Sunday, December 30, 2012

Talking WeeMee

Using the Talking WeeMee App to Record Student Reading Fluency

I was looking for a way to provide ways for my students to record their reading in order to build fluency.  As we all well know, one of the best ways to "drive a point home" in terms of students and their reading is to have a student LISTEN to how they actually sound when they read aloud.  Case in point...I had a student who had a "Happy Swede" thing going.  When she'd read aloud, she'd insert an "a" into her words.  It sounded like this:  "aOnce upon a timea, a littlea girla wasa walking..."  (You get the point!)

Anywho, having my student really listen to what she sounded like did worlds of good...and the problem was corrected quite quickly.  In order to do this, we used Garage Band on the Mac to record her read-aloud.

Now, with iPods and iPads, there are more portable options to record my students read-alouds.

I've used the AudioBoo App to record my students reading and AudioBoo is really quite effective, however, it lacks a bit in terms of "kid appeal."  

Enter Talking WeeMee.  This App can be purchased on iTunes for $0.99 and is designed for the iPhone and iPod Touch, however, it works great on the iPad as well!  The great thing is that you can email the final "video" to yourself or your student's inbox or you can post it to a FaceBook page easily within the App.  I've actually sent these to a few of my student's parents and have received rave reviews.  An added benefit:  parents actually watch and LISTEN to these clips.  This is, in my opinion, a much better way to present feedback to least better than a paper report!

The student can choose an "avatar,"  a background and a "voice" for the personalized WeeMee.  In order to have the student really "hear" his/her reading, I insist on using the "Normal" voice.  Try the "Chipmunk" voice just for fun, but a student should really hear himself/herself in order to get the most out of this App.

Talking WeeMee only records 20 second clips, but in 20 seconds you can really get a feel for how a student sounds and how fluent he/she is with their reading.

My fourth graders love the interactivity of using Talking WeeMee to record their reading and the clip gives a quick taste and a wonderful snapshot of student reading fluency.  All 23 of my students have grown at least 2 reading levels since I started using Talking WeeMee with them during our Reading Fluency stations.  It's kid-friendly, easy to use, and easy to access as a video clip.

There are bunches of these Talking WeeMees on youTube.  Check them out!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Silence for Sandy Hook Elementary

Friday was an ordinary day.  Teachers dressed for work and pulled together the final few items they needed to make an ordinary Friday feel extraordinary for their little ones.  A principal went over the mental notes needed to organize the day ahead.  Parents kissed their little ones and sent them off to a school day filled with learning and laughter.

But Friday was far from ordinary...extraordinary circumstances turned classroom teachers and a principal into heroes...small children became leaders as they helped their classmates out of a catastrophe that none of us can ever imagine.

Our weapons are few...we come only with quick minds and more love than any one heart can really hold.

And as we've all watched from the sidelines with horror, one thing stands out...this could be any of us, on any given day.

Aside from my faith, the only thing that gives me hope is that I know of NOT ONE SINGLE TEACHER who wouldn't do the same as our brave colleagues at Sandy Hook.  That's right...every teacher I have ever known would do the same...put their lives behind that of their students.

In honor of the staff and students at Sandy Hook Elementary, I'm observing a day of silence.

At this time of the year, under these circumstances, it would be easy to just take the path of least resistance and get by for the next few days.

On Monday, in their honor, I'm teaching OUT OF MY MIND!  For them.  For my kiddos.  For the families who trust me with the ultimate honor...teaching their children.  For me.  

Join me.

Sunday, October 7, 2012

October Currently

Ok...I'm really quite bad at these, but I love fall and love the way this looks, so I'M IN!  Plus it is always fun to link up with Farley at Oh Boy!  Fourth Grade...

Happy Fall Y'All!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Monday Made It...October Edition!

Holy cow!  Is it October already?  Wow...the month has really flown by and I've hardly hung out here in Blogland!  

I have quite a few items that qualify as Monday Made Its, so let's get started!

First things wonderful pencil dispenser!  This went together so easy and it holds a ton of pencils.  It took a little bit to get used to how the pencils come out since they are a bit harder than straws, and this little beauty "forces" the pencils through the roller and out onto the little ramp, but my kiddos are having a bit of a LOVE AFFAIR with this baby and love getting their pencils every morning!

This is my welcome banner.  I always have a space in my classroom that is a place for my kiddos to get to know me a bit better.  I'm a cowgirl at heart and every one of these cows are gifts from the children and their families that I have loved teaching over the last 20 years.  I also put in cute frames with photos of my family, friends, and a picture of last year's class on the sill so that the kids can check out what's important to their teacher.  In the fall, I take a picture of us outside by a colorful fall tree and that will go into a sweet little frame that will join the rest.

Instead of putting up the usual curtains, I brought the curtain rod down lower and then attached the banner and some tulle.  It really dresses the window up and breaks up the view.  Thanks to the Moffatt Girls for their cute banner!  Click on their link to get your own cutesy banner!

I also made a small box of "proud tester" buttons.  Got these at Tonya's Treats for Teachers and picked up the button blanks at Hobby Lobby.  They came together easily and my kiddos can't get enough of them!  They love to wear the buttons and strut their stuff!  You can get the button templates here.  I just love Tonya's stuff!  (If you love the little cardboard basket, check out the Dollar Spot at Target.)

One of my favorite games is Stack.  If you aren't familiar with it, it involves 2-6 players and each player has his/her own set of 14 dice to start the game.  The game pack is a little pricey at about $25.00 per game and this only allows for six kiddos to play at a time.  As you can imagine, with all those dice rolling simultaneously, it does get a tad bit loud and dice do go missing from time-to-time.

Well...I was able to pick up foam counting blocks from Dollar Tree and make very quiet dice from them.  Each pack has 50 potential dice in blue, green, red and orange. All you need to do is draw the values on them!  I saw these on a few blogs and wanted them...waited patiently for months and checked many a Dollar Tree location until I finally found them and then...I pounced and bought up every little pack of dice they had.  The SKU is 39277 90336 (inside the bar code) and 120337-16104-009-1203 (under the bar code).  Not sure which one they need to locate these babies, but either way, I think you are covered!

Anywho...I made 6 containers of dice for "four person Stack It" and shared them with my cherubs...and THEY TOTALLY LOVED IT!  They can't wait to play this game and it is terrific for reinforcing numeracy skills as well as encouraging strategizing...very cool!

The rules for Stack are pretty straightforward.  This link will take you to the set of rules that I use for this game.  Take a gander at the rules and do adjust to meet the needs of your kiddos!

I also made Tara's A to Z card deck for word work stations in my classroom.  The cute magnets were a steal at Target in August and they may not have any left, but you can always use great little alphabet magnets from the Dollar Tree...these work just as well and are easy to hold.  I partnered these up with Dollar Tree cookie sheets for some down-and-dirty stations that were a cinch to put together and super cheap!  The kids really like these too!

I believe you can pick these cards up from Tara's TpT Store.  They are a steal!

In addition to all the fun things I am making for my students and the great teaching and learning that is going on in my 4th grade classroom, I'm also making time for fun.  Here's a photo of the "Abe Maids a'Milking" milking team from Abraham Lincoln School.  Our local Cheese Days celebration pits schools against each other with bragging rights (for two whole years!) plus a really cool T-shirt going to the winners!  My new principal, Sara, the "Magnificent Ann" and the "Wonderful Linda" all joined me for a shot at milking glory.  And guess what?  We won with 2 lbs. 8 ounces of milk in our bucket!  I'm milking this for all it's worth...after all, we are like no udder! 

Here's hoping that your school year has gotten off to a great start!


Sunday, September 9, 2012

Awesome Giveaway at Technology Tailgate

Tomorrow it's "back to reality" and my first Monday with students!  We teachers have all worked hard over the last month to prepare our classrooms for our cherubs, plan with our friendly colleagues and establish those early foundational pieces to building our classroom communities.

Karla and the generous coaches (including me!) at Technology Tailgate have a really terrific "techie giveaway" going on now to recognize the hard work that all teachers do to prepare themselves and their students for a really great school year.

We'd love to have you join us for a little fun, some great technology ideas, and the opportunity to win some really great prizes!  Maybe...just might be YOU!

Believe've got to have better luck than I have in winning prizes.  The last time I won a big prize it was a crock pot...and I was six-years-old!  That means I have had 38 years of not-so-great luck when it comes to winning.  But I can feel it...I just know one of you has the good prize-winning mojo!

Good luck all!


Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Made It...Almost!

Ok...I'll admit it, I have a Monday Made It in my head that never quite materialized until I looked at this morning's offerings!

Amanda over at Teaching Maddeness shared her take on this cute little pencil dispenser idea that has been floating all over Pinterest as of late:

Using a restaurant-styled straw dispenser seems to be the way to go if you are a "Community Classroom" teacher like me...the kids all hand in their pencils at the beginning of the year (my teaching partner and I ask for yellow, #2 graphics!).  I then sharpen pencils and have them at the ready for my students all day long!  Love how there are no sharpener lines in the classroom and I can cut out some of the shenanigans that go on when kids are moving around the room or waiting in sharpener lines!

If you are stalking blogs like this, then you may have heard about how expensive these little babies can be and how hard they can be to find or purchase.

With nothing in my Monday Made It blog hands, I decided to go on a quest that I started over a month ago...I wanted to find a reasonably priced straw dispenser that I can call my very own...SUPER AMAZING PENCIL DISPENSER OF EPIC PROPORTIONS! ("Epic" is my eleven-year-old's favorite word right now, so it just seemed to fit!  Thanks Noah!) 

It seems like everyone is going to or seeking these out on eBay or Craig's List.  I decided to go right to the source:  restaurant supply!  The first site I checked had these little babies for about $25.00.  However, when I went to the checkout, I found that they had a $50.00 minimum on purchases.  Not so good...

Undaunted, I went to another site where you had to have a special restaurant code to purchase...since I'm not in "the club," this wasn't an option for me either!

Then...finally...(insert sigh here), I found a site that had an acrylic straw dispenser for $27.20 + $7.99 shipping and handling!  No minimum orders here...and no special can even say you are purchasing for yourself!  

It looks like a 2-3 day turnaround and your order comes via UPS!  I so love this!  So place your order today, and you should have it by the end of the week! 

Since I'm the type of girl to plug AMAZING CUSTOMER SERVICE, I'm going to share the source and give a huge shout out to Account Manager JENNIFER BEACH!  This sweetie called me less than 2 hours after placing my order, just to see if there was anything else she could do to make shopping with her organization any better.  Are you kidding me?  This is GINORMOUS!  

So, what are you waiting for?  Go online and get your own "Super Amazing Pencil Dispenser of Epic Proportions" (a.k.a. straw dispenser) at:

Don't forget...share the love!  Pass this info on to a colleague who wants to make his/her own "Super Amazing Pencil Dispenser of Epic Proportions!"  Sharing is caring!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Classroom Tours Linky Party

I guess that I can "double dip" with my Monday Made It since both focus on the classroom environment!

Won't you join me in Brigid's amazing little classroom tour?  Right now, I know that I can use plenty of inspiration!


Monday Made It #8

It's Monday!  And I've made it!

Actually, I'm glad to be back...Last Monday, I "made it" through a much needed, highly feared surgery, so I took some time on the weekend before to get my room at least "Back to School Night ready" and then headed home to prep emotionally for a surgery that will keep me close to home for the next two or more weeks.

I decided to take some time and spend it with the hubster and son instead of uploading what I did in my classroom last weekend.  So, today I'm showing what I've done in my classroom so far...and I need to say "Thank You" to all of you who shared ideas with me that made putting my classroom back together lickety-split!  (I've been doing this for 21 years and, by far, this is the least stressed I've ever been!)

To Melanie over at  Schoolgirl Style...thanks for so many great ideas!  My school is going with a back-to-school theme of "Rockstar."  There were plenty of great ideas on her blog that had me thinking and dreaming about what my classroom could look like this year.  Keep in mind that I refuse to "throw the baby out with the bathwater," so I'm not getting rid of everything just so that I can be extremely cute and color-coordinated.  (Just warning ya!)

The best idea I found was using wrapping paper as a background for bulletin boards.  I found some great zebra-print wrapping paper and used that as my communication board in my classroom.  The Dollar Tree had lots of cut out letters with stars on them and I found some great wire garland with multi-colored stars to complete the look.  Dollar Tree also had some funky little glittery guitar sunglasses that helped to add a little more "rock and roll" to the bulletin board.  I really love how the board turned out!  Here are a few views:

I also put together my word wall using the great black and white borders from Schoolgirl Style/Creative Teaching Press.  Using the cute pennant border, I added my letters for the word wall by punching 1 and 1/2 inch circles and putting on some mismatched black lettering from my scrapbook stash.  The Creative Teaching Press catalog shared a great idea for creating a "storefront" styled bulletin board.  I rigged one together using tagboard and the pennant border strips.  Here's how my word wall turned out:

It's not exactly "Rock Star," but the black and white does add a bit of flair.

Here's my collaboration table in use...

The totally terrif picture frame was featured in a former Monday Made It on my blog.  I love how it looks and the little bit of bling on the mat is so great!

Other features in my classroom include:

Gutters...these are just THE BEST way to store things in a classroom where storage is at a minimum and so is space.  I love how I can store needed resources openly.  The gutters allow me to have everything I need at the ready!  Plus...they are super cheap and easily installed.  The hubster and son installed these for less than $20.00 for about 20 feet of storage under my bulletin boards!  Love love love these!

My classroom library, complete with colorful floor mattress, mood lighting, a claw-foot bathtub full of pillows for "just clean fun" and assorted Reading Buddies.  Notice that Greg Heffele from the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series makes an appearance!

Wish I could take credit for the Reading Buddies (aka Characters on a Plunger), but alas...I cannot!  My  teaching buddy, "The Wonderful Linda" and I are huge fans of the Into the Book series.  There are so many great ideas on this website that you must check it out!  The Reading Buddies are part of the classroom decor on stage in Mrs. Pingle's room, and we just put our own together!  Since you can remove the heads and replace them with others, we have taken other character's pictures and added a few "around the school" characters (i.e. teachers, superintendent, principal, custodian).  The great thing about the Reading Buddies is that they are not cuddly.  They stick to the floor and allow the student to sit eye-to-eye and read aloud to them.  They just become a cool part of the furniture and are not overly distracting to our readers!

Some former Monday Made Its...including my Digging Up Words carrots now have a special place in my classroom!  I've been dying to put them all away and at the ready for use in a couple of weeks!

I'm looking forward to putting a few things together while I'm on the mend.  As always, remember that "Sharing is Caring."  The Wonderful Linda came to help me pull myself together and move the heavier items around in my classroom right before surgery!  I'm a lucky lucky girl indeed to have such an amazing teaching buddy!  Help when you can, and as always, make doubles!


Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday Made It #7

Holy cow!  Is it already time for another Monday Made It?  It's hard to believe that the week has already flown by!

For as much as I was an overachiever last week, I feel like a complete and total slacker this week. (Don't freak out...I do have a couple of Monday Made Its way at the bottom of this post, so stay with me!)

What have I been doing? know how all teachers have a list of things they wish to do over the summer?  I've been putting off so many little things that I really want to do with my son while he is still young and doesn't mind hanging out with his mom...

So, I had a list of things I absolutely had to do with my eleven-year-old that just won't wait for another summer and we did them...this week:

1.  Go to a real DRIVE IN MOVIE!  This has been on my summer list for the last four summers and I decided that I would never ever forgive myself if another summer went by without doing this!  So, the hubster and I packed up the car and put my son and his buddy in the back seat and headed out to see the new Batman movie.  We all loved it and the boys loved the whole drive in movie experience!  We will definitely do this again next summer!

2.  Hit Six Flags Great America in Gurnee, IL...REAL HARD!  Noah's never been there, and if you are a parent of an "only," like me, you know that sometimes it isn't the most fun to ride a roller coaster, screaming your little heart out, next to...your mom!  (Dad's a puker, so this is never really an option!)  Anywho, we were able to go to this amazing amusement park with a buddy and his family and had an absolutely, positively AMAZING DAY...that included absolutely no puking!  This is another experience that we must repeat next summer!

3.  Go get ice cream...OFTEN!  We had ice cream every day last week and I don't regret a single scoop or calorie!

4.  Read a book with my son.  Noah and I have done this a few times.  I buy two copies of a book and we read and discuss...for fun!  This year, Noah chose the book.  I wasn't sure how much I'd like it, but it was THRILLING!  We went out and bought the rest of the set.  Noah's almost done with the third book and I'm still working at number two, but this has been so much fun!

So...if you have a list of stuff that you've been putting off until "tomorrow," what are you waiting for?  Seriously.  This has been a week that has been positively great for my soul!

My Monday Made Its are certainly less than inspiring.  I did put together a couple of containers of the "Smart Beads" that have been invading Pinterest as of late.  There are lots of different ways to put these together.  I found these cute little "teacherly" paper buckets at WalMart for less than $1.00 each and filled them with Mardis Gras beads that I had laying around the house and a few extra I picked up at Dollar Tree.  I also used some letter stickers from my scrapbookin' stash to put labels on the buckets.  Of course, I made a set for the "Wonderful Linda" and a third set for a 6+1 Trait Workshop that I'm conducting this week.  I thought that I'd try this approach with workshop participants and then finish off by giving the set away as a door prize.  (Sorry that my photo is less than wonderful!)

If by chance, you've been living under a rock and haven't seen these, the idea behind Smart Beads is relatively simple:  when you want to recognize a student for sharing something, or coming up with an idea that hadn't occurred to you, or whatever you want to recognize your students for, hand them a strand of Smart Beads.  They can wear them all day and hand them back in at the end of the day in exchange for a classroom reward.

My apologies to the source of such a swell idea for not being able to figure out who you are and giving you proper credit!

My second Monday Made It comes from Stephanie over at Fifth Grade Dugout.  She showcased her "Big Inflatable Baseball of Science Reflection" and I was all over it!  I'm always looking for ways to help my students better reflect on what they have learned, and the "Beach Ball Reflection" is a terrific way to make this happen!

I know, I can actually BUY these at your favorite teacher store, but I prefer Steph's reflection items over anything you can find out there.  (Not only are these cheaper...Dollar Tree...but the questions are better!)

Instead of doing this exclusively for science, I chose to do this for nonfiction reading and/or any topic introduced in the classroom.

With a nod to Stephanie's baseball and the questions that were on this, I wrote the following questions on the ball:

  • I'd like to share the best part of today's class with you.  It was...
  • A question I still have that I'd like answered is...
  • I didn't know that...
  • I wish...
  • Three important ideas from today's reading/topic that I'll remember are...
  • Rate your understanding of today's reading/topic on a scale of 1-10 (10=I'm an expert!)  What can you do to improve your understanding?
Just like Stephanie, I think a reflection like this would be great during the last five minutes of class.  I can also see using this like an "exit slip" and passing this off to each team of students before they get to leave our classroom.

Don't forget...sharing is caring!  Do make a duplicate for an amazing friend like the "Wonderful Linda!"  You won't regret it!


Sunday, July 29, 2012

First Day Jitters

I love love love the book First Day Jitters!  I am definitely planning on using it to start my school year.

I found Ashley Nicole's blog hop and I felt like this was one to climb on board!  Click on the cute graphic above to check out her cutie patootie blog!

It's hard to believe, but I'll be starting my 21st year of teaching and I hope that I never lose those butterflies that still fill my tummy after all of these years!  I think I'm really worse than the kids.  

I guess you could say I'm hopeless!

Here are my three jitters, in no particular order:

1.  We welcome a new principal to my school this year.  Five years ago, my wonderful principal and friend, Tina, brought me on board and gave me a chance to teach "my dream job."  After 15 years of teaching, I had never taught 4th grade and was really excited to finally be able to teach at that level!  It seems like I had taught everything but 4th.  Anywho, I know my new principal will be terrific, but Tina really understood my strengths and weaknesses, so it is scary to feel like "the new kid" all over again.  Because really, when new leadership arrives, we are the new kids all over again.  We have to prove ourselves to someone new.  I welcome the changes my new principal will bring, but there's an element of anxiety added to the mix.   That part's scary...

2.  I'm having surgery done next week, and I may not be able to start the school year with my kids.  I'm nervous and frightened...but I know that this is something that needs to happen and, in the end, everything should be for the best.  That doesn't take away the scary...

3.  I am the mom of an eleven-year-old son who is the light of my life.  I am married to my very best friend.  I am always a little nervous at the start of each year as to what sorts of obstacles will stand in our way, how we will learn from them, and what part of each experience will make us stronger and better people.  May we always rise to the occasion!

Monday, July 23, 2012

Monday Made It #6

Ok...lots and lots of Monday Made Its let's get started!  (I was a little bit of an overachiever this week, so stick with me!)  I actually had a few more ideas to share, but I'll save those for next week and give myself a week without creating something new...NOT!

Shades of Synonyms

Have you ever done those "dead words" with your kiddos?  You know, substitutions for the word "good" or the word "bad?"  I've personally done the dead word activity, complete with headstones, as part of a lesson on using the thesaurus to find synonyms for those words....or if you are a 6+1 sort of person...Word Choice! 

Independent practice of this skill in the form of a center activity will give me more time to work with my writers...that headstone activity takes up a lot of time and gets...old.  Student practice here is important!

Anywho...I have created this cute little center called "Shades of Synonyms."  Playing off the cute colors of these ADORABLE little lucite boxes that I picked up at The Container Store (love this joint!), I put together an activity that is based on a great vocabulary activity I picked up at one of the sessions offered at The Model Schools Conference in Orlando last month.

The presenter had us write 1 word on a sticky note with a total of 12 sticky notes.  Each word was a synonym for another word.  Think wonderful, terrific, brilliant, nice...all for the word "good."  Then, working together in a small group (partners, triads or foursomes), the group focuses on the words and puts them in order, kind of like on a paint chip sampler, with the lesser intense (weakest) word at the start and the most intense (strongest) word at the other end.  

The conversation we all had about the "word strength" of the words in the activity was pretty animated and lively and, at times, we checked out the meanings of the words and reset our rankings!  

Rigorous and relevant it was!  (This is a Model Schools thing...maybe your district or school is a part of this!)

To make your own Shades of Synonyms:

I have prepared two sheets of words with some synonyms that you can download, just by clicking on the list number. I felt that 12 synonyms for one word might be a little daunting for my 4th graders, so I culled the list to 7.   List #1 and List #2 have the lists that I have prepared for this activity.  Additionally, there is a word work sheet that you could prepare and laminate for your students, or, if you are like me, we keep a Word Play notebook and your kiddos could use a similar format...your call!  Find this word work sheet here.

In making the little lucite boxes, I just used 1 1/2 inch squares (using a square punch) and wrote the words on these little cards made of cardstock that I had in my scrapbookin' stash.  They were quick to make and my little sweeties will love handling these!  

If you'd like, include a box with a dictionary and thesaurus as this would be a marvelous opportunity to reinforce using these tools.  If you have technology readily available, do allow your students to use as another tool.

In my opinion, there are really no wrong or right answers that would require an answer key (unless having an answer key makes you feel better!).  In my classroom, the discussion that students would have in working their way through a Synonym Box would be plenty to observe and evaluate!

All the Colors in the Crayon Box Investigation:  Vocabulators...with a twist!

I've seen something called "Vocabulators" out in Blogland for quite a while.  Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics has them prominently displayed and has some great "how to" information on these wonderful word manipulatives.  Check out her blog entry here for more info.  There are others out there, but Tara's is my "go to" on Vocabulators and their uses!

I tried something similar with these mini paint cans from The Container Store.  I did find out the hard way that gumballs are a little heavy for these cans, so you really need to secure the bottoms and tops.  Hot glue works well here.  Then I put in the words.  You could use heavy cardstock or make little word blocks out of Fimo clay...I prefer the "Shrinky Dinks" medium myself.  I stamped the words on the Shrinky Dinks and threw them in the oven for about 2 minutes.  They turned out cute.  Here's one of the Color Cans for you to see, up close and personal!

Click here to get the recording sheet to go with the All the Colors in the Crayon Box Investigation Center!

The colors I used were red (scarlet, ruby, cardinal, crimson, vermillion), orange (tangerine, apricot, coral, salmon, cataloupe), yellow (gold, goldenrod, citrine, amber, blonde), green (emerald, chartreuse, loden, forest, olive), blue (azure, sapphire, periwinkle, cobalt, indigo), purple (amethyst, plum, violet, magenta, lilac) and pink (carnation, blush, rose, rouge, fuschia).

You could certainly choose your own shades.  I just went for color words that often pop up in a fourth grader's reading.  It seems to me that kids are always coming up with a question like "What's crimson?"  Expanding that vocabulary could never hurt!

Random Facts of Weirdness

Ok...I did take a little liberty here with a play on "Random Acts of Kindness."  You all know that our kids are prone to picking up the weird, strange, and just plain odd facts that are floating around out there. (Think about the cute kid from Jerry McGuire, telling Tom Cruise how much the human head weighs.)  It seems like every morning, I get at least one little honey telling me something interesting.  Unfortunately, when you are trying to wrangle kids, collect homework, respond to notes from home and send lunch money to the office, these great facts get lost.

Enter Random Facts of Weirdness!  Last year, I decorated a composition notebook with a goofy pair of glasses and some neat scrapbook paper and text and set it out in my classroom for my students to collect these weird facts.  The student writes their name, the date, the interesting fact and where they found that fact.  (Sidebar here:  This is a great place to work with students on citation and great resources!  Sometimes, we find that we hear these interesting things on the radio...and radio is truly a source that is valuable!)

Eventually, the Random Facts of Weirdness takes on a life of it's own, and my students start seeking it out during silent reading time (Oh my goodness!  We can find facts in our independent reading...even fiction!), center time, math, science, and Morning Meeting time!  Any time of the day is an appropriate time for Random Facts of Weirdness!

When it's finished for the year, the previous version makes its' way to a place of honor in your classroom library.  I love that each year's class has the opportunity to make such a contribution to our classroom library!

Here's the 2012-2013 version:

I just picked up the composition notebook and the goofy glasses at Dollar Tree and attached using a hot glue gun.  The text stickers came from my scrapbook stash.  

Writer's Notebook

My wonderful 4th/5th grade team was fortunate enough to attend an AMAZING Writer's Notebook workshop series two years ago.  Aimee Buckner is a fantabulous presenter and was so inspiring!  She recommends that teachers keep a Writer's Notebook alongside their students.  Here is my third (I can't believe it!) Writer's Notebook.  

I show this to my students on the first day of school and then send them home with their own composition notebooks.  They have three days to personalize their notebooks and bring them back to share.  

We use the Writer's Notebook to collect seed ideas, lists, and the like.  It's a place where we send our ideas to germinate and we "harvest" those ideas when we need to take our writing to a published piece of work.  The kids love it and I'm always thrilled with their response to this notebook.

My colleagues and I have developed an approach that allows us to take this notebook to the next level.  Flip the notebook over and upside down, and then have your students record writing "mini lessons" in the back.  Your Writer's Notebook becomes much more functional as a resource for grammar and 6 Trait features, entered by the student no less!

Check out Aimee's book for more information about using the Writer's Notebook.  It's a quick read with lots of great ideas!

Teacher's Organizational Tool (TOT)

I've been seeing these binders all over Pinterest and have been dying to put one together.  Of course, each teacher has his or her own system, but this idea really does put everything together in one handy and super-convenient place!

I considered the digital version of this, until I came across these really great binder dividers at Staples.  I pulled everything together with some cute polka-dot frames and added a few finishing touches from my scrapbookin' stash to create something that's really going to work for me.

Here are a few pix of the finished product:

Keep Calm and Teach

Every year, I put together a little Back to School gift for my team.  This year, our school's theme is "Rock Star."  I turned to Melanie over at Schoolgirl Style and found her Rock Star theme.  She had these really cute "Stay Calm and Teach On" graphics, suitable for framing in her Teacher's Notebook store as a download.  I believe I paid less than $5.00 for all eleven color choices in one easy-to-use PDF.  

So, after downloading and printing these cuties, I mounted them on some great glittery paper and put them in frou-frou frames (IKEA, $2.50) for the girls and I to use as part of our rockin' good theme!  Lots of fun and really easy on time and the wallet!

So, if you are feeling the pinch and need a little decorating inspiration, stop by and check out Melanie's blog.  You'll be glad you did!

Don't forget...sharing is caring!  I made a second set of each activity for my friend, "The Wonderful Linda!"  How about you?  Could you take one of these ideas (or any idea from a Monday Made It) and make a duplicate for a colleague/wonderful wonderful friend?

Here's to a creative and fun week!