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!

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Carolina Girls Guest Blogger.....Lacie from Polka Dots & Pencils

Hey y'all! I am so excited to be guest posting for my fabulous friend Patti today! Thank you Patti for inviting me over! This is start of our fabulous Carolina Girl Guest Posts! Woo Hoo!!!

So, I thought to start things off today, I would discuss the topic that is on EVERY teacher's mind right now....BACK TO SCHOOL!!! This time every year, I have very bittersweet feelings. I get to spend every summer with my beautiful son, and I LOVE it so much! I love being a teacher too, so I am always excited to go back to school as well! So, the feelings have begun, and I am sad yet excited! I am like many people (or I hope I am) in that I have tons of projects going on right now for my classroom! I can't seem to finish one before I want to start another! 

First, I am making some AWESOME crate seats for my library/reading area at school! One of my former teaching buddies, Shannon, put a picture up on her Facebook of these neat little seats! They are super easy to make and very functional for a classroom! The idea originated from Pinterest, and I have seem several different types all over the Internet. I am in the process of making 4 of them for my classroom and 2 for my son. I wish I could show you a finished picture, but as I said before I am in the middle of several projects and can't seem to finish one before I get inspired to start another! :) I can tell you what you need to make them though! You can also go to Pinterest and type in "crate seats" and you will see tons of tutorials! The supplies you will need are crates, plywood, some type of padding or quilting fiber, fabric, ribbon, and a staple gun! You can see my picture below minus the padding, ribbon, and staple gun! Hopefully, I will have these finished this week, and if you head over to my blog, you can see the finished product! :) 

All you do to make them is follow these easy steps: 

1) Go to Lowe's or Home Depot and get them to cut pieces of plywood for you to sit on top of the lip of the crate. 

2) Cut your padding to fit on top of the plywood. 

3) Wrap your fabric around the padding and plywood and staple the fabric to the back of the plywood. 

4) This step is optional, but if you want to you can staple a piece of ribbon (in a loop) on the side of the bottom of the plywood so you will have a way to pull the plywood up if you want to use the crate for storage! 

So, there you have it! The directions to make a crate seat! If you would like to see a completed crate, please head over to my blog later this week (Polka Dots & Pencils) to see my finished product!

My other favorite project that I have been working on this summer is a "Superfun Back to School Activities" packet! Over the past 4 years of teaching, I have used many different back to school activities with my kids to get to know them the first few days of school. I decided to compile all these activities into a packet for other teachers to purchase and use in their own classroom! One of my favorite activities to do with my students every year on the first day of school is a game I call "MEETO". It is a version of BINGO that I use to help my students get to know each other! Each box has a statement in it. The students travel around the room and find other students that fit the descriptions in each box. Now, I usually do a coverall or 2 ways BINGO (vertical, horizontal, diagonal) for the students to win. When they win, they yell "MEETO"!!! It is just a fun, introductory activity for the students to get to know each other. I will warn you, it can get a little crazy in the room, but the kids have SO MUCH fun! This activity will be a part of my "Superfun Back to School Activities" packet that will be sold in my 2 teachers stores later on this week! However, I do want to leave all you AWESOME readers with a freebie so for the next 2 days, my "MEETO" will be free to download in my Teachers Pay Teachers store! YAY! The color and black and white picture of the game are pictured below. Just click on the TpT logo below or the picture to go to my TpT store to download your copy for free! 

Thank you so much for letting me rant and rave today about Back to School! I hope everyone has an awesome day! Please stop by and check out my blog by clicking the button below! :)

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

What I Am Reading Wednesday and guest blogger news!

Wow, the closer it gets to time to go back to school, the more out of it I seem to get. I completely forgot to blog yesterday and today I kept having to ask what day it was! So it is Wednesday, which means I am going to share with you what I am reading right now.....I am actually reading two books. The first one I downloaded on my Kindle app last week...I thought I had read it before but it turns out if I did, I don't remember any of it....Number the Stars by Lois Lowry. Since I will be teaching about the Holocaust this year in 5th grade, I was looking for some books that I could read aloud during this unit.

I love the main character AnnMarie. I think she will be a great example to use for strong, brave characters during character study as well. I am hoping that this story will help my students connect with the events of WWII, and the Holocaust due to the fact that the main character is close to their age and the story is told from her perspective.

The second book I am reading is Save ME by Lisa Scottoline. It was recommended by a friend and it a pretty good book. It is not holding my attention like I thought it would, but it may be that my days have been so busy, the only time i have to read is when I craw into bed, which I have not been doing until abut 12:30am every night...gotta get back in the school schedule/routine soon!!

As a Mom this is a hard read because the plot involves the main character's daughter being bullied, and  the main character, Rose,  volunteering at school to keep an eye on her daughters bully. When an explosion happens one day in the cafeteria, Rose is torn between saving the girls who bullied her daughter, or rushing to find/save her daughter. She helps the girls out of the burning cafeteria, then leaves them to go find her own daughter. She is initially called a hero for saving the children, but as details later come out, Amanda, one of Rose's daughter;'s bullies went back into the building after Rose left her to go get her own daughter Melly. Amanda was injured is in a coma. Rose is then accused of abandoning Amanda, in retaliation for the bullying of her daughter.  Rose is taunted by hate emails from others int he community and everyone rallies behind Amanda's Mom as she threatens legal action.  It is really starting to get good and I am only about 1/2 way through.  

I am hoping to finish both of these books up by this weekend so that I can start another one (or two) before I leave for vacation next week. the exciting news! I am going to be hosting a regular guest blog segment here on this blog with some awesome Carolina Girl bloggers. Lacie from Polka Dots and Pencils, Amanda from Teaching Maddeness, Bridget from Little Lovely Leaders, Joanna from Fifth is Fabulous and Elizabeth from Fun in Room 4B.  I "met" each of these lovely ladies as a result of creating this blog, and in the process found out we are all teachers in South Carolina (well, I already knew Lacie...she and I taught together our very  first year, teaching).  I love their blogs and  was trying to come up with a "hook" for a guest blogger segment...and I couldn't resist creating a cute button in PicMonkey!!

Lacie will be kicking things off tomorrow....come on back and check it out!!