Tuesday, August 12, 2014

TPT Store Freebies and More

In honor of officially having twenty live Teachers Pay Teachers products in my store I wanted to promote my TPT store on the blog. I've included links to all of my products not previously featured on the blog.

Here is a breakdown of the materials included by classroom theme:

Zebra/Animal Print Collection
- Expository Writing Prompt Cards ($1.50; Zebra print)
- Teacher Binder Inserts (Free; Zebra print)
- Parts of Speech Posters (Free; Cheetah print)
- Open Ended Response Posters (Free; Zebra print)
- Parts of Speech Posters (Free; Zebra print)

Rainbow Chevron Collection
- Adverb Cards ($1.50)

Polka Dot


- Purple Stripe Parts of Speech Posters (Free)
- Simple Machines Work Packet (Free)
- Earth Day Project Packet (Free)
- Vocabulary Sketch Organizer (Free)

Happy TPTing!

Saturday, August 9, 2014

Class Dojo in 3rd Grade: What This Classroom Management Tool Looks Like

In my previous teaching experience I used to use pocket charts with cards to flip, clothespins to move kiddos up and down based on behavior, popsicle sticks for rewards, tickets, beans, and classroom bucks. I've had more management systems than I have years of experience, and some of them were amazing, and others got tossed because they weren't practical and caused me more of a headache than they were worth.

Last year I decided to take my personal iPad to school (our tech guru hooked me up to the school's wireless system) to use a free app called Class Dojo. It is a website that hooks up to an app you can use on your iPhone, Android, or tablet.

If you don't have a tablet or smartphone (or don't want to drain your battery) you can very easily use the website to track progress.

First you'll need to visit the website and create a classroom.

Start by signing up...

It is honestly one of the easiest websites to navigate in the history of ever.

Once you've logged in you will want to create a classroom. In this screenshot you can see my 2013-2014 classroom home screen. Feel free to play around in the Demo Class mode to get used to the controls and settings. 

After you create your classroom you can adjust your settings, get reports, and add points to students. 

This is a screenshot of the reports page

You can easily adjust the time frame (by day, week, month, or the entire year). I can print a report for a single student, or the entire class. The reports highlight positive and negative behaviors and can be used as any kind of incentive you wish.

We all know that at some point we will have a student that needs to use a daily behavior sheet. Class Dojo can easily be printed daily and sent home without much additional information or attention from you.

You can choose whether to display positive points only next to student's names, positive and negative points, or no points at all. Personally I eliminated the kids seeing anyone else's points on the SmartBoard because I didn't need the whining competition between kids, but some teachers find this extremely helpful in dealing with the students. 

At the beginning of the year the students and I sit down to make our list of positive points and negative points. This replaces our typical list of "classroom rules" and the kids really take ownership of what would count as a positive point and what would go in the "needs work" area. I think it's humorous that the kids are often harder on themselves than I am on them. 

I make an anchor chart of the behaviors to remind kiddos as we go through the year and they ignore forget the rules. 

Each and every positive behavior has a negative consequence so that each and every time you open the Class Dojo app/website you are able to give a positive point or a negative point. I didn't want to waste my time or the kids time by not being able to have anything to assign them each time I walked around.

The app is great because you can assign points to multiple students at one time, as well as take attendance. I have parents that know exactly how their child did before they get off of the bus.

Okay, great, but how do I use this as an incentive?

Homework passes are a massive deal in my classroom. They have rules, of course, but the kids work like heck to acquire them so they don't have to worry about an assignment when they have softball practice. 

I announce at the beginning of every month {although my goal this year is to do it every two weeks} the positive % students need to have for that time period in order to earn a homework pass. 

I generally start with 80%, which everyone is generally able to get. Each time I bump it up a little and the kids work pretty hard to acquire a pass.

I love this because it is so easy to reward those little good behaviors that you may have a hard time acknowledging otherwise, and did I mention how easy it is for the teacher to manage? I love being lazy productive. 

P.S. The app/website also makes an awesome *ding* sound when kids earn a positive point and a sad little 'womp womp' when they lose points. It is the best Pavlov reinforcer I have ever used!

Have you used Class Dojo? What do you think?

Using Science Fair Projects for Persuasive Writing

Every year the 4th and 5th graders at our school are expected to complete a science fair project. The kids (and parents) generally go all out and as a result our hallways are filled with some absolutely amazing projects. In wanting to prepare my students for the science fair next year and work on a little persuasive writing we do a 'gallery walk' of all of the projects.

At first I simply tell the kids that they will have 15 minutes to quietly and respectfully peruse the various projects. Once they return to the room we set up the criteria: you have to choose one project that you think is the most interesting and convince me why it is so interesting.

This is generally not their first introduction to persuasive writing, but it serves as a great, practical way for kids to explore their writing using science and projects that other students in the building have completed.

The kids do a wonderful job of taking this seriously because they know it is a project they will have to do in the years to come. 

Visit my TPT store by clicking here for the free download of the activity I use with my class. 

Friday, August 8, 2014

Creating Your Teacher Binder

The new school year is quickly approaching and the ensuing panic is evident on Pinterest with the number of pins about the upcoming first day!

This post is dealing entirely with creating your teacher binder for the year. My binder goes to every meeting, event, and training with me. It serves as my gradebook, data collector, and general calendar. Many teachers manage to do this with multiple binders or folders, but after trying that I found I never had the binder I needed when I wanted it, so one works best for me, but do whatever works for you in your classroom!

Today I completed Step 1 of creating and organizing my teacher binder...

Step one: buy binder. Haha, easy, right?

$3.50 from Target

I bought a heavy-duty 1.5" binder with clear sleeves in the front. I'm going to thoroughly abuse this throughout the year, so spending an extra dollar or two on the "good" binder is definitely worth it. I prefer the 1.5" thickness because it is still comfortable to hold without being overly bulky. Once I get into the 2" range I can't lug it around as conveniently... plus having a 1.5" forces me to stay more organized and eliminate papers I no longer need, but get whatever size you feel you need!

Tabs: $2.99 from Target for a 5 pack {I bought 2}
Folders: $0.50 each

I also bought heavy duty wide tab dividers (two sets of 5 each), and color coordinating folders. I am extremely rough on my binder, so I invested in the plastic folders. They didn't come pre-punched with holes so I used my hole punch. They'll definitely hold up far better than the paper folders I've used in the past. I wanted each folder to coordinate with its tab to keep me organized, and keep my compulsive color-coordinated self in check!

Planner: $5.99 from Target
Binder pouch: $2.99 from Target

I also picked up an adorable monthly planner and pencil holder from Target (both came to less than $10). I never seem to have a pencil or tiny sticky note when I need one, so I thought the binder pouch was a great idea. I didn't buy a planner during the big "back to school" blowout last August, and ended up regretting it around October. By then the only planners I could find were in the $25 range, so I ended up printing one out on computer paper. It worked, but as I said I'm rough and rip things, so I wanted something with a laminated front.

I love these tabs because they are HUGE! I also love Avery because they have easy-to-download templates that my picky printer manages to work with. Before I wasted an entire sheet I wanted to sit down and figure out exactly how I was going to organize my binder.

I sat down to make a list of what I wanted. Because Target had binders that were so inexpensive (my pink one was $3.50, and I got a turquoise one and a yellow one for $2.50 each at 1" thick) I bought several and sat down to determine whether I wanted one master binder, or two seperate binders (the second one serving for gradebook and data entry purposes). After lots of crossing out and combining I settled on one binder. 

I decided what tabs I wanted and threw the Avery tab sheet into the printer 
(the font I used  for the tabs is American Typewriter). 

I wanted my folders to 'match' my tabs. At every meeting there always seems to be an important handout that I inevitably shove into the bottom of my teacher bag or the front/back pocket of my binder never to be seen or referenced again. I made sure to include a folder for each section so it could collect any relevant paperwork I may need. 

In relatively huge type I chose a "school" font and typed matching headlines to my tabs.
I'm utterly unable to cut in a straight line. If you have cute scissors that make a scalloped edge totally go for it here. I had plain scissors, so I rounded the edges to make it look like I can cut like an adult.
I also used packing tape to seal the labels onto the front of the folder.

140pt font - Learning Curve Pro font from DaFont.com

The first tab in my binder will hold all lesson plans - be sure to check back and I'll link my lesson plan inserts (or you can check my TPT store and download one for free from there).

The second tab will hold my gradebook. Our district is currently switching over to Standards-Based Report Cards, so this section will be tweaked and played with in the entries to come.

This section will store all student data (DIBELS, 4Sight, ELA, etc.) in a handy reference. I have found that it is much easier to use a spreadsheet to track student progress than to flip back and forth between varying reports.

Originally I was going to have one section for faculty meeting notes, one for grade-level/team meeting notes, and another section for teacher trainings/district-wide meeting notes, and I realized that it is probably most convenient to stuff them all together so I can reference one from the other at any time.

I used to call this section notes, but ideas sounds far more inspirational, doesn't it?

The student information section will hold students names, birthdays, phone numbers, and home addresses, as well as parent names and contacts. I'm also going to write down their computer logins, and logins for the various websites we use (inevitably we are at library or somewhere outside of my classroom and one or two kiddos forgets their password...). 
This will not showcase any information for a sub. I have an entirely separate substitute binder which I will feature in a later post. This binder is mine and mine alone :)

I run a "Service Club" through our elementary school (an idea I completely stole from the previous school I taught for in Pittsburgh) and I'll keep any member contact information as well as ideas and upcoming projects in this section. 

Lastly I wanted a specific place to store all of the information we are going to receive on the Common Core and English Language Arts (ELA) this year, so I put it in the back of the binder for reference.

Here is my binder assembled and looking ready for school! (Totally kidding, I still need to make all of the paperwork to go inside, but at least I have the materials organized!)

You can absolutely do this with materials you already have in your classroom, or for just the cost of the binder itself and some manilla folders to organize, but because this is my lifeline for the year I wanted quality materials that wouldn't rip in the middle of January...

How do you organize your teacher binder?

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Throwback: Classroom Management Tools for K-1

When I taught kindergarten and 1st grade I'll admit that I tried to have an easy, tactile classroom management system. I developed a card flip system for my room, and popsicle stick pockets for students to earn rewards.

I used easy-to-read rules (BEST: Be polite, Effort, Share, Truthful) and placed them right above the chart. The stars hold exemplars of the positive behaviors for each category.

Positive Incentive
I always felt it was important to have a positive incentive for students to work toward. My simple way of doing this was carrying popsicle sticks in my pocket and handing them out when I saw students doing good work. During designated times students could come up and place their popsicle stick in their pocket. Once they got the designated number of sticks (the beginning of the year was 10, but I gradually increased it each month) they got to choose something from the prize bin. Simple and easy...

Of course with every positive classroom management plan you want to have something in place for negative student behavior. The only true incentive I could take away was recess, and the kids either walked laps or stood on the wall. Every day the kiddos would start on blue, and each subsequent card flip was time off of recess. The kids were only allowed to flip back "up" one card if they could prove to me that their behavior significantly improved (this way I didn't have a kid that was a terror in the morning, but an angel in the afternoon because they knew they could flip their card all the way back to blue). You can see the consequences for each coordinating color below.

For my 3rd graders I use a tool called Class Dojo, so keep an eye out for a post on that in the future!

How do you manage your K-1 classroom?