILLED with books, reading isn't always a task that my upper elementary kiddos are seasoned to do.  I have this...a Boggle board which for the first few weeks I utilize as an early finisher word work tool!

I found the letters on http://www.technologyrocksseriously.com  Click the image to find letters for you!  I printed them, took them to Staples to be laminated, backed them with Velcro, change the letters weekly, and I have a permanent spot in my room for students to find an extra task.  It is a hit because my students are always on a quest to find the most words.

#5: "NO NAME" BOARD:  Back to IKEA for this necessity!  I used an IKEA 8X10 frame and attached clothespins with superglue.  I created a simple "No Name" design and drilled it into the front of my classroom.  Students that don't get an assignment back can check there to find it, write their name, and have it entered for credit.  I find that I only have a few each year that have a hard time writing their name...

While there are about a bazillion other things needing done at this time, room order is key!  I can't stand a disorganized or unwelcoming space.  After all it is where we spend a huge portion of our time.  I would love to hear about any perfect tips you have to organize your classroom for the upcoming school year!  

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