Back to School Prep: 5 for Friday Edition

Fair started this week and for me that's the final sign that summer is over and back-to-school prep starts to kick into high gear. Today you'll find a mix of tried-and-true plus new ideas for the school year and I thought I would share with you too!

I found a WONDERFUL organizational tool from Meg at Fourth Grade Studio: Dry Erase Labels!! Last year, we started a math intervention time before lunch. This was a thirty minute block of additional math practice that included a spiral review then a time to practice and apply skills through math games and apps. I like to try and give students a variety to choose from as well as differentiate to the necessary skill level. Print-and-go games and card games are my favorite: this gives partners and groups a chance to work as well as a chance for me to work with students individually.

All of the choice and leveling is great, but it can get disorganized quickly. This is where the labels come in handy. Using my 10 drawer cart, I have enough room for all of the centers we are using + supplies needed. Then, when I switch to a new set of games I don't have to peel off the label, just wipe and write! Love it! Double plus, my hand-me-down drawers have two colors, so I can eventually have a red level and orange level for a visual reminder of which games to choose from.
These are the centers we will start the year off with!
As I'm making my annual pilgrimages for fun office supplies and materials I'm adding  index cards to the list thanks to a post from The Panicked Teacher. How fun is this all about me tower? Click the picture to see more from the original post on how to set things up + all the necessary labels.

I'm also picking up all of the necessary items for one of my favorite team activities: Save Fred. I've used it the last two years and each group of students have really enjoyed trying to save my poor friend. You can read more about how to the the activity here or by clicking on the picture.

I wanted to share the link to 50+ ideas submitted by readers a couple of years ago. So many wonderful--- oldie but goodie ideas, you don't want to miss out! That's one thing I love about blogging: the sharing of ideas and learning from others!

I've done a lot of planning this last spring and summer to gear up for the new year. We adopted the Journeys curriculum last year, and if you have this curriculum and missed yesterday's post, you may want to check it out here or by clicking the picture below for tips, tricks, and ideas for the coming school year.

  Also, come back tomorrow... something BIG is going to happen!


Journeying Through Journeys: Tips, Thoughts, & Goals

Last year my district adopted Journeys K-5. It was quite the switch up, at least in 4/5 where we had primarily done novel studies before the basal. Here is a peek at how my teammates and I navigated and tried to tame the beast that is Journeys.

First of all, starting in 4th, we are departmentalized. There are five fourth grade teachers, one who teaches only science and social studies, two who teach one section of reading and the rest are math, and then myself and another teacher take the rest of the reading and all of the communications (writing) blocks.

As the ELA team,  we divided up lesson plans for the week, one going through the book jotting down the reading and shooting the lesson out to everyone, the other did the communication plans. By the time we went through the books to make these, my daily "at a glance" plan was usually on a sticky note, that I would tuck from page to page as needed in the manual.

Each of our periods is a 55 minute block. That is very little time for all that Journey's contains. We did the very best we could to hit it all, but it felt rushed at times. We adjusted the schedule a bit, and ran on 6 day weeks throughout the year. This helped greatly with our communications periods, so that we had a little extra time to work on our writing. This also made for five days of teaching and one test day.

I would try on our Day 5  to run centers to review what we had covered. For one class section, one day with 4-5 centers to rotate through was good enough. Another section, review and one on one work occurred on Day 5 and on into Day 6 as well. Depending on the group of kids in each section, and how things are going, we might focus more on decoding in one class and the target skill more in another section. Having centers throughout the week in addition to what the program itself provides, helped to give my students a chance to apply and practice what we were working on.

My district is also blessed to be a 1:1 iPad district. Having a review on Kahoot was always a class favorite. Finding ways to do the same practice from the workbook in a hands on way on the iPad made things more meaningful than just the worksheet.

Writing was tough. The amount of projects that are to be completed, the time allowed, add in all the hectic things that come into a schedule made it nearly impossible. We adjusted some. Not writing every writing piece. Elongating the project time, so that students could really dig in, especially when the topic was of interest. A favorite for all was during the persuasive writing unit. Students still needed to write in the form of a poster or brochure, but they also had a to create a commercial on the iPad using various apps to persuade their audience as well.  I also made mentor sentences a priority, making sure to have 5-10 minutes a day for the authentic and spiraled practice of grammar--and it worked wonderfully!

In my state, 4th grade is a heavily assessed grade. There are so many standards that need to be taught and met for students to succeed on the testing. Schedules are crazy. Weather is crazy, although it's said wait five minutes and it'll change if you're in Kansas, and days you didn't expect to get off are suddenly cold days or snow days. Students get sick. There are field trips. The list goes on and on.

It takes a few years to truly get into a groove with a basal system no matter what system you use. It takes time to figure out the pace of a single lesson. It takes time to figure out which concepts are truly important to focus on and which are great if you can get to it this week, but if you have to, wait until the program spirals back. Know that, especially in the first year of implementing the program, it can't all be done, but as the great educator that you are, you can focus on what's important and help your students get what they need from the program. I know, now that we've had a year under our belt, we will be able to manage time better through pacing and incorporate even more of all that the program has to offer.

While having a basal is great for subplans, it's been a huge adjustment for me. I'm still learning how to work with it best, but I do know there a few things I want to do this upcoming year. 
  1. Give as many opportunities in my reading and homeroom times for kids to read. There is a lot of extras to Journeys. I truly feel that it's important for kids to read, to have choice, to talk about what they are reading. I want to make this more of a priority. 
  2. I want to continue to make Journeys work in my room. When we first implemented the series, the iPads became a glorified paperweight collecting dust. Things were rushed, it just wasn't working to the full potential. Including more hands on use with iPads, centers, etc. is a goal for me. 

Here are some of the units that I have prettied up from the school year. I have full units 110+ pages for each story {I'm trying to complete everything with plenty of time for prep, as I'll be laminating along with everyone this year.. rather than my 'quick hot of the press let's try this' centers and projects of last year.} For information on how I'm going to attempt to keep it all organized see this post.

For more information please click here or on the pictures above.

I've also broken a part some of the units, for quick skill packs. A sample of these packs can be found  by clicking the pictures below.

I would love to hear from others who have this series or any other and how you get the most from the basal.


BTS Teacher Favs: Teacher Must Haves!

Less than a month until I'm back to school. One of my favorite parts of getting ready are all of the school and office supplies for me! My husband would say I have a problem, but I think most teachers would agree, there is just something about new supplies! It's the little things, I guess.

I'm linking up with some other fabulous bloggers to share our teacher favs. I cannot wait to see what everyone else has linked up, before I start my annual back to school pilgrimages to Target & Amazon!

<a href="">Paper Mate Flair Porous-Point Felt Tip Pen, Medium Tip, 12-Pack, Fashion Colors (74423)</a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
I absolutely love Paper Mate pens for grading or as a special treat for students during writing time. Sharpie Pens hold a special place in my heart too, but for the day-to-day duties, Paper Mate is where it's at.

<a href="">Post-it Notes, 3 in x 3 in, Jaipur Collection, 5 Pads/Pack (654-5UC)</a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
I may not have the Post-It obsession like my friend, Joanne, but I do use Post-It's daily. My teammate and I write out a general outline for the week, one writing for reading the other for communications. I take what's on there, and write a one liner or a quick check list for each day. Post-Its for an at a glance lesson plan, grouping, and just to jot down the things to do before I forget!.

<a href="">MICS 61001 Gorilla Glue Adhesive Duct Tape, 30' Length, 1" Width</a><img src="" width="1" height="1" border="0" alt="" style="border:none !important; margin:0px !important;" />
This "supply" I might have taken from the hubs {sorry, dear!} My current building is a historical site, with nearly indestructible walls that nothing sticks to. Luckily, our new building will be complete in December! Last year, I struggled keeping up all of my posters that weren't on bulletin boards. Then, I found Gorilla duct tape in my husbands stash, and everything stayed up. It's not the prettiest, but rolled up behind a poster you can't see it anyway and it sticks! 

These are just a few of my favorites, I'm sure I'll find a few more must haves linked up. Be sure to check out other Teacher Faves and link up your favorites too!

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Organizing Curriculum Units

If I put something into a filing cabinet, even with all of the wonderful intentions of colorful folders and labels, the items housed there seem to fall into the "out of sight, out of mind" oblivion.  I just don't go back to see what I have often enough, sometimes even making another copy of an activity, just because I forget I already have it prepped and ready to go.  {Hopefully, I'm not the only one that has filing cabinet issues.}

I love to store digital files on the computer. It's easy to see what I have and access them, but that's all they are: digital. At some point they need printed and often laminated, and then I go back to the metal conundrum at the back of my classroom.

This year will be different.

We started the Journey's curriculum last year. It was a hard adjustment for me. I loved novel studies, creating curriculum and activities. It was a change. It's still different, but I'm adjusting.

There is a lot to Journey's. Some of my students catch on quick. Others struggle with the concepts. Although the program offers some centers and worksheets, I've found the program at times to be a little boring. So I did some creating, to make centers and activities {especially for when working with small groups}. I don't want to forget an activity in the great gray abyss this year.

Introducing my binder system.

I love binders. I love the ability to flip through and see everything with out having to open and close a gazillion folders. The whole unit is sorted. For my Journey's units there are sections for vocabulary, spelling, target skill, decoding, affixes, and grammar activities; quick and easy to find.

The binder is big. However, I have all of the centers prepped. I like to take a day before testing to run 4-5 different centers for students to practice. I also mirror my classroom, so two groups are working on an activity at a time.

I co-teach with the special education teacher, so I'm hoping that this system works out a little better with sharing resources. The binders will be right by my desk, organized, and it'll be easy to take out an activity or two as needed. At least that's the hope for now.

How do you organize big units? Have you tried a similar system? How did it work for you? I'm hoping I can make things a little easier on myself!

{If you are a 4th grade teacher and would like to take a look at the resources I have for Journey's please take a look here}


Why Teachers NEED Twitter

I know, it's a social media world nowadays. You have blogs, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest,
Periscope: there are so many ways to connect with other teachers, so why Twitter?

1. Twitter is professional development in your pocket.
This summer, from the comfort of my couch, cuddling with my baby girl, I was able to "attend" conferences such as ISTE and Nerd Camp. The attendees (and some presenters!) shared takeaways, quotes, ideas. Conversations continued within the conference hashtags... I was able to learn and get takeaways to apply this school year. Of course there is value in actually being able to attend the conferences themselves, but due to time, money, among other factors professional development isn't always possible or as in tune to the individual teacher: Twitter changes that! You customize the professional development by who you follow, chats you participate in, and as a result make it tailored to you.

2. Develop a PLN
One thing you have to love about education are all of the acronyms {shout out to my special education friends, you especially know what I'm talking about!}... so what is a PLN? PLN is a Personal Learning Network. This is all about making connections and networking with others that you find interesting. Remember this is a personal learning network, tailor it to fit your needs. The learning is avaliable 24/7, just as quick as opening up your computer or smart phone. See what those in your network are talking about, is there a chat going on or hashtag of interest? Finally this is a network. In my PLN I follow people all over the states and all over the world. It takes a little while to develop the connections but it's well worth it.

3. Together We're Better
When teacher collaborate good things happen. Kayla from Top Dog Teaching has her 2nd graders tweeting {instilling digital citizenship from an early age}, there is a Global Math Task Twitter Challenge going on, there are so many opportunities to open the world up to kids, to connect, to collaborate.

Where to start? The Peppy Zesty Teacherista has a great tutorial to check out for beginners.

If you're already set up, but your head is spinning on how to establish a great group of people to follow? Look for hashtags that interest you. Participate in twitter chats. For the scoop on when various chats occur check out the list of all list for twitter chats from Cyber Librarian. There is also the TpT Chat on Sunday evenings, more information can be found at Erin Integration.

I'll be honest, at first I didn't think there would be much benefit to 140 characters, but once I dove in that completely changed. If you take the plunge in be sure to find me @teacherinoz I'd love to connect with you there!


Make Your Masterpiece: Differentiated Inference Activty

I'm back for week 3 of the TpT sellers challenge: make your masterpiece with a new activity for that tricky skill of making inferences!

Inferences are hard, especially for some of my students, it's just hard to read between the lines. I created this activity using the same passages but with two different levels to help with differentiation.

Introducing: Whose Tablet Is It? (My district is 1:1 iPad, so I thought my students would like the tech theme)

In this activity, various community members have mixed up their tablets. Students must read the last webpage to figure out which tablet belongs to each community member. In level 1 there are visual clues as well as a more scaffold recording sheet. In level 2, the same passage is used, with no visual aids, and less scaffolding on the recording sheet.

Also included is a poster and two graphic organizers for ANY book that students can use to aid in this skill.

Feel free to check out this activity here if you'd like learn more about it!