Friday, August 29, 2014

Five for Friday!

Happy Friday! I'm linking up with Doodlebugs for one of my favorite linky parties...

Genius Hour has arrived in my classroom! If you aren't familiar with Genius Hour, it's a set time every week that students are allowed to work on any project of their choosing. You can read more about it at They suggest a set hour every week, but my plan is a little more flexible than that because we don't have an extra hour in our schedule!
So far my students and I are all so excited about these projects. I have students who want to convince the government to reopen the Space program, one who wants to learn about and create fashion designs, several who want to learn website/blog creation & design, and so many more great ideas. One pair even intends to "raise awareness for spider safety" by researching and creating a video on all the reasons we need spiders.

Once we get things going a little more, I will definitely be doing a detailed post about how I've implemented it and how it is going.

Wednesday, I had my first substitute of the year while I was out at training. The first sub day is always a little nerve-wrecking for me. (I'm not sure if I'm more worried about my kiddos or the sub!) I was out at a training for Schoology, an online learning management site that our district has adopted. All in all, it wasn't bad for a training day. We had lots of time to actually work in the system instead of being lectured to! I'm sure there will be more info coming about Schoology and how the Teaching Trio uses it to facilitate our Flipped Classroom lessons!
Today, I get to present two PD sessions at my school. The first is on Schoology, which you just read that I went to a training for on Wednesday. The second is the one I'm excited about though... Teachers in my building frequently ask me where I find such great ideas. As much as I wish I could say that I am just extremely creative and talented, I think we all know the answer is "I get them from the internet." In fact if you're here reading this, chances are good that you get a lot of your ideas online too! 

I'll be sharing the best blogs and Pinterest boards I know with them, and I've created a couple of linkys on my Chalk & Apples site for them (and blog-world) to refer to. I'd love some more of you to link up your blogs and Pinterest boards that are filled with great ideas, not just products. Head over to Chalk & Apples to link up. Blogs are herePinterest boards are here. Feel free to link up more than once!

My favorite season has arrived! No, not fall, it's hotter now than it has been all summer, hovering around 100 degrees most days. I'm talking about FOOTBALL season! College football to be exact. Don't get me wrong, I'll watch the NFL with my hubby on Sundays, but Thursday night and Saturday is where it's at for me!

Where else can you watch a team who's down 3+ scores in the third quarter play like they were only down one and their lives depended on this win? Sadly, I'm referring to my team, who just lost our season opener to a team whose initial ranking was way below ours. :( Lucky me, I'm familiar with the rise and fall of emotions in college football, since my team seems to be best at raising expectations with several great games, and then crushing them with a big loss. What can I say, I'm a loyal fan! You'd be hard pressed to find a Gamecock fan who wasn't loyal. 

By the way... ^that^ is the best place on the planet to watch college football! Magic happens in that stadium. Sadly, I'm 9 hours away from home these days, so my best hope is that we get tickets to watch my Gamecocks play Vanderbilt since it's in Nashville this year. (Hear that, hubby... September 20th... a couple of weeks after my birthday... just sayin'!)

Last but certainly not least...

This guy comes home tomorrow! (That's my favorite picture from the last time he came home.) He's only been away a month this time, but if I had to choose the worst month to be single-parenting it, I would definitely say August. It's just tough to get everything done for back to school, plus all the TPT back to school madness, plus trying to still be a good mom to my little guy. On a side note, if you're a full-time single-parent-teacher, you have my utmost respect. I don't know how you do it all the time.  I feel a little like I've been running a marathon for the past month, and I can't wait to s-l-o-w down! Fingers crossed that he gets to take leave during our Fall Break, and we can do a relaxing family vacation. I know we all need it!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Tech Thursday: A Teacher's Best Friend

Technology Thursday is a weekly linky dedicated to all things technology related. Share reviews of websites or apps you've tried, tech tips that make your {teaching or personal} life easier, and helpful tutorials. Our hope is that this linky provides a place for teachers to share and learn new ways to use technology and engage students!

Be a rule follower!
Rule #1: You must include the image above and a link to our linky somewhere in your blog post.
Rule #2: Follow the Rule of Three...visit the two blogs who link up before you and the one immediately after you and leave some love on their pages!
Rule #3: This linky is not intended for product promotion. You may include products you've created in your posts, but they should not be the sole focus of the post. {Exception...freebies...because everybody loves a good freebie!}

I found a new website!  I am so excited!  My friend, Lora, always moans just a little when I tell her this.  Probably because I say it a lot.  I am always on the hunt for some site that will help connect my students to our content in an exciting way.  

Well, I hit the MOTHER LOAD, baby! 

Eureka! I haven't found gold; I've found Graphite! that is.

Don't have much time to search for new apps, games, and websites for your budding Einsteins? 

Found a website but not sure if it is worthy of your time and effort?  

Wondering if a certain .com is going to keep your students' attention?  

Have no fear.... is here!

Graphite is a free website designed specifically for teachers.  It's purpose is to make life a little easier on us teachers by providing a central location for digital learning and helping us make the best choices about which of these tech tools to use in our classrooms.  Graphite is a guide to help build a community of teachers that are sharing what they have learned and experienced with digital learning. reviews apps, games, and websites.  Each is reviewed by a panel of leading educators which give the technology a "learning rating".  Then the item under review receives a "teacher rating" based on what the "little folk" or, you and me, think.

Teachers can filter searches by type of tech (game, app, or website), grade, price, and Common Core standard.

Here is the coolest part.  You can create a free account and save your favorites to digital bulletin boards called "boards".  No more searching!

If you want to get involved, you can leave your feedback on the apps, games, and websites that you and your students have used in the classroom.  These teacher reviews are called "field notes". Reading the field notes from other teachers will give you a good grasp of what the tool will do or not do.

I found Graphite really easy to use and very user friendly.  (Ha!  This is like my "field note" on the website Graphite!)  Graphite even has video how-to's on anything you might want to know about the site.  These are located in the Teacher Center.

I am hooked! will now be the FIRST place I go when looking for new sites to use in the classroom!

Let me know what you think!

Monday, August 25, 2014

Why We Should be Reading Picture Books

Today I am linking up with Teach Mentor Texts for What Are You Reading?.

What are your favorite books for the beginning of the school year?  I love showing my 3rd graders that reading is fun and exciting.  

Picture books can still be a great gateway into the world of reading for our young students.  Many teachers give up on picture books too early.  I believe picture books still have much to offer our aging students. 

  1. They give us an opportunity to share a complete story in a short amount of time.  
  2. They are numerous and offer a huge variety of books for every genre.  
  3. Most 3rd- 5th graders are already reading chapters books so they breeze on by the picture section of the library.  Since they are reading chapter books on their own, why not read picture books to them in class?  
  4. I love the way picture books give us an opportunity to show off how to use expression correctly.  Make the books come alive for your kiddos!
  5. They also allow us teachers to involve students with shared reading when we read books that have patterns or are well known. I always tell students which part is theirs when we start a book like this.  They love joining in on the reading.
  6. I also enjoy the intimate way I can share picture books with my students.  I have a carpet area  and rocking chair for just this reason.
  7. Picture books have a rich language too!  Thinking that all picture books are stripped down literary pieces is just plain wrong.
  8. Since I still enjoy reading some of these books over and over, why wouldn't my students enjoy hearing them again?  There is something wonderful about coming home to a dearly loved book.
  9. Many picture books are multi-layered just like novels.  Students can gleam different things each time they read the book.  Have you ever looked at the size of the illustrations in Where the Wild Things Are?  Why do they get bigger and then decrease in size?
  10. Picture books give us a great opportunity to compare examples of an author's work!  It is so fun to read all of my favorite Audrey Woods books and compare and contrast them with the students.

Here are a few of my favorite back to school picture books!  What are your favorites?

Friday, August 22, 2014

5 Favorite Harry Wongisms for Classroom Management

It's 5 for Friday Time!  Yay! I am linking up with Doodle Bugs for their popular Friday linky.

I am keeping with the Back to School theme again this week.  I feel like my year is still at the beginning stages, and I am in need of some encouragement.  

Who better to look to at the beginning of the year but Harry Wong and his iconic book "The First Days of School".  

If this is the first time you are hearing about this book, STOP reading my blog!  GO order it RIGHT NOW from the link above!  I bet that is the first (and last) time a blogger will tell you to stop reading her blog...

Seriously teachers, it is the ULTIMATE book on how to start a school year.  It doesn't matter if you are a veteran teacher or fresh out of student teaching- it's a book you need to read.  More than read it- you need to embrace it! You can't go wrong with Harry Wong!  (Sorry...I just had to. ;)

(I hope Mr. and Mrs. Wong will not be insulted by my blog title.  I mean it with all due respect since I try to read their book every year before starting school.)

Okay...first off, I have to try to limit this to just 5 to do that.......still thinking.......

Right here is where I went back and changed my graphic and added the "classroom management" subtitle.  This is what I need a refresher on in my jungle ummm classroom, so this is going to be my focus.

"The number one problem in the classroom is not discipline; it is the lack of procedures and routines."

This one statement changed my teaching life.  You have to actually TEACH students procedures and routines.  Now why didn't my professors teach me THAT in college?  You have to teach them how to get a sharpened pencil, hang up their backpacks, line up, get out a reading book, go to the library, come to the carpet, use the bathroom, get a drink, and all the other hundred things that happen during the school day.

An effective teacher HAS to have a PLAN for each of these instances AND has to teach the plan to the students.

Here's the thing, students want procedures. They want to KNOW how to go about doing something.  Be careful though and don't confuse procedures with discipline.  Discipline concerns how students behave while procedures involve how students will DO something.

I have to stay here for just a moment and continue with procedures on to number 2.    You have a plan and now you have told the plan to the students.  You have told them how to line up, get a sharpened pencil, go to the library, and so on.  This is NOT enough.  It's not enough to just have a plan.  It's not enough to tell the students how to do something or even to model it for them.

Effective teachers know that all procedures have to be rehearsed!  Mr. Wong states that the first weeks of school are filled with the practicing and rehearsing of all the classroom procedures.  Students cannot be expected to get every procedure right all in one day.  (I needed to be reminded of this one.)  Students need to practice the procedures step by step until it becomes routine and automatic.

The 3 steps to teaching classroom procedures are
1. Explain, model, or demonstrate the procedure.
2. Rehearse and practice the procedure with your class.
3. Reinforce your students with praise and more practice until it becomes routine.

Harry Wong believes that schools must have rules.  These rules provide students with a safe environment to learn without fear.  Classroom teachers need to have rules posted before students come to class.  He feels that there should be no more than 3-5 rules.  He also feels that changes can be made if a situation arises that calls for it.  Consequences can be positive or negative but should be plainly stated.

Mr. Wong's Cardinal Principle of Consequences: Do NOT stop teaching to give out a consequence!

Wow, it that hard to do or what?  Sometimes it is almost impossible.  I have found that this is really a challenge for me.  I am going to have rethink a few things.  What about you?

I must say the most fun Wongism is this one: greet your students at the door.  This is not a huge chapter in his book but almost a small aside.  He mentions it and there is a great picture of him smiling at the classroom door and holding out his hand in greeting.  He does say this, "What you do the instant the student enters the...classroom communicates immediately if the student is welcome there."  I love this.  I believe it sets the tone for the day.

I actually delay opening my door a few minutes so that I can have most of my students outside when I open my door.  I love, love, love looking them in the eyes and saying, "Good Morning!"  I am the master at a sideways, one-armed hug!  A few students prefer a touch on the shoulder or a handshake and that is fine too.

The other day I got a note from a student.  I know it is hard to read but the bottom says that "you greet us in the morning and we say it back."  Love!

I think that for some of my students it may be the only smile, welcome, and hug that they get in a day.  Here is a quote my friend found and posted on Facebook the other day.  I think it sums it up quite nicely.

In all of procedures and rules, consequences and rewards, an effective teacher has to be consistent.

Day in, day out, Monday through Friday, August through June, we teachers have to maintain our stance.  We cannot waver. We have to diligently plan,  be persistent in our procedures, and unfailing in our devotion to our job and our students.  We cannot give in to aching feet, soccer mom-itus, or baby-stayed-up-all-night-blues.  We have to perform every day at optimum ability or close to it.  Because our students need us- day in, day out, Monday through Friday, August through June.

I am trying my best not to fail them.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Wordless Wednesday 8/20/14

Welcome back to Wednesday day y'all! I am linking up with Ms. DeCarbo for Wordless Wednesday!

Who or what stands in the way of you getting your work done? :)

Tech Thursday: Brain Breaks with GoNoodle

Technology Thursday is a weekly linky dedicated to all things technology related. Share reviews of websites or apps you've tried, tech tips that make your {teaching or personal} life easier, and helpful tutorials. Our hope is that this linky provides a place for teachers to share and learn new ways to use technology and engage students!

Be a rule follower!
Rule #1: You must include the image above and a link to our linky somewhere in your blog post.
Rule #2: Follow the Rule of Three...visit the two blogs who link up before you and the one immediately after you and leave some love on their pages!
Rule #3: This linky is not intended for product promotion. You may include products you've created in your posts, but they should not be the sole focus of the post. {Exception...freebies...because everybody loves a good freebie!}

Do you GoNoodle yet?

The Teaching Trio does! In fact all three of us love using GoNoodle in our classrooms!

GoNoodle is a free site (although there is a Plus membership available) filled with fun Brain Break videos and activities for your class! I use the shorter videos as brain breaks during the day, and the longer ones as a reward at the end of the day for whole class behavior. If students "win" our Teacher vs. Student game for the day, they get to pick a GoNoodle video to do. Here are some of their favorites: 

Hurdles - students practice running and jumping in this and a variety of other track & field events.

Maximo - funniest yoga instructor ever! He has my whole class cracking up while we stretch.

Zumba - This is a scene from "I Like to Move It," but my class has loved all of these.

One of their favorite things about GoNoodle is that the longer we play, the more our Champ grows and changes! They love to see him go into the "Transmogrifier" and come out with extra arms and bigger muscles!

What kind of brain breaks do you use in your class? Is GoNoodle part of your routine?

Don't forget to link up your Tech Tips, App & Website recommendations!


Monday, August 18, 2014

Classroom Must-Have: a Teacher Toolbox (or 2!)

As we begin a new school year, many of us are looking for something new that makes our teaching lives easier. A few of my fellow Tennessee bloggers have joined together to bring you some of our classroom must haves, just in time for Back to School! For a little added bonus, we are also offering one lucky reader a Winner's Choice item from each of our TPT stores, so don't forget to enter the Rafflecopter at the end of this post!

My Classroom Must-Have is defintely a Teacher Toolbox... or 2 of them! I first ran across the teacher toolbox idea on Pinterest a little over two years ago. I made my first one that summer, and have added a second this year.

If you aren't familiar with them, the teacher toolbox is just a hardware organizer that you can buy at Lowes, Home Depot, or even order on Amazon. We teachers are using them to store all kinds of things... most commonly those office supplies that clutter up your desk!

Of course, being teachers, we can't leave them ugly plain, so we all pretty them up in our own way! I spray painted this one turquoise, and used my Chevron label kit in it last year, but this year I changed it to my Perfect Patterns labels. (More about changing them in a minute.)

This one holds all of my brag tags for my fifth graders. I found it on Amazon, and it was already black, so I just went with it! You can find lots of different sizes & combinations of drawer types on Amazon now...woohoo!

In my opinion, the trick is to Mod Podge the labels onto the inside of the drawers. I did this last year with my Chevron labels, and when I wanted to switch them to match my Perfect Patterns classroom, they peeled right off! It was perfect! 

A little tip for you...if you have an inkjet printer, mod podge will smudge the ink. BUT... you can eliminate this problem by spraying the entire page with cheap aerosol hairspray before you mod podge!

I now have 20 different patterns in my TPT store, and they continue to be best sellers. Just for fun, I'm making my latest Teacher Toolbox Label Kit a flash freebie now through Wednesday, August 20th! Click the link below to see all of the options and download the freebie!

Hop over to my friends' pages to check out their Classroom Must-Haves! Then, be sure to enter our giveaway for a chance to win your choice of items from each of our stores!


Since this is a Made-It, I'm also linking up for Monday Made-It at 4th Grade Frolics!

a Rafflecopter giveaway