Currently December

Currently December

 

Geez…I really have been meaning to write here more often, but I keep thinking that I will “do it tomorrow” – don’t we all know how that goes. 🙂

I do have much to write about, but it will have to wait for another day. My kiddos are SO excited about our RACK-ing and I love seeing their excitement! More about that later!

6 Traits of Writing – Ideas

This year is my 2nd year teaching writing. While I have been here for four years, the first two were spent teaching math to the 4th graders while the 4th grade teacher taught Language Arts to my 5th graders. We switched last year for a number of reasons, but because of the switch, last year’s writing curriculum was a bit scattered.

I knew what “paper” was coming next – personal narrative, how-to essay, formal letter, etc. – but didn’t really throw in much “instruction”, per se. I mean, we had several discussions on good introductions/conclusions, and at my school we use Four Square organizers so we spent the first few weeks refreshing the kids’ memories on how to use a Four Square. But there wasn’t much else. And I didn’t like that!

After much thought over the summer, I decided to implement teaching the 6 traits of writing. During the big back-to-school sale at TeachersPayTeachers, I purchased Down Under Teacher’s Six Traits VOICES Bulletin Board Headers and Cards. I created a bulletin board on the back of my bookcases after doing some rearranging (wish I had more wall space, but you gotta work with what you have!). I also purchased Ruth Culham’s 6+1 Traits of Writing to guide my teaching.

I started out the year by discussing the trait of Voice. I was going to start with Ideas but I had some great ideas for Voice that I really wanted to use to get the kids excited for writing!

To begin our discussion, we first talked briefly about each of the 6 writing traits and why we would be learning about them. We talked about how they can make us better writers if we are intentional about including them in our writing!

I love and have always loved the book The True Story of the Three Little Pigs by Jon Scieszka and couldn’t pass up the opportunity to use it! If you don’t know this story, it is a MUST read!! It tells the story of the three little pigs from the perspective of the wolf, who wants to make you think he is innocent. I shared this story with my class, asking them to pay attention to how the author made you feel about the wolf, the main character.

After reading, we talked about how the author was trying to portray the wolf; most of them agreed that he is seen as an innocent victim that we should feel sorry for. I described how this is the “voice” that the author chose to use in his book. He could have made the wolf continue to seem evil, or maybe made it a mysterious story, but he chose a voice of pity and innocence.

I then had the students choose a fairy tale that they could rewrite from the perspective of a “misrepresented” character. I reminded them to think about the voice they wanted to use – how did they want to portray their character? These were SO well done! I gave them about 30-45 minutes total over the course of a few days and allowed students to share when everyone had finished. Some of the fairy tales my students did included “Snow White”, writing from the queen’s perspective, “Hansel and Gretel”, writing from the witch’s perspective, and “Little Red Riding Hood”, writing from the wolf’s perspective. I was quite impressed with how well they did and hope to share some of them with you as soon as I collect their journals in which they are written!

The next activity we did I got from Ruth Culham’s book. I used Spotify to play for the students multiple versions of the song “Hey Jude” by the Beatles.  I love this website because you can search for and play full versions of songs without having to pay for them or download them! I used versions by Elvis, Bing Crosby, Earl Scruggs, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra, as well as the original. As I played each version, the students wrote down thoughts about each one – images they got when listening, words that described the version, etc. After listening to all of the versions, we made a big list of everything the students came up with. They tended to enjoy the more upbeat, exciting versions rather than some of the ones that made you feel like you were going to fall asleep 🙂

I asked the students how listening to music can relate to writing. They realized that, even if I gave each student the same topic, no one would write the exact same thing – everyone’s work would “sound” different, just as each version of the same song was so different from the others! I think this is really what drove the point home.

We then made a master list on chart paper of all different voice descriptors (ideas can be found in Ruth Culham’s book) which I will leave posted in our room throughout the year.

As a last fun activity, I read the books Diary of a Worm and Diary of a Fly by Doreen Cronin. We thought about the voice the author used in each of these – silly, humorous, sarcastic at times – and then I gave the students an opportunity to choose an animal’s diary to write.

I am so excited to move on to all of the other traits. In fact, we started Ideas yesterday, but that will have to wait for another post! I really believe this will pay off in the students’ writing.

How do you teach the 6 traits? I’d love to hear more ideas!!

PS: You should most definitely go check out my friend Jenny’s blog! She and I went to Grove City together and now she is teaching 1st grade at my school. Her classroom is the CUTEST and I am so excited that she is joining the teacher blogging world! Yay Mrs. B!

Classroom Management

I posted this last school year but am re-posting to join up with What the Teacher Wants’ Behavior Management Linky Party!

 

 

 

Classroom management is something I struggled with during my first student teaching placement in a 3rd grade classroom. I simply did not yet have the confidence needed to discipline the kids, especially with my co-op always in the room (I’m one of those people who works better without other adults watching me…). It was a struggle, but I eventually found my groove. There is simply nothing a college class can do to prepare you for an actual classroom in terms of management!

When I entered my next placement in a 6th grade classroom, I was even more concerned because I wasn’t sure how 6th graders would react to being disciplined, and I didn’t want to be that teacher! But surprisingly, dealing with the older kids was even easier for me. I showed them right away that I would respect them as long as they respected me. This seemed like such a small thing at the time, but it made a world of a difference. I had very few problems with these kiddos and I knew that I was starting to find my stride as a teacher.

Enter my own classroom. I knew I needed some sort of procedure that would be implemented from the start that was fair, easy to handle, and fun for the kids. Pulling together a few ideas from classrooms I had observed over the years, I came up with KICKBACK Time!

Every student has the above sticker on the corner of his/her desk. I simply used easy peel post-it stickers and printed the KICKBACK letters on labels. Each letter in the word KICKBACK stands for two minutes of free time on Friday afternoons, meaning that every Friday afternoon the students receive 16 minutes of free time. However, if a student misbehaves, disobeys, or is other disrespectful, they will be asked to cross off a letter, resulting in the loss of two minutes of free time. For every letter crossed off, they continue to lose two minutes of free time. They are also required to fill out a form that explains why they lost a letter and how they will fix that behavior. This form gets sent home and signed by a parent so that the parents are aware of what happened in school that day:

KICKBACK Behavior Note

Students not only lose letters for misbehaving but also for not being prepared in class. For example, I have had several students forget to bring their homework planners in from their backpack every day. This was unacceptable in 5th grade, so I started to take away KICKBACK letters every time they forgot. And has it happened since?? Not once!

The kids love the free time at the end of a busy week. They are allowed to do anything they’d like to in the classroom – draw on the board, play games (I have a good selection of board games), go on the computer (I draw names every week for this), sit and talk, read a book, etc. Sometimes we take a vote and go to the gym, or the roof if it is a nice day out (the roof is a huge area on top of the building where the kids can run around = don’t worry, it is completely fenced in and 100% safe!), but usually we end up hanging out in the classroom.

If a student has lost a letter (or 2, or 3…), they are asked to sit at their desk quietly until their time is up. I keep meaning to pick up a timer so that they can visually see how much time they have left. After they get up, we quickly talk about their wrong behavior and how it can be fixed.

Now that I am in my 4th year of the system, I feel like I finally have it down to a T. I am not afraid to take away letters like I sometimes was in my 1st year, and I know the students benefit from the consequence because I have seen a decrease in the negative behaviors when letters are taken away. They love KICKBACK time and don’t want to miss out on the fun!

So that’s how I deal with management issues. What is your management procedure??

Welcome to My Classroom Tour!!

Whew, I survived the whirlwind of the first day of school! Does anyone else feel like it is one of the toughest days of school?? I love love LOVE meeting my new kiddos (though I knew most of them – one of the benefits of teaching in a small school!) but getting back into the swing of things with no real schedule is always a big difficult. So much of the day was filled with discussing policies and procedures for 5th grade, but I tried to break up the “boring”-ness with some fun too!

Anyways, now that school has actually started, I figured it was about time to give you the grand tour of my 5th grade classroom – welcome!!

Here is my classroom! This is the view from the door – notice the lovely Big Lots rug that is all over the teacher bloggy world…I love the pop of color in the middle of my room:

 

This is my computer area to the right of the door, as well as my WOW Work display board:

 

 

WOW Work board up close – I actually hot-glued the clothespins to the board because it is actually a chalkboard and there is no way to get them to stay up there any other way!!:

 

My desk area, to the right of the computer area:

 

 

 

Calendar area behind my desk. I used to have my fridge back here too (notice the plastic cabinets in the bottom left of the picture…), but I had to move it due to safety violations with the plugs…haha. So the pictures that used to be on the fridge of my previous classes are now posted above my calendar:

 

 

My Writing Process pencil – this used to be on a bulletin board near my bookshelves, but after some rearranging, this is where it ended up! The door on the right leads to the 4th grade room:

 

 

Here’s the back corner of my classroom with the doorway to the 4th grade room, my unit bulletin board, class supplies, books relating to our unit, and games:

 

 

Here’s a close-up of the bookshelf and surrounding area, including my newly-moved fridge. This month we are obviously studying the universe (if you didn’t figure that out from the previous picture’s bulletin board!) so all of the books on the top shelf here relate to this topic:

 

 

This is my early finishers spot, on the wall caddy corner to the unit bulletin board. Here I have ideas for the students if they finish an assignment early and need something to do. I included ideas for both Language Arts and Math (excuse my hand…I forgot to hang up 3M hooks today!):

 

 

I keep supplies for our literature centers next to the back bookshelf. We do centers once (sometimes twice) a week. Students can work 3 to a center and they include topics from “Fiction Books” and “Poetry” to “Imagination Station” and “Typing”. Many of these ideas I got from a book about literature centers (but of course I can’t remember the name of it now…):

 

 

The kiddos’ desks all set up and ready for them to come! I always get them small pencil holders that are designed for lockers and stick them to the side of their desks filled with a few small goodies, but this year the magnets would NOT stick! It was terrible! I decided to velcro them to their desks instead and this has worked great so far:

 

 

The front of the room with Morning Work posted for the first day. The area on the right of the board is where we write our homework every day:

 

 

Here’s a close-up of the board with the cursive alphabet above, a few motivational posters, and the brain teaser of the week:

 

 

I ran out of wall space, so I did a little rearranging and pulled some bookcases away from the wall – voila! Instant wall space! I purchased this awesome writing set from TpT and I can’t wait to use it here. You can also see my tired words pocket chart that I made last year:

 

 

So excited for this classroom Boggle board I made!! I was inspired by this Boggle board and was pleasantly surprised to see that our school Cricket had the exact cartridge I needed to make the cute scalloped background for each letter. I laminated 3 sets of the letters and keep them in a purple basket, along with the recording charts, below the board:

 

 

Here is my library/reading area. I just got that chair from Big Lots for $25 and the kids love it already! I have tons of books – I am and have always been an avid reader so I love having lots of options for my students to read. They are organized by AR levels, but the kids are encouraged to read based on their interests too. I got the blue chair at Big Lots last week and my students were loving it all day:

 

 

Last but not least, here is my beautiful lovely stunning wall of wood! Isn’t she a beauty? Oh boy…haha. The closet doors on both side of the “nook” will be filled with reading/writing vocabulary and math vocabulary. The bulletin board in the nook is one that I do every year – the students decorate puzzle pieces that we hang up on the 2nd day of school. I also have the always wonderful chart paper posted here which is wonderful and gets lots of use:

 

 

So that’s my classroom! Thanks for taking a tour and checking it out. Any suggestions or ideas or comments??

 

 

 

 

Freebie Friday!

Yesterday was the BUSIEST day of my week, so I literally left the apartment at 8:15 AM and did not get back to it until 11:30 PM! It was so crazy, but I made some money babysitting, got some work done in my room, and helped pull off another successful performance of my church’s summer drama program 🙂 Of course, in the midst of the business, I had no time to sit down and write my Friday blog entry for the last day of Teacher Week!

Anyways, yesterday was Freebie Friday; sorry you’re just getting the post today!

 

I have about 20 items up on Teachers Pay Teachers, two of which are completely FREE!

The first one is a popular download – Figurative Language bookmarks.

 

This is only the front – the back includes hyperbole, idioms, assonance, and onomatopoeia. I use these to go along with my Figurative Language PowerPoint. After the kids fill them out, I laminate them so that they can refer back to them throughout the year!

My second freebie is a PowerPoint relating to the Revolutionary War. Each November, we study this era of American History, looking at what led to the war, all of the important people involved, the many battles of the war, and so on. To teach this unit, I created PowerPoints for each major lesson. The “freebie” is my PowerPoint about the colonists reaction to the tax enacted by the King of England, dealing with No Taxation without Representation, an important phrase during the Revolution!

Can’t wait to check out all of your freebies – thanks for stopping by!!

Therapeutic Thursday!

Wow, it’s been a busy week. I am currently helping with my church’s summer drama program and of course the 4 performances happen to be this week. I have been going into my classroom around 9 or 9:30 (or earlier!) and not getting home until 9 or 10 at night! Man, I’m definitely CRASHING on Sunday!! My kiddos don’t come until Wednesday so thank goodness I have an extra two days next week 🙂

I have been slowly making progress in my classroom – yay! In order to gain some more wall space, I used the back of two bookcases pushed together – covered them with paper, added a border, and now I have a new “bulletin board”. Thanks to Pinterest for that idea! Unfortunately our big laminator has been out of commission for a week or so, which means I will have even more to do once it’s back up and running, but I have found plenty of stuff to do in the meantime of course!

So today is Therapeutic Thursday…and I could use a good dose of “therapy” tonight!! I got into my classroom around 8:30, had a meeting this morning from 9-12, then worked in my classroom until 3:30. I then had to run to church for a dress rehearsal/cast dinner, and finally had coffee with a friend who was visiting from out of town – and here I am, home at 10:30! But I couldn’t go to bed without adding my post for the day 🙂

When I get home from a long and exhausting day of work, here’s what I like to do. First thing I do is change into comfy clothes, like my sorority sweatpants or comfy shorts.

Next I check personal email, Facebook, and Google Reader, where I catch up on all of my favorite teacher blogs 🙂

Then, when the hubby gets home, we either make dinner or go out to eat, and spend the rest of the evening together!

 

I love to watch TV to unwind in the evenings. We don’t have cable – our antenna serves us well 🙂 My favorite “guilty pleasure” shows are Revenge, The Bachelor/Bachelorette/Bachelor Pad, and Glee. I also love Once Upon a Time, Modern Family, and Parks and Recreation. I watch Master Chef, Bunheads, The Glee Project, and a few other shows on Hulu. Love that site!

 

I play volleyball every Tuesday night at a local church, which is a great way to unwind and get out all of that pent up frustration after a bad day!

Finally, I love to spend 15-30 minutes reading in bed before I actually go to sleep. This is one of the most relaxing parts of my day 🙂 Right now I am reading through Lemony Snicket’s “A Series of Unfortunate Events” – my students love love LOVED this series last year, so I decided to see what all of the hype was about. They are great books!! I am on #10 and look forward to reading a little more every night 🙂

So that’s how I like to relax after a long day at work. Thanks for stopping by; see you tomorrow for Freebie Friday!!

Where I Teach Wednesday!

Linking up with Blog Hoppin’ again today for Day 3 of Teacher Week! Thanks for visiting!

Well, there’s good news and bad news for today’s post. The bad news is that my classroom is nowhere NEAR done since they just finished waxing the floors yesterday. The good news is that my kiddos don’t come for another week!! Thank goodness!

So since I can’t really show you too many pictures yet, plan to come back in the next week or so for a finished classroom tour! But for now, these will have to do:

This is my Pinterest-inspired Writer’s Workshop pencil that allows me to quickly see where each student is in the writing process.

My essential questions for September are posted near the door to my classroom. We post new questions every month!

Welcome to 5th Grade!

The bulletin board for my first unit, all about God’s Great Universe

This is the view of my classroom from the door. Yeah, not so pretty right now!

I love how big my classroom is, especially compared to a few others in our school! There are also tons of windows (there are two more off to the right of the picture!) which is both good and bad – the room is so bright and cheery when it is sunny, but that sun sure gets hot. It also makes it difficult to see the projector screen because of the glare. I also wish I had more wall space. I have so much more that I’d like to hang up but 2 of my walls are windows and a 3rd wall is mostly closets! But overall, I really enjoy my classroom.

So where exactly do I teach? I teach at a small Christian school in Pittsburgh, PA. We rent out space from a church in the South Hills. My first year out of college I spent subbing and was hired at this school to teach 5th grade the following year. I am getting ready to start my 4th year of having my own classroom – crazy!! I am so thankful to be in this amazing school with the best co-workers and students 🙂

Remember, check back soon for the updated classroom tour!!

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