Thursday, March 22, 2012

Another Binder

My entire life doesn't revolve around binders, I promise. My classroom, on the other hand, well...

My 4th grade team makes packets for math, science, and social studies units. So everything the kids are going to need that 6 weeks are in the packet. It's kind of nice not having to make copies 3 times a week, and my students have been relatively good about keeping up with their packets (I've probably had to replace 15 throughout the year).

That means I have to keep up with my packets too. To do this, I [naturally] made a binder. Go figure.

My tabs are:
1. math (this is the student math packet, that I also use to make answer keys)
2. science (this is the student science packet, that I also use to make answer keys)
3. social studies (yeah, same thing)
4. Moose Math (this is our math homework packet, and this tab has my answer key packet)
5. Lone Star (this is our math warm up, and this tab has my answer keys)

The cover of our current math packet.

Inside our current math packet. It contains all the worksheets they'll do in class.

The cover of our current science packet.

Inside our current science packet. Contains the worksheets and labs they'll do this 6 weeks. You can see I've also made answer keys.

I paperclip all the old homework answer keys together so I can flip right to the current one.

If I lost this binder, I would be so lost. I love it. Everything I need for class in one place. When I have a sub, I just put a sticky note on the pages they'll use, and they've got everything in one place too. :-)

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DIY Bookmark Reward

I wanted to do something to reward students who had gotten no mark during the first 3 weeks of this 6 weeks. When I was at the dollar store, I saw they had foam bookmarks with other foam shapes to decorate, so I figured that'd be perfect.

I got all the above supplies for $5 - that's 10 bookmarks, 32 sheets of foam so my kids could cut out whatever shape they wanted, 248 foam letters, and some glue. It was more than enough - I still have lots of foam left over.

So while the rest of the class was working this afternoon, I pulled the 8 who had no marks aside to help them work on their bookmarks. I drew names for the order in which they picked their bookmark color, foam colors, and letters (everyone was able to get the letters they wanted, in the colors they wanted).

The bookmarks turned out really cute and the kids loved it!

Upper Grades Link Party

Fabulous 4th Grade Froggies is hosting a linky party for upper grade elementary blogs. Check out her's and all the ones listed!

Monday, March 19, 2012

Organization Ideas

Today I was looking through the pictures on my phone trying to decide what to post about today. I finally decided just to do a hodgepodge of ideas.

This is an idea I got from pinterest. I put an empty toilet paper roll inside a plastic cup for my popsicle sticks with student names. The popsicle sticks stay inside the roll until after I call on the student. Once I've selected a student I put it there popsicle stick outside the roll, unless I may want to call on them again.
Because I've now spent four years teaching science, and have never actually taught reading, most of my classroom books are about science. Just like I have my other books split up by genre, I split my science books based on topic.
I got this organizer from Dollar Tree. It is perfect for happy notes, nurse passes, change in transportation forms, missing work notices, and other small items.
I bought a bunch of used games and puzzles from thrift stores for indoor recess. I am storing them on a shelf hidden behind a grass skirt, also from the dollar store, that goes along with my Safari theme. Goodwill has a lot of good games and toys for decent prices. I even got a huge tub of Legos.
I do not have a closet in my portable for students to put their backpacks. I do, however, have a coat rack. To store their backpacks, I bought sturdy hangers to make use of the coat rack. Students hook their handle handle around the hanger.
So I don't have to pass everything out separately, I keep whiteboards, dry erase markers, and wash cloths in baggies. The baggies currently being used are gallon sized, which doesn't work as well. My favorite was the 2 gallon bags because the whiteboards could go in sideways and the bag could fold over. This makes it so much easier when every student is using a whiteboard.

Monday, March 12, 2012


I'm the binder queen, it's true. When I interviewed for my current job, I had a binder with me, and the teachers that sat in on the interview say that's why they picked me. :)

I have a binder for each area of science (earth science, physical science, etc), one for language arts, handwriting, warm ups, small group activities, tutoring, extended learning activities, student information and classroom managers, and of course then there's my sub binder. I'm sure there's more I'm not thinking about right now (since it's SPRING BREAK and all).

Each of my binders have a cute cover. They don't all look alike, because that's boring. Rather, the font I used is somehow related to the topic of the binder, and then I print it out on paper with a cute border.

I have my binder covers on Teacher Pay Teachers for free.  Enjoy.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Weekly Challenge

A few weeks ago I started a "Weekly Challenge" in my room. A little late in the year, sure, but oh well.

Each Monday, I post a new challenge, usually math related, and students have until Friday morning to take a guess. I make extra copies of worksheets so students can work at their desk (unless it's an estimation problem). I cut index cards into thirds, and that's where I have them write their name and answer. Once they have a guess, they put their answer in an old tissue box.

Some of the challenges I make myself, some I've found online, and some are just logic worksheets.

On Friday, I take out all the wrong answers and draw one winner from among the right answers. If it was estimation, I choose the closest answer. The winner gets something small as a prize, such as a mechanical pencil, eraser, homework pass, or small toy (play-dough, mini-slinky). When I did the goldfish estimation, the prize was the goldfish.

I put together some of my challenges into a PDF, as it's listed for free at Teachers Pay Teachers. You can download it by clicking here and going to the website.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

What I do with graded papers

Grading papers. Ugh. It's kinda like laundry - it just never ends!

Every teacher has their own way of keeping these papers organized from collection to being sent home, and I thought I'd share my method for those interested.

I have classroom managers, and one of those positions is a Pick Up Manager. The past two years I actually had my Pick Up Manager collect papers in number order (alphabetical), but this year I haven't done that. It does make it easier to input grades if they're already in order though.

Once papers have been collected (or maybe students are turning them in individually), they go to the inbox. The inbox has two shelves - the top is for my homeroom and the bottom is for my switch class.

From there, I may go ahead and grade them, or move them into another paper sorter to keep out of the way until I get a chance to grade them.

The paper sorter is 3 years old, and used to be my inbox when I taught three classes, or it's falling apart a bit. Teaching two classes, this is how I use it to sort papers...

  • The first column is for my homeroom, and the second column is for my switch class.
  • The top row is for papers that still need to be graded.
  • The second row is for papers that have already been graded, but have not been entered in the gradebook.
  • The third row is for papers that have been graded, entered in the gradebook, and are waiting to be filed to go home. My kids know this, so if they see papers in the third row, they ask me if they can take them to go file.
When papers are ready to be filed, I stack them near the folders they're filed into.

The black tray on top is for papers that need to be filed. I don't like having mailboxes, because I think they take up too much room. I value my space! So I keep hanging file folders for each student. Every Tuesday, the papers go home.

Instead of using student names, I use numbers so I don't have to change it every year. I've used these folders two years now, and I'll use them again next year. They're in great shape still. Sometimes students forget to write their number on their worksheet, so I have everyone's number typed up and stapled on the wall behind the folders.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Neat Desk Awards

I don't do the whole "desk fairy" thing. Sure, some 4th graders may still like the idea of a magic fairy coming in the classroom at night and looking through their desk, but I think it's a little weird. I want my students to know I'M the one that thinks their desk is neat, that I'M the one that's proud of them, and that I'M the one recognizing them. Call me selfish - whatever.

So, today after school, I went around the desks to find the neatest ones. Yesterday, I actually gave them some time to clean out their desks, so most of them were neat enough (i.e. no random papers stuffed in there). But yesterday I also told my class that I don't like them leaving pencils sitting in their desk - I like pencils to be kept in their pencil bags so they don't get lost or stolen.

I have no idea what made this picture look so weird. Must be the ghosts in my room again.

I waited until today to check for this to see who remembered. Five of them did. So five students got a little reward. And interestingly, 4 of those 5 students were boys. Who would've thought?

We're not allowed to give out candy, so I gave each neat desk a pink eraser and a pencil top eraser. Sometimes it may be a pencil, sometimes a red pen (those get lost a lot!), sometimes a pencil sharpener, or maybe something fun like a mini-slinky or play-dough.

I decided to open up a Teachers Pay Teachers seller's account to keep my freebies. I don't plan on selling anything, it's just a place for you to go to download what I have. I think it's easier than using Google Docs like I have been.

You can click here to get my Neat Desk Award. And this link will take you to my seller's page (aka freebie's page). I'll put more stuff on there whenever I have a chance, but for now, it's off to play hockey!

Monday, March 5, 2012

Science Websites

Kids Know It Network : kid friendly science songs
I've played some of these songs for my class before, and they enjoy it. My personal favorite is called Sir Isaac Newton for teaching about forces and motion. The songs are appropriate for all of the elementary grades and cover topics from astronomy to physics, and even non-science topics such as language arts and math.

Gamequarium : science videos (like Bill Nye!)
This website has free videos on a very wide range of science topics. There are also full length Bill Nye videos! It does not require a sign up, has no ads, and is completely free to watch. Longer videos, such as Bill Nye, are broken up into 3 parts, but it's easy to go from one to the other, it gives you a chance to question students on what they've learned.

Bitesize : science videos and games
This website is produced by the BBC for all grade levels and subjects. Of course I use the science section the most. You can select a topic, read a passage, play a game, and take a quiz. I've done this on interactive whiteboards, and even in the computer lab as part of science tutoring. The games are pretty fun. I just spent about 30 minutes playing some with my husband. :)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Memory Lane: My First Classroom

Yesterday I was looking through my old portfolio where I had pictures of my very first classroom (a whole 3 years ago, lol). My first year, I taught 6th grade science, and two 8th grade science intervention classes, in an inner city middle school. Our building was previously a high school, so my room was an actual science lab - not just a regular classroom. As ghetto as it was, I loved having the huge space, and having sinks in my room. Here are some pictures of my first year teaching in 2008-2009. Nothing fancy - I was still learning.

Beginning of the year bulletin board, and our daily warm up on the chalk board.
The front chalkboard. Heading, frayer model, daily objective.
The entrance, front chalk board, and beginning of the year bulletin board.
"Never leave your numbers naked." Great way to remind students to put a unit with their answers. They thought it was funny. :)
The entrance to my room.
Word wall, pencil sharpener, school info, etc. Basically our information center right inside the door.
The information center again next to the fume hood. Since we didn't use fume hoods in middle school, I used mine for storage and to post posters. :)
Bookshelf, aquarium, student work about properties of matter.
Bookshelf, globe, fire blanket, elephant pelvis. The teacher who had this room before me just left this bone there. Looks like an elephant pelvis to me, so that's what I tell the kids.
Students who did all their homework the entire 6 weeks got their names put on the Homework Heroes board for the next 6 weeks.
The back shelf was set up for a tools performance test. After that, I kept their science journals there, separated by class.
The exit (I had 2 doors to my room), and my filing cabinets.
The side chalk board behind my desk. This is where I wrote the activities and homework for the week, our 5E's, and the bell schedule.
The weekly agenda. We had a block schedule which is why I have the same activities written two days in a row.
We were required to post the 5E's for every lesson we did. With science, one lesson usually took two classes (and classes were about an hour and a half each).
Bulletin board with students work of bar graphs. We graphed the colors of our jelly beans.
On my strategies bulletin board, I posted winners of the science fair that were in my classes.
Students wrote a story from the perspective of a snowman for our water cycle unit.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012


First of all, I just want to say that my DonorsChoose project (digital microscope) has been fully funded! I'm so beyond excited and grateful to my donors. Thank you!

Now, moving on to textbooks.

When I taught 5th grade science and language arts, I did not have my students check out their own textbook. We just didn't use them enough for it to be worth it. Really, the only reason I had them for for a quick and easy activity when I had a sub. I checked out a class set of textbooks that I kept in my room just to use as needed.

This year, in fourth grade, we still don't use the books a whole lot. I have a class set of science books, but the students have checked out their own social studies and math books. Looking back, I would have preferred a class set of social studies, but I went with the preference of the team.

To try to keep desks neater, my students keep only their math book in their desk. I have collected their social studies books to keep on the bookshelf with the science books. I have two "book managers" to pass out the books when we need them.

I switch classes with another teacher. It's pointless for those students to carry a huge textbook back and forth everyday, when we only use them once or twice a month.

To let my students in my switch class know if they need to bring their math book or not, I post a sign on my door. I actually got this from a 5th grade math co-worker, and it works well. On one side of the sign it says "No math book" and on the other side it says "Bring math book today." In the morning as students arrive, the sign is posted on my door letting them know. They're learning to take responsibility, and I don't have to interrupt my partner's class (or even remember to!) to let the kids know to bring their book.

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Donors Choose

Donors Choose is a wonderful philanthropic website that allows teachers to post projects they need funded. The requests vary from basic school supplies to technology to field trips.

My first project was posted this morning. I am trying to fund a digital microscope to use in the classroom next year (or even this year if it gets funded in time!).

Some companies will match donations, making it easier to get the funding you need. You don't have to apply separately for this - the companies let Donors Choose know the type of projects they'd like to fund, and if your project meets their criteria, then it automatically applies the "Double Your Impact" offer. I am lucky that the ECA Foundation is able to match donations made to my project.

Hopefully we'll be able to get the $92 needed to fund my project. If you know of anyone able to make a tax deductible donation, I'd appreciate you passing my project along!

Monday, February 27, 2012

Sub Binders

Since I will be out tomorrow for a dentist appointment, I figured this would be a good time to post about my sub binder. If there is one organizational thing that I'm proud of, it's my sub binder. Let's face it - subs have a tough enough time as it is without going into a classroom where they don't know the daily procedures and expectations. So I try to make it as easy and painless as possible for my guest teachers.

I keep my sub binder on the chalkboard near my desk so it's visible in case of an emergency. My kids also know where it is. When I know I'm prepping my room for a sub, I put it on my desk.
I recently made my binder nice and colorful.
My intro is just a welcome with basic information such as which teachers can help with lessons, and which students are helpful. After that starts my daily procedures.
My Daily Procedures section is several pages long. I want to make sure that the information is there in case they need it. But I think with the font size, spacing, and sub-headings, it's not too overwhelming.
My Classroom Management page explain my attention signal, rewards, and consequences. I also have a quick run-down of the daily schedule.
Emergency procedures for fire drills, etc.
I include a list of which students are pulled on each day (for academic support, speech, etc), as well as a map of the school. On the map I highlighted important room, and drew arrows showing how to get inside the building from our portables.
In rare circumstances, I may be so sick I am unable to get to my classroom to prepare for a sub. Though it is unlikely to happen, and I haven't ever had to use it, I have emergency plans laid out just in case.
At the back of the binder I have time fillers such as word searches just in case my class finishes their work early.

I also have a form that I leave for the subs where they can leave notes for me and tell me about their day.

This is a link to get to my sub binder word document. As with the sub plan template, I took out some identifying information for privacy's sake, which is marked in red.

Yup, I'm proud. :)