Fun Friday and Pintrest Reorganization!

And...I'm linking up with Kelly from Teaching Fourth once again for her Fun-Friday linky party! 

Here's my overview of the week:

Fun Week: Here's a picture of the "Retelling Rope" 

I made it poster-size, so I could display it in the room for easy reference.

 And here's an example of the worksheet we filled out:

Fun Pin: 


TONS of awesome election ideas:

Fun Weekend: Check out The Strand's website - it's an AMAZING store!


Attention Pintrest Followers!

What should one do while school is cancelled for the dreaded Frankenstorm?!?! 

Spend the morning reorganizing her Pinterest boards, of course :)

I don't know about you, but I am fully on board the Pintrest obsession wagon! I get carpel tunnel from pinning :)

I had one large board titled "Teaching Ideas" that had almost 1000 pins on it - tons of great ideas, but not necessarily very organized. If I wanted to recall an idea I had pinned, I had to sift through endless pages. But, I hesitated to change it because a lot of people following my teaching board. This morning I bit the bullet and split the massive board up into many, smaller boards based on different subject areas. 

So, if you were following me, please come check out my new organization and follow the different boards:

And if you weren't a follower before - I'd love for you to join!

Enjoy perusing! :)

Lawler LIVE!

We all have to do class presentations, right? It's a great way for students to build confidence, work on their public speaking skills, share their work, and practice encouraging their classmates. 

Some students love presenting, while others dread speaking in front of others. To keep presentations interesting and make students more eager to present, I've started a classroom television show..."Lawler LIVE!" 

I am the host (obviously) and call up students to interview. I also use this to interview special guests who come into the classroom for Readers are Leaders month, etc. The students practice proper audience skills while showing respect and encouragement to their classmates. We've made up a theme song for the show :) and students can do "commercial breaks" where they advertise for different books they've read, various events we're studying in history, etc.

When I post this sign on the board, the students cheer! 

I have a two-sided sign that I choose a student to flip: Applause and Silence...

This keeps the kids under control and reminds them when they should be silent and respectful.

And, as a bonus, I wanted to share some great teaching quotes I found in a TPT email:
  • "If you're focused on behavior, your focus is wrong. Focus on learning and behavior management will become easier - your best tool is an engaging lesson."
  • "Each child in your classroom is somebody's whole entire world." 
  • "Have a back up plan."  That's something that's stuck with me since student teaching.  I always hope and expect for things to go smoothly, but having something ready just in case of a *lesson disaster* has saved me numerous times.

Quick and Easy Method for Changing Desk Arrangement

I like to change my students' desk A LOT. I like to change my room set-up quite often. Sometimes they're in groups, other times in partners. For the last three weeks we've been in a large U-shape because we were working on our Fable play performances (which were AWESOME!) and needed a "stage" area :)

The main reason I change my student desks are because I want to them to learn to work with others. We do a lot of group work and discussions because I think it is so important for students to share their opinions/ideas, collaborate from others, and learn to work cooperatively. It is definitely not an easy thing for 5th graders, but...practice makes perfect :)

But... lugging around 16 desks every 3 weeks can seem a little daunting - especially when your muscles are the size of pea pods, like mine are :) We also have chair pockets on the back of our chairs, so the chairs have to be moved across the room as well. So at the end of last year I came up with a plan to continue changing their desks while saving myself the aggravation: have the students do it. Mind-blowing, I know! :)

Here's my strategy: I draw the seating chart lay-out on the board using box shapes for the desks - very high-tech, I know! :) - and putting a class number to designate who will sit where. After I draw it, I have the students examine it and picture where in the class their desk needs to move to. Then I tell them they have 30 seconds to work together as a team to make the classroom match the drawing on the board. They need to LIFT (not drag!) their desks to their new location. When we're in groups, I also put an arrow to show which direction the desks should be facing. 

Here's an example from last week when my students arranged themselves in partners:

In less than 30 seconds, the job was completed: the desks were correctly moved, the students worked together to reach a common goal, and I just had to supervise :)

Management strategy for students in groups:
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. 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. I printed the labels 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!)

Tell Me Something Good Linky!

Well I'm linking up with Jennifer's "Tell Me Something Good" party - what a cute idea! Sometimes in the midst of the chaos and hectic-ness of life, it's nice to stop and focus on what is going well at school and at home. So, without further adieu, here's my "Tell Me Something Good"...

At school: The students just turned in their first book report and did a FABULOUS job on them. They had to read a book and complete a book report - on a tissue box! Whenever we need a new tissue box in the classroom, I'll put out one of their projects and display it until all of the tissues are gone.
You can read more about the project on this post here.

Here are some sample pictures of their Tissue Box Book Reports:

At home: My husband and I had a wonderfully fall day yesterday, starting off with a scrumptious pancake breakfast (that he made! talk about luxury), spent time decorating our house for fall, and went for a long walk in a nature preserve near our house, enjoying the fall foliage. Top it all off with a wonderful church service and a delicious lunch with friends - It was glorious!

That's it for me - now it's your turn! Link up and tell me something good!

My First Year of Teaching SCRAPBOOK!

Hello bloggy friends!

Besides teaching, another one of my passions is being crafty! I love to scrapbook, stamp, crop, make cards, and create decor for my home and classroom. Because this is a blog dedicated to my teaching ideas, I haven't been sharing my crafty thoughts, but I've decided this one's okay because the whole project revolved around teaching!

This is a sampling from a fun album filled with photos and memories of my first year of teaching at Abundant Life Academy in Nutley, NJ. The first year is a special (and chaotic!) time that I will always hold dear in my heart. To preserve the memories and stories, I decided to create a scrapbook.

My album cover that includes a picture of our school, the ALA logo, and a sample sweatshirt (gotta love school spirit!)
"Before" Pictures of my classroom when I first saw it and the letter sent to the staff in July 2011. I was so thrilled to see my name being introduced as the new fifth grade teacher! I also shared an (embarrassing) memory that makes me laugh every time I think about it

Back to School! A page celebrating the first day of school and the annual "Back to School Night" where I meet and greet with the parents.
Our field trip to the Intrepid Museum in New York City! I included not only pictures, but also our tickets, a museum guide, and the dog tags they gave each student (and eager teacher!) to remember our fun trip.

Olympic Day is a huge field day where the whole school marches five blocks to a nearby park. Once we're there we divide into our four teams and spend the day running in relay races - or in my case, screaming my head off and cheering on my team! The culmination of the day is a crazy tug-of-war competition.
A page celebrating the last day of school (Promotion Day).
 If you'd be interested in having a custom scrapbook made (about anything - not just teaching!) then please let me know. I have a small business, JOY Scrapbooking, and I would love to show you more samples of albums I've made for others, give you references, and discuss your project details. *I have a special holiday rate coming up that you're going to LOVE! Leave a comment and I'll send you the details :)

Check out my JOY Scrapbooking facebook page

Fun Friday!

I'm linking up with Kelly from Teaching Fourth for her "Fun Friday" linky party!

Please leave a comment and become a follower! 

CC Essentials: Grammar Ninja is VERY addicting with its video-game style. What a fantastic way to practice the parts of speech!  Scroll down for the game.
*Here's the link to my pin:

Want to link up your blog? 
Head on over to Kelly's page and download the template - It is this easy!
  • Write about your favorite lesson this week in your classroom.
  • Write about your favorite idea or lesson from another blog.
  • Tell what you love about fall.
  • Share your favorite pin from Pinterest (copy and paste it).
  • Share a great free item, either from yourself or from another blogger.
  • Put links below the Fun Friday page.
When you link up, visit and leave a comment for the 2 people in front of you and the 2 people behind you.   Don't forget to come back and check for 2 people behind you.  :)

Fabricating Fables

In reading class, we're currently in our first genre study of the year - fables and folktales! The kids are LOVING it - throw together a damsel in distress, talking animals, a puff of fairy dust, unique dialect, and a moral that ties everything together at the end...what's not to love? :)

Here's a pictorial glimpse of our mini-unit:

We started off by reading four of Aesop's Fables, "The Birds, the Beasts, and the Bat," "The Sick Stag," "The Maid and Her Milk Pail," and "The Rose and the Clay".

Then we discussed characteristics of the story that we read and decided four many things:
1. It was a short story (there were few extra "fluff" details)
2. It was imaginary (a work of fiction)
3. It had talking animal characters
4. It shared a moral at the end

We filled out this "Focus on Genre" sheet on Fables.
I found it from Laura Candler's website and can be accessed for free here.

We're going to be filling out these "Focus on Genre" sheets for each genre we study. This is the first page in our "genre" tab.

The next day we read an "Uncle Remus" story, "Mr. Wolf Makes a Failure" and discussed characteristics of folktales. We then compared folktales with fables and filled out a Venn-Diagram - or a "Venn Traffic-Jam" as a first grader once said :) 

 We read three moral fables (by Leo Tolstoy) as well as a chapter from the book Pinocchio and continued to point out the recurring elements and characteristics of fables. I gave a Fables quiz, which can be downloaded for free.

Then we read a fable that I wrote, "The Three Large Elephants," a spin-off of The Three Little Pigs. 

I challenged the students to write their own fables. We began by brainstorming ideas on a story map sheet: 

 Then they composed their first drafts based on the information from the Story Map. They revised it using a color-coded key to make sure they had every necessary element.

Then they proof-read for spelling, punctuation, and grammar errors. They switched with a partner and edited a classmate's paper. 

Then, to add some color, pizazz, and to excite the artistic students in my class while developing visualizing skills in all readers, the students created "Comic Strips" based on the beginning, middle, and end of their fables.

The final product looked like this:

Now, to wrap-up our unit, we're performing Fable Readers Theaters! I have two classes, so each one has been practicing their play and will perform it for the other next week. The students have worked diligently to practice their lines, learn their blocking, design the set posters, and create the props. 

The scripts we're using are by a man named Aaron Shepherd and are from his website

You can click on the links to download the scripts for free:
1. The Legend of Lightning Larry: A cowboy with a huge smile, a gun that shoots bolts of light, and a hankering for lemonade takes on Evil-Eye McNeevil’s outlaw gang.

2. More than a Match: When the king’s most powerful warriors are defeated by a giant who’s blocking the road, the Wise One must find a way past.

Well there you have it - thanks for persevering all the way to the end! :)

We Want YOU to Join WW1!

Our class has been studying World War 1 in class and the students are loving it! I love to see them (especially the boys) so eager to open their history books. We've been discussing the various countries involved, the causes of the war, and important battles in the war. 

One thing we really emphasize is the emotions that are raging during a war - the emotions of the countries involved, the officers, the enlisted soldiers, and the people left at home. One place where emotions run high are during recruitment campaigns to get men to join the armed forces. To further our discussion of recruitment posters and persuasive techniques,my partner, Rose Loiacono, and I have the students a special assignment. They had to choose a country to represent, come up with a persuasive slogan, and then design and decorate a recruitment poster. They did a phenomenal job!

Here's the assignment details:

The posters from my class

The posters from Rose's class

 Here are some close-ups of some fabulous posters:

I've recently uploaded a modified version for:

  • American Revolution
  • Civil War
  • World War 1
  • World War 2

Click here for the War Recruitment Poster Project

Keeping Parents "In the Loop"

As a new teacher last year, I knew that one of keys to a successful year was partnering with the parents. And while it can be quite a bit of work keeping the parents informed and involved, it is worth every minute! Throughout the year, I do 3 things to build and keep a good rapport with the parents of my students.

1. Back to school night: the first Monday after school starts, we have an annual "Back to School" night where the parents can come, see the classroom, meet the teacher, and hear important information about the upcoming year.
You can read more about my plans, procedures, and "5th grade survival guide" on this older post here.

2. Weekly newsletters: Every Monday I send home a newsletter, "The Weekly Scoop," that highlights key information for the week, such as class news, upcoming important dates, classroom jobs, and the weekly Bible verse and spelling words.  The parents are to read it, hang it somewhere it can be easily seen, and refer to it as a talking point with their child throughout the week.

You can download the template here.

*One of my students, Samuel, pulled his newsletter out of his mailbox today and exclaimed, "Again?!? I've gotten like 5 of these - what does the office want of me?!?" I don't think he's quite grasped the concept of a weekly newsletter... 

3. Good E-mails

One of the most important classroom management strategies is sending home GOOD e-mails! The kids go nuts if their name gets written on my white board under the "Good E-mail" list. They can earn a "Good E-mail" for working diligently, turning in a particularly good assignment, being exceptionally kind or helpful, etc. I love to see the students so motivated to do something praise-worthy and have me "brag to their parents." It beats a visit to the prize box any day! :)
Parents are just as excited to see these "good e-mails" in their inbox. Many have said they print them out, read them at the dinner table, and hang them on the fridge or in their child's bedroom. What a great way to celebrate a successful day!

How do you keep your parents involved? What have you tried that kept them informed and "in the loop"?

I've Been "Boo'd!"

Exciting news!

Tina from "Flamingos and Butterflies" has boo'd me!

This is a blog "linky party" being hosted by Cynthia at 2nd Grade Pad. What a great way for us to do a lot of blog hopping! I love learning from all of the amazing teachers out there!
  • Here's how to play. Choose a fellow blogger that has MORE followers, another that has about the SAME number of followers, and last, someone that has LESS followers.
  • Highlight their blogs with links to encourage others to check them out. Don't forget to let your fellow bloggers know that you shared about them.
I am excited to be boo'd and to participate in this fun linky party:

Here are my three...

1. More followers: Kristine from Young Teacher Love

Kristine was the first blog I ever started following and her products and ideas inspired me to start blogging and sharing my teaching world with everyone!
Her site is chalked-full of creative, relevant ideas and activities that can be used in an upper-elementary classroom. I see her ideas all over Pintrest and TPT. Check out her blog if you haven't already!

2. (Almost) Same number of followers: Ashley from Primary Teacherhood 
Primary Teacherhood
While Ashley is new to the blogging world (as am I!) her blog is cute, organized, and full of good ideas! She teaches at a year-round school, so she has a different teaching schedule and perspective than most of us.

3. Less followers: Dana from LIVE LEARN TEACH for LIFE

Dana has great ideas for integrating technology into the classroom. I'm looking forward to trying out a couple of great websites I found on her blog. 

Check out their sites and leave them some love! :)

Now it's your turn - who will you "boo" this October?!?
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