What's Ahead in 2013? and a Freebie

I'm linking up with Making It As A Middle School Teacher for her year in preview party.
I'm not sure how much detail to go into here, but some of these things I've already blogged about, will blog about, or are self-explanatory.

And now I'm sharing a freebie that I use right away when we come back to school from break. It allows students to quietly share as they fill out the organizer and then "get it out of their system" so we can return to our regular lessons. Students draw or write about something fun, something new, something surprising, something special, something crazy, and something else. I give them about five to ten minutes to do this or longer if needed. Then I draw a stick and have the student share one thing from their paper. Click on the picture to get the free download.


New Toys and 100+ Followers!!

Over break, I received two new toys office products to play with! One I received as a gift, and one I asked the company to review.
First I'll do the review, and yes, it's for the pencil sharpener that everyone loves! Classroom Friendly Supplies sent me a sharpener so I could experience it for myself. I tried to go into the test run with an open mind, but knowing how much everyone else loves this sharpener made it difficult :) And everyone is right! I LOVE this sharpener! It gives the nicest point of any sharpener I've used. It seems to take away more of the wood casing to expose more lead, so the pencil can go longer between sharpenings (which apparently isn't a word, according to Blogger). And it's very reasonably priced, especially considering how long electric pencil sharpeners last (or don't last).
I had my first grader try it out to see how easy it was for her. I used the included brace to attach it to the table to hold it steady and demonstrated it a few times. The only part that she had a hard time with was pressing the black pieces together to insert and remove the pencil. She was physically able to do it, but she just kept forgetting that step. That will take a little practice. Each time she pulled out a pencil, she said, "Ooooo, sharp!" So she was obviously impressed as well! Or maybe it was because we finally had a decent sharpener in the house :) We used it to sharpen all of her colored pencils, too. Sorry to inform her that it's going to school! Thank you to Classroom Friendly Supplies for the sharpener!
The other thing that I'm excited about is my new electric three-hole punch. I put it on my Christmas list, and I actually squealed when I opened it. Then I received very odd looks from my family members, which, if they know me at all, they should have expected. Since I keep most of my papers in binders, this is an awesome gift. I also do social studies notebooks for three units for three sections of students. To translate, that's sixty-five copies of each page to punch. So yeah, I'm excited ;)

And speaking of excited, I reached 100 followers! Thank you to those of you who offered to help me with my giveaway. If anyone else is interested in offering something for my giveaway, please let me know by the end of the year. I'd like to conduct my giveaway after the new year :) And thank you and "hi" to all of my new followers! It's very flattering to think that there are 100 people that considered reading about my experiences, so thanks again!

New Anchors Away Linky

Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher is starting a new monthly linky called Anchors Away. It is dedicated to anchor charts.

I have three charts that I'll be sharing this month.
The first one I used a lot when my fifth grade class was more self-contained and students stored their personal supplies in their desks. We developed this desk rubric so I didn't have to answer the question "Is my desk clean?" twenty-four times every Friday. We started with what we thought a 5 desk would look like, what a 1 desk would look like, and then what a 3 desk would look like. In order for them to go to Friday Fun, their desk had to be at a 4 or 5 (some of my students preferred their books to be flat instead of standing). I still had one or two insecure students who just needed that verbal reassurance, but for the most part, I had no questions. I was able to have a student be the official desk-checker just to make sure that students weren't sneaking out before they had a clean desk. It made the expectations very clear.
The second anchor chart that I've used frequently is a copy of the word collector from CAFE. I use one for every novel that we do, and the kids love finding words to add. I usually call on four to five kids per chapter to add one of their words to our class collector. After we've talked about the meanings, I will give them a sentence with a word missing, and they have to find the word that fits in the sentence.
The last anchor chart is from when I used to teach math. The G stand for gallon, the Q's are for quarts, the P's are pints, and the C's are cups. So if you want to know how many cups are in two quarts, you count up the C's that are in two Q's. Very handy!

That's it for now. Go link up with Adventures of a 6th Grade Teacher so I can see your anchor charts :)


Is It Break Yet?!

What an exhausting week! First of all, I've been fighting this nasty cough since Thanksgiving. The running joke is that "I can quit smoking whenever I want!" I don't smoke, but I have *that* cough.

And my kids have been very talkative and rude to each other this week, so I put them on a class point sheet. In previous years, I have done point sheets for specific kids that have had problems with behavior, and I have done point systems for my class when they go to other teachers, but this is the first time that I've done a full point sheet for my whole class. Each day, one student will be responsible for getting it filled out by the teacher. We'll see if that can get me through break.

To start, I expressed my frustration with having to constantly redirect behaviors. It put me in a negative mood. Then I said that I thought that some of them felt the same way, too. So we had a Festivus-style airing of grievances (without using names, of course). From that list of grievances, I created five goals for the class. They can earn up to two points per goal per class, with a total of sixty points for the day. If they achieved 80% of that total, or 48 points, then they earn one day towards our class party (which will be a PJ/electronics day). I randomly award PBIS bucks to a student for every extra point above 48, so four extra points means that four randomly drawn students would get a PBIS buck. For every point that they were short, they owed me a minute after school with their heads down and no talking. The earned exactly enough on Wednesday, owed me four minutes on Thursday, and today is looking good. Here is what the point sheet looks like.
We spent most of the week preparing for Thursday's explorer test. One of the favorite review games is Wordo, which is pretty much like Bingo. Students fill in their own boards with terms and phrases that I project on the board. Then I read sentences or definitions that go with each term of phrase. Five in a row wins. For the first few rounds, I let students raise their hand to answer the questions so we can all hear the correct answers. After they have heard each clue once or twice, then I don't call on anyone, but I do allow them to quietly help their neighbors. This allows the lower-ability students to still participate (and win). I allow the students to win more than once. However, when a student who has already won that day wins again, I still let them get a prize. But instead of making everyone else clean off their boards, I keep going with the game until we get a new winner for the day. It helps to keep the mood positive if the same kids (who probably studied at home for the test) keep winning. Another variation that I do with about ten minutes left in class is to let them trade boards. Then when someone wins, the person whose board s/he's using wins, too! So if John won, and John used Mary's board, they both get prizes. They love it, and it gets them cheering for each other!

I also started my TpT store. It's pretty weak, but I wanted a place to put things that I wrote about on Fifth Grade Freebies. I don't know if I'll ever have anything that would cost something, since I'm still trying to get a handle on what fonts and clip art I can and cannot use for commercial use. And if buying the commercial license would be worth it...
And we started using Kristen's Season's Readings. The kids really like the one where you design the ornaments. Of course, they love anything where you get to draw!

Ten more days until break!

I'm linking this post up to a Friday Flashback :)


December Monday Made It

I have three things to share for this edition of Monday Made It. I will say that they were all adapted from things that I saw and they are not my original ideas :)

The first one is similar to last month's project. Tara made a "Be Merry" banner, but I redid it to fit my pennant theme. The background is from Maree Truelove, and the font is DJ ChunkM from DJ Inkers.
The second one is an adaptation of something that I saw on I Love My Classroom. I wanted to change them a bit so they would work with my class, who I only see three times a day. I wanted to make a color image that I could display on my board, and then have something that students would have to turn in to me to be accountable (sometimes they have a hard time being nice to each other, which is why I wanted to do this in the first place). I made task cards for five days, and then they will draw new names next Monday and the following Monday. The clipart is from Melonheadz and the font is DJ Holly Days from DJ Inkers.

The last one is something that I found on Pinterest. The original picture is much prettier, but all I had was a pink tomato cage (I'm not sure why my husband bought pink for his tomato plant. I HATE tomatoes!) and colored lights, some of which don't work, which I discovered after wrapping it all up first :/ Oh, well!


Noun Foldable, Turkeys in Disguise, and Gift of Giving

This week, we are working on a noun foldable that I found on Pinterest (of course). Here is the original link. We just finished up our nouns unit, and I thought that this was a nice summary of what we learned before they are assessed.

I also assigned the take-home portion of our turkey in disguise activity. I got the idea from Stephanie at Teaching in Room 6. I can't wait to see what they do! We will be doing a persuasive writing activity next week. So far, I've gotten the Kool-Aid Man, a rainbow with clouds, Blake Shelton, and a soccer goal keeper with the face of Taylor Lautner. I'm also finding out how weird some of my students are...

Update: Here they are!

One students made my neighbor teacher this cute little turkey. Maybe my girls and I can whip some up for the grandparents...

Wednesday was our readathon for the fundraising that we did to sponsor four district families for Christmas. Our entire fifth grade (approximately 130 kids) took on this responsibility. Later in the month, parent and teacher volunteers will help the kids go shopping for the families using the money that was raised for the readathon. Following that spree, there will be two days of wrapping during study hall. This is my first year that I've been involved in the project, but another fifth grade teacher has been doing this with her class for years. We decided this year to take it on as a grade level and try to help out four families in need. We ended up raising $1500!

It's hard to believe that we're halfway through another quarter, which means another round of conferences on Monday. I'm not sure that I ever got a break during those four hours last time! I met with twenty-four sets of patents! Hopefully things will be slower this time.
This week we also looked at new basal textbook series that are aligned with common core. One was Houghton Mifflin. Do any of you recommend a series?

Fun Friday, Friday Flashback, and Vikings

And linking up with Amanda for her Friday Flashback.

This week we focused on the Vikings in social studies. The highlight was writing with Viking runes.
First we talked about the runes and how they compared to our letters. They said that some of them look like our letters and some stand for more than one letter. We also talked about why we thought that they were primarily composed of straight lines. Then I wrote them a message that they had to decode. Their assignment was to write a message about Vikings back to me. They thought that this was awesome and wanted to know if they could keep the sheets so they could write secret messages to each other.

In literacy, we focused on writing number notes using the Write Tools program by Alice Greiner. I highly recommend this program for writing. Number notes is a pre-writing outlining strategy. Here is an example that we did for Native Americans.
From here, you write four different kinds of topic sentences - declarative statement, number sentence, question, and situation/stance. Pick one to be your topic sentence and one to be your concluding sentence. If anyone is interested, I can go into further detail in another post.

So that's what's been going on this week. Thanks for stopping by!


Seven Reasons for Exploration

A few years back, I started using Hands-On History: Explorers by Michael Gravois to use with our textbook to make things more hands-on for my early explorers unit. I also use his Colonial and American Revolution ones as well.

The first activity that I use is the Seven Reasons for Exploration activity. You start by making a cute mini-book out of a sheet of paper. Here are the visual steps.

You can use this book for anything! After filling out each reason (curiosity, wealth, fame, religion, national pride, better trade routes, and foreign goods), students glue their booklet on the first page of their explorer notebook and title and decorate it.

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