Saturday, December 29, 2012

Decimals ... with a freebie and giveaway (if you hurry!)

So, first I just have to say how much I LOVE the winter break. Not only do I get time to spend with family, but I also have been able to do some things for ME ... yes ME! :)

Anyway, before break we were working on decimals in my classroom. I think it is one of the toughest things for me to help my 4th graders understand. This year, since I am teaching with Everyday Math, decimals came up even earlier in the year than I had previously taught it. I was trying to think about what I could do to make sure my kiddos really understood what a decimal is and means. Previously, I taught a homogenous group for math. This year, my group is heterogeneous, which means that I have a wide variety of levels in my room. I've really been trying to use as many hands-on manipulatives as I can, so I broke out the base-ten blocks.

Isn't this clipart so cute?! It is the base-ten set available at . I decided that I wanted to create some visuals to go along with my lesson ... and an "I have, who has" game because my kids are OBSESSED with it! So, I finally just put the finishing touches on the rest of the decimal activities/visuals pack and uploaded it to my teachers pay teachers account. Follow the link here to check it out for yourself.

AND if you are one of the first two people to comment on this post with your favorite decimal lesson AND your email address, I'll send you a copy for FREE!!

The other thing that was really tricky for my class this year was converting between decimal measurements. And I can't blame them ... it's tricky! So, I adapted an idea I found online and created my own "cheat sheet" for them. Click the picture below and get your own copy for FREE! :)  Hopefully it will help your students as much as it helped mine.


Tuesday, December 4, 2012


This is one you DON'T want to miss!! Tips for Top Teachers is having a HUGE giveaway!! Click on the picture below to find out the details! 
I just love the Christmas season ... :)

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Making the Daily 5 Work for Me (With an organizational freebie!)

Well I've made it to Thanksgiving/Conference week. So, it means crazy Monday and Tuesday, followed by relaxing and family time the rest of the week.

Now that I've made it through my first trimester at my new school, I wanted to evaluate how the Daily 5/Cafe is working for me this year. This is the first year I've done either of them, so I've had some trial and error to get through. You'll notice I only have four rounds as we are doing the "Daily 4" and do not include listen to reading in our day.

One of the first things I tackled was my small group schedule. I wanted to make sure I was giving equal time to all of my guided reading groups AND still have time to meet with my word study groups (I use Words Their Way). With my need for order, I created this template to plan my time using a six day cycle: (Click on the image to download your free copy in Power Point - I used fronts from Hello Literacy and Sweet Shoppe Designs)
 I also created a BLANK one to hand out the kids if they wanted to make a schedule for themselves. Some of my very organized kiddos ate this up!
This was my starting framework. And, I think it was the hardest part for me. I was very used to larger blocks of whole group time, whereas this model is very centered on small group instruction as the priority. Does anyone else have this struggle? Sometimes I feel as though I have no time for longer activities because I must get to my small groups. Days I do choose to do activities, I feel like I am not doing those small groups justice because they have missed their time with me on those days.

Suggestions? Comments? Commiserations? 

The other thing I came across was the need for accountability as some of my fourth graders are really good at "pretending to do work". I'm sure no one else has that issue ....
So, in trying to make sure they are doing their "jobs" I created a chart they fill in each day to tell me what they did during each round of the Daily 5. Here it is: 
Click on the first image to download a copy in Power Point. If you like the fonts on mine, check them out from Gingersnaps!

Ok, that is what I have so far. I keep wanted to tweak and change what I am doing so that it works best for me and my students. I'd be interested to hear how you make the Daily 5 work for you.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Halloween Freebie!

Well, between being crazy busy trying to keep up with my new job, and then Sandra this weekend blowing through my town, I've really not had much time for blogging.
However, now that we have power back, I decided to create something for my kids tomorrow. I always give them pencils because they get enough candy while Trick or Treating.
So, I made these tags to put on the pencils:

Click on the picture to download your free copy! Or, check it out on my TpT page.

Do you do anything in your classroom to "celebrate" Halloween?

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Word Wall Idea with a FREEBIE :)

So, I've always gone back and forth about using a word wall in fourth grade. What is the best way to use it? What will make my students use it as a resource?

A few years ago I made a priority word was by alphabet letter. In doing that, I realized only my very low kids utilized the board while the rest of my kids didn't need it. Now, I have Quick Word personal dictionaries for my struggling spellers, so a priority world wall is obsolete.

Last year we read The Boy Who Loved Words. After reading the story we made a list of all the neat words Selig (the boy in the story) used in the book. We wrote them on large index cards with the definitions and posted them on "Selig's Word Wall". I then had students look for interesting words in their own books and create word cards. It worked well in the beginning, but then the wall became overwhelmingly full and crazy.  It was a neat activity, but not for a whole year word wall.

So, this year I was trying to find a new idea for a word wall. Then, a lovely friend of mine gave me the idea to do a word wall using parts of speech. Every year I do mini-lessons reminding my kiddos the meanings and uses for the parts of speech, so this really fits into our state standards. The best part about it that it made it a part of our every day learning.

Here are some pictures of the wall:

I created bright neon circles the have the parts of speech. I did that to match all of the Bright and Clear Decor created by Kristin and Ladybug's Teacher Files (they have to match of course!) As we go through the year and I introduce new vocabulary words, we'll talk about the different parts of speech and where each word belongs. I color-coded the types so that I can use colored sentence strips to write each word. I made preposition, interjection, pronouns, and conjunctions smaller and all the same color because there are a limited about of words that will be in each of those sections. 

Click the picture to download your free copy: 

How do you use word walls in your classroom?

Monday, September 17, 2012

Jackpot! Super find :) and Word Study

Who doesn't love a good deal? I know I do, especially when I can save money buying stuff for my classroom.
A lovely coworker of mine told me this morning Target had many of their school supplies on clearance. Um, clearance is my middle name. Clearance is my calling. Of course I had to go. Plus, I needed some more notebooks for Daily 5 as well as Word Work.

And guess what? 70% off, that's what. There was a clearance section tucked back behind the seasonal costumes and it was FILLED with notebooks. I got a notebook for each of my students to use for note-taking, as well as a composition book for each student to use for Words Their Way word study. They came out to $.22 each! That's $11 for 50 notebooks. That is what I call a mega steal.

I was especially excited because we are starting word study tomorrow. We will be doing practice sorts for the rest of the week using picture sorts as examples. I really wanted to have the notebooks for the first day, but didn't want to spend $.50/each (the cheapest I could find until today).

Next week we will be getting full swing into word study. I already gave the spelling assessment and split my kiddos into groups. I am starting with three groups this year, a number I've found to me the most manageable. Last year I had a hard time keeping all of my materials organized, so this year I am trying an idea I heard from a co-teacher.

First, I got a large binder (mine is 3"). Then, I bought page protectors from staples. I am going to copy the lessons for my group by color (this helps especially for kiddos who are prone to losing their word sorts). I will put the copies of each word sort into the page protectors. The lessons will get copied and put into the binder before the sorts. This way I have easy access to the lessons as well as word sort copies. I usually make extra of each word sort just in case. A bonus of doing it this way is I know exactly where to find copies of old sorts as I will be keeping the extras in the page protectors.
I will keep all of the sorts and lesson in the binder so I have everything at my fingertips for all of my groups.
One thing I did last year that I will repeat is using baggies for keeping word sorts safe in desks. I took snack sized baggies and stapled them into the front cover of their notebooks. I did this by opening the baggie and stapling only one side. This way they can open their baggie all the way.

Below is the schedule I am planning to use so my groups know what the expectation is for them each day. We run on a six-day cycle, which is reflected in the schedule. I will work on a rotating schedule so that I will only be meeting with one group a day (every other day, in fact) during one of our daily 5 blocks. I split up the activities over the six days so they would have a variety of activities over the week.

The Word Rock game is from Ladybug's Teacher Files. I will also be using her Word Pattern Playlist for students to record new words that fit their pattern. The Value Words game is from Go Fourth! With Mrs. Owens. For cursive practice, I bought small whiteboards from the dollar section at Target and skinny white board markers. I put them into a basket so my students can practice writing their word study words in cursive (they just love it SO much!). For word stamps, I bought some letter stamps from the Lakeshore Learning. My kiddos can stamp their words into their word study notebook. I bought some different colored stamp pads so they could even make the words rainbow.

I am hoping for a smooth start to our word study journey this year, but you know what they say about the best laid plans. I'm curious as to how other people organize and set up their word study. 
What works for you?

Monday, September 10, 2012

Back to School Night

Well, I survived my first back to school night at my new school. I had so many parents this year. I suppose they all wanted to meet the new teacher.
One of my new teammates this year had a fun idea for decorating the desks. She had her kids in the past make a life-sized cut out of themselves, color them, cute them out, and tape them into their seats. So, I decided to do it this year as it sounded like a fun idea. Now, you may be thinking, "How do I fit this in?" I was thinking that too, but then I realized it would be a great beginning of the year team building activity. I assigned partners randomly (girls with girls and boy with boys so they would all be comfortable) and they had to work together to create their cut-outs. Partners traced each other and helped color each other's body.
Watching them work together for the first time gave me a lot of insight as to what kinds of personalities I have in my classroom. Some of them, of course, were a lot better at it than others. Also, it allowed me to make a mental list of things we could talk about in future class meetings during the year.
Here are some pictures:

Some of their heads kept falling over, so I had to tape rulers to the back of them to make them stand up.

Here is where I always get stuck though ...  what to give the parents when they arrive? 
There is so much information I could give them, but I only had 40 minutes. I decided to do a quick PP presentation that was an overview of expectations, discipline/positive behavior support, and curriculum. I spent the majority of my time explaining class meetings, the Daily 5, and Words Their Way. These are three things I do that most parents don't know about, and I wanted them to understand the importance of each. I also gave each parent a one page printout overview of each so they could take it with them.

I'm interested to know what all of you do for back to school night. I could always use fresh ideas for next year!

Friday, September 7, 2012

First Two Weeks BLURR! And Classroom REVEAL!!

Ok, so two weeks have gone by since the beginning of the school year. I just can't believe it. I've been sucked into my obsessive planning routine and need to remember my me time. I don't think I was home before 7:30 any night this week!  On the plus side, our laminator is finally fixed and I was able to finish most of my room.
Thanks to many of you amazing bloggers who put your ideas and creative work out there, I am please with my result.

 If you remember, this was what my classroom looked like before I got my hands on it:
 Here is a view now from the front of the room. You can see my back wall is covered in my literacy bulletin boards. (I may have stapled them directly into the wall ...)

How amazing is Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files? She has so many amazing things on her blog and TpT store. I think half of the visuals in my classroom are courtesy of her. On the far right is her creation of a CRAFT board I will use during Daily 5/Cafe time. On the right is my writing VOICES board. I became very inspired by the neon and circles and decided to make that my theme for the year. (Along with zebra print, which I LOVE).

Below are my Daily 5 anchor charts. We've only created norms for Read to Self so far. I typed them and taped them onto the laminated poster. That way I can use them from year-to-year. (Sorry it is a little blurry)

Next is my classroom library, reading strategies board, and reading genre board. The genre circles are courtesy of Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files.  The link will take you to her TpT store where I got the genre circles. I made the reading strategy circles to go with the theme of the room. We use the Fountas and Pinnel strategies.

Here is a close up of my library. 

On the right of this picture is my word wall. This year I decided to do it by parts of speech. As we go through vocabulary this year, I will have my students help me decide which part of speech each word is so we can add it to the word wall. I love this idea because it reinforces more than one skill at once. (And yes, I color-coded it). :) 

Here are the cubbies. You can see the book boxes for my kiddos. Thanks to Kristen (again!) I taped each student's class number to their box. The link will take you to the blog post where she added the number signs (and they're free because she is amazing).

Math BB

S.S BB and Mailboxes

Front of the Room 

I got this inspiration from Christi at Mrs. Fultz's Corner when she had an awesome post last week for organizing attendance and lunch count. Hers was on a cookie sheet, but I just put mine right onto my white board. This awesome zebra tape came from Elmers and peels right off when I need it to, so I don't think it will ruin my board. 

Did I mention how awesome Kristen at Ladybug's Teacher Files is? These are her specials signs (which she also offers for free on TpT). I purchased all her subject circles. My next project is to use those to create our classroom schedule on the wall. 

Ok, so, I'm not quite finishes, but I'm on my way. I'm ready for a year filled with learning! 

What theme have you gone with this year? Is it an old faithful or a new venture? 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Lucky First Day?

Well, today was my first day back. So, I guess that officially means I am off my blog hiatus. It was a nice break, but good to be back stalking my favorite blogs, soaking up the amazing ideas.
My favorite for this weekend was the great lunch count idea from Mrs. Fultz's Corner. I needed a lunch count idea, and hers gave me some inspiration. I even found some lovely tape on amazon with a zebra pattern. I can't wait until it comes in the mail.

Anyway, if you haven't guess by my blog theme I LOVE ladybugs. Some of you may remember that I resigned from my job last school year to move closer to my family. That made today's first day of school that much more nerve wracking! New school, first day, new curriculum, new rules ... the list goes on. So, when I went out to my car this morning, I had some jitters. Then, I saw this on my car:
It was a sign from the teaching gods! :) or something like that. But, in any case, it was a great start to my day. That is not to say that the day was perfect, because what first day doesn't have a few glitches? But all in all it was pretty successful.

Later this week I will reveal my new classroom .. .that is when our laminator is fixed and I can finish putting my room together. For now I will be going to bed, because I don't know about you, but the first day really drains my energy!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

I NEED YOUR HELP! Computer Withdraw! And some new classroom pics ...

So, since I left my job this year, I had to give them back my Macbook :( I wish there was a bigger frowny face. This left me with my old Dell. Now, being a PC girl for 25 years of my life, I'd never guess how much I would miss that Mac. But I do, I REALLY do. I feel like I can't do ANYTHING!
I started making materials for a unit on magnets, something I will be teaching in science at my new school this year. It took me 3 hours to make 5 pages because that is how slow Power Point is on my computer! So, I quit.
My induction for my new job is in 2 weeks, and it can't come soon enough because they will give me ... you guess it ... a MACBOOK!!!! I seriously can't wait.
So, this is why I have not been blogging lately. This computer drives me so crazy, it just doesn't seem worth my frustration. But today I felt like I was going through blogging withdraw as well.
The good thing is that this weekend I leave for Savannah Georgia. By the time I come back, I will have only 1 day to wait until I get my new ... MACBOOK!

In the meantime, I took some pics of my new classroom. I'm a little nervous. It's small ... and has no shelves ... and NO WINDOWS, on yeah, and 2 super tiny bulletin boards.
I need your help!!!
Here are some pictures: 
These two are pictures from the back of the room. You can see my one white board and two small bulletin boards. The room looks deceptively big because there are only 15 desk in the room. I will need 25 for the students in my class. The right side show the only shelves in the room. These are built in to the sink unit. 

The next two pictures show the room while standing in the front. The right side of this picture shows the student cubbies. Above the cubbies are the only cabinets I will have for storage (yikes I have a lot of stuff and not a lot of room to put it!) I was thinking of getting large plastic bins to put above the cabinets. 
I was also thinking about where I will put the bins for The Daily Five so all of my students have their just right books. I was thinking about using the little cubbie right above their hooks. They are meant for lunch boxes, but those can be kept in backpacks or set at the bottom of the cubbie. 

In this picture you are see the very empty, white back wall. Why on Earth are there not bulletin boards hung here?! The trouble with hanging this on this wall is the strict rules about using tape and other sticky stuff on the paint. I had a crazy brainstorm to use some type of foam board and wrap it with fabric and use it like a bulletin board. I thought maybe I could attach metal hooks to it and use some type of fishing line to hand it from the ceiling. So far, I'm not quite sure how and if this will work. Ideas? 

The next view shows the side of the room where there is one strip of tack board .. ooooh aaaaah. 

And finally, I lied, there is a window ...sort of. It's actually a sky light. I would love to decorate or do something with this space to make it more inviting and colorful. 

Ok, so there it is.  And here is where I need your help:

Problem 1: Lack of bulletin board space. I need a creative way to be able to hand all of my stuff! 

Problem 2: Storage. There is no where to put a classroom library as my room only came with the little bit of built in shelving. I thought I could use that for student supplies such as crayons, paper, etc. But what about a classroom library. I need a LARGE place to display all of the just right books for my kiddos. 
PLUS, where on Earth am I going to keep all of my stuff?!
I know I can go out and buy shelves, but gracious they can get expensive! I need ideas!

So, what do you think. I know there are some amazing minds out there with some incredible thoughts! 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Another Award? I'm floored!

Antoinette and Emily from 4321...Teach awarded me the Versatile Blogger Award .. how sweet :) Thanks!

There are seven rules for this award.

1)  Thank the blogger who nominated you!  Thanks Antoinette and Emily!
2)  Include a link to their site.  See above...
3)  Include the award image in your post.
4)  Give 7 random facts about yourself.

My Random Facts:

1. I own three cats ... not because I'm a crazy cat lady, but because I'm a sucker. I've owned my edlerly cat for 15 years. Almost 2 years ago we found kittens on the playground at school, too young to eat or care for themselves. And enter sucker ... me ... who adopted them because no one else would. 
2. My new favorite passion this summer is gardening. I get so excited to check every day for new veggies :) 
3. I've always wondered what it would be like to be an interior designer instead of a teacher. 
4. If I could live anywhere in the world, I would live somewhere in the Caribbean (as long as my entire family and all of my friends would more there too...)   
5. I'm addicted to Pinterest.
6. I love animal print ... especially ZEBRA!
7. Beginning blogging has been one of the most inspirational things I've done so far in teaching.

5)  Nominate 15 other bloggers for the award.

   1. School Supply Junk @ True Confessions of a School Supply Junky 
   2. Kelly @ Fabulous in Fourth
   3. Vicky @ Traditions, Laughter, and Happily Ever After
   4. Jen @ 2nd Grade Glance
   5. Carmela @ The Diary of a Teachaholic
   6. Jenna @ Diving into Learning
   7. Miss 2nd Grade
   8. Amy @ Step into 2nd Grade with Mrs. Lemons

Ok, seriously I know it says 15, but it took me an hour and a half to get this far? Is this normal??!! I was trying to find bloggers that have not received the award before, and so many of you are SO awesome, that you've received tons of awards. So, I think I'm going to quit. I'm tired and need to sleep!

6)  When nominating, include a link to their site.

7)  Let other bloggers know they've been nominated.