Sunday, December 30, 2012

Close to reaching 2 HUGE milestones.....

Today has been one of those days where I had great intentions but did not get much accomplished. I decided that instead of dragging our Christmas decorations up an down 2 flights of stairs (we have 3 full flights above ground) every year, that I would clean out our closet under the stairs and store them there. Great idea huh? Well 5 hours later, the house is a complete wreck.....

"Where is she going with this?" you ask.....well the closet is empty now, all the Christmas is STILL up, and my house is a disaster area. So I decided to get on my blog and check out the traffic from the last few posts. I also decided to check out my Twitter feed.  Well, I have gained a few followers on my blog and on Twitter so I am close to 200 followers on my blog and also close to 100 followers on Twitter.  Yay me!!

So here is what I am going to do....when I read 400 combined followers (that is 100 more followers between Twitter and my blog)  I am going to have a giveaway.   100 more between the two...that shouldn't be too hard, eh?

In the mean time...I want my blog followers (and I'll post a link on Twitter too) to tell me what I should giveaway when I hit on this link and let me know what I should give away.

If you are not currently following me on Twitter, head on over there now and start....TalesFrmTeacher is my Twitter handle.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

2013 Resolution Solution Linky Party

Teaching Maddeness

Today I am linking up with fellow "Carolina Girl" blogger Amanda over at her blog Teaching Maddeness for her 2013 Resolution Solution linky party. Who doesn't love a good linky party? Right? But first I am going to give a shout out to one of my new followers Jess at I "Heart" Recess. If you are not currently following Jess (or Amanda) head on over to their wonderful blogs and start following them!!

So Amanda is hosting a link for New Years Resolution Solutions. Check out her post here.

So here are my solutions to my resolutions....

1. Use technology everyday with my students. Now I use a fair amount of technology in my lessons (Promethean board flip charts, our class laptops, the class iPad. etc) but I want to use it more. In fact I want my lessons to be so chocked full of technology we short circuit the electrical system in my building (well not really, but you get my drift, right?) With not Common Core implementation for my state/grade level looming, I am really worried that my kids will be as prepared for the technology and project components as I want them to be. They are very capable and we blog together weekly, and they love using the laptops and the iPad but I am still scared....gotta ramp it up big time.

2. As an off-shoot of #1 I would love to be an integral part of the preparation for the technology/project component for Common Core. We have a 2nd computer lab in out school that is being under-utilized. I want that to become our (my 2 classes) second home, but I want to also encourage the other teachers in our building to use it too. I know the kids would love having more time in the computer lab each week (right row they get one 40 minute session per week...and they are required to use a compute program called Compass Odyssey rather than let the students explore and create).

1. As cliche as this sounds, I am making losing weight my resolution (again). I have been a serial dieter all my adult life but as I get closer to 50 (yikes, did I just write that number...and BTW I still have 2.5 years till I hit that number).  I have decided to join Weight Watchers and am also considering joining a gym. I just don;t want to set myself up for failure either. My goal is to lose 40 pounds this year although I probably need to lose at least 75. Baby steps....
2. I want to run a half-marathon. I have run/walked several 5k races int he past few years, but I would really like to train and run a 1/2.  I need some accountability well a someone who might want to train with me (even if we are on opposite sides of the US)...Any takers??

1. I am going to "attempt" to blog at least 4 times week. I started my blog last summer when I had all the free time in the world and we all know how that goes once school starts. Even if I have to do all my writing on the weekend an schedule my blogs. I am going to try.....

2. I want to increase my followers to 300 by the end of next year. Right now I am at 191.

3. I know this is not really blog related but I would like to try my hand at opening a TpT store. I am not really creative, but I think I have a lot of ideas to offer. I just have to start brainstorming what I think it will be...maybe tying in technology?!?!?!

Well, there you have it. I have committed it to paper (okay to my blog)..and when I click "post" it will be out there for all of bloggyland to see. Now who is going to hold me accountable??

I am also linking up with Diane over at "Teaching with Moxie". Thanks again Jess for participating and posting on your blog so I could join in this fun!!!

Thursday, December 27, 2012

"Seriously! You're working during your break?"

This was the question my husband asked me this morning as I opened up my laptop and started working on January lesson plans.  This year we had 13 days off for Winter Break and this is the first time since we moved to South Carolina that he had the entire break off with me. We were giddy like schoolchildren when we discovered by him taking leave for 5 days over the break we would have the entire time to hang out as a family and enjoy the holidays with our 12 year old son. The first few weeks of break we rushed around shopping and getting ready for Christmas. Then Christmas Eve and Christmas Day flew by and yesterday we decided not to even get out of our pajamas.

This morning, however, after I enjoyed a cup of coffee with him and the Today show, I felt that itch to get some work done. I brought home my laptop and my teacher bag was full of papers to grade. I couldn't waste another minute. So I got up from the couch, grabbed my laptop and returned to the couch an started searching for ideas on how to teach author's craft.

Apparently, I was not the only one thinking this way, because as I opened my school email, I found a note from of the other teachers on my grade level, stating how much it sucked that here we were 7 days into our break and she was working on school stuff. A few replies from others on our team echoed the same sentiment. I chimed in with a comment I am sure is representative of how many of us very few other  professions, do you have to work on our vacation to prepare for your  return to work.

I feel the same way about taking a sick day (which I usually only do if my son is sick and my husband is working).  It is so much work to prepare to be out, that it is almost not worth it.

Now this might sound like whining, and maybe it is, but I just wondered what the spouses/partners of other teachers out there think when they see them having to work on their break to prepare for the return to school.


Sunday, November 4, 2012

What would you do if you lost everything?

I am in my 6th year of teaching and I have to admit, over those six years I have amassed a lot of teacher "stuff." At first I didn't have anything--so when veteran teachers offered me stuff they were purging from their classrooms, I took it. Yes, I became a bit of a hoarder. Over time, I bought and made more stuff of my own.   Now I have too much stuff.  In fact I have so much stuff that I had to brings tubs of it home to put in storage here until I needed it, because I ran out of room in the closet,  And  I have been banned from placing any more of my stuff in our grade level storage closet. In fact, I think they started locking the storage closets this year because of ME!!!

But the point of this post is not me confessing that I have too much is to highlight that right now there are thousands of teachers and hundreds of thousands of their students with any stuff. Hurricane Sandy hit the Northeast US pretty bad about a week ago, and while the news is covering the power outages, and people without homes, when those situations get resolved, the kids will have to go back to school at some point in that area, and they are either going to go to a school that has been wiped out of supplies and classrooms with no materials (or limited because most were damaged/lost) or to a totally new location because their school is not usable. Years of teacher created materials, supplies, tests, study guides, bulletin board items, etc. have been lost. Many  years worth of hard work and hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of materials are gone.

Last night on Facebook, I came across this post and it made me so proud that I am a teacher.  Because when times are tough, whether it is in your classroom, school, community, etc, teachers by nature of their profession and the compassion they have for students and each other, band together and help put.

Laurah, at The ESOL Odyssey is heading this effort up. She reached out to fellow teacher bloggers (especially those who are also active members of the TpT and TN community)  with a plea to help those teachers, students and schools hard hit by Hurricane Sandy. She has a link on her blog for those teachers who NEED help too. So if you are reading this and you can help out or you need help, please click on the appropriate link below and fill out the requested info.  Fellow bloggers, please blog about this to help us get the word out...there are almost 75 teacher bloggers signed up already to help where needed.

If you a teacher in on of the areas hard hit by Hurricane Sandy and you  need help (supplies, lesson plans, materials, etc) click the icon below:

If you are a teacher and a blogger and you are willing to help out by donating the icon below:

If you blog about this, please do not forget to go HERE and link your blog post up with The ESOL Odyssey blog.

Thanks for reading this and let's help these teachers, students and schools out..... 

Saturday, November 3, 2012

November Currently....

I missed this last month because the end of September and the beginning of October was such a blur. SO when I saw Farley over at Oh' Boy Fourth Grade post this on Facebook, I headed right over and got to work. This is hands down one of my favorite things about blogging...I love reading everyone elses and sharing my own.

Never done this? Here's the scoop. Head over HERE to grab a blank one of these:

Then use Powerpoint or my absolute fave...PicMonkey to modify it with your own

Here's mine....

I don't know about you, but I am kinda sick of the election and all the attack ads. I am ready for this election to be over and done with. But that said, I am looking forward to having Tuesday off. I plan to sleep in, go vote, come home and bake chocolate dump cake and make chili for our staff social on Wednesday.

I am heartbroken watching all this coverage of the damage to NY and NJ that Hurricane Sandy caused. My heart goes out to everyone affected, but most of all to my fellow teachers who have to do double duty getting their personal affairs in order, and will have to face their classrooms and schools that have been damaged, plus be a rock for their students who have been through this horrible tragedy.  Keep them in your thoughts and prayers and if you can, donate to the Red Cross relief efforts. 

I admit it, I am addicted to sweet stuff. And despite the fact that I had access to tons of Halloween candy this week, I really did not eat a whole lot of it.  Now, I wish i had a big bowl of Reese's cups because I am craving something sweet to go with my coffee. What I really want is a piece of iced lemon pound cake or a raspberry bar fro Starbucks. Maybe I can convince my hubby to run through the drive-through while he is out patrolling the city today (he's a policeman and on duty today).

Have you see this video? I used it as an activating strategy for my lesson on the presidential election this week. My students LOVED it, and begged me to play it over and over again this week. I have a feeling that I will be playing it more next week too. I am a little obsessed with Ron Clark and RCA right now....and have been every since I heard him speak a few weeks ago. What? You didn't know I went to see Ron Clark? Or that I got my picture taken with him? Check it all out in my post HERE.

Now go one over to Farley's blog and get your CURRENTLY on......

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Meeting Ron Clark

Today is a day that I will not soon forget...I had an amazing opportunity to hear Ron Clark speak. Not only that...I got my picture taken with him and he autographed his most recent book for me.

 Kids idolize athletes and rock stars....teachers idolize  Ron Clark! He came at the invitation of one of the principals in our school district who had taken her administrative team to visit the Ron Clark Academy in Atlanta. This principal wanted him to come speak to her entire staff at the beginning of the school year, but the cost was too much for her to fund alone. So she sent out the word to several other principals in our district and I joined several thousand teachers, administrators and staff at a local church where Ron Clark fired us up with his passion, his stories and his enthusiasm. I was so on fire when I walked out of there, I actually regretted the fact that tomorrow was a teacher-student holiday and I will have to wait until Monday to get back in the classroom and use some of this renewed passion for teaching on my students.

He had the crowd on their feet and excited about teaching with his bigger than life personality...and by jumping on the church pews and dancing and singing.  His no excuses philosophy was refreshing...especially because he has proven results to back up his theories and ideas. He advocates setting high expectations, starting with your gifted students and expecting ALL students to rise to that expectation rather than dumbing down the curriculum to the lowest students. His personality makes you want to run up and hug him, and you want him to talk forever and share just one more story about his teaching days in North Carolina and Harlem, as well as those in Atlanta.

He told real stories we could all relate to----gifted/talented kids who didn't want to work hard because they know all the answers (or think they do)  crazy parents, administrators who have your back in front of a parent, but let you have if behind closed doors,  getting to know your kids by doing home visits and going to their sporting events....showing them that you love them and care about them and their education and getting them to care too. One of the best stories he shared was both funny and scary and involved baking cookies   and giving them as rewards for hard work....which resulted in an irate parent (that one still has me chuckling and thinking I AM NEVER GOING TO DO THAT!!)

As my colleagues and I left the building we brainstormed ideas for raising the funds to The RCA Experience National Educators Conference next summer in Atlanta.  We are pumped up and ready to try many of the ideas he shared today, and that he also shares in his books.

If you haven't read any of his books, I highly recommend them. Check out The Essential 55, The End of Molasses Classes,  and The Essential 11

PS- It was also great to run into fellow GCS teacher and fellow blogger Shasta Looper. She was lucky enough to be Ron's tour guide and host for the day. Lucky gal!!!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Check this out....I am going to be featured on Dana's blog tomorrow!!

A few months ago, Dana from Fun in 1st Grade stopped by my blog and left me a little comment-love!  When I headed over to her blog to return the favor, I noticed she was looking for bloggers for her "New Teacher Blog Tuesday." Since my blog was fairly new, I decided to inquire if she was interested in featuring my blog. Well , she was so sweet, and said yes, and then told me I would be featured on her blog on October 2nd. I have to admit, October seemed so far off when we were emailing each other back in July. But tomorrow is Oct. 2nd, and she emailed me this past weekend to remind me.

So I am asking you  my bloggy followers...(that the BEST  bloggy followers in all of bloggyland) head over to her blog and check out the feature on me. And while you are at it, please show her some bloggy comment -love, maybe start following her blog, oh and enter her Awesome 500 Follower Giveaway. She is giving away some amazing stuff!!

Friday, September 28, 2012


Wow- I looked at my blog this afternoon and realized what a complete slacker I have been since school started. I loved blogging this summer and while I try and get on daily and check on my bloggy friends and see what they are posting...I have been a complete "no-show" when it comes to posting on my own blog. Thank goodness for my Carolina Girl Guest Blogger friends, I doubt I would have any posts at all.

I honestly can't believe that we just sent home interim reports this week for the first quarter. We also have finished our first unit in Social Studies. We also took out first field trip last Friday to see Spirit of America in Columbia, SC. I am going to blog about it tomorrow but here is a sneak peek at  what we saw....from a post on my classroom blog. My kids wrote about their favorite part (don't mind the spelling and grammar errors...we are working on that...I am just excited that they are blogging!!!)

My 5th graders are really doing so awesome, and I am so proud of them. As you may know, I looped up to 5th with my 4th grade class from last year. It has been an awesome experience so far. I really love my kiddos, but man, do they wear me out. I come home exhausted every day.  Which explains why I am usually too tired to blog.

October is poking around the corner, the days are getting shorter and the weather is getting cooler. My Hokies are playing very well and in a few weeks will be playing up the road in Clemson, SC so I will get to see them play for the first time in a long time (not counting every weekend on TV of course!!).   I am  really starting to get in the fall mood, and plan on doing a little fall decorating tomorrow.

I can't believe it is almost midnight and I am still awake. I would usually already be in bed because I typically get up early on Saturday before the family is up and moving (except my hubby on the weekends he works) to finish up lesson plans, grading, etc. But one of my goals this school year is to try and finish my lesson plan by Thursday night so that all I have to do it grade papers.  This is the first week I have been successful. In fact I posted all my plans last night and sent our our weekly assessment in reading to my team this morning. And when I  left school this afternoon, I brought home my small teacher tote instead of my huge 31 teacher tote!! I have a few papers to grade tomorrow afternoon while I watch football, but other than that I am going to enjoy a schoolwork free weekend.  Hopefully this will become a trend and I can reclaim some of my life and enjoy a little more time with my family.  I will keep you posted....

Well, it is getting late so I am going to go crawl into bed so I can start my little snoozefest. Looking forward to sleeping in and then enjoying a little coffee on the patio with my hubby tomorrow morning.

Sunday, September 9, 2012

I "heart" Book Retriever!!!

Helloooooo....I know, I have been MIA since school started 3 weeks ago! I am sorry! But I am finally coming up for air and I waned to share about this app for the iPhone or iPad that I fell in love with this week. It is called Book Retriever and it has totally changed my life and the process I use for facilitating book check out in my classroom library. Before I go one, NO, the company that developed this app is not paying me to endorse this app, I just love it and I wanted to share it with all of you!

Since I began teaching, I have always my students to take home books form my classroom library to read at home. I want them reading every night and in fact I require them to read a minimum of 20 minutes a night. However, I teach in a Title I school and found out early on, that many of them did not have any books at home to read.  I couldn't require them to do something without them having adequate  resources to do it.

My first year of teaching, I (naively) used the honor system for borrowing classroom books.  If they borrowed a book, they knew (or so I thought) that they had to return it. With the size of my class, I really had no handle on who had what book. At the end of my first year, my classroom library was missing about 60 books. I couldn't go to the last student who borrowed a particular book that was now missing because I had no idea who had borrowed it.

The next year, I started using index cards to facilitate check in and check out. That worked great for a few year but I still had missing books and a lot of times I did not have an easy way to figure out who had it, nor did I have a way to notify parents if the book had been checked out but was not returned.

A few months ago, I came across the app "Book Retriever" and it upped my game plan for facilitating book check in and check out in my classroom. It has also helped me manage my classroom library more efficiently.

This app uses bar-code technology and the books bar-code/ISBN number to scan in the books in my classroom library.  I can then set up a list of my students (I have 2 classes of 5th graders this year with 20+ students each) with info such as parent name, email address and phone number.  When a child wants to borrow a book, I scan the bar-code, and voila, check it out to them...

 The company who develops and sells the app (it costs 99 cents for iPhone or iPad)  is The Classroom Library Company. They have a huge database of books embedded in the app so as soon as you scan the bar-code on the back of a book, the book's info comes up (most of the time) and you just add that book to your online class library.  The app will then recognize that bar code/book for you to check it out to a student.   There have been a few glitches (we all know technology is GREAT--when it is working).  However, noting major, that would keep me form continuing to use it and go back to my old methods. The app even allows you to create your own bar-codes. However, you have to have access to a wireless printer.  I have one at home but not at school. Eventually I will have my entire classroom library bar-coded.

I really love this app...check it out. I think it will change your life (okay, maybe just make it a little easier!!)

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Carolina Girl Guest Blogger- Lana from For the Love of Teaching

Hey y'all!  This is Lana from For the Love of Teaching.  I am so excited to be a part of Patti's Carolina Blogger Series!  Thanks Patti for hosting this series and allowing me to be a part of it.
If you are interested, I would love for you to join my blog to follow along on my 4th grade adventures.
Today, I would like to share how I use my Cricut machine and vinyl to add personalization to my classroom and keep things organized.  The Cricut machine was a gift for my birthday to use for scrapbooking, but I have found that I use it more for school than anything!  Here are a few projects I have used vinyl on. 

Project #1:  Group work bucket (where I include sticks with student names), Our Class Bucket (where we add pom poms for good behavior), and Cheers (where I have funny little cheers we do for a break).
Project #2:  Last year I bought this tote from Target and added vinyl to store my clipboards.  I love it!
Project #3: I use this as my homework bin where students turn in homework in the mornings. 
Project #4:  I use the drop boxes for a variety of things.  You know when student's come in first thing in the morning with lunch money, field trip money, notes, etc.  This drop box is perfect to hold those items until I can take the time to sort through them.  I made one for me and one for my partner teacher.   
Project #5:  I bought this dish pans from Wal-Mart to use to hold our Math journals, Language journals, and Family Message Journals. 
Project #6:  I even personalized Swimmy's fish tank!  Swimmy is our classroom fish. 
Project # 7:  These bowls from the Dollar Tree are the perfect size to hold our class crayons and colored pencils. 
Project #8:  This bucket from the Dollar Tree is used as our class treats (a.k.a. candy)! 
Not only does adding vinyl make things super cute, but it really does add to the organization of your classroom. I am continually striving to make my classroom as organized as possible and labeling things with vinyl has helped in that process! 

Thanks for reading along today and thanks again to Patti for allowing me to participate in this series! 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

First week recap.....whew am I tired.

Well's almost 3:30 on Saturday afternoon and  I am still in my pajamas. But, my lesson plans are done, and I had a little free time so I thought I would send out a little tidbit to my bloggy friends!  I think most of us are already back in school, or close to it. We started back the week before last, but this past Wednesday was our first day with kiddos. Can I tell you without jinxing it...that in my 6 years of teaching, this is the smoothest opening we have ever had! The kids were so excited to come back to school, and I am loving my 5th graders. I have 20 students currently, and only 2 of them are new to me. I looped up to 5th with my class so most of  my little friends are back with me.  I don't know who was more excited to see each other, the kids or me!!!

We also got our additional 5th grade head count and hired a 5th grade teacher the night before school started. Our 5th grade team totally ROCKS!! We selected  theme of "Peace, Love and 5th Grade" and our hallway is decorated with tie-dye and peace signs. It looks awesome!

We got a lot of procedure review out of the way in the last 3 days and even started our Math benchmark test on Friday. Monday we will knock out the District Fall writing prompt.  I am teaming again this year with my BTF (Best Teacher Friend) Beth and we are so excited.   We also have a Science Lab teacher who will be teaching all 4th/5th grade Science standards so that just leaves, ELA, Math, and Social Studies for us to teach. I will be teaching Guided Reading, Spelling and Social Studies and Beth will be teaching Math and Writing.

I started one read aloud novel with my class-- How to Steal a Dog by Barbara O'Connor and another with Beth's class--The Day The Fifth Grade Disappeared by Teri Fields.  They  were begging for more as we finished up on Friday.

I was also excited to show off our new class iPad to my students and give them an opportunity to play around with it. One of them snapped this picture of me....flattering huh!?!?!?

Well, I think that about wraps up my first 3 days of school. If you went back this week (or the week before), leave me a comment below. I would love to hear how your week was!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Back to School for me....

Wow! The summer sure flew by! I loved the lazy days, sleeping in, reading lots of blogs, posting on them as well as my own. But those days came to a screeching halt last week! Which explains why I have been so slack about posting here on my blog. And tomorrow is my first day with students (so why, you're probably  asking yourself, is she blogging at 11:30 at night instead of sleeping....I wondered the same thing). I have some great Carolina Girl Guest Bloggers lined up, and I am trying to work on scheduling some posts in advance so I don't abandon my wonderful 172 followers (plus the others that randomly come across my blog). For all my blogger friends who are about to join me in heading back to school, as well as those who are already back in the trenches....have a GREAT school year....and thanks for all your support and encouragement as I got this blog up and running! Can't wait to share all the ups and downs of another school year with you...

Saturday, August 18, 2012

This makes me so proud to be a teacher.....especially in Greenville, SC!

Let's face it...teaching is a hard job! We're all is a thankless job, we know that, and seldom do we get the recognition that we deserve! But, every once in a while, we do get a little recognition, and when it comes from your peers, it makes it so much more meaningful. I am honored to represent my school this year as Teacher of The Year. Yesterday, I attended a luncheon with all the other teachers in our county who were selected as their school's Teacher of the Year. The County also announced it's Teacher of the Year, selected from all the individual school candidates.

This year's Greenville County Teacher of the Year is Mr. Will Raglan, a drama teacher at Woodmont High School. His acceptance speech was so motivating, and inspiring. It made me proud to be a teacher...and it made me want to be a better teacher, starting at that very moment. Click HERE to watch the video of Will's acceptance speech.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Carolina Girl Guest Blogger....Amanda from Teaching Maddeness

Hi everyone!  This is Amanda Madden from Teaching Maddeness.  I am so happy to be joining in the Carolina Blogger Series that Patti is hosting...what a fantastic idea to showcase all of the bloggers from the Palmetto State (and there are a LOT of us in the blog world)! 
If you haven't visited my blog, I'd love for you to follow along with the "maddeness" so we can share ideas throughout the year!
Before I get started with the "meat" of this post, I do have a little freebie for you (how's that to "hook" you in?)  I've seen the Animal Rhyming Goodbye sayings on posters that a lot of teachers post near their classroom doors.  I want to use this in my classroom this year, but really wanted the students to focus on one saying at a time.  So, I decided to create signs with the sayings on them.  I plan to post one sign by the door each week.  When students leave the classroom, I'll encourage them to say the first part of the sign, while the remaining students will say the last part.  I'll let them come up with a fun voice or motion to go along with the saying each week.  I think if I showcase them one at a time, they will look forward to finding out what the new goodbye will be each week!  Click below to download them, if you'd like to use them in your classroom!
This summer I've written series of posts about how I teach reading and writing through genre studies, so I thought today I would touch a bit on math.  I use a LOT of strategies for teaching math to reach all learning styles.  I've written grants in the past to purchase picture books, CDs and games for bringing these mathematical concepts to life.  Today I'm going to give a brief look at some of my favorite math items, but I'll definitely be blogging in more detail about them throughout the year. I believe in incorporating as many read alouds into one day as possible!  Seriously, I could read aloud ALL day long!  Sometimes I think I should have been a librarian! :)  The best series I've purchased for math is the Stuart J. Murphy Math Start series...there are 3 levels of books and there's a book for almost EVERY math topic.  Since I teach 2nd grade, I mostly purchased the level 2 and level 3 books, as the level 1 books were a bit too simplistic.  I use these books to introduce math topics on a weekly basis!
We also listen to a LOT of music and sing along to reinforce math concepts in the classroom as we work.  One of my favorite CDs is Do Re Mi Geometry....the songs are original and catchy.
You can visit my Turn the Music Up Linky party to get a TON of other great music ideas for the classroom...and feel free to join in and add your favorites, too!
We play games almost DAILY in math.  I think it's so important to get the kiddos engaged in learning while keeping it FUN!  Most of the time they don't even think we do math...they think we just play games! (sneaky, huh?)
That's why I'm SUPER excited about my new, quiet, grab-and-go dice containers.  Click the picture to read my previous post on how I made them.
However, my absolute FAVORITE math game of all time doesn't use dice at all.  You just need 3 players and a set of number cards.  It's called SALUTE and it's perfect to practice finding missing addends.
Two players draw a card (without looking at it) and place it on their foreheads.  The "judge" adds up the digits on the cards and announces "the sum is ___".  Then the two players have to use the sum and the other player's number (which they can see) to determine what number is on the card on his/her forehead!  THEY EAT THIS GAME UP!!  You can purchase the directions and number cards needed for this game, along with a TON of other games we use in our class, at Teacher's Clubhouse as an instant download.
Speaking of Teacher's Clubhouse, we also have the Math Menus available there, which is one of the items showcased on my class website that I get the most emails about from other teachers.  I use these Math Menus as a differentiation tool in my classroom, but they could also be used for early-finishers or as a homework activity.
 We begin every math unit by giving a pretest to help determine the range of abilities of students.  Once the pretest has been given, I'm able to form small groups for some of my math lessons.  I use PowerPoint to display my math groups and their tasks for the day.  Here's an example of how it may look.
Students can just look at the board to see who they will be working with (the different colors of the names represent the different groups) and their tasks (independent assignments in green and group games in blue) for the day.  I start off working with one group, but students leave their completed independent work on their desks so I can glance at those while they're working in groups and am able to pull any who need additional help.  Of course, we also have mini-lessons during this time.
I hope this gives you a little bit of a glimpse at math in our classroom.  I'd love for you to follow along on my blog so we can share more ideas throughout the year! 
Thanks so much to Patti for starting this Carolina Girls Blogger series!  If you're a blogger from the Palmetto state, send Patti an email to let her know so you can join in on the fun!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Carolina Girl Guest Blogger.....Bridget from Little Lovely Leaders

Hey everyone! I am SO thrilled to have been invited to Tales from a 4th (and 5th) Grade Teacher by the AMAZING Patti!! Thanks Patti! We are in round 2 of our Carolina Girls Guest Bloggers! Yay!
Last week you got to read about Back to School, which is on EVERYONE'S mind, with Lacie from Polka Dots and Pencils. I just loved everything she mentioned in her post! I wish I was better at DIY ...I would totally attempt those crate chairs if I had more faith in myself! :) I was lucky enough to WIN her Back to School Packet!! I am OBSESSED with it! Keep checking my blog because I am going to be blogging about how great it is very soon!
I am going to discuss something that is the center of my I am completely type A... 
I have been setting up my classroom this past week, as I am sure all of you have been! Wow! Stressful...
I am finding that the things I am most excited about all have to do with being organized! In fifth grade, our kids just need some organization and structure. I found that my students work best when they know exactly where things are, exactly how things are supposed to be put away, where they are supposed to be put away, and what I expect from them at each and every moment. This all goes back to the organization in the classroom. If you're not're students will have trouble staying organized! Stay tuned for a freeeebiieeeee :)
Last year I bought 6 bookshelves for my 6 different groups (I am rainbow themed so I have groups for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and purple). I have set them up next to each group. Those students keep items that stay in the classroom on these bookshelves...this includes things like morning work journals, dictionaries, white boards and markers, paperclips, editing markers, and their teamwork journal. Throughout the year, things like our state testing workbooks will end up on these bookshelves, as well.
I usually have the "team leader" be the person to grabs the items off of the shelf or loads them back on when we are done with them. Then there is a "grounds crew" (one from each group) who will always make sure the bookshelf looks neat and tidy before they go off to their next class!
I use this color coordinated system for my weekly plans. I make all of my copies on the Friday morning before the next week. That way, I can go home for the weekend and not worry about getting in early on Monday! I like to put all of my copies in these folders that match the day they belong to, and are labelled with the particular class. I teach math to all of the fifth graders, so depending on the level of the class the activities may vary. This has also turned out to be WONDERFULLY useful when I was sick out of the blue and a substitute came in. I did not even have plans written out - but she didn't need them! Everything was already there for her! My students usually learn my 'system' and they even will grab the appropriate papers for their class and pass them out for me without asking! It's so great to see how independent they become! Fifth graders loooove to help the teacher :)
I just finished two of my favorite projects - tackling the white boards! I have this random extra whiteboard in my room that is over to the side...somewhere I don't really ever stand in front of during class time. I decided that I was tired of my tiny, pocket chart calendar because in fifth grade, we have a lot going on that could go on our monthly calendar! I decided that since I loved to look at the whole month at a time, my kids might also! I create a HUGE calendar on this white board and I LOOOVE it! I had the labels laminated, and then I hot glued magnets to the backs. This is my favorite thing in my room! You can purchase these labels on my TpT store HERE!
I have included every holiday I could think of, as well as things like test days, report cards, no school, etc.
Time for what you all have been waiting for...the freebie!!! Part of our school teaching the 7 Habits is for the students to always know what they need to take responsibility for at each moment. I created these signs for "Must do", "May do", and "Homework". This keeps everything that is a priority in one place! I write what we must get to and then what we may get to if we have time next to each other because then the students can see our first priority, and then the fun thing they may earn if we get to it! It is a great motivator and a good way for them to see how they can earn something if they "put first things first". Come over to my blog to download these for FREE !!! :)
WOW! I hope I did not overload you with information! :) The little type A person inside of me gets really excited when I talk about organization! 
Thank you to Patti for having me!! I am super excited about this! Also, thank you to all of the followers of Tales from a 4th (and 5th) Grade Teacher for letting me come and tell you a little bit about my classroom!! 
Feel free to stop by Little Lovely Leaders anytime you want! I would LOVE to have you! 
Especially right now...there is a really, reeeeally great giveaway going on right now!!!
Thanks again!! :)

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

August Currently.....

I love when Farley over at Oh Boy 4th Grade does her "Currently" at the beginning of the month! I came across it last month and it was so much fun, that as soon as August 1st rolled around, I started looking for it. I finally found it this weekend, and decided to make it my post for Tuesday since I am working on a big "Technology Tuesday" for next week and that is my usual Tuesday post. SO I skipped it this week and I am joining in on Farley's linky fun!

So about my B2S (Back To School) must haves....
1. Sharpies----I am a bit of a Sharpie Whore...I admit it . I loves me some Sharpies. I have all kinds in my classroom and even have a special bucket of them just for me.  My kiddos have their own in the cute table caddies I have for them. They also know not to touch MY Sharpies without permission. I can't even go into the Dollar Tree without buying a few (they only have the black and blue ones). Last spring my student teacher bought me  these...

They were in a basket full of school supply goodies (including a $15 iTunes gift card)..but all I saw when she gave it to me was these sticks of amazing writing AWESOMENESS!!!!

2. A Classroom theme----My room would feel so weird without a theme. I have done frogs, pirates, a space theme, and also a beach theme.  This year I am torn between 3 themes--baseball, peace sign and Hollywood/movies/popcorn.  I have to have a cute saying or tagline to go with my theme too. For the three I am considering for this year:  Welcome to the 5th Grade Dugout,  Peace, Love and 5th Grade, or Looks What's Poppin in 5th Grade.  After a quick trip to the Teacher Store, I discovered that they did not carry baseball border (they have sports balls....but nothing just baseball) for my bulletin boards but they did have lots of cute peace sign and popcorn themed stuff. SO I guess I am down to 2 themes.....

3. Welcome Back Gifts for my Kiddos---- I spend an ungodly amount of money on school supplies each year since a lot of my kiddos come to school with nothing (and I do not know a single teacher who doesn't). Because let's face it, we all want to make sure they each have what they need to be successful, and I know in these tough economic times, it is hard for parents to buy supplies. I am fortunate to get a supply stipend from our school district so I buy a lot of of it initially using those funds. But as the year goes one, I dig into my own pockets to replenish rather than sending notes home (it always seemed that kids ran out of stuff just as we were sending them home for Christmas break--and I would rather my kiddos have Christmas gifts...I can buy a few glue sticks and pencils). Okay, so now that I went off on that tangent....I remember how excited I got to have a new pencil case, or book covers, or a cool notebook to start off the new school year when I was a kid. Nowadays, parents can barely afford the essentials so I like to get some of those things for my kiddos as a welcome back gift..I also throw in a few treats like some cool erasers and of course CANDY! It makes me feel great to see their faces light up when they discover a present waiting for them on the first day of school!

Well that's it. If you would like to hook up with this Linky....head on over to Farley's post, HERE.

Monday, August 6, 2012

Classroom Management Monday- Seating Arrangements

Hi everyone....I am actually blogging from my classroom today! I came in to get my room unpacked and start a little organizing. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was my cluster of desks and chairs right in the middle of my classroom.

This got me thinking about desk arrangement. This is always a challenge and it never stays the same. I am honestly not sure how I am going to arrange my desks for the start of this class year. I do have an advantage over most of the teachers in my building...because I am looping with my class from last year, I know my students very well already. I know their personalities and I know who gets along (and doesn't) with each other. This should make come up with a seating plan pretty simple...or at least you would think!

I am not sure yet which arrangement I am going to start out with the desks in rows, in clusters or a horseshoe for the first days or weeks of year. I think each year I have done something different. I do one student with an IEP that requires special seating considerations. I also have some chatty ones, several with ADD and a few who like to be disruptive from time to time (is it too much to ask to hope they have grown out of that over the summer?). And then there are a few that need constant encouragement from me, due to lack of motivation (on their part).

 I have 19 on my roster right now but that can (and will) change. So right now my plan is to do rows of 4-5 desks side by side. I can put my student with an IEP in the first row. My disruptive kids can do on the ends, minimizing their contact with others. I will also put my friends who are motivationally challenged on the front row too so I can see what they are doing and help keep them on task as well as give them praise when they are on task, and a little encouragement when they are not.

So how do you arrange your classroom...I would love to hear your ideas and suggestions!