Labels, Labels, Labels!

I'll be the first to admit it...I have a problem. I love everything to be color-coordinated, themed, neat, and organized and cannot rest until my classroom is just that. And one of the best ways I achieve this is LABELS! I label, color-coordinate, and organize everything (including my construction paper...more on that later) and Avery labels make life so much simpler.

If you've been reading my previous posts (birthday balloons and back-to-school goodies), you'll see that I have been making use of the shipping labels (which are large and wonderful). I also always keep a stock of address labels and mailing labels to label binders, books - every book in my classroom library has a sticker that says "This book belongs to Mrs. Lawler" on them so that parents can find them buried deep in the abyss of their child's room and return them to my classroom :) - student materials, classroom job labels, etc.

I wanted to share two freebies with you today. One is the binder covers I use to organize all of my binders which hold my extra ideas (worksheets, activities, games, bulletin board displays, etc.) per subject and season.

Here are a couple samples:

And here is the link to download the entire document of Binder Covers
If you're looking for something specific that is now in the PDF, please leave a comment with your e-mail address and I'll make one for any subject that you want.

I've also uploaded my document of Library labels that I use to label the shelves and baskets in my classroom library (which is wonderfully organized and almost ready to be photographed and shared with the world! Stay tuned...)

Here's a sampling:

You can download the PDF for all of my labels here: LIBRARY LABELS


Tissue Box Book Report

This week I've been sorting and re-organizing my classroom library! It's my absolute favorite part of my classroom and pictures will be up soon! As I thought of books, I began reflecting on the reading projects I assigned throughout the year. Last year I started the year with a biography project using the Christian Heroes book series (I gave them a choice of 4 books). It was a great project and the students came away inspired and challenged. I'm still planning to use that project, but I wanted to start the year with a different idea.  I'm going to give the students a free choice book report - the only criteria will be that it must be at least 100 pages and a book they haven't read before. However, the medium will be slightly different than normal pen-and-paper...a tissue box! :)

I'm going to provide them with a tissue box (each student brings in 3 the first day) and then give them guidelines for what each side must contain.
  • Book information
  • Characters
  • Plot
  • Setting
  • Opinion

I'll collect the projects and then keep them to display throughout the year. As we use up the tissues, I'll pull out another student's project to use - talk about functional art! :)

Whole Class Journals

My students love to write - and especially to share what they've written. As I walk around and conference with students during writing time, countless hands fly up asking me to "read what I have so far!" And I always do. I want them to know that I'm proud of their effort. That their stories, essays, and journal entries are important to me because of the time they took in writing them. I want to instill pride in their work. 

Another way I encourage students to put forth effort and produce quality work is by displaying it, either on a bulletin board or in the class library. When we do projects, either take-home, in-class, or in the computer lab, I like to compile the work into a folder or a binder and place it in the library for the students to look through. They LOVE reading/seeing what their classmates have done. My heart swells when I see a student approach a classmate and say something like, "I loved your research project on Russia - it was so creative how you listed important facts inside the picture of the flag."

SO - getting to the point of this entry. I wanted to find a way for students to share what they've written without me having to rip out each of their journal entries to combine in a book in my library. So, I adapted an idea from the blogger of "I Love My Classroom" ( to make Whole Class Journals

I've created 6 journals with a different prompt on the cover of each. When the students have free time or specific journal-writing time, they can grab one of the journals, answer the question, draw a picture, and then place it back in the basket for classmates to read and enjoy!

Here are the prompts I created, but you can absolutely customize them for your group of students. Remember, you don't want these questions to be too personal or else students might feel uncomfortable sharing their answers with others.

Click here to download my Whole Class Journal Prompts

*I bought 5x7 journals from Staples (3/pack) and printed the prompts on Avery shipping labels (#8164) 

Getting creative with everyday items!

So we have all heard the buzz about individual white boards. The students go nuts for them - suddenly, everything is more fun with a dry erase marker in hand! I sometimes hear groans when I pass out a worksheet - but I can put a worksheet in a sheet protector and give them a dry erase marker and voila! they think it's a game and are more-than-eager to get started! :). Now these lovely dry erase boards can get expensive - especially if you're buying for your whole class and are on a limited budget. You can get flimsy ones for $1, but in my experience, they don't last long enough for the investment. So, I've come up with an alternative! And they won't break the bank - I promise!

Ta da!!!!


So simple and inexpensive! All you need is:
  • plastic-coated plates
  • jumbo craft sticks
  • super glue or a hot glue gun
I attached the stick on the back so that the students could hold them up from their desks. I'll use these for true/false, multiple choice, or one-word answers (e.g.: who was your favorite character). The sock in the third picture is used as an eraser - I'm going to ask for old socks from my students (clean, of course!) and then stick dry erase markers in them. No more fighting over who gets what color - whatever comes in your sock is what you get! :)

On another note, I wanted to show you a fun, crafty idea I had for labeling my supplies that the students can use (markers, scissors, glue, pencil sharpeners, etc.). Now the students start the year with all of these items, but it isn't long before slowly but surely they disappear.  I don't mind letting them use mine - as long as they get returned. To ensure that they're returned, I've come up with a quick and easy way to look out and see if a student is using one of my supply items - I've cut small strips of colorful duck tape and wound it around the item. Students don't normally mean to keep the items, but sometimes they get hurriedly stuffed into their desks or pencil pouches. Now they can easily check to see if they've kidnapped something that belongs to me :)

Well that's it for today - stay tuned for more crafty projects to come!

Desk labels

I got my class list the other day (woohooo!) so I started labeling the various items in my classroom with my students' names. Now, there might (and probably will be) changes, so I'm not assigning student numbers or printing out alphabetized lists yet, but I was able to write names of their desk and coat hook labels. In keeping with my travel theme, the labels are on suitcase die cuts that I cut out and laminated. The desk labels are different colors while the coat hook ones are all brown:

Desk labels
Coat hook labels

Along with sharing my student labels, I thought I'd also post something about my seating arrangement. We change desks a lot in my class (about every 3 weeks) for a couple of reasons: 1. it allows the students to work with a variety of classmates, 2. table groups can only sit together for so long before conflict arises, 3. I like to mix it up for our Team Challenge Competition. Each week the students earn tally points for their "team" (table group) for answering questions correctly, being the first group cleaned up, waiting quietly, etc. Teams can also lose points for calling out, being off-task, arguing, disrespectful behavior, etc. On Friday the team with the most points wins either a prize from the treasure box (trinkets the kids go nuts for), a No Homework coupon, or a Lunch with Mrs. Lawler coupon.
 I find the Team Challenge Competition is one of the best motivators for quality work and proper behavior - they are motivated by not only the incentive, but also the positive peer pressure from their group. 

Last year my groups were colors, but this year, I've decided to go with continents! It will fit in my theme and will also be a good geography reinforcement all year. Here are my labels - I printed them out on card stock, backed them onto green construction paper, and then laminated them. I bought the little photo stands at Target in the Dollar Spot (my home away from home!)

 Now I won't have 7 table groups, so I'm going to use 4 of them for the groups and then place one at my desk, one in the library - the students can say they're "off to Europe for some light reading" :) and here's my plan for Antarctica:

If a student is having trouble working in his group, then he can take a hopper flight down to Antarctica for a few quiet moments to "cool down." When he is reading to re-join his group, he can try sitting down once again. It's not exactly a "time out" seat, but more of a reflection time where students can regain composure and perspective and practice what I tell them all of the time - "choose your battles!"

*If you want copies of the continent labels, just leave a comment with your e-mail and I'll send them to you!*

I also found these small divided containers that I'll use when passing out special supplies, such as dry erase markers, crazy scissors, glue, glitter, etc. They can also be used for centers or to hold spare regular supplies for the table group:

Side note: my students are not always in groups - at times I have them in partners or in a large U shape (when we do our drama unit in reading). If they're not in groups, I take down my Team Challenge Competition tally chart and hand out tickets to reinforce positive behavior. I give each student an envelope and it is their responsibility to keep track of their tickets. If a ticket is found on the floor with no name on it, it is fair game. If an envelope is lost, I replace the envelope, but the student starts over with 0 tickets. This teaches them to keep track of their tickets very quickly! I buy my tickets at Staples (or Wal-Mart) and they come in a roll of 2000. I usually use 2 rolls for the entire year. 

Here is my Ticket Redemption chart

Well that's it for now - check back again soon!

Gift Ideas: Back-to-School and Birthdays!

I like to give my students a little something to welcome them to class on the first day of school. Here's what I have planned for this September:

I've made little treat bags that say "I'm so blessed to have a SMARTIE PANTS like you in my class!" and are filled with Smarties candy. It's an easy treat for them to munch on while filling out their Fifth Grade Facebook profiles (activity sheets that are adapted to look like Facebook pages - each student is going to make one and fill out their interests, hobbies, favorites, friends, etc. and have classmates write on their "walls." I'm going to post them on a "Follow Us On Facebook" bulletin board.

Click here for: Smartie Gift labels Use Avery shipping labels 8164
Click here for: Facebook profiles (for grades 1-5) *I did not create this resource*

Secondly, for the students' birthdays, I wanted to give them something special that they would remember. Last year I gave bookmarks and penicils (which were fine), but it's what they received from most other teachers. This year, I've punched out and laminated paper balloons that say "Hope you have a KRAZY KOOL birthday" and attached them to Krazy straws. I then tied on Kool-aid drink packets (they were all the rage last year!). So rather than scrounging around hurriedly when a student comes in on his birthday, I've pre-made enough for all of my students and will let them choose when they come in on their birthday morning. If you have students with summer birthdays, you can give it to them on their half-birthdays or during the last week of school.

Click here for the balloon labels *I edited out my name, so you can personalize it, if you'd like.
Use Avery shipping labels 8164

Enjoy! These will make your students feel extra special! :)

Fun and Engaging Science activities!

Well I've just finished my last week of Summer Academy! (the day camp at my school). It was a wonderful experience, but I'm glad to have some weeks off to relax and prepare for the upcoming year. This week's theme was Science: Definitely Not Boring! and I wanted to share some experiments that I did with my students (ages 3-12). I don't get to teach science during the year (we're departmentalized), so this was a fun challenge for me.

Monday: I did a Sink or Float experiment. I started off with some basic materials, but then did some different ones that impressed/surprised the kids (and me!). In addition to regular sink/float objects (a marble, a sponge, a cork, a rock, etc.) I tested a regular orange (floats) and then a peeled orange (sinks because the peel holds in air). I also plopped in a ball of Play-doh (sinks) and then shaped it into a boat (floats). Lastly, I filled two containers with water and in one I put a boiled egg (sinks) and then in the other, I dissolved salt and then placed a  boiled egg in it (floats). With the older kids I discussed the concepts of density and the differing weights that objects have. With the younger kids, we completed an activity sheet differentiating between objects that sink and float.

*Update: I have created a Sink or Float activity packet which can be purchased through my TpT store:

Tuesday: To give the students a tangible, hands-on lesson we created our own quicksand using corn starch and water. Just mix the two ingredients and watch the "quicksand" take effect. We placed plastic toys in the bowl and watched them sink. Then we used our fingers to feel the pull of the mixture. I taught them quick sand safety (hey - you never know) about how flailing about makes you sink faster, but slowing down allows someone to pull themselves out of quick sand. We illustrated this by zooming our fingers around and feeling the pull and then slowing down our fingers and realizing how easy it was to pull them out.

Wednesday: We had a "rockin'" Wednesday as we discussed the different types of rocks (Igneous, Metamorphic, and Sedimentary). I read them questions from a True-False book (see picture below) and awarded points - boys vs. girls - for correct answers. We then discussed geodes, or hollowed-out rocks with crystals growing inside. I used a hammer to split the geodes and the kids went wild when we found crystals growing inside. We then played "4 Corners" with the three types of rocks (plus Geodes to make 4). My students are nuts for this game and it really helps them with the vocabulary. With the oldest group, I had them define the terms when they called the corners, while the younger groups were just practicing saying the correct names.

Thursday: Things got a little wiggly, slimy, and sticky today as we made Oooey-Gooey Slime! It was a very easy experiment and definitely a winner with the kids! All you need is a  bottle of clear glue (Elmer's) and about 1/2 c. liquid starch (can be found at Wal-Mart or at a grocery store - in the laundry detergent aisle). After these two ingredients are mixed together, you can add a couple drops of food coloring to make your slime come alive! The students had a blast grabbing handfuls of the slime and letting it run through their fingers - the more squeamish ones gingerly touched with one finger and squealed :) The slime will keep for a few days if it's stored in a Ziploc or air-tight container. 

Friday: To end our week we did various experiments dealing with our 5 senses.

Sight: We tested the effect that water has on our vision by placing first a straw and then a pencil in a tall glass of water and observed the effects. The straw looks disconnected where the water line is and the bottom half of the pencil looks swollen.
Hearing: We played "Broken Telephone" where a message gets passed around the circle. I then had them cover their ears and read my lips to discover what I was saying. One or two words was simple for them, but once I started whispering sentences, they could not longer understand and began to appreciate their ears in new ways.
Smell: I called students up, blind-folded them, and then had them smell and try to identify certain items
Touch: We touched the slime that was created yesterday (I left a batch out on the counter to see if the consistency would change - and it did!) and compared/contrasted how it felt yesterday (slimy, wet, gooey) to today (cold, slick, and smooth)
Taste: What kid doesn't like soda? And what kid doesn't like it when things fizz and bubble unexpectedly? My point exactly - and that's what we did today. I mixed lemon juice and water and then added in a tsp of baking soda, which created bubbles and added a fizzy texture. We added some sugar and it actually tasted like a lemonade soda you might find at the grocery store! Food and science: does it get any better? I think not!

First Week Activities

At my school, there are two classes per grade and, for the most part, the same students move up together each year. So, unless there are many new students, my students know each other very well. But, in spite of this, I still like to do "Get-To-Know-You" activities so that I can learn about the students - their tastes, their preferences, their history, their summers, etc. 
Here are 4 activities that I do to the first week of school:

1. Me, In a Nutshell     *adapted from Laura Candler (Bio Poem)

To get to know the students, I have them complete a simply poetry activity consisting of 8 lines.  The categories are: 3 words that describe you, Lover of..., Who is able to..., Who feels..., Who wonders..., Who fears..., Who would like to..., and Who dreams...They brainstorm their answers and then transfer them to an acorn template writing page. I have them glue it onto a piece of construction paper and post them on the wall as a festive, informative fall-themed bulletin board. I also complete the activity as a fun and inventive way of introducing myself.

Here's the link for the acorn template

Here's the link for Smart Board presentation that I used to introduce myself.

2. Our Class Fits Together

As a group bonding activity, I divide the class into three groups and give them each a puzzle to complete. What the students don't know is that I have removed one piece from each puzzle, so it is impossible to complete. We re-group and have a class discussion about how, just as one piece is vital to the puzzle, so is one student an important and valuable member of the class. We all have different bumps and edges, but we have to fit together as a class. I then have them decorate their own puzzle pieces and we fit them together on a display on the wall. All year long, I can silently point to the puzzle pieces when students are being disrespectful to one another or having a disagreement. It reminds them to "treat one another like a valuable puzzle piece."

*I found the title banner at the Dollar Tree

3. Our Summers In Rearview

To review our summer vacation highlights, I have the students complete an activity called "Our Summers In Rearview" (rearview because of our travel theme!). Each student decorates a rearview mirror with pictures or words describing their favorite summer vacation memory. They then wrote a paragraph about the memory and I hung them up for Back to School night.

4. Shoe Glyph
Lastly, I have the students complete a shoe glyph about themselves. Glyphs are a fun, creative way for the students to share about themselves and learn about similarities they didn't know they had with fellow classmates. To correspond with our Travel theme, I titled the board "A Journey of 1,000 Miles Begins With A Single Step." We use this board to discuss our goals and to emphasize the importance of persevering despite difficulties.

Here's the link to shoe glyph

Please let me know if you have any questions, have trouble with links, or need further explanation.

Check back soon - more to come!
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