Official Classroom Reveal

Now that the PD is over and open house is complete, I'm ready for my complete classroom reveal. I worked incredibly hard to change things up so that it wasn't the same old set up and I am extremely pleased with my outcome. Here's the official classroom reveal pics:

Outside. I had to move the owls over because we got mailboxes this year. 

My name tag from Kasefazem. Love it!

What a student will see upon entry to my classroom!

A wonderful and very crafty colleague of mine created a curtain to go over this bookshelf that holds multiple copies of guided reading books. This way I can access them for groups but the students won't get in to them before hand.

This is very similar to last year. Organized bins, lots of Peanuts posters, and my board that I got a couple of weeks in to last school year.

This is my student work board. I use sheet protectors so that I can slip their work in and out each week without stapling it up and ruining the paper each time. Because of this, I didn't even have to change my bulletin board paper this year, just the border to change things up!

My main bulletin boards and classroom library and reading area. Students love the "Opening Soon" signs. It makes them very curious about when this marvelous library will open!

Side view of the reading area. 

Side view of my desk area. I am obsessed with the idea that I will keep the space behind my desk neat and organized this year! 

Front view of my desk area. Hate those cords but that's about as ruly as I can get them to be. 

View of the front from the back. 

Last year's end of year book reports became this year's open house book preview! 

One of my favorite areas. My behavior chart, daily schedule, objectives, my clock with awesome hands (bye, bye digital clock), a Snoopy poster given to me by a very sweet colleague, and a peek the place value owls that I created!

My cubbies! I bought little containers for their extras for each cubby and put a sticker on the front with their number on it. I'm going to put photos that I take throughout the year on the decorative squares on the cupboards. Again, I have my crafty colleague to thank for the awesome curtains!

We've come full circle: my mailbox and supplies area. 

When the students came in for open house they were excited about everything that they saw, which made me feel really awesome and told me that my hard work will definitely be worth it. I can't wait to get started with them on Tuesday! 



M&M's and 7up on the First Day: Consequences, Writing, and Learning About Your Students

What would you say if I said that I use 7UP and M&M's on the first day of school?

You're probably thinking that I'm crazy, wanting to fill my students with sugar on the first day. Well, maybe you won't think I'm so crazy after you find out what I do with them.

Some of our best ideas come from our colleagues, don't they?

My blog post today is a share of two ideas that I've picked up along the way. The first, the M&M activity, was first introduced to me by the teacher that I student taught for. I'm not sure where it originated as I know she had learned it from somewhere else and I've seen other teachers do it in various forms, but when she did it, I knew it would be a staple in my classroom too!

The second part of this was introduced to me by the wonderful Ms. Kitchen, one of my favorite colleagues when I was teaching in Washington. Ms. Kitchen was a 4th grade teacher stuck in a 5th grade pod with 3 new 5th grade teachers. I learned a TON from her and picked up a lot of her activities along the way. The 7up sentences are just one of her fabulous ideas that I "stole"!

I've combined the ideas of two super teachers to make for one fantastic back to school activity. This activity will help you to discuss consequences, get a sample of student writing (as well as an idea of what they are ready for), learn about your students through their writing, and leave students with a memory of the first day that they will still be talking about on the last. My suggestion is to do this after lunch, so you know they've at least filled their bellies with something good first.Here's the details: 

Items Needed:
  • A can (I use the ½ can size when I can find it) of 7up for each student* (Use 7-Up Ten if worried about calorie content)
  • A giant bag of M&M’s/Skittles (if allergies are present)/a large box of rainbow Goldfish if looking for a healthy alternative.
  • Plastic gloves or a small baggie for each student to use as a glove
    • As an alternative (and to avoid students choosing way too many M&M's), bring in measuring cups  in two or three different sizes or just a coffee scoop and give them a maximum amount of scoops
  • A napkin or paper towel
  • Lined paper and a pencil
  1. Ask students what a consequence is. Write the word on the board and explain that there is a consequence for all of our actions. Sometimes the consequence is good, and sometimes it isn’t. Use examples such as “What could be a consequence of not coming home on time?” or “What could be a consequence of studying really hard for a test?” Use examples of good and bad consequences.
  2. Tell students that our activity will involve consequences.
  3. Pass out the gloves (if using gloves)
  4. Bring out the large bag of M&M’s (keep it in hiding until this point). Tell students that they will each get one glove and that once they have it on, you will come to their desk with the bag. They are allowed to take up to one handful, but they can take as few as they want as well, with a minimum of at least 5. They should place their handful on a paper towel They cannot eat them YET! Remind students that this activity will end with a consequence and that you can’t say whether it is a good one or a bad one. If you are using the measuring cup instead, hold up the measuring cups and tell students they will have to choose one size to scoop out some M&M’s. They can fill the cup, but do not have to. Everything else is the same as the directions above.
  5. Pass out the 7up. Explain to students that as they enter this new grade, they will be expected to write 7up sentences. What is a 7up sentence? Well, it’s a sentence with 7 words or more, of course! So instead of saying, “I play football,” I might say, “I am a quarterback for the Green Bay Packers.”* (If you are teaching younger kids, you can omit this part of the activity).
  6. Now pass out lined paper to each student. Tell your students to write their name at the top then count all of their M&M’s. They should write the number of M&M’s that they have on the top right hand corner of their paper. Go around and make sure everyone has written down their number before you unveil the next direction.
  7.  Give each student a “Marvelous to Meet You” paper.
  8. Say: “Ok students, now that you’ve got your M&M’s and 7up and you know all about 7up sentences, I am ready to present you with your consequence. I’d like to learn about you and get a chance to see your 7up sentences in action. You are each going to write me a sentence that tells me something about you FOR EACH M&M that you have.”
  9. Read over the different topics for the different colors and write an example for each topic on the board.
  10. Say: This might be a good consequence for some of you, while some of you are wishing you could put some of your M&M’s back! The good news is, for each sentence you complete, you may eat one of your M&M’s. You may enjoy your 7up throughout your writing. Time to get started!”

Now, this is meant to be a fun activity, so I don’t push students that took 65 M&M's to write 65 sentences, though I will let them sweat it out a little. If they are a fairly strong writer, I might stop them at 25. If they are struggling to write or come up with ideas, I might stop them at 10. It's the first day of school, you want this to be fun, so use your best judgement on when to stop them.

I get the colorful smiley incentive stickers and put those next to each sentence and then display these in my room. For that reason, you might not want your students to write on the back of their paper.

Now don't you want to do this activity with your students during the first week? I'm all stocked up and ready to go. I can't wait to see their excitement when I pull out that big bag of M&M's!!

You can print the directions for this activity and the Marvelous to Meet You reproducible by clicking on the image below. 



I'm in Love...With Triads!

And my husband, of course!

Earlier in the year, I blogged about Hink Pinks. They are fun, engaging, and my students always love them! They kinda make my classroom go 'round!

Well, my favorite Hink Pink creator is Barbara Evans who has a blog over at It's About Time, Teachers. When I blogged about her Hink Pinks, we had a chat about other fun word riddles that engage students and encourage critical thinking skills. That's when she introduced me to Triads. Here's a little info on Triads straight from Barbara:

"Combine critical thinking with vocabulary development and have fun doing it. Teach your students to use Bloom's upper level skills -- analysis, synthesis, and evaluation, with TRIADS. 

The challenge in this activity is to find 1 word that can be added to each of the triad words to make a well-known phrase or compound word. The common word may be added before or after the triad word. For example: add GRASS to the triad words blue, hopper, and crab to make blueGRASS, GRASShopper, and crabGRASS.

Triads are CCSS aligned. This is a great activity for a literacy center or enrichment. It could also be used as an anchor or sponge activity. Reproduce the cards on card stock, laminate, and use for years to come. Naturally, an answer key is included. 

My students love to do these together. You can almost see the cogs turning inside their heads! Be sure to check out my Triads II and III." 

Here's what they look like:

The common word here is stand because you can make the word kickstand, handstand, and headstand. 

Isn't that super duper fun? Don't you just want to solve more of these right now? When I first bought mine, my husband and I spent the evening going through them to see how many we could guess. Who says that the students get to have all the fun?

I have to be honest, my students loved Hink Pinks, but I think they were over the moon for Triads. It took them only a couple of tries before they demanded a daily one with their daily Hink Pink. Now, what teacher can say no to that? Well, not this one! I even made little Triad answer sheets. If you decide that you want to use Triads with your class this year (and with vocabulary building AND critical thinking, why wouldn't you?), then you can grab my adorable answer sheets here. Here's what they look like: 

I put them out with the daily Hink Pinks each morning and the students have all day to guess. Sharing the answer at the end of the day turned out to be a great way to settle my students down before dismissal. Warning: Students will all want to answer so it's a good idea to have some sort of system for choosing in place. My students would come in at 8:20am and by 8:25am someone would ask me, "Is anyone doing the Triad yet?" What can I say? They loved them! I can't wait to introduce them to this year's group in just a few short weeks! 

Barbara has a choice item in my giveaway #6 so be sure to enter here. You  can grab a free Triad or Hink Pink if you win! The giveaway is open until Friday night so get your entries in now! Barbara also has lots of Hink Pink freebies in her TpT store and there's one more day of the TpT sale. What a great time to stock up on her goodies!

I wonder what Barbara will have in store for me next? I can't wait to find out!



I've Been Working on the Writing Prompts, All the Live Long Day...

You know how little ideas seep into your head and then they become big ideas? Well, one of those little ideas became a big idea that's been keeping me busy for the last few days!

As some of you already know, I teach in Virginia, one of four states that did not adopt the common core. Though we are not adopting those standards, the state has been changing our state standards to be more rigorous as well. Our fifth grade students have always taken a writing SOL (standards of learning), which is split between multiple choice and essay. Last year in late fall they released the prompts that students could potentially have for their essay portion. Well, there are 44 prompts and the students will only get one on testing day. Of course, we don't know which one, and not all students get the same one on testing day! Suffice it to say, it's great to have all of prompts in front of you, but it can be a bit overwhelming when you are thinking about exposing your students to each one! Last year, I worked diligently to prepare sample essay after sample essay, and I think that I've completed about 20 at this point, but God only knows that I can't expect my students to write 40 essays in a year. Since will be the first year that we have the prompts before the year begins, I'm trying to be better prepared.

So last week, I was chatting with one of my favorite colleagues and an idea popped in to my head: What if students completed a prompt a day at the beginning of writing each day with just one task in mind? There are 44 prompts. If I give them a prompt a day for 44 days and just have them do a five-minute brainstorm, then they will have been exposed to each at least once by Thanksgiving! Then, for the next 44 days they can fill out a graphic organizer for each prompt, which will mean they are exposed twice! AND THEN (bonus points if you get the Dude, Where's My Car? reference) they will do a paragraph each day for 44 days. Essentially, I have the potential to expose them to each prompt THREE times, and that's not even counting the explicit writing instruction and practice they will complete with several of these prompts. Sometimes I love these ideas that pop in to my head.

So for three days I've been working on days 1-44, creating a prompt slide for each prompt that I can display for the whole class, and then creating prompt strips which students will get to glue in to their writing journals (hi ho, ho ho, it's off to Walmart I go for 17 cent notebooks!). Alas, I still have two more sets to create for the remaining days, but I've got days 1-44 covered.

In addition, I did get to spend some time in my classroom this week. I've made enough progress to say (right now) that I am going to enjoy the next week off. That doesn't mean I won't be working from home, but it does mean that I might be working from home by the pool!

One of my accomplishments this week was that I bought a small bulletin board (24 x 36), wrapped it in cute black swirly fabric, and created my jobs chart from it. I don't have a ton of bulletin board space and need a good amount of space for word walls so I stole an idea from a coworker and got the board, which can easily lean against the windows!  Here's a couple of pics. My cat Brewster insisted on being in the "before" the owls picture. Seriously, he wouldn't leave that board alone!

I had to condense two jobs to make all of these fit, but I'm quite happy with the outcome. These are large owl cut outs. The students will each get a small owl cutout with their name on it when I introduce jobs during the first week. When they select a job their little owl will get pinned next to the owl with their job on it. As you probably guessed, all of those students without jobs for the week will be "on vacation".

We have a board outside of our classroom that we share with our neighboring teammate. My teammate across the hall already came in the other day and put his board up. What's awesome is that he's a Charlie Brown fan, so our boards usually compliment each other quite well. This year I bought this awesome You Can Do Anything Snoopy Bulletin Board Set from Really Good Stuff. As mentioned before, I also invested in two giant rolls of fadeless paper in green and blue. I don't know about you, but I get pretty darn happy when my roll fits the length and width of the board! Woohoo! Anyway, I was inspired to get this up and I am thrilled to pieces with how it came out. Sooooooo cute! I just know our students are going to love our "Snoopified" area! Hooray for feeling accomplished!



Whooooooooo's Been Busy?

Oh my goodness...I love August! Although I hate to see the summer come closer to an end, there's something about that Back to School feeling that I love! It also gives me a serious creation bug and boy, have I been busy! I've got a to-do list a mile long, and I'm slowly checking things off. After teaching for 8 years, I have a lot of creations (tons and tons and tons), but now that I've discovered clip art, font, and borders, I feel that I MUST redo everything and make it much, much cuter!

I've mostly been creating items with my super cute owls. I am addicted to Pink Cat Studio and the awesome free owls that I got from Mrs. Dixon. I've been a creation stations. I've already shared some of these, but here's the entire collection that I've created in the last couple of weeks, along with my wonderful comments. Oh, and you know what? There will be more to come!

I've already got these up in my classroom, as you might have seen Genre Book Bucket Labels Owl Theme with Blue Border. I'm so in love with blue right now. I just find it so calming. I loved my polka dotted book labels that I made last year, but it was time for owl-ified change!

Here they are in action in my room:

Had to make some birthday certificates. Why not add some owls in this year? I printed 30 of them, them in a folder, and now I hope to be good to go for the entire year! 

You came, you downloaded, you gave feedback! The word on the TpT feedback street is that these posters are pretty awesome! I am ready to put them up above my board...perhaps that's a job for tomorrow! 

I love to encourage my students during big tests with little words of encouragement and a treat. I hope you'll enjoy the cheesy poems that I came up with for most of these! 

And, of course, there's always my back to school poem freebie! 

What's that? You'd like another freebie? Oh, ok! A colleague shared an awesome idea that she found when she was blog hopping. It's called the No Homework Binder and I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this idea! I've got a lot of homework motivators in my classroom, but I really like the idea of holding students accountable and having a document to use at conferences so I made one of these today. Find out all about it by hopping over to Jack of All Trades. I made an owl themed binder cover and tracking sheet to go with mine. Feel free to grab it by clicking the link below:

So if you were wondering what I've been up to this weekend, wonder no longer! I've got a lot of other great items in the works too. So many ideas, so little time! 


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