Thursday, July 31, 2014

Let's Have Some Fun Linky

The start of the year can be a scary time for most teachers, me included. There are so many details to remember. And so many things to be unpacked. And so much organization. And then there's all the inservice meetings. Whoa! I might be hyperventilating a little. Time to slow down and remember why we do this teaching thing in the first place.

For me, the number one reason I love to teach is that it is FUN! There is not a day that goes by that those little stinkers don't make me smile and laugh. This is why I am linking with Elementary Matters in her Let's Have Some Fun link party.

First, I have to share a funny story. Well, I have so many, it's hard to choose. One that stands out the most is from when I was a substitute. On this day I was subbing in a a fifth grade room. I arrived at the classroom a little early, but there was already a student sitting dutifully in the hallway where she was supposed to wait. I politely smiled at her, said good morning, and went in to prepare.

I was reading through the lesson plans when I heard through the closed door. "We have a really weird sub today! I mean...really weird! She smiles A LOT!"

Well, of course I couldn't let this golden opportunity pass by without a little razzing. I opened the door and gave her my best "sub look" while I said, "Weird sub, huh?" And then I closed the door.

It was quiet for a minute, and then I hear, "Be careful what you think! This sub reads minds!"

Bahahahahaha!!!! Oh, the innocence and naiveté of sweet little fifth graders.

And now for my fun lesson. It involves my Monthly Writing Packets. I have them for the first few months of school, and hope to have the rest of the school year finished soon. These packets include interesting journal prompts, fun writing prompts that you can take to publishing, writing picture prompts, and even a literature-based writing activity.

For the August packet, the literature-based writing activity comes from one of my favorite books to read at the beginning of the year, Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller.

Writing is fun when we make it so! And this and all my other resources are on sale for the big Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School sale Aug. 4-5. My store will be 20% off, and you can enter BTS14 at checkout to get additional savings. Check it out!

Thursday, July 10, 2014

So Many Anchor Charts, So Little Space

Especially when the fire marshall tells you such a small percentage of your walls can be covered in paper. I have gone back and forth with what to do with the anchor charts I produce with my class. After a while, I swear they start to mate and multiply. How do you end up with so many? And how can students continue to take advantage of those resources you worked so hard to make?

I have seen and heard some pretty brilliant ideas on Pinterest and from other teachers. Ideas such as hanging them from chart stands or clothes racks so students can flip through, taking photos of them them and putting them in binders, or hanging them on rings from the wall. I need a way to have them accessible without having them on the wall (to make Mr. Fire Marshall happy). Plus, taking up as little space as possible is always a plus.

So, this is the idea I am going to try this year: THINK SMALL! I know, it's not what is usually said. But, I have decided to think outside the box of anchor charts. Who says they have to be made on giant chart paper? Are the anchor chart gods going to smite me if I go small?

Instead of creating them on chart paper and trying to figure out what to do with it, I am going to go small and utilize technology. I will create those charts on plain 8 1/2 x 11 paper, projecting it as I create it using my Elmo. Now, I can even use different colors or patterns of paper. Oh my! The creative possibilities are endless! Of course, this only works if you have access to a document camera, which I do. If you don't have one, you might want to look into grants or other possibilities to get one. Mine has become an invaluable teaching tool in my classroom.

Now, I will have created an anchor chart just the right size to slip into a sheet protector in a binder. I can organize them into different binders, or use dividers in one binder. I can even make black and white  copies of each anchor chart to put in the same sheet protector in case multiple student need to reference the same anchor chart at once.

This year, I will be teaching three sections of fourth grade writing, plus one science/social studies, so most of my anchor charts will be writing. I plan to break them down into binders based on lesson topic, such as Writing Ideas, Grammar/Spelling, Revising Strategies, Prewriting Strategies, Editing Techniques, and Beginnings/Endings. I plan to keep the binders on a shelf alongside the mentor texts we use for each genre as well as dictionaries, thesauruses, and rhyming dictionaries. Then all the writing reference material will be in one spot.

A spin-off idea might be copying, shrinking, and laminating the charts. Then using binder rings to make a set for each table group. That would take a lot more work though. I think I will start with the create-through-projection-to-organized-binder idea, and direct students to the binders when they need resources.

Sunday, July 6, 2014

DIY: Make a Cool Book Setting Sign for Your Classroom

I have been inspired by signs like this for several years and vowed to have one in my classroom.

Finally, I made my own... and one that would work with the beach theme in my classroom. Want to know how?

First, I set out to brainstorm the locations I wanted on my sign. I scoured Pinterest and then Googled until I could Google no more. I also sought out the help of my friends through Facebook. And when I got stuck, I thought of my and my students' favorite books, and if they were set in identifiable places.

Next, I went about trying to figure out what materials to use. To go with my beach theme, a pole was pretty easy. I immediately thought of bamboo, which was easy to find in the gardening section at Lowe's. But what would the signs be made of? My inspiration pictures, and actual signs like this, are made from driftwood or broken pieces of wood. That's not so easy to find, at least where I live. Finally, after walking around Lowe's for a while, I came upon shims. If you don't know (and I didn't), shims are pieces of tapered wood that carpenters use to fill in gaps or make pieces level. Anyway, they were cheap, so I thought I would try to work with them. But, I hated that they were just a light wood color. I wanted them to look weathered... like driftwood. I thought, it's wood, so why not stain? And lo and behold, there is a stain that is driftwood colored! I was all set. All the materials cost me less than $20.

My first step of actually making the sign was to stain the shims. This was a very quick and easy process. I just rubbed the stain on both sides with a cloth. Just make sure to work in a ventilated area. It took them a couple of hours to dry.

Next, I gathered up some colors of acrylic paints I just had, but you could use any sort of thick, colored paint. I would not imagine watercolors would at all. I got my children to help me paint, choosing a variety of colors and printing styles so that they looked mismatched. They took an hour or so to dry.

Finally, I nailed them to the bamboo using small finishing nails. I made sure to mount them all caddywampus (one of my favorite words) to make it look more like the inspiration. Just a word to the wise: if you do use bamboo, it is VERY difficult to nail into. That was the hardest part of the process for me. But, TA DA!!!!! I now have a totally cute sign to put in my classroom. My hope is that the students ask about settings they don't know, and that might lead them to other books to love.