14 August 2016

Monster Brag Tags

Why does summer seem to fly by?  It seems like just yesterday I was packing up my classroom, and now I'm already putting it back together again.  Each year, I try to change things up a little bit.  Last year, I gave up my beloved behavior clip chart.  I had used a clip chart for about 10 years, and I was honestly terrified to let it go.  Old habits die hard, I tell you!  I made the leap though, threw out the clip chart and never looked back.  It was the best decision I could have made.  My focus became to really encourage positive behaviors and have constructive conversations with those students that misbehaved.

This year, I wanted to take it a step further.  I wanted to find additional ways to motivate and reward students for making good choices, as well as celebrate their accomplishments.  I did a lot of research over the summer and it kept leading me back to brag tags.  Angie Olsen at Lucky Little Learners has written several great blog posts about brag tags.  If you want to read more about how to implement them in your classroom, check out her post here.

I have a monster classroom, so I was determined to find monster brag tags.  I found lots of Class Dojo resources with cute little monsters, but I struggled to find brag tags with monsters.  I decided to go ahead and make my own set of monster tags for my little MON-STARS!


Many teachers prefer to hang their brag tags on ball chain necklaces, but I opted to use binder rings.  I figured if their tags are attached to their backpacks, they would probably have a better chance of getting returned the following day.   I won't send brag tags  home everyday.   My students take their graded work home on Wednesdays, so I thought this would be a perfect day for them to share their brag tags with their families. They will be responsible for returning them to school the following day. 

I am storing my students' brag tag rings in a pocket chart designed for storing calculators.  It has pockets that are just the right size and already numbered.  

Here is a little explanation of some of the tags in this resource:

I have my fingers crossed that brag tags are a hit in my classroom this year.  I look forward to rewarding those homework heroes that have all of their homework complete for each six weeks.  I also hope that those little Sight Word Star tags encourage my little ones to learn all their sight words for the year.  If you LOVE monsters, then you can check out the monster brag tags here.  If you do not have a monster themed classroom, but want to give brag tags a shot, there are so many different varieties available from other fabulous teachers.
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20 July 2016

Summer Tips

I am loving every moment of my summer and I'm definitely not looking at a calendar.   I love getting up late, going to bed late, and everything in between.  My little guy starts first grade in August and I love the time we've spent together reading books, playing games, exploring, and working on art projects.  Our family made a point of visiting educational places like the DoSeum this summer that offer fantastic hands-on educational experiences for children.  I am super thrilled at the growth I see daily in my little one's reading and writing.  As teachers, we know and understand the importance of working with our children over the summer.  We also know that there will be a learning loss for many of our students that return after the summer break.

I was beyond thrilled when a Houston business reached out to me about this very topic.  Precision Garage Door of Houston shared this fantastic infographic with me that is designed to help families  prevent this loss of learning over the summer months.

Please check it out below:

The graphic is filled with wonderful tips for parents.  It's scary when you read that 2.5 months of math skills can be lost over the summer, but as teachers we know that this true more often than we'd like to see.  We know the same can be said for reading.

As a teacher mommy, I know how important it is to set aside time each day to dedicate to reading books together with your children.   I absolutely love this special mommy/son time with my own sweetie.  It's not too late, there is still summer left!  Grab a book and just keep reading, just keep reading! Clearly I've seen Finding Dory a few times this summer! 

I am super excited that businesses like Precision Garage Door of Houston are standing up to support educators.  They deserve a large round of applause! 
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10 July 2016

Teacher Planner/Binder

Every summer I purchase a planner for the upcoming school year.  Okay, it's not actually a planner. It's more of a calendar.  This calendar is one of the many things I carry home nightly in my teacher bag.  My teacher friends know that bag....the one that weighs a ton and sometimes doesn't even get opened once it arrives home.  In addition to the lovely calendar I just described, I always have a binder filled with basically all my important teacher forms...attendance, grades, RTI info., student info., planning pgs, etc.  In an age of everything going digital, I still manage to keep hard copies of everything.  Maybe it's my own distrust of those clouds that are supposed to keep all of our important documentation safe in digital land, or it could be the fact that anytime I desperately need a form, the internet just happens to be down!

This summer, I decided that it was time to get organized and eliminate some of the unnecessary things I carry in that teacher bag.   I didn't want to carry both a binder and separate calendar any longer.  This only added more bulk to my already heavy bag.  I did consider purchasing one of those beautiful planners that are perfectly bound together with everything included.   I tried one many years ago when I first started teaching.  It was gorgeous, but I ended up not using the lesson plan part because our campus is required to have ours digital.  That left a large portion of my planner unused.  I also found that I really needed the ability to add and remove pages to meet my own classroom needs.  Instead of purchasing a planner, I decided to go the route of a printable binder.  I started by searching my computer for all the important planning forms I've created over the years.  In my search,  I found quite the assortment of forms with different borders, clip art, fonts, etc.  I decided to stream line all the most important pages and that little giant project turned into a digital teacher planner.

I wanted to share the planner with all of my teacher friends.  It has a simple design with just a splash of color.  Several of the pages are editable.  You can check out the pics below to see if it's something you could use in your own classroom.  I'm going to include LOTS of pictures to give you a good sense of what is included.




Lol..I just love my made up class of Diney princesses, princes, and Pixar characters.


Sight word lists are also included with the planner.  The following word lists are included:
 Fry's Instant Words 1-300 (50 words per page)
Dolch Words (pre-primer, primer, grade 1, grade 2, grade 3)
Sight Word List (editable)


Not everything is pictured above, so peek at the preview below to see the entire resource. 
You can check it out in my store by clicking HERE
I'd love to give it away for free to the first 3 people that leave a comment below.  Please be sure to leave your e-mail.  
(Giveaway has ended)
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15 June 2016

Early Finishers

It's summertime and I'm excited to finally find some time to blog and work on some of my unfinished projects.  One of those projects was to make a smaller version of my Early Finisher Calendars.
Let me start by explaining what my Early Finisher Calendars are.  They are calendars that I created specifically for my second graders that finish early.  You know, the ones that finish everything in record breaking time.  I wanted to have engaging activities to work on that were meaningful, but didn't require a lot of materials and preparation on my part.  These calendars were the perfect solution!  My students enjoyed working on the activities and were no longer asking the age old question, what do I do next? 

When I first began using these calendars, I simply displayed each calendar on my Smartboard.  This worked great, because it was nice and large and they could easily see it from their seat.  Ultimately, this wasn't a long time solution for me, since about 80% of the day, my Smartboard is being used for one thing or another.  My next plan was to print 5 colored copies and place them in the same place they grab their station work.  This made it easy for students to grab the calendars and go.  This worked out great, but I soon discovered that 5 copies was not nearly enough. Last year, I found myself having to make several extra copies a month.  Of course, several of my missing copies would magically reappear when it was time to clean out desks.  For the upcoming year, I believe I have the perfect solution.  I will still print 5 full size copies for students to use, but I will also have a mini version for each of my tables.  The mini versions will have color coded ribbon which will match the table color it belongs to.  These sets will have to be returned to their table bins after they are used.  This will eliminate the problem of calendars disappearing into desks.  I always do a quick table check at the end of the day, so it will be up to each group to check that everything is neatly in their buckets, so they can earn their table point.

My students are free to choose any activity they like on the calendar of the month.  If they finish the activity and still have time to spare, they are free to choose another activity.  Last year, I simply had them use blank notebook paper.  Their completed pages were placed in their station files along with their station work.  Next year, I am going to have a spiral designated just for their Early Finisher work.

Here is the cover (it's a FREEBIE):
I plan to start the year with only the August calendar on their ring.  Each month, I will add the next calendar.  They will be allowed to go back to past calendars if they like.  However, they won't be able to see future calendars until the beginning of each month.  I will periodically (like once a week) ask for their notebooks, so I can quickly peek at their work.  I love to give them feedback and they like to show what they have done.  I usually try to find a free moment here and there to sneek peeks at their work.  This gives me a chance to brag about some of those students that really go above and beyond.  It also gives me a chance to spotlight some of those students that need the extra encouragement.  I LOVE that these calendars often lead me to some great teachable moments.

You can check out these calendars in my TPT store.  They are designed for second grade students.
The bundled set below contains the mini versions.  

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30 April 2016

Poetry Stations Made Simple

It has been quite awhile since my last post.  I really hope with summer around the corner, I'll be able to dedicate more time to my blog.  Over the last month, I've done some reflecting on what isn't working quite as well as I'd like in my classroom.

This was an easy choice for me.  I knew right away it was my Poetry Station.  My students are given a poem for the week, which they cut out and glue in their journal.  On the opposite page, they make connections to the poem and then illustrate under their writing.   This year, my students have been avoiding this station like the plague.  By the end of the week, my poem file would remain full of unused poems.   I became determined to find a way to get my class more excited about poetry.

I decided to start by thumbing through the collection of poems I've been using over the years.  One thing I noticed was that even though they were supposed to be kid friendly, perhaps they weren't as kid friendly as I thought.  I started to draw the conclusion that maybe my students were reluctant to write about the poems, because they were having trouble understanding or making personal connections to the poems I had chosen.  I decided to test this out by writing an original kid friendly poem that went along with the theme of the story we were reading for the week.  I created a simple template that still had space for them to make a personal connection, but also focused on a few grammar concepts.  I slipped it in as their new station and waited to see how they responded.  I couldn't believe how well it went.  They absolutely LOVED the new format and really seemed to enjoy the simple poems.  I've gone from the poetry station being the least popular station to some even wanting to get it done during recess.  I have continued this for about a month now and my poetry station is definitely a new class favorite!

Here is a peek at a couple of our poems:

I've been feverishly writing poems over the last month and have a current total of 14.  There are numerous topics available to choose from that will most likely connect well to many of the stories you are reading in your own classrooms.  This resource will continue to grow. I have plans to at least double the current size. Right now, you can get it at its lowest price.  I will increase the price as new poems are added.

I'd love to give it away to one lucky teacher tomorrow evening.  Simply leave your e-mail for a chance to win.
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