Friday, August 29, 2014

Perfect Pointy Pencils

Pencils.  Those yellow #2 lovlies are the bain of my teacher existence.  They roll off desks and land on the floor.  They always need to be sharpened.  The pencil sharpener always sounds like a dying cow.  I could go on and on...

For years, I have used an electric pencil sharpener because the one that was always attached to my classroom wall just didn't cut the mustard.  But, on the first week of school this year, my electric pencil sharpener died.  Are you kidding me?  The very week when every kid in my class brought in boxes and boxes of pencils that needed to be sharpened.

A teacher friend of mine suggested I get one from   In fact, this teacher friend asked if I would order her another one because she loved it so much.  I checked it out online.  This pencil sharpener is touted as the quietest pencil sharpener.  It was designed by a teacher who was fed up with sharpeners.  Me too!   So, I got online and ordered. Actually, I ordered three because they were having a teacher special where you can get three for $53.97.

The box from www.classroomfriendlysupplies came in the mail yesterday. I hauled the box to school so I could open it in front of my students.  It immediately peaked their curiosity.  "What's in the box?" they all wanted to know.  It was like Christmas!  Students gathered around my desk as we opened up the box and set up the bright red sharpener.  We put the first pencil in and wa-lah out came a perfect pointy pencil.  They were all eager to try it out and we all were pleasantly surprised at how quiet it really was and how pointy our pencils came out. 

 Now, If I could just figure out how to keep them from rolling onto the floor!  Life would then be perfect, just like these perfect pointy pencils!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Teaching Responsibility: Classroom Jobs

Classroom jobs are a great way to teach responsibility and teamwork in the classroom.  I have used classroom jobs for years and it has always worked great.  Plus, it makes my job as a teacher so much easier.  Instead of me doing everything and running myself ragged, the daily responsibilities are divided among students.  Working together helps to develop a sense of classroom community and reinforces that we all have to do our part to make our classroom successful.  

Here's how it works:  I have a job chart with each job listed.  I use library pocket charts.  You can find them in multiple colors and designs at teacher supply stores, or on Amazon.  I use wooden Popsicle sticks, which you can find at craft stores. Then I write each student's name or personal number on the sticks.  The sticks slide easily into the library pockets.  You can use index cards too.

Students are responsible for doing their assigned job for an entire week.  The best part, and the part that my students absolutely LOVE, is PAY DAY!  Every Friday, I pay my students three tickets for completing their jobs.  They use the tickets to bid on items during classroom auctions.  If a student doesn't do their job, they don't get paid- just like in real life.  It's a great lesson to teach students.

Every Monday, I rotate the sticks, so students have a new job for the week.

Currently, I have 26 students, so every student has an assigned job.  Some teachers prefer to only have a few jobs for students each week, but I've found that most kids like to have something to do.  The management of jobs is easy and I'm always calling on someone to do something, "Who's the Paper Distributor" or "I need the messenger to deliver a paper."  Believe me, these jobs are well utilized in my classroom.  Some of the jobs are definitely favorites among students and they can't wait for it to be their turn to do their favorite job.  They also think it's fun to get a vacation week.

Of course, you can change the jobs to anything you need for your classroom. You can change the titles to fit your grade level.  The possibilities are endless.  Here is a list of jobs I currently use:

Classroom Jobs

Personal Assistant:  Assists teacher with tasks in the classroom.
Board Eradicator:  Erases white boards and chalk boards before dismissal.
Media Specialist:  Sorts and straightens books in classroom library
Electrician:  Turns lamps and lights on in the morning and off before dismissal.
Postal Clerk:  Distributes papers in student mail boxes.
Public Relations:  Greets visitors at the door.  Assists with class newsletters or blog when needed.
Interior Designer:  Straightens chairs and pillows before dismissal. 
Time Keeper:  Keeps track of time during the day.  Reminds teacher when it is time to dismiss
Lunch Bucket Supervisor:  Carries lunch bucket to cafeteria and brings it back to classroom
Supply Keeper:  Distributes classroom supplies when needed.  Makes sure supplies are neatly put away
Germ Buster:  Sanitizes tables and desks with Clorox wipes before dismissal
Messenger:  Delivers messages to other teachers or to the office.
Door Monitor:  Holds door open for classmates.  Always last in line because you are holding the door.
Payroll CFO:  Distributes tickets to classmates.
Paper Distributor:  Passes out paper when needed
CafĂ© Consultant:  Reminds class members to sign in on the Lunch Count Chart. Fills out lunch count sheet and gets teacher approval before turning into cafeteria
Audio-Visual Technician:  Operates cd player, document camera, or television when needed. Ensures equipment is turned off at dismissal. 
Alternate:  Takes over jobs of any classmate who is absent
Phone Operator:  Answers phone and takes messages for the teacher
Line CEO:  Calls tables and groups to line up and leads them out of classroom.
Vacation:  You get a paid vacation for the week.  Enjoy!
Agenda Checker:  Stamps agendas in the morning
Pencil Patrol:  Sharpens pencils and makes sure pencil container is well stocked for the day.  Cleans out sharpener.
Smartboard Technician:  Turns the Smartboard on and off for lessons.
Sanitation Supervisor:  Picks up trash in the classroom.  Makes sure paper items are in the recycle bin.

Best of luck and I hope you give classroom jobs a try to make your busy day a little easier!

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Back To School Books!

The start of a new school year is always a great time to share books about friendship, manners, and celebrating uniqueness with students.  There are a few books about friendship that are my all-time favorites.  Tarra and Bella by Carol Buckley is story about a unique friendship between an elephant and a dog.  The story is endearing and lends itself to discussions about loyalty among friends and that friendship can come in all shapes and sizes.  After I read the story with students, I usually show them the news clips about Tarra and Bella from CBS news.  Watch the segment "On Elephant Sanctuary, Unlikely Friends" first, then watch "Elephant Loses Man's Best Friend".  Get your tissues ready.  It pulls at your heart strings.  

Another story that I love about unusual friendships is Owen and Mzee by Paula Kahumbu.  It's about an Aldabra tortoise and a baby hippo.  A great story about how friends can help one another in a crisis.  There's a fun video you can show students on Vimeo called, "Owen and Mzee:  The True Story of a Remarkable Friendship".

In addition to books about friendship, I like to read books to my students about celebrating how everyone is unique and has something special to offer to each other.  Spoon by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is a clever book about a character named Spoon who tries to compare himself to all the other utensils in the silverware drawer, such as knife, fork, and chopsticks.  In the end, he accepts himself for who he is and learns to love his unique qualities. This funny book is perfect for opening up a discussion about student's unique gifts and talents.  

Here are two more great books for the beginning of the year.  Spork by Kyo Maclear celebrates individuality and demonstrates the importance of tolerance and leads to great discussions about respect for differences.  Another great book about friendship by Amy Krouse Rosenthal is Chopsticks.  Both of these books are funny and will leave your students giggling and wanting more.  

The beginning days of school are a great opportunity to refresh students memories about manners.  There is a set of books by Munro Leaf that are so cute and funny. They include Manners Can Be Fun, How To Speak Politely And Why, and How To Behave And Why. Even though they were published in the 1930's, his advice still stands the test of time.  My students love the simple, but funny illustrations.  

Some other great books to share with students about manners include Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller, Whoopi's Big Book of Manners by Whoopi Goldberg, and What If Everybody Did That? by Ellen Javernick.

If you have a great book that you love to read to your students at the beginning of a school year, please write the title in the comment section.  Thanks so much and happy reading!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Bento Boxes

For years, I have struggled with packing a healthful school lunch.  This year, I was determined to find a lunchtime solution that was easy to pack and had delicious food that was good for me.  After research online (mainly on Pinterest), I found ideas for Bento box lunches. The Bento boxes I found online were expensive, so I found some Rubbermaid containers with three compartments.  The lids fit snugly, so food doesn't spill out.  The compartments are perfect for adding colorful veggies, fruits, and lunch entrees that look appealing when put all together, especially when I'm hungry after a long morning of teaching fifth graders.  Oh, and here is my disclaimer.  I am in no way a nutritionist, or gourmet chef, but I am a busy teacher who is trying to eat healthier and save money by packing a lunch from home.  Here are some pictures of some of my Bento box lunches so far.  

Rubbermaid containers with three compartments.  They also stack easily in the fridge.
 Cheese quesadilla with salsa, celery sticks, and strawberries with fruit dip.
 Pizza leftovers, carrot stickes, strawberries and fruit dip.
 Tortilla roll ups, grapes, carrots, walnuts, and tomatoes.
Mini-burger, blueberries, grapes, and tri-colored pepper strips.

Red grapes, carrots, and a leftover Carne Asada taco.
Cantaloupe, blueberries and cream cheese fruit dip, and loaded baked potato.

Cantaloupe, tri-colored peppers, snow peas, teriyaki chicken, and red grapes.

A 5th Grade Reading Classroom Tour

This is a tour of my 5th Grade Reading Classroom.  I recently transferred from one elementary school to another and changed teaching positions.  I used to teach a self-contained class and now am teaching reading and vocabulary to four sections of fifth grade students.  This is my 18th year of teaching and I am so excited for a new challenge.  So, it's a new classroom, a new school, and a new teacher position for me.  Lots of changes. Here's the new look of my reading classroom. I hope you enjoy and leave with a few ideas.  Happy teaching!
Welcome to my 5th grade reading classroom.

This is what my classroom looked like before I moved in!  I had two large metal storage cabinets, a teacher desk, two bookshelves, a round table, and student desks and chairs. Wait until you see the transformation!

My reading mini-lesson area.  I also use this area for morning meeting.  I bought the wicker chair from Garden Ridge and the little table from Big Lots.  It is a comfy spot to read and to teach lessons to my students.  The chart stand is perfect for writing anchor charts and the bulletin board behind this area will serve as our anchor chart display.  The book baskets to the right in the picture are for our leveled library.  I got the shelves at Big Lots when they went on sale and I had a 20 percent off coupon.  My husband put them together.  I found the turquoise baskets at Big Lots as well.  I made the level signs with scrapbook paper and my Cricut.  Now, my students can easily find books on their level.

This is a cozy reading nook for students.  I found the red plastic Adirondack chairs at Lowe's, the turquoise pillows and READ letters at Old Time Pottery, the rugs at Ross, the curtains at Garden Ridge,  and the inspirational signs at Big Lots.  The lanterns and pom poms came from a party supply store.  I also have pillows that students can use while reading around the room. My students love all the cozy places to read.   I am always on the lookout for bargains for my classroom.

This is our leveled classroom library for chapter books.  The cube shelving units I got at Big Lots were the perfect size for the turquoise baskets that I got at the same place.  These shelves keep our classroom library books organized and easy to find.

Here's how I display magazines in my classroom.  It's just three hooks and one curtain rod.  Magazines are in plastic sheet protectors and hung on the rods with shower rings with clips.  I keep a variety of magazines for students:  Time for Kids, Zoo Books, Kids Discover, American Girl, A Boy's Life, Ranger Rick, and Scholastic News.  

It takes everyone in the class working together to make a successful classroom, so everyone has a weekly job.  I used library pockets that have each job listed, along with a job description, and Popsicle sticks with numbers.  For completing their jobs, students get paid in tickets at the end of the week.  It's a great way to get things done efficiently and promote responsibility in students.  They love having a job every week, and they especially love getting paid.

Here's my teacher desk area.  I have to say that it is "organized chaos"!  I keep my teacher materials in the black storage cabinet behind my desk and I organize weekly assignments in the caddy that has labels for Monday through Friday.  I have a round table with small stools that I use for small groups (I'll add a photo later when I post about small group management).  

 This is how I organize our daily lunch count.  It also acts as the attendance count.  Students move their round wooden circle with their personal number to their lunch choice for the day.  If a student doesn't make a choice, then I know they are absent.   I made the signs on my Cricut and bought the wooden circles at Michael's craft store, painted them, and glued magnets to the back.  One of the student jobs is to fill out the lunch count for the cafeteria.

I didn't have enough bookshelves, so my handy husband made some simple black wooden shelves for me.  They are the perfect size for these red tubs I found at Wal-Mart.  These tubs are for pictures books and non-fiction books which are also organized by F&P level.

                      So, this is my 5th Grade Reading Classroom. Thanks for stopping by.                                Have a wonderful school year!