Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Classroom Decor Linky

In my county, school always starts the day after Labor Day. This year, the big day falls on September 2nd. Our work week is jam-packed with inservices and conferneces and we aren't allowed into our classroom until the week before that. Like Tuesday or Wednesday of the week before. So really, we only have 3 MAYBE 4 days in our room before all of our time at school is been utilized by meetings. And then school starts.

I will not be able to begin setting up my classroom for a of couple weeks still, but I wanted to participate in the Class Decor linky with Ms. V and Mrs. D. I don't have any fancy pictures of my classroom to show you, but I will leave you with my thoughts on the matter and the items I have collected so far.

My Thoughts
Let me preface this by saying, I love a cute classroom. I honestly do. I work hard to make my classroom a clean, organized, aesthetically pleasing place for my students to spend their time. That being said, I do feel that a classroom is not a teacher showcase. I see so many amazing pictures of classrooms decked out with every detail before the students ever step foot into the room. Think about it this way: If you were to buy a house completely furnished, it might be beautiful, but it wouldn't feel like you. You would need to add your own touches, pictures, colors to make it your own. The same is true for our students. We want them to help design our room because it is their room too. I was always told, and still follow the rule, that anything put on the walls without the students will become wallpaper. If you want students to utilize word walls, anchors charts, and posters, you need to incorporate them into your lesson or create them together before hanging it on a wall. Okay, I'm stepping down off my soap box now. I will end my rant by reiterating, I love cute classrooms!

My Collection
(I think "collection" sounds a lot better than all the many things I've bought and stashed in a corner in the basement so my hubby doesn't ask about it. I really do need 30 folders and various paper trays and multiple colors of duck tape AND washi tape. And no, washi tape is NOT the same as duck tape. Y'all get it, right?)

I have a lot more of these, enough for a classroom of 30. They also come in red and clear.
 Yay! Matching baskets! I bought the library baskets in these color last year, so I am glad I can continue to ass to my color scheme.

Well, there you have it. Don't forget to visit the link up for more great ideas and pretty pictures!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Quick Tips: Managing Student Interruptions

I'm back with another super quick tip from my classroom to yours. Today's focus is finding a way to manage student interruptions during a lesson. Have you ever been really into a lesson? Everything's going your way, then you ask a phenomenal question and hands shoot up. You see a student raising their hand that doesn't usually participate and you think "Man, I am on FIRE! All my students are engaged!" ...and then you call on the kid and they ask to go to the bathroom, or for a drink of water, or how much longer until lunch. Bummer. I have been there and it is not my favorite. It is usually met with my no-nonsense glare that implies, "This is NOT the right time for you to be asking me that!"

Here is a tip I recently learned in an inservice:
Teach students the difference between a public and private question.

Public questions have are about the lesson or assignment and have answers that will benefit the entire class. Students can go ahead and raise their hand for these. Public questions let the teacher know the student is listening and cares about their learning.

Private questions are not about the lesson, or an assignment, or anything that is currently happening. If a student needs to ask this question in the middle of a lesson, they put their hand over their heart and the teacher will get to them when momentum allows.

So there you have it.

Public Questions: Hand in the air
Private Questions: Hand on chest

I will definitely be taking time at the beginning of the year to discuss, model, role play, sort, and correct.

I would love to hear what you use in your classroom. Comment below and let me know!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Quick Tips: Keeping Up with Unfinished Work

I've decided to start a new series on my blog called "Quick Tips". The plan is to share a tip from my classroom that will hopefully be helpful to other teachers. My goal is to always share pictures and never to be too wordy.

Today's tip is on keeping track of unfinished work. I'm sure many of you have the same problem I do with desks eating classwork. I finally decided to clear out my mailboxes and use them to hold unfinished work. This way I can see if they are missing something and they can't sneak off to an activity they shouldn't be at. Also, there are far fewer "black hole" desk problems. One piece of advice, watch them put the papers on the shelves when it is time to clean up from an activity. If the student can sneak it into their desk, it could be gone forever!

Thanks for stopping by!

Plickers: A Guide for Beginniners

I have been kicking myself lately. I mentioned Plickers twice, in 2 days, in 2 posts, and I never really explained what it is. I hate posts that introduce a cool idea and then don't give me enough information or explanation. I can't seem to turn my brain off when things like this happen, so I'm left to my own pinning, blog-hopping, and googling. With that in mind, I decided to make a one-stop post to give you as much information about Plickers as possible. I know there are a lot of teachers who have been using Plickers for a while and know much more about this than I do. This post is for the newbies and curious teachers.

Disclaimer: This post is my own opinion and I am not receiving anything from, they don't even know who I am. :)

Paper Clickers (similiar to electronic clickers like activ-votes)

What is it?
A free way to use technology to quickly assess students and receive individual student data.

What do I need?
A computer, one smart device (I use my iphone), printer, and a Promethean or SMART board (optional)

How do I get started?
1. Sign up for FREE on
2. Add student names
3. Print Plicker cards
4. Download FREE Plicker app
5. Add a question and choose the correct answer
6. Hit the camera button in the app
7. Scan student cards
8. Amaze students as results pop up on the board immediately

How does it work?
Each student receives a unique square-style shape. Each side of the square is marked with A, B, C, or D. When you ask a question, the students hold up their card, with the answer they think is correct on top. (So if they think B is the right answer, they will hold up their square with the B side on top.) Your device reads the unique shape to identify the student and reads the way they are holding it to retrieve their answer.

How do I use it?
Well, I really only found out about this after school let out and it is summer so I haven't been able to play with it too much...BUT I did get to use it. Luckily, I was able to try this out with my summer school students. I loved it and they loved it. I taught only reading in summer school. Every morning, my students would have Evan-Moor's Daily Reading Comprehension as morning work, it is a short passage with 4 questions. When we reviewed the morning work I had the students use their Plicker cards to indicate their answers. I was able to see immediately how many students got it and what they chose if they got it wrong.

What are some other ideas for using Plickers?
Math quick checks, introduction/review, exit tickets/closing, surveys, class votes

What are some management tips?
-Store them in a place where students can get to them easily, but they don't get ruined. I plan on putting mine in the supply bins that I place on table-groups. My students tend to destroy things in their desks.
-Make them sturdy. I plan on gluing mine to cardstock and then laminating them so they will last longer, maybe even on neon paper. Don't forget to put the student names on the back for easy identification! You can also buy thick, sturdy cards from

Okay, so hopefully now you know exactly what Plickers is and if it is for you. I would love to hear from you about ways you have used plickers or plan to use plickers in your classroom.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Sunday Smorgasbord: Toddler Travel

Happy Sunday! Today I am linking up with Michelle from Fabulous in First. Since we are Myrtle Beach bound in 3 days (YAY!) I decided to focus my randomness on traveling with a toddler. You see, I've never actually traveled with a toddler. I am relying on the expertise out in bloggy-land to help me out with some great advice and tips. We live in Northern Virginia and it will take us 7 hours to reach Myrtle Beach, SC. Our baby girl is 15 months and the longest car ride she's ever been on was about an hour. Traffic in the DC/MD/VA area can be AWFUL and while she normally just sleeps or babbles, sometimes she gets frustrated. We are talking VERY frustrated, like whaling at the top of her lungs, throwing toys frustrated.

That being said I did my research on toddler travel and came up with some tips I will be following:
1. Drive while they are sleeping.
2. If you come to a scheduled stop and they aren't awake, KEEP GOING!
3. Activities. A lot of activities. Fun activities. Engaging activities. New activities.

With tip #3 in mind, I headed off to one of my favorite stores, The Dollar Tree, to stock up. Here's what I found:

Yes, that is a dog collar. My daughter LOVES buckles. She actually throws a fit when it is time to take her out of a shopping cart because she loves trying to click and unclick the buckle. Don't worry, I cut the leash in half so there is no way she could wrap it around anything. Plus, there is even a little bell on the collar! I know I probably sound really weird, but it should buy us at least 20 minutes.

Please, Please, Please give me any advice you have that works. Is there anything I'm forgetting? Is their a favorite car or beach activity that your toddler loved?

Friday, July 25, 2014

Five for Friday - July 25th

WAHOO! IT'S FRIDAY! I have not been more excited for a Friday all summer. This is probably because:
It is the last Friday of summer school! YES! Don't get me wrong, I don't mind teaching summer school, I would even say that I enjoy it. But, these last couple days have been so long and I am definitely counting down the minutes right along with all the students.

 We're headed for Myrtle Beach! I am so excited! My husband is a little worried about the 8 hr. car trip with our 15 month old, but all I can think is sun, sand, and relaxation!

Plickers! I know I mentioned the awesomeness that is plickers in yesterday's post about assessment organization, but I couldn't just ignore them in my Friday five. I mean, this IS the first week I've actually used them. Plus, I took pictures I wanted to share.

 This week was also Teddy's birthday. Who is Teddy you ask? Why, my dog of course! He is our boxer who just turned 3! He was our baby before we had a baby. Here they are together, both captivated by my husband doing something outside.

 Drumroll please.....Data Notebooks! I also briefly mentioned this in my assessment post, but I wanted to circle back. I don't know how I could get through back to school season without it! We tend to do a lot in our notebooks at the beginning of the year and then maintain with scores, goals, and reflections throughout. It has made my 8-year-olds a lot more responsible! You can check out the notebook that I created for my classroom here.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Assessment Management & Organization

Today I am linking up with Mrs. V and Mrs. D to share how I conquer assessment. As teachers, we are always assessing our students. It seems like every year school systems become more data driven and require an even greater emphasis on number crunching. Here are a couple ways I manage and organize assessments in my classroom.

1. Reading Anecdotal Notes
These are the plastic prong folders that I got on sale at Big Lots for 14 cents each. I was so excited to find folders that matched my neon theme! I have tried using binders to keep anecdotal notes, but I hated all the flipping around during lessons and space it took up on my reading table. I've decided that I am switching to prong folders. Each group will have their own folder that houses the information for all the students in the group!

I also picked up these 10 pocket folders because they are AMAZING! I'm not sure what I will use them for yet, but I know I will find something. 
These are the new pages I've created for taking anecdotal notes this year. I HATED writing the same thing over and over when taking notes on students. This year my county is moving to the Benchmark Literacy Series which is set up into 10 three week units. I created a grid for each skill and strategy in the units where I will jot notes about each student's comprehension. On the back, there will be blank spaces for me to jot down fluency notes. These are the pages I am planning on putting in the prong folders.

2. Math Anecdotal Notes
Below you can see all the sheets that I created to keep me on top of my student's progress during guided math and math workshop. I have 8 groups in a unit, all named after animals. The top left sheet is where I group the students based on the results of the pretest. The page directly under that has student numbers. I use this to jot down notes about each student throughout the unit. I typically go through a couple of these a unit,  but I like to have all the students on one page since the groups are so fluid. I will keep both of these pages on a clipboard throughout the entire unit so I can access them easily.

The two pages to the right are my county's standards grouped by strand. Each student will have one of these and they will all be housed in the same prong folder. When a student has demonstrated mastery of a particular skill 3 times in a row, I will highlight that skill on their sheet and record the date. I typically use guided math performance and the questions of the day. You can read more about my guided math block here.

3. Data Notebooks
Another way I manage assessment is by having students track their own data. I have seen so much growth in my students since focusing more on data notebooks. When students know where they are and set a goal for where they want to be, they really do work hard to achieve it. I don't actually have data "notebooks" I will be using prong folders because they are easier to store and I don't have a lot of space. The pages in the picture are from my superhero data notebook.
UPDATE 8-2-15 I now have 2 data notebooks in my store:
Superhero Theme Data Notebook
Happy Kids Theme Data Notebook

4. Plickers
I love! I have seen a couple posts on this pop up in the blogosphere. I ignored them at first, but then curiousity got the best of me. I first read about it on an amazing teacher's blog (I can't remember exactly which one) and before I even finished reading the post, I was signing up. I couldn't wait to try it out so I used it with my summer school class THE NEXT DAY. I'm like a dog with a bone when I find something new. I was a little skeptical, but it worked perfectly the first time. The kids loved it, I loved it, everyone was happy, happy, happy. I did realize that my live charts and graphs won't show up in Internet Explorer, but they will in Google Chrome. I definitely plan on using plickers in my classroom starting at the beginning of the year. If you haven't yet, you must check it out.

Thanks for stopping by!
 For more assessment posts make sure to swing by Mrs. V's Busy Bees or Mrs. D's Corner.

Image Map

Monday, July 21, 2014

Sticks & Stickers: Behavior Management

I am so excited to be linking up with my post about behavior management. As teachers, we know this is a crucial part of any successful classroom. It is also one of my favorite topics to read about  on blogs and browse on Pinterest.

Every year my system changes based on what I learned the following year and my new group of kiddos. This past year, my management plan was based on sticks and stickers.

Here's how it worked


Each student had a numbered Popsicle stick in a bucket near my desk (I used the metal pails that are always in the dollar spot at Target). If a student made a poor choice after an individual or class warning, they were asked to move their stick into the bucket marked 1. The next time, they had to move it to bin 2, then 3. When they were not able to move their stick anymore they had to sign the red discipline binder. The binder is a school wide way to document student behavior. At the end of each quarter, the principals have some sort of fun activity for the kids who haven't signed it. 

What I love about sticks is:

1. It's Easy: Popsicle sticks are cheap and it didn't require me to make anything.

2. It's Private: the bins are located by my desk so other students can't see where their friends are. We are not allowed to do the green, yellow, red cards at our school because our administration feels it can humiliate a student and people/other adults coming in the room know information about that child. 

3. THEY CAN EARN STICKS BACK!: I know it seems like I give them a lot of chances, it is 4 total (warning, bin 1, bin 2, bin 3, THEN discipline binder). I take sticks quickly and immediately after a warning; they don't get a sassy look or a "I'll just wait" pause. I have found that losing a stick motivates them to work harder. Students were always coming to me to say, "I'm going to earn it back. I know i can!" Most of the time students earned their stick back by the end of the day.


In my classroom, stickers were the reward for not losing your stick or for earning it back by the end of the day. Each of my students had a behavior calendar (It was just a monthly calendar that went home every night). If students earned their sticker, it went on that day on the calendar. If students didn't earn their sticker, I put a slash on the day and jotted a quick note on the back (I found that I had to put a slash or crafty students would just find their own sticker to put there). Parents sign these every night so it really helped with communication. There was almost no "I didn't know Johnny was having trouble" at report card time.

What do the stickers mean? REWARDS! I had a list of non edible rewards that the students LOVED. At the end of each month I would collect their calendars, count their stickers, and offer them a choice of rewards based on their total.

What I love about stickers is:

1. It helped students with organization: They got one calendar a month, that's it. If they lost it they couldn't earn stickers or get monthly reward (I would just email if they lost their sticker for the day or a note home separately). If they forgot their calendar at home, no sticker. I can count on one hand the amount of times a student lost their calendar or left it at home, and it was always the same students.

2. Documentation: If an issue arose with a certain student, I could whip out their behavior calendars from every month and see how many times they lost a sticker and what for. I've taken them to IEP and FBA meetings. I've had parents ask for copies to take to the doctor and discuss if new medication was working. I've even had some parents go to my principal to complain about a punishment that they thought was unfair since they didn't know about the behavior. I was able to whip out the calendar and show their signature next to each lost sticker. It was wonderful. This system had actually saved me a couple times.

I realize that this system isn't for everyone. I've had colleagues say that it is too time consuming because they don't want to have to check in with every student, every afternoon. 

Here are some ways I found to better manage my time:

1. Students take it out of their folder and turn it in as they unpack in the morning. This way I don't have to flip through folders, they're all in one pile.

2. Pre-sticker: I pre-sticker as many calendars as I can while the kids are doing morning work. There were about 20 of my 26 who rarely or never lost a stick. This helped tremendously because in the afternoon chaos I only had to worry about 6 calendars and they were all right on top.

3. Make it Routine: The passing back of calendars was part of our dismissal routine. I would call students one at a time while they were reading quietly to come to my desk and get their calendar. Then they were free to pack up, stack chairs, and start their afternoon job. This allowed me time for the best behavior manager of all;  feedback and relationship. I used this couple of seconds to encourage/congratulate sticker students and conference with no sticker students. A lot of the time I would pretend I forgot why a student lost their stick and have them tell me. This helped them take ownership by stating "I..." Other times I would have them tell me what to jot down as a reason for their parent or have them read the note I already wrote aloud. This was always a really calm, encouraging conversation and not accusatory. My goal was to leave the children happy and empowered to make better decisions.

Well, there you have it. This system works great for me and I love it. I plan on tweaking it a little this year. I am planning on a follow-up post once school gets started and we can live it for a while. Thanks for stopping by! 

Swing by Mrs. V's Busy Bees for other awesome behavior management ideas.

Friday, July 11, 2014

5 for Friday

I am so excited to be joining the Five for Friday linky this week, this is my very first time! I know, I'm late to the party.
Sophia Grace! I am having so much fun spending my summer with my daughter. I love watching her personality develop every day. What's also great is that since I have to pay a percentage to keep her spot in daycare over the summer, her sitter said I could drop her off 2 days a week! SCORE! I love my little one, but it is so nice to have a couple hours to grocery shop, workout, or even nap. 
She is the happiest baby ever when she is on the swing; however, she is NOT a fan of swing time ending. AT. ALL.
Gracie and Teddy have also become best buds this summer. It is super cute, except for when they collaborate to drive me crazy! She knows how to let him out of his crate now so she pretty much thinks she owns him.

Numero Dos has to be set aside for my fantabulous teacher planner form Erin Condren. I actually ordered this back in May when she had her teacher appreciation sale going on, but like I mentioned above, I'm late to the party. The photo below is of the inside cover of my planner. In hindsight, I probably should of made the picture inside color instead of black and white, it came out a bit funky. I still love it though!
(Stay tuned for a detailed look inside my personalized planner!)
Summer. School. I know what you're thinking, but it's actually not that bad! My county does summer school for 3 weeks from 9-12:30 everyday. I volunteered because in my opinion all year should be like summer school; short days, small class sizes, and no tests. The extra money doesn't hurt either! Summer School is not being held at my school this year but it's okay because the school we are at is only 2 minutes from my house. Plus, I think I'm in love with my new classroom...huge windows, cubbies, storage, and a BATHROOM! The 3rd grade rooms at my school don't have bathrooms inside the classroom, so I am loving this luxury. P.S. Don't judge my classroom, I had half a day to set up and we couldn't hang things on the walls. It may not be cute, but it is certainly functional.

It's official, the back to school season is here. School supplies are my guilty pleasure. I have already spent 2 of those baby-free afternoons I mentioned above taking my sweet time browsing the aisles of Target and Big Lots. I plan on a picture-packed post showcasing the goodness I have found so far, but for now here are just a couple of things.

Bins and baskets galore of all shapes and sizes, in just the right neon-y colors I need for my new theme!
 This amazing pull-out drawer rolly cart is only $28! Yes, TWENTY EIGHT DOLLARS! Teacher magazines sell this for at least $70.
 Duct Tape for $2.00 each, the best price in town. I needed 6 solid colors for each of my table groups.

Pool time! My girl has become quite the little fish, it's a good thing we are less then a 2 minute walk for our neighborhood's pool!

Stop by Doodle Bugs to join in on the Friday Linky Fun!
See you next week!