Thursday, July 31, 2014

Blogger Product Swap

I know it seems like those words Back to School should be outlawed, but alas, we are teachers, and we have a mission to make learning fun.  Today, I am linking up with Cara Taylor over at Cara's Creative Playground for Blogger Product Swap, and I was lucky to be matched up with another blogging buddy, Mynda Rivera at B is for Bilingual to review her adorable Back to School writing project.  Here is a preview collage of the second grade English set.  

This product includes several teaching options.  Students can make a Bus Shape Book that includes all of the important information for the first day...bus number, who I met first, my favorite part of the day, a first day book review, and information like this.  What a wonderful keepsake to compare to the end of the year too!  Here is a close up of the Bus book. Again...each piece comes in both English and Spanish.  
If you are a teacher who prefers a little less cutting and pasting, Mynda has also created memory book pages that could be simply bound in a 12 x 18 construction paper cover too.  These pages allow enough room for the child to write a few sentences in the blocks, or for K-1 students, there is adequate space for drawing and labeling too.  Here's a sample page from one of the second grade pages.
Finally, Mynda has included a few pages for expanded writing and photographs.  I can see taking a photo of each child or a class photo on the first day for the first page and having the kids write in more detail on page 2.
If you are interested in this product for your classroom, you can see a more thorough product description by clicking on the preview collage below.  I know I can't wait to use the kindergarten version with my new friends at the start of the year, and I hope you'll jump over and check it and other products Mynda has available at B is for Bilingual.  
Before you go, here is a preview of the product that Mynda is reviewing on her blog.  You can win a copy of both or purchase them at a discounted price.  Just click the preview above to access Mynda's file in her store or the preview I have below for my product, Concept of Word Poems.  My Concept of Word poems are on sale this weekend for $5.00 (30% off) through Sunday.  (just in case you don't win).  Good luck in the Raffle, and be sure to check out the many wonderful products for Back to School listed on each blog below.
The rafflecopter will be running Thursday through Saturday, and the winner will be announced early Sunday morning.  Good luck to you!

Have a great year!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Writing About It Wednesday...Must Have Decor

Last week, I started getting my room ready for this next year, and I decided to snap a few pictures of a few decor pieces that have really been helpful to me.  I haven't done much with decor design, but what I have made has really been used by my students.  

The first item I'm going to share with you are the phoneme cards I created.  They have been a huge help for getting my students to think for themselves about spelling.  I have them displayed in a prominent location for the kids to use when writing.  When they ask me to spell a word for them, I refer them to the wall over and over again.  What I encourage them to do is write their words on a dry erase board in all the possible ways they think it could be spelled and think about how they normally see it in books.  Many words are spelled correctly using these strategies.  Here's a glimpse of how I have displayed the phoneme cards.  

Another use of these cards is during word study introduction.  They work well as anchor charts that you could display on a focus board or wall during the week.  Here's the focus wall I have made to use for this year using an oil drip pan I purchased from Walmart for $12.00.  I used it during camp, and I am so excited about how it will help me with guided reading groups this year.  
There are four options in my store now, but if you have a particular design you like, I am glad to change the background for you.  Just purchase one of the sets and email me with the colors you need (  It doesn't take long to revise, and I'll add new options to my store after.  


A few years ago, I took The Skillful Teacher course, and one requirement for us is to post encouraging statements around our rooms, and I think this really is a great culture builder.  I looked for inspirational quotes, and I created signs to display to go with my animal print theme.  My colleague across the hall really liked them and requested some in green and purple...her colors. Of course, I said yes.  (She's my buddy!)  I actually grouped them in my room for greater impact, but you could post them one per month by your door or project them for morning messages or during testing time to encourage positive attitudes.
Finally, I LOVED this last item, and it is a reading vocabulary word wall.  I used clothes pins to mark words we were focusing on during our lessons.  Here's a glimpse of it on my board.

I referred to the words often to ensure my students were familiar with what they mean.  It takes 15 exposures for a vocabulary word to become known, and yet, test makers often throw these types of words into the question stems used for standardized testing.  If students have not been taught what the words mean, it makes it impossible to answer questions knowledgeably about a topic.  

Thanks for dropping by, readers, and be sure to come back tomorrow for two exciting posts, but before you go, grab this decor freebie that you can project or post by your door.

Now...I'm off to the beach with my youngest. Tonight, we're off to Pirate Adventures...should be lots of fun!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Two Reading Products for Tuesday

Well, it's Two for Tuesday at The Teaching Tribune, and I've chosen my poetry sets as the products to link up.  Each poem is an original that I've written.  I used a few of them this summer with my summer reading camp kids, and they really loved them.  They come with clip art and with line art so that they can be projected for teacher modeling (color) and printed for the students to color.  The kids love that part.  

So, just what can you do with the poems?  With my groups, I use slash marks to mark phrases as I introduce the poems to the students.  You can also highlight in two colors (alternating lines) to make a partner poem where children take turns reading (like Reader's Theater).  If you are working on sightwords, you can have the kids circle, underline, or highlight them (I Spy Style).  Finally, for Word Study, students can locate words that follow the spelling patterns of the week.
$2.00 for Today

The second item I am choosing are my Comprehension Workmats. These can be mounted on construction paper, laminated, and bound with comb bindings to create a quick center activities or materials for guided reading.  You can also slide them into sheet protectors to use with dry erase pens for repeated use as well, or just copy for independent work and assessment.
$3.00 for Today
Hope it's a beautiful day where you are, and thanks for reading!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Kickin it up a Notch at Reading Camp...Weather Style

Hello from sunny Myrtle Beach, South Carolina!  Yes indeedy...this girl ended up getting a vacation after all. Summer reading camp finished up Friday, and we decided on Tuesday to rent a beach condo for a last minute vaca!  I am so excited to spend some quality time with my daughter while the rest of the family remained at home doing teenager things with our German guest.  (High School graduates are not very thrilled about their little sisters showing up to their youth group to the rescue!)  Okay...he didn't have to twist my arm too much.  We're going to have a GREAT week!  

Speaking of the great weather at the beach.  How about I share a bit about our last week of summer reading camp?  I expect some of my readers teach by themes or include weather as part of science. (All week, I stressed to the kids we were not doing school.  We were having science camp, art camp, reading camp, and writing camp!  It's all in how you spin things, right??)  

I'll start off with the bibliography.  Here are the books I pulled for the week.  Some were read alouds, but most we had as sets in our tradebook collection, so that worked out beautifully.  

Of these, my favorite of course was Thunder Cake since I adore Patricia Polacco, but I also loved the Weather book by Usborne.  It hit the reading level of my kids perfectly, and they were just amazed by the interesting information shared within the book.  The kids just loved making thunder cake with me, and ironically, we had a thunderstorm the night before.  

During the week, the children completed these wonderful activities in conjunction with the literature we read, and they were all FREE!  (even better, right!)  
Weather Instrument Matching CardsWeather Poster Research ProjectWEATHER PALOOZA FREEBIEWeather Tools PoemWeather Vocabulary Matching GameCloudy With A Chance Of Meatballs Weather Mobile Craftivit
Weather FreebieClouds Activity FREEBIE - The Amazing World of Clouds
Here are a few pictures of my group in action.  They were so excited to break in my room for the year too.  :-) Love this reading time shot.  
I loved doing this project with the kids.  On one side...Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs craftivity, and on the other side??  Weather Wonders....all the interesting things they learned for the week.  
Many schools require some to attend summer school in the summer, but I have to say Patriot Summer Camp is much more appealing.  If you have a local college in your community, build a partnership.  Seek out the program coordinator and see if you might be able to join forces to provide an enrichment opportunity like this.  We had so much fun and so did the children.

Until next time, happy reading!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Leveling Your Classroom Library-Scan, Add, Store

As I gear up for ah-hem...Back to School, I've tried to do a few things I've been meaning to do to help manage my classroom more efficiently.  One of those things is organizing my classroom library.  I have an addiction to purchasing books like most reading specialists, and I definitely can not pass up a good book for a great price.  Alas, it means I have A LOT, and I wouldn't have it any other way. Sadly though, each year, I lose books due to my own disorganization.  I fail to hold my students accountable for returning what they borrow (mainly because I'm too busy planning, prepping, and teaching), but I believe I have a solution to this dilemma thanks to some wonderful input via my Facebook page. 

Last week, I asked my readers for a little help in finding a way to level, inventory, and manage my books.  My plan is to have a library that looks like this one from Kinder Craze Blog when school starts. 

The first step is to determine what system you'd like to use for leveling.  I asked my readers, and I got wonderful feedback and very helpful advice as well as many who tagged the conversation for future reading.  If you're interested in reading what my readers suggested, you can locate that thread [here]. The responses overwhelmingly suggested using Scholastic Book Wizard, but because the app was not available in the Google Play store, I chose to go with Classroom Organizer from Book  Below are the steps you need to follow to do the same in your classroom.

Step #1-Download the app you choose from Google Play or I-Tunes  

The first thing I did was download the barcode scanner and Classroom Organizer from Google Play. You need the scanner in order to enter the information into the database on Classroom Organizer. The scanner reads the ISBN number on the back of the books and identifies the book title.  The other pieces of information come from Book Source's database.   One piece of information that was very clear from the feedback I received is that no one system has every book in its database, so what I like about Book Source's system is that I can enter titles manually that are not in their system and have a complete inventory.  

Step #2-Set up your Classroom Library with your computer using  

In our school, Accelerated Reader levels are used primarily, but I personally prefer Fountas and Pinnell.  What I decided to do is enter both options when I set up the database.  As books are scanned, the information I set up is recorded in a spreadsheet.  Here's a glimpse at the screen shots to show how it works.  (very simple)
When you log in, you select either teacher or student page.  If you are a student, you are prompted to log in.  Teachers have a secure login as well which accesses the database of books.

This shows the teacher the set up tab and library tab.  

Teachers set up the rules for student check out, and students can use both a computer or phone that has been set up.  I believe an I-pod would work as well which is something I will be exploring since we have a class set of them.

This shows the information that I wanted to pull into the spreadsheet.  I narrowed the list just to keep things manageable for me.  

This is what the database looks like as you add to it.  Notice the blue lines in the third columns.  These say "Add to Cart".  If a book is lost, the teacher can replace it through Book Source and access the price to share with the student and parent.

Step #3-Scan books and sort according to the level you believe they will end up.  
As I scanned my books, I began sorting them by level.  Once I complete scanning and enter manually those that were not in the database, then I'll print the spreadsheet for the organizing part.

Step#4-Organize the books in bins according to level, genre, series or topic.  
In my classroom, I have some books grouped by series, some by genre, some by level, and some by topic.  This is definitely teacher preference.  I know it helps my students to know which bin to visit. I can quickly make recommendations and point them in the right direction when I have a feel of what they like.  

Step #5-Train your students on how to check out and return books.  
Last spring, I got the privilege of hearing Donalyn Miller speak, and I loved hearing her tips on how she helps students select and manage their books.  She picks a few very organized students to be the library managers.  They receive in the returns, check them in, and shelve them.  With this system, I hope that it will be an efficient process that will help me avoid having our librarians miss instruction. That is my only concern with check outs and returns, but I guess in time I'll know.  Sometimes you just have to jump in with both feet and test the water, right??

As I complete this "adventure", I will return with pictures of my classroom library.  They may not look like the dream library I showed you, but I am determined it will be very, very close.  

Now, before you go, I'm a bit late, but I thought I'd add in two discounted items in this week's Two for Tuesday.  Since I'm so late adding them, they will remain discounted until Thursday morning. One set I'm discounting is my latest creation, Poetry for Your Pockets Yearly Bundle.  This is priced at $8.00 and includes  37 poems in Black and White and Color (for printing and projecting).  These are wonderful for working on fluency.  I've used several this summer with my summer reading camp, and I was so pleased that the kids loved them.  I even got to tell them that I wrote them myself (and a parent event commented that they good which made my day!)  Here is the preview.
The second discounted item is my Patricia Polacco bundle which includes twelve titles and 150 pages. Each unit is fully developed, and this bundle could be used throughout the year with read alouds, mentor texts for writing, or with guided reading groups.  All units are set up in a before, during, and after format to provide higher level thinking skills and writing opportunities.  You can purchase it for $14.00 which is $4.00 off.  
Have a great week, and until next time...enjoy your summer!


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