30 January 2014

Book Talk Thursday - Folktales

Happy Thursday Friends!

Have you seen the Atlanta area on the news lately? Gosh, what a mess! A 17 mile drive, and normal 45-60 minute commute took me 9 hours yesterday! Insane! Even crazier? I was one of the lucky ones! So many people ended up stranded, stuck, out of gas, no food, and so on. I must say, I think I drove the roads like a champ considering my area of expertise is hurricanes and tornados. On a bright note, we had no school yesterday and no school today. Still waiting on the ruling for tomorrow. I'm so glad my sweet teammate and friend Chandra (who is quite pregnant) and I were able to stick together on the roads since we live pretty close to each other.

So, since I missed the last book talk I have quite a few recommendations for you guys! Are ELA unit this 9 weeks focuses on Folktales, fairy tales, and fables, so I thought I'd share some of my absolute faves! We work on comparing and contrasting different versions of various stories which I just love!

The Princess and the Pea - A tale of a prince looking for his princess. How can be so sure the princess that shows up at his door one night is the real deal? Well, have her sleep on a heap of mattresses with a single pea placed underneath!

The Three Little Pigs - Three pigs, each building a house from different materials, but can they withstand the huffing and puffing of the wolf to blow them away?

Goldilocks and the Three Bears - Wandering through the woods, Goldilocks gets hungry and tired. She decides to stop at the Bears' house, where she eats their porridge, sits in their chairs, and sleeps in their beds.


Gerald McDermott, an author has a lot of tales from various lands/cultures. All are absolutely wonderful, and his books are favorites of my students. Below are some of my favorites.

In addition, I very much enjoy these books to help teach about the "folktale world" (fairy tales, fables, tall tales, myths, legends, etc...)


There are so many others that are just beautifully written, and that I love to read with my students. Do you use any of these books? I'd love to know what some of your favorite folktales are that you share with your class!


27 January 2014

Management Monday - Bathroom Sticks

Button Credits: KG Fonts, Hello Fonts, Melonheadz, Creative Clips
So I missed last Thursday's Book Talk...I could give you a million reasons I didn't get to it, but the fact remains...I didn't. Boo hiss.

Bright note? It's Monday, and I've got another really easy management strategy for you! Quite simply, I call them "Bathroom Sticks." Go ahead, ooooh and aaahhh. Ok, you need more than the name to be impressed? Read on, my friend, read on!

Background: In the middle of giving directions, sweet Johnny raises his hand and asks to use the restroom, saying he just can't wait. Ok. Fine. Twenty minutes later, in the middle of small groups, Johnny again decides he needs to use the restroom, and "just can't wait." Again. Perhaps a questioning look ensues, and yet, I relent. Not long after, Johnny's just got to go again. Now, assuming in this situation Johnny is not sick, I'm annoyed. Like seriously, there's is nothing about an elementary school boy's bathroom that would warrant that many trips in such a short period of time.

Not your scenario? Maybe yours looks like this: Someone asks to use the restroom, and within 5 minutes, your entire class suddenly has to go, and they're all an emergency.

Management Strategy: Bathroom Sticks!

How To: Each student receives two popsicle sticks with his/her name on them and keep them on that little lip in their desks (pretty sure it's for pencils, however, we don't keep supplies in our desk.) That's it. They are allowed to use them whenever they feel necessary, but, when they're gone, they're gone. I have a bathroom stick cup, and students put their bathroom stick in the cup on their way to the bathroom. Now, obviously, there are extenuating circumstances, and for that, I say use your best judgement.

I give them to my students on the very first day of school, and it leads into a wonderful conversation about when it's ok to use the bathroom (middle of a mini-lesson vs. independent work time), how to get my attention (hand raised, with index finger showing me a "1"), and what to do with the bathroom stick.

In addition, after lunch, we stop at the bathrooms and everyone has the chance to go, whether or not they have a bathroom stick or not. I consider this a "freebie." Two bathroom sticks, plus a freebie, and I think that's more than generous for a 7 (ish) hour day.

Why it Works: The use of bathroom sticks in my classroom, has drastically reduced unnecessary trips to the bathroom. Students know to use them when they really need to, and not just to get out of class, or because Sally has gone to the bathroom (not that I let them go at the same time, but still it happens.) Students are in charge of keeping track of them. Generally, by winter break, they look a little worn, and some students have lost them. So, everyone starts fresh when they come back from the break with brand new bathroom sticks!

Try it for a week, and see if you notice any changes!

Note: It is the job of the Teacher's Assistant to pass out bathroom sticks in the morning before the bell rings.

How do you manage bathroom breaks?

20 January 2014

Management Monday - Supplies

Button Credits: KG Fonts, Hello Fonts, Melonheadz, Creative Clips
I don't know about you, but Mondays sneak up on me. Fortunately, we don't have school tomorrow, which gives me an entire day to do "extra" stuff. My extras always include things I probably won't get to, but would sure love to do.

Anyway, as I've said before classroom management will make or break any teacher. I'm almost certain (although, I have no real proof) that this is one of the reasons there is so much turnover in the teaching profession. Ok, this is started to sound a little sappy...so, moving on.

Almost everything I do in my classroom relates back to classroom management - supplies, organization (both student & teacher), desk arrangement, classroom jobs, procedures & routines, and of course, rules. Honestly, rules are at the bottom of my list. Don't get me wrong, we have rules, but nothing like "Raise your hand to speak" or "no talking". I can't even imagine what life would be like if these were our rules. When everything else is on point, I don't have to worry about rules.

Which brings me to the supplies. I LOVE office/school supplies. Like to the point I should probably be in some sort of support group. Don't judge, you should probably be sitting next to me :) Supplies, however, they can also be my worst nightmare. I've always been a believer in community supplies. Seriously, I'll show you my management plan from college. That being said, my students don't keep so much as a pencil in their desks. Why? Lots of reasons. You can read a little more about them here.

So, how do I manage all of the supplies we use, and what's at each group of desks (team)?

Each team has:

  • 3-Drawer Storage - bought these at Target. Each drawer has a specific purpose. {Accessed by team captains only}
    • Drawer 1 - Clipboards, extra post-it notes, extra index cards
    • Drawer 2 - Individual dry erase boards, dry erase markers, and small squares of felt for erasing
    • Drawer 3 - Separate containers holding crayons, markers, and a pencil box holding scissors and glue sticks
  • Team "Tubs" - bought at Michaels - they have lots of colors, and I got brighter colors that match the decor in my room. {Accessible to everyone at the team}
    • There are two smaller compartments, and one larger. Pencils, colored pencils, index cards, and post-it notes are stored in these. Things that we use ALL.THE.TIME.
  • Underneath team tubs, are privacy/testing shields, and a folder that houses notebook paper. {Accessible to team captains}
I spend lots of time at the beginning of the year discussing supplies, and why students don't keep individual supplies at their desks. Initially, there are usually one or two students who moan and groan, but within a day or two, they're fine, and we're good to go. The best part? Supplies, or lack thereof, are never, ever an issue for the rest of the year. 

The pictures below don't give a great shot of the supplies (taken during pre-planning), but hopefully, you can see the above mentioned organizational tools I use.

Do you use community supplies? If so, I'd love to know how you organize your students' supplies. If not, how do you manage when a student runs out of something, or can't keep themselves organized?

17 January 2014

Book Talk Thursday - Duck! Rabbit!

Hi Friends!

Yes, I have a calendar. Yes, I know it's not Thursday. Better late than never.

This week has felt a little cray cray. Yeah, I said it...cray, cray!

This nine weeks, my second grade babies are working on opinion writing. I really like teaching opinion writing. Students always seem to grasp the concept much better, and actually enjoy sharing their opinions.

One of my favorite lessons to do with opinion writing is to use the book Duck! Rabbit! Depending on how you look at it, the animal could be either a duck or a rabbit. It all depends on your perspective. (This book doubles as a great resource for point of view, as well!) Usually the second week of the unit, I read the story Duck! Rabbit!, and afterward, we create a t-chart listing all the reasons the animal could be a duck, and all the reasons the animal could be a rabbit. Students then write their opinion (is the animal and duck or rabbit?), and use the supporting reasons from the text (and also found on our t-chart). It's seriously that easy! Best part? My kids LOVE it!

Short and sweet!

I'm headed off to a (hopefully) relaxing, care-free 3-day weekend!

13 January 2014

Management Monday - Paper Flow, Backpacks, and Transportation

Happy Monday, Friends!

I hope all of you are having a wonderful Monday, and are off to a great week! I have three quick, and easy management strategies for you today. Yay!
Button Credits: KG Fonts, Hello Fonts, Melonheadz, Creative Clips
So, the bell just rang, students are filing in, and before you even have a chance to say, "Good Morning," at least 6 students are trying to hand you a piece of paper. Umm, good morning to you too! If you're anything like me, you loathe getting handed sheets of paper, especially in the morning when there's so much going on. To fix this, I got several baskets (from Target's One Spot, of course!), labeled them, and voila - paper flow solved. Here's a picture I took at the very beginning of the school year, before I even had met my sweet babies! My students become responsible for placing their papers/folders in the proper location. I'm now free to say good morning, and ease into the day without being bombarded.

It looks a bit different now, however, the idea is still the same. There is one basket for homework, one for Daily Take-Home Folders, and one for me, Mrs. Copeland :) Students know that any and all papers that are for me, go in the "Mrs. Copeland" basket. I refuse to take ANY papers from students. While students are working on their morning work, I check through the basket, and sort into "Needs a Response" and "FYI." Seriously, easy! I'll try to take a picture of how it really looks tomorrow!

The last two schools I've taught at, have had hooks for backpacks. It took me all of about 1 day to discover that there needed to be a little method to the madness. To remedy, I number each hook, and students place their backpacks on the hook that corresponds to their class number.

Raise your hand if your students' modes of transportation changes...A LOT! To help keep track of transportation changes, I have always used a transportation chart. It has changed a bit over the years, and you have to choose what works best for you. This years, was just pictures on scrapbook paper that I laminated, and then write on with a dry erase marker. To be honest, I don't love how I managed it this year, and will switch back to the one I used with the clips and the ribbon. Again, you know your classroom, students, and yourself best, so choose what works for you. Need transportation cards? You can find them here!

BONUS - My class is on a 6-day special rotation. This means, we don't always go to the same special every Monday, and so on. Once used to it, it's not hard to keep track of, however, it can be a bit daunting if you don't have it memorized, or have a sub. In the above picture, you can see I used an arrow and some velcro, and rotated the arrow around. This year, instead on putting it on my door, I have it on my whiteboard, and use a colorful magnet that moves depending on the day.

Have a great week!

06 January 2014

Management Monday - Back in the Groove

Button Credits: KG Fonts, Hello Fonts, Melonheadz, Creative Clips
Today was my first day back at school after the break. Fortunately, today was a teacher workday, so I was able to get a lot accomplished. I've worked in three different school districts, and this is the first one where we actually got to use the day to get things ready for students instead of meetings, in services, and/or professional development. Seriously, so thankful for a true workday!

Before I share my management tip for today,  I wanted to share a couple new resources I created on the last few days of my break. When my kiddos return, we'll be talking about money, and as always, word problems are always on the list. So, in trying to accomplish two things at one, I created some one- and two-step word problems involving money.

Each set includes 30 word problems on full-size pages which are great for projecting to the entire class as a math warm-up, or problem of the day. I also included the same problems as task cards (not different problems, just a different format), so that you could play around the room, scoot, or put them in your math center. Easy peasy.

You can find the one-step money word problems here.

And, you can find the two-step money word problems here.

I know many of you are either getting ready to go back, or you've been back for a couple of days. Although, because of the chilly weather, I've heard that many of you have had snow days. Either way, I've got a management tip that I think you and your students will love!

The background: Transitions are one of the keys to success in classroom management. Typically, the shorter the transition, the less opportunities for side conversations, wandering around the classroom, and in general off-task behaviors. That being said, I use interactive notebooks almost exclusively in my classroom. Like, to the point we barely touch our textbooks. And, now that I think about it, we might not have used them at all.

Before you totally freak-out, my district didn't adopt a common core math series so that's not even an option to use. Our reading series is actual books vs. a textbook, plus my students choose their own books to read anyway, so they don't  have a reading textbook anyway. Science and social studies are more hands-on, and project-based which is why we don't use those.  Has your shock worn off, yet?

So, with all of those notebooks floating around in my students' desks, trying to quickly transition from one notebook to another, was an almost impossible task. To the point, that students would get really excited when they correctly guessed at which notebook was the one they were looking for. Somewhere on Pinterest, I found a picture of color-coded notebooks, and knew that my class would be spending time the next day color-coding our notebooks!

Interested? Here's how:

  • First, take a peek inside one of your student's desks. Or maybe you know off the top of your head how many notebooks your students each have. Either way, create a simple chart like the one pictured below. Basically,  different color for each notebook. Way simple! This could quickly be created on chart paper, and made into an anchor chart (which is what I will be doing with my class next year). I typed mine up at home because that's where I was when I saw the idea on Pinterest.
Mine looks like this:
  • Next, have your students take out all of their notebooks, and one at a time, have them color the bottom of each notebook the correct color. (For my second graders, we went through each notebook, one at a time, and I modeled exactly how to flip over the notebook, squeeze together the bottom, and color a small section.)
  • Post the chart showing each notebook's color in a location that is easily visible to all students. Ours is right next to the flag, above the whiteboard.
It's seriously that easy. I'd say this took us about 20 minutes, and has saved us who knows how much time overall. I often hear my students saying things like, "That's the blue one!." And, voila, we're ready to go! Major, major timesaver.

I don't have a before picture, but now their desks look like this (I have two of their notebooks, and there are a couple of folders, and textbooks on the other side, but you get the idea):

I'd love to hear how this works for you and your class if you decide to do this with your kiddos when you return from the break, or maybe tomorrow, because like me, you needed something yesterday!

Happy Monday, and have a great week!
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