Doodle & Think - A Great Way to End Your Week


Last year, I came across Doodle Art Alley, which has free printable inspirational quotes that are begging to be colored! I allowed students to color them our first week and then used them to decorate our cupboards throughout the year. It was a great way to brighten up our room!


This year, I decided to do things a little differently. My students have morning work each day that is a science daily review, because our fifth grade students are tested on 4th and 5th grade standards. The daily review keeps those fourth grade concepts fresh in their mind all year. Anyway, these reviews only go Monday through Thursday, so I needed some morning work for Friday. Since my fifth graders work hard all week, I wanted it to be something that was a little bit more relaxing. I thought about how coloring has become all the craze again and how there really isn't much time for coloring in fifth grade. Then I thought about these inspirational quotes and tried to think of a way that I could use them each Friday as their morning work without them being just about coloring. That's when I realized that my read-aloud and these quotes could be connected! 

Each Friday as part of our morning meeting, I read a different picture book. Each book has a different theme that can be applied to the choices that students make and the experiences that they have had. So I thought to myself, what if I pulled quotes that connect the stories that I read and I ask students to share what the quotes mean to them? That's when my Doodle and Think form was born! 

We started with  The Girl Who Never Made Mistakes by Mark Pett and Gary Rubinstein and students received one of the two quotes in the picture above. For morning work, they filled out the Doodle and Think Form, explaining what the quote means to them, and then they color the quote. After morning announcements, they bring their quotes and Doodle & Think forms to the carpet, I read the story, and then students are able to share what they wrote. We talk about how the quotes connected to the story and how they can apply the message to their own lives. These conversations have been rich, meaningful, and engaging. I couldn't ask for more. I really teach students to embrace mistakes as a part of learning, and the responses that they came up with showed me that they know the importance of a safe learning environment where mistakes are not something to be ashamed of. 

I have an elephant theme this year so I stocked up on elephant picture books. How I made it through 10 years without ever reading Elmer by David McKee is beyond me! I LOVE this little story and my students did too. What a great conversation we had about accepting each other and the beauty of being your own person. Since I have fifth graders, this turned in to a great conversation about not changing who you are because of peer pressure. Loved this! 

Continuing with my love of elephants, was Ellie by Mike Wu! My favorite response from this day was "great things come in small packages." Again, an adorable picture book, a great lesson, and a conversation that made me confident that these Friday Doodle & Thinks are so much more than coloring and a read-aloud. 

I am going to try to share my Doodle & Think with you each week. If you'd like to grab the Doodle & Think form, click below and download the file! Whether it's Friday, Monday, or just a random day, you'll enjoy the great conversations that come from this activity!




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Back to School Tidbits


First week…complete! I have such a wonderful group this year that I actually don't feel that "end of the first week" tired. Instead, I'm feeling excited and rejuvenated. I truly believe that it will be a fabulous year! In this post, I wanted to share a few tidbits that started the year off on the right foot! 

Each year, I create a welcome poem for my students. In the past, I've stuffed the bag with sugary treats and left the bag on student desks for open house. This year, I decided to change things up and write a poem that would include supplies that I wanted each student to start with. Instead of giving it to students at open house, it was waiting on their desks on the first day. That way I knew students would all start with what they needed. It was much cheaper to put together than the candy bags, too! If you'd like to grab this poem, you can find it here: Welcome Back to School Poem for Supplies

Since I still wanted to welcome my students with a little treat, I opted for gourmet lollipops. It turns out that CVS had them on sale, two for $1…score! I also bought welcome bracelets from Really Good stuff, added green tags and some twine and voila, a perfect welcome gift was created! 

Of course, I never leave the parents out! I like to give them a little treat too, so for the second year in a row, I gave them "parent vitamins" with a really cute saying for each color in a pack of M&M's. Parents got a big kick out of them! You can pull up a copy here: Parent Vitamins You'll notice that there are two pages of the same thing. That is because I print two pages to one page to make them small enough to fit on the bags. 
Our lovely fifth grade bulletin board. Student names are on the flowers and peace signs. I drew that mystery bus freehand, so please be kind, I am normally a stick figure kinda gal! How fun is that font? It's called Shagadelic! Love it! 

Inspired by an idea I found from Jessica at The Teaching Oasis, I put together a welcome gift for a new teacher that I get to mentor. She's a baseball fan like me, so I made it a baseball themed-basket! Read more about this idea from Jessica at The Teaching Oasis here: Welcome Basket






I'm hoping that you are all off to a wonderful start of the 2015-2016 year too! May each week be an opportunity for growth for you and your students!




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2015 Classroom Reveal

It's time to show off my beautiful classroom! I've gone with an elephant theme and at first I was nervous about it looking too young for fifth grade but now, I love, love, love it! It just might be my favorite theme ever! The color scheme continues to be lime green and blue, but I've popped a bit of red in there too and I think it's a great addition. I switched rooms from last year, which is actually the room I had for the first two years at my school. Are you ready? Let me give you a tour.


















So, the question is…


Thanks for checking out my classroom! I hope that you love it as much as I do! 


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SLANT Box Reveal




Last year, I discovered SLANT box exchanges when I was reading through Jameson's blog, Lessons With Coffee. SLANT stands for Sending Love Across the Nation to Teachers. It's a great way to make a teacher's day! Jameson works hard to pair people up. She sends you your partner's email, and you get a chance to get to know that teacher. For each pairing, there is a theme that participants must follow so your goal is to get to know your partner and then create a gift along that theme that will really brighten your partner's day. Jameson recently changed this to a bimonthly instead of monthly exchange, which was great because it gave me more time to interact with and get to know my partner, the lovely Nichole from The Craft of Teaching. I knew Nichole a little from a collaborative blog that we have both contributed to, but this gave me the chance to get to know who she was outside of the blogging and teaching that she does. Having extra time allowed me to really think about what I wanted to put together for her so that it felt personalized while still following the theme. I won't say more about the gift I gave her, because I know that she will be doing her reveal post soon too.

So let's talk about the AMAZING SLANT Box that I received from Nichole this week! Our theme was "summer jam" and so Nichole and I both agreed that we'd look at this as a way to extend the feeling of summer since teachers always feel like summer is over the second school begins. Nichole asked me lots of terrific questions, so I knew she was putting together a SLANT box that would be perfect for me, but it's actually even better than I expected. Take a look:


Nichole really captured me in this box, as it's filled with my favorite summer treats (Target mixed nuts, caramel popcorn, kettle corn, and even a gift card to Cold Stone). She put together an adorable photo album so that I can keep all of my summer memories inside. She paid attention to the fact that I LOVE to take a bubble bath to relax and that painting my nails is a Sunday ritual! To top that off, she grabbed a book that I already know I will love and the blue bucket that she put everything in perfectly matches my classroom theme! Nichole put together one truly AMAZING SLANT box. It brought me tons of smiles and I'm already indulging in the snacks! I cannot thank her enough for putting together such a wonderful box. I've truly been lucky because I've done the SLANT box exchange four times now, and each time has been a wonderful experience.

Huge thanks also to Jameson, for I know that she puts in tons of hard work and dedication to make SLANT box match-ups happen. If you are interested in learning more, or trying out an exchange, click the image below to find out more. It's a great way to get to know teachers across the nation, brighten their day, and have your day brightened too!




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Dollar Store Hack: Using Crates as Bookcases and NOT Ruining Your Books


In ten years of teaching and five different schools (military life), I've only once had enough bookcases for my giant classroom library. The first time I encountered this problem, I bought wire bookcases from Target and aside from the fact that they were less than fun to put together, they did their job. Shortly after that, I found some purple crates, which were much easier to put together.  I began to use them to hold my excess books that didn't fit on the shelves that were in my room. Since then, I've added additional shelves based on my color schemes and additional needs as my library grows and grows because yes, it's super challenging to not order tons and tons of books from Scholastic each month.

The problem I've encountered can be seen in the picture above. Whether it's a wire bookcase or a crate, there are lots of openings, which means that the books don't stand up or fit in the way that they would if you were using a regular wooden bookcase. For those that like things nice and neat like me, this can drive you a little bananas. I often see students attempting to take a book out, and the spine of the book getting stuck in one of the holes, which results in the student forcing it out and is not kind to the spine. So while I bought crates to keep my books safe, I've started to think that they are doing more harm than good. So this year I decided to do something I should have done ten years ago.

Enter the Dollar Store. Don't you just love how the Dollar Store has everything you need/don't need/can find a use for? Well, it turns out that the Dollar Store had just what I needed in the kitchen goods aisle. I present you the Flexible Chopping Mat, in a set of two bright and wonderful colors, one of which just happens to be part of my classroom color scheme. I currently have four crates being used, so I grabbed 4 packs so I could have 4 blue mats.


Back to the classroom I went and the fun began. 





Just $4.00 saved me a lot of money in book replacements and sanity too. It's also more aesthetically pleasing so it's definitely a win, win! Though I didn't use them now, I know those purple ones will come in handy in the future, especially since I still have my purple crates from my early years of teaching. I'm sure I'll use them someday when my theme includes purple again! 



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Setting Clear Behavior Expectations for a Successful School Year



I still remember my first teaching position. I took over a fifth grade class at the end of April. April 26th, 2005 to be exact. To say it was a challenge would be a giant understatement. I'm going to be honest, the first day, I just focused on breathing. I was completely overwhelmed and really had no idea how I was going to add structure to a class who had clearly gone without structure for the majority of their year. After a very chaotic first few days in which I felt quite defeated and had zero control of the class, I went home and wrote down all of my expectations for them. I then thought about how I would present them to the students since standing in front of the room and telling them my rules had clearly not worked. I began to work up different scenarios that my students could engage in, which would allow them to be a little silly, because I needed them on my side, but would also allow me to show them what my expectations were. I went in the next day and started our day by passing out different scenarios of bad behavior. The students acted them out and after each one, we discussed why the behavior was not correct, and then the students reenacted the same scenario with the correct behavior.

Ladies and gentlemen, it worked. The difference between day #1 and day #2 were night and day and every day after that was far better than the first. To be honest, even I was surprised. I learned something extremely valuable that day, that there is serious power in setting clear expectations.

So how hard is it to set clear expectations? Maybe harder than you think. If you consider my story, it wasn't that I didn't tell my students my expectations on the first day. I did. But I didn't show them. Sure, I stood there and talked "at" them about what I wanted them to do, but did I engage them in the conversation? No. Did I ask for their opinions on it? No. Did I involve them in the process of setting these expectations? No. What was different in my second attempt is that I did all of those things.
I not only engaged my students, but I asked them to show me the wrong, identify the right, and show me the appropriate behavior. We then had a huge discussion about what THEY learned and WE listed the classroom expectations that would make THEIR year a success. I made it about THEM, not me. At no point did I alienate them from the process. And you know what? It worked then and it continues to work.

So my advice?
1. Make students feel involved in the process.
2. Allow students to model expected behaviors. This will set the tone for your entire year, so you want the students to be engaged.
3. Write your rules together. Post them in the room after all students have added their signature to the rules that they helped you to create.
4. Present the rules not as a because the teacher said so, but instead as a you have to because you want to learn each day. Make it their non-negotiable, and then make it yours.

Keep in mind, clear expectations aren't just about the first day, they are about holding students responsible for following them every day, and being consistent. If you are not consistent with your expectations, your students won't be consistent with their behavior.

I'm including a freebie pack that includes 15 of the behavior scenarios that I've used and were created by a former colleague and I. They cover a number of different areas of the school (assemblies, hallways, cafeteria, etc). I've also added recording pages for students to use during and after they've completed their scenarios. I hope that this will be helpful as you kick off your new year. These are also great to pull out as a refresher after the long winter break, or if you find yourself taking over a classroom at the end of April, like me! :-)




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2015 Virginia Teacher Bloggers Meet-Up


Last Friday a group of 30 fabulous Virginia teacher bloggers {including myself!} descended upon the Jefferson Lakeside Country Club for an afternoon of networking, laughs, food, drinks, and some incredible swag and prizes! It was an incredible time, and well worth all of the planning and logistics that went into it. I want to share some of the experience with you!



First of all, I have to tell you how absolutely AMAZING all of our sponsors were to work with. If you are making any back-to-school purchases this year, I really urge you to consider purchasing from these businesses and individuals -- they truly value teachers and aren't afraid to show it!

A HUGE thank you goes especially to Educents (one of THE best companies around!) for helping with the costs of the meetup and providing some FANTASTIC swag! Make sure you check out their new Educents Wallet feature to get all of those resources for your classroom at a steep discount! If you sign-up for a new teacher wallet account you'll receive $10 to spend on your classroom -- who couldn't use $10?!

We had over $4,000 in prizes thanks to these fantastic folks! It was so much fun to see the excitement on each of the winner's faces!

Check our our FANTASTIC sponsors:


And some AMAZING TpT sellers that contributed raffle prizes or digital swag:

[Teaching in the Tongass] [Janiel Wagstaff] [Kimberly Geswein] [Polka Dots & Pals] [Laugh, Eat, Learn Designs] [Whimsy Workshop] [Jewel's School Gems] [The Joy of Teaching] [The Teacher Studio] [KristyBear Designs] [Chalk & Apples] [Teaching in Progress] [There's No Place Like Second Grade]

Also, a GIANT THANK YOU goes out to Sarah from There's No Place Like Second (And now Third!) and Nikki from Teaching in Progress
Sarah worked night and day (seriously, Sarah, did you sleep?) to do everything from gather donations to create adorable name tags and create super cute programs. Sarah was truly the backbone of this meet-up and I hope she knows how much we all appreciated her efforts. And without Nikki, we wouldn't have had such an amazing venue two years in a row. These two ladies rock my world! 


1. Nikki (from Teaching in Progress) and I worked the front table, which meant that we were able to meet and greet each and every teacher blogger. I challenged myself to recognize each face before they reached the table. It was super fun to guess who each person was as they entered! I got them all correct, too! Each person was so impressed by all of the goodies we had for them, especially the awesome name tags that Sarah from There's no Place Like Second Grade (And now Third!)

2 Lunch. The food was fabulous, but I'm talking about the company. I don't think I went a minute without laughter, especially with the crew that was sitting at our table. Carla, Karen, Nikki, Haley, Heather, Erin, Sarah, and I had the BEST time during lunch. In the moments that we weren't being silly, we had great chats about blogging and creating. We had a wonderful time together and it wasn't superficial at all. I consider each of these women my real life friends and I know I can count on them. That's pretty special, y'all!

3. Being in a room with so many talented women. There was a moment where I stopped talking (shocking, I know) and just sat back and took in the fact that I was in a room with so many creative women, all of whom share the same goal of improving education by sharing our ideas, resources, and expertise. In the time that I've been connected to these women, I've learned a ton about creating, teaching, and handling life outside of it all. I'm lucky to be a part of such a knowledgeable, inspiring group and I know that I'll forever be a part of this awesome group, even if I'm not in Virginia forever.




 





You can see more fun meetup photos by looking at the hashtag #VATeacherBloggersMeet on Instagram, or by looking at the photo album here:




Some of the fantastic Virginia teacher bloggers from the meetup are linking up with Sarah from There's No Place Like Second Grade to share their favorite moments and photo memories from the meetup, as well as share their swag and prizes! Be sure and check-out their posts!




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