Friday, July 19, 2013

Report Cards

Students dread report card time. Why? Sadly, many kids don't value their education, but they know when they go home, they might get the beating of their life. Since my first year teaching, I have helped students cope with the dreaded report card day by letting them fill out a report card for me. That first year, I used a ready-made report card, but there were too many boxes. Over the past 4 years, I have adapted the report card to fit my needs and my grade level. Here is a sample of the first page:

This is anonymous, so students don't need to feel scared about completing this. I have three open-ended questions on the next page, but those are optional. 

I am also going to be trying something new this year. Student report cards-with a twist. Instead of covering academics, I will fill out a form, much like this one, on how well students are trying, if they are being kind to classmates, responsible, respectful, etc. 

Teacher's Notebook is currently down, but when I can, I will upload this document to be sold for $1.00. There are 4 pages, 2 Teacher Report Card forms and 2 Student Report Card forms. Hope you enjoy!

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Book Box Labels

I am working on many things for the upcoming school year: bulletin boards, labeling of books, reorganizing IEP files and general ed files, cleaning out old items in my classroom, etc. Some of this is exciting, some is rather tedious. For me, labeling my books is probably what I look forward to most. (Nerdy, I know!) Because we are all moving toward common core, I have had to revamp my classroom library to include more non-fiction. Now, let's be honest, my kids don't want to read about seeds and pollination. Heck, I don't want to read about seeds and pollination. However, there are quite a few non-fiction topics I am interested in. I love arts and crafts, travel, biographies, etc., and if I can get excited about all that, so can my kids. Today, I visited 2nd and Charles, which is a little bit of heaven on earth. Seriously, if you've never been, you MUST find one and go! Right now! Well, you can wait until your next trip out, but really, it's THAT cool. Walls and shelves full of pre-loved books. I bought 14 titles today for $25, including a copy of Catching Fire for $0.50. Yes, you read that right. Fifty cents. Crazy isn't it?!? Anywho, I rifled and searched and purchased all but 2 books for under $2.00. After that, I looked to purchase some chevron fabric for my bulletin boards. Sadly, everywhere was sold out. When I say everywhere, I mean everywhere. I visited 4 fabric stores. Oh well, I'll just keep my polka dots for another year.

Since I couldn't get my chevron fix at Hancock's, or JoAnn's...or Michael's, I decided to make some book box labels using the pattern. I am loving anything summery, so my chevron ended up turquoise and purple. I made it myself! These labels are meant for 5x7 index cards. You can print the ones you need (I included a blank), poke holes and tie with a string, or just tape the labels to your boxes. There are 23 total, and some are for younger students, some for older. I have a variety of reading levels in my room, so I tried to include the books my students like and ones
that are trending on B&N or Amazon. Once I hook my printer back up, I will print some off and post a picture. For now, enjoy! (Click on the picture to go my Teacher's Notebook Store.)

(Titles include: Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Time Warp Trio, Warriors, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, The Spiderwick Chronicles, A Series of Unfortunate Events, The Sisters Grimm, The Boxcar Children,
A to Z Mysteries, Junie B. Jones, Judy Moody, Magic Tree House, Fancy Nancy, Skippyjon Jones, Heroes of Olympus, Poison Apple Books, Cam Jansen, 39 Clues, Jack Sparrow, Mysterious Benedict Society, Ranger's Apprentice)

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Solving Problems Poster

When I taught math, I used a lot of strategies with my students. Even in reading, we talk about how to correctly solve problems involving main idea, theme, vocabulary, etc. With common core, there is a need for teaching even more strategies to students. One poster I made (and I didn't come up with this, I learned the steps at a workshop) helps students pace themselves when solving problems. It's yours, for free!

How do you know if your students are natural problem solvers? In my ABA course, the textbook listed several characteristics of strategic and non-strategic learners. These circle poster match the chevron styled poster above and are very informative. After reading through these, I was able to pinpoint exactly which students I needed to work with on their problem solving skills. Charts, notebooks, and organization are key to helping non-strategic learners succeed. I will offer more tips on binder/notebook organization later this week. Hope you are having a great Wednesday!

Sunday, July 7, 2013

Accelerated Reader

Has anyone ever read "The Read Aloud Handbook" by Jim Trelease? If not, I highly recommend this for all educators and parents. If you have, you know that Trelease covers the rewards and perils of using the Accelerated Reader system in schools. Basically, he feels that if used in the right way, AR can help students reach reading goals. Some schools still use AR as a grade, which Trelease discourages. I'm with him on that one. The purpose of AR should be to encourage kids to read, plain and simple.

It's hard to get kids to pick up a book these days, especially since personal gaming systems and television are so handy. Our school rewards students for reaching a certain number of points per nine weeks. There is no penalty for not reaching the goal. For example, the first goal was for students grades 2-8 to earn 10 Accelerated Reader points. Easy peasy, right? WRONG! The students had NO idea how to finish a book. On top of that, books for 2nd and 3rd graders are rarely more than .5 or 1.0 AR points, so they were reading double the amount that the older kids were. If the students at my school had come from homes where reading was valued, the whole school would have gotten extra PE, but only about 20 kids (out of 250) met their goal. Therefore, in order to get my kids reading, I decided to create some classroom incentives.

The first thing I did was make some leader boards (see below) for each month. After my leader boards were up, I went through as many of my own books as I could to find the reading level and AR point totals. Each book was color-coded according to a certain point level and placed in my classroom library. Next, I read picture books once a week to my students. Some were a little childish, but some were though provoking. (You're never too old for picture books!!!) Students were given the opportunity to take a test on these books, and as .5 point increments were met, a sticker was placed on a large chart in the back of my room, for all the world to see. (I used my mom's Cricut to make it extra cute and eye-catching.) As students increased their scores each day, I wrote names on the AR Leader board at the front of the room. The winner for each month could choose a treasure box item, homework pass, or raise-a-grade certificate. (PSSST...NO kid is too old for the treasure box. You've got to put in items that will make them WANT to dig around it it. I had mechanical pencils, candy, stamps, journals, etc. Make it appropriate for your age group!)

Within a week, I had over half of my students reading during free time each day, and at least 8 to 9 of my students met the school goals because they were working to get the rewards I offered in the classroom. Did my little plan make everyone read? Nope, and I was okay with that. I am a born reader, a lover of the written word, but not everyone is. More than likely, they just haven't found the right book to get them hooked, and you, the teacher, can remedy that. Visit my blog again this week for more on great read-alouds for students.

I hope everyone is having a fabulous summer!


Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Foreign Phrases

As many of you know, our country is moving toward Common Core standards. While I feel that half the teachers are freaking out about this transition, some of us know that really, if you're teaching what you're supposed to, you've covered Common Core anyway. No need to fret! When I taught in Tennessee, part of our state standards (which were based on CC) required that we teach foreign phrases. Out of all the concepts I was to teach, this made me want to pull my hair out. Why? Because I couldn't find any resources!!! There were none in the textbook or on the state department's website. Now that I have moved back to Alabama, foreign phrases are not specified in our CC's, but students still need to have a general idea about common Latin or French phrases we use. In the kit below, I have included 21 foreign phrases that students are likely to hear throughout their lifetime. I know what you're thinking, "I live in Podunk, ____, and my kids ain't ever gonna talk like that!" Well, if you continue to have a bad attitude, then no, they won't. But, what if we actually taught our students to use words outside their normal vocabulary??? We might have an America that can talk beyond curse words and our students might grow up to appreciate more intellectually advanced materials. Lofty goals, right? Hey, you've got to start somewhere!