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August 1, 2016

First Week Lesson Plans

My first week almost always looks the same as past years.  A little tweak here and there, but mainly the same concepts - building a class community through a bunch of team building activities, learning about student work habits and personalities, and of course a lot of practice of routines, rules, and expectations.

Please don't judge my handwriting... :) Here are my main go to activities/read alouds for my 4th grade classroom.  Many of these ideas can be used in multiple grade levels. 

Read Alouds:

*Have You Filled a Bucket (My intro. into our rules)

*First Day Jitters (Mentor Text for First Week)

(CA History Intro.)

*7 Habits of Happy Kids (I read one habit per day the first 2 weeks of school, then we brainstorm how we can model that behavior.)

Team Building Activities

*Save Fred (teamwork with a partner - involves gummy worms, peach rings, paper clips, and plastic cups)

*Puzzle Races (teamwork with a small group using small boxes of puzzles)

*Fourth Day of Fourth Grade (teamwork with a small group, centers practice)

Math Activities

Back to School: Math Review of Grade 3 Concepts for 4th Gr

Math about Me

Image result for MATH I Love my classroom
*Practice MATH Workshop Routine
(Not full speed, practice rules/expectations, one station per day)
M= Math Facts
A = At Seat
T = Teacher Time (I save this until later on)
H = Hands On 

Writing Activities

Back to School Activity Packet : Welcome to 4th Grade [NO PREP]

*Welcome Booklet (Great filler for those first days of school)

*Set Up our Grammar Notebook
(Mentor Sentences, Word of the Day, Parts of Speech)

I Am Poem
*I am Poem (I hang these up as an easy bulletin board for BTSN)

*Heart Map (What do they love?  Great look into what's important to them, and then we put into our classwork folder for quick write options)

Mentor Sentences Unit: Vol 1, First 10 Weeks (Grades 3-5)

Reading Activities

*Set up our Reading Notebook
(Genres, Strategies, Themes)

*Start my version of Daily 5
(IPICK lesson, What does Read to Self look like, What does Read to Someone look like)

It's a busy week, but a memorable one.  :)  I hope this helped someone.  In case you haven't heard, today and tomorrow there is a TPT Best Year Ever Teacher Appreciation Sale going on.  My store is also on sale, including all the bundles, and you can get an additional 10% off with the code BESTYEAR.  :)

Have a great day!

July 29, 2016

Prepping for the New Year

This last week I've been talking to many first year teachers, veteran teachers, and teachers that have changed job positions... we all have something in common... feeling overwhelmed!  I wanted to go through my mental process with anyone that wants to listen, how I set up my classroom and get ready for the new year.  I'm sure there are many other ways to do it, but this is what helps me...

1.  Think about your morning routine:  Kids come in and what do they do?  For me it's the same every morning.  They come in, get organized (put away backpacks and lunches), get out homework to be checked, and start their morning work.  Which means I need to make sure to put out my lunch tub, have a turn in basket, have homework folders ready, and figure out what kind of morning work I want them to do.

2.  Then I think about the subjects themselves.  For each subject I want to have a spot on the bulletin board to hang what we are learning in the subject either through student work, anchor charts, etc.  What do the kids need when we are learning that subject?  What do I need?  My students take notes so we need composition books (because I dislike dealing with spiral notebooks falling apart mid lesson).  I need anchor chart paper...  Where are they going to keep their textbooks?  Will they fit in their desk?  Maybe they need tubs, or do you want to store some of their notebooks?  Does your school have cubbies?  Here's what I do:
Math - kids have notebooks and textbook at their seat, need whiteboards...
Reading - kids have notebook, I'll pass out the novel when it's time.
Writing - kids have notebook and need a classwork folder to keep everything organized.  I have sheet protectors inside the classwork folder so we can add some papers later on.
Social Studies - kids have textbook, I'll keep notebook, will pass out during lesson.
Science - kids have textbook, I'll keep notebook, will pass out during lessons.
Pencil Box - kids need to have a pencil, colors (markers, crayons, highlighters?), glue, scissors, pens?

3.  Let's talk desks... Every student needs to be able to see the board.  I know that's a no brainer.  :)  Can I get to their desk easily?  Is there going to be a traffic jam anywhere?  I personally like having only a couple of rows in my classroom.  The less heads between me and the back row students the better.  At this point I get to talking with last year's teachers... I get their advice where to seat students.  Who needs to sit in the front due to hardship or behavior?  Who wears glasses?    

4.  Classroom library: How many books do I have?  How am I going to organize them?  Sort by AR Level, genre, alphabetical order?  Most of the teachers I know sort by AR so we can see from a distance where the kids are grabbing books from.  For years I've used plastic shoeboxes to sort the books, but this year I took all the books out and placed them on the shelf (like a real library).  Every book is still labeled with the levels, and each shelf is designated.  Just going for a new look that is easier to dust.  :)

5.  Think about the ground... My students play games on the ground, go into centers, silent read, partner read... it really doesn't work space wise to have us sit all together.  That's just me though.  I have carpet squares that make it a little softer.  What do you need?

6. When I get my keys, I usually walk in and survey the room.  There are students desks, a front cart, a teacher's desk, some bookshelves, a table, file cabinets, and some computers on a cart.  My storage are some rolling carts, and I've added another bookshelf and some storage drawers.  I place the furniture that is going to be on the perimeter of the room first, setting the area up as I imagine our routines.  Lunch bucket by the door, a ball bucket by the door, teacher storage by my desk.  Then I move to the front of the room, place my cart (since the projector only has one place it can be set up), and get those student desks in their right spots.  

7. After this point I start getting my walls ready.  I like having one board per subject, a big area for student work, and an information wall (behavior, calendar, jobs, etc).  This year I learned the beauty of a staple gun to hang fabric.  I always figure out placement first by using pushpins, then it's an easy staple/stretch to get it up.  It's okay to not have anything on your boards to begin the year.  There are certain things I know I will use, so I do get those things up before school starts - but that's only if I have time, it's not high priority.

8. Think about your classroom management... do you have a clip chart, or a color flip system?  Make room for it.  Need to do team points?  Put out some jars.

9. If I have helpers come in (aka my children), I get them busy passing out the notebooks, folders, pencil boxes, and textbooks.  Other jobs they do are to "clean" my rainy day game box... which allows them to get out of my hair when I'm running around the classroom.   :)

10. One of my last room projects before moving onto lessons are to take out those school supplies.  I want the kids to be independent when they need paper, community supplies, sharpen their pencil, get a staple, etc.  When I first started teaching I only had one station, the past few years I've had two paper stations (front and back of the room)... it means less traffic jams.

11. Then I move onto lessons... If you are brand new to a grade level, please ask others for help.  It's okay to not know everything. Our district has pacing guides for most of the subjects that point us in the right direction.  I pull out everything I will need the first week of school and I get a plan together for the first TWO weeks of school.  I've found that I am so tired by that first Friday that I can't think straight to plan out the next week, so I plan early.  When am I going to start that subject?  How am I going to teach that routine? Take it slow and know that there is a good chance you will need to bump back some plans.  Add in teamwork building games and activities.  I'll do an entire post about my first week plans next week.

12. The first week of school there is also the parent Back to School Night (at least for us).  Figure out what you want in your packet.  Make up a powerpoint of the important stuff.  For me, that is the most nervous night of the year.  Just keeping it real.  I'm fine talking to kids, but to a bunch of adult strangers... well my knees go weak and I tend to talk super fast.

It's okay to feel overwhelmed.  Everyone does, even if they don't admit it.  The more years I do this whole back to school sprint, the more I realize that it does get easier even if your work load doesn't get lighter.  Same stuff to prep, but every year you learn a couple more time savers that will help you in the future.  I'm sure I forgot some things, and when I'm really done with my classroom I'll post some pictures too.  I hope you have a great school year.  If you need any specific help and encouragement, feel free to email me at  :)

July 28, 2016

Making Grammar Fun using Scissors

Today I wanted to show what I've made for my new batch of kids!  Last year I realized how much my big kids (fourth graders) still loved cutting out shape books.  Paper would turn into snowmen, apples, pumpkins, etc. throughout the year.  It motivated them to complete a brainstorm when it was deemed "fun" and by fun it meant a shape.  So, this summer when I actually had time, I created these 9 shape books for my kiddos.  Each batch of books has 10 pages that can be stapled together.

Why grammar?  Well every week my class works on Mentor Sentences.  Every week we are labeling the words in our interactive notebook, and every week we are discussing the parts of speech.  So I wanted to let them create brainstorm booklets that can let them show what they know.
My plan is to have the kids use one shape per month August to April:
September - Apples
October - Pumpkins
November - Acorns
December - Winter Hats
January - Snowmen
February - Mittens
March -  Butterflies
April - Clouds
May - Flowers

Each booklet has a shape/page dedicated to nouns, pronouns, verbs, adjectives, adverbs, prepositions, conjunctions, interjections, a cover page, and a blank one that could be used for anything I can dream up.  Just wanted to share what I've been getting ready, here's the link if you think they might work in your classroom too.  

How have you been prepping for school?