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July 7, 2019

Start off summer with a chance to win a $100 TpT gift card!!

I've joined a bunch a fabulous bloggers for an opportunity to win a $100 TpT gift card! Perfect for your back to school purchases...or clip art...or that unit you've been holding off on buying...the list can go on and on!!

Good luck friends! 🤞🤞


Prize: $100 Teachers Pay Teachers Gift Card

Giveaway Organized by: Kelly Malloy (An Apple for the Teacher)

Rules: Use the Rafflecopter to enter.  Giveaway ends 7/13/19 and is open worldwide.

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Are you a Teacher Blogger or Teachers pay Teachers seller who wants to participate in giveaways like these to grow your store and social media?  Click here to find out how you can join our totally awesome group of bloggers! 

December 26, 2017

So...what's new?

Hi friends,
     I don't know about you, but the last few months have seemed like a whirlwind of stress and excitement!
    I have the sweetest class of 20 students, which I can hardly believe! Teaching where I teach, 20 students is unheard of--however it is a welcoming change from the class of 31 that I had last year.
 So what have we been up to? Here's a few of the highlights  :)

    Here's the hub of the's my favorite place! The library outlines two large carpets and the tree is the center of the board. We were "falling for figurative language" where the kids wrote examples of figurative language they found in their independent books on the leaves. When they were detectives on the lookout for examples of figurative language, it added a whole new level to independent reading. {For the tree, my hubby skillfully crafted it using brown fadeless paper, staples, tape, magnets, and a lot of time!}

We went on field trip to a pumpkin patch and the kids were able to paint their pumpkins and as they dried, we went on a fun little hayride. As a way to add to our narrative writing unit, the kids wrote from the point of view of a pumpkin being picked from their patch. They used their trip to the pumpkin patch as inspiration for their stories! They took about a week to plan, draft, revise, edit, and publish. The kids chose a pumpkin and drew its face. We attached a leaf with the pumpkin's name using pipe cleaner.

Every year, just before Halloween, our grade boos one another. This year, I embraced the tradition and had my class make these adorable crows! The kids had so much fun crafting these using black cupsyellow paper cups, orange paper cups, googly eyes, buttons, yellow paper cut into a beak, and glue dots to affix the eyes, beak, and button. We also put a some candy under the crow's hat as an added treat :)

Aside from the crafts and fun stuff, my school is focusing on Impact Teams. We are using data to drive our instruction and build student efficacy. {I'll talk more about this in a later blog post--it really is fascinating work :)} One of the third grade teachers has higher level students that she wanted to push, so I offered to host her students in my room during reading in a lateral book club. The club focuses on the 4th grade reading standards and piggy-backs off the lessons within my 4th grade classroom. The girls chose The Tiger Rising by Kate DiCamillo as their first book. I'm so impressed with their level of discussion and thoughtful analysis of the characters and symbolism represented within the text! I'm so excited to see what book they choose next! 

On to December, to wrap up the year, I read a post from Edutopia on The Great Gingerbread Project. It is a fantastic read and is definitely a worthwhile activity to do just before break! I tried it out and it was an overwhelming success! The kids used alternate ways to find the area of irregular shapes without explicitly being taught and then applied those areas to the formula for area. It was remarkable to watch and listen to the discussion and mathematical thinking. I'm happy to have given them the opportunity to explore and make those math connections--and get messy in the process :)

So...what have you been up to? I'd love to hear from you in the comments :)

I was provided products from Learn365 by Oriental Trading for the purposes of this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

August 21, 2017

August 17, 2017

Storage For My Classroom Library

Although I'm not actually back in the classroom yet, I still haven't stopped thinking about my classroom. It's been a summer full of reading blog posts, Facebook posts, and my own professional reading to help improve my craft. My brain never really stopped thinking about school.

With that in mind... I've been a little hung up on my classroom library. You can read about it HERE and HERE.

After reading and looking at my classroom pictures, something needed to change.

My first step in the plan was design... so I sketched out my perfect classroom layout...

Lofty...I know...but I think I can do it!

I'm making the library the center of the room--my kids never really sit at their desks during lessons, or independent work for that matter, so having the hub in the middle is perfect.

Unfortunately, I have very few bookshelves, so I need a creative way to make the books easily accessible to the kids.

      With a limited amount of space, I couldn't use the plastic storage bins--they are too bulky and can become very heavy!

I found these storage bags on Learn365 by Oriental Trading. This particular bag is a medium and it fits quite a few books! These bags are going to store my text sets and many can fit on one shelf. I'm even thinking of putting some of the bags around the outer edges of the library, so the kids can grab the bag and go. The only thing that may be difficult for the kids is re-zippering the bags. When the zipper gets to the corner, it gets stuck. When I lift and spread the seams, the zipper slides much easier. But it takes some practice 😉

I also found these clear adhesive pocket labels, which I love because I can easily change out the paper label for the set. I made the label, printed, cut, and quickly slipped it into the pocket label.
I'm excited to get these storage bags into my classroom and get my students immersed in books other than the ones in their leveled baskets!

I was provided products from Learn365 by Oriental Trading for the purposes of this post. All opinions are 100% my own.

What are some creative ways you do to set up your classroom library?

 Let me know in the comments 😁

July 28, 2017

3 questions to ask yourself as you set up your classroom library

In my school, we formally assess students 5 times per year on their reading levels. The school even creates goals on the number of levels students need to move in a given year as a way to track growth and progress.

Already, the climate conveys the importance of reading levels, but...
     we don't use a curriculum that is geared towards levels--
             no Teachers Fountas and Pinnell...

       or teaching kids strategies to use within their independent books...

       or small groups that are geared to help kids tackle those instructional texts...

so the kids are left with practicing their running record goals...

It's terrible...I know.

So...I went back to the basics...

Product Details

to get some advice on classroom libraries.

When thinking about your classroom library, ask yourself these 3 questions...

1. When you walk into your classroom, does the library or book nook jump out at you, or is it all but invisible?

Kathy Collins says, "The reason we meet here in the library at the start of every day, and often during the day, is that it's a really important place. See how the bookshelves are all around the carpet, on three sides of us. We're wrapped in books! We are so lucky to have a library like this in our classroom. It's our greatest treasure."

The library is the focus of the room--not a section of the room that's tucked away.

Unfortunately, my library is in the far corner of the room. It actually gets pretty packed back there when the kids choose new books. There are tables at each edge of the rug,  making it an even tighter squeeze.

This is the front of the room. The SmartBoard is front and's where I do all my teaching.

With that in mind, I'd like to shift the library more to the middle--opposite the SmartBoard. Possibly move the tables to the outer edges of the room.

I'm not sure where to put the small group table...maybe leave it there? Or move it to one of the other corners of the room?

I want the kids to feel that our classroom library is our greatest treasure as well. That'll be my mantra as I'm knee deep in books and begging for more book shelves 😊

2. Do you and your students rotate, change, and add to the collection based on the changing needs, interests, and curriculum, or is your collection static?

Books in the library at the beginning of the year are easier ones that the kids enjoy reading--books they know and love, as well as series books. Once the assessing is complete and the units of study begin, other books are introduced as mentor texts or part of the unit of study, books based on student interest, books based on recommendations, and books that are similar to other loved books already in the library.

The library itself is evolving based on what you're noticing about the kids in your room. My favorite part of getting the Scholastic book orders is going through them with my kids in mind. I would use my bonus points to get them books that I knew they would love to read and talk about.

I also find a lot of great books at GoodWill and garage sales. I am always looking for ways to build up my classroom library.

3. Can struggling and reluctant readers find books they can and want to read, or do they spend most of their independent reading time searching for books?

This is a big one and my library is guilty of it because it is heavily based on the levels. Reluctant and struggling readers aren't interested in the books at their level--they may think of them as babyish or if they've been on the same level for a long time, they may have already "read" all the books in their level basket.

They may even start identifying themselves as a level--I'm level P and Jess is level S. We want them to identify as readers--we have to teach them that the levels are a guide and explicitly teach them how to choose just right books. Giving them the freedom and trust to choose books that they want to read will not only boost engagement--their self-esteem will bolster as well. It's win-win 🌝

July 25, 2017

Rethinking my classroom library

One daunting summer task on my never-ending to do list is to tackle the garage--I mean really get in there and get rid of organize a lot of stuff that's accumulated over the years. 

We spent a good part of an afternoon in there and we made quite a dent...

Now, I'm sure you're wondering where I'm going with this...

how does organizing a garage have anything to do with a classroom library?! 

Let's backtrack a few years when I had to move my classroom across the hall to a much smaller room. I had to downsize a lot of my stuff, like bookshelves and bins upon bins of books. So I brought them home and they lived in my garage...

Until the garage clean-up of 2017,  where I met my books again...

and I remembered why I bought them and why I organized them in the most specific of categories.

You see, the past few years, I've lost focus...

my classroom libraries have looked like these...

the focus is more on the what message am I sending the kids as they search through their leveled basket? That the letter on the basket is more important than you becoming a reader...

A reader...a person who picks up a book because you want to experience the adventure with Crispin or find out the backstory between Ally and Shay. A person who knows that reading is a ticket...a ticket to elicit change...change in yourself, in your community, even your life. 

With that, I'm rethinking my classroom library....
to show that building a reading life is important...
and that the READER is valued, not the letter on the basket.

May 28, 2017

Authentic Tasks vs. Project Based Learning

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I have to say that I am so jealous reading these blog posts about summer vacation...we are still knee deep in curriculum and still have a whopping 19 school days left...the 4th grade science written and performance task, a dance performance, a poetry cafe, one more field trip, and visitors coming to the school to see the work that we're doing around tasks.

Has anyone used authentic tasks in their classrooms or schools? From what I can tell from the research I've read, the difference between authentic tasks and project based learning is that with authentic tasks, the students come up with the problem, define the purpose and audience, and seek out solutions through their own inquiry. The projects are created and designed by the students. I'm dappling with this type of work as we close out the year, but I feel like I'm tip-toeing around the beach instead of diving right into the water.

Did anyone else feel like this? Any advice or words of wisdom?

May 2, 2017

Creating Classroom Communities with Sanford Harmony

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of learning about T.Denny Sanford. He is a businessman and a philanthropist.

His motto is:

and he wants to die poor. At 81 years old, his net worth is 1.77 billion dollars--you can read his bio HERE and HERE

I'm sure you're wondering why I'm writing about T. Denny Sanford...well, he recently donated 25 million dollars from Sanford Harmony to schools in the United States. Sanford Harmony is a research based, teaching strategy that helps strengthen classroom communities. 

It is a way to redesign your morning meetings through sharing of items/stories/ideas, buddy conversations, creating Harmony goals for the entire class, and problem solving and highlighting goals. There is a classroom kit that contains all the materials needed to complete the lessons (which are already pre-planned!) 

Here's a sample lesson for K-2 on the The Meet-Up and a 3-5 sample lesson on Buddy-Up.

The best part of this is that the kits are free for your entire school! Click here for more information

I actually left my PD feeling excited to try this! My kit hasn't been delivered to the classroom yet, but when it does, you know I'll be like a kid in a candy shop :) 

I'd love to hear your thoughts about Sanford Harmony! Anyone use it? Or you can comment below with one favorite activity you like to do during morning meetings! 

April 23, 2017

Writing Strategies Goal 3: Generating and Collecting Ideas

This chapter talks about living the writerly life. A wide-awake life where ideas find the writers.

It's where writers seek new ideas in old memories, collect ideas from ones that may have been forgotten; they react, respond, and store ideas in their writer's notebooks and generate their own thoughts from their passions and interests.

It's a remarkable life and it's one that students will embrace if given the appropriate tools.

In the upper grades, especially 4th and beyond, the students become very aware of their world. They are moving out of that self-centered phase of life and are realizing that there is more out there. We can use this change of thinking as a way to help our students generate new ideas for writing. 

This strategy is called: Abstract Issues, Specific Examples

↠Brainstorm issues or ideas that are important in our world (I always do this as a whole class activity. This helps clarify ideas/definitions that students are unaware of while creating an anchor chart. This chart becomes an ongoing one, where we are always adding to it when new issues arise.)
↠Select an issue
↠Brainstorm examples (this is a list of possible topics that connect to the issue)
↠Choose a genre
Another favorite strategy is called: Word Mapping

↠Put your topic in the middle of the page
↠Brainstorm words or phrases connected to your topic
↠Draw lines to connect your ideas

😁What surprises you?
😀 What might be an angle your topic can take?
Another favorite strategy is called: Tour Your Home

↠Guide the reader through your home. Write with detail using your senses and capture the memories that are evoked.

🏡 Pause. What do you see in that place?
🏡 Imagine stories that would come up in that spot.

Share in the comments some ways you help your writers generate ideas. Have you tried any of the ones I listed above? What do you do to help your writers who struggle with getting their ideas on paper?

April 17, 2017

Facing Your Fears...A Poetry Activity Freebie

After digging through my office, I found this gem of an idea using Maya Angelou's poem, Life Doesn't Frighten Me. I remember doing this activity shortly after Maya Angelou's death. It seemed very apropos at the time. Thinking about's a great way for the kids to self-reflect and get their fears and how they are going to conquer them on paper.

Here's what I did: I showed the poem written by Maya Angelou under the ELMO projector and my students saw it on the SmartBoard.

We read through the poem together once, just for fun. During the second read, we started to dissect the poem. (You can even turn this into a close reading and annotating of the poem.)

After the discussion, I modeled for them how to fill out the poem organizer. I sent them off to work on their organizers. Once the majority of them were finished with their organizers, I modeled for them how we were going to write the poem.

We talked about how our poems were going to be formatted:
Stanza 1: my fears
Stanza 2: my fears
Stanza 3: what I’m not afraid of
Stanza 4: what I’m not afraid of
Stanza 5: how to get rid of my fears

**As I went over the stanzas, I always referred back to the poem and talked about how this is our mentor poem. {Mentor poems help poets, like us, make our own poems better. In this case, our mentor poem is helping us format our poems.}

I wrote my poem in front of my students, but you could definitely have this written beforehand to save time. 


Students can draft their poems in their writer’s notebook, on loose leaf paper, or they can use the poem outline. I had my students work on loose leaf paper and most were successful with it. 

To publish, I gave them a blank sheet of drawing paper. They wrote their poem, down the middle, first. I had them draw a bubble around the poem and illustrate items from their poem on the outside of the bubble. 
Here are some examples of student work:

I spruced all the materials up for this pack!

It includes the poem, Life Doesn't Frighten Me by Maya Angelou, Teaching Notes, a poem organizer and outline. 

You can get it Here.

What hidden gems have you found lately?