Saturday, April 12, 2014

Bright Ideas Link Up: Keeping Student Desks Together

It's one of my favorite times of the month again, time for myself and a few hundred of my blogging buddies are sharing tried and true ideas from our classrooms. 

My bright idea is one I wish I had thought of years ago.  I have always had desks in my classroom that I have always grouped into tables for easy partner work and collaboration. However, those silly desks ALWAYS moved around.  Always. Halfway through the day, we were always rearranging our tables, and there was always one kid who managed to push his desk into another child's.  Always.  Before blogs and Pinterest, I searched message boards, AtoZTeacher stuff anyone?, to try and find a solution. I tried taping the desks together, using bungee cords, ropes, etc. to keep them together.  Nothing worked. 

Then one day a colleague of mine suggested old coffee cans, which I thought was brilliant, but I didn't have six coffee cans just sitting around the house. So I went to Home Depot and bought some one quart mixing containers.  You can find them online {here}

I put the container in middle of where I wanted each table to be and put one leg from each chair inside. Problem instantly solved!

Their desks still move a little bit, but not nearly as much as they did before.  Only one or two tables need readjusted throughout the day instead of all of the. Additionally, since all of the desks are connected, it's so much easier to slide them into to place when needed.

If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider 
joining me on Facebook, Instagram, or my Teachers Pay Teachers store for more great ideas. 

To keep searching for even more bright ideas from 150 different bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that 
interests you. Thanks for visiting! 

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Wordless Wednesday: Book Club Organization

One of my favorite things about blogging is communicating with other teachers around the world.  I certainly love when other teachers comment on my blog, IG photos, FB page, etc.  I also love leaving them some love too, so I can't wait to hit publish on this post and link up with my dear friend, Christina at Sugar and Spice, for Wordless Wednesday.  

We just started book clubs this past week and I've finally found an organizational system that works for me! 

The yellow baskets are for my morning class and the green ones for my afternoon class.

So my question to you is this, how do you organize your students' materials for book clubs/book studies?  Tell me in a comment below! 

Visit all the blogs participating in this fun link up by going to Christina's blog via {this} link.  :)  

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Testing Review Stations + Shooting for CCSS Success

Since I teach upper elementary kiddos, testing is just something I have to deal with.  There are end of unit tests, SLO assessments, MAP tests, and of course of EOY state assessments.  Additionally, there are alsoDibels Assessments, Daze Assessments,end of the week assessments, etc. Testing is just something I've learned to deal with because quite honestly, it's not going away.  

One thing that I really feel helps my kiddos not be so anxious for all these tests is just reassuring them that they are ready with some type of review day before we take some of our bigger assessments.  We refer to our OAA assessments as our final performance and all our bigger assessments (unit assessments, MAP tests, etc.)  along the way are dress rehearsals that help get us ready.  Of course, before our dress rehearsals we have to have a practice, or rehearsal, to get us ready.  

Last week, my students participated in PARCC field testing in Language Arts.  All I can say is that I gave it, so please don't ask anymore. ;). They were pretty tested out, so we participated in some review "rehearsal" days the last two days before spring break to get ready for our SLO, a growth measure that districts in Ohio use to measure student progress, after spring break. 

I hung up some Hollywood themed decorations for the occasion and my kiddos went crazy! I got these at Party City and I'll have to go back for some more fun stuff for our OAA Red Carpet Week, the week right before testing. I even used a director's board to announce it was time to switch rotations.  I called out "SLO Review Take One, Two, etc." 

We moved through six rotations, three each day, due to other scheduling changes.  Normally, I think we could have done all six.  On these rehearsal days, we do not do Daily Five rotations, this is our reading work for the day. 

I put the stations in these baskets from the Dollar Tree.  In each basket was the activity itself and anything else they may need to complete it, like highlighters, anchor charts, sentence frames, etc. The students worked through the stations with their tables.  I put a station on each table and they just rotated through the tables.  They had about ten to fifteen minutes for each station and if they finished a station early, they read one of their self selected reading books that they took to each station with them.   I put all of their response pages in a packet for them as well.  

For each review/rehearsal day we do, I pull resources on standards I feel my students more work with. I prefer to do stations like this rather than whole class reviews, such as Jeopardy games, because I feel they hold each students a bit more accountable for actually reviewing.  We don't get to review every standard they will be tested on this way, but it works for us.  :)

One station was identifying informational text structures.  Something we need LOTS more work with apparently, since I had quite a few questions from my classes when they worked at this center. :)

Inside the tub were copies of Amanda's Informational Text Structure Posters and some of Rachel's Informational Text Structure Task Cards. I highlighted some key words/phrase to get them started/get their brains moving. 

One station was working with shades of meaning/synonyms.  I left dictionaries out at this table for my kiddos to use, as some cards were tricky! 

I used Rachel's synonyms task cards for grades 4-6 for this station.  Obviously, I love her task cards. :) Who doesn't love repeated exposure to standards? I know I sure do, and it really has made a difference with my kiddos' test scores!

One station was all about theme.  I printed two of Rachel's theme task cards and had students justify the theme they chose on their recording sheet. It was a great way to get some additional extended response practice in.  

With each of these stations, I only used a small fraction of these resources.  This means I still have plenty of resources to use for future review and kept the amount of work my students were expected to do in ten to fifteen minutes extremely manageable. 

One station had my kiddos review primary/secondary sources.  I got the review activity from this website.  To save on copies, I just included the recording sheet in their packets and copied the firsthand and secondhand accounts on card stock to all students to use. 

The next station came from one of my FAVORITE packs, Tracy's Find Us Forever Homes.  Inferring with text based evidence is huge in fourth grade and this pack is PERFECT for inferring with non fiction.

We've done a few doggie adoptions already and they were so excited to do another one.  :)  I loved reading their responses as to why the family they chose was the perfect family for the dog they were helping.  

Finally, we did some work with main idea and detail.  I haven't done as much work with main idea and detail this year, so I provided a lot of support at this station.  This also let me know that I needed to do some more lessons/activities with this standard. :)

For this station, I used Tracy's Animal Main Idea Practice Pack.  I love this pack because of the differentiation it provides and the passages are really engaging for my kiddos. :)

When we return from spring break, we'll be doing a few weeks of book clubs.  Which my kiddos are super excited about. However, as a teacher I'm freaking out a bit.  The OAA is right around the corner, and I want to make sure we touch upon some of the standards we've struggled with a few more times.  

So yesterday, I worked hard a packet I plan to use as a little warm up before book clubs. 

My kiddos love basketball, so I took that theme and ran with it.  I created five printables to review multiple meaning words, point of view, suffixes, text structure, and inferencing.  I plan on using one of them each day next week as a little reading warm up before book clubs. 

Although I am using them for daily spiral review as a warm up before book clubs, they certainly have many more uses. :) You can use them for morning work, for remediation/enrichment, homework, and much more.  

I'm already drawing out plans for the next pack to use the following week.  I'm hoping a new theme each week will keep my kiddos a little more excited and engaged. :)  If you are interested in this product, you can check it out here or click on any of its pictures. :)  

I have also added an environmental themed review packet to my little store as well.  We had such a great week of review with our basketball printables, that I knew I had to make another set!

You can check this pack out by clicking on any of the pictures above or by clicking {here}

I'm about to hit publish and get out and enjoy the rest of the weekend! Have a great one! 

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

April Currently

It's the first part of the month again, time for Farley's Currently. :)  

Listening: I LOVE The Golden Girls.  One of my favorite parts of any break is a enjoying a cup of coffee while watching it. 

Loving: Of course, I am loving my spring break!  
This school year has brought so many changes in education and my mind and body has been exhausted.  I'm so thankful for a day recharge my batteries. 

Thinking: It's time to bring the school bag into the house. I've organized the house and did some work in my yard so I can tackle some school and TpT to do lists.  A little bit here and there will help me get everything well before 8:00 pm on Sunday night.  

Wanting: I am pretty tall, so I wear flats almost every day.  I'm thinking it's time for a really nice pair that's comfortable and cute.  So obviously, I'm thinking a pair of Tieks is in order. :)  Once I get over the sticker shock. 

Needing: I just finished my first cup, and now I'm ready for another. :)  I am trying to cut back on my caffeine intake, so two cups will have to do!

Hours and Days: My kiddos are with me from 9:30-4:00. Yes, that's a late day.  To save money, all the schools in my district are on staggered starts to have fewer buses/drivers.  My hours are from 8:40-4:10.  At first, I wasn't a fan of these hours, but I've gotten used to them over the past three years.  

Our last day with kids is June 2nd, thanks to snow days. We have a work day on June 3rd, which will means I have about two weeks before my summer session at grad school.  

I'm off to hit publish and go enjoy this wonderful day! :) Have a great one!

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Must Read Monday: Favorite Series

Hi friends! Sorry it's been a little while.  Like all of you, things have been a little crazy in my fourth grade classroom lately.  Only three more days until spring break! :)

I frequently get asked what books my kids like to read.  So today, I'm linking up with Amanda at Teaching Maddeness for Must Read Monday! 

Must-Read Monday Linky
I am very blessed because my kids LOVE to read. More so this year than any other, which I fully attribute to them being able to have more independent reading because of the Daily Five. 

Today I'm sharing some of their favorite series. By favorite series, I mean the ones that I can never keep in our classroom library for more than a day or two. :) Next week, I'll share some of their other favorite books. :)

Amazon Link

Amazon Link

 Amazon Link

Amazon Link 
I am always looking to add to our classroom library. What series do your kiddos love to read? :) I need some suggestions for great series for fourth grade girls! :) 

Sunday, March 9, 2014

Bright Ideas Blog Hop: Mystery Motivators

Welcome to next stop on the Bright Ideas Blog Hop! 

Thanks, Gina for the warm welcome! I hope you enjoyed reading her post on easy ways to collect papers. :) Today I'm going to be blogging all about my new favorite behavior management tip, mystery motivators! 

This year my teaching partner and I have a student who has been extremely hard to motivate to make good choices.  All our tried and true tips and tricks have failed and we were desperate to find something that worked to motivate this student to make better choices, so we could teach

We consulted our administration, who are FABULOUS, and they suggested we give our student a motivation survey.  We found that peer approval motivates our student and we started brainstorming peer approval rewards to motivate our student to make appropriate choices.  

We decided to have our student work towards a treat that the whole class could enjoy as a reward for his good behavior.  He earns things like a special snack for the class, going to recess 10 minutes early once a week, extra computer lab time, etc.  

To keep him on track, we came up with three things we wanted him to work on and then broke up our day into nine sections.  If he is successful in meeting his goals during each section of his day, he gets a star.  Each week, we determine the number of stars he needs to earn a treat for the class.  

He was initially excited about this but it wasn't working.  He'd not earn a few stars, and then automatically think "Why bother, I'm never going to earn _____ stars?"

Our principal suggested the concept of a mystery motivator as a reward for making good choices at the end of each day for earning a certain number of stars. We have started out low, 5/9 stars, but will increase the number of stars he needs to earn as his behavior improves.  We sat down with our student and brainstormed things he'd like to receive as a reward for making good choices at the end of each day. It was important that HE come up with this list so HE felt motivated.  It was important for us that they be free and easy to implement since he would get a reward each day he met his goal. Our student's list of motivators is below.  

He carries his behavior chart and mystery motivator envelope back and forth between his two classes.  Before the day begins, I slip a slip of paper with one of his mystery motivators written on it inside the envelope.  I try to rotate them out so he doesn't get board with them.  At the end of the day, if he reaches his daily goal, he gets to open the envelope.  He likes it because it's a surprise and a present he gets to open at the end of the day. It also helps us build a more positive relationship with us as well.  

Opening his mystery motivator has become a special moment for my student, as well as for the rest of the class.  They are always excited to see what he earned for making good choices that day.  

I am proud to report that last week, our student earned a treat for the class. So I let him choose a special snack for the class.  He chose fruit snacks, and I was happy to buy them!

He also reached his weekly goal on Friday, so the class will get to enjoy a special treat next week as well.  

I hope you enjoyed reading how mystery motivators have been a difference maker in my classroom this year.  Mystery Motivators could also work has a whole class incentive for making good choices as well, especially if you use the WBT Scoreboard System! :) 

For another bright idea, hop on over to The Second Grade Surprise.  Jeannie is sharing a bright idea on keeping students quiet in the hallway. :) 

For even MORE bright ideas, feel free to hop along the links below.  I know I will be after I pour my first cup of coffee! :)

You can also check out more bright ideas on our collaborative Pinterest board {here}! :) 

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