Tuesday, November 12, 2013

November Update!

I haven't updated in a while because school (and life) have been SO. CRAZY. Being a first year teacher is no joke.

I can't believe how fast this year is going- before I know it, it will be Christmas, then 2nd semester, then the end of the year! Whew!

Here are some things I've been working on lately :)

We've just started really pushing using sticky notes. (R2S means Read 2 Self). They haven't had a ton of experience using sticky notes in the past, so we are starting small. Right now, I just want them to mark parts of their book using these flags (or whatever else they decide). The main purpose is to get them thinking about their own thinking and becoming actively involved in their own reading. We will also use these stickies during reading conferences- I can flip through their book and ask them to tell me more about a part they had marked. They will also be able to use their stickies when sharing with their reading partner. I had noticed that when it came time to share about their read to self books, they would say 1 or 2 things to their partner and just sit there, saying "I'm done." The plan here is that they can find a sticky note and tell their partner more about it- maybe they can help each other figure out unknown words, talk through a confusing part, or just share a funny part together. They will at least have something to get their conversation going. 
So far stickies are going really well! I'm excited to get going and build onto this skill throughout the year. 

Here is my Vocabulary bulletin board (with a guest appearance by my glitter pumpkin!)! 
This past month, we have really been working on character traits- identifying them in our read aloud (Esperanza Rising), in picture books, using them to make connections with other characters, etc. I found some great resources online (like this awesome chart that we put into our readers' notebooks) to help give them words to use besides "nice" or "mean," but I noticed that they didn't know what the most of the words meant! So each week, we have 10 new character trait vocabulary words. They are posted all week, we discuss them within our read aloud books, and they add them to their own personal character trait chart as we go. We think of a character (book, movie, real life) that reminds us of that trait, and write it down next to the word. That way they aren't copying definitions, but instead, making a meaningful (and personal) connection to the word. We choose a character altogether, but they are always welcome to write down a character that makes sense to them. 
At the end of the week, we do a quick matching definitions assessment to see what they learned. We're on our last week of words, and I've been so impressed with their expanding vocabularies! I've heard kids use words from past weeks in our discussions and in their writing. I'm working on getting this mini-unit ready for Teachers Pay Teachers so keep your eye out for that soon! 

I just made this Fractions Anchor Chart as we start our next chapter in math. Fractions, yikes! As 5th graders, they've had several years of experience with fractions, but it still takes a little bit of reviewing for everything (or almost everything) to come back to them! 
I have to say, I'm a huge fan of anchor charts- I love directing kids to the charts when they have questions, and seeing them look up at them while they are working is just wonderful. I'm a teeny bit of a perfectionist when it comes to charts though, so I'm laminating all mine this year to be re-used in the future!

On a more personal note, I just ordered and received these shoes, and wore them for the first time today. I think they're really cute but they are going to take some breaking in for sure. I've been on the hunt for a super comfortable pair of winter appropriate shoes for the last few weeks. Up until recently, I've worn a super cute pair of gold Birkenstock sandals as often as possible. I do wear other shoes, but Birks are SO comfortable, and I'm on my feet almost every minute of the day. I really would like to keep wearing Birkenstocks, but last week I wore my sandals and one of my girls said, "Miss Leslie, isn't it too cold to be wearing sandals?" Ooops, busted. I thought I might just get the close-toed Birkenstocks, but those make it look like I'm wearing potatoes on my feet, and I'm just not going for that look usually. 
So I got the Sperry's. We'll see how they go- I doubt they are as comfortable as Birks, but you never know. I never thought I'd be the type of person to put comfort above almost everything else in a shoe. Being a teacher makes you do crazy things :)

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

My Solution to the Pencil Problem!

Pencils. UGH. They are just always a problem! I know there are lots of different ways teachers handle the pencil situation, and I definitely don't think there is only one solution. Here's the system I use, and while it's not 100% perfect, it works well in my classroom.

I have my class set up in table groups. I feel like every Elementary Ed class in college emphasized the importance of grouping student desks, and it just kind of stuck with me. I like group seating because I have ready made teams or discussion groups, I can call them by tables to line up or get supplies or whatever, and I feel strongly that they need to practice cooperating with others. I don't spend much time teaching while they are at their desks, so the fact that some desks face away from the board isn't a problem in my class. For whole group instruction, I usually have them sit on our group carpet, either facing my SmartBoard, or facing my teacher chair.

Since they are in groups, I decided to capitalize on the "team" aspect when dealing with pencils. Each table is a color. They all have a plastic basket containing pencils for them to use. Each table gets 10-12 pencils, depending on how many students are at the table. All the pencils have little duct tape flags that match their table's color (My mom did them before school started, and my sister did the 2nd round of pencils. So great to have supportive family!). I like the flags because they prevent pencils from rolling off desks and onto the floor, they eliminate the "lost and found" pencil problem, and if they ever end up outside my classroom, they are easily identifiable and can be returned to our class.

All pencils stay in the table's basket unless they are in use. They are not supposed to be in inside their desks. They should be out and available for anyone to use. I do allow students to have their own pencils from home, as long as they are not a distraction during class. In that case, these pencils act as a back-up when that student inevitably runs out of lead, their special pencil breaks, or they can't find it.

I only sharpen the pencils over the weekends (with the Quietest Pencil Sharpener, of course!). They are not allowed to sharpen the pencils themselves (especially with those tiny personal sharpeners that eat pencils!). They need to make all their pencils last all week long. It was difficult at first, but they've gotten better at rationing the "sharpness" of the pencils. During my first round of pencils, we had a problem with keeping ALL the pencils, aka not losing them or taking them home. To combat that issue, I offered an incentive. I randomly check their pencil baskets in the evenings, and the tables that have all their pencils have tickets waiting for them the next morning. Missing pencil? No tickets.

I had a case where a student broke a table pencil in many pieces (because he was hitting his desk with it). I let him buy a new one with tickets to replace the broken one so that his table could still be eligible to receive tickets. I also include erasers for each table because we all know they will quickly use up the pencil erasers.

I made all new pencils for each table when I rearranged my desks. I'm not sure if I will do this every time I switch desks- we'll see how long these pencils last.

Here are some pros to this pencil system:

  • Students work as a group to keep track of pencils.
  • There are always pencils available within their reach- no more getting up to sharpen or needing a new pencil.
  • Pencils don't often roll onto the ground, and if they do, I can quickly point it out and have it returned to its home.
  • I only have to sharpen once a week.
  • No need to get up in the middle of lessons. Did I already say that? It's that important to me!
A few cons:
  • Takes a while to prep the duct tape flags
  • Keeping track of all the pencils (which improved when I offered incentive)
  • Lots of sharpening to do (even if it's just at one time)

WOW who would have thought that I could write so much about PENCILS?! Well they are a big deal! What do you think? How do you combat the pencil problem in your class? 

Monday, October 7, 2013

October Currently

I can't believe it's October 7th! October is probably one of my favorite months. I'm happy to see it again!

Listening: I'm psyched the Amazing Race is back! I just hate when 60 minutes runs over and I don't get to see the end of the show! 

Loving: My dad helped me pick out a new little laptop. My old laptop was from when I graduated high school a while back! This one has a touch screen, is lightweight, and will be perfect for bringing to meetings as well as to and from school!

Thinking: I had my first ever solo parent teacher conferences last week! My awesome mentor teacher let me be a big part of conferences during my internship, and that really prepared me for my own conferences. They've gone really well so far! Round 2 is tomorrow after school- it's going to be a long day, but I'm looking forward to it.

Wanting: I know it's fall, but it's not quite boots/scarf/hoodie weather here in Oklahoma yet... It is cooling down though, so I guess I shouldn't complain!

Needing: More sleep- always! I don't usually feel too sleep deprived during the week- I have so much going on that it keeps me amped up. But on the weekends I really feel it. Saturday was a sleeeeeping day for me. Probably not my healthiest sleep schedule!

Trick or Treat: I choose treat! Teachers deserve treats after (or during!) a long week! I have a class ticket store where my kids can buy gum, candy, pencils, no homework passes, etc., and it's really nice to be able to grab a quick treat from my stash!  

A few other things I've been up to lately....

Lately, I've been loving blockposters.com! You upload a picture (doesn't have to be text) and then you can decide how many pages you want your new poster to take up. This one is 2 pages by 2 pages. I love making cute anchor charts, but I'm such a darn perfectionist that they aren't very quick to make! So blockposters.com comes in really handy when I need to get important information up fast!

I also recently got a kitten! I've been wanting one for a while. Meet Gertie! She's so sweet and super playful. A little too playful sometimes, like the other night when she did laps around my bed and house all. night. long. But she's precious and a really good little kitty.

My next post is going to be about the never-ending pencil problem... I don't have a miracle solution, but it's been working pretty well for my class! Stay tuned.....

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


School. Is. BUSY!!! Holy moly. I know every teacher knows this and could have told me this, but it is very different figuring it out myself! I'm loving it though! Tons of great days. But BUSY! 

Here are some things I've been doing lately:

My teammate (& friend!) and I copied and got these ready several weeks ago, but just now got around to getting them bound. Turns out, it takes an HOUR at Kinkos, so we treated ourselves to dinner while we waited! It was wonderful. Anyway, we made these Reading & Writing Workshop conference logs:
I downloaded the covers from here, printed them on cardstock, then laminated both covers as well as black cardstock for the back covers. Then I stuck in the tabs- I have since written each student's name on a tab. This is how I will keep track of my conferences with them over time!

I love having all of one student's notes in one place- it helps me see if they have been stuck on one book or one piece of writing for a long time, and lets me reiterate important teaching points, or introduce new ideas to them easily. I "stole" the idea to make this type of log from my awesome mentor teacher. She is a rock star at workshop!

I'm so excited to start using these on a regular basis! So far, I've kept conference notes on my iPad, and while that's fine, I'm more of a written-note-jotter type of girl. 

Today our 5th graders had job interviews for an upcoming field trip to a mock community in our area that students visit and function in for a day. My students worked so hard preparing for their interviews- nice clothes, firm handshakes, eye contact, everything! So proud. Staff from all over the school (plus my dad!) volunteered to help us interview all the 5th graders, which was so great. My sweet teammate made all our volunteers lemon muffins, and I gave them one of these: 
So corny, I know! But we really appreciate them taking time from their busy schedules to give our kids valuable, real life experience! 

The book fair was here last week! My kids were SO excited to get in there and buy BOOKS (and pencils, and erasers, and posters) but also BOOKS! A few sweethearts even bought me a book to add to our classroom library! 5th grade had the most students attend our Back to School night last week, so each 5th grade teacher got $15 to spend at the book fair! I'm pretty pumped about my haul:

I can't wait to get them into my classroom library! 

Wellllll I guess I should go home since it is 6:15 on a Wednesday and all.... Good night!


Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Back to School...After Labor Day!

Today was our first day back after a 4 day break! Whew! The best part of today was when I taught my class how to play my Multiplication game, BUMP! (for sale in my TpT store!). It was kind of a crazy day getting back into the swing of things, but during the time they played this game, things were perfect! I just walked around smiling at them all, because they were interacting positively with each other, practicing multiplication, and having fun!! It was such a great 30 minutes. And now they know how to play and can pick it up whenever they have extra time. Love it.

Tomorrow I have my first sub ever and I'm freaking out a little! My sub plans are VERY detailed. But it's only for a half day, and I will literally be in the hallway the entire time. Haha, I'm sure I'm overreacting, but I can't help it! I want my class to do a great job like I know they can, and still have plenty of learning opportunities. I feel like that will happen if most of the little routine things are the same as always, even if I'm not there.
I'll be in the hallway finishing up all of the reading and literacy assessments! I've leveled almost all of my class, but I still have other assessments that need to be done. I'm looking forward to having a big block of uninterrupted progress!

I'll finish up by showing a few fun things we've done since school started:

Here's what's on a cabinet right outside my door. 
My students traced their arms on a long piece of construction paper. Then they wrote a goal for the school year on each finger. I asked them to write two academic goals, one behavior goal, one personal goal, and one goal from the category of their choice. 
I think they turned out so great! I think it's important for 5th graders to be responsible for themselves and for their own success in school and life. Setting a goal is the first step! 
This is the first thing they see coming in every morning (besides my smiling face!) and I hope they get just a little reminder of what they decided they wanted to accomplish. 

Here are some adorable sunflower glyphs my class made! I made templates for them to trace, but they did the rest of the work!
Brown center: no pets
Black center: has pets
Number of petals: how old they are
Number of leaves: number of siblings
(You can't see them, but there are sunflower seeds glued in the center of each flower)
Seeds: represent the month they were born

Pretty straightforward, but it was a fun activity to do the first week because it gave them a chance to chat with people at their tables while they worked. Plus they turned it so cute!

Here's an update on my birthday ribbons! I put their pictures in order on the ribbons. Lots of July birthdays, huh? I used Glue Dots to adhere the pictures, and I'm a little worried because I tried to move one and it kind of messed up the ribbon...I guess I can't use the same ribbons next year! Oh well, cute for now. 

Welllllll it's definitely past my bedtime. I have to get to school extra early tomorrow to clip everything together and set everything up for the sub! And the kids come at 7:35, so early for me is for real EARLY! 


Monday, September 2, 2013

September Currently!

I'm participating in my first ever Currently Linky Party! So exciting. I love reading these every month, and am so psyched to post my first one. I hope I do it right!

Listening: The Mindy Project is so smart, cute, and funny. One of my favorite new shows. Chris Messina (Danny) is pretty dreamy too....

Loving: Labor Day weekend treated me so well! Visited friends from college, relaxed, and had my weekly dinner with my family at my parents' house. Gotta love homemade dinner and leftovers!

Thinking: I'm glad tomorrow is a Professional Day! I'm looking forward to sitting down with my team and really getting ready to launch the Reader's and Writer's Workshops. Bonus: 3 day week! What!!!

Wanting: My landlord says the air conditioner works just fine but clearly it doesn't! It doesn't actually get to the right temperature until around 9pm on super hot days :(

Needing: I know I need to spend less time at school, but I am feeling good and enjoying my time there. 6:45am to 6:45pm workdays might not be healthiest in the long run though... Hey, I'm a first year teacher.

Finally: This one goes along with needing to balance school better. I can't live off of Lean Cuisines forever! I actually love to cook, I just haven't had the time!

Thanks for visiting! I follow some great blogs already, but I'd love to add some to my list! Comment and I'll check yours out!


Classroom Tour!

I've been a fan of teacher blogs for a LONG time. I'm so excited to finally start my own, because I'm finally a real teacher! I have just started my first year teaching 5th grade at a wonderful school in Oklahoma. I'm not sure how much time I'll have to keep up with this, but I'm looking forward to sharing and learning from others!

I guess the best place to start is with a classroom tour!

 Here is a panoramic shot of the whole thing standing in the doorway. It looks a lot bigger all stretched out like this!

Here's one of my cabinets with my Classroom Jobs and Daily Schedule on it. I printed the schedule cards and cut everything else out on my Cameo! I'll be putting my students' pictures in the job squares.

Here is my back counter. I'm bummed because the glare from the lamination makes it hard to read my nice posters and month circles! But the poster above the sink says, "I'm Done! Now What?" I made it and printed it at Staples.
I made all of the month circles and had them printed at Staples as well. I love the chalkboard look, but definitely don't want to use that much of my own color ink! I have since hung my students' pictures on the ribbons. I took their picture holding a cute chalkboard with their birth date on it. 
(Sort of like this, but they are holding the chalkboard underneath their face. That's me by the way!)

Here is my desk area. I took these pictures before school started 2 weeks ago and man, my desk hasn't been this clean since then! Yikes! The hanging chevron file is from Mardel. I put copies and class sets of upcoming work by subject in each file. 
I painted the cork boards just using painter's tape and acrylic paint. I love how it came out!
You can sort of see my teacher's toolbox there under my lamp. It's been so handy so far, especially for tiny things!

Here's my desk from the other side. This is the teacher part of my meeting area. The chair and easel are from Ikea. The posters with numbers are to check for understanding- made and printed at Staples. 

View of my meeting area. Rugs are 2 medium sized rugs from Ikea. I couldn't find a black and white or non-primary themed classroom rug, and these were just $20 each! Love it. 
The posters above the Smart Board are the Rule posters from Hope King's Desire to Inspire package. Darn laminating!

There's my half circle table, which I love for conferencing and small groups, and my white board. I don't plan on using it for much besides our daily agenda. Everything on the white board was cut with my Cameo. Shout out to my awesome sister for hot gluing magnets on them for me!

Here is my pride and joy- my classroom library. I worked SO HARD this summer leveling and labeling all of my precious books. My mom is an elementary school librarian, and she's been graciously collecting books for me over the past 5 years. That plus books from used book stores, donations, and from my own childhood, and I've got lots for them to choose from! 
The clear book buckets are from Ikea. I had a hard time deciding what to use for my books, but these are PERFECT. They are sturdy, and not too big, so they won't crack when kids pick them up by one end. 
The white magazine files are my students' book boxes. They've since colored them to match their personality, and I added colored labels with their numbers. 

Here are the Desire to Inspire posters from Hope King. I love how these look, and can't wait to reference them throughout the year. 

Here's the side of a filing cabinet turned Where Are We? board! I used sparkly ribbon from Hobby Lobby and painted wooden circles from Michaels. This has been so helpful! I love being able to see where everyone is at a quick glance. 

Well I'll leave it at that today! Like I said, I took these before school started 2 weeks ago, and it looks so different with 23 kids in it! I'll be updating with some more pictures soon!