Back to School Postcards

Sunday, August 5, 2018 No comments
Who doesn't love getting a handwritten note in the mail? With so much technology in our lives snail mail has become somewhat of a novelty.

I love sending back to school notes to my students. I send a letter to my previous class and a post card to my new kiddos.

 


Many of you have been asking about my Back to School postcard template. I've uploaded this Freebie to the blog for you to use. I, personally, print these from Vista Print in bulk. However, you definitely can print at a local print shop like Walgreens or CVS.








Thank you for taking the time to visit my blog. I hope this free resource helps with your back to school prep! If you would like to support my classroom please check out our class wishlist.

My End of the Year Activities!

Friday, June 1, 2018 No comments
You're done with state testing, you've got 5 days of school left and you're looking for something to keep your kids engaged and.......calm. Hey! We've all been there. Here are some of my favorite end of the year activities!

I typically introduce them whenever I can find the time and then use them as my go-to "time fillers" when I can sense we need to switch things up ;)

**All of the links below will take you to "View Only" versions of a Google Doc, Slide or Form. Click "Make a Copy" and you'll be able to edit to fit your needs.

End of the Year Trivia!



This was a HUGE hit in my 4th grade classroom. And the best part was...they were SO quiet while they played. I did not read the questions and I didn't leave the questions up for longer than about 30 seconds. My kiddos quickly learned to stay quiet and work together. In this download I kept the generic rounds that would work for any group of kiddos. Feel free to use the template to add your own rounds. We ended up with around 30 rounds of trivia when it was all said and done.




Create a Board Game



At our school we are paired up with a buddy class. My 4th graders are paired with a 1st grade class. For our last get together of the year we played board games that my kids designed to help the 1st graders with their Accountable Words (also known as Sight Words). My students loved the opportunity to be creative and it was super motivating knowing that real students would actually be playing these games.




Letter Writing



This awesome idea came from a teammate! She stashes the "letters to your 5th grade self" away until January of the next year and then delivers them to the kiddos. I just started these letters this year and I can't wait to deliver them next year :)


These are just a few of my favorite End of the Year go to activities. What End of the Year traditions do you have in your classroom?

My End of the Year Checklist

Sunday, May 20, 2018 No comments
The end of the year is always an exciting time! For me it means wrapping up the current school year while bouncing around new ideas for what I'd like to do differently next year. This summer I've got big plans to revamp my Flexible Seating classroom (read more about that here) so I'm going to need all the time I can get! Did you know there are little things you can do right now, at the end of the year, to save you time at the beginning of the next school year?!


Think about all the forms you'll need to start the year and RESTOCK! 


That means making sure I have plenty of F&P and IRA reading forms in my classroom. Since I just wrapped up my end of the year testing, I make sure to refill my binder so I'm ready to go in August.


PRINT and PREP back to school handouts! 


We host "Sneak a Peek" night and I know what handouts I will use, the same ones I used last year! Take 2-3 minutes now to print them and stash them away. It's one less thing to worry about when you're running around like a madman making sure your room looks perfect for your new bunch of kiddos!


Write your student notes now!


I don't know about you, but I always find a way to strategically plan a movie to land during the last week of school ;) I use this time to write my student notes that will get mailed out in August. Each year I send out 2 sets of student notes - 1 set to my current class, wishing them good luck in their new class and another set to my new kiddos, welcoming them to 4th! I won't know the names of my new students until late July/early August, but my message is done and I'll have to do is fill in their names!



Update Technology

  • Google Classrooms - As we get to the last week of school, I clear out my Google Classrooms. I update the names for the next school year and prep my slides so kids are ready to join as soon as we get back to work in August.

  • Blog/Class Website - I take about 30 minutes to update my class website. Chances are your parents will take a peek once they find out you're going to be their child's teacher in the fall. The last thing you want is outdated information!


What do you do at the end of the year to make your transition back to the classroom easier? I'd love to hear from you! Share your best tips and tricks in the comments!

American Revolution Resources

Sunday, December 31, 2017 No comments

This year my school district fully adopted the Lucy Calkins reading and writing units of study. My team and I have spent hours working to align both units so that we can teach them at the same time. 

Of course, Lucy suggests having 30-55 texts in each classroom for students to use throughout the units. Even with an amazing school library there was NO way we were going to have that may books per classroom (we have 4 sections of 4th grade). 

I started by finding all of the online resources that I could, I mean these are FREE after all!

 

You can grab these QR Code printables from my Teachers Pay Teachers store.


Then I spent some time going through Lucy's suggested book list as well as other recommendations I found online to compile a list of my favorite American Revolution books for you! 

I started by adding ALL of these books to my Amazon classroom wishlist. Then I tuck that little link into each of my weekly newsletters. My team also spent some of our PTO money on a few of the texts and then of course, like all teachers do, I've spent my own money to get some of these texts for my classroom.


The Boston Massacre


      



The Boston Tea Party


            



Paul Revere's Midnight Ride


These two books are from Lucy Calkins' Recommended Book List for Unit 3: Reading History:

   


The following books are additional books my students found helpful during this unit:

      



Battles of Lexington & Concord


   



The Declaration of Independence 


This book is from Lucy Calkins' recommended book list for the unit:




These are additional books my students found to be helpful:

         



Women of the Revolution


This book is from Lucy Calkins' recommended book list for the unit:


These are additional books my students found to be helpful:

           



Spies of the Revolution


This book is from the Lucy Calkins' suggested book list for this unit:

   


These are additional books my students found to be helpful:

           



General Books on the American Revolution


             

Do you have a favorite resource for teaching the American Revolution that I haven't listed? If so, leave me a comment with the details! I'd love to check it out. 

*This post contains affiliate links.

Lewis & Clark Expedition - A Google Earth Activity

Saturday, December 9, 2017 No comments

As we wrapped up our Early Settlement unit in Social Studies I stumbled upon the internet's best kept secret, Google Earth Voyager! These interactive maps take you through all kinds of new learning. I was super excited to see a Lewis & Clark Expedition and knew that I just had to try it out with my kiddos!


The first thing I loved about this was how seamless it was to push out in Google Classroom. We are 1:1 with Chromebook in my 4th grade classroom, so any chance to push out work through Google Classroom is fine by me!


As students work their way through their interactive journey they follow Lewis & Clark's path. The interactive map allows for an aerial view or ground view and you can even manipulate the map to see what other things are near by. As you see on the right hand side, students also have the opportunity to watch videos and read more about the Expedition as they move along.

I pushed out this independent learning activity and gave my students two 45 minute sessions to complete it. They were engaged throughout the whole activity and asking for more Voyager activities by the end. 

You can check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store for the companion activity I assigned with this activity. This was a great accountability piece and helped my students take thorough notes as they went through the voyage.






Cyber Deals for the Classroom!

Saturday, November 25, 2017 No comments

I have to admit, I love that retailers aren't sticking to just one day of sales anymore. I've been online shopping since our break started on Wednesday. Here are some of the best Cyber Deals I found for the classroom.

*The links below are affiliate links.



Canon MX492 Wireless All-IN-One Small Printer with Mobile or Tablet Printing, Airprint and Google Cloud Print Compatible
This printer was $99.99 -- get it now for $39.99! Click here to shop now.


Paper Mate Flair Felt Tip Pens, Medium Point, Assorted Colors, 12-Count
Our beloved Flair Pens are down from $19.99 to just $5.60! Click here to shop.


Expo Low-Odor Dry Erase Markers, Chisel Tip, 16-Pack, Assorted
Because we can never have enough dry erase markers! Grab them now for just $5.81, down from $12.00! Click here to shop.


Pilot FriXion Clicker Retractable Erasable Gel Pens, Fine Point, Assorted Color Inks, 7-Pack
If you aren't using Frixon ERASABLE pens yet, please do yourself a favor and try them out! These are the only pens I write with in my plan book. They are magical!
They are currently 49% off at only $10.65! Shop now.



Echo Dot (2nd Generation) - Black
It's time to add Alexa to your classroom! Erin over at Erintegration has some fabulous ways to use Alexa in the classroom. Check them out here.


Right now you can score an Echo Dot for just $29.99, down from $49.99! Shop now.


Scotch Thermal Laminator, 2 Roller System, Fast Warm-up, Quick Laminating Speed
This laminator is an Amazon #1 Best Seller and I can see why! The quick heat up is exactly what you need when you're running around putting together a last minute station.
Originally $29.99, you can snag this for just $18.99. Order yours here.



That's all for now! I'll update throughout the weekend with more ways to save. If you find a good deal, let us know in the comments!

Flexible Seating in Fourth Grade

Thursday, November 16, 2017 No comments
I've been wanting to bring you this blog post for a LONG time, but I've been waiting for the perfect moment to get the perfect pictures of my room. I wanted to wait until I had tried this new design out for a while before I brought you a lengthy post, hoping I could answer questions in my post.

But I've realized this new design in teaching and learning will never be "done". It's constantly evolving to meet the various needs of all my learners. So, here's what I've got so far. As always, let me know what questions you have! I'd love to help you on this journey and I'll update this post as I learn more.

Be sure to check out some of my older posts on Flexible Seating. A few years ago I interviewed a few teachers on their experience with Flexible Seating and here's what they said...


First, let me say that I work at THE COOLEST school. We have the most amazing administration and PTO. They have supported me in all that I've done. Most recently, we welcomed our local news station into our room to do a story on our new classroom design, check it out!


Alright, let's take it back to where it all started. In April of 2017 I was lucky enough to attend a workshop lead by Rebecca Hare. You should check out her work, it's amazing! During this full day workshop I got to visit other schools where she helped teachers redesign their space. My biggest take away from the day - everything has a purpose! When you're redesigning your classroom really challenge yourself to consider the purpose of the space.

Here are a few pictures from the spaces we visited...

This teacher purchased these couches & coffee table from Ikea. I ended up with similar couches in my classroom (a little less expensive), more on those later.

Couch: Klippan Loveseat, Black | Coffee Table: Tingby

This dry erase board is made from several panels of "shower board". I found that it's also called "Thrifty White Tile Board" at Home Depot. You can get one of these panels for just $13 and it's dry erase.


The red beanbag chairs you see here are Big Joe chairs. The rest of the furniture you see here is Ikea.

Bean Bags: Big Joe | White Tables: Lack Side Table | Lap Desks: Byllan | Standing Desk: Ikea PS 2014


Finally, this is the teacher's work space. Yes, that is it! That's all the space she takes up in the classroom. I dream of consolidating down to a few physical files some day...it's a work in progress!

After our trip around town to visit area schools we were tasked with creating idea boards, blue prints, plans, etc. Our fearless leader, Rebecca Hare, suggested that we stick to an organized color pallet. I mean, after all she is an interior designer. Below you'll see my "idea board".


Unfortunately I created my blue print outside of my classroom, so I wasn't 100% sure about my spacing. In the end I was able to tweak my design and make it work in my classroom!


At this point in time, this was all just a dream. When I got back from my workshop I shared my Idea Board with my administrator who then shared it with our PTO. Right away PTO offered to help fund my project! I was shocked, excited, nervous and so ready to take on this new challenge.

I then spent the majority of my summer online shopping and creating a budget. Below you'll see a detailed list of my purchases.



You'll also notice that I could find where most of these items were located in the Ikea Warehouse without trekking through the entire store. This saved me SO much time and kept me from loading up a cart and busting my budget as I went through the Ikea maze.


If you're planning an Ikea shopping spree like I did, plan on bringing backup! I brought my mom and it was still a struggle - those Ikea cart wheels are funky!


Oh, and did I mention you're going to want to find a small army that you can bribe to put all this together?! I shared this photo on my class Facebook page and recruited some kids and parents to come help. I paid them in pizza :)

Alright! Now for the moment you've been waiting for...here's my classroom!




Disclaimer: These BEAUTIFUL Kallax Shelves from Ikea make organizing your classroom library a little bit tricky. Those awesome bins we all love and use to organize our books will not fit side-by-side on these shelves. The opening is 13 inches. I searched FOREVER to find bins small enough to fit side by side and I couldn't find anything. Also note that these shelves do not have backs. I hot glued 2x4s in the shelves to push the books out more and prevent them from slipping through the back. So far it's working great!




Two commonly asked questions about this area...

1. Where did you get that large area rug? This is actually two rugs put side-by-side to create a bigger rug. So much cheaper and you'd never know!

2. Where did you get the rolling crates from? My mom actually found these years ago at Homegoods. Of course, we've never seen them again! The brand is called Quirky. I've had trouble finding an online store, but I see their products on Amazon from time-to-time.



One of my favorite classroom hacks has got to be with these Big Joe bean bag chairs. The kids absolutely LOVE them and they certainly show. I know that you can purchase refills...but you can also beg your classroom families to send in packing peanuts! These plump up the chairs and actually help them to hold their shape better than the Big Joe brand beans. 

Tips & Tricks to Running a Flexible Seating Classroom


Have a place for all of the stuff! 
At the beginning of the year I didn't have the beautiful cabinets and cubbies you saw in my previous pictures. I was panicked, where were my kids going to keep all of their stuff? I purchased some plastic drawers and each student got a drawer. They held up okay...it wasn't the best, but we made it work!


Have more "seat spots" than students.
One of my biggest take aways from the PD was that students should always have choice when picking a learning spot. If you only have 20 options and 20 kids...well then you've just introduced a game of "run across the room as fast as you can to get the best spot". Last I counted there were 35 "seat spots" in my room and I have 20 students. This has helped to cut down on the rushing to chose a spot and truly gives students choice!

Think about food in the classroom and have a plan!
We do a daily snack and I knew that my rule was going to be "no food on the soft furniture" which was fine. Most kids chose to sit on the floor anyway. But then Field Day came around and we had to eat in the room. AND parents joined us! I was panicked...where were 35 people going to eat lunch - we only had 3 real tables!

Plan ahead. I encouraged students to bring in picnic blankets and told them they'd be having an indoor picnic. They loved it!

Yes, there are arguments over spots.
I'd love to tell you this never happens...but it does! No matter how we discuss making good choices, being considerate of others, etc. arguments do pop up. I've really challenged myself to zip my lips and watch from afar as students work it out. So far, I've only needed to intervene once! I've learned so much about my kids and I've been so impressed with how they've handled these...disagreements. They can do it! Have faith. Walk away and let them problem solve.

Yes, there are popular spots.
The couches are a HUGE hit. We held a class meeting to decide how to handle who sits on the couches and when. My kids suggested that you should only be able to sit on the couch during one subject per day. They do a great job of policing each other on this rule. I have never had to address this one. 

Another hot spot are the white board spaces. Something about the chance to write on things with dry erase markers is super engaging! I love my dry erase small group table, it's probably my favorite piece in the room.


Remember that white board hack I mentioned earlier? I had my husband cut down a piece of shower board and back one of my shelves for another writable surface. It's just as popular!


Yes, It's Hard! 
Be prepared for rough days. The first two weeks of school I literally thought I had lost my mind and even considered going back to a traditional classroom. I pushed through and stuck it out and I'm so glad that I did! I can't ever imagine going back. My kids have never been so engaged!

What other questions do you have? Let me know in the comments!


UPDATE: As we're nearing the end of the 2017-2018 school year I'm reflecting on what's worked and what we need to change for the upcoming school year. I've created a campaign to raise money to add some new pieces to our room. You can support our classroom by clicking the badge below or by clicking here!

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