Monday, August 26, 2013

Lining up


When the morning bell rings, students group up instead of line up.

With the principal's permission, I spray painted dots on our line up area. I made a stencil and sprayed the dots about 18 inches apart. I used white spray paint but could have used a color like black or gray that blends in better. I also would make the dots smaller, about the size of a quarter. Before painting, tape down a length of string to keep the dots straight.

RESULT: The students loved it because there was no arguing over who was there first. If a foot was on a dot, the spot was taken. Kids learned quickly to find an empty dot. Not only did it solve the "grouping" problem, tardies were reduced because students began to arrive early to nab a premium spot!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Island of the Blue Dolphins Visual Vocabulary: Seeing is Understanding A Common Core Close Reading Resource

Problem: Students sometimes have a hard time relating to--and consequently, comprehending--a historical novel. Much of the book may be foreign to a 4th or 5th grader: the era, the culture, and the setting. As teachers, we sometimes assume kids will "get" more than they actually do.

Solution: I created a visual vocabulary PowerPoint slide show for Island of the Blue Dolphins by Scott O'Dell. My purpose was to generate excitement for the text before reading and offer mental pictures for students to use when introduced to the unfamiliar terms.

Results:  This 67 slide PowerPoint made a huge difference in my students' engagement with the text and understanding of the story. It has been a flexible teaching tool that has proven to be an excellent way to scaffold the text for ELL students, while all students benefited from the enriched historical background.

Friday, August 9, 2013

How to Keep Your Classroom Library Organized (Without You Lifting a Finger)!

This week I'd like to join the Monday Made It Linky Party and explain how I solved a problem many  teachers have!

 Problem: My nonfiction library was beautifully sorted and ready for students the first day of school, but within days it was a disaster! Once our first grade reading buddies made their appearance and dived into my book bins, I knew something had to change.

First: Students would forget which bucket the book came from and return it to any empty spot.
Second: I needed something easy to keep updated as new books came into the class.
Third: I wanted something that could be a classroom job: keeping bins organized and labeling new books.
Last: With a very limited print ink budget, I didn't want to print labels for each book, especially when I only needed one.

Solution: Contact Paper Hole Punched Shapes!

Why it works:
First: I put a sticker on the book bin label and a sticker at the top left corner of each book.
Second: I made an envelope with the sticker on it and made extra stickers for future books. I keep the envelope in the back of the book bin.
Third: If I run out of stickers, a student can make more. In fact, I would make that a reward to get to make more stickers. Everyone will beg to be the class librarian!

Here is my set of hole punch shapes. Because I have many more topic bins in Non-fiction than fiction genres, the variety of shapes is really useful. These are available at scrapbook stores.
I happened to have a variety of colors of contact paper. You don't need a lot. You don't even have to have different colors. Target, Walmart and discount stores sell contact paper or you can order it on
Start hole punching! I would turn the hole punch upside down; then I could see exactly where to place the punch to get the most out of my contact paper. Just trim the edge off after punching and start another row. I found that placing the contact paper with the plastic on top and the paper on the bottom made a cleaner cut.

The more basic shapes turned out the best. Apples, stars, and feet worked well. I had a harder time punching out palm trees, etc. You can coordinate your shapes with your book topics if you want to be super organized. I use people shapes for biographies and houses for the how-things-are-made bin. If I couldn't match a shape, I just chose one.
So this is how I organize my non-fiction library. It makes it easy for any 4th grader to maintain and keep updated. View my previous post to see how I organize my fiction library.

Thanks everyone for letting me share my ideas with the Monday Made-it Linky Party!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Library Labels

My wonderful friend Molly from Lessons with Laughter just made some really cute labels on TPT.  I really thought about doing book baskets again,  but I have some problems with either too many books in a basket or not enough of genre or topic in a basket. To solve that problem I created a way of organizing my books without baskets.

Color Coded Genre Tape

1. I sorted my books into 9 categories: realistic fiction, sports, biography, award winners, fantasy, animal fiction, historical fiction, mystery, humor.
2. Next I assigned each color a genre. I picked blue for realistic fiction since that was one of my bigger catagories. I have the most blue tape.
3. I used multiple colors of painters' tape that I got at Lakeshore. It isn't cheap but for the future I wanted something that was easily accessable to add to books as I get them through book orders etc. I could have used duct tape but I find that difficult to cut.

3. I cut a piece about 1 inch long and put it on the base of the spine.
Now the books are easy to replace and sort on the bookshelf. Students won't be putting them in the wrong baskets and I can display more books.

I will be posting a reference sheet in several places so students can check the color against the genres. Just another way to organize your library!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I've been working on getting my classroom ready and organized. I will be switching students with another teacher for science and social studies so I needed to create a folder that could go back and forth between the classrooms.  I made them for math, science, social studies, reading and writing. They are available for $1.00 for all on my TPT Store.
Get the reading cover as a freebie too!