Friday, November 9, 2012

Hello Again

Wow, I can't believe it's been over a month since I posted.  Over a month since I've really read blogs either.

So, hello again, bloggy world!

I've been super busy and haven't really wanted to think about school when I got home.  Major drama going on at my school.

The super busy is not subsiding.  Report cards are due one week from today.  Yikes!

The drama is somewhat subsiding, so I'm not running to hide from anything education related.

What better way to step back into (hopefully) regular blogging than to link up with Tara for a Monday Made It (ignore that it is Friday, please)?
I posted this summer about some professional development books I read (Book Whisperer, Notebook Connections, Daily 5).    I have been integrating those with our curriculum (Treasures) to make my own Reading Workshop.  One part of it is our reading notebooks.

I feel like I'm getting really good at teaching those lessons.  One day I teach the comprehension strategy.  Students practice when they read.  The next day, I teach them how we write a response using that strategy by modeling it with a text we all know.  Then, they write a response, either on the same topic as our model, on the same book but focusing on a different part, or on their independent reading book.

Then, during Reading Workshop, they are supposed to write a response on any book using any of the strategies we have learned.

"We were supposed to remember how to do those?"

Well, yeah, I'd like them to, but if they've only done it once, I get that it'd be hard to remember.

Enter the Reading Response Strategy Binders.  There are two of these in our Work on Writing drawer for students to reference.

Instructions for setting up every entry.  Formatting matters, kiddos!
On the back of each instructions is a typed up copy of the one we wrote whole class when I taught it.

Do you want a copy of my oh-so-pretty (if I do say so myself ... I'm rather proud of these) pages?  Well, here they are!  I already need to add more strategies so check back soon for an updated version!

Happy Veteran's Day Weekend!

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Posting Student Work - We're So Proud Board

I got this idea last year when we did a veteran teacher observation for BTSA.  I love it, the kids love it, and most teachers love it when they come into my room.

It's my We're So Proud Board:
The blurry parts are, of course, their names.
After many, many tries at fitting all 32 students' work here, this is the most space saving configuration boyfriend and I could come up with.

Every other Thursday, I make sure I (or our aide) has sorted all of their work (everything from homework to graded tests) in their mailboxes:

I know there aren't papers in their here, but it's the only pic I have of it!

They take their pile of papers to their desk and look through them.  It's the first time they've seen any of the grades, so they spend some time seeing what they got right and wrong and just generally reviewing their work.

Next, they choose one piece they are most proud of.  We have a list of reasons you might be proud that the kiddos came up with, including things like a good grade, doing better than normal in a subject, doing well on something that was really challenging, trying really hard, doing neater work than normal, etc.

Then, they fill out a "Smiley Slip" (that's those yellow papers you see in the corner of each).  They staple it to wherever they want on their paper and turn it in for me to put up.

I use the black and white version on yellow paper.
Click on either image for the google doc of both color and b/w!

Last, they return all of their papers to their mailbox to be filed later.  After our conferences in November, they will take most of this work home each time we do "We're So Proud" instead of putting it in their mailboxes, but I like to save everything until conferences!

How do you display student work?  How often do you change it out?

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Currently and Writing Wednesday (err... Thursday with Freebies for you!)

First up, Currently:
Thanks, Farley, for hosting!
Okay, okay, so I know The Witches isn't really all that seasonal ... actually, no I don't know, as I still need to read it!  But, it is what I am most excited about right now.  One of my awesome teammates has a unit she does every year in October with The Witches.  My kiddos ordered enough Scholastic books with our last book order that I was able to get a class set of The Witches, so our two classes are going to read them at the same time this year and of course I'll be using her unit.  I am ridiculously excited!

And now, Writing Wednesday on a Thursday (don't you hate forgetting your camera at school?!?!?)

With our district narrative writing assessment window starting NEXT week and of course a million things trying to butt their way into our writing time, I'm having a hard time getting through all of the pieces of a narrative before testing them.  Never mind revising and publishing.  That's going to have to come after the district test!

So far this year, we had been brainstorming and writing "shots" (see post here and here, respectively) on whatever students felt like that day.  Many had worked on pieces of upwards of 10 stories!  But now that we want to be published in the next two and a half weeks, I wanted the kiddos to start focusing on one story.  We made this checklist of questions to help choose a great story for them to write:

After we had all chosen a story, we talked about what drafting actually is:

Next, we identified the problem and solution.  We talked A BUNCH about how problems don't have to be bad and how solutions don't always have to be happy and took some notes on that:

Each student brainstormed and wrote on a sticky note a solution to the problem of an alien landing in your campsite.  They LOVED it.  Many were not school appropriate (too violent), but some were super creative!

Then, we got back to work on our stories.  Once we figured out the problem and some possible endings, students worked together to choose a solution that fit the problem.
Click here for the worksheet!
And finally, we got to leads.  I "read" two leads - one from a Magic Treehouse book and one I said was from a rough draft of mine (I'm going to tell you about my airplane ride.  Great, right?).  Almost all of the kiddos seemed to get why the Magic Treehouse one was better.  Then, I gave them notes (it would have been WAY WAY WAY too much writing notes) and we glued them like so into our notebooks. We read over the notes, wrote an example for each, and outlawed some annoying  uninteresting "leads" (Hi, my name is _____ and I'm going to tell you about ____ is one of my biggest pet peeves!)  Last, the kiddos read the leads in their independent reading books and we talked about what made those interesting.

Click here for the notes. Fonts from

And finally, today, we wrote leads!

Happy October!

Friday, September 28, 2012

Spread the Sunshine!

I briefly mentioned Sunshine Notes before.  Now, here's some more!  (Do you like my rhyme? :p)

One of my fabulous grade-level teammates gave me this idea and the slips for it.  Big thanks to her!
This pic certainly wasn't taken on a Friday.  That thing is overflowing by Friday!
When I introduced Sunshine Notes, we talked about how they are a way to say thank you when someone has filled your bucket and a way to fill other's buckets.  We also talked about how specific things fill our buckets better than "you're nice" or "you're a good friend" and brainstormed some specific things.  For the most part, the kiddos are writing great, detailed notes.

Writing Sunshine Notes is one of their options when they finish work early.  We read some Friday afternoons and then just pass the rest out. The kids leave clutching their Sunshine notes like they are made of gold! It is such a great note to end the week on.   I'm keeping a close eye out for students who consistently aren't getting any, but so far no kiddo has gone more than one week without getting at least one.

I love how much classroom community this builds with such a small amount of class time used!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Writing Wednesday - Snapshots, Talkshots, and Thoughtshots

Since I love writing so much and feel like it is one of my strongest teaching areas, I'm going to try to regularly write about what we are doing in writing.  I already posted a bit about writing here.

In my district, we don't have a set writing curriculum.  It's a bit of a hodgepodge, do-what-you-want sort of thing.  Our Language Arts curriculum, Treasures, has writing in it.  A few years ago (before I was there), they did 6 Traits of Writing trainings.  I have the materials they got at the trainings.  We each have a teacher's edition and half a class set of Write Source.  Using any of these as the set curriculum  does not prepare students at the right time of year for the three district-wide writing assessments and certainly won't get our 4th graders ready for the state writing test in March.  

So we just do what we want, basically.

Right now, we are working on narratives.  Our first district assessment, which is mid-October (yikes, that's soon!), is fictional narratives, but we start with personal narratives and then move into fiction because it's easier for kiddos to put details in about something that has really happened.

Last week and the beginning of this week, we worked on Snapshots, Talkshots, and Thoughtshots.

For each one, my lesson went the same way:

1.  Read a published example from books most students know (Harry Potter and Rick Riordan books to the rescue!).  

2. Have a class discussion about how they felt as readers (they make you feel in the story) and what kind of information they got from the excerpt. 

3. Take notes.  I do my notes under the document camera, and they copy.  We have a special section in our writing notebooks for notes.

4.  I model from the story I'm working on with them.  I pick out a scene from my Backwards S (our picture mapping) and then do think-aloud writing on the document camera.  I make sure to talk a lot about how I don't remember every exact detail, but I make up reasonable details.  They just watch and listen. Some try to give me ideas.

5.  I tell the students that when they get back from lunch, they will do what I just did from one of their own Backwards Ss. I remind them they need to come in silently.  

6. We have lunch.  I write a reminder of instructions on the board.

7. They come back from lunch, and 99% of them silently get to work.  It is far and beyond the best transition time of my day!

8. When writing time is almost over or I see them getting antsy, they share their work with someone.  We do elbow partners, face partners, stand up - hand up - pair up, and back partners on different days to mix it up.

9. The next day, we start writing by reviewing the most important things about a Snapshot/Talkshot/Thoughtshot to make our mini-poster for our writing wall.  I laminated these before hand and used whiteboard makers, so I'll just be able to erase and use them next year!

We're starting to get good at writing for longer and longer!  Half an hour is my goal for them!

I'm hoping we get through our full personal narrative unit in the next two weeks.  I think for fictional narratives this year, we'll write spooky stories to read on Halloween!

How do you teach writing?  Do you have a curriculum?

Monday, September 24, 2012

Math Strings

What are Math Strings?
They're groups of mental math problems that build on each other in some way.

How I Do Them:

  • The kiddos sit "theater seating."  Everyone's chair faces foreword (which involves everyone moving their chair because of how my groups are set up) and they have nothing in their hands.
  • On chart paper, I write a problem.
  • When kiddos have an answer, they make a sign-language letter a, putting their thumb on their mouth (I don't know how to better describe it!)  This shows me they're ready and helps them to not blurt out the answer.
  • I call on one kiddo for the answer and write it down, not saying if it's correct or not.
  • I ask everyone if there are any other answers and write those down too.
  • I call on kiddos to explain how they got their answer and record on the chart paper what they did, putting their name next to it.
  • I have 3-5 kiddos give explanations.  The more difficult the problem, the more strategies I do.
  • If the strategy I'm trying to get them to doesn't come up, I bring it up as my strategy.
  • At the end, if I want them to know the name of a certain strategy, I tell them "what mathematicians call" the strategy some of them were using.  For example, "I want to teach you a new name for a mental math strategy.  Mathematician's call Kevin and Bryan's strategy compensation." (pointing to where I had written Kevin and Bryan's explanations earlier).
The blurred out parts are their names.  "M.F." means memorized fact.

Do you believe the kiddo who said 18 x 3 was a memorized fact?  No, me neither, but I still put it up!
At least no one said 48 x 3 was a memorized fact!

Although I knew about these last year, I only did it once or twice.  I'm doing them almost every day in math now and am getting FANTASTIC mathematical thinking from the kiddos!  

Bonus:  They LOVE it. The one day we didn't do it last week, they were asking why.  Every time I get their attention during math for a transition, they ask if it's mental math time.  I love the excitement!

Saturday, September 22, 2012


Outside of school, I LOVE birthdays!  In my house growing up, you had a birthday month.  Birthdays were big.

In the classroom, they tend to stress me out.  I think it's because I want to do so many academic things each day with the kiddos that taking even a few minutes for birthdays stresses me.

But, because I love birthdays, we still do a bit.

First off, I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' for their Birthday Display Link Up.

Here is my display this year:
I love how all the different fonts look together.  I also adore the cupcake border that I inherited with my room.  I cut one strip up to go above each month.

I had originally planned to do the whole pictures of students holding up their birthdays for each month (I've seen it so many places, I don't know where to give credit!). But ... I didn't do it the first week because there were kiddos absent each day ...  the second week, I kept getting told I was getting new students in two or three days, so I waited ... and then it was Back to School Night, and I needed birthdays up, so I just wrote names and dates.  I'm sure some of you deal with that each year and still manage pictures, but it is very much not normal at my school!

 Each month's spot is big enough for a 4x6 picture, so I'm hoping to do that next year.

Our Little Tiny Celebrations:

  • I write Happy Birthday, ________! on the board, and it stays up all day.
  • They get a "birthday balloon pencil." My two kiddos who have had birthdays so far have been so excited with them!
I pick a pencil I think the kiddo will like from the literally hundreds of pencils in my prize box.
  • We have a wellness policy that says no food for birthdays (yes, you read that correctly, not no unhealthy food for birthdays, NO food for birthdays).  If a kiddo wants to bring something, I have them pass it out as the bell rings at the end of the day.
  • I usually have the class sing Happy Birthday, but I just realized we haven't for the two birthdays so far this year!  Opps!  One thing I learned from my wonderful cooperating teacher when I was student teaching was to ask the birthday kiddo if they wanted "cha-cha-chas" or not.  If they say no, no one is allowed to make those sounds at the pauses.  Most kiddos say yes, though, so the class goes crazy cha-cha-chaing at each pause!
  • I also do "un-birthdays" for summer birthday kids on their half-birthday (or as close as we can get ... end of June's birthdays have their half birthdays during Holiday Break).  I will teach the kiddos part of the Alice in Wonderland Unbirthday song for us to sing (if I get on that singing thing again this year) and they will get an "unbirthday balloon pencil."

How do you celebrate birthdays?

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Behavior Management

Natalie and Rachelle at What The Teacher Wants are hosting a behavior management linky.  I am so excited to link up because What the Teacher Wants was the first blog I started reading.  It is what introduced me to the wonderful world of teacher blogging! 

Last year, I felt like behavior management was my weakest link.

This year, I've put lots in place to make sure that doesn't happen again!

First, foremost, and number one is my clip chart:
Do you see the black clips?  Those two kiddos have already gotten to  Excellent Effort six times, so they got to take their old clip (now covered in six stickers) home and now have a black clip.  Next time, it will be a blue clip!  They are working toward the elusive glitter clip.  I know I got the colored clip idea from someone, but I'm not sure who. Let me know if it was you!

I didn't do a clip chart last year because I thought 4th graders were too old for it.  WRONG!  They love it, and it makes such a great impact.  The third day of school was first time I had a kiddo clip down.  Later that day, I told him he could clip up.  "Even though I clipped down before?" he asked.  "Yes!  You are making better choices now.  You're showing me you're ready to learn," I responded.  He happily clipped up and we had quite a while before our next issue (which is quite a feat with this kiddo).

I also have a class raffle, so sometimes I hand out raffle tickets.  I like to do this when kiddos are going above and beyond in some way, when a kiddo is already on Excellent Effort, but deserves another clip up, and with my math class (a partially different group of kiddos, so I don't have clips for everyone).  We pull raffle tickets any day that we are ready to go home before the bell rings.  It's a great way to make our afternoon routine go smoothly.

I am also going to start a class paper chain, but I haven't yet.  We don't seem to need it yet.  The paper chain will start at the ceiling and they will get a link when the whole class deserves a reward.  When it reaches the floor, we'll have a little celebration.

What do you use for behavior management?  Link up with Natalie and Rachelle to share!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Tell Me Something Good

I'm linking up with Rowdy in First Grade for her Tell Me Something Good Linky.  What a great reminder to focus on the positives, both at school and at home!

At School:
Well, just about everything about this class!  Their behavior is fantastic and when it starts to slip, I remind them that they can do better, and they do!  I think part of this is just the group of kiddos, part of it is better management on my part, and part of it is the classroom community we're building.  We have read and talked about being a Bucket Filler and have "Sunshine Notes" they can write to each other that we read on Fridays.  We're really starting to work as a team!

At Home:
I am making time for myself to read.  I stop working at least 20 minutes before bed and spend that time reading a book or magazine that is in no way, shape, or form school related.  Even this small amount of me-time is so much more than I did last year!

What's going good for you? 
 Link up with Rowdy in First Grade to share with us all!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Big Smiles and Writing Workshop

Big Smiles:

Even though I am exhausted at the end of the day, almost every day in our three weeks of school have had so many more great moments than bad.  I am having a fantastic year so far!  Great group of kiddos, and I know so much more about what I'm doing this second time around.  It feels great, and I can honestly say this year that I am LOVING being a teacher and am looking forward to work each day.  I am so happy!

Ok, so on to one of those great things going on in my classroom this year:  Writing Workshop

Now, I LOVE writing.  I was a creative writing major.  I was the kid with a notebook full of stories from the time I could write.  And this year's group (at least many) seem to be on that page with me.  Writing Workshop was the last part of our normal routine that I got going.  By Back to School Night, we had only done two days of writing and still about a third of my class wrote that it was their favorite part of 4th grade in their note to their parents.  My kind of kids!

I've been taught how to teach writing to kids by multiple people who have read and/or been trained in Lucy Calkins, so if you're familiar with her writing instruction, I bet you'll see pieces of it in mine!

We stared off making lists of important people, places, and events.  Lots and lots of lists.

Then we talked about Seed Stories and Watermelon Stories.  This lesson went FABULOUS!  They seemed to really get it, even my space-cadet kiddos!  I started by group brainstorming a description of a watermelon.  Then, I told them we were going to focus on two parts of it - that watermelons are big and have seeds (both of which were on our list).  I modeled the beginning of a boring watermelon story (it was about 2 minutes and we didn't even get to Disneyland in the story).  At this point, about eight kids were practically jumping up and down because they got it before I even talked about seeds.  So, I had one of them explain seed stories.  We wrote in our notes just a few things about seed stories and then worked together to find a few seed stories out of our watermelon ideas.  Last, students used the worksheet below to find the seeds in their watermelon ideas.  They wrote the watermelon idea on the rind and then seed ideas in each seed.  It worked great!  They "wrote" for 22 minutes that day - blowing our last stamina record out of the water.  I love that it validated their watermelon ideas and helped them realize they could write about so many different parts of their trip or memories.  I had to make extra copies because they want to keep finding seeds!
Font: Oh {Photo} Shoot by Kevin and Amanda
Watermelon: Coloring page from (© Sherri Osborn -
Click the picture to go to my google doc!

Now we've mapped out our stories using pictures and started writing descriptive "snapshots."  The kids can consistantly write for about 15 minutes now!

My only challenge with writing is that they are so worried about doing it "right" that a million hands go up as soon as they start practicing.  I'm really trying to get them to just write, but I'm having a hard time getting the idea across to them that if they are writing, it isn't wrong!  Do you have any tips for getting this idea across? 

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Heads Down and Planning Difficulties

A quick positive and struggle from yesterday:

On the positive side ...
My students' behavior started slipping yesterday.  I had the whole class put their heads down and talked about how I know how respectful and responsible they can be.  I talked for about a minute about all the great things they usually do to help us learn.  When they lifted their heads, they were great again for the rest of the day!

And a struggle:
I'm really trying to plan earlier this year so that I don't spend my whole weekend planning.  I posted earlier this week about my plan.  I've been ok about following it so far.  Then we had a grade level meeting today and I found out a BUNCH of changes for next week.  Like, to the point that I might throw away the plan pages I started and start over.  I'm really disappointed because I was ahead of things and it just turns out I wasted time making those plans.  I know it won't happen every week, but it's really discouraging during my first week of trying to get ahead!

How far ahead do you get in planning?  What do you do to deal with those changes?

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Trying Out Daily 5

Daily 5 has been like a whisper on the wind for a few years now for me.  When I volunteered in a 2nd grade classroom during my undergrad, it was something the teacher down the hall did.  During my credential program, it was something some of my fellow teacher-candidates were experiencing in their placements.  Last year, it was something mentioned at every single district literacy meeting.  I started to get more familiar ... it was a way to do Universal Access.  Then, I started reading blogs and saw how so many of you used it.  Finally, last month, I went to a one day Daily 5/CAFE training/workshop and got the book.  

The training/workshop was super helpful.  It was for 4th-6th grade teachers in my district.  That meant we were all working on adapting it for slightly older than The Sisters teach and dealing with integrating it with the same curriculum.

A brief overview of my "Reading Workshop" last year:

  1. I went week by week with the curriculum, except for grammar because I just couldn't find a way to teach what a complete sentence was before I taught what a noun was.
  2. I used some activities from the curriculum, but also haphazardly tried to create hands on, fun activities that mostly confused students.
  3. Using the theme and strategy for the week, I found more difficult reading passages for my advanced kiddos.
  4. I typed out instructions for each station.
  5. I made students a checklist.
  6. I was exhausted and never actually planned what I would teach small group.
This process took basically an entire day each weekend.  

In the beginning of the year, the kids rotated through the stations, including small group.  Later on, I let them choose the order and just called groups back.  Kids were off task and my small group was tossed together last minute.  It wasn't very differentiated in anything but reading level difficulty.  

Reading was where I felt the worst last year.

Now I'm trying aspects of Daily 5 and so far it is fabulous! I'm still calling it Reading Workshop ... I like that better.  We are working up to doing Daily 4: Read to Self, Read to Someone, Word Work, and Work on Writing.

As most people I know and bloggers I follow do, I give students a bit more structure about what has to be completed than The Sisters do.

Read to Self: This is the one I'm keeping the most open - the kids read what they want and their only recording is the title and author.  I'm playing around with the idea of letting them take one AR test each week during this time, but I'm not sure yet.  Suggestions?

Read to Someone:  This is where I'm having them read stories from our curriculum, but I'm not necessarily going in order.  I'm picking what works best with the strategies I'm teaching and with our social studies and science curriculum.  I like that by using curriculum stories, both partners can have a copy of the same thing to read.  This is also where I'm having kids use graphic organizers based on strategies we're working on.  They will have something to turn in from this station each week.

Word Work:  This station has must-dos and may-dos for grammar/vocabulary.  The must-do so far has been pages from their workbook and the may-do is more hands on.  Again, they have things to turn in from this station.

Work on Writing:  I'm going to introduce this today!  Each week, they will have to write a reading response (a la Book Whisperer meets Notebook Connections).  Then, if they do more Work on Writing, they'll have lots of choices, such as another reading response, continuing what they're working on in writing workshop, writing a letter, writing another story, writing something persuasive ... you get the idea!

I made a recording sheet, but it will look the same each week (I already have the next two weeks photocopied!).  On Mondays, the students and I will fill in the must-dos on their checklists and they'll keep track of their progress during the week by marking when they do what and recording what they read.  The kids are getting a bit confused by all my Must-Do/May-Do categories (because each Daily has them plus some Dailies are must-dos and some are may-dos), so I'm thinking I need to tweak this.
 Click HERE for the google doc!

I also have this pocket chart up with must-dos and may-dos for the kids to reference.  Work on Writing isn't up yet since it isn't a workshop choice yet.  We're practicing whole class this week!  I'm not sure how I'll fit it on there ... going to have to get creative!
I posted these before, but click HERE if you didn't get them the first time!
Another genius idea from Clutter Free Classroom:  Use whiteboard markers on pocket charts!

I'm really enjoying taking the time to set up the procedures and practice stamina, but I am also feeling panicky about not having taught a lot yet during reading.  It's also really hard to keep whole class lessons to 10 minutes, but I'm getting better.

This year vs. last year:

Planning takes less time than last year.

The kids are more on task than last year.

There's less busy work than last year.

There's fewer papers for me to grade than last year.

Yep, I'm loving it!

Monday, September 10, 2012

One Class, Many Cultures - Freebie!

I've mentioned this project/bulletin board a few times, and now that this year's group has done it, presented it, and I've (almost) finished reading their reports, I'm going to tell you more about it!

We tweaked it this year, and I'm so happy with the results!  We tied it into our social studies curriculum by telling the kiddos (and putting it on the instructions sheet for the parents) that we will learn throughout the year how California is made up of immigrants and migrants from many places, so their first task as 4th grade social studies learners is to find out how their family got here and learn about the country/ies their families came from.  This tie-in wasn't as specific last year, and I'm really excited to be able to reference this project throughout the year!

Here are the parts:
  1. Report - we give very detailed instructions about what should be in the report.  I modeled for students that if their family has come from many different places, they could start with something like "My family came from many countries, such as ___, ___, and ___.  I am going to focus on my ____, who came from _____."  So that the kiddos with many countries didn't feel overwhelmed.  Most of my students' parents moved here after they got married in another country, though, so they just had one country to write about.
  2. Presentation - The students presented on their family history, one interesting fact they learned, and showed their Mini-Me.
  3. Mini-Me - I give them each one of these cute little popsicle sticks.  Last year, I let them choose from the boy or girl ones ... which left me with about 25 girl sticks and 8 boy sticks.  One of my fabulous teammates suggested breaking off the skirts.  Yay for not having to buy more!  I broke off the skirts for all of the boys before handing them out and, then had any girls who wanted the skirts taken off raise their hands, and I quickly did theirs.
Click HERE to get them on Amazon
... so much cheaper than they were at the teacher supply store!

Most of the kiddos did fantastic on the presentation, though there were some who just read their report (totally not following directions)!  I did have to have a few re-write their reports for handwriting/neatness issues and a few whose parents clearly helped a bit too much, but overall the reports came out great (especially for the beginning of the year). 

This is such a great project because the kiddos love it, it gives me a great baseline of their writing (and how much their parents help) and presentation skills, and we get to know about each other better!  I'm working on planning some activities for them to compare and contrast their history or country with others.  We're definitely going to do a Venn diagram.  You could also do a lot of things with graphing and data as far as how many kiddos are from where (just look at all my kiddos whose families came from China!).  

It also makes a wonderful board that can be left up all year long!
I didn't do great at planning os the kids were spaced out.
 I'm thinking about putting some flags in the blank areas.

Now for the freebies!  
(Click on pictures to go to google docs!)
**Note: These documents are a collaboration between my grade level team and myself**

My bulletin board letters:
Assignment Instructions:

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Designating Task Days

I'm loving Clutter Free Classroom's new daily posts, especially Teacher Time Saver Tuesday.  I am working slightly less this year than last, and I feel more relaxed, but I still greatly envy those teachers I know who don't work all weekend long.

This past Tuesday was possibly the most brilliant and "duh" time saving tip possible:
Designate Task Days
Take a look at Clutter Free Classroom's post here.

Basically, figure out what you do every week and plan when you will do it.

So, here is my plan.  I'm going to try my hardest to stick to it starting tomorrow.

Before school: Copy things for today and put everything else I need for the week in for copy helpers.
Prep:  Laminate and cut anything I need for this week
After School: Hang student work and/or do something off of my still to be done for my classroom list.

Before School: Plan Social Studies or Science for next week
After School: Check off homework/classwork (ungraded things), week-specific things
Aide Time:  Grade and enter spelling test from last week, file student work

Before School: Plan Math for next week
After School: Check off homework/classwork (ungraded things)


Before School: Plan Reading for next week
After School: Check off homework/classwork (ungraded things), week-specific things

Before School: Plan Writing for next week
Prep: Update bulletin boards
After School: Check off homework/classwork (ungraded things)

Grade and enter (except spelling tests)
Make any worksheets/activities that I didn't make during planning times

Although this doesn't leave my weekends totally free, it leaves them much freer than they have been in the past.  I really feel like this plan is do-able, except maybe when I have meetings with parents before school, which happens about once per month.

Thanks for the tip, Clutter Free Classroom!