Friday, May 31, 2013

The Must Read Mentor Text Linky is still on!!


I totally spaced and forgot to let you know that by popular demand we WILL continue the Must Read Mentor Text Linky through the summer.  I am thrilled and overjoyed at how many people (bloggers and readers) wanted it to continue.  So...we will proceed onward!

I know many of you have summer plans and may not be able to link up, and we totally understand that!  Please don't feel pressured to join each week (to our regular linker uppers), just join in when you can.

If you go on vacation but have a post scheduled, we will be glad to link it up for you.  Just schedule it to post and then we can go in and link it, if that helps at all!  Just please email us and let us know.

June has 5 Sundays, so we were thinking that would be a great time to link up your favorite Back to School books and activities so we can all get new ideas and still have time to order books if we need to (since we go back July 31st....dun dun dun...).

This Sunday, we are back to Language Arts!

We may be a little MIA next week because I am going to a staff development during the day and teaching VBS at night and Stacia's sister-in-law is getting married so we have crazy schedules.  But, we'll be baaaaaaaaaaaack!!!  ;O)  I'm hoping to take the time to READ blogs since I am soooo behind in that area!

Thank you so much for your support and love!!  We feel it and appreciate it!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Tricks of the Trade- Poster Storage and Organization


I'm here with a quick post to link up with Jessica and Becky for

I'm not the best at storing things.  Mainly because when I change out my bulletin boards, I'm in a hurry to get the next one up.  :O/

I used to use a few storage boxes like this:

But since I had to move classrooms so many times, they would get torn up in the moves.  :O(

I still have most of my third grade bulletin board "stuff" stored in those boxes, which are now in my garage due to lack of storage space at school.  Mine were really big and there's just not a lot of great places to hide them at school.

My fourth grade bulletin board sets are stored in a bag like this:

Stacia introduced me to these bags.  Boxes attract bugs at our school (ewwwww).  Plus, I really like this because they are clear and they can hang.  My bags are hanging on a hook that is on the back of my door, so they aren't quite so visible all of the time.  I can't get as much in this bag as I did in my box, but I still like it better.  I separate have 2 bags- one for science and social studies and the other for language arts.  We make a lot of our anchor charts and posters as we go, so I don't do a lot of storing...if that makes sense?

I have my borders stored in a box like this:
This works fine because there are separators and I can look down in the box and see which border is which.  I usually clip all of the same type borders together.

I would love something more like this:

Again, because it's clear, plastic, and it hangs!

I THINK Stacia has something like this for her sentence strips:
As far as anchor charts, I used to laminate them (well, I still do) and then punch holes in them and put rings threw them so they were all together.
At my old school, my custodian was sweet and put a bike rack (or at least that's what I thought it was but I couldn't find a picture of what it looked like- it was heavy duty) on the wall behind my door.  I would hang the charts from the bike rack and I could pull them down and easily go through them and pull off the one I needed.  I had them "ringed" based on the subject.  I'm not sure my new school would allow us to drill into the wall, so I store my anchor charts in the bulletin board bag.

When I have a bulletin board set, I usually put all of the small pieces together in a large ziploc bag and then staple the bag to the bigger pieces (or clip) so they all stay together in the bag.  That way, the next year I can just pull it all out together instead of digging!

I"m one of those OCD people that likes everything to be flat because if it's rolled up, then it curls and that makes me a little crazy.  I like to slide everything in flat and keep it flat if at all possible, which is another reason I love those bags.

I can't wait to see how everyone else organizes their bulletin boards!  I think I need some tips!!

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Persuasive/Opinion Writing using A Fine, Fine School {Workshop Wednesday}

Hey there!

I'm here to share a lesson that we use when we are introducing persuasive/opinion writing.  We use this super cute book:

Summary from Amazon:

"On weekends, redheaded Tillie climbs trees and teaches her little brother how to skip. During the week, of course, she goes to school. Her principal, Mr. Keene, is the kind of gung ho leader any school would be lucky to have. That is, until he goes a little over the top. "Oh!" he says. "Aren't these fine children? Aren't these fine teachers? Isn't this a fine, fine school?" And then this exuberant administrator decides five days isn't nearly enough for such a fine school. "From now on, let's have school on Saturdays, too!" The teachers and students are not thrilled, but no one is willing to burst Mr. Keene's bubble. Soon their well-meaning principal has done away with weekends, holidays, and summer vacation. It's time for someone to take action... gently, though. Young Tillie has just the right amount of subtlety and tact--and motivation--for the job."

So, how do we use this book?

Well, I tell the students that I have read them this book because I wanted to prepare them...our principal is thinking about having us come to school on Saturday!!!!

Of course there are moans and groans and usually some outrage, which is exactly what I am looking for.

Now, this book does a great job of sharing the students' side of why we should NOT have school on weekends and holidays, and so this is why I usually use this as one of our first persuasive writing pieces.  I know that the students are going to use a lot of the ideas from the book, which is fine because they will be successful (and I want to set them up for success on one of their first pieces).

So, we brainstorm lists of pros and cons of coming to school on Saturday.

Then, I write a letter to our principal from my perspective, as a teacher, to model for them what I am looking for.  We talk about arguing a point, but also knowing both sides of the situation.  So, I model sentences like, "I know it would seem like teaching students for an extra day each week would seem to help them learn more information faster. However, I think students will be tired having to come to school 6 days a week, plus they may be distracted by the fun they are missing out on by being at school (ball games, birthday parties, etc.).  It's very difficult to teach students who are tired and distracted and that means we would actually get behind because I would have to reteach everything."

And so on.

Then, students decide which side they want to take (and yes, I had a student this year who loves school and wants to be a teacher when she grows up, plus her sisters annoy her, so she wanted to come to school on Saturday!!!).

Then, they decide on 2-3 main points that they want to argue and work on building solid arguments with a lot of details to back themselves up!

They set their letter up like a normal letter and have an opening paragraph stating the issue at hand and their opinion.  Then they write their 2-3 paragraphs supporting their opinion, and conclude the letter by appealing to our principal and rephrasing their opinion.

I have to make sure I explain that they don't want to sound angry in their letter because the principal will not listen if you say something like, "I think it's ridiculous that you are thinking about making us come to school on Saturdays!  What are you thinking?"  We talk a lot about mood and tone of our letters.  We want to be sugary sweet and really lay the guilt trip on her that we don't want to come to school on Saturday  without just disagreeing with her.

Once all of the letters are finished, of course, I tell them that I was just kidding.  I've even emailed parents ahead of time and told them what I'm doing so when the kids come home upset about it, they understand what the students are talking about.  At least, that's how I did it in third grade.  In 4th, some of them catch on that I'm not serious so then I have to tell them to pretend and still try to channel that inner concern and anger about it.

So, this is just one of many books that I use to teach/model persuasive/opinion writing!  There are so many great ones out there! 

Make sure you head to Jessica's blog to check out all of the other great persuasive writing ideas for 

Do you think I'm mean for tricking my students??  ;O)
PS- Sorry there aren't very many pictures in this post!

Monday, May 27, 2013

Must Have Monday and New Year New Gear!

Hey there!  I've been meaning to write this post all day but all of a sudden I realized it's getting late and I better get to it!  Summer is making me lazy already...oh boy!

So, I'm going to keep it simple.  :O)

I'm linking up with some fabulous bloggers!  Sabra from Teaching with a Touch of Twang for

I am going to link up some supplies that I can't live without (or I can't let my students live without) for next school year!

For my students:

We pretty much do everything in a composition notebook.  Reading, writing, science, social studies, grammar, word study, and math.  They all have a journal that we use throughout the year.  We do a lot of pasting in our classes.  It has really worked well for us for the last 2 years!

We do interactive note-taking in our journals and we love to let the kids use colored pencils or markers.  We also use highlighters to help us note what is most important!
A pencil pouch is a must for all of these fun supplies!!

And, of course, sticky notes!!  We use sticky notes for when we are reading but really, we use them all the time, so they all have their own sticky notes (and of course so do I)!!

Now, on to supplies for meeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!!!

I super SUPER love pens.  Super love.  It's really probably not healthy.  At all.  But I do.  And these are my very favorite right now.  I use them all the time.  I tried to use some others but, nope.  These pens make my heart (and hand) happy!!  If you have not tried the PaperMate Flair pens, I strongly encourage you to do so!  And the Bic Bold Crystal pens are inexpensive, come in fun colors, and write oh so nice!!  


Sharpies- enough said...
I love these markers for grading papers.  I am anti-red pen.  No one wants to think their paper is bleeding because of all of the red ink...

I super love my Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener.  And if I had my choice, all of our pencils would be:

But I don't live in fantasy land so it's ok if they are just regular pencils, since I have that super fabulous pencil sharpener!
I have become a mechanical pencil snob (sort of like the pen snob that I am).  These are now the only mechanincal pencils I can use.  I was using another brand and the lead kept breaking constantly in mid-writing.  It was so annoying.  These don't do that!  I use these for planning!  It's got the erasers that twist up when you need them and you can replace the eraser.  Totally worth the extra money!
I have to have some form of a calendar posted so I can keep up!  This year I used a desk calendar, and as long as my desk wasn't covered in piles of stuff, it worked great!  ;O)

Ok, I can go on and on, but I won't.  

(disclaimer- I have not been asked to review any of these products.  I just really love them!!)

Also, Amanda from Teaching Maddeness is celebrating 6 years for having her Teacher's Clubhouse store and she is doing a different giveaway for the next 6 weeks.  Check out the freebie for this week!  You have GOT to go download it!  It's super awesome!!

Also, if you haven't picked up the Moore Relief Effort Bundle from Teacher's Notebook yet, you only have one more day!  You can get $2,200 worth of products for a minimum donation of $20.  I don't know that I will ever be able to go through all of it!  Please run over and donate today!

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I hope you had a great weekend!

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Social Studies Mentor Text- Elizabeth Cady Stanton {linky}

Happy Memorial Day weekend!

I'm here with a quick post about a book we have used in social studies for the Women's Rights Movement!

In our fourth grade curriculum we teach about the Women's Rights Movement and Elizabeth Cady Stanton is one of the ladies that we teach about.

Here is the synopsis that Amazon gives (which I know I'm being lazy by copying and pasting, but it's stated better than I'd probably state it!)

"Elizabeth Cady Stanton stood up and fought for what she believed in. From an early age, she knew that women were not given rights equal to men. But rather than accept her lesser status, Elizabeth went to college and later gathered other like-minded women to challenge the right to vote.  Here is the inspiring story of an extraordinary woman who changed America forever because she wouldn't take “no” for an answer."

We read this book this year and it really engages the students in some deep thinking and it's great for questions!

This book hooks them in right away!  Check this out!

The very first sentence says, "What would you do if someone told you you can't be what you want to be because you are a girl?"

We stop right there and right our responses.  And for the boys, they write it thinking the same question but what would you do if someone told you you can't be what you want to be because you are a boy?  I tell them to really think deep.  And then we keep reading.

I love these two pages because the woman comes to see Elizabeth's new baby sister and says, "What a pity it is that she's a girl!"

Can you imagine?  Who would say that?  How awful that this is what they thought when they had girls!  Right?!?  More discussion...why could this be?

And then, a lady's husband dies and she gets nothing of the estate!!  What?????

Elizabeth gets really mad!  I love that she uses the word preposterous!  There is great vocabulary in this book to discuss with the students!!  It also helps them put themselves in the time period.  The illustrations are great, too, because there she is, riding side-saddle.  We discuss how different things were back then!  How many of you would wear a dress while riding a horse?  Or rafting down a river?

And the book just keeps going on.  It's a biography and continues through Elizabeth's journey to never give up!  She knew women could do anything a man could do, and she made sure everyone else knew it, too!

This is a great, inspirational, book that teaches perseverance and tolerance!  Even if you don't teach Women's Rights, this would still be a great book for questioning and response!

Now, it's your turn!

(If you have never linked up before you can check HERE for more information.)

Have a great weekend!

We are wondering what you would like us to do about this linky for the summer.  Everyone (readers and bloggers) please vote!  We are happy to continue with the linky or put it on hold!

For the Linky- Please make yourself a SANDWICH!  Please comment on the person who linked up before you and the person that linked up after you.  I know everyone puts in a lot of time and effort to these posts and I want everyone to feel the love!!!  (Haha, see, you're a know...because you are in the middle of the you get it?)  ;O)

Depending on the results of the survey, next week's topic- Language Arts

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Classroom Organization and Sparking Student Motivation

Hey there!

I just wanted to stop in and share a few organizational tips for Kristen's and Elizabeth's linky party!

I know I am beyond fashionably late to this party, but I still wanted to join!

My room isn't as organized as I'd like, it's a work in progress, but here is what I have done so far!

On the left is all of the books that I've flagged to be used in lessons (not for the classroom library) and I have them sorted by skill or subject.  I got these magazine holders from IKEA and they are super cheap.  I have had them for about 7 years.  They've moved several times with me and have really helped me stay organized!  For the plain white ones, they are $1.99 for 5!!!  I have used the plain white ones for book boxes for my students in the past, but they do get worn out!  You can see I have a white one mixed in, which really annoys me, but since I am a bookaholic, I've had to keep adding boxes to fit all of my books!  

I do have them organized by subject.  On the top shelf, the burgundy are for writing lessons (separated by genre) and grammar in the silver.  The second shelf is all books for reading comprehension skills, and they are separated by skill.  The bottom row and then over to the shelf on the right is math, science, and social studies!  Because I'm OCD, I have labeled them with the small sized post it notes so that I can change them and move them around as needed...I don't want to write on the boxes but I might should consider making typed labels and use velcro.  :O)

Next to the social studies texts on the middle shelf are teacher resource books that I've bought or have been given to me by my school or county.  

I love using the plastic drawers for the papers that cover my desk.  I'm still working on organizing all of THAT because the paperwork we have to do can be so random!  I have some of the drawers already labeled and it has really helped me keep track of paperwork.  I also label all of my binders, but I know they are not all cohesive like so many bloggers have made their binders.  But it's ok!  It's a work in progress!  (Stacia gave me that cute owl basket!  I love it!  It adds character to my shelf!)

Now, the top of the shelves is a whole other dilemma.  But, I already know what I am going to do, and now that it's summer, I'll be working on it.  I'm going to make a teacher toolbox!!  Yay!  I'm very excited about it!  I have seen it all over bloggy land so I can't wait to make mine!!

Here is how I have organized the shelves over my sink.  We get tons of notebook paper for the supply list, but I mostly use journals so we don't use a lot of the paper.  I've given away a ton, and this is how much I still have left after this year.  I'm not sure where I'll put the new paper that comes in at the beginning of next year.  Sigh.

Here's a picture that shows the inside of my metal cabinets and how I store random things:

I love plastic storage containers!  I like the clear ones (inside cabinets) so I can see what's in there, but I also like to label them so I'm not constantly having to pull them out.  This cabinet can still use some work, though. I need to declutter.

And finally, the bane of my existence right now:

My classroom library.  I bought these containers 3 years ago at Target.  Now, of course, they have nothing like them, so I am going to be forced to buy all new storage.  Ugh.  I LOVE the little green totes because they are super sturdy, but I can't find them anywhere.  The pink and blue ones are fabric and they are not as durable, although I love the way they look and that there can be two rows of books in them.  So, my project for the summer is to figure out how I am going to reorganize this.  I love books so much and now I have too many for these containers.  It's a problem.  ;O)

Once I get new containers, I'm going to use Kristen's labels for my library and use velcro!  (Which are free at Teacher's Notebook, by the way!)

So, I'm not sure if this is helpful at all, but this is how it works for me right now!

Also, I'm going to link up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching to share a quick picture of items I bought at the Dollar Tree that I can't wait to use next year as rewards for good work and good behavior!

I love the little cones that I can put on their desk when I catch them doing something good and the pencil flags are so cute!  They can put them on their pencil when they earn them!  I think these are so cute!!

Make sure to head over to these super ladies' blogs and see some of the other ideas linked up!
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