Thursday, July 25, 2013

Seeing Lots 'Zingy Dots' - Part 1

I have been working diligently this summer to get my Teachers Pay Teachers store up and going. I am excited to say that I have over 20 products ready for purchase. I have created a new line that I like to call "Zingy Dots" (I thought I needed to tie in my blog name on my first products). Click on the picture to easily find it on my TpT store.

Blue Zingy Dots

Pink Zingy Dots

Check out of "Seeing Lots of 'Zingy Dots' Part 2" for the other colors (purple zingy and yellow zingy).

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Technology in the Classroom

Everyone that knows me knows I LOVE everything technology.  I currently own an iPad, android tablet, laptop, desktop, and smartphone.  Do I really need all of this? Probably not, but oh how I enjoy it. Technology invades every aspect of our lives and as educators we must be able to embrace it.  Our students surely will.

There are so many fun and educational activities to do with all age groups that I could not begin to discuss them all. Be assured that you will see many different posts about how I use various technologies to assist in teaching lessons. This post focuses on using Microsoft Photo Story to create a slide show using student work samples and their narrations.

This particular slide show was created when I was teaching kindergarten.  It was created about half way through the first semester and contains student work demonstrating various ability levels.  We began the project in a whole group setting.  As a class, we developed ideas for characters, setting, and plot.  After we selected the direction we wanted our story to go in, each student dictated a sentence which I wrote on the board next to their name.  The sentences had to follow a logical order and add to the plot development, a task that was easier for some and harder for others.  

Once our story was fully developed from beginning to end, the students copied their sentence on handwriting paper and illustrated it.  After they completed their "published" piece, I scanned it as a JPEG to use in the slide show.  I loaded all of the pictures into Photo Story and had the student narrate their sentence. I added the music and rendered it.  

The final step in the process was letting the students watch their story on the SmartBoard.  They loved it! They enjoyed seeing their works of art as well as hearing their voices tell the story.  Proud does not begin to describe how they felt.  We completed several other slide shows throughout the year.   

Technology took a simple writing project to the next level.  The students learned how to develop a story from start to finish. They  practiced handwriting and illustrating. The learned how to speak loudly and clearly. Finally, they learned that producing a quality product is something to be proud of. 

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Whole Group Instruction - An Apple A Day Linky Party

Summer has officially gotten very busy with spending time with my boys, taking them swimming, and doing all the things I don't have time for during the school year. Right now, I am laying in bed next to a precious napping 2 year old playing catch-up.
My precious baby!

I missed last week's post about classroom management, so I am going to combine it with my post on whole group instruction. After all, without a great classroom management system whole group instruction quickly turns to chaos. 

Equity Sticks
Equity sticks make whole group instruction in my classroom run as smooth as possible. For anyone who is not aware of what they are, equity sticks are craft sticks with each students name on them.  As I ask a question, I give wait time for every student to process what I just asked and develop their response (3-5 seconds). Then I draw a stick out of my cup and call the name.  That student responds and instruction continues.  I can chose to either put that student's name back in the cup, or set it aside until everyone has had a turn.
These are just an example of some I found on
The benefits to equity sticks are numerous. First, just like the name suggests, equity sticks promote equitable learning opportunities.  It is easy to call on the same students that always have their hands waving high with the correct answer waiting, but that method fails to engage the shy students, the struggling students, the students that lack interest, or the students daydreaming out the side window. Students never know whose name will be called so they must all be attentive and ready to answer.  Also, your students who tend to get lost in the fast pace of whole group instruction are engaged and retaining more information.  

A second benefit to equity sticks is that they allow you to quickly know who you will call on. As I pull the names, I do not have to go through the mental game of who has been called or not called.  That being said, I still hold control over the stick that is pulled.  Sometimes, I need a correct answer to keep the learning momentum flowing.  During these times, I pull the stick of the student that will give me the answer I am looking for.  I know this does not sound very equitable, but it gives you the flexibility to make whole group the best learning experience possible for all students in your class.

The last benefit that I will elaborate on is the reduction of students calling out answers in class. I train my students during the first week of school to not raise their hands during whole group time.  I teach the process of wait-time and stress that we 'hold' our answers until I pull a stick.  It takes time (especially with very impulsive students), but it is well worth the effort.

Behavior Chart
The next necessity in whole group instruction (which also incorporates classroom management) is my behavior chart.  This year I implemented a Pinterest inspired behavior chart that allows both upward and downward movement. All I have to say during a whole-group lesson is "I am looking for a blue!" Immediately my students sit a little straighter and focus better.  They want the positive acknowledgement.

Upward movement comes from positive behavior choices, while downward movement is the result of poor choices. I have rewards and consequences associated with each movement. One step up (blue), the student gets a skittle (Yes, just 1; but they want it).  Two steps up (purple), the student gets a reward card (also Pinterest inspired). With each downward movement they loose a privilege during the day.

Below is a picture of the coupons I used when they reached purple. Click here if you want to download them from First Grade Fever.  She has them posted for free. My students loved them!

My students loved Stinky Feet and Pet Shop the best.

Check out the Applicious Teacher and the blogs that have linked up with her An Apple A Day Linky Party.

Friday, June 14, 2013

An Apple A Day Linky Party - Classroom Decor

I have joined my first Linky Party with Leigh at Since I have already made a post a few days ago with pictures of my classroom, I chose to focus on select aspects of my decor that works well for me. I also included some pictures I have found 
on Pinterest of ideas I want to try next year.  Hope you enjoy!

Our Classroom Library
This past year I painted all of my bookshelves black to give more of a cohesive look.  I also used black fabric on all of my bulletin boards. It really made my boarders pop.

Reading Centers
I tried to pull in lime green throughout my classroom to add a pop of color.  This is my center board.  The student names are on lime green circles. This next year I plan to implement math centers using a similar rotation
My behavior chart using numbered magnets
The was the best addition to my class room this year.  I will go more into that when I do my post on classroom management. As for the classroom decor, I continued my polka dot theme using circle magnets. The ah-ha find was the metal flashing I attached to each closet door (my wonderful husbands idea). It provided magnetic display space, made raggedy door attractive, and was CHEAP. You can find it at your local hardware store in different sizes that you can cut to fit your needs. LOVE IT!
A view of the front of my classroom

My desk (I am embarrassed to show this messiness)

No matter how hard I try, I can not keep my work area clean and organized.  I go so fast throughout the day that it becomes a catch-all of randomness. My goal this year is to become one of those sickeningly organized teachers that seem to have everything in the right place all of the time.

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Writing Folder - A MUST!

This year my school district implemented a new focus on writing.  Each student would be exposed to the complete writing process: brainstorming, prewriting, revising, editing, and publishing. Teachers were required to keep copies of multiple writing samples from each student composed of samples from each step of the process. With 18 students, I soon found myself drowning in papers.  They seemed to cover every flat surface in the classroom.  My stress level went through the roof! I had to do something quick.

I sought out my 'best teacher friend', Pinterest, for ideas and guidance. I found several resources that gave me various components (I have links to the resources at the end of this post) that I combines with some original ideas to create a student friendly writing folder. 

I had several different goals for this writing folder. First and foremost, I wanted organization. In order to achieve this, I needed an easy way for students to know exactly where to put everything during the writing process.  I purchased each student two pocket folders without brads. I stapled them together to create a 4 pocket folder. Then I added labels to each of the pockets telling students what to put in it.

My second goal for these folders was to gradually hand the writing process over to the students so that it could become somewhat of an independent activity. (I say 'somewhat' because I always had input in the editing process and sometimes the prewriting process for the struggling writers.) To accomplish this transfer of ownership, I added several resources which I pasted to the front and back of each folder.  These included resources such as paragraph formation, punctuation usage, commonly misspelled words, transition words, writer's checklist, and sample heading. I always referred them to this information before I would answer questions.  I loved to hear my students telling each other where they could find the answer they were seeking.

These folders quickly became a staple in my classes daily procedures. Once we completed the writing process a few times as a class, I could assign writing assignments for them to do individually. As they finished each step of the process, they would turn their writing folder in for me to look at.  I would offer advice and direction during the prewriting stage and help with editing and revising once they had made  their own changes.  The folders were the cure for massive amounts of papers collecting around my room as well as a tool that helped students conquer the writing process.  

This next year, I will definitely utilize a writing folder in my classroom.  I plan to tweak  it, though, based on things that worked and didn't work this past year.  First, I plan to use a smalls binder instead of a folder.  In the binder, I want to use the pocket dividers for the various writing steps.  Also, I want to include tabs for information and resources specific to the types of writing we focus on (expository, opinion, and narrative). Finally, I want to have a central location for all of their published pieces. I am thinking a file box with a folder for each child.  I plan to have them store their published pieces in their numbered file for the entire year. In May, I will be able to gather all of the published pieces and create a writing portfolio for each student so that their parents can see their progress throughout the year.    

Links to Resources that I used:

Monday, June 3, 2013

End-of-Year Certificates

As each school year comes to a close, I begin stressing about what certificates I will give each student during our end-of-the-year awards ceremony. Some students are easy.  The student with the highest grade average would receive the academic achievement certificate. The child that I could rely on to complete any errand I asked would receive the certificate for being the most responsible. Others were not so easy though.  What do you give the child who talked constantly throughout the year?  What about the student who wiggled in their seat or danced to the line?

I created unique and inventive ways to recognize distinctive traits of your students.  The student who would not hush all year receives the "Most Articulate" certificate.  The wiggle worm that moved from place to place with his own rhythm earned the "Best Rhythm" certificate.  

I know that there are some who believe that not everyone should receive a reward, but when dealing with young children, exceptions should be made.  During the early elementary grade, I believe that it is important to find positive traits that each child can focus on. This encourages positive thinking and confidence. Students will have plenty of opportunities to either excel or struggle in the upper grades.

These are a few of the certificates that I created. 

A 22 page package of certificates is available on my TpT page. Click here to view my products.

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Goal: Organize!

Each year, I set out with new goals for the school year. This year organization and efficiency are the goals I have chosen to focus on to make my classroom the best environment possible. If I can accomplish both of these goals, I believe that learning will be at its best and classroom management will follow effortlessly. Below are pictures of my classroom at the beginning of last year. I am currently working on organizing EVERYTHING.  The after pictures will come in a few weeks.
My teacher desk is one of the main areas I want to organize and create efficiency.
Can you have too many books in your classroom library? I think I want to pair down. Last year it was just a jumbled mess that was not student friendly.

This was a Pinterest idea that worked wonderfully in my classroom. I liked that the students could be rewarded for good behavior as well as loose privileges for bad decisions.  I used reward cards as an incentive to get to purple. My students loved the cards that allowed them to a bring stuffed animal, use markers all day, or take their shoes off.

Another Pinterest idea.

I liked my decorating scheme this year.  I chose to go with a scheme that was not really theme based.  Instead I chose black and lime as my colors and decorated with polka dots throughout.  The students (even the boys) commented how much they liked the classroom.  I think it was a homey environment and I hope to continue that feel this year. My organization will also follow this color scheme.