Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A little progress update--Clutter Free Classroom

In Week 3's challenge of the clutter free classroom, we begin purging.

The first suggestion is to pick one area of the room to start in and move clockwise. My ADD self is going to have trouble with this, and I might just break this rule for a while...actually I already have!?!?! This week, I started with two of my biggies that I knew how to get going on--my storage cabinet and my file cabinets. Neither of these are finished, but I have made a little progress in the little amount of time I was able to spend on them this week.

Here are the after shots:
Storage Cabinet: Notice the areas that have not yet been dealt with. It was time for the kiddos that were helping me to leave and time for me to go home :) but this leaves us something to work on this week.
I had a few aha moments while organizing my games and puzzles. Why do I need the boxes for chess and check boards? So, we put the game pieces into ziploc bags that are now stored in the shoe organizer and put the game boards neatly on the bottom shelf. I had the same aha with my United States puzzles, so we took those pieces and put them into ziploc bags. Now, my kiddos RARELY use these, maybe once a year, but they are so necessary towards the end of the year when we have down-time (after EOG's, after field day, when they are just too restless to follow directions).

Nice! I cut that baby in half, and I didn't even think it was possible.

So that's my progress for two short afternoons of work---a nearly organized cabinet and ONE organized file drawer. I also cleared out one entire drawer of my other file cabinet that I am aiming to get rid of...I didn't take a picture for you, but close your eyes and just imagine a metal filing cabinet, drawer open, and NOTHING INSIDE! :) Bliss!

Monday, May 21, 2012

End of Year--Need a Freebie?

Do you get to teach animal adaptations? Or, do you have kiddos that LOVE animals as much as mine? Today for science, I showed students pictures of 12 different birds. They had to draw the feet/claws/talons and the beak then write what they thought the beak was used for and why they thought the feet were designed the way they were. For each bird, I gave them 5 quiet minutes to draw and write. I think they loved this not only because birds are TOTALLY cool, but they also loved drawing--my little artists :) They were so engaged and interested (and that's EXCITING) at the end of the year, isn't it?

The idea comes from this free online resource I found.

You can download materials for this lesson/activity at my teacherspayteachers store.

As a follow up this week, my students will complete research using online bird encyclopedias and databases to learn about the birds' habitats, diet, use of feet, and use of beaks. This will allow them to see if their predictions about the bird beaks and feet were true and to add more knowledge to that thinking. We will also have a follow up discussion about the designs of the beaks and feet and how they help the birds survive in their habitats.

Here a few bird sites I found while surfing'  tonight:
Avian Web


Sunday, May 20, 2012

Week 2's challenge for the clutter free classroom is to "set the stage for escorting all of the unwanted stuff out the door." "Develop a plan for De-cluttering" and "Compose a list of non-negotiable rules."  

Set the stage:
I grabbed copy boxes for "need to sort/think about," "freebies," and "recycling."

* Work, work, work! Start small, using music to make the process more enjoyable and time the work.
* As I am working and purging, create a list of tasks students can help with when arriving early.
* When my ability to get rid of stuff starts to dwindle--stop for the day. (Ever notice the longer you work to get rid of stuff, the more you start to hold on to? Maybe I should be on an episode of hoarders...:))

Rules for what I must get rid of:
-If it's not mine, it has to go (I have a tendency to hoard professional materials from the library in fear that when I need them, someone else will have checked them out...no more!)
-If I don't have a plan for using it (this will be tough! Don't we love to hold on to things, just in case...)
-If it doesn't fit into my grade-level (this will be tough since I am looping, but I'm sure there are things that just don't fit in either 4th or 5th grade curriculum.)
-If I have NEVER used the resource in my teaching career and don't foresee it being useful next year. 
-If I know I can access it in my personal computer files or online (since we update things all the time anyway, I rarely just make copies of a worksheet or resource I have made for students, so why hang on to the copies?).

-Take control of the mess on my desk: create a functional space for upcoming lessons (worksheets, materials, etc.) closer to my desk but separate so that it does not take over my desk
-Reduce file cabinets and get rid of one
-Purge professional materials that I know I'm not using
-De-clutter wall space (I am considering the lovely idea of visually pleasing black backgrounds for my bulletin boards)
-Reduce unnecessary picturebooks from my collection (My first strategy for this is to sort my books into two piles---I've EVER read it to a class and I've NEVER read it to a class. If I can see myself reading a NEVER book to my class next year, I can keep it. If not, I will be sending a gift of great books down to a lower-grades classroom.)

Lastly, I love the clutter-free classroom's rules to remember:

  • You can't organize clutter. (This reminds not to buy a ton of things to ORGANIZE what I have, but to get rid of things that I do not need and focus on organization later.) 
  • The less you have, the less you need to manage.
  • Your trash is {quite possibly} another person's treasure. (If other teachers came into my room and said "Hey, I could use that," I would have no problem giving it away. So, this week, instead of moving materials into our mailbox room, I sent an email with the resources I was trying to get rid of--very simple--some word study folders and a book report newspaper set. Both were taken up within the hour and I was pleased to be giving up something someone else might use.
  • There is no value in an object that isn't being used. (This is harsh, isn't it? I think it means we have to get rid of gifts kids have given us and other cutesy things that are just sitting around with no purpose.)
  If you want to start organizing your classroom, don't forget to head on over to the clutterfreeclassroom blog  for awesome tips and inspiration.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Clutter-Free Classroom Challenge--taking the plunge!

Yes! I am accepting the challenge to make my classroom clutter free and I am so excited! The challenge started in January thanks to the Clutter Free Classroom blog and I just found it last weekend. I spent an hour or two reading through all of the weekly challenges to try to catch myself up. Then, I spent this week trying to organize, and more importantly PURGE the clutter.

Challenge 1 is to take pictures of your classroom and clutter. I mostly focused on my clutter since the classroom is a little bare anyway since we took down all instructional materials to ready ourselves for EOG's. Here goes my classroom clutter---this was so embarrassing that I had to peruse a few other blogs to see other classroom clutter before I was brave enough to share my own!

Check out that mess! The  top especially bugs me and I would like to add that lots of things became unorganized in this cabinet when I was out for a day and the kids had "indoor" recess. The games and puzzles are all over the place. Look at all those extra baskets from years of picking them up at the dollar store unnecessarily---I get excited about brightly colored plastic organizers, how about you?
My desk. I would love to say this is atypical, but that would be a LIE! I try to clean and shuffle things around daily but I always have stuff I don't want to forget about on my desk because otherwise---I'll forget about it. I also use my desk to hold copies of things we will need tomorrow or in the next few days...not a good system I will have to admit. I am often laying my keyboard over the top of a small stack of papers. This has got to change!!!
My handy dandy file cabinet. Doesn't this look organized? My first year of teaching, I was so crazy about file folders that I color coded them by subject--orange for literacy, blue for math, red for social studies, and green for science. This file cabinet holds 4 drawers all as full as this one! I used to go to my file cabinet every time we started a new unit in math and I used it to hold literacy stuff (like novel guides) that I didn't want to toss. This year, I probably opened my file cabinets for resources all of 5 times! So, I know this file cabinet is full of wasted space AND I have another one that is full of professional resources, multiple copy packets that I can use from year to year, etc. that I plan to condense to one file cabinet.
Yuck! Except for my beautiful teacher appreciation flowers :) I detest my nonfiction book area. I don't think it is functional for the kids and I'm not sure what to do about it. One of my biggest "clutter" issues is all of the books I have. They span 5 large shelves across my room. I wish a book thief would visit and take some off of my hands because I absolutely do not know how to purge books.
This is my shelf where I put other copies that we will need in the future. I tried to use this to keep the extra copies off of my desk, but my memory is starting to go more and more lately and sometimes if it is not on my desk, I completely forget to do that one part of my plans.  The bottom contains our whiteboards and markers. The middle holds old copies that I am still hanging on to (can you hear the guilt?) The top part contains stuff we are actually using, except for the little pinkish shelf and the white plastic organizer---I can't for the life of me think of what all those papers are in those and I know that's a problem!
Crazy amount of professional materials, binders, and picture books. And to the side, a plastic set of drawers that began as an organizer for small group reading materials--copies, guided reading books, etc. Haven't opened that but a few times this year too.

So now you've seen my mess. Care to share yours? Link up with the clutter free classroom's challenge or check out the linky parties and see other teachers' clutter and progress. :) This challenge has MOST DEFINITELY inspired me to get to crackin' :)

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Weekly Poetry Post---Developing Learners who Love Language

A little over a week ago, I told you guys about my love of poetry and how glad I was to have saved it for the end of the year. With my new-found love of poetry (again, how did my kids and I go almost the whole year without poetry?!?!?), a few ideas that have been swimming in my head from reading Kristen's vocabulary ideas at ladybugsteacherfiles, and our upcoming transition to Common Core, I am ready to launch "Love of Language Learning Fridays" in my classroom (trying to think of a more catchy name for the kiddos, but haven't yet). Shouldn't Friday be a little different (and exciting) anyway? So, while we are winding down the year, I am obsessing over how Language Learning Fridays will look. My plan is to incorporate language learning throughout the whole day. I'll explain some of my ideas for modifying our Friday schedule in the next few Weekly Poetry Posts.

First, let me explain that my POETRY POSTS will not always focus strictly on poetry, but on this love of language learning. We can find poetic language in lots of other texts (of course you know this!), and this revamped day for my students focuses on learning interesting language, content-area vocabulary, interesting new words, and a Poetry Workshop component. During reader's workshop, we will revisit examples of figurative language, challenging words, idioms, juicy words, etc. that have come up throughout the week's read alouds. This will allow us to spend more time talking about the language the author used and also help us develop interpretive skills and our ability to use context to figure out the meanings of unknown words and sayings. Examples from our read alouds will also help me teach the difference between figurative and literal language, and how figurative language often makes reading so much more interesting.

The Talking EggsHere's an example of a read aloud excerpt that would be EXCELLENT for coming back to at the end of the week:

"Rose, the older sister, was mean and cross and didn't know beans from birds' eggs. Blanche was sweet and kind and sharp as forty crickets. But their mother liked Rose the best, because they were alike as two peas in a pod--bad tempered, sharp-tongued, and always putting on airs."
            ~The Talking Eggs by Robert D. San Souci

Students will have some format for collecting these language examples and doing some analysis with them. I'm hoping the notebook or whatever will be something they refer to when doing their own writing or analyzing other stories/characters. I am also hoping that this will spread like wild fire with students collecting their own figurative language, challenging word examples, etc. throughout the week to be shared and analyzed with the group on Fridays. I love how Kristen (ladybug'steacherfiles) displays her word detective/word wizard work and I think I will do a similar bulletin board for collecting our Love of Language work.

To plan for Friday's read-aloud re-visit, I am going to keep a running list of examples in a google doc. Each day as I read aloud, I will pay close attention to interesting language, challenging words, etc. and leave myself a sticky note so that when I get a chance that day, I can type up the examples. Of course, students and I may quickly discuss these words or interesting language while reading the story to make sure we understand before we move on, but since my focus will most likely be another reading skill, we won't spend too much time on working with the words or language. Also, if you teach, you know it's probably likely that not every child is paying attention, so the Friday revisit will ensure that everyone has had ample opportunities across the year to enrich their language.
Raining Cats and Dogs: A Collection of Irresistible Idioms and Illustrations to Tickle the Funny Bones of Young PeopleWhat if I have very few examples to choose from with our weekly read alouds? I've already thought about this. Lots of great picture books (like Raining Cats and Dogs by Will Moses) can serve as fillers for any Friday that is lacking in great examples.

Stay tuned for more ideas.....

Saturday, May 5, 2012

Teacher Appreciation Jackpot---FREEBIE READY!

UPDATE: My Jackpot Freebie is ready to go!  The Jackpot is now over! I hope you grabbed some great free items. If you missed the jackpot, you can still check out the links below to see what was offered and the feedback the item received. Perhaps it is something that would be a great addition to your classroom. Don't forget to add TAD12 code to your checkout so that you can save 10% or more on all items until Tuesday! I am also running a sale to show my appreciation :)

It's my newly updated, highly downloaded Nonfiction Reading Strategies/Student worksheets. It includes a few new graphic organizers, and best of all, it's free from now through Sunday! Here's one of the newest graphics I created and included last week. 

Students use the "Big Idea House" by recording the big idea then pulling out the important details (foundation/support) for that big idea. I also turned the "Big Idea House" upside down so that it looks more like an arrow to show that students can think of the big idea in the other direction as well--details, then big idea. I taught that we could think about the big idea in both directions this year...it turns out that in some nonfiction, the big idea is easy to come up with, so students can prove their big idea with supporting details; other times, the big idea is hard to spot right off, so it helps to break down the supporting details (or sections) to see how everything is connected.

I am super excited about next week! Teacher Appreciation week is one of my favorite weeks! I especially love when I get handmade cards with thoughtful notes from students and that this week always comes right before testing week---right when we all need a little stress relieved. What's your favorite part of teacher appreciation week? What traditions does your school have for T A W? (For us, Monday is SUNDAY MONDAY :) yum! Tuesday is Teacher Tools Tuesday! Can't wait! :)

I hope you enjoy checking out the other free items by blog hopping your way around teacherspayteachers. Over 130 teachers will be participating and we estimate the total value of this FREEBIE JACKPOT to be around $600! It all starts on Sunday, May 6th, so GET READY! You will be able to blog hop and download them from Teachers Pay Teachers.  If you don't have an account there, set one up so you can be ready to download like crazy!

Jackpot linkups by Grade Level Bands:

And to top off all of this freebie jackpotting, there will also be a site-wide TPT sale from Sunday to Tuesday. You can save %10 with this promo code and many stores are also throwing a sale to add additional savings for you! I will be throwing a %5 sale. This means if an item costs $4, you will pay $3.42. What a deal for some great teacher-made, kid-tested products to enhance your classroom!  This year may be coming to a close for you, but use this as an opportunity to collect resources, ideas, and inspiration for next year!

Get ready to feel APPRECIATED!



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