Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Brag Tags Work

It's What Works Wednesday, the last one for 2013. For this week's post, I decided to concentrate on "Brag Tags." 
I first started using brag tags last spring. I volunteered to be part of a linky featuring "Reading Olympians" called "Pass the Torch". The sweet ladies from "Reading Olympians" spent a tremendous about of time putting together their Greek and Latin Root Word units. Then, they contacted one of my favorite artists, Michelle, from The 3 AM Teacher, to get adorable clip art to go with their program. To showcase their newly revised units, they invited teachers across the country to participate in their linky. They provided the materials (for free!) and all we had to do was give them a try. 

As students became successful on mastering roots, I decided to make my own set of brag tags, for the kids. I purchased the clip art from Michelle, and invested in the chain, beads, ink, and laminating pouches. As the year wound down, the students were still proudly wearing their brag tag necklaces everywhere. This summer I decided to get creative and made tags for lots of occasions. 

When the year started, my second reading class soon became jealous that my students were earning tags for behavior, participation, and finally completing Reading Olympian units. When the principal provided chains with a "Rock the Test" tag as motivation for our standardized testing in the fall, I decided to include the second class. They have gone tag crazy. Every week they come up with a new tag I need to make for them. 

Some students leave the tags hanging on our "Bragging Rights" board, but others wear theirs everyday, all day (except phys. ed.). The one draw back for me is I am going through ink like crazy! Their parents will probably want me to pay the chiropractor's bill when they get sore necks from showing off their expanding tag collections. As I get ready to print a collection of holiday tags that were included in a bundle of freebies, I would have to say, Brag Tags definitely work to motivate my students. Have you tried them?

Monday, December 16, 2013

Snow Day

Last week I commented that we historically miss a day of school during this last week of school before Winter Break. Friday night through Saturday, my area received over 8 inches of snow. With a day to clean roads, many students and parents were surprised to see our school scrolling across the season finally of "Survivor" last night. I wasn't surprised. The winds were just strong enough to make the powdery snow wreak havoc on our country roads. We started with a two hour delay, but cancelled when the country roads were treacherous.

I decided to take advantage of my free time by finishing a gift for a friend, making a gift for my students, and then headed to school. When I left on Friday, I had centers ready for Monday, but with one less day, I had to do some editing. I always plan too big for this last week.

I copied my last root word units to get me through the semester in mid-January, made a sample of some projects, got pictures set for parent gifts, and wrote two blog posts. Not bad for a quick trip to school.

Former Principal sharing a seasonal favorite "The Sparkle Box"
I have things set for the morning. Our former principal is coming first thing to read "The Sparkle Box". She read it last year to my students. It is a nice way to reinforce our RACK project. Students will share their RACK from Saturday, then we'll wrap up our unit on "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."

I have so many activities planned, I hope we don't get the predicted additional accumulating snow tonight. That will just make me a Grinch, as I am forced to cut more from my hectic schedule. I have lots of centers, purchased from TpT on Cyber Monday, and part of the TpT Holiday Freebies, besides my own centers I made. I will be back Wednesday with a What Works post, and will check in at the end of the week.

Happy Holidays Math Centers for Upper Elementary

How will you spend your week?

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Random Acts of Kindness for Sandy Hook

As educators, we remember and honor our fallen colleagues and their students from Sandy Hook School.  We honor them each day in our classrooms in which we continue their dream of teaching our children.  We honor their memory with our service.  Join with teachers everywhere in committing random acts of kindness to show our love for Sandy Hook.

All during this week, please promote the RAK on social media.  Use the hashtag:  #love4SH

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

What Works Wednesday #2

It's Wednesday, Hump Day! Today is also "What Works Wednesday" #2. My colleagues and I are gathering for a "scrapbooking" party. Our pages won't be filled with photos of our latest vacations however. We are gathering instead to work on our evidence notebooks. I would love to be making an electronic version.

As I sorted through things for the notebook this week, I noticed a piece I had put aside for the Domain 1 section for differentiation. As a former special education teacher, I have always differentiated instruction to some degree. 

My selection for What Works Wednesday would be Spelling City. is a great site and app for differentiating spelling instruction. Spelling lists are easily differentiated. Students can easily have their very own spelling list. I post my list once, and then only add additional lists based on the students in my room that year. Last year, I had to work to find words that would challenge one of my students. She could spell any grade level would on the lists. I found similar word lists at a seventh grade level to keep her challenged. I teach fifth grade, by the way. 
 Here is a sample of lists for my unit that goes with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. The list is further differentiated with different challenge /super speller words for individual students. I have two additional groups, one that is working on only sight words, and one that has simplified compound words this week.

I use Spellingcity to administer a pretest, practice test, and final test. The students like it because they can take the test at their own pace. I like it because they print out the test, and I can read every word. I also like the fact that the test is scored for me. I have students write their Challenge or Super Speller words on the test paper. I add those points to their total, record scores, and return them to students in minutes.

Students love the variety of activities available for them. I use classroom dollars to purchase the premium subscription, because they can access all activities. The basic subscription has many fun, differentiated activities as well. fits well with the spelling contract I have done for years. I added the activities to the bottom of the contract. Those activities are as popular as my "Rainbow Writers" with my Scentos markers. Students use the app on our two classroom computers, my iPads, the iPad cart when we get them, or in the lab. We go within the first ten minutes of the day most Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. I am committed to providing them with differentiated learning experiences, and to prepare them for the future. Whether they are taking the tests or playing Speedy Speller and Falling Letters, they are typing. This skills is important as we move to an online standardized test next school year. 

Differentiating Spelling with a spelling contract and works for me on this Wednesday.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

What do you do?

I cannot believe it is finally late Thursday afternoon. With all the things going on here at school, home, shopping, etc. I have lost track of time. I had a "What Works Wednesday" post ready to go, but after my day yesterday, I didn't get it posted. I will set it to post next Wednesday instead.

With the holidays, we all get busy and things get stressful. Every year I have a student or two that struggles with the coming holidays. Often it is that money doesn't go very far, and they are looking at a bleak Christmas. Sometimes students are anxious over the prospect of being home for two weeks, or out of a routine.

This year's challenge came from a little one that has lots of baggage she carries with her. School isn't easy, and the parents struggle to help with homework. Yesterday, the last straw, a failing grade on an assignment, broke her. She had a royal fit. I didn't engage her in battle, which surprised her. The outburst and other fallout caused my girls to cry. The boys withdrew. Everyone, including me was shaken by the incident. We had to cancel math, because it really wasn't a priority. (Thank goodness they could run, and scream, and work out frustrations in physical education.) We went to read with our kinder buddies, and finished our day with a walk with our Walking Classroom podcast, my kids favorite stress reliever, by the way.

It spite of all I did, several students were "sick" as they left. Surely, stress was the cause. I didn't even touch school work, or my ipad last night. A rare occurrence indeed! We started this morning with a class meeting. The child returned, calm and ready to learn.

Today was uneventful. Tomorrow is a payday, jeans and sneakers day! Yippee!

My question is, "How do you handle those situations, when a child (Fifth Grader for me) throws themselves into a major temper tantrum, spewing hate and anger?"

Do you keep plodding along with the curriculum, or do you stop, regroup, and find a soothing alternative?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Currently and a Sale

Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving.  I know I enjoyed the long weekend off, but missed my son. I cannot believe it has been a year since he moved to North Carolina with his honey.
I cannot wait for Monday for the Cyber Sale along with TpT.  My list is growing of my must haves. I'm sure some of them are also on your wish list! Be sure to stop by my store, I will have some new items. I am stopping long enough to get my Currently posted, then back to work.

Without any more delay, here is my Currently for this month.

We are having some decent weather. The sun is shining here in Michigan, and the last of the leaves are going to the piles. We don't burn because of my asthma, but compost them in the woods behind us. The dogs think if he is outside it must mean it is time to play.

With school starting after Labor Day, this weekend was the first long break for me. I had just one day off in November following conferences, but it was hectic. This was a relaxing, stay home weekend. 

We have three weeks left before vacation, and there are so many things to do. We started our "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" unit on Monday because it wouldn't fit if I had waited. We tend to have at least a delay or two in December (a girl can hope). We watch the movie with our party. I think I will do breakfast this year, instead of my usual lunch. I have a food allergy to work around, and want what works for everyone. I don't keep chocolate in my classroom or at home any more, and could use some right now. 

I may have to stop at the store and start the shopping. With hubby not working in three plus years, unemployment only went so far, so did our savings. However, good things come to those who believe, and he has just been hired full time, starting December 12. This new job can easily carry him into retirement. They loved that he has many years of coaching, and can handle people. I will miss the coaching, but with my youngest graduating, now may be the time to let it go. Things do have a way of working out. 

Our Christmas traditions when my three were younger were spent at Busia's in Florida. The youngest has only known a few Michigan Christmases. With hubby's new job, there won't be a trip to Busia's this year. This may be a year of very different things. We have a lot to be thankful for this season. Hubby's new job, a home, my father's vastly improved health, and good friends.

Thank you, Farley, for another Currently to refocus me on what really matters. 

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

What Works Wednesday

I have severely neglected this blog lately. Like most of us, I am spending more time on non-teaching school related necessities, and find I have little to no leisure time. I am looking forward to the long weekend, and a chance to rest, relax, and read blogs.
As a teacher, I am always reflecting on my teaching. With the changes to our teacher evaluation system, I have to gather evidence for my teacher binder. To help me stay focused and sort through the bits and pieces I am gathering, I am starting a weekly post called "What Works Wednesday."

As a topic for the first post, I thought I would share a strategy that I saw on Mrs. White's 5th Grade blog, called "Keep It or Junk It". She included a video showing how an instructor got students to analyze non-fiction text.

It got me thinking about how I teach text coding. I decided to put text coding with the "Keep It or Junk It" strategy, and would tie the whole thing together with a Two Dollar Summary.

I used a non-fiction article on Whales and Dolphins. It is part of an ebook available from Scholastic, 24 Non-fiction Passages for Test Practice for 4-5 grade. Students read in cooperative groups and used text coding to mark the key words and ideas. Then they compiled a group list of must have words. The groups then worked to establish a class list. We did "Keep It or Junk It" to narrow our list. Students used fingers to show if we should keep, junk or cloud a word (1, 2, or 3 fingers). "Clouding" a word saves it for a review when the other words are finished. Often, a clouded word is not the best choice, so it is ultimately "junked".

It was interesting to listen to their justification for keeping a word, or "junking it". When finished, students used the words to write a two-dollar summary. In a $2 summary each word counts as ten cents. Students have $2 to spend on their summary. They learn to quickly pare down their word choices to be concise.

Why would I choose this idea as a "What Works Wednesday" post? Students worked quietly, were actively engaged, and wrote a good summary. Also, I have a student with a one-to-one aide that struggles with communication. Most of his curriculum is adapted. (We did this activity "on our own", with out his aide.) The students in his group came up with their own way to make sure he could communicate his "keep it" words. They wrote the words "Keep It" and "Junk It" on paper. He held up his response. If he wanted to "Cloud" a word he signaled a circle. When I called on him to justify, he could say, "Not needed" or "Important." Watching the episode lay out in front of my eyes without any teacher or aide intervention choked me up.

 In closing this post, I have to say the first "What Works" would be "Keep it or Junk it, and my kids. They are amazing!

I will be back with another "What Works" next Wednesday. Join me! 

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Two in a row, and it's a giveaway!

Can you believe it? I am actually posting two days in a row. I cheated and prepared this post yesterday and set the scheduler for today.

I was recently contacted by with an offer to review their products. I couldn't pass up the opportunity. I wasn't aware of the wide variety of stamps that the company carries. They have some great motivational stamps, as well as teacher necessities. Check out the variety of stamps on their site. They are willing to donate a set of stamps to one of my followers. Their selection of self stampers are economical. They have a stamp for all your classroom needs.

As you can see, I chose a few stamps to save me time. The stamps are small, but I like that I can fit them in my bag. They reduce my need to add the message to the student's paper. I like anything that saves me time. They are all self-inking. The black one has a little reversible pad that extends its use. I love that the ones that need to catch attention have the red ink.

What stamp would you choose? Tell me your favorite in a comment, as you enter my giveaway to get your own stamps.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, November 11, 2013

It's Monday!

Today is Monday. It is one of my favorite days of  the week. I am a creature of habit and need my  routine. I also love Mondays, when it is the "the Monday" for Made Its because I like to read all of the posts on Tara's Linky.

I made some clipart after being inspired by Food Network. I was watching a baker decorate cupcakes and thought they looked so good and would be fun to make. Unfortunately, I hate to clean up the mess associated with baking, so I thought I would make some virtual cupcakes instead, using my favorite drawing app, iDraw.

Once I had the clipart made, I needed to use it on something,so I made a compound word center for word work.  I actually made it for a new teacher. She has lots of centers for the previous grade level she taught, but has been scrambling to gather things for the new grade level. She is amazing. She was hired the night before Open House, and was ready to roll by the next afternoon. I send her links to so many fabulous freebies when I can.

The next few things I made were actually just print, cut, and laminate projects. I saw Diane's Freebie on Educents, and knew I had to have it. I saved some ink by using some colored cardstock, but like how it turned out. I got my neighbor to also get it from Educents. She is now a fan of Educents and Diane's work.

Diane, from Fifth in the Middle, has become one of my favorite bloggers to follow. She is so creative. I just got her fabulous "Thanksgiving Common Core"ses centers for upper elementary students. It is perfect for my centers for the holiday. Thanks for sharing the resource, Diane.

My last project was another one of those print and laminate projects. This one was from Jason's Online Classroom. If you haven't looked at his TpT store, you should. It has some great resources for common core. The project I am finishing this Monday Made It with, is a Thanksgiving "I have...Who Has?" game. It is a freebie, and that makes it that much better. 

Now I just have to cut out the pieces. I cannot wait to use it in my classroom next week. My kids will love the new additions to my centers, and a fun game to play before our much needed long weekend. 

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Oh, No! November!

Time is just flying by. I cannot believe it is November already. Linking up with Farley for her Currently Party.
I am listening to Guy Fiery and the Food Network. That is a mistake when you are hungry! 

I am loving the beautiful fall colors. The trees in my yard have never looked so lovely. I especially love the crimson colored maple outside my bedroom window.

The youngest turned 18 a little over a month ago. She has quickly grown up into a lovely young lady. I took her Senior pictures (long story) and printed one for the yearbook. It seems like yesterday she was just a peanut. She just came home after helping a friend distribute Halloween candy. Our trick-or-treating was delayed by torrential rains on Thursday. I think she may have scared a few little ones tonight. 

As BeetleJuice
I could use a day off. I have to make it to next Friday, after a marathon of conferences on the 14th to get a day. I cannot wait! I would rather wait, than get one with a sick day, as I am beginning to battle a serious respiratory infection.

I should be doing my grades. They are due at 8:00 AM tomorrow, but with a brand new secretary beginning tomorrow, and the backup grade book "queen" being put on mandatory maternity bed rest, I don't think the deadline matters.
My yummy pin is inspired by the fall season. Pumpkin Pie Yogurt Smoothies.  

Friday, November 1, 2013

Walking to Learn

Today is the end of our marking period. It has been a rocky ride so far. We have had so many changes coming at us that most of the staff feels overwhelmed. A few of the changes have been a new principal (and new expectations), a new version of our online grade book that needs Internet Explorer, mandated posting of plans online (needs Google Chrome), collecting evidence for our teacher evaluation evidence binders, etc. This doesn't begin to address the need to find materials to meet the academic needs of my students. I am spending longer and longer days at school, including weekends, to get myself prepared. I am making things to meet the needs of students. Don't get me wrong, there are a few bright moments in my days, actually 53 to be exact. I love my kids. We are enjoying the part of the day we spend together.

One thing that we have really enjoyed are our walks. You would never guess by looking at me (no picture on this site for a reason) that I value physical fitness. My own asthma and other health issues prevent me from running, but I walk whenever I can find the time. During Cross Country season, my walks are from one place on a course for picturing taking, to another, then on to the finish line.

Two years ago, I got a pedometer for a student that wouldn't participate in gym, and got him to move. He lost weight, and slowly integrated himself back into gym class. He earned a good grade for the first time. Personally, that semester I walked 100 miles as part of a staff challenge.  This summer, I walked over 50 miles in less than a month (read about it here). Recently, my walks have been on our campus at school. I walk with students two to three times per week, with two classes, as part of "The Walking Classroom".

WalkKit with LogoI read about "The Walking Classroom" on a blog last year. (I don't remember which one, because I read so many!). When I read about "The Walking Classroom", I knew I had to be a part of this. I was awarded a classroom set of Walk Kits and a walking curriculum. The Walk Kit is like an mp3 player with over ninety podcasts aligned to common core. Students listen to the podcasts as we walk. The podcasts discuss language arts, social studies and science topics. We recently listened to a podcast on "Who's on First". The kids loved it. They liked the play on words, and it got them hooked on walking. They keep asking to walk more. Parents and a grandparent have signed up to walk with us. We have a set course we do most of the time because I have a wheelchair bound student. When we walk without him, we go around the playground and sports complex, with him we stick to blacktop and sidewalks. Even on cold days, the first thing students ask is, "Are we walking today?" I include some pull-out students that are not in my reading or language arts classes. It helps them feel like they belong.

After the walk, students discuss the topic in class, take a quiz over the podcast, and may use the podcast as a springboard for another assignment. When you are getting more and more frazzled, consider taking a walk. Even better, take students with you.

Monday, October 14, 2013

Made It Monday in October

I have been busy with classroom projects and am happy to link up with Tara for this month. I have a large span of abilities this year and found I needed some basic math task cards for review. The need became evident when students weren't ready to jump into my fifth grade curriculum. I am required to review skills for our standardized testing (math is tomorrow), but also wanted to motivate students to want to complete the task cards. My students love Melonheadz Illustrating clipart that adorns many of my classroom posters. (I am becoming a hoarder of her clipart) so I used some fun holiday clipart. For this set, students will decide if the problems art correct (a treat) or incorrect (a trick).
Set of 32 cards
I also made a "Dear Aunt Sally" poster for Order of Operations. When we expand on our knowledge, the real "Aunt Sally" may make an appearance.

Lastly, to motivate my students to "Rock the MEAP Test" I made these locker tags and banner

As you can see, I have some new products to upload to my stores. Until they get uploaded, if you see anything you like here, and you are one of the first three to comment, I will send you a free copy.

Thursday, October 10, 2013

Ideas for Integration

As an upper elementary teacher, I am always looking for things that will keep even the most reluctant learners involved. I try to incorporate technology into my classroom instruction. There are many ways to do that if you are in a one-on-one program, but in most situations you are dependent on access to a computer or computer lab. Finding free and appropriate websites can be time consuming. I have a growing list of some that I use regularly. 

sumdog logo is a free or paid subscription website. It gives math review in a game format. You can have students play each other, or they can play students from around the world. The free version of Sumdog Math has access to many games like Junkpile and Creeper. (Students try to stack junk or connect vines at a haunted house.) The paid version opens up all math games and give free unlimited reports to the teacher.  It also has a relatively new reading program as a paid subscription. They are adding a Sumdog English by the end of the year. If you order the Sumdog Reading you can get the Sumdog English for free. Each paid subscription is $2 per student, so for $4 you can have access to all three programs! If the other two (reading and English) are like the math, they will be worth the cost. is another website that offers a basic free access, or for a $2 per student prescription, students can use all activities. There is a minimum amount. The paid subscription has reports for teachers. You can keep track of student progress in activities. I use it because I differentiate spelling and have four spelling groups. I cannot give tests simultaneously, but SpellingCity can! Students need their own ear buds or headphones. I got mine at the dollar store and dollar spot at Target. Many of my students bring their own (attached to iPods most of the time). I keep my own sets in Ziploc baggies in crates. They are easy to take with us to the lab, and are accessible for use in our room.

K5 Learning - Main Logo 400 px
K5 Learning has an online reading and math program for kindergarten to grade 5 students.  I've been given a 6 week free trial to test and write a review of their program.  If you are a blogger, you may want to check out their  open invitation to write an online learning review of their program. - See more at: online learning review. My students haven't started using this program yet, but I am excited to give it a try. I am planning on using it during a technology center during Daily 5 Math. 

If you have some other ideas of free or inexpensive online programs for skill review, I would love to hear from you. I am also closing in on my two year blog anniversary and would like to do a give away. If you would like to offer a product, I would love to hear from you.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

It's October!

I cannot believe it is already October. I love reading other bloggers Currently, and even bought Farley's Currently for the classroom. It was homework for my students tonight. I thought it might give me some insight to their evening. I may be sorry when they share tomorrow!

Here is my Currently.

I have been staying up too late checking papers. I will pay the price tomorrow. I am hoping for a fog delay.
I love my life right now. Would only change my son's address so he would be closer. I miss him. 

We have been in school almost a month. Progress reports go home Friday. We have had LOTS of problems with our grading program. I hope I can get my reports to print without lots of frustration.

As I type, I have an annoying cramp in my neck and back that a massage would surely fix. I need to make an appointment. Better clean the kitchen first, or the cramp will just return. I think my second home (my classroom) always gets the best part of my cleaning and organization during the first few weeks of school. Thank goodness hubby does dishes and laundry and vacuuming. 

I have included a link for some free apple clipart. Enjoy!

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