Sunday, December 6, 2015

How to Organize Your Literacy Rotations

The biggest thing I try to explain to a teacher who is asking me for help setting up their literacy rotations is that I didn't organize all of this over night.  I spent the last two years really figuring out how to organize everything in order to best suit my needs.  Everyone works differently, so PLEASE don't think that my organization system will necessarily work for you.  

My goal when I set up my classroom is to make everything my students will need on a daily basis easily accessible and easy for them to find.  I want them to become independent in the classroom so I can focus on my guided reading groups.  I make sure there are no reasons for any student to interrupt my group time because they don't know what to do.  The only reason a student should interrupt my group is in case of an emergency. 

1. Clear display of literacy rotations 
I like to use a pocket chart to display my literacy rotations.  It doesn't have to be a pocket chart as long as it stays on the wall all day.  I don't particularly like using my Promethean Board because I use it for another purpose.  My center cards have a visual aid for those students who need a visual support.  The Daily 5 banner was made with my Editable Banner Template in my TpT store. 
I move my Nemo clip as we move to each rotation.  This is so students can easily check to make sure they know what they're doing.  Sometimes I have a student who has been in the library for one rotation and returns once we have started the next.  This student can look at where Nemo is on the chart and quickly find their place. 
To the left of the pocket chart is a clip chart.  I have two classes.  My morning class is on the left and my afternoon class is on the right.  I use the clips to show students which group they're in.  This makes moving students from group to group easier.

2. Group materials organization
This 6-drawer plastic organizer is directly next to my small group table.  I have the materials I will need for each group stored in the proper drawer.  In each drawer is a folder to separate the materials for each class' group.  I put the books, plans, and organizers (if applicable for that day) in the folder.
The two larger drawers at the bottom are for other materials.  The first one has extra copies of organizers for me to quickly grab if I need them.  The bottom drawer has plastic covers with Jan Richardson inspired word analogy charts for word study.  When I taught Kindergarten I had alphabet charts and letter tracing sheets in them.
On the top of my rolly cart is my timer.  I have a color countdown timer that shows green for more than 10 minutes, yellow for less than 10 minutes, and red for 1 minute.
On the floor in front of my organizer I have extra book boxes.  When I take a trip to our Guided Reading Library I always grab at least one extra book set for each group so I am not constantly searching for books in the book room.  I keep leveled texts for each group in these book boxes.
I have a limited amount of slates in my classroom so I like to use the Wall Pops on my kidney table.  They also add a bright color pop, which I clearly love!  I use these for my students to practice writing a few of our weekly spelling words before we start our reading.

In front of each student's Wall Pop is a pencil basket with needed materials.  Each basket has an Expo marker, felt square for a dry erase eraser, crayons (for Luckeyfrog's Text Detective activities which we LOVE), and a pencil.  Since taking this picture I have wrapped all of my small group pencils in purple duct tape so they know it belongs to the guided reading table.  As soon as they accidentally walk away from the table with my pencil they rush back to return it.  If one is dropped to the floor they know where to return it.  I have stopped having to replace these pencils. #teacherwin

3. Word Work
Each week students have a new spelling word list.  Usually our word work consists of a spelling word activity.  However, when we're working on a particular grammar skill I do switch it up with a grammar activity.  For example, for the last few weeks we have been reviewing plural nouns so students may have a plural nouns activity for word work.  I always keep the word work basket in the same place so students know where to go.  I love these baskets from Really Good Stuff!  They're bright and easy to find.  If I write on the board "Word Work: Plural nouns activity in the yellow basket" they know where to go.

4. Work on Writing- Process Piece
This is our writing board.  Students independently move their clip down the chart when we're working on a process piece.  This makes it really easy for me to see who is getting close to being ready to meet with me or who is taking too long in one area and needs me to check in on them.  You can find this Writing Process Clip Chart in my TpT store.  I also have a chalkboard + chevron version.  
Notice the poster on the left for revising (green) and editing (red).  This is color-coded for a reason.  (Please see explanation below the picture with pens and highlighters)
Right below my writing board is a plastic drawer organizer. On top are our revising and editing tools: highlighters, green pens, red pens, and a few booklets for students to reference.  The highlighters are for students to find "boring" words in their writing that they may be able to find a synonym for in a thesaurus.  Green pens are for revising and red pens are for editing.

5. Displaying directions
I always have my directions for Work on Writing and Word Work displayed on the Promethean Board throughout my literacy rotations.  I keep the directions short and sweet for students to refer to.  If directions are posted there are no excuses for students to interrupt my small group with questions about what they should be doing. 

6. Keeping track of turned in work
Students turn in their completed Word Work into this bin.  Only teaching language arts is amazing because I have less papers to check every week.  This bin is a LIFESAVER!  All of a student's turned in work is in one place.  I can quickly check the bin every afternoon to see who I'm missing word work from as I complete my check list (compliments of Ladybugs Teacher Files).  Our school requires a Thursday communication folder.  Each week I am able to grab each students' work straight out of the completed work bin, check it, and stick it in their Thursday folder. 

I hope you found this helpful!  Please feel free to leave a comment or question below. :)

Friday, November 20, 2015

Spelling App

Hey y'all!

I wanted to share my new favorite app with you.  I'm always looking for something to make any aspect of my instructional day easier.  Honestly... I can only get but so much done.  Ya with me?

Every Monday we give a spelling pre-test and then a post-test on Friday.  Easy enough, right?  Well if your room is anything like mine, students come in late, students are pulled out for PALS or other services, etc.  This is all fine and dandy, but when am I supposed to find extra time to do it again with these students? Sometimes one comes in and the next goes out.  That's two different students I need to make it up with now.  AH!  It occurred to me that with all of the technology we have there must be SOMETHING out there to help me no longer lose my mind. Well, I was right. If you don't know about A+ Spelling Test you're missing out!
You can type in your spelling list and voice recording for each word.  There are two practice features you can utilize.  I have not used these features yet, but like the idea of them.  Students can practice typing out the words.  This feature shows them the correct amount of letters with blanks.
Students can also unscramble the words.  If they need the word repeated all they have to do it press the microphone button. 
Lastly, here is the test feature, a.k.a. My Time Saver.  Words are read to the student so you don't have to sit one-on-one and call them out.  They type out the word.  It provides instant feedback to the student after they hit NEXT if it was incorrect by showing them the correct spelling.  At the end it will show a report.  I can see if the student missed any words and if they did how they spelled it.  I can't tell you enough how much I love this app. Did I mention there is a free version?  Yup!  That's the version I am currently using.  
Do you use this app?  Look into it if you do spelling assessments and have the same issues I do.  


Saturday, November 14, 2015

I Am Thankful For...

It's so easy to forget about the little things and get wrapped up into our chaotic, daily lives.  With the Thanksgiving holiday just around the corner I have found myself thinking about everything that I'm thankful for.  I'd like to share with you why I feel so blessed.

1.  I am thankful for my hard-working, thoughtful, and loving fiancĂ©.  This man works LONG hours Monday-Friday and often on Saturdays as well.  Despite being physically exhausted from his job, he still packs my lunch every single night.  I know.  I am spoiled rotten.  I feel so blessed that I get to marry him this July.   
2.  I am thankful for my spunky, Jersey-Italian mom.  She taught me how to stand up for myself, not to let any haters get me down, and how to be an independent woman.  She is a fun, energetic, and loud pre-school teacher.  I honestly don't know how she still has the energy to handle so many little munchkins on a daily basis. 
3.  I am thankful for my baby sister.  She may not be a "baby" anymore, but she will always be little in my head.  Can't seem to wrap my head around the fact that she's graduating from James Madison University this May.  Where did the time go?  We don't always see eye-to-eye.  In fact, I'd say 90% of the time we can't agree on anything, but there is no one who I'd rather laugh with about our crazy family.
4.  I am thankful for my teacher/school friends.  Without these people I don't know where I'd be.  Honestly, I'd probably be in a loony bin somewhere.  They help keep me sane when anyone would most likely lose it.  Moving to a different school every year has been hard, but if I hadn't been an involuntary transfer or lost my position due to funding I wouldn't know half of these ladies. 
5.  I am thankful for my sweet, sweet Auburn friends.  I am forever thankful for the Auburn family and the love I felt while attending Auburn University.  I gained amazing sorority sisters, teaching cohort friends, and was welcomed into my friends' families as one of their own since I was over 600 miles away from home.  Now we're all married (or engaged), one has a sweet little man and another on the way, and another will be welcoming her first little one in the Spring.

6.  I am thankful for my childhood friendships with these two ladies.  We've been together since the 6th grade and I'm honored to have them stand by my side when I marry my best friend in July. 
7.  I am thankful for my sweet babies.  They are absolutely insane and drive me nuts, but they are the cutest and sweetest.  In 2009 it was just my sweet girl, Bradley, and I.  3 years later we added Winston to our little family.  I thought I had hit my max, but when I met my fiancĂ© I fell in love with his precious Golden Retriever, Cooper.  Now all 5 of us live under one roof.... One LOUD roof. 

8.  I am thankful for my job.  Sure it can be ABSOLUTE CHAOS and way too much to handle.  But at the end of the day I am forever thankful for the opportunity to touch the lives of so many children that hold our future in their hands. 
9.  I am thankful for TpT!  With the help of TpT and social media, I have had the opportunity of connecting with so many wonderful educators around the world.  I am more educated about what other teachers are experiencing in their districts, my eyes have been opened to wonderful resources created by talented teachers, and I am more inspired every day to be an even better teacher than I could have been. 
Thank you for joining me to read what I'm thankful for.  I hope you have been inspired to reflect on what you are thankful for this holiday season. :)

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Student Portfolios

During my most recent grade level collaboration, a conversation of tracking student progress in order to set goals came up.  I realized, amidst the school and grade level switch, I had forgotten to update my student portfolio forms and get them ready.  Last year I had created documents to put in the portfolios, but I did it too late in the year to fully implement.  I guess what I really did was some preparation for this year. 

I have started to move away from guided reading and instead focus more on one-on-one reading conferences with all of my students.  This has really helped me understand my readers so much better!  When I meet with each child, I listen to them read their book of choice and make notes.  After a few minutes, I stop to share my notes with the child.  Then we review their individual CAFE menu and set a goal for our next meeting.  

As part of our upcoming reading conferences, I will be reviewing each child's beginning-of-the-year DRA and SRI data.  Together, we will graph their data and discuss what specific goals we can set in order to make progress for the mid-year testing.  
I am so excited about these conferences and can't wait to share more information with you!  Follow me on Twitter to see more of what my class is doing.  I try and post every day or at least 3 times/week!

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Utilizing Technology in Language Arts

Hi friends!

Today I'm reaching out to y'all to ask for help instead of sharing.

My school district is putting a huge push on integrating technology into the classroom.  I'm sure this is something many of you are experiencing as well.  I have always considered myself to be a technology expert and am always looking into what's new.  Last year, when I taught all subjects in 2nd Grade, I used Plickers, Kahoot!, and Nearpod.  This year I am finding it more of a struggle to integrate purposeful technology since I only teach reading and writing.  Our district has purchased Achieve 3000 for 3rd, 4th, and 5th graders to use during literacy rotations.  I AM using technology in my classroom with this program, but as a tech savvy teacher I am feeling like I'm not doing enough.  (Who DOESN'T feel that way?  Comes with the job.)

So I'm asking, more like DESPERATELY BEGGING, you for help.  What purposeful technology do you use for language arts?  Do you have any suggestions?  I have been researching Edmodo and trying to learn more about it as well as thinking about how I can use it.  Do you use it?  What do you use it for?

Y'all, ANY suggestions are welcome.  I don't want to overuse technology and lose out on instructional time so I am looking for something practical and useful for my 3rd graders.

Thank you so much, loves! :)

Monday, September 28, 2015

Class Dojo FREEBIE

Happy Monday, everyone!

It's the fourth week of school for me and I'm still feeling drained after a Monday.  I know that's typical for every Monday.  I'm finally seeing the light at the end of the DRA tunnel.  Phew!  If your district uses the DRA you know what I'm feeling.  I have two classes this year totaling 35 students.  That's a lot of DRAs, people!  I have finished up one class and am nearing the end with the other.  As exhausting as administering this many DRAs is, I love doing it because I get to know my readers so well at the beginning of the year.

Wow... squirrel moment!  I did NOT start this blog post to talk about DRAs. haha.  I did want to tell you about my Class Dojo Brag Tags! Half of my homeroom glass has entered the 50 point club.  WOOHOO!  Today I welcomed my first member of the 100 point club!  We're on fire, y'all!  My kids are loving earning their Class Dojo Brag Tags and joining a point club.  My friends who haven't entered a club yet are soooooo close and are extremely motivated to join their friends.  My brag tags, which you can find in my TpT store for FREE, come in increments of 50 points all the way up to 1,000!  I was so delighted to see this product has been downloaded over 300 times. :) Makes my heart smile thinking students in classrooms everywhere are earning Dojo brag tags.

However, after receiving a request for an editable template, it occurred to me that not everyone uses Class Dojo the same way.  Hello!!!! Duh!  So, by request, I have created an EDITABLE Class Dojo Brag Tags product so you can just type in the point values that best suit your needs.

Enjoy, y'all!  Get your Dojo on!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

1st Week of School

Hey y'all!

Phew!  I forgot just how TIRING the first week back to school is.  I'll tell you what though, I'm definitely not as tired this year as I have been in years past.  I'm still trying to figure out why that is.  Is it because I have 3rd graders now, the oldest age group I've had so far?  Is it because I was able to get into my classroom throughout the summer and decorate/set up/organize so I wasn't rushing to do it all to my liking during my last two weeks of summer?  Or is it because I am only teaching Language Arts this year?  I don't know.  I'll reevaluate next week and see if my level of exhaustion plummets.  Though I'm not fighting to stay up until an acceptable hour, I am still tired.  Therefore, this is going to be a QUICK blog post!

I just wanted to share with you a little bit about my first week back with kiddos.  As you know, the first week is FULL of teaching rules and procedures, paperwork coming out of the wood works, learning a new schedule, and oh yeah... some instruction.  I definitely haven't gotten to everything I had planned, but I'd rather be over prepared rather than standing there like a fool staring at my kids.  Below you will find a short list of books that I have managed to get in this week.  Some I have used before and some are brand new ones I purchased this year and am IN LOVE!

The illustrations in Lacey Walker, Nonstop Talker are absolutely adorable.  I was nervous my 3rd graders might not enjoy this one, but they LOVED it.  Now when someone becomes too chatty they are referred to as Lacey Walker. haha.  Love it!

This one is an oldie, but such a goodie.  I brought in my personal copy that my mother purchased for me when I was a child.  I love reading books that I have owned for years to my students.  The sweet message in this story really pulls on my heart strings every single time. 

Of course... Do Unto Otters... I feel like everyone reads this book.  Surprisingly enough, most of my students had never heard of it before.  Laurie Keller is amazing!  I love so many of her other popular titles as well.  The puns in this book have me giggling every time. Too cute!

I purchased this book when I was at college and working an elementary school book fair.  I'm a Kappa Kappa Gamma and our animal is an owl so naturally... I had to have it.  This is a PERFECT book to read at the beginning of the year because it makes great conversation about diversity.  

I LOVE Andrew Clements!  When I was a kid, one of my favorite chapter books was Frindle.  I'm pretty sure my mom bought me almost every Andrew Clements book.  A few years ago, while subbing, a 3rd grade teacher had this book in her lesson plans as a daily read aloud.  I fell in love and thought it was perfect for the beginning of the year.  

I saw this book in Barnes & Noble a few times and couldn't help myself from flipping through to look at the pictures every time.  I didn't even read it because of how precious the illustrations were.  I decided to buy it this year and read it to my class.  I LOVED the adorable story of Beekle and his human.  It really sparked up some great conversation with my gifted cluster class. 

In addition to reading these fabulous books I introduced/went over expectations for Read to Self.  I had plans to start Work on Writing as well, but we all know how overwhelming the first week can be. I'm hoping tomorrow we can get the ball rolling.  I was beyond amazed with how well my classes have done with building their stamina in just two days.  Now I know The Daily 5 book suggests starting small with 3 minutes, but I figured I would let them go for as long as they could until I could see they started to get antsy and stare off into La-La Land.  I couldn't believe my gifted cluster class lasted 16 minutes on the first try.  That is 16 minutes of engaged reading, no movement, no talking... JUST READING!  I thought, NO WAY that can be possible.  But once I stopped them, I had several students rushing up to me to share the books they fell in love with.  Wow!  My general ed class struggled through 6 minutes on the first day which was more what I expected.  However, once they saw the switch class's stamina time, they were determined.  I swear, I started at them, moving my eyes all about the room WAITING for SOMEONE to become off task and look like they were faking it.  Either these kids are fabulous actors and actresses or they were really motivated.  I was so proud of their 10 minute stamina gain to 16 minutes.  I'm telling you... hold kids to a high standard and they will at least attempt to rise to them.  

Well... that's it from me for now.  This teacher is going to BED before my first Friday of the school year.  Hallelujah! Before you exit out, make sure to download this freebie!  I had some Instagram followers ask about my Stamina Chart I had posted on my wall.  I tried blowing it up onto 11x17 at our Teacher Production Center, but was stressed out by the overwhelming amount of people there so I settled for a regular sheet of paper.  No biggie because it's still SUPER cute... if I do say so myself. 

Thanks for stopping by, y'all! TGIF!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

#2getherwearebetter September Linky- CLASSROOM REVEAL

Hi friends!  I am SO EXCITED for today!  I have been waiting for weeks now to share my classroom with y'all.

If you have been following my [hardly updated- sorry!] blog or my Instagram posts, you know I have moved buildings [again] and moved up to 3rd grade.  I have been so fortunate to be able to get into my school throughout the summer to set up little by little.  This has taken a LOT of stress of my back to school load and I have been able to travel to my last two schools to assist my besties in setting up their classrooms.  I know they think I'm slightly insane for wanting to set up three different classrooms in two different buildings, but I just LOVE it.  

Okay.  Before I get started showing you my classroom I want to share some things with you about my school.  My building is pretty old.  I have almost ZERO built in storage so I have tried to get "creative" with hiding storage containers and such.  I am BEYOND thankful to be team teaching this year so I will only teaching language arts.  I still have to house all of the math manipulatives our district supplies us with (which takes up about large boxes) so that has been challenging in my classroom with minimal storage.  Lastly, because I am only teaching language arts you will not see ANYTHING on my walls unless it is related to ELA.  

PHEW!  Ready?!  Let's go!!

Last year I had clips with my students' names on them, but since I'm team teaching this year I didn't want to make 35 clips!
Last year I used Skippyjon Jones as my take-home writing buddy.  Students took him home in a backpack along with the book and a composition notebook over a weekend.  They wrote about their weekend with Skippy and shared with the class on Monday.  They also had a poster to decorate with information about them to display in the hall.  Like everything else, I start the year off by modeling how to journal and design a poster.  I have mine all ready to go in the hall.

Loving my front door!  How could you not fall in love with the precious mason jars and that precious vinyl "hello" decal?!  I also think it's so darling how my building still has the name plates made for your door. 

Birthday Wall- I only have 18 homeroom students, but I am displaying ALL of my students' birthdays.  My team teacher has 15 students in her homeroom.  The display is by Tricia Lyday on TpT and the adorable flamingos are by Melonheadz.
Student brag tags will be kept on this wall.  The students will put their brag tags on large binder rings.   I used clear Command Decorating Clips to hold the binder rings.  
This is my Daily 5 display.  The banner is from my Editable Banner Template pack on TpT.   I made my rotation cards with School Girl Style's Watercolor Flamingo papers. 
I LOVE my area above my door.  Melonheadz make everything better.  And did you see my precious clock?! 
I created my own clock on Zazzle with the help of School Girl Style, KG fonts, and Creative Clips.  
My learning target display is laminated so I just write the target on with an Expo marker and erase.  I love the  "key vocabulary" space so students can identify important terms for each new unit.  This display pack is by Colleen Alaniz on TpT, but the title I created with KG fonts.
Last year I used an anchor chart wall in my classroom and I swear by it!  My kids always used it as a reference.  The anchor is by Creative Clips and I had it enlarged at our Teacher Production Center.
I am so in love with my new Grammar Wall above it by Learning in Wonderland.  
My WRITE board stays the same all year.  It displays my Writing Process Clip Chart so my students can move their clip throughout the writing process and I can easily see who is ready to meet with me during writing process pieces.  You can purchase this clip chart in my TpT store.
The color editing pencil is from my Personal Editing Checklist product in my TpT store.  I blew up the poster using our poster-maker in school and colored it in.
Those precious genre posters are by Rachel Lamb and are in her TpT store.

Each table has one of these organizers.  I like to keep minimal stuff in their desks because everything just gets lost.  I added this last drawer to make trash collecting at each table easier.

I have to house math manipulatives in my room even though I'm not teaching any math.  It's a bit annoying since I have minimal storage in my room.   To avoid unpacking the boxes, I wrapped in colorful wrapping paper so these boxes weren't eye sores. 
I am SO IN LOVE with the name tags I made for my kiddos with the help of School Girl Style and KG Fonts.  My homeroom kids' names are on the left and my switch class is on the right of each desk.

Panoramic view of my view from my door. 

Thanks for stopping by, y'all!  I'd love to read your thoughts and comments so make sure to leave some love!