Friday, September 19, 2014

My Week of Randomness

I feel like I have fallen off the map from my blogging world! I have been slammed at work and at home! It's time to get back on track....

I have been working day and night on this labor of love:
I am putting on the finishing touches and adding pictures of all the sample pages. I hope to have it ready this weekend! Fingers crossed.

We sent our first set of letters to our second grade pen pals in Nevada! My sweet friend, Aimee from Primarily Speaking and I paired our classes together.  It was so cute to explain the process to the kids. Most of my kids have never written a letter to anyone, let alone to someone they have never met. We made our pen pals some bookmarks and sent off our letters. Hope they were a hit!

We have been working on our addition strategies these last few weeks. Our Addition Buddies came to life thanks to Amanda at Teaching Maddeness. The kids wrote key words from word problems that would help them remember to add. They loved the activity and I loved they were reviewing their math skills. Win, win!

It's been hot here people! I mean REAL hot! So. Cal is not supposed to reach 107 degrees on any day! Let alone for 5 days in row. It's plain wrong! To beat the heat (slightly) I have HAD to make several visits in the afternoon to get my classic Coke Slurpee fix. There is no better way to cool off! 

Yesterday was the first "normal" day of temperatures for awhile. SO... we were able to bring a little bit of Fall to our classroom. We wrote acrostic poems and made these cute little scarecrows. The kids took the whole process VERY seriously and were SO proud of themselves when they saw the finished product! My heart skipped a beat with all their enthusiasm. You can grab this Scarecrow craftivity HERE!

I haven't linked up with Casey since the school year started, so I am thrilled to be linking up finally! Thanks for stopping by!

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Interactive Notebooks In the Primary Classroom

I have received so many questions about how to implement and use interactive notebooks in a primary classroom. I thought I would share some tips and tricks I have learned in my own second grade classroom. If you want more information on how to SET UP your notebooks, you can read about it HERE.

These are my own personal experiences. The strategies I share may not work in every classroom. Please use this information to help you get started using interactive notebooks in your own classroom. 

Frequently Asked Questions:

Why Use Interactive Notebooks?
Interactive notebooks are an amazing way to reinforce skills taught. They serve as a reference for students throughout the year, as well as years to come. I love the versatility of the notebooks. They can be used as whole group instruction, in centers, small group work, independent practice and even for a quick assessment.

How Do I Get Started?
You have to find the resource(s) that works for you. My first attempt at interactive notebooks was not a success. It was frustrating beyond belief. I wanted to buy into the concept. I thought I had researched the best resources, but I was wrong.  The resource I was using wasn't working for me and my students. I also didn't feel organized with the process. Therefore, it was a struggle to implement and I was feeling defeated. However, I stuck with it and, BAM, the following year success started to happen!

In order for the interactive notebook process to work in my classroom, I had to take small steps. I started with ONE subject only- MATH! I have since expanded interactive notebooking into language arts. However, initially I chose a subject I was comfortable with, which happened to be math. 
I created my own resource, that I felt was organized in a clear and concise way. I needed visuals! It needed to be Common Core aligned and work in conjunction with what I was already teaching in my classroom. These things made it easier to implement.

I use my interactive notebooks as follow up to a lesson I have already taught. For example, I have been teaching addition strategies for the last two weeks. We just finished learning about "making 10" on Wednesday. On Friday, I had the students work with that concept in their notebooks (see below). While they are working, I can pull students for review if necessary. I can also informally assess their skills as I walk around. If students don't finish their notebook activities, I usually have them finish it for warm up the next morning or they can take it home to complete.

I have created a FREEBIE sampler of 3 different activities, so you can get an idea of the type of activities my kids are required to complete. These pages address Operations and Algebraic Thinking 1.1, 1.2, 2.1 and 2.2.  They are also great review for the beginning of the year of third grade. (My grade specific interactive notebooks have the standard numbers at the top as well).
Each page has an "I can" statement at the top of the page and a definition of terms at the bottom of the page. Both get glued into each student's interactive notebook. 

Keeping the pages simple is key for the primary classroom. Minimal cutting and pasting is helpful too. 

The problem solving pages are my favorite. I love how the students have to explain their answer in many different ways. They have to show their work through pictures, numbers and words. I always tell my students, "I don't care what the answer is. I care about HOW you got the answer." They are forced to explain their thought process.

How Do You Find the Time?
This is not always an easy thing to do. The notebook activities take longer to complete at the beginning of the year. Don't get frustrated. Stick with it. Your students will catch on. If you use math centers, this is a perfect time for the notebook activities. Many of my students finish their pages during warm up time in the morning, as well. Be flexible and open to finding a time that works in your classroom. Everyone's schedules are different.

I hope these ideas help inspire you to make interactive notebooks part of our curriculum! Good luck!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

September Currently

I am always a little sad writing my September Currently. It's a signal that summer is officially over. (Insert sobs here!) However, it is also the start of a new school year and it also means my favorite season is upon us...Hello Fall!

1. I am listening to Flipping the Block as I type my Currently. I love me some HGTV time.

2. I was blessed to have a 4 day weekend. We celebrated California's admissions day on Friday and Labor Day on Monday. The fam and I traveled to Las Vegas for my son's baseball tournament over the weekend. It was an awesome weekend-jammed pack with baseball and a little time with my blogging bestie, Aimee from Primarily Speaking.

3. I am pooped, exhausted, and plain wiped out from all the weekend fun. Time to put my head on the pillow.

4. I would really LOVE a relaxing weekend/get away with the hubs. No stress, no worries....Just some down time.

5. I have LOTS of projects started that I need to wrap up and finish. I hate loose ends and I need to complete them NOW!

6. I really want to travel to Europe. I haven't had the opportunity to YET! Let me stress the word- YET! It is going to happen, just don't know when. It's on my bucket list!

Head on over to visit Farley and see what everyone is up to currently!

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Weekend Warriors: Back to School Cool Behavior Management Chart

From the second I greet my students and bring them into our classroom, my behavior management techniques begin! I use many different strategies to get "buy in" from the kiddos. However, my color coded behavior chart is the center of it all!

Every year I change how I display and hang this chart-UNTIL NOW! I have always used the side of one of my file cabinets. In previous years, I clipped the chart to metal hooks to hang it. By the end of the day, it was crooked or not hanging straight.  I also would place each students classroom number on a small clothes pin. Here's the bottom line: I HATED the clothes pins. They would break. The numbers would fall off. It was just a hot mess. It frustrated me that it did not work perfectly! This year though, things are different.

I am using the same chart MINUS the clothes pins. Instead, I decided to use these amazing adhesive magnets called Stick-A-Rounds from Really Good Stuff. I just peeled the paper off, stuck it to each students' round number and ta-da!

Now I don't have to worry about clips breaking, numbers falling off etc. The students don't even have to pick up the number and move it. All they have to do is use their finger to push it next to the correct color. I am already in love! These little magnetic dots are a game changer in my book. 

To hold the kids accountable for their behavior, they fill out this chart at the end of each day. They must fill in the circle with the color they end their day on. On Fridays, I send the chart home and their parents must sign it, so I know they saw it. The forms are returned on Mondays. Each student gets a ticket for our weekly prize box if they return their chart signed. This system holds the students and parents accountable for the behavior at school.

I hope you were able to get some new ideas for behavior management as you start your school year. I wish each of you an amazing year with your students. Now, hop on over to my other blogging friends and see what tips and tricks they have in store for you!

Saturday, August 30, 2014

Weekend Warriors: Back to School Cool Birthday Board

Most of us are in full Back to School swing or will be starting with kiddos after this long holiday weekend! My Weekend Warrior buddies and I decided we would share some of our Back to School ideas with you to help inspire and get this school year started in the right direction.

One of my favorite things to set up once the kids come into the room, is our classroom birthday board. There are many variations if this idea all over the internet, but I have made it work for my small classroom bulletin board space.
I use the door that connects my classroom to my team partner's room to display the kids pictures. I have very little bulletin board space and this space works perfectly. During the first week of school, I group the kids by their birthday month and take pictures of them. Then, I print and laminate them and display them all year long. My classroom color scheme is turquoise and black. So I made this set to match it. It is part of my Classroom Decor set. I also have a separate colorful Birthday Bulletin Board display set that would work for most classrooms. 

To make each student feel special on their birthday, I give each student their personalized birthday bloom!
I bought a flower pot and filled it with plastic rocks I had in my classroom. Each year I change what the "stem" will be. This year I purchased mechanical pencils. In previous years, I have used crazy straws (a big hit, too).  I also wanted to personalized the flowers for my kids and make them easier to cut out. If you would like to create your own birthday blooms, you can grab the FREE template by clicking the picture below.

Now, I hope you have a few new ideas to help celebrate birthdays in your classroom this year.  Make sure to head on over to check out all the other great Back to School ideas from my amazing blogging buddies. 

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Setting Up Interactive Notebooks

I have received several emails about HOW to set up my interactive notebooks. This is a very personal decision, but I want to share how I do it with my kiddos. When you purchase one of my interactive notebooks, there are directions of how to personalize and set up the notebooks to work for you, as well as pictures of what it can look like as a finish product.

I use 70 page wide ruled spiral notebooks for my journals. The pages fit perfectly in them. Many teachers prefer composition books. Either one works. If you choose to use composition books, you will need to print the pages at a reduced rate before you make a class set to fit into the books. Use what works best for you and your students.

Each of my interactive notebooks also comes with strand tabs and strand covers for each of the areas the notebook covers. I like to copy the strand tabs on different colored Astrobright paper. This helps the students easily identify the strand we are working on. 

Since I am a control freak organized person, I set up my student notebooks with the strand tabs ahead of time. This is actually a very hard thing for first through third graders to do and leaves A LOT of room for error. I tried having my own fifth grade son help me, and it was a frustrating task for him. So, I recruited my mom to help me instead. I prefer to use the front and back of the notebook pages and add several extra pages to each section for any mistakes that my occur when they are used by the students. I count the number of activities in each strand and then add about 5 extra pages. 

Then, I have the STUDENTS color and glue the strand cover on top of the tab for reinforcement. Other people have laminated the tabs and stapled them into the notebooks instead of gluing them. Both work beautifully.

Finally, I glue the notebook cover (included) to the front of the notebook. I use clear packing tape to reinforce the top and bottom of the cover too. Some people like to laminate the covers and them tape them, as well. 

Storage Suggestions:
I have my students store their notebooks in their own desk. This does not work for everyone. I have not found it to be a problem so far. The tabs get bent through the year, but that will happen anyway, so it does not bother me that much. I have also used table bins or baskets to store them in. Experiment and see what works for your class. 

Loose Pieces:
As we all know, students work at different paces. This can be frustrating and challenging to manage when some students have small pieces cut out, but not glued yet. I have tried to design many of my notebook pages to NOT have many little pieces for this very reason. However, sometimes it is unavoidable. In previous years, I had the kids put the pieces on top of the page they were working on before they closed their notebook. This was not full proof by any means. This year, I am going to glue a small manila envelope to the inside of the back cover of the notebook. Erin Cobb, from Lovin' Lit, shared this idea on her blog. I think it is simply brilliant and will solve my problem easily. 

I hope these tips and tricks help you get your interactive notebooks set up with ease. Enjoy!

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