Friday, August 28, 2015

Linking Up with Five for Friday

Did you have a whole list of things you planned to blog about once you returned to school?  I did.  Sure!  I'll be able to do that!  Oh. My. Word.  How is it possible that I forget, each year, how tiring it is that first week of school?

So I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs Teaching, but only coming up with three for Friday this week!
 I get such pleasure out of making sure my books are all organized for students to check out.  I love seeing their faces the first time they walk into the room!  I should have taken an "after" shot.  It doesn't look quite this neat!

I got this idea for a first day activity from Sarah, at Education Electrification 
and it sounded like so much fun.  It was a great way to get kids talking, and it required not only that they listened to each other, but that they thought outside the box.  The challenge was to create the tallest structure using school supplies: five sheets of paper, a ruler, three paperclips, and a yard of tape.

This was a wonderful way to get kids talking and exploring together!
This morning, I just happened to glance through the newspaper, and I saw an article about Red Thread photography sessions, studio shots of parents with their adopted children.  One of the pictures was of a student of mine with her adoptive mother.  The name "red thread" comes from a Chinese proverb that says that a red thread links you to the people you are destined to meet.  I brought the article to school, got permission from the student to talk about her story, and then showed them a book called Red Thread Sisters, which talks about this very thing.  I had just read the book this summer.  Now, I'm wondering if it should be the read-aloud for the class this student is in, since she hasn't read it.  I'll talk to her about that.

That's about it for this week, since I only took pictures on the first day!

Here's hoping that your school year is off to a good start, and for those of you yet to start, that you have a great beginning to your year!

Monday, August 17, 2015

Managing your classroom library

Trying to keep track of 1000 books, checked out by about 80 students is a challenge!  Some years are better than others, but every year, about half a dozen books go missing and bunch get "retired" because they're so roughed up.  But the challenge is keeping track of them all.  Especially the ones that are in high demand.

I've always had a pretty simple check-out system.  Students had to write their name, the date, and the title of their book in a binder on the counter near the bookshelves.  When they returned the book, they just needed to draw a line through their name.  Easy, right?  It should have been!   But it wasn't.
It's for that reason that some teachers don't have a check-out system in place at all, but I can't quite be that loose about things.  I spend a lot of my own money for books and I hate seeing books disappear. 
Halfway through last year (yeah, I know, good timing!) I started to use Booksource rather than my usual paper and pencil check-out.  It took a lot of student helpers to get it up and running, but it was worth it.  While Booksource isn't perfect, I love that it emails me when a student has had a book for more than two weeks.  In sixth grade, some kids need more than two weeks to finish a book, and that's fine.  I just like that this keeps track of which student has which book. 
Best of all, it's free!

You scan the barcode on the back of your books and it assigns them a code.  You can add location (I put genres in, since that's how my books are organized, but if you have them by bins, you could just put in the bin number.)

Last year, rather than introduce Booksource to all of my students, I decided to pilot test it with one class.  They loved it and so did I.  In fact, they told some of my other students about it, so those students just put their names in and checked out books that way, too.  

All it takes is an iPad or an iPhone.  We have ten iPads in my classroom and Booksource downloaded on all of them.  That way, it's pretty easy to grab any one of them to check out or return a book.

If this sounds like a commercial for Booksource, it's not!  I don't get anything from writing about it.  I'm just on the lookout for a system that doesn't make me work harder, and I think this might be it.  For now.

What do you use for your classroom library?  Please share stories, because I'd love to learn if there's something even better out there!

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Connect with your kids around reading

One of the most important things I do on the SECOND day of school is give all three of my classes a Reading survey. 

The information I gather from them is jotted down on my Note sheet, one for each student, which guides our discussion when we meet individually to talk about what they're reading.

I meet with my students during the time they read independently.  In my classroom, I carve out two blocks of time for independent work.  One of the times has to be reading, the other may be writing or word work.  I post all their choices on my Activboard, showing students the variety they have to choose from in three categories - Read to Self, Word Work, and Work on Writing.  Then I set a timer on the board.  I wasn't sure if that would be beneficial or not, but consistently, my students tell me they like to know how much time they have left if they get to a place where they might want to stop.  If time allows, they keep going.  Starting with the first week of school, we work our way up to half an hour (although this year will have to be shorter since my periods are shortened!)

Students can "read around the room" using pillows or stuffed animals, or they may sit at their desks.  The choice is theirs, and it's something we discuss, practice, and evaluate in those first few weeks.

Once we've practiced what reading looks and sounds like, our individual meetings focus on what they're reading, what reading strategy they're working on (we decide that together, and sometimes I let them choose), and what they want to read next.  I LOVE these meetings, and most of the time, so do they!  They remind me when we're scheduled to meet, and often give me suggestions for books I should read!

Truly, this is the heart of my teaching!  I can't tell you how much I love this part of my day.  I get to know my kids in such a personal way, and they pick up on my enthusiasm for books.  Yes, even the picky ones. 

Every book they start is recorded in their Reading log, with a mark showing they quit it, or they finished it.  Even my read-alouds are included.  In addition to the title and author, I also have them list the genre. 

Why is that important?  Have you ever had a kid tell you he/she is "picky about books"?  Or complain that he/she can "never find a good book"?  When that happens, we take a look at the log.  What books were quit?  Was it the author, the difficulty level, or the genre?  I've found that this log gives me good evidence to help move that student to a book that will be more appealing.

And it melts my heart when I see them observe a student looking over books on my shelves, and they go over to make suggestions, walking them through one author or genre after another, like the little experts they've become!

This Back to School Reading Bundle contains everything you need to get started.  Why not take a look?
Have a great week!

Monday, August 10, 2015

Monday Made It: Bulletin board (finally!) and Partner Cards for groups

I 'm linking up with Tara for another Monday Made It because I finally got into school today, with the letters for my bulletin board which I forgot the last time I was there!  Ta da! is going to be one of the first things I do with my students.  I spend a lot of time going over what it looks and sounds like to Read to Self, what's in my classroom library and how to check out books.  After that, I grab a handful of books off my shelves and do some book talks to get kids interested in different genres, and to get familiar using their "Books I Want to Read" Sheets (part of the Reading Log, Wishlist, and Genre Study packet in my TpT store.)  Then I let students check out books and we begin our first Read to Self session.  When we finish, I'll have students create their own minions holding a sign for the book they've chosen.

I like having lots of ways to group my students for discussions.  One of the ways I like best is using paint chips like these. I laminate these, and then, as I'm greeting kids at the door I just hand them out.  They have no idea whether I'm picking the partner sort to be by color, number, letter or punctuation.  It's a great way to get them moving and I like that the grouping is random.

Okay, so I didn't make this.  A couple of weeks ago we were playing a board game with some neighbors and their kids and we couldn't find an egg timer.  In the box?  Nope.  In the house? Uh-uh.  And then, the next day, my husband came home with this.  He'd discovered it in a drawer in his office. What was it doing there?  I have no clue.  But I'm using it now!

I kind of made both of these.  The one on the left is ginger that I planted into a pot.  And the one on the right is a clementine seed that I planted a couple of years ago.  I love bringing plants like these into my classroom to show students that you can grow pretty much anything.

And that, folks, is all I've got for this week!  If you're back at school, I hope you're off to a good start!  Come link up with Tara and share your good ideas.

Saturday, August 8, 2015

Great meet-up, fun linky, abundant giving

I had the chance to meet up with about a dozen other bloggers from around the state this past week. What an amazing group of people! Each person brought a unique perspective or skill to the table (of course we met around food!  What teacher doesn't love having more than 22 minutes to eat?)
There was lots of laughter, honest sharing, and a desire to help each other grow.  What a wonderful experience!  Special thanks go out to Becky and Greg from The Class Couple for organizing the meet-up and to GoNoodle for providing some supplies.

One of the women I met there, Molly, from The Sassy Sub created this fun linky that I thought I would join up with.  You need to know - because it's pretty amazing on some levels - that Molly just got her first contracted position, and she's due to have her first baby in just a few weeks.  Good for her!

This was one of the most relaxing summers I've had in years, and I loved every minute of it!  I have friends who own a house at the beach, and when they realized they'd be away for almost two weeks, they offered their home to me.  I spent some time there with my husband and kids, and some time alone.  Wasn't sure if I'd like the alone time, but I loooved it! That's when my creative juices kicked into gear, and I started to work on my blog, and products for my TpT and TN stores. 

I also started to think about why I do all of this.  Everyone has their passions and this is one of mine.  Although I started on TpT and TN thinking that it would help put my last child through college, I quickly realized that's truly not why I create products.  I make products, I realized, because I love the affirmation that comes from knowing that someone else used something I made and found valuable.

And, after a lot of prayer, I committed to share a percentage of what I make with groups that I also feel as passionately about.  In a few weeks, I'll attend my first meeting of 100 Women Who Care, a fairly new organization in my community.  This group meets four times a year for an hour, and at those meetings, speakers from three previously-selected, local organizations speak for five minutes about what their organization does.  At the end of the meeting, the women vote for one, and each woman gives a $100 check to that group.  100 women x $100 = a nice chunk of change to begin, or keep doing something good in our community. How cool is that?

Have a wonderful weekend, everyone!

Monday, August 3, 2015

Linking up with Monday Made It

I'm linking up with Monday Made It after coming home from vacation last week.  What a wonderful get-away to the beach with all three of the kids able to make it for the whole time!

I told one of my daughters (who's got skills in graphic design) that I wanted to create a button for my blog and store. One thing led to another, and next thing I knew, there was a blog redesign in the works!  What I really like is that the Mentoring in the Middle is easy to read on my button, and that my blog is colorful=happy!

I played around a little with this "The Me Report" which is an easy way to collect information about students in the first couple of days.  There are 30 sentence stems to be filled out, some fun and some more thoughtful.  You can download it for free here.
It was time for some of my product covers to get an update.  Translation: What was I thinking when I made them?  So, I went from

to this
And from no cover (Really?!) to this one

How about you?  What have you been creating lately?
Have a wonderful week!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

For Middle and High School Teachers - a great giveaway!

Everyone's getting geared up for going back to school (sorry, folks who are already there!)

Today, I'm joining with a group of middle school ELA teachers for a great week long give-away. Like $700 total, $158 worth of products you can use just in your middle school English classroom give-away! There are also great give-aways in other subject areas for middle and high school teachers.

I'm giving away my Making Observations, Inferences, and Predictions bundle - 28 pages of pictures, lessons plans for pictures books, scaffolded reading, and independent reading.

Oh, and while I'm at it, I will be joining the TpT Back-to-School sale on Monday and Tuesday.  All products in my store will be 20% plus you get the TpT added discount if you type in BTS15, for a 28% discount all together.  Not bad, my friends!

First Day Tried and True Linky Party

I'm linking up with Chrissie from Undercover Classroom and Sarah from Education Electrification to look at Tried and True activities I use on the first day of school.  Which is right around the corner!

After being away from school for the summer, I like to mix it up a bit with my students and have them move around the room a fair amount.  There are lots of ways to do that.  One of them is a "Get to Know Me" Bingo game that's FREE in my TpT store.

 An activity I have used the last couple of years is this Create Your Personal Logo Windsock, a great, visual way to get to know kids.  It involves some talk, some thought, some coloring, presenting, and then at Open House, some guessing.  Fun all around!

It starts with a pretty cool discussion about logos like these.  This is a great way to listen to your kids and learn a little about the dynamics of your class.
We look at the simplicity and the "personality" of logos and discuss why students think the companies chose their designs.  (Hint: Are you aware of the arrow in the FedEx logo?  It's between the "E" and the "x."  See it?)

Students complete a brief survey about their interests and goals and then they create their own logo which they present to the rest of the class.  Add some crepe paper to the bottom, roll it up, hang it from the ceiling.  Then, at Open House a few weeks later, I have parents try to guess which one belongs to their child.

A bunch of other ideas....somewhere in the afternoon or the next day we play: the Hula Hoop Game, we have a Snowball Fight with "Two Truths and a Lie" or play the Name Game.

****Hula Hoop Game - everyone gets in a circle, holding hands.  One person has a hula hoop on their shoulder.  Working together, each person takes a turn stepping through the hula hoop so that the hoop is passed around the circle until it get back to the first person again.

****Snowball fight - every student takes a piece of paper and writes two facts about themselves that are true and one that is not.  They make no other marks on the paper and don't show which is the lie. Then students wad up their paper, walk around the room and have a "snowball fight."  When I give the signal to stop, they take the nearest snowball, return to their seats, flatten it out, and we play the game "Two Truths and a Lie." The idea is that they read the statements and the other students have to guess who the person might be.  When the person is guessed, then he or she gets to read their paper.

****Name Game - this is just a ball toss game with all students in a circle.  Have them put their right hand up at waist level.  One student throws the ball to a random student who has a hand up, but before the ball is thrown, he/she has to name that person. I don't give any other directions.  Then, when all students have had a chance to catch the ball and the ball is back with the first person, I tell them they have to do it again.  In the same order.  The third time we do it, I add another ball after the five or so tosses, then another one again.  Kids love this!  And it's a way to connect with each other on a fun level.

By the end of the day, the kids are excited about school, and I'm read for a snooze!
What activities do you on the first day?
P.S.  Are you a middle or high school English teacher? Read this blog later today for a great Back to School give-away sponsored by more than 100 teachers!