Summer Work

Teacher Letter

I’m going to quickly post and run. Just wanted to post my teacher letter. It’s simple but kinda cute!

My goal is just to share a little about me and get the kids excited. I don’t want to overwhelm families with 1001 rules and procedures. There is plenty of time for that later.

The second page covers class information. It still doesn’t have rules and policies, but gives parents some information they will need for the first week of school (like snacks, how I will communicate, etc). It also gives the url to the class website so they can check it out.

I also did a little attention-whoring by including some quotes from former students. Again, I just want to get the kids and parents excited for the first day of school and ease some of the worries that they may have since I’m new to the school.

Categories: Summer Work, Uncategorized

Adventures in Crafting: Part 2

After some trial and error and some lucky finds in my garage, I can now give advice on how to turn a cookie sheet into a cute magnet board.

Follow these steps:

1. Spray a good coat of spray primer on one side, let it dry, then spray on the other side and let it dry.

2. Spray one side with any color spray paint, let it dry, repeat on other side. You don’t need to paint the part that will be covered by paper.

3. Cut scrabook paper to fit an grab a bottle of Mod Podge.

4. Optional Step: Lightly spray the scrapbook paper with clear acrylic spray. This will help eliminate some bubbles.

4. Spread a thin layer of Mod Podge on the surface of the cookie sheet. Then spread a thin layer of Mod Podge on the scrapbook paper. Then attach it, and smooth it down as much as possible.  If you’re really anal, use makeup sponges to spread the Mod Podge. The Internet says this will give a smoother finish. I didn’t do this.)

5. Cover the top of the paper with Mod Podge AND cover all of the paint with Mod Podge! This doesn’t look quite as cute but makes it much more durable, which is necessary in a classroom! NOTE: You will see bubbles and creases. Don’t freak out!! Most of them go away while it is drying! Put the cookie sheet in the garage to dry and don’t look at it while it’s drying because you’ll just freak out about all the bubbles. Most of them really will go away, I promise!

6. Spread Mod Podge over the paint on the back of the cookie sheets too. Let dry.

Conclusion: It’s a lot of work. I don’t know if it’s worth it but it’s done now!

Here they are:

Categories: Crafts, New Classroom, Summer Work | Leave a comment

Time Capsules

Today I’m updating my time capsule assignment for the first week of school.

It’s a quick project that students can complete on their own and in small groups. When they finish, I put all the pieces in a ziploc bag and save it until the end of the year.  Here are the pieces and what I do with them at the beginning and end of the year:

Self Portrait

Beginning of year: Have students create a self portrait of their face, then mount them on construction paper and display them in the classroom. I cover up the name with a tag that says, “Guess who?” and students guess who each picture is. We then reveal the names.

I also draw a self portrait and…. (Shh, this is a secret!)…  I purposefully make it bad while acting like I’m trying really, really hard to show that it’s ok if you aren’t a good artist! I want students to feel comfortable taking risks and making mistakes. They look so cute displayed in the classroom. Here’s a bad picture (I forgot to save the full res version):

End of year: Compare their artwork at the beginning of the year with the end. It’s amazing how much better they get!

Hand Print and Foot Print

Beginning of year: Have students work with a partner to trace each others hand and foot.

End of year: Trace them again on top of the first picture with a different color to see how much your hands and feet grew.

Yarn to Show Height:

Beginning of year: In groups of 3-4, have students help each other cut a piece of yarn that is their height.

End of year: Do this again, then compare it to the height at the beginning of the year. Then students write how many centimeters they grew or shrunk on the board. The best part of this is that they do such a bad job of measuring at the beginning of the year that the end of year measurements are hilarious. Some will see that they “shrunk” 30 centimeters because their measuring skills were so off!

Goal Sheet:

Beginning of year: Have students fill these out individually. Conference with students during your first week of guided reading to discuss their goals.

End of year: If you have time, discuss the goals again with each student. You could also have them write a paragraph about how well their met their goals.

Acrostic Poem:

Beginning of year: Have student write an acrostic poem with their name that describes them.

End of year: Read poems. I didn’t do anything else with them.

Favorite Things:

Beginning of year: Have students fill this out individually.

End of year: Have students fill out another copy individually and don’t show them what they wrote at the beginning of the year. During the last week of school, spend 10 minutes at the end of each day going around in a circle having kids share what their favorite things were at the beginning of the year and what they are now. Sometimes they stay the same and sometimes they change.

Here’s the download:

Time Capsules

Categories: Beginning Year Stuff, Summer Work, Writing Assignments | 2 Comments

Life Without AR

In case anyone was sitting at home worrying why I haven’t been posting (haha), I have been hard at work! I’ve been getting some things ready for Daily 5 and CAFE, and a few other things. I don’t really want to post details until that’s all done. I’m going to work in my classroom on the 30th and hopefully will post some pictures and upload some documents that day.

Anyway, I want to post today about Accelerated Reader (AR). I’ve done AR in my classroom for the last 6 years. AR is a program online where students search for books they read and take basic comprehension quizzes based on the books.

Not everyone is a fan of AR. It isn’t perfect, but I do think it serves a purpose. AR makes sure that the kids are actually reading the books they say they are reading (ACCOUNTABILITY!). It brings comprehension issues to my attention. It also provides a way to keep track of what students read. You can print lovely reports. Parents can have emails sent to them showing their child’s progress.

Now I don’t have AR and I’ve been freaking out a little. What I REALLY wish existed was Goodreads for kids, but it doesn’t exist.  I thought making a blog or doing something on Edmodo and I googled other reading websites but wasn’t thrilled with any of that. I also don’t want to bog the kids down by making them do a ton of writing after they finish a book. We do plenty of writing in class. I just want a quick, easy way to keep track of what books each student is reading.

In the end, I came up with an old-fashioned form for kids to fill out. It is quick and easy. I’ll put it in their binder with their planners so they have it with them all the time. They just fill out the number of the book (to track how many books they read throughout the year), the title, author, date finished, and book level. Then they color in the star rating that they give the book and describe it with an adjective or two. They also write the number of pages in the book and there’s an extra space for any other information they want to add.

The downside is that this definitely does not guarantee that the student actually read the book or understood it. I’ll conference with kids about what they read and hope for the best!

Here’s the download if anyone wants it! Sorry it isn’t cute. I wanted to fit 4 on a page so there wasn’t room for cute stuff.

Book Form

Categories: Beginning Year Stuff, New Classroom, Summer Work | Leave a comment

Mobile Coupons!

Did you know that Michaels and Hobby Lobby will take mobile coupons? I have used both this weekend and both were accepted, no problem at all.

Both coupons are for 40% off one item and can be found directly on the Michaels and Hobby Lobby websites. Just find it on your mobile browser and show it to the checkout person. Easy peasy!

Here’s what one of them looks like on my phone. Btw I’m posting this from the WordPress app on my phone, so hopefully it will work!


Happy shopping!

Categories: Crafts, Summer Work | Leave a comment

Adventures in Crafting

I attempted 2 crafts today. One was a fail. I think the other is kind of a success.

Craft 1 was based on something like this from Pinterest:

I do plan on doing something like this with my clipboards, which are covered in 4th grade graffiti. But the clipboards are buried in a box somewhere (probably in my new classroom), so I decided to try something similar with the cookie sheets that I use as magnet boards.

EDIT: I found the Pinterest link to the cute cookie sheet magnet board. Here’s the inspiration pic:

First, I spray painted the back and part of the front. FYI, Krylon works better than Rustoleum and dries far faster. It covers well, but is easy to scratch off. I got a spray enamel to use after I’m done, which hopefully will make it a little stronger. However, I might end up having to use spray primer before the spray paint.

Here’s what it looked like with the spray paint:

The middle didn’t need to be totally painted because I was going to cover it in paper. I tested a magnet to see if it would work through the paper, and it worked great. Here’s what it should look like with the paper:

I used a spray adhesive on the paper and on the cookie sheet. Here’s what it looked like after I put the paper down and tried to re-position it to be straight:


A new layer of spray paint is drying right now. I’ll re-attempt this later.

Craft 2 was a bit better. I saw this done on a blog somewhere.  Basically you just cover a binder in fabric to make it look pretty. I used spray adhesive. It looks ok, but I’m not sure it’s going to stay adhered. We’ll see.

Categories: Crafts, New Classroom, Summer Work | 5 Comments

Curriculum Mapping

At the beginning of the year, I always have the best intentions to map out my curriculum for the year. It usually gets about 1/3 done and then I get busy with other things and never go back to it, never look at it again, and just follow the plan in my brain. I was also pretty much my own team because I taught in the gifted/talented program and didn’t have plan time with the other teachers in my grade level.  I did a lot of vertical planning with the g/t team, but that’s quite a bit different than horizontal planning.

This year, I’ll be on a real live team! Yay! To keep us all organized, it would probably be a good idea to complete a curriculum map that we actually use and refer to.

I’m not good at making that sort of thing. I get mad at Excel. Fortunately, my former teammate, Emmalee, lives for that kind of thing. She makes amazing Excel documents and doesn’t even scream at her computer like I do.

EDIT: I just realized I had included the wrong curriculum map, and it wasn’t blank. This one is blank:

Curriculum Map – Blank

UPDATE: To make this a more useful document, we copied and pasted it to Google Docs so everyone could view and change it. It didn’t look as pretty, but was a much more workable document for a team. I definitely recommend doing that!

Categories: New Classroom, Planning, Summer Work | Leave a comment

The Clip Chart (in about a million words)

Last summer, I looked into classroom management programs. I used to use a ticket system, where students earned tickets for making good choices. They used those tickets at class auctions to buy trinkets.

The ticket system actually worked pretty well, but I was “over” this system for a few reasons:
1. It focused too much on extrinsic motivation. I wanted to find something that focused on intrinsic motivation.
2. It was expensive to buy all that stuff.
3. It took a long time to get through the auctions.
4. It was run entirely by the teacher.

Thanks to the good old Internet, I found out about the clip system. I heard it was “magic!” and that kids loved it. It sounded good to me, so I decided to try it. I LOVE LOVE LOVE IT!!!  Here’s what it looked like in my classroom. (Yes I mixed up the rainbow colors. I’ll fix that this year!)

From the top down, it says, Outstanding, Role Model, Showing Pride, Ready to Learn, Thinking About It, Lose 10 Minutes (of reward or recess time), and Contact Home.

Everyone starts the day on Ready to Learn. Students clip up or down according to their choices. You can have the whole class, small groups, or individual students clip up or down.

If I student makes it to Lose 10 Minutes, then he or she had to sit out at our second recess (NOTE: I would not recommend having younger students miss recess time if you only have one recess per day – I’d probably choose a different consequence or have it say “Teacher’s Choice”).

If a student continues a poor behavior choice after the first consequence, then he or she has to clip down to Contact Home. Some teachers have those students write a letter home, some have them fill out a form, and some will email or call the parent. It’s totally up to you.

Everyone starts with a red clip. Students who end the day at “Outstanding” get a sticker on their clip. After getting 5 stickers, the kids get the next color clip! The kids LOVE THIS!  Last year, they saved their clips, attached them to their backpacks or the sides of the desks, etc. They were so proud of themselves when they “clipped up” to the next color!

After getting to the top pink clip, students could then earn Bronze, Silver, Gold, Ruby, Emerald, and Diamond clips.

I bought the clips at Walmart. 100 clips are $1.88. I also bought spraypaint for red, orange, yellow, green, blue, purple, and pink clips. Here’s what it looks like when you spray them:

For the glitter clips, I covered one side in glue and then spread glittery on it and let it dry. I left the other side free for the stickers. For the diamond clip, I bought some cheap sparkly bling from Michaels and hot glued them on the clip, which was painted silver. I also displayed all of the clips on the side of the clip chart with fun names like “Responsible Ruby” and “Polite Pink”. The kids loved looking at the clips and having a visual reminder of which clip they would earn next.

Some tips on using the clip chart:

1. It works best when you focus on the positive! Instead of jumping right into, “Clip down, Sally”, have the kids who are making the right decision clip up! About 8 times out of 10, the kids who aren’t making the right choice will quickly get the hint!

2. When clipping down, some teachers have kids clip all the way down to Thinking About It, even if they were on Outstanding before that. Personally, I don’t think that’s fair. The student earned the clip-ups, and my opinion is that one clip-down is appropriate in most instances. I will make an exception only for very serious mistakes, like hitting someone or something like that. I make it clear that school rules are still in effect, and referrals will be given for major incidents. (FYI, I think I only had to write one referral last year.)

3. Some teachers don’t use the colored clips, and students just keep a plain-colored clip for the whole year. It seems to me that these classes don’t have as much success with the chart. Part of why it works is because students are motivated to get that next clip and are so proud of themselves for earning it.

4. I put student numbers on the clips instead of names. At the end of the day, it didn’t matter. The kids knew who had which number by the end of the first week of school. I’m not sure if I’ll do names or numbers this year.

5. I was a bit of a control freak about the clips last year, but I think I’ll have the kids be in charge this year. I had the kids take over more of it by the end of the year, and they did a great job. The kids can absolutely put stickers on the clips at the end of the day, move everyone to Ready to Learn, and hand out the new clips. I’ll probably make it a class job for 2 students each week.

6. If you have a classroom theme, you can personalize the clip chart to your theme! I’ll post my new clip chart sometime in the next month or so. 🙂

7. Some teachers make a contact home form for students to fill out if they get to that. On the other end of the chart, some teachers make stickers or little “I had an outstanding day!” forms for kids to have. It’s up to you!

I love everything about the clip chart, and highly recommend it!

Categories: Classroom Management, Summer Work | Leave a comment

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