Tuesday Tried It - Ultimate Blogging Calendar

A month or so back, I purchased the {Ultimate Blogging Calendar} from Gina at {Third Grade Tidbits} and immediately three-hole punched it and put it into a binder. It has been very useful in keeping all of my blogging ideas in one place! There is a page where I can record all of the post ideas that I have for the month or the TpT items that I want to create. Another helpful page allows me to keep track of what I've donated or promised to donate to other bloggers' giveaways. And there's a fun little page where I can keep track of my stats from month-to-month. So if you need something to help keep your blogging ideas in one place, I think that this $5 item might do the trick for you!

Spark Student Motivation - Coupons

Two weeks ago, I shared my "secret person" thing that I'm doing with the prize line. Right now, my prizes are down to school supply items and baggies of suckers. But two of the most popular items don't cost me a cent!


Specifically, coupons for trading desks for a day and using a special chair. (Click on either picture to download your free copy.)
We are departmentalized, so students don't actually store their items in their desks. Well, they're not supposed to anyway. So trading desks for a day is really easy. First, it's just in my room, so the other teachers don't have to deal with it. Second, I don't have to deal with them sitting next to their friends all day. It's only a period or two. Totally tolerable. And free. It cracks me up to see how other friends negotiate with someone who has the coupon so it's a win-win situation for the displaced student as well. Or if they trade places with so-and-so, then so-and-so gets to sit by his "girlfriend." Too funny.

The other coupon is for a "special" chair. A few years ago, all of the rolling chairs in the computer lab were replaced, and I snagged one or two to use in my classroom. The intent was to use them for when I sat at the overhead or guided reading table or whatever because, hey, they were padded. Turns out, kids don't like sitting in hard chairs all day either. So earning a coupon to use a more comfortable chair for a day is pretty motivating, too!
Free classroom coupons


Pronoun Foldable and End-of-the-Week Linkies

The weather is finally starting to improve this week and it should be a beautiful weekend in the Midwest! I am so excited to have the chance to get out in the garden and get some new things planted. And it will be great to let the girls play outside!

1. Early in the week, we wrapped up our study of pronouns. As we did with {nouns} and {verbs}, we made a foldable. I've really embraced foldables this year. With this class, the more that I can get them cutting and folding, the better they are. They are such a fidgety class that I need to put some of that behavior to good use.
2. I've been working a LOT in PowerPoint this week. I'd like to thank everyone who has posted tips and tutorials over the past few months. I have learned so much! Tonight I made my daughter's birthday invite. Now I need to learn how to make my own clip art!

3. I can't help it. I have to reinvent the wheel. My kids LOVE the Reading Olympians root word study program, but I had to make some additions and changes to fit this group of kids. Now, please understand this, when I get something stuck in my head, I have to do it even though the original is perfectly fine. It all started when I wanted to create a recording sheet for each set of roots so that students could write down words they find and earn beads. And of course I had to have the cute clip art on it, so I bought the set from the 3 AM Teacher. This is what I made and copied on orange paper to match the set color:

This is actually an older version. I tweaked a few things in the list of root and the size of the font for the name line. What can I say, I'm OCD. Anyway, then I thought, wouldn't it be better use of my limited paper if I could put six cards on a page for their binder rings? And my kids punch holes way too close to the edge of the paper, so I put little circles where they punch.
Then, of course, some of my kids needed to retake the Nike quiz, and I didn't want to give them the same one, so I made a retake version. And since everything has to look the same in my world, I decided just to redo everything I use. So, hours later, I finished recreating the wheel for the Nike set. And since I was in a groove and everything would be fairly easy to swap out, I did the Poseidon set, and so on. So that is what has been eating up most of my week. Totally unnecessary, but yet something my brain said that I had to do.
4. My Donor's Choose materials arrived! It's hard to believe that all of this cost $350. I'm a little nervous about the thank-yous that we have to prepare. Any tips that you have for me would be greatly appreciated!
5. An obligatory shot of my garden this week. The daffodils are blooming!!

Student Motivation - What's Working This Week

I've done the whole "secret person" thing for about twelve years, but usually just during May when I'm desperate. It was highly motivational because I would take the student and a friend out to lunch at Subway, Wendy's, whatever was close to the school. It was expensive, yes, but totally worth it. This classroom management strategy seems to be more common now, but I drew a stick every morning and kept it a secret. Throughout the day I'd say things like "I'm looking to see if my person of the day is on task" as I scan the room. Of course, they try to figure out who I'm looking at, but I'm very good at it :) And then at the end of the day I'd say who it was if they made it, or say that the person didn't make it and not reveal the person.

Well, now that I'm at the middle school, I don't have my kids all day and we only have a half-hour lunch. So instead of trying to secretly communicate to each of their teachers who the secret person is that day, I decided to do this by period. Instant gratification. So each period, I draw a stick and a back-up for the class that is currently in my room. If at the end of the period if the secret person has behaved appropriately, he or she gets to choose two items off of my prize line.
My prize line contains school supplies, coupons, chips, and other little random things that I've collected over the years. I decided to string the line at the front of the room where I do my whole-class teaching so that the prizes are constantly in their line of sight. If the first person didn't make it, then I determine if the back-up made it. Of course, I don't reveal who it was if they don't make it. So far it's been working very well. Yes, I've given away around eight prizes a day, but only a few of those things cost me money. And even those things have made it worth it.


Tried It Tuesday - Truffula Trees

This week for Tried It Tuesday, I'm going to share something that I did last year. When The Lorax was out in theaters, there were a whole bunch of Lorax-themed projects floating around Pinterest. I did The Lorax with my fifth graders for Earth Day, and I made these truffula trees for my room. The original pin is {here}.

Here are my trees:

There were pretty easy. The most difficult part was to figure out how to make them stay on the wall. I actually used the tufts as decoration in my room this year. You can make them out in the corners of the room from my first day of school picture.

And on another totally unrelated note, it drives my Type-A personality bonkers when I'm using a teacher-made unit that has so many inconsistencies in formatting that I just want to redo the entire document. Even if that document is hundreds of pages long (which it is in this case). Does that bother anyone else, or just me? Like, how hard is it to align things so that when I cut them out it doesn't take forever? And if you're color-coding something, why can't you use the same shade of that color throughout the document? Rest assured, none of this is directed at any of you (I don't think - I guess I don't know who might be following me...). I'm too passive-aggressive to actually say anything to the teacher. ;) And along those lines, if you ever download one of my products and you see inconsistencies, PLEASE let me know! I promise you that I will NOT be offended or think that you are being nit-picky!

DIY Brag Tags (April Monday Made It)

I recently talked about my experience with ordering brag tags, and I decided that I wanted to see if this was something that I could incorporate fourth quarter to help with classroom management. I am also trying out the Reading Olympians program as part of the Pass the Torch linky, and I think that they have beads and tags in that program, too.

My first thought was, "How are we going to know whose necklace is whose?" I thought about writing their names on the back of one of the tags. But they wouldn't have any tags yet. They have to earn them. Then I wondered if I could have tags made with their names on them, which would be expensive since each tag would be custom. Then I wondered if I could write their names on a piece of cardstock, cut them to shape, and then laminate them. And then I decided to mess with PowerPoint. End result... {names changed to protect the not-so-innocent ;)}

Here is how I made the template:

After that, it was simply print, laminate, cut, and punch a hole for the ball chain. I used a 1/8" punch. I can now make all of the personalized and custom tags that I want. Of course, the quality isn't the same as the original, but it's a good substitute if you want the motivation but don't have the budget for a bunch of tags. If I could figure out how to make a PPT template so that you can edit mine instead of creating your own, I would. So if you know of a tutorial or a way to do it, please email me or leave me a comment! :)

I have uploaded some templates to TpT. Check them out by clicking on the following picture. They are $1.00.

My other project this month was to try to preserve my oldest daughter's favorite t-shirt. You would not believe the lengths that I went through to find this shirt. Her then-bestie showed up to daycare with one, and she had to have one, too! It involved trips to all areas Targets and desperate please for help on Facebook. Anyway, this shirt has been well-loved, and the holes in it showed how much I've had to wash this thing. There is no way that my second daughter would be able to wear this hand-me-down, and it certainly wouldn't have had the same sentimental value.
I bought a cheap white frame at Michael's. That was the only thing that I had to buy to do this. I took the frame back to use as a guide to trim the box the frame came in down to the correct size. This way I had a piece of cardboard to mount the shirt on. I ended up having to trim it a little more to compensate for the thickness of the shirt wrapped around the edges of the cardboard.
Then I cut up the shirt (which was a little painful/stressful - God forbid I should make a mistake to would ruin the project!) and folded it over the edges of the cardboard. I couldn't figure how else to attach it to the cardboard other than staples, which you can kind of see if you look under the edges of the glass. If anyone has a better idea, please let me know! There wasn't much material to work with towards the top where the sleeves and neck were. I guess that I could have done a spray adhesive or something, but I was leery of using something permanent in case I made a mistake.
I think that it turned out pretty well considering the shape that it was in, but the daughter was pleased, so that's what counts!

Classroom DIY
A Teacher without a Class

Colonial Projects

We do some fun hands-on projects for our colonial unit. I've blogged previously about the shop signs.

Each student also does a little quilt square that I assemble into a class quilt. They have to find some sort of pattern in the square and color it accordingly.
I have a fun at-home activity where students talk with their parents on why they got the name that they did. Some students already know how, but they have to get a parent/guardian signature in order to get full credit. Click on the picture to get a free copy.

Most of the reasons entail finding the name in the baby book, being named after a relative, being named after a character in a book or TV show, but then once in a while you get some really interesting stories that tend to explain a lot of things about that child ;)

Then I have the students make name samplers with graph paper and markers. I also have a modified cross stitch pattern for reference, as well as other designs that past students and I have created.

The first step is to figure out the middle letter of the name to be used. Students use a pencil to lightly make X's in the squares to form the letter. I pre-marked the middle square on their graph papers with a tiny dot. This is what it looks like.
Then working from the middle, students lightly X in the rest of their letters, like this.
This is where the headaches occur, as some kids totally get it, and some totally don't. Their letters are uneven and randomly spaced, which makes my brain hurt.

When they have their names complete, I have them add additional designs.
This one has a heart and a peace sign.
Then they trace over the X's with a fine tip Crayola marker. I have a stash that I use just for this activity. That way the tips stay nice and fresh. Every year I add to this stash when Target has their Crayola markers at $1.00 for back to school.
Cute little fish.

For all of you Duck Dynasty fans.
I trim off the extra white area around the edge before students mount it onto a piece of construction paper. This year I will have them laminated, since students tend to keep this project hanging in their rooms :)

So I think that if I want to do the Five for Friday, I have to come up with two more ;)
Here is a cute butterfly life cycle project that my daughter brought home. Each stage is a different kind of pasta! Cute!

Speaking of Duck Dynasty, I watched it for the first time this week. My MIL came down to spend a few nights with me to preserve my sanity until my husband returns from Singapore tomorrow after a three-week-long business trip. I have to say that I now see why people love it! Hilarious! I don't think that it will be in my regular rotation, but it's good when there's nothing else on ;)
While you are visiting Amanda's, make sure that you enter her giveaway for a new classroom theme pack!
13 Colonies
Teaching Blog Addict - Ultimate Freebie

Tried It Tuesday - Resurrection Rolls

I hate dying Easter eggs. I guess it's my OCDness and the high potential for a huge mess and the need for additional baths. Although this is no substitute, as my nearly-seven-year-old insisted, we tried Resurrection Rolls that I found on Pinterest (of course).

The ingredients are pretty basic - tube of crescent rolls, large marshmallows (one per roll), melted butter, and cinnamon/sugar. I actually had all of these things on hand.

For a really lovely explanation of the meaning and everything, click {here} when you're done reading my to-the-point version.

First, preheat the over to 350˚. Then take the marshmallow (representing Jesus and his purity) and roll it around in the melted butter (representing the embalming oils). Then roll it in the cinnamon sugar mixture (representing the burial spices, according to the source).
Wrap it up in the crescent roll triangle (representing the cloth in which they wrapped Jesus). It is REALLY IMPORTANT that you seal up the edges really well. I learned that one the hard way. If you don't, you'll have a gooey, yet tasty, mess.
Anyway, put the sealed rolls on a parchment-lined cookie sheet with raised edges. Bake for 12 minutes (the oven represents the tomb). After they cool, cut one open to see that the marshmallow (Jesus) disappeared (mostly). Ahhhh, symbolism!!
And as an added bonus, they taste pretty good!