Sunday, July 31, 2011

First Week of School Freebie

During the first week of school, there are many great surveys and questionnaire type things you can do. For older students, I thought it might be fun to do something a bit more open-ended with sentence stems! I think my students will really have to think to fill in their responses, instead of giving one-word answers. Let me know if you can think of any other stems to add to this!

Interest Inventory

Thursday, July 28, 2011

How I Made the Daily Five Work for Me...

Summer is rapidly coming to an end, which means we are all thinking about our new year. I know that many of us are thinking of what new things we are going to attempt to put into place! I plan to write some of my new goals soon. I know many people may be deciding if they want to implement The Daily 5/CAFE.

I am not an expert at ALL, but I have used it for two years. Over time, I've learned ways that I can utilize it best in my classroom. So, I thought I would share a few tips from my experience.

How I made it work...

1. Before school began, I invested in these little book baskets. They have been perfect for students to store all the books they have chosen. I usually let them keep 4-5 books. I've heard of other teachers use gallons sized ziplocs for a cheaper option...

2. I follow the recommended schedule of introducing The Daily 5 and CAFE pretty closely. The books give you a pretty good outline of what to do starting from day one. It may seem pretty tedious, but it REALLY trains the kids to do all activities independently.

3. DO WHAT YOU CAN DO. I could only do 4 rotations per day, and it worked perfectly for me. I saved about 1.5 hours per day to do these rotations. The other 45-60 mins I had for Reading/ELA was time I spent using thematic books, the district's reading curriculum, etc.

4. I really believe you can use The Daily 5 with any reading program you already have going. I used activities from Texas Treasures as word work activities. I planned word work activities based on that week's spelling words or phonics patterns.

5. Daily 5 emphasizes giving students choices. This is an important principal, and children should be able to choose books they want to read for Read to Self and Read to Someone time. However, I did not always give my students choices on their word work or writing activities. This helped me get grades and utilize other activities I wanted my students to use.

6. Daily 5 is GREAT for incorporating technology. You can use ipads, ipods, computers or Smartboards for Word Work, Listening to Reading, Writing, and even Read to Self with E-readers. My kids LOVED using the Smartboard a couple times per week for their Word Work activities.

7. Small-group reading instruction is WONDERFUL! Hands-down, my favorite part of the day. There is nothing I love more than reading and discussing books with groups of kids. I used ALL kinds of books, many of which fit with our S.S. or Science themes. Plus, I saw massive improvements in my student's reading through this framework.

8. The kids LOVE it! I rarely had any behavior problems during Daily 5, because the kids were so engaged. (Until the last two weeks of school :))

I'm sorry this post was so long, but I am very passionate about the Daily 5. So thanks for sticking with this post if you've made it through. What do you think? How has The Daily 5 worked for you?

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

New Classroom Excitement!

Thank you to everyone who gave me advice about whether or not to create a reading rug area in my room next year! I appreciate all of your input!

So, my classroom is still a bit of a wreck! I have so much more to do, but it is coming along...First I have to finish unpacking all of my things and get myself reorganized. THEN I can begin doing all of the exciting things like decorating. So, to motivate myself, I purchased a few new fabrics for my room. I will let myself buy more fun things after I am totally unpacked!

I LOVE using different colorful fabrics as backgrounds for different boards. I start my year with mostly blank boards, then add as we learn.

Just a couple new ones...

I love this one from last year, so I will probably use it again for my CAFE menu and Word Wall again...

I'm inspired to get my new room in shape!

Monday, July 25, 2011

Classroom Management: BLURTS!

Now, don't we all struggle with the blurting out in class?! Two summers ago I went to a training at ACU, and one of the teachers there showed us how to make these wonderful little behavior modification tools to help with blurts, and it has sure helped me out!

I hate to embarrass the kids, so I keep this pretty light. Every time a student blurts out, they have to put a "blurt" on this chart. They have three chances. I usually go by a three-strikes-you're-out policy before I sign their folder and take away some recess time.

All it takes is poster board, velcro dots and whatever image you want to use for the "blurt" that they put on the chart. (I used an image from Boardmaker.)

Make a spot for each child's blurts and attach three of the velcro dots...

Each little blurt needs its own velcro dot, so that they can grab one out of the bag and attach.

At the end of the day, I make note of who had no blurts that day. I usually do an extra prize for any student who goes the entire week with no blurting out! I've also found that if I am really consistent with this during the first 6-8 weeks of school, then I hardly use it after that. This tool has really helped my students manage their own behavior when it comes to blurts!

Sunday, July 24, 2011


I am just now getting the hang of pinterest, and I am especially loving looking for classroom and lesson ideas!

Michelle at Math in the Middle is hosting a Pinterest Linky Party! I have already found many new blogs and pinterest boards through this party, so check it out!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Needing Advice...

Blogworld, I need a bit of help! I know I can always count on teaching blogs for advice and ideas! So, here's the deal...I'm moving to a new classroom, and currently it looks like this...

Yep, it's a bit alarming. Lots of work to do and decisions to be made!

Here is the question: Should I still have a reading rug for my class to sit on for read-alouds and mini-lessons? In second grade, I used my rug/easel/reading chair ALL the time, especially for Daily 5. I'm not sure if I need it for fifth grade. Will they still like the carpet or would they prefer to hear the read-alouds from their tables? What have you seen other fifth grade teachers do? I would love any thoughts on this!!

If I don't make a read-aloud rug area, I will probably use the rug to make a little reading corner.

One more thing, I love reading teaching blogs of ALL grades. (Some of the first grade ones are my favs!) I believe we can all inspire each other. However, if you are a blogger who teaches 4th or 5th grade or you know of any upper grade blogs, then please let me know! I would LOVE to follow you! Thank you blog world.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Itty Bitty Storage Containers

Don't you love these tiny containers? I sure do! My school's math coach suggested a fantastic use for these. Our district's math curriculum is Investigations Math, and it includes many games where the students have to roll two dice.

Problem: Sometimes it drives me crazy when the kids roll their two dice and they fly to opposite sides of the room...

Solution: Roll the dice in this cute container! (There really is enough room for the dice to roll inside there.)

I love keeping these tiny dice boxes in a tub and they are instantly ready to pull out for games! By the way, I bought these at Dollar Tree. A pack of 8 for one dollar! Can't beat that.

I also found these cute little colored ones at Staples, and I love using them to store play money to pull out for counting/games involving money. They hold a perfect amount.

I think purchasing storage containers is an addiction for all teachers, and I think these are especially hard to resist!

Monday, July 18, 2011

Shaking up the Sight Word Practice

For one of my graduate school classes this summer, I had to assess and plan tutoring interventions for a student. Thankfully, a WONDERFUL family from my school allowed me to come over and work with him.

So, I had to plan some sight word practice, and I wanted to do a variety of activities. So, I did some of the ole classics, like "hit-the-word-with-the-fly-swatter", using the slinky to stretch out the words, and shining the flashlight on the words.

Flashlight with sentences...this REALLY helped him focus on reading each word, rather than looking at the first letter and saying any old word that started with that letter. :)

So, this child is *SUPER* creative! And he, went on to inform me that he had better ideas to help him, sometimes you just have to go with it...

He decided that instead of swatting words that he would like to be a hamburger cook and "flip the patties" (flipping flash cards!) He would read the word and flip the patty and then press it down like he was grilling. Of course it was complete with grilling sound effects...

Later, he would "flip and grill" words that could be put together in sentences, and he called them "sentence burgers."

I would never have thought of any of this in a million years. I teach older grades, so I don't usually do sight-word practice, but I love the idea of using spatulas or a cooking theme for some type of practice! Very cute. So, if any of you like this idea, take it and roll with it!

And one more thing, his other idea was for the toy skeleton to read the words...whatever works, right?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Meet the Teacher

I am really enjoying all of the people I have "met" in the teaching-blog world! Many teachers out there have a post like this one, so here is my own little "meet the teacher" post.

Let me start off with a fun story: The summer before my second grade year, my family moved to Abilene, TX. Moving to a new school can be scary, but thankfully I had the most amazing second grade teacher! She was the most peaceful, calming and gentle teacher you can imagine. Plus, I still have many memories of the great activities we did in her class...Her name was Mrs. Orr, and she was my hero. I wanted to be just like her!

Fast forward about 13 years...While attending Abilene Christian University, I met and dated Mason Orr. I quickly learned that he was related to THE Mrs. Orr. After our wonderful college days were over, Mason and I were married.

One of our wedding pictures...There are several "Mrs. Orrs" in this picture, but my favorite teacher, Mrs. Orr is on the far left-hand side.

A few more pics for fun...

Mason and I with our families.

We love traveling...

I am a big dog lover! Here are our two dogs, Charlie and Sadie.

Besides teaching, church and graduate school keep me pretty busy! We also love spending as much time with friends and family as we possibly can. Thank you for dropping by!

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Precious Penguin Book and More...

Yep, I know it is summer, but I've got penguins on my mind, and here is why: Don't you hate it when you find a great idea or book after you've already taught a particular unit/subject? I'm always finding myself thinking, "Oh man, I wish I would have..." So here is a new find I wish I would have known about... In second grade, I LOVED teaching about the ways that emperor penguins care for their young. Absolutely fascinating. This was one of my favorite books to use, although I talked so much that it took my class 3 sittings to finish. It describes the life of a penguin extremely well.

Now, I've found another BEAUTIFUL, poetic, sweet, lovely book! The text is actually a song that can be sung or read as poetry. I really really wished that I would have used it!

Isn't this cover sweet?

I will miss teaching about penguins when I move up to fifth grade, but at least I got to do one of my favorite penguin activities: The Blubber Glove!! Have you ever done this activity? It is PERFECT for any arctic/tundra unit. You make a glove of crisco/lard and have students put one hand inside. Students put both hands in a bucket of ice-water. They quickly find that the hand in the blubber glove stays warm, while their other hand can only stay in the water for a few seconds before getting too cold!

Instead of gloves, I used bags. I put a few cups of crisco in one gallon sized bag. Then, I placed another bag within that bag and rolled the tops over. I taped the tops together, sealing the crisco in the first bag. That way, their hands are surrounded with the crisco, but they do not actually have to get any crisco on their hand. 20+ little hands covered in lard = HUGE mess. The kids LOVED this...

Great memories!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Oil Spill Simulation

I spent the first four weeks of my summer working at a summer program at school. The students did different types of learning based projects. One of the groups I worked with studied water pollution so they could create their own PSAs to promote awareness. I went on a hunt for activities to help them learn more about water pollution, and I found a wonderful activity from the Australian Government's Marine/Maritime website. I have since seen it on a few other websites, but this link has the directions I followed.

The directions are very detailed, but basically you put water and food coloring in a clear dish. Then, you make "crude oil" using cocoa powder and vegetable oil and add it to the water. (Bonus-this teaches about oil and water, too!) Items such as feathers can be added to the polluted water to show students what it is like for birds in the water. Then, you experiment with different sorbents and methods of cleaning up oil spills. It was a wonderful way to show students the effects of an oil spill and the difficulty involved in cleaning up a massive oil spill.

Oil on top of the water...

Testing sorbents...

After the dish soap has been added...

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Favorite Smartboard Programs

I love using the Smartexchange to find new Smartboard programs to use in different subjects, so I thought I would share a view of my favorites. Thoughts of a Third Grade Teacher is having a linky party for favorite smartboard programs. Here are mine:

I love the "Daily Calendar Math" program. While I rarely used the calendar, I LOVED having all the different math review activities in one spot such as the money, place value and the interactive hundred chart.

Here is a super simple program entitled "graphs." This was actually one of the very first programs I used to get my second graders used to dragging objects on the Smartboard. It is also a great way to introduce graphing to young students. At the summer program I worked at, I even used it with Kindergarten students.

This program is one of my very favorites! It teaches about stars and constellations, and then student's can build their own constellations! Kids love it!

These next two are examples of the many pre-made programs from Smartboard that you can find on the Smartexchange. They are super well-done and have fantastic visuals and sorting activities.

I love using my Smartboard as a word work choice for Daily 5. Usually I pair up my students and let them take turns on the board, so that each student can use it at least once or twice a week. There are so many wonderful wordwork/word sort type programs on the Smartexchange. This is just one example:

Last but not least, Smartexchange offers some wonderful templates for games so that you can add in your own information.