Free Things for Your Classroom!

Who doesn't love free stuff!  We all know when it comes to our classroom that teachers spend an extreme amount of money.  I would be terrified if I added up the amount.  Recently in switching my room to flexible seating, I came across something I knew would benefit my kiddos that there was just no way I could afford.

I initially had those $5 Ikea stools which after many broken ones became $5 stools from 5 and below.  Although my kids loved the stools, they still were constantly tipping or wiggling in them.  I knew I needed a better solution.  Hokki stools - have you seen them?  They are amazing.  Helps the littles get the wiggles out while still being able to concentrate.  I have to be honest...I concentrate better on them.  They are so sturdy too!  As wonderful as they are, they are also way out of my price range.

I had seen a few teaching blogs that mentioned Donors Choose but I hadn't truly looked into them.  I decided this was the time.  Let me tell NEED to do it!  It was so simple.  And so fast!  I was amazed at how many people want to help donate to your classroom.  My projects was filled within a week!  We now have 5 Hokki stools for our reading area.  The kids wish they had them for their actual seats too!  I will most definitely be using Donors Choose in the future.  I suggest you do too!

We do not have to become broke furnishing our classrooms!  :)
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Balance and Literature Circles

How do you all do it?  I was so excited to start this blogging/product creating process.  I knew reasonably I wouldn't be able to post all that often...but come on!  I am finishing up my first quarter of school this Friday!  I think I've blogged twice...and they were ones I started before school even started!  Between teaching, my 8 month old, and keeping up a house, I feel like I'm drowning.  Let alone add in time to blog or create products!  I have so many things I use in my classroom that I want to get up for others to be able to use in theirs.  Hopefully that happens...slowly but surely.  I can't help but think my spare time is better spent with my baby as he will not be a baby forever!

To all of you teacher/parent/bloggers I bow down to you.  You are amazing.  Please tell me your secrets!

Literature circles!  I love them, don't you?  I remember as a college student literature circles were the most exciting thing.  I love books, I love reading, and I love talking about what I'm reading!  I decided immediately I was going to implement them when I became a teacher.

Generally, I start out using literature circles at the beginning of the year with my above grade level kids.  This is a great added challenge for them.  As the year progresses,  I teach the structure to all of my students.  Yes, even my lowest!  The wonderful thing about literature circles is that you can use ANY book with them!  This is a product I use in my classroom every day.

Literature circles are a fantastic way to help your students increase their comprehension and take ownership over their reading! I am constantly on the lookout for sets of books on sale so I can add them to my literature circle stash! Scholastic always sells sets of 6 in their monthly fliers if you are in need of some.  In this pack I have included directions on how I run literature circles in my room, 6 literature circle role recording sheets with directions, and bookmarks.

The 6 roles:
*Circle Captain - leads the group during the circle and comes up with "Thick" questions to ask the group members
*Cool Connector - makes "text to text," "text to self," and "text to world" connections to the reading
*Super Summarizer - creates a summary of the pages read
*Voracious Vocabulary Keeper - finds words they do not know, seem important, or think others would need help with and looks up the definition
*Phenomenal Predictor - makes predictions about what they think will happen next and explains why they think that
*Impressive Illustrator - illustrates and explains their favorite part of the reading

I have included 2 sets of bookmarks. One set has the first 5 roles each student would have filled out and the others are blank for you to write what works for your groups! When I magically have more time I will add the set of bookmarks with 6 spots as well.  I use groups of 5 in my room which is why that is what I uploaded first!

How I run my circles;
    Each Monday I meet with my groups briefly to decide together how many pages they should be reading and assign roles.  I have the order of their roles already typed on their bookmarks, but I use this time to hand out the recording sheets and make sure there are no questions over the new roles.  They spend the rest of the week working on reading the assigned pages/chapters and filling out their job’s recording sheet.  This gives them an independent task while I can use the time to meet with my struggling readers.  On Friday, we meet for the literature circle.  I act as a student/observer while the “Circle Captain” sits in my chair at the reading table and leads the group.

    I write the students’ names at the top of the bookmarks and print/laminate them for durability.  I then use the trick of writing information on them with permanent marker that I can erase over the weekend using dry—erase markers.  They keep this in their books at all times.  It also helps me keep track of who has done what job already.  Depending on the number of students in my groups I change the order of jobs.  I have given an example that I am using this year for my groups of 5 students.  I have also included blank ones you can write on or add text boxes to.

Click on any of the pictures above to head to my store!  I hope you are able to find this useful for your classrooms!
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Classroom Reveal - 2getherWeAreBetter Linkup

Click on the banner to join in on this fun linkup!  

I must say I am pretty happy with how my classroom has turned out this year.  That being said...I know I will change it at least a bit next summer.  I have never had my classroom look the same two years in a row and I'm sure neither have you!  We actually started the first week of August, so some of the pictures are from this summer before kiddos and some are once school had already started as each weekend I changed a few things once I had gotten to know this years class and what would/wouldn't work for them.  Some of these pictures show parts of my bulletin boards that I explained in more detail in this post.  If there is something you wanted to know where it came from or questions you had that I don't answer here, be sure to check back there!

This is the showcase board outside of our classroom.  Each student has their number on an apple that is attached to a clothespin.  They can hang up any piece or combination of pieces of their work here to show off!  The kids love having a say in what they get to put out.  To start I always put our second grade goals that we write at the beginning of the year.  This picture was taken pretty early on so there isn't a lot out there yet!

Next up is our Monster Club board!  I know I had this board in my other post as well but I just wanted to show how many students had already taken part!  My class is directly in the middle.  By week 3 of school I already had 12 kiddos who did extra work and made the monster club!  As of today one of my students is only one star away from reaching the hall of fame already!  I am super pumped about this!  (Yes...I said pumped...)

This is what the setup of my desks look like at the moment.  This is the third setup this year already.  It is a tough class and I kept playing around with different formations to see what worked best for them.  This seems to be the winner for now!  The group bins in the middle hold their "In Progress" folders we use for work that we have not finished yet or will keep referring back to.  This includes things such as their SuperSpeed Math, Word Collectors, and other unfinished work.  I also keep their Reader's Response Journals and dry erase boards in these bins.  Next to them we have the group pencil bin for when students need a new pencil.  I am very structured and only let students sharpen in the morning so I do not want them wandering the room to find a new pencil.  I do not have supply crates on my groups like many teachers.  My students all have a pencil box in which they keep their supplies in their desk.  Each year I buy extra to ensure all of my students have a place for their things.  This is extra important this year as their computers are now housed in their desks without cases!  Eek!

These area few images from our family room.  I am LOVING my new organization of my classroom library into topics/genres instead of levels.  The kids seem to have a much easier time finding books they want to read quickly!  Which is definitely a good thing considering how many books I have.  My green chair is where I sit while reading to them or doing a CAFE mini-lesson.  My kids get to sit there during Read to Self when they are Student of the Week.  My calendar area looks so bare!  Now I have the students names under their birthday months and we have been in school for 4 weeks already!  These counters also house some important items for the kids.  Their book boxes, the book hospital, pencil sharpening stations, and my Check for Understanding checkmarks are located here.

If you haven't noticed already my room has enormous everything.  Enormous bulletin boards and enormous storage.  I love that they utilized every inch possible, but I must say for this short teacher, constantly getting out my stepladder or borrowing a ladder can get cumbersome.  But...yes I am lucky!  The students have numbers on their closets so I don't have to change them each year.  There is also room for me to store manipulatives on the top shelf of their closets.  To be honest a lot of the top cabinets are empty.  I'm a bit of a minimalist and if I don't use it, it's gone!  By the door I store my lunch in the room passes as well as my bathroom chart.  The area by the sink houses our clipboards and Tigger Talk.  This is an idea I edited from Miss DeCarbo!  It is also where we keep our class pet.  It's a little hard to see, but he is a fake goldfish.  We are not allowed to have pets in our classroom so my mother bought me the next best thing as a joke.  And the kids love it!  Each year they vote on a name for him and then I use him as our whole class positive behavior system.  Whenever the class as a whole does something great, the bowl gets a scoop of water.  (Yes, he's a magic fish who doesn't need water.)  Once the fishtank is full, we have a celebration!

My teacher desk is basically only in use when planning without students.  This area houses my filing cabinet filled with my unit plans.  I also have any teacher resources I use back here including lots of picture books I use to teach my lessons or as read alouds.  I am a Tigger and tiger fanatic so there are lots of stuffed animals filling the tops of my shelves.  Students can buy the chance to have a stuffed animal with them for the day as part of my store on Fridays.

This area is quite different than years past.  Normally this is where my computer cart is housed.  However this year our wonderful (very secondary minded) head administrators decided our elementary students (K-4) should take home their iPads/Macbooks every single day...chargers included.  Not that our entire school has internet at home...but um...yeah.  So at the moment I have stolen a few kids chargers (as we won't have extras except for my personal one for 27 students) since I am meeting with their parents this week to discuss responsible use and consequences for breaking the computers before they get to start taking them home.  In our school K and 1 have iPads while 2-4 have Macbook Airs.  This table provides me a place for kids to sit while their computers are charging, bins for turning things in, and a place for their lunch hexagons to go before they put them in the chart each morning.

My small group table was currently half set up for Meet the Teacher night in this picture.  However, this is where I meet with small groups during Reading Block or Reading Success/Intervention time.  Last year I purchased stools from Ikea.  I love them!  We have large classes and it was impossible for me to fit enough students around the table with our old chairs.  These are super cheap!  However, I had to replace a few this summer after coming back from maternity leave to broken stools so they may not last too long when kids are rough with them.  On the back counter you can also see part of our homework folders (post on that later), math center bins, and their mailboxes.  These shelves are where I store all of my small group items as well as the students coin boxes and store items.

Whew!  I think that is it for now!  For a more detailed look at my bulletin boards and the front of my room be sure to check back on my last #2getherWeAreBetter post!

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Assess Me Week 2 Linky

Well, summer is officially over for me.  Tomorrow is teacher work day as well as Meet the Teacher Night at my school.  We start school the next day.  We are starting a balanced calendar this year so it is extra early.  If I'm being honest with myself I know I expected more than was probably possible with myself between a baby, blogging, TpT creating, a classroom, and my family.  I would like to say I will be able to blog once a week and make a product once a week...but realistically...who knows!

For some last minute fun before school starts I am linking up with Rachel from the Tattooed Teacher for another week of her Assess Me linky.  Make sure you click the image below to take your test!

This week I need a little more space to explain some of my answers.

Jeans: I am very much a jeans girl.  I like to have a fancy top once in awhile, but definitely prefer jeans.  Fridays we can wear jeans to school and I have to say it is automatically my favorite day simply for that reason.  I feel so much more like me!
Earrings: I am not a jewelry girl.  I know, I know, a teacher not obsessed with Kendra Scott???  I wear earings and my wedding ring.  That's it.  Well, and my aunt gave me a toe ring recently...I'm still iffy on that one.
Big Pimpin': Original is best.
Silver: Silver, always silver.  Not a gold fan at all.
City or Country: Completely depends on my mood.  I love the peacefulness of the country, but love the options in the city.
Online or in Store: Clothes - in store (have to try it on).  Anything else - online for sure!
Baths: Not that it happens much, but who doesn't love a long relaxing bubble bath?!?!
Open Book: If I know you, I'm fairly open with you.  If I don't...I'm super shy and reserved.
Busy Bee: I get bored easily...always on the go.
Breakfast or Dinner: How about breakfast for dinner??  Or Thai food...mmmmm
Tea or Coffee: I hate both.  And pop while I'm at it.  I am one of the few teachers who doesn't run off caffeine.  If I'm tired...I'm tired.  My husband drinks enough caffeine for the both of us.  ;)
Early Bird: I can't stand to sleep in very long.  What a waste of a day!
Done Up: I don't get done up very often but I always feel better when I do.
Thunder or Lightning: Rain is soothing.  The others...not so much.
Flats: I can't walk in heels.  It's more like falling.  But they're soooo cute :(
Car: I'm not much of a fan of any...would rather walk/run.  But, if I had to choose car for sure.  I have motion sickness and dislike being in one for long distances.
The New Girl: I'm at least a season behind, but when I had time to watch was hilarious.
Central Park: I love being outside.  Now if only we could get rid of the bugs...

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Bulletin Boards 2GetherWeAreBetter Linkup!

Ah, bulletin boards.  Most of us have a love/hate relationship with them.  When I started decorating my room before my first year as a teacher I was completely lost when I looked at my bulletin boards.  As you will see in the pictures...they're huge.  They go to the ceiling and take up much of the room on the walls.  We basically have 1 enormous bulletin board in the classroom that spans 2 walls.  Then we have another GIGANTIC bulletin board ourside our classroom and yet another one for all 2nd grade classrooms to share.  I had no idea how I was going to fill these!  Well let me tell has never been a problem.  :)

Here are some quick pictures so you can get an idea of how many bulletin boards I have.  First these are in the hallway.  The first we share with all 2nd grade and the second is mine alone.  I want to say we figured out they were about 15 feet wide.  The bottom two pictures are from inside my room. 

 First I want to tell you some of the most important things I have learned about creating bulletin boards.

1. Do not make it something you have to change constantly throughout the year.  Be honest...we don't have time for that.  Not with the millions of other things we are busy doing on a daily basis.

2. Make sure they are something you will use and refer to constantly.  Just putting things up to fill up space...not a good idea.  This was definitely something I struggled with my first few years due to the sheer size of the boards.

3. Fabric, fabric, fabric!  Did I mention fabric?  After years of putting up new bulletin board paper due to fading, I finally heard about this simple idea.  I'm on the 2nd year with my fabric and it still looks as new as the day I (with many helpers) put it up.  I have heard bedsheets work for this, but I personally went to JoAnn Fabrics.  They give teachers a discount!  Plus, I bought the colors that were on sale!  Love it!  TIP: DO NOT BUY PATTERNED FABRIC  Oh. My. Goodness.  That took forever to line up and there are lots of spots that I hide with my computer cart...

Now for the details of my boards.  :)

The board we share as a second grade we use for our Monster Mastery Club.  We got this idea from Amanda Madden over at Teaching Maddeness.  I do believe she got the idea from someone as well and adapted it to her monster theme.  We adapted it as well to fit with Indiana and our needs.  For this the kids have "extra credit" options they can do as part of their homework.  There are 80 choices.  When the students complete one they bring in the paper and turn it into us the next morning.  They then get a monster to put on this board.  For each mastery club item they complete afterwards another star is added to their monster.  Once students reach 15 stars they are then moved the the Hall of Fame!  The plan is for them to stay in the hall of fame indefinitely...of course a lot more went for it then we expected the first year.  So that may take some altering.  :)

This is the board I use to display student work outside my classroom.  I wanted a way to show what my students were working on but without the hassle of constantly changing my board.  This was my solution.  I hot glued tacks to the back of clothespins that I put on apples.  I then pushed the tacks into the bulletin board.  It has looked slightly different through the years depending on my classroom decor, but with the same concept.  I use clothespins for the students to hang their work from.  I have used paperclips in the past but they do not hold up as well as clothespins.  The students decide what they want to hang up and what they want to take home.  Some students keep many items hanging while others prefer to only do one at a time.  It is completely up to them!  No work on my part and yet they feel ownership and pride over their space!

I apologize if it is hard to see the pictures!  This board is where I display my CAFE and Daily 5 anchor charts.  As you can see the CAFE is currently empty.  As the year starts we will fill it up as we learn the strategies.  I have this in our "family room" which is where I read to the students and do my mini-lessons.  It is perfect placement to refer back to ones we have already worked on.  My CAFE charts are from Christina Bainbridge, Elizabeth Walen, and Natalie's Nook.  I love that most CAFE and Daily 5 things are freebies!  I also have some parts of speech signs my students refer to from Lindsey Hill.

This bulletin board is where my students behavior cards are kept.  I use a simple card system for my behavior management.  The "we're learning about" sign is where I put anchor charts we create during the week based on what we are currently working on.  The genres signs are from Aynsley Patton.  

This bulletin board is where I hold our calendar meeting during math.   It contains the birthdays as well as typical calendar activities.  Once my class list is finalized I add the students' names under the months for their birthdays.

Across the front of my room I have my alphabet, number line, and my Whole Brain Teaching classroom rules.  You can grab these here in my TPT store.

My final bulletin board is where I learned about what a terrible idea patterned fabrics are.  I'm not sure if you can tell from the picture but there is a huge awkward line down the 3rd column of letters as well as 3 tiny rectangles in the bottom left where I had issues getting fabric to line up pattern wise.  It was not fun.  Trust me.  This is similar to a word wall.  I am trained in Orton-Gillingham and use that with my students.  Therefore, I chose to implement a red word wall instead of a typical word wall.  Red words are words that do not follow the rules and you cannot spell phonetically by sounding out.  Often times they are very similar to most sight words.

Whew!  Thanks for sticking with me through that LONG post.  Make sure to link up your bulletin board ideas with #2GetherWeAreBetter!

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Assess Me: Get to Know You Linky

Quick, fun post today!  I am linking up with Rachel from The Tattooed Teacher today for her new Assess Me linky!

How fun are these!?!  Make sure you head to her blog to join up!

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Making Connections and a WBT Freebie!

Making connections are one of the reading strategies my students seem to love the most.  As I'm sure you well know, elementary kiddos love to talk.  And talk, and talk, and talk.  When they make connections to what they are reading, they get to tell you stories about other things.  Win-win.  They love talking about things they are reminded of...and we know it is helping to improve their comprehension!

I always have posters in my classroom year round with the types of connections students can make.  We refer to them every time someone makes a connection.  In the past I have placed these low enough that I could have the students put post-it notes with their connections underneath the appropriate heading.  I have also had them make paper chains with their connections that I connect below the posters.  The kids love to see which one wins.  (It's almost always text to self)

I added my posters to TpT along with a quick recording sheet I use when I am just starting to introduce connections to my students.  Click on the picture to hop over to my store to grab it for only $1.50!

At the very end of the school year last year I went to a quick informational session about Whole Brain Teaching.  It has definitely peaked my interest!  I need to spend more time researching it to see how much of it I want to incorporate into my classroom.  To start with I have decided to use the Super Speed Math for my fact practice this year.  You can get that here from their website.  It is under freebies but you do have to create an account to get access.  I will keep you updated on how that goes.

Secondly, I have decided to utilize an adapted version of their rules.  My classroom has always had one simple rule, "Respect."  In's great!  But, I never refer back to it and I think my students forget it is even our rule.  This year I want to use the 5 Whole Brain Teaching rules with the motions.  We know that students are more likely to remember things the more ways they are putting it into their brain.  My hope is by moving and saying the rules they will "stick" all year!  I plan on having them say these rules with me at the beginning of each day for at least the first month or so of school.  From there it will probably depend on when it is needed.

I looked around for rule posters on TpT and didn't find any that fit both the changes I wanted to make and my classroom decor.  So here is your freebie!  Click on the picture to grab it!

I have included the following rules:

Rule 1: Follow directions quickly.
Rule 2: Raise your hand for permission to speak.
Rule 3: Raise your hand for permission to leave your seat.
Alt. Rule 3: Listen carefully to the person speaking.
Rule 4: Make smart choices.
Rule 5: Keep your dear teacher happy.
Alt Rule 5: Keep your dear teachers happy.

I switched up rule #3 simply because there are certain things I have my kids leave their seats for without permission.  Getting kleenex, throwing away trash, and getting a new pencil from row bin are a few of the things that I do not want them interrupting lessons to ask permission to do. 

Do any of you use part of Whole Brain Teaching?  What do you think? 
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