Thursday, July 31, 2014

Livening up the Classroom Library

Ten years ago when I was just starting my third year of teaching I decided to take on the daunting task of organizing my classroom library. I will never forget the endless hours I spent buried in piles of books.  First, I should mention that my classroom library collection was huge for a fairly new teacher. Second, this had little to do with me and a lot to do with the fact that I "inherited" a classroom full of books when I was first hired in my school. I was very excited about this but with no organization system it was IMPOSSIBLE to even use my library. Needless to say it was 100 percent necessary that I sorted them out.
Fast forward 10 years.. My classroom library is a fully organized and functional system.  I spend a few lessons at the start of the school year teaching the students all about the classroom library, how to borrow books, return books, etc in an effort to keep it together.  This year I am going to assign two or three students to be "Librarians."  Their classroom job will be to help any students with the borrowing/returning process. I'm hoping that if they are watching each other they will be less likely to "stick" a book where ever they please. Fingers crossed...

This year I decided I am going to liven up my classroom library a bit.  First, I stopped in the dollar tree and was excited when I found 30 perfectly sized bins all in the SAME COLOR!! That is so rare especially at this time of the year when teachers are raiding all the local Dollar Spots for storage and organization purposes.  I guess this was my lucky day.  I'm using the white bins for my library and I haven't decided yet on the other colored bins but they seemed like they were the perfect size for something??

This year I am transforming my space into a Polka Dot Themed Classroom. To go along with that I have made Polka Dot themed Classroom Library Labels.  In my room I level the books by Guided Reading Levels A-Z and then into genres and categories as well.  Here is a preview of my Classroom Library Labels. You can download them from my TpT store.  I included 55 category/genre labels. I really racked my brain to think of as many as I could but in case I missed something that you have in your classroom, I included a blank page as well for you to fill in yourself.  

And here are my book bins ready and waiting to be filled with books. I haven't been into my classroom yet to begin setting up. We have a full month left of summer vacation and I don't want to rush it away too quickly.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Organizing Student Information

This year I'm determined to get more organized. Starting the year off in an organized way will hopefully give me the momentum I need to keep it up.  Usually somewhere around October/November I start to lose it a little bit but not this year.  My motto will be, "Everything has a place and a place for everything."
The first thing I thought would be useful is a questionnaire to collect student information.  I put together a form of questions for the parents to fill out with some information I think would be beneficial to know at the start of the school year.
My plan is to keep these triple hole punched in a slim binder near my desk.  Maybe I will take it a step further and scan them into a file to store on my computer?? Not sure yet about that one but I have high hopes for my organization this year.

Here is a free download of the Student Information Sheet I am handing out.  I am happy to share if you can please follow me on TPT and leave me some feedback :)

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Thinking Ahead of Schedule

Today I am thinking ahead of schedule.  I think it was my stroll down the school supply aisle (which is already showcased in all the stores) that got me thinking about September and Back To School.  I couldn't resist picking up some classroom supplies when I came across a 24 box of crayons for 25 cents or 77 cents for a box of markers!! Whether I will hand them out the first day or keep them as a back up supply for mid year when the students are scribbling with broken crayons, I'm not sure?? I also don't know how many of these fresh boxes of markers, crayons, and pencils will make it past my two little girlies who LOVE to color????

Today I created a little "My First Day" booklet for the students to work on.  It's a good way to assess writing/reading skills.  I'm sure I will have students breeze through it no problem as well as students who will struggle with the first page.  I will use this as my first unofficial tool of "figuring out" who is who.
Here is a preview of my Back To School Booklet.  You can download it from my TPT Store. 

There is still a lot of summer left to enjoy but I'm all about baby steps toward getting myself ready for the new year. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

First 30 Days of School Workshop

Today I spent my morning getting inspired at a workshop entitled "First 30 Days of School."  It was presented by Donna Whyte who is a motivating and enthusiastic speaker. I came away from this workshop with excitement for the upcoming school year.  I am definitely putting the ideas she shared with us to good use in September.  You can take a look at her blog and become familiar with some of the ideas and great products/resources she has available to teachers.

One of the main things from this workshop that I think is important to share is that as educators we need to agree on a common language to use when teaching important skills. For example Donna Whyte discussed Reading Strategies and how from year to year the students are taught the same strategies but in different language.  Some teachers might say, "sound it out" and others "stretch it out." This is just one example of these inconsistencies in language.  She has a bookmark available as a free download which I plan to use this year with my kids.

This is just one of the many ideas that I came away with this morning. She shared many more with us, including a great Monthly Homework Calendar, Morning Meeting and Afternoon Wrap Up routines.  If you ever get the opportunity to attend her workshops it would be time well spent.   

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Reading Response Journal for Non-Fiction Books

Many of our guided reading texts are exposing children to non-fiction texts.  Luckily our reading program provides us with all of the nonfiction books we need to expose the students because my classroom library is in need of a little nonfiction boost. I put together a collection of Journal Prompts to be used with non-fiction stories to compliment my fiction prompts.

Here is a freebie you can download for use in your classroom.

Reading Response Journals for Fiction Books

There are definitely some areas of my classroom and teaching that I need to "revamp" this year. One of them is to make the most of my guided reading lessons.  In the past I've always used a Reading Response Journal. Which I love because it is a place they can write in no matter what time of the day it is.  They can use it for homework to respond to an assigned read, center or independent reading time, and guided reading group. However, the problem I've always had is that the students spend much of the short time we have together preparing their page to write an answer.  This involves copying the question off of the white board, erasing, rewriting, erasing, rewriting...

So, I thought of a more organized solution.  I created these Reading Response Journal Prompts that the students can glue right into their journals.  The other great thing is that I can have these copied ahead of time and pull from them as I need.

My guided reading groups are typically divided into 4 different reading levels.  Therefore, the journal prompts I came up with are differentiated into 4 different levels to meet the needs of all of my students.

I also fit 3 to a page because I don't know anyone who doesn't want the opportunity to cut back on time spent at the copier.

Here is a little preview...

The prompts are broken down into 7 different categories or narrative elements. For example, characters, setting, plot, text connections, problem/solution, genre, and author's purpose.  I can assign the questions depending on what narrative element I'd like to focus on. 

For fun, I included an extra page with prompts inviting the students to go on a noun hunt/verb hunt/adjective hunt in their books.  This would be a great homework or center assignment.

I can't wait to get reading! How about you? 

Monday, July 14, 2014

A "Lot" of summer on my mind, and a "little" bit of school...

A "Lot of Summer"
All of a sudden it is mid July?????  It feels like summer just started but truthfully I have been on summer vacation for almost a month now.  I have been packing my days and nights full with summer fun but now is the part where I beg for time to PLEEEAASE slow down.  Here is what I've been up to.

The first weekend of summer was our son Mark's Christening.  It was a gorgeous day and everything (no matter how stressed I was pulling it all together) went better than planned. Here is our cutie-patootie.

Let's see, the rest of the weeks up until now have pretty much been... beach, pool, relax, repeat...


We mixed a little fourth of July fun in there too!!

Another highlight of my summer so far was the Rugged Maniac 5K Obstacle Course that we participated in with some friends.  It was a very muddy day spent doing a lot of challenging obstacles but I LOVED every minute of it.  Can't wait to do it again next year.  This picture is before the race so we are not looking so muddy but believe me it took four shampoos to get all the mud out of my hair when we got home.

Oh, and I discovered a way to make parenting easier with this....
I ordered it online and it came in the mail over the weekend.  I can not believe how much he loves it and also how much I love it.  This morning he fell asleep in it while I unloaded the dishwasher.  Really? How did I not discover this until now, with my third child? 

A "Little" Bit of School

So, this has been my summer so far and I still have much more of it to go.  I am having a blast and soaking up every ounce of family love but I still have a little part of my brain that is tuned in to my classroom and the upcoming school year.  Some of my "me" time I have spent planning out the decor of my classroom. I'll get into more of the nitty gritty details and planning as the summer goes on, but this is a good place to start easing my mind into September.  
I put together this collection of Polka Dot Themed Classroom Labels, Signs, and Decor to use around my room.  I wanted to liven up my space this year and Polka Dots are my thing lately.  Please visit my TPT store and take a look.

I also uploaded a Free Download of my Polka Dot Themed Word Wall.

Hope you are all having a wonderful summer!!  Leave a comment about what you are up to this summer.