Welcome to my blog. I see this as a place to reflect on my teaching practices and to share ideas and strategies with other teachers.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Christmas Around the World - Germany

Day 2 of Christmas Around the World focused on Germany.  We read a short readers' theater about Christmas in Germany.  We learned that the tradition of having Christmas trees in the home came from Germany.  We createde paper Christmas trees (from SuperTeacherWorksheets.com).  Also, we learned that families in Germany make gingerbread houses and gingerbread men at Chrsitmas.  So, each child made their own gingerbread man glyph.  We then sampled some gingerbread men (one bite to start).  We made a bar graph showing which body part we bit first on our gingerbread men.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Christmas Around the World - England

Christmas Around the World is one of my favorite units to teach!  We began our unit today with England's Christmas customs.  We read a short story about how people in England celebrate Christmas.  We learned that the traditions of sending Christmas cards to loved ones and singing Christmas carols both originated in England.  We then created Christmas cards for our family members and sang Christmas carols.  Lastly, we created a bar graph to show our favorite Christmas carols.  Tomorrow, we will learn about Germany's Christmas traditions!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Thanksgiving Fun!

I must first apologize for my extended hiatus.  We have had Saturday school to make up days from our hurricane and no teacher workdays unless they were dedicated to staff development.  Needless to say, I have been swamped! 

With that being said, I have created a couple new Thanksgiving activites.  They have been posted to Teachers Pay Teachers as FREE items.  They are called Thankful Turkey and Let's Plan Thanksgiving Dinner

Please enjoy!  If you enjoy my activities, please provide feedback and send other teachers to download the files!

Do any of you have fun Thanksgiving activities that you do every year?  Please share details if you do!  We can all use a little help locating fun, new activities to do!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ron Clark article

Just found this article by Ron Clark that was a breath of fresh air!  I thought I would share!  I have had the pleasure to meet Ron once and was excited to get a little extra time to speak with him because his aunt is the guidance counselor at the school where I teach.  If you do not know about him, check out the made for TV movie "The Ron Clark Story" and his book "The Essential 55."  Fantastic resource!

You can find the article here:

Monday, September 5, 2011

Short Vowel Booklet

I created this cute short vowel booklet to use for the first couple weeks of literacy instruction to review the different short vowel sounds and CVC words.  One each vowel page, students write 8 words with that vowel sound (we brainstorm a list on the board first) and then pick 2 or three of those words to illustrate in the blank space at the top.  We will complete one page at a time...probably a, i, and u the first week and then e and o the second week.  Once all of those are finished, we will complete the word sort and sentence writing activity.

You can download the booklet for FREE here

I am thinking of creating a whole series of these...for example:
- Consonant sounds
- consonant blends
- consonant digraphs
- Long A spellings
- Long I spellings
- Long o spellings
- Long e spellings
- Long u spellings
- Vowel digraphs

What do you think about a series of these booklets?

As with any documents you download that have been created by me, please use them for your classroom only.  If you wish to share this with another teacher, please give them the address to my blog so that that teacher may download the file for him or herself.  Please do not post this document on any other website (whether for free or for sale).

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Literacy Centers or Stations

My first five years of teaching, I was required to implement literacy centers.  As a lateral entry teacher, I had NO clue how to go about doing this.  So, I did some research (stealing ideas from other teachers in my building and online).  Then, I tweaked it to make the learning center plan meet my needs.  Here is what I have come up with.

Grouping Students for Centers

First of all, an important part of my system is how I group my students.  Learning center groups should be heterogeneous.  There should be students who are performing and high, middle, and low levels so that they can provide assistance to each other and model skills to those who need assistance.  I also use behavioral concerns as a way to group students.  Once I know who will work in a group together, I use colored circle stickers to indicate groups.  I place these stickers on my students' nametags so they can easily see to which color group they belong.

Leader Chart

Next, I made a chart that lists members of each colored group and then use a clothespin to indicate who will be the leader of the group.  I made the chart and laminated it.  Then, I typed all of my kiddos names and laminated that.  Then, I cut the names apart and use poster putty to affix them into the correct group.  I change leaders every Monday.  Here is my leader chart:

Center Drawers

Next, I set up my centers.  I did not have room in my classroom to set up tables or distinct areas for each of my centers.  So, I solved this problem by using plastic drawers.  Each drawer is labeled with the center number and name.  For example:  Center 1:  Phonics and Word Study.  Here are my center drawers:

Center Rotation Chart

I made a center rotation chart to help students keep track of which center they will go to each day.  The chart lists the names of each center I use and has colored clothespins to match the group sticker colors that were assigned before.  Each day at the start of center time, I rotate the clips down to the next station. 

Center Contents

I chose a few years back to no longer use worksheets in my centers.  I needed to cut back on the number of copies I was making (you know how THAT is), I didn't always have time to check their work (and work that is not checked is perceived as unimportant), and I was never sure what to do about student center work which was not finished. 

So, instead of including worksheets in my centers, I use hands-on activities.  These are sorts, board games, sequencing activities, partner reading, hands-on story mapping, and matching puzzles. 

I organize the activites in the center by placing all materials related to that activity inside of a plastic envelope with a velcro closure.  Here is what they look like:

Each center gets 4 or 5 activities.  Students go to only 1 center per day.  I tried (I really did) having students rotate to 2 or more centers each day, but it was too much for me to run 10-15 centers per week.  My students stay in their center for 40 minutes (with the exception of the time they come to guided reading).  So, it is necessary to include enough engaging activities to keep them busy for the whole time. 

I have made a TON of learning center board games, sorts, and matching games which are being slowly posted to my Teachers Pay Teachers store.  Stay tuned....in my upcoming posts, I will describe and show with pictures how I organize these game boards with interchangeable game cards.  I have modeled my system after the Frog Learning Game Systems.  I have also purchased four of the Frog Learning Game sets (EXPENSIVE!!) to use in my learning centers.  They are great and the kids love them!

Please share details about your learning centers or the activities which are enjoyed by your students in those learning centers!

Update 9/2/13 - I have recently updated my literacy centers to allow more autonomy and choice for students.  Many things have remained the same.  You can read the details of my updated literacy centers here.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Hurricane Irene

Since I am located in eastern North Carolina, I spent the weekend feeling the effects of Hurricane Irene.  At my home, I experienced a broken gate in the back yard, a fallen tree over a backyard fence, and a BUNCH of large limbs fallen from the trees in my front yard.  All in all, I was very fortunate that we suffered no real damage. 

We did, however, spend the weekend (all day Saturday and Sunday) with no electricity.  Power was restored on Sunday night at about 7PM.  And, let me tell you, I never realized just how important having electricity was!  With no computer, no TV, no Internet, and no running refridgerator, I was miserable.  With all of those things absent, I entertained myself by reading, sorting through my bag of school things, and cooking on our outdoor gas grill (I was very tired of eating cold cereal and sandwiches). 

After being in school with students for only 2 days, school was canceled for Monday and Tuesday due to hurricane damage.  I am still waiting to hear about Wednesday.  Needless to say, I am bummed that my plans for lessons with the students this week were ruined.  Not to mention that my student teacher will begin teaching next week and has still not observed me really teach! 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Printable Jumbo Desktop Helper Nametags Now Available

I have often found in the past that I wanted to refer my students to some visual aids quickly and easily while teaching a lesson.  While shopping in a teacher store, I came across a set of nametags with visual aids to help remind students of math concepts a teacher had taught.  They came in packs of 30 or so and cost about $4-$6. 

I took this idea and made a nametag customized for the needs of my second grade students.  I have used a tag similar to this for the last 4 years.  It makes it very easy to refer students to a hundreds chart or other aid without taking the time to pass out mini offices or other materials.  These also save time because I only make nametags once each year.  In January, when the tags have gotten a little grubby, I take them off of desks and laminate them a second time.  They flatten back out and look great again, with very little additional effort.  Of course, if you prefer to make new tags in January, you have the option to do so! 

The version I have created so far is designed specifically for second and third graders.  However, I plan to create tags for younger and older students in the future.  You can see an example in the photo below.

You can purchase the tags that I have created here:
Jumbo Printable Desktop Helper Desk Name Tags (Version 1- manuscript)
Jumbo Printable Desktop Helper Desk Name Tags (Version 2 - cursive)

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Open House Ideas

My school will have its Open House on Monday, August 22, 2011.  In preparation for this, I have spent lots of time scouring the Internet, searching for cute ideas for gifts to give students who come to meet me.  Although I cannot remember where I found it (and therefore, cannot give proper credit), I found a website where a teacher describes giftbags filled with goldfish crackers.  Those bags had a label affixed similar to the one I have attached here:

O-fish-ally a Second Grader Bag Tags

My finished product:

Do you have any fun ideas for gifts to give parents or students who come to open house?  Please share them with us here!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Airplane Themed Behavior Clip Chart and Take Home Chart

I got a request (from DYoung1) for an airplane themed chart and poster.  I have completed this and have posted it here.  If you are interested, check it out!  Here is a sneak peak!

If any of you would like for me to create a custom behavior chart for you, I can do so and then post them to TPT.  Please leave any requests as comments to this post. 

Monday, August 15, 2011

Behavior Management System

I have been asked by many teachers to share details about my behavior management system.  So, in an effort to keep from typing it many, many times, I thought that I would compose a post here with the details of my system.  If you have questions, please feel free to ask.
Modified Clip Chart:
I use a clip chart system that has been modified to fit my needs.  There are many of these available to fit different class themes in my TPT store.  I have used the star theme for the last 4 years a love it!  In the past, I have had all students start the day at 4 stars.  I am considering having students start the day at 3 stars so that they have the opportunity to move up the chart for good choices and down the chart for poor choices.  Here is a picture of my star clip chart:
I have mine displayed on the back of my door and a clip for each student (with the class number) written on the clip with a permanent marker.  I typically give warnings in the form of choices before having students move their clips down the chart.  For example, “Please either stop talking or go and move your clip down.”  This typically stops any inappropriate behavior of that student and all others.  If the student chooses to continue the inappropriate behavior after this, then a clip will be moved down the chart.
For each level of behavior, I have decided on consequences.  In the past, the consequences have been as follows:
·         4 stars – no loss of play time and chance to go to prize box on Friday
·         3 star - loss of 5 minutes of play time and a note home – smaller chance of visiting the prize box on Friday
·         2 stars - loss of 10 minutes of play time (total) and a note home
·         1 star - loss of 15 minutes of play time (total), a note home, and an out of class time out
·         0 stars - loss of all play time, a note home, and an out of class time out.
Obviously, I intend to adjust this if students begin the day on 3 stars (there would be no consequence for 3 stars and a very small reward for reaching 4 stars).
Daily Behavior / Parent Communication Charts:
I use a daily behavior and parent communication chart which matches my behavior management clip chart.  The back of the chart is used for a weekly newsletter.   If you purchase a set of clip chart posters at my TPT store, the daily behavior chart comes with it.  At the end of every day, I call out students’ names and they respond by telling me what level of behavior they had.  I circle the behavior level on the sheet, write a note to parents (if necessary), and the students place the sheet in their homework folder.  Here is an example of my behavior chart:
I ask that students get this sheet signed by parents every night.  There is no penalty for not getting it signed.  However, every Monday morning, I give students reward tokens (sticks) if they have had their behavior chart signed by an adult every night during the previous week and if they have brought all homework from the previous week to school completed.
If students lose their behavior charts, I make them buy a new one (using their reward tokens/sticks). 
If students routinely do not take their charts home and get them signed as expected, then I give consequences.  For example “if this isn’t signed tomorrow, you will have no play time until it is signed.”  This seems harsh, but honestly, when given this ultimatum, the sheet is almost ALWAYS signed the next day.  So, no further punishment is needed.  I do the same for those who routinely do not get other important things signed, too.
On Monday, after passing out reward tokens (sticks) to those who have gotten their behavior sheets signed every day the previous week, I keep the old behavior charts and file them away in a hanging file folder labeled with the students’ numbers.  This hanging file folder is also where I keep any other information about a child that I might need for conferences (notes from parents, testing referral documentation, etc).  Then, if I have a conference or meeting about a child, I can pull this folder and have a whole year’s worth of records about the parent’s communication with me, the child’s behavior, and any other info I need.
This system works because of a few things.  Parents expect to see a behavior chart every night.  So, kids cannot hide the behavior chart if it has a bad note on it.  Secondly, students know that they can earn rewards by getting their behavior charts signed, so they are pretty persistent in getting their parents to sign it.  Thirdly, students know that if they do not get their charts signed pretty regularly, I will notice and there will be consequences.
Token Economy and Class Store:
In my class, I use skinny wooden craft sticks as tokens earned for good deeds.  I have seen teachers use many other items as tokens (carnival tickets, “Caught Being Good” coins, board game money, teacher made money, green slips of construction paper, etc).  I purchased about 7 packs of these at Walmart’s craft department for about $3.00 per pack.  They are very durable and you rarely need to throw any away.  I keep them in a pretty Easter basket that I bought after Easter on sale one year.  This way I can hang the basket over my arm and carry it around easily.  Here are the skinny craft sticks I bought to use:

Sticks can be earned for having homework completed all week, having behavior chart signed every night, good behavior in the hallway, good behavior in the bathroom, following rules during partner work, having materials ready to begin quickly, etc.  I also sometimes use sticks as a reward for those who bring extra supplies when we are running low – like extra hand sanitizer.
Sticks can also be lost (paid) for different, minor offenses.  If students come to school with no pencil, they must pay me sticks to buy one from me.  If students lost their homework or behavior chart, they must pay me sticks to buy a new copy.  If students need to go to the restroom or get water and it is not one of our regularly scheduled times, they may pay me a stick to do so.  If students need to go back to their book bags after time for unpacking is over, they can pay me a stick and be able to do so. 
My students store their sticks in skinny sliding pencil boxes.  I bought these on sale from a Back to School sale years ago.  The boxes I have now have been used for 4 years and are still in good shape.  There are a few that got pretty ugly, so I threw those away and replaced them.  When I first purchased the boxes, I used a permanent marker to write student numbers on the top.  I found that a thin layer of clear spray paint made this last longer.  Otherwise, because of heavy use, the permanent marker will gradually fade away.
Sticks can be used on Friday to go to the prize box (see details below).  In my class, you have to meet certain criteria in order to be able to visit the prize box on Fridays.  My students must not have moved their clips on the behavior chart down more than 2 times during that week.  I look at their behavior charts that have been signed all week to see how many times they have moved their clips down. 
Prize Box:
I try to reward students in ways that are exciting for them, but inexpensive for me.  I have 5 prize boxes, worth different amounts. Here are some examples of my prize boxes:
“1 stick” box – stickers
“3 sticks” box - small pieces of candy, small cap erasers for pencils, plain pencils, bookmarks
“5 sticks” box – pretty pencils, decorative rubber erasers, small prizes purchased from Dollar Tree (4/$1.00, 6/$1.00 or better), teacher made reward coupons
Here is an example of my reward coupons:
You can also find some coupons I created for purchase here:  Set 1   Set 2
“10 sticks” box – slightly large prizes from dollar store (2/$1.00 or 3/$1.00) and teacher made homework passes
“15 sticks” box – paperback books, spiral notebooks, composition books, decorative 2 pocket folders
Emergency Passes:
In years past, I have also employed the use of Emergency Passes when students were asking to go to the restroom excessively.  The emergency passes were jumbo wooden Popsicle sticks with the students’ class numbers written at one end and “Emergency Pass” written in the center.  Students in my class were given two passes per week.  They could use the pass to go to the bathroom, get water, or go back to their bookbags with no penalty.  If they ran out of passes and still needed to do one of those things, then they would have to pay me a stick.
If students did not use their emergency passes during the week, then at the end of the day Friday (right before we went to prize boxes), students would be given an extra 2 sticks for each pass that they did not use.
Table Group Incentive:
One thing that I have not done in the past (and I would like to start doing) is to give an incentive to table groups.  Students who sit together in a group will be part of the same table group.  The system that I plan to use is the one which I read about on Christina Bainbridge’s blog.  You can read about her system here.
“Fill Me” and “Empty Me” Marble Jars:
The marble jars were used as a whole class positive incentive.  I have two jars labeled as indicated above.  If the whole class did something worthy of praise, then I would select a student to move 10 marbles (you can adjust this for the size of your jars) from the “empty me” jar into the “fill me” jar.  Once all marbles had been moved into the “fill me” jar, the class voted to select a reward for the whole class.  The rewards that I offer to students for filling the marble jar include:
·         One night with no homework
·         30 minute dance party
·         Read aloud a favorite book
·         Extra recess time
·         Board game party
·         Popcorn and a movie

Parent Communication Binder

I keep a Parent Communication Binder with contact information and contact records by the phone in my room.  That way, when I look for a phone number in the binder, I already have my parent log sheet right there to document the contact.  Here is how the binder is organized:

I use clear plastic page protectors with sticky tabs attached.  Inside of the page protectors I place a sheet with only the student's class number written very large (on the front) and the information sheet (on the back).  I then label the sticky tabs with student numbers so that I can find a student's page quickly.  After each student's page protector, I place copies of my parent communication log sheets, so that there is one section for communication records for each student and it comes immediately after their information sheet.

Since the tabs and fronts of page protectors have student numbers (and no other info), they can be reused each year.  You would only need to throw away and replace the student info sheets and contact logs.

Here are some pictures:

Until then, here is the student information sheet and parent communication log I have created:

Student Information Sheet

Parent Communication Log

As always, if you would like to share my work with others, please do not post it in discussion boards or email files.  Please share my work by giving them a link to this blog so they can come and download documents here.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Impending Back to School

I can't believe it is already time to return to school for a new group of kiddos.  My school year will begin on Wednesday, August 17th.  I love the fact that, as a teacher, every year is an opportunity for reinvention.  Each year, I make mental notations about things that can be improved upon and that I need to remember to adjust for the following year.  Sometimes, reinvention is not just a luxury, but a necessity!  Some strategies work well with one group of students, but not so well with another. 

I am looking forward to these changes, which I have planned for the upcoming year:
- new classroom library procedures
- new daily spiral review math morning work
- independent reading book bags with reading log
- new parent volunteer opportunities

I am sure there will be many more as I get into my classroom and continue planning!

Happy Teaching!