Thursday, July 30, 2015

Back to School Giveaway!

Hello Sparkie Friends!
I just wanted to stop by and share a fabulous giveaway happening right now!
Some of my teaching buds and I are giving away 5 $25 gift cards from Teacher Pay Teachers.
I don't know about you, but my cart is overflowing with items and these gift cards would be awesome to use towards those back to school purchases!
Click on the image below to enter for your chance to win!
Good Luck!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Differentiate & Accelerate Student Learning

Differentiating and Accelerating Student Learning with Sight Word Pockets

As summer is moving towards the end of July, my brain is buzzing with all the ideas I want to be sure to use in my classroom this year to move my readers as quickly as I can towards reading on grade level and above.  One of those ideas is Sight Word Pockets.  I used this for part of my year last year and it made a huge difference in the learning of my students!

Differentiating and Accelerating Student Learning with Sight Word Pockets

These sight word pockets really could be just about any type of pocket you need for differentiating the learning for your students.  They could be letters of the alphabet, math fact fluency, vocabulary, test prep, etc...  It's an easy to manage system and it really accelerated the speed that my students picked up new learning.  

Differentiating and Accelerating Student Learning with Sight Word Pockets

Inside the left pocket, I placed baggies with sight words that the student had learned and was currently working on to learn.  I keep words they have learned on that side for cycling back to review once in a while.  This cycling back ensures the student doesn't forget previously learned words.  I tell them which color of words to work on for that day so they don't have to review all words every time.  That would get to be too much once they are learning more and more words.  In the right side pocket, I keep a baggie of the words they still have to learn.  

Differentiating and Accelerating Student Learning with Sight Word Pockets

As I do check-ins with the students, I mark off words in  my Anecdotal Records Notebook that they have mastered.  Then I can move words from the right pocket, words to learn, into the left side to add to what the student is working on.  My students took such ownership in their own learning!!  They were very motivated to get words from that right side into their left side!  Plus, each student was working on their own list and at their own pace!  

Differentiating and Accelerating Student Learning with Sight Word Pockets

Some students were still on one word list (each list was printed onto a different color of paper).   And some had moved on to the next list- the reason you see the two different colors in the pockets.  We would review our baggies a couple of times a week, more if we had a few extra moments at the end of a lesson.

Differentiating and Accelerating Student Learning with Sight Word Pockets

I took my sight words from my sight word PowerPoint slides, formatting my printer to print several slides per page, before opening the slideshow.

Differentiating and Accelerating Student Learning with Sight Word Pockets

Then each level of words were printed on different colors of copy paper.  Cut the cards and place in baggies.  For your youngest students, I would suggest baggies with the zip tops.  These are the easiest for them to zip closed and to know they are closed.  

Differentiating and Accelerating Student Learning with Sight Word Pockets

The pockets themselves are very easy to make.  I took a file folder, opened it up flat,  and folded the bottom 1/3 up.  Turn it over and staple it.  Now you have your pockets.  You can have students label the pockets or type up labels for what they are learning.  

I hope you find a way to use these easy pockets!  Differentiating your students like this really takes each student from where they are and moves them forward and I found that this system really accelerated their learning because they were engaged with seeing the to be learned pile get smaller and smaller!

Come visit me today for some sight word activities students can do during center times!

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Saturday, July 25, 2015

Kindness in the Classroom

Last year, I came across an idea on Pinterest for a cape of kindness. A group of children were wearing capes with hearts on them. They would perform kind actions when wearing them. I immediately loved the idea and started brainstorming ways I could implement it into my classroom.

Here’s what I came up with. I ordered two capes on Etsy; one boy cape and one girl cape. I decided to use them as an incentive to promote acts of kindness. At the beginning of the year, I start by reading Chyrsanthemum by Kevin Henkes. We discuss words that make us bloom and words that make us wilt. Afterwards, I introduce two capes. A discussion occurred and an anchor chart was created to display how one could earn the cape of kindness. At the beginning, I am pointing acts of kindness that earn the cape of kindness. Gradually, the students would begin to point out acts of kindness. I can’t tell you how proud I was of my students to hear, “I noticed that Suzie helped Sally after she fell on the playground. I think she has earned the cape of kindness.” Towards the end of the year, my students had full control over the capes. They would discuss as a group when they thought someone had earned the right to wear the cape.

Although the capes were just pieces of material, they meant the world to my kindergarteners. Throughout the year, I saw my students become superheroes of good will. They sought out acts of kindness and encouraged others along the way. What more could a teacher want?

Here's what my capes look like: 

I contacted a storeowner on Etsy and told her what I was wanting. Purchasing a customized cape is not necessary. You could make one out of butcher paper, use an old sheet or scrap of material, or purchase a plastic tablecloth and let your students decorate it. The cape itself doesn’t matter. What matters is what the cape symbolizes; a recognition for an extraordinary act of kindness.

Friday, July 24, 2015

All About The Classroom Library

Hey everyone!

As I start getting ready for back to school, my main task this year is my library. Last year was my first year and most of the books I had were my own that I'd collected over time from garage sales and from my childhood.

Through out the year, I stocked up on books from Scholastic during Dollar Days and other books from the catalog that were a great price. This summer, I hit up Goodwill and Ebay.

I scored a great deal on a lot of 20 Animorph books for $8 on Ebay!

Now on to organization...last year I used the Scholastic Book Wizard App to scan books to keep track of which books I had, plus it had the level (I am at a school that uses Guided Reading Levels) so it was fabulous.

 I found an app this year called "Books" and I love it! It scans the ISBN barcode but if it isn't in the library, you can either search for it by ISBN number or type to search.

So now I can just scroll through and since I'm a visual person, I appreciate being able to see the covers.  Also, I discovered if you click the book, click edit, you can "check it out" to a kid if you wanted and it says "loaned". Then when they return, edit, and click return and it is back to normal.

So Junie B Jones is loaned out. Perfect!

Finally, my classroom library.  I have my library organized differently this year. Last year I had levels, then non- fiction and fiction. It was fine and it worked, but I want to broaden my library. This year I will have a leveled section, then my main library will be organized by genres and authors, plus a tub for our class favorites and magazines. Some genres I'm including are historical, adventure, fantasy, fiction, non-fiction, humor, and mystery. It could go even more from there, but I didn't want to get too crazy. It's not ready yet to show you, but here is a sneak peek!

Thursday, July 23, 2015

No More Treasure Box!

Do you have a treasure box?  Do spend endless amounts of money shopping at Walmart, Target, and the Dollar Store searching for pencils, bracelets, whistles, balloons, erasers, necklaces, and other trinkets?  This was me just three years ago.  My students would earn stickers or clip ups in an effort to make a trip to the treasure box.  When I reflect on those prizes, the kids were excited about the idea of going to the treasure box but weren't exactly thrilled about the prize itself.  The time and money spent on collecting these prizes was getting old.  That is when I knew that something had to change.

That is when I found BRAG TAGS!  This was my FIRST product in my TPT Store and I haven't looked back since!  I wrote a blog post filled with frequently asked questions and answers regarding using brag tags in the classroom.  I'd love for you to check it out!  Here's a FREEBIE to get you started!

If you are interested in using brag tags in your classroom, I have over 125 pages of school days brag tags, 60 pages of Accelerated Reading brag tags, 60 pages of holiday brag tags, and 20 pages of character traits brag tags in my TPT Store.  You can read all of the FAQ's and answers by clicking on the image below!

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

What's In A Name *GIVEAWAY*

Let's have some fun today!
I'm giving away my #1 bestseller to two of our SPARK followers!

Every year, I am scrambling to create name tracers by hand or I go to some awful website where I do one kid's name at a time, print, repeat. Now I can create multiple, different name tracers/activities and have them right at my fingertips for all of my students!

Click the picture to take you there!

Would you like to see the tutorial that goes along with this pack!? This video shows you how to use one portion of this product. Don't forget, there are also two free fonts and editable name plates with this pack. I'm in love.

AND I created a second tutorial to help you edit the name plates. 'Hope this is helpful.

I'll choose TWO winners when I wake up tomorrow and update this post, when I do.

Monday, July 20, 2015

TOP TIPS for Tackling your TO DO LISTS!

tackling your to do list tips and a freebie

Hello there!! It's Ashley here from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and I am excited to be bringing you a few FABULOUS tips and ideas along with a FREEBIE to help you to check those ENDLESS to dos off of your list!!! 

If you follow me on IG, Facebook, Bloglovin', or Periscope, you may already know that I spent some time in Las Vegas with a few over one THOUSAND of my teacher friends in July, 2015 and it was NOTHING short of amazing.  You can read all about my Vegas trip {HERE} on my blog if you would like! 

But today, I'm not coming to you to tell you about Vegas - I'm coming to tell you the TOP TIP that I learned in Vegas that has absolutely changed EVERYTHING about the way that I tackle my to do lists!!!  

Ok can we talk about that laptop up there for a minute?? Yes, there's a laptop screen HIDING under all of those to dos up there.  Has yours ever looked liked this?!?! OF COURSE IT HAS!! We're teachers!! Some of us are teacher BLOGGERS! Our to do lists NEVER EVER END!! Am a right?!?

 I mean just look at the list of lists of lists of to dos I had going on this morning!! . . . UNTIL I remembered and applied my most favorite tip from Vegas..... a tip that is a reminder - a MUCHLY needed reminder - that I CAN'T DO IT ALL.   It doesn't matter how perfect, how neat, how coordinated my to do lists are - I will NOT get it all done! I will NOT!!

BUTTTTTT - - - you know what I CAN get done?!?


I've snagged a tip in Vegas that I PROMISE will help you to tame the lists! Are you ready for it?!?

Yep - it's a VERB -  - - Single task your to do list!!  I cannot TELL you how much more productive I've been when I focus on ONE TASK AT A TIME!! Instead of trying to answer email WHILE I blog, WHILE I reply to and check IG notifications, WHILE I attempt to burn make dinner at the same time - I pull out my TOP TO DO(s) and write them on a separate to do list and TACKLE THEM!!! 

I tried this for the first time this past week and I was AMAZED and COMPLETELY energized and motivated about how ridiculously effective it was!!

I grabbed my EC planner - and chose SINGLE tasks from my {mile long} to do lists - yes lists - and I TACKLED THEM!! I had 2 goals in the morning, 2 goals for the afternoon and ONE for the evening! And guess what!! I GOT THEM ALL DONE AND MORE!!

I know this kind of sounds ridiculously simple and maybe even not worth a blog post, but TO ME, it was WELL WORTH a blog post because of how INCREDIBLY effective it was.  Making a TINY list - with just a FEW priority to dos on it that I pulled off of my master list, I was able to tackle that list in no time.  PLUS, I had a COMPLETED list by the end of the day!!

You know what else this whole SINGLE TASK idea is worth?!? A FREEBIE!!!

I created a quick, simple, PRINTABLE freebie for you to grab and use to get your SINGLE TASKING ON!!!  There is space for you to jot a BRIEF, single task style list for morning, afternoon, and night!

click HERE or the image above to snag this freebie!!! 

I hope you can use this freebie to help you get focused and SINGLE TASK your to do list away!! I PROMISE it works!! :)

Happy tackling!!

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Back to School Bulletin Board "Pin"spirations

Hi! Sarah here from A Rocky Top Teacher!

While prepping for the new school year, I ran across some fun bulletin boards and wanted to collect them all in once place to share with you. 

Before I start sharing away though...I have a confession. I am NOT a fan of traditional bulletin boards. I REALLY love how "pretty" some of them are, but give me one that has been created with the "students" in mind, and I am ALL THERE! 

These are not your typical bulletin boards! Brace yourselves!

Here are some of my favorites! 

I just love this Instagram post! I think it is a great way to highlight moments of the year. Want to make it student-centered? Let your kiddos be the ones that snap the photos and choose which ones to get printed and posted!

Photo from Marci Combs 

This one just melts my heart. I really want to incorporate this one with the staff at our school. The short story behind this board is this- A blogger challenged a high school to do a "happy" project and share acts of kindness. This was one of their random acts. They created this wall to help out and support their fellow classmates. WOW...just WOW!!!

Photo from Kindness Girl

Sometimes, we place stereotypes on each other without meaning them in a negative way. He is such an athlete. She is funny. He's just different. This teacher created a language arts lesson to help students identify and connect with the stereotypes they feel that they had been given by others and bring insight to the what happens when these stereotypes are placed on each other. 

Let students define themselves at the beginning of the year! What are we going to be this year? This bulletin board is a great way to help students "break the ice" with their classmates and set the foundation for a great year of learning and growing. 

 Photo from Teaching is Forever

And, this last one is my favorite and will be what we will put in the hallway outside of our room at the start of the year. I am going to use their first day of school pictures. I will have a little over 50 kiddos so I should have plenty to make this one work. I may even combine this idea with one of the other boards from above. We will just have to wait and see! 

Did you find a favorite? Did this spark your creative juices?! Create away!!

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Best Apps for Teachers

Hey friends - Catherine from The Brown Bag Teacher. Today I'm sharing 9 apps that all teachers - regardless of grade - should have on their iDevices. As a 5th grade teacher, I was a 1:1 classroom and sharing about technology and now, in 1st grade I have 8 devices...and am working my way to a class set. You can read more about technology in my room here.

The apps I'm sharing today are not content-specific apps, so they aren't apps you can 'put' kids on and pull small groups. These are fabulous references, creation, and assessment apps for teachers; they have multiple uses in different content areas and ages. So, here we go!
Of the apps I used most on my phone are the Mastery Connect CCSS and NGSS apps. They are quick and easy to use (they don't even require internet access), and they have ALL the standards on them K-12. I love having easy access to other grades as a reference to see where my 1st graders will be going and what they should have already learned. Plus, you can add notes to each standards so as you're planning or out-and-about and have ideas, it's easy to add them. 
Along the lines of curriculum, I love Common Core ConceptBANK which offers sample questions for each of the Common Core Reading and Math standards K-12. The primary questions are weaker than the intermediate questions, but still, a great reference. Below is an example of a 3rd grade question for main idea. Don't you love the real newspaper provided? ConceptBank does a fabulous job of providing articles and passages!
AppsGone Free is a fabulous free app that complies all the FREE apps for a day under one umbrella. Everyday I quickly check this app and download anything that sounds interesting. Even if I don't have time to check it out, I download it and check it out later. Sometimes I find great educational apps, and other times I find apps I want for my personal device.
For management, StickPick is an easy, material-free way to call on students. You can set-up multiple classes which is perfect for older grades or anyone who switches students throughout the day. When pulling a stick, you have the option to put it in a 'used' can or replace it in the class can. Additionally, if you want, you can set-up a 'Blooms' mode where you're given questions stems from Blooms Taxonomy to help with questioning when calling on students!
EVERY device in this world needs a QR Code scanner. I prefer I-nigma because it's a no frills app. It scans and takes students to the website/video/audio...and nothing else. For me and our 1st grade lives, that is a big win! Below you see a friend scanning a QR Code from our Polar Bear and Penguin Research Mat.
If you are not in a 1:1 classroom and looking for an easy way to assess all the students in your class quickly and get instant data back, you should definitely check-out Plickers. Plickers are paper clickers that only require 1 device (iPhone or iPad) to scan the 'clickers'. Each student is assigned a specific number 'clicker' so it's easy to track data. If you want to learn more, Katie at Simply Creative in Kentucky has a great blog post about Plickers.
Audioboom is a fantastic app that records student voices, saves them in your teacher file, and then offers teachers the ability to embed them in a website for create a QR Code directly from the website. I love using AudioBoom for student voices recording a book, directions for a center, or a book for listening center. (Note of Caution - for big learners, AudioBoom can be used independently...but for smaller learners, there are LOTS of adds/feeds that may not be appropriate. So, when students need to record themselves, I put them directly on the recording device, so we can bypass all the feeds.)
Last, but not least, I love using a classroom Twitter account to keep families in the loop, to record our learning, and to connect with 1st grade classrooms all around the country! Keeping the app on my phone makes it easy to send a quick tweet during transitions or during planning/lunch. Read more about how I communicate here.
This is what my Teacher App dashboard looks like. I can quickly reference and tap these apps whenever I need them - PLC, small groups, or even Sunday-night planning.
Friends, thanks so much for stopping by! These are 9 of my favorite content-free, use-with-anything-and-everything apps. Are there any apps you would add to the list? I'd love to hear your ideas! :) Until then, join me on Facebook and Pinterest for other awesome technology resources!