Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Happy July! It's my favorite month (mostly because my birthday is at the end! :)

Smiles and Sunshine,

Sunday, June 28, 2015


Today I'm joining with TWO super 3-2-1 linkys-one for new teachers and one about me!

http://www.teachingwithcrayonsandcurls.com/                  http://aburstoffirst.blogspot.com/

First is the 3-2-1 for new teachers!

Now for a 3-2-1 about me!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Learn Like a Pirate~Chapter 4

It's week 4 of the Learn Like a Pirate book study with The Primary Gal!

Chapter 4 is about improvement focus v. grade focus.

This is something I've been thinking a lot about recently, as I believe students need to make individual growth and improvement to be successful, not meet a blanket proficiency statement, so this chapter really resonated with me!

Too often, I see my students striving for that "A" on the test, but not remembering what they learned a week or a few months later, or not even caring about what they get.

We need to shift the focus of our students from the grades they receive to how they can improve themselves.
Some students will get paid for getting good grades (which I don't agree with), and others will be grounded for their grades (which I also don't agree with).

If there is a 'grade' problem, we should be working towards how we can improve upon that for the student!

Paul shows us that we can do this by giving feedback.

Feedback shouldn't be limited to teachers-some of the most meaningful feedback will come from peers!
Of course, we want the students to be able to see their growth, and how feedback has impacted their work.

Instead of having piles of papers on your desks-create a set of portfolios!

I've had writing portfolios for a few years, and I love seeing the changes in their writing from beginning to end.

Paul suggests having an ePortfolio-having it all online!

He does it through a blog (KidBlog, Blogger, etc. ) which has the ability for students to comment on each others work, but I think you could also do it through Evernote, (although that might be more teacher focused for data-see how I use it here!) or Seesaw would be another great option-and what I'll be attempting to use with my class this year (and I've already set up my class list for next year-I'm that excited)! I wrote more about it here.

Paper portfolios would work as well if you don't have the tech needed for ePortfolios. Our 5th grade has the students store all their work in a binder-that way, they can see the changes from the beginning of the trimester to the end.

I will definitely be focusing more on how students can improve-after all, the only person they're trying to beat is themselves. By constantly striving to do better, they won't be as dependent on the money of privileges they could earn for doing 'well'.

They'll be learning that you can always be better at something, and constantly reflecting on how to make that happen-which will (hopefully!) make them great members of society who work hard because they know it feels good.

Smiles and Sunshine,

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Math Toolkits~Place Value

Since I last talked about my Math Toolkits, I was able to sneak off to Target and grab a few more containers :)

Now I'm able to start my place value chips set and my base ten sets!

For my place value chips set, I took the bag
and basically just dumped it into a container. :)
There's usually enough chips for kids to share-also making this a partner set! (and BTW, my kids LOVED the chips! It really helped some of them this year learn the concepts-better than the base ten. If you have an opportunity-get some!)

For the base ten set, I needed a larger container-the 8.5 x 11 size.
I was also able to fit two sets in there.
Making this more of a double partner or quad set! (Plus, now I won't need as many containers :)

I'll still need to add labels, and I'll still have some random containers here and there (for cards, dice, pattern blocks, etc), but my storage will look so much  better when I'm done!

I've already been able to consolidate things, and empty containers and neaten it up!

I can't wait to see the finished product-as well as how easy it will make it for the kids to become more independent!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Friday, June 19, 2015

Five for Friday

Today is the LAST day of school (with kids!) :D


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We started the week of with a bang-when my shelves FELL off the wall!

They may quite a mess-and fortunately no one was hurt-although it just missed me and a few students! (I was right in front of my computer-the red chair-and it just fell at my feet).

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We also received a new student-the very next day!

Needless to say, Jack (as my kids named him in the 5 minutes we had him), was quickly relocated outside. Although he did get quickly run over! (I didn't tell the kids that part!)
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My student was able to come in for field day! Which was perfect because our field day shirts this year were orange (for leukemia awareness), and we were all also wearing stickers that they designed!

Our field day is only a half day (the morning), so we spent the afternoon watching The Wizard of Oz and eating ice cream. :)

My student wasn't able to do most of the games, but we were all so happy to have them back and be together (mostly-1 was absent (and has been for a little while-the family was even declared missing for a little bit (but were found in another state a day later) because the mom didn't let anyone know they were leaving....it's been an interesting few weeks!) as a class.

Field day also marks the annual wearing of the sneakers-which are older than some of my kids!

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We went on a field trip to an old time fort that's been reconstructed to the time before the French and Indian War (1750sish). The kids had such a great time, and it was the perfect way to end our year and our last full day!

Divider 5

Only 3 days of PD, and I'm free! :D

Smiles and Sunshine,

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Learn Like A Pirate~Chapter 3

Time for Chapter 3 with The Primary Gal!

This chapter is all about peer collaboration. This was a GREAT chapter-there was a lot of awesome information!

This was also a great chapter because Paul mentioned some things I already do in my classroom-which felt like validation, and made me feel like I do know what I'm doing!

He talks about letting students work wherever they want-check! Partner work-check! Available student supplies-check! It's good to know that I'm already on the road to a student led classroom. :)

Another thing that I already do that resonated with me was
While I was reading this, it strongly reminded me of Responsive Classroom, which I've blogged about before.

I always start the year off with Morning Meetings, and they usually stay strong until the holidays (when we start switching for science and my schedule gets a little tighter-and this year I had a TON of kids in band and chorus (which takes place during our MM time), so it usually fizzles out around then. Hopefully next year will be different!)

I find this is a great way to build our community, as well as talk about different issues that may pop up.

One idea that that I LOVED that can be done at meeting time is
Which is giving everyone the same number of marbles, but having them divide up the marbles into different categories of things that they're good at (or not so good at). I love how this shows that everyone is smart in different ways.

I do talk about this in my room a bit- 'easy' is a bad word in my room. We talk about how while it might be easy for you, it might not be easy for someone else, and you could make them feel bad.

For example, someone left a comment on my blog on how crafty I am, and what else can I do. Now, I'm sure it was meant as a compliment, but I didn't read it that way. I felt like this person was judging me for being crafty.

I'll be honest-I am crafty! I love to dabble in different crafts, and seeing things that I create-plus is relaxes me. I'm pretty good at crafts-BUT, I am horrible with anything to do with athletics (or reaching things on high shelves! ;). My marbles are just allocated differently. But this person made me feel bad because their marbles weren't in a crafty cup-and that's not right. I will TOTALLY be doing this lesson with my kids next year! In addition to something not being 'easy', I hope it will encourage the kids to realize that they are ALL smart-some are just smart in different areas.

Another idea that I will totally be implementing next year is Responsibility Partners.

I love that kids will have a partner to help keep them on track, as well to talk to and clarify information. Plus, it will give them a chance to work with all different kinds of students (something I also do-since we can't always pick who we work with!), and become leaders.

Speaking of leaders-did you know that there are two different types?! I didn't!
This makes so much sense! I love how it is explained, and that we need both types of leaders to have a successful classroom.

I definitely had a lot of active leaders in my class this year-as well as some passive. And some who would rather sit back and do nothing at all (don't we all have those students?). In fact, one of my greatest joys this week was seeing one of my 'active' leaders become more group sensitive (sometimes the 'active' becomes bossy and overwhelming...), and suggest to the rest of the group that they let the student who had not picked anything yet go (and these two are not friends-there have been issues between them in the past). They did it so nice and quietly too. Be still my heart :)

Part of taking a leadership roll in the classroom calls for a why to get attention quickly-with
This has everyone stopping (even the teacher) and looking a the speaker, who will make an announcement, tell about a transition time, improving behavior or task, asking a question (after talking to the people at their group) or make a suggestion.

This reminds of my magic wand, which is kind of the same purpose. It will be interesting to see how the kids do with this. I love all of Paul's suggestions on times to use it (not in other classes or with a sub), as well as how to redirect those who may be using this inappropriately.  This is a great way to empower students (which is another chapter!), and get them to take more control of their learning.

Since students are working together, there are bound to be problems that creep up. The class I had this year was pretty good at solving partner problems without my involvement (Love that! I'm going to miss them next year...), but the year before....oh dear! We wound up implement some simple strategies to help with that-some that Paul mentioned!

I LOVE that Rock, Paper, Scissor is choice. Of course, you could teach your class Rock, Paper, Scissor, Lizard, Spock for even more problem solving strategies ;)

It's clear and simple, and kids can never argue with the outcome (of course, I then hear "best two out of three?").

Compromise is a great one too-it teaches kids that they can't always get it the way they want-but if they give a little, they may get some of what they want. This is something we'll definitely practice.

The choose kind strategy really spoke to me. Just let the other person go. They may be having a really bad day-and letting them get their way in this one thing may make their whole day brighter. It's like my student above-who 'choose kind' to make sure a student got a turn.

Paul also talks about competition, and how we win as a team and not against one another. I talk a lot about how the only person you're competing against in this class is yourself-striving to do better. You don't need to compare yourself to others-they're not you! Just keep trying your best, and you'll go far.

This chapter was chock full of information-and most of it easy to implement and use. It showed me that having a student led classroom may not be as far away as I thought it was. In small steps, this could definitely happen-and I'll have better students for it!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Math Toolkits~Fraction & Measurement

As I was looking at the mess that has become my shelves (again! Although it's not as bad when I first started :), I realized that there had to be a better way to store all of these manipulatives.

For new friends, I have at least 3 complete sets of some things-one that was already in the room, one from the Go Math! pilot from last year, and one from our new Math in Focus program this year!

As I was pulling down and rearrange the manipulatives to get what I needed for our game, a lightbulb went off!

Why don't I create topic specific math toolkits that have everything they need?

That way, the kids could easily grab what they needed (after they're labeled :), and it would take up less space and look neater/nicer.

Insert storage!

I did buy these with a gift card-if I hadn't had one, it would have been a much longer process getting what I need. As it is, I still need about 16 more smaller ones and 10 larger ones.

(I got these from Target online-but they are Sterilite containers, so you can get them anywhere (Target does place a limit on how many you can order at a time-and don't buy the bundle! It's about $3 cheaper to buy them individually than the bundle they have online)

Once I had unpacked them all, I lined them all up and pulled down the manipulatives I wanted to put in them.

I started by making a set of fraction toolkits and measurement toolkits.
Now, my goal was to make these for pairs, so I put two sets of everything in the bins.

I started with my fraction stuff!

First, I put two sets of fractions circles in.
Then two sets of fraction bars.
And one fraction square set.
Some kits also have an extra fraction circle set-in foam!

They look so pretty!
I emptied about two containers!

Next up were the measurement toolkits!
I first put in the packet from Math in Focus, which had a ruler, a drawing triangle, and a protractor.
Then I put in a couple different sizes of protractors (and I still have so many more!)

Then, since we sometimes do nonstandard measurement, I added two lengths of unifix cubes (10 cubes a length) as well as measuring tapes.
I also added a safety compass (with instructions) to each kit-only 1, since I didn't have enough for doubles.

Nice and neat!
I mean, look at those beauties!
I had an extra container, so I made another fraction kit. Target only lets you buy 20 at a time :)
And on the shelves?! Perfection!
So pretty-even without labels!

My goal is to have between 12-14 sets for each topic-that way, I'll have 24-28 sets ready (I'm putting 2 sets in each kit). I'll be getting one or two containers each time I go to Target (or I'll order them online again-if I get another gift card!), so it will be a slower process.

Once they're labeled (and organized a little more), the kids will be able to grab them when they need them, and I can spend way less time looking for what I need.

I can't wait for the finished product!

Smiles and Sunshine,

Monday, June 15, 2015

Monday Made It

Happy Monday! It's our last Monday with kids-next Monday is a PD day :)

First up, the biggie for the week-my new blog design!

I spent a couple of late nights during the week fixing it up (usually I'll do it on weekends, since I know it takes me awhile getting everything *just so*, but I had to urge to fix it before then!), and I'm loving how it looks!

I went from:

To this! I love how clean and crisp it is.

I've also added some new things I never had before-a scroll to top button and social media buttons! They helped clean up my sidebar a bit :)

My next made it is my math toolkits for next year!
I'll be blogging on how I put them together for next year later in the week-I think they're going to be a great storage solution. Now I need to make some cute labels. :)
I've also started a new wreath for my {home} door. It's not quite done yet, but I'll show you a sneak peek!
Can you guess what my theme is? ;)

Smiles and Sunshine,