Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Parent communication made simple!

School has started, and thus the reason for not blogging in the last few day! L  Hope that all of you teachers have had a great start to the year!  I have 23 new kiddos in my class, and am already enjoying them so much.

Last week I had a BREAKTHROUGH in getting parent contact information, and just had to share.  I tried something new for Meet the Teacher this year, and was thrilled with how smoothly it went!

It started with a simple Google form.   These are relatively easy to put together, and make it a snap to gather parent emails, contact information, transportation and such.  After putting together my Google form, I added it to my class website.  This is easy to do, and allows new parents to add information later if needed.   Next,  I bookmarked our website on each of our 3 classroom computers.  When parents came in for Meet the Teacher Night, I directed each of them to kindly fill out their contact information at this computer station.  They did, and I now have a quick, accurate (yay!) record of all of my students and their families.  It took all of 3 minutes per family, and the parents loved it.  Cut and paste into my distribution list--check! :)

One more new touch—using the Remind 101 website to stay in touch with families.  It’s free and it’s a lifesaver!  Parents simply text a given number with an access code (provided by Remind 101).  Once that simple step is complete, they can receive quick text updates from me—with just a simple message and “click” on my end.  I’ve already been able to send out a quick blurb to “remember gym shoes” to the class quickly and easily.

Ongoing communication with parents and families is so important.  Thank you technology for making this part so much easier!

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Ten Things About Me FREEBIE

Pretty soon, 23 new students will be walking through my classroom door!  On the first day of school, I love doing a simple get-to-know you activity with the kids.  This "Top 10 Things About Me!" is a great welcome tool to put on the students' desks as they start their first day.  Teachers can even fill one out and share with the class too!  Enjoy this freebie by clicking here. J

Friday, August 17, 2012

Behavior Chart FREEBIE

Classroom management is such a huge part of teaching.  Red, green and yellow card systems… point system….token jars…. They’re all great strategies and work really well for most children.

But there’s usually at least one child that needs just a little bit more.  Some kids need more behavior feedback, more coaching, and more positives through the day to do their best.  I had a first grader a few years ago that used this Smiley Chart with great results.  It’s easy to use—simply track the number of prompts needed during a time frame and record the corresponding smiley face from the bottom key.  This is great for self-monitoring too, as students can discuss with you how they did or even track their behavior as well.   Parents like the feedback, and this can go home in the take-home folder each day.  

Hope that you find it helpful—or maybe you won’t even have any students with behavior needs this school year? J   Maybe…   Click HERE for this freebie and enjoy!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Writing Process Rings

Like teachers everywhere, I’m working hard on those last minute preparations for back to school.  It’s going to be here soooon!  Time to focus on those little details and getting everything ready. 

Today I’m putting together Writing Process Rings for my kiddos.  I came up with these last year as a  tool for students to use with their writing.  It was the simplest little thing, but I saw SUCH an improvement in the way that my students grasped the writing process!  For many students, this can seem like such an abstract concept—they want to write, turn in their work, and move on.  Revise?  What’s that?  Proofread?  Huh?  Thankfully, these writing rings helped solve this problem! J  My students really got the writing process, and used it independently through the year with just a little practice and these rings.

Each child had their own ring, which was a set of 5 different colored cards on a book ring. Here’s a picture of the rings that we used last year. 

Since then, I’ve tweaked them a bit and also included a “name” card on the front so they wouldn’t get lost! 

The cards on the ring list the steps of the writing process in order, which helped the students know the formal vocabulary for writing.  Underneath each, I also defined each step in kid-friendly terms. J   As the students wrote, they simply pulled out their rings and placed them on the corner of their desks, turning to the step that they were working on.  I could easily see what step of their writing they were working on with just a glance at their card!

Easy to put together, and they made a big difference!  These templates are formatted so that all of the cards are the same size—simply cut, hole punch, and assemble.  There are 8 cards per page to make multiple rings easy to copy.  Click HERE to get your copy! 

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Place Value POUNCE!

I’m working on some number sense math centers, and have come up with a fun one for place value!  I think that my kiddos are really going to like this one!  Place value is such an important skill, and kids who really struggle with number sense need repeated practice here. 

So, the latest game going into my math center rotation is “Place Value POUNCE!”  This card game is sort of a cross between “War” and “Slap Jack.”  Students will play in pairs and evenly divide a set of number cards.  They spin a spinner and see what digit they will be hunting for (for example, highest 10, lowest 100, highest 1). Next, they turn over two cards and “pounce” (gently—hee hee) on the card that meets that spin.  The player who collects all of the number cards wins!  I think they’ll love playing the game, and at the same time they will be needing to instantly recognize ones, tens, hundreds and thousands. 

The number cards are really cute, and I'll be making a few spinners and sets of cards to have on hand at my math station.   

Click HERE to get your copy of Place Value POUNCE!

Number Pizzas

One of the most important things to do that first week of school is to preassess student skills.  In a few weeks, I’ll meet 20+ kiddos who come with very different skill sets.  I’m always on the lookout for ways that I can quickly see what they already know and where instruction should start.

In math, that’s number sense.  It’s hard to move forward with adding, subtracting, or much else mathematical without it!  So, those first few weeks of school I work on number sense.

Last year, I had the students make “Number Pizzas.”  I’ve seen this done in several different ways, but I basically just gave them a paper circle template cut into 5 “slices.”  Each child was assigned a different number, and then had to represent that number on each slice a different way of their choice.  Some possibilities include:

  • Number form
  • Word form
  • A way to make that number with addition
  • A way to make that number with subtraction
  • An example of that number seen in everyday life (i.e. 12 in a dozen eggs, 24 box of crayons)
  • The number with 10s and 1s

Each person gets a baggie to put their finished pizza pieces in.  If students put their initials on the back of their piecs, these can then be mixed up and assembled as puzzles too!  Students can work alone or with a partner to see which pizza pieces go together. 

This is an activity that is so easy to differentiate, fun for the kids, and a very quick way for me to see their number sense!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Back to School Pack

It’s almost time… time to put the finishing touches on my classroom.  Time to get that parent letter ready.  Time to meet my new kiddos for the year.  It’s also time to start planning what we’ll do that first week of school. 

This summer, I actually had time to sit down and plan out some activities to really start the year off right.  I’m excited!  I want the kids to have fun and be engaged that first week, and I want to have opportunities for preassessing skills and building class community.

I hope that you’ll check out my latest addition to my TPT store, the “Back-to-School Super Activity Pack!”  It features 5 fun activities to get you started that first week of school:

·        Name Bingo:  Students interview peers, talk about their summer favorites, and play Bingo!
·        Secret Decoder:  a fun welcome activity to place on student's desks on their first day of school.
·        Making Words:  a word work activity to show what students know and can spell.  
·        Time Capsule:  A fun activity that starts the year off with students' favorite things.  
·        3 writing activiites:  Engaging writing prompts that encourage creativity.

Best of all, it will be on SALE August 11th and 12th!  Click here to see more. 

Tracking Class Behaviors

I LOVE ClassDojo.  Just love it.  My students do too, as do their parents.  It's awesome. 

ClassDojo is free and so easy to use.  Each student gets a cute little avatar (the site randomly assigns them, or they can choose).  For a small extra charge, you can even upload their student's pictures to use.  Their avatar then earns or loses points for classroom behaviors.  You can post ClassDojo on a Smartboard, classroom computer, or even use your smartphone as a remote to enter points.  Best of all, it generates a quick report at the end of the day, and will even email parents their child's behavior report with the click of a button.  Great for RTI and keeping behavior data easily.  

I love it because my students get instant feedback, and I especially love the positive reinforcement of "catching 'em doing good."  I also like that you can tailor the behaviors you are tracking with simple editing.  I use these positive ("green") behaviors:
  • exemplary work
  • on task
  • positive role model
  • materials ready
  • helping others
  • smooth transition (i.e. between activities)

I use these negative ("red") behaviors:
  • talking
  • time to follow directions
  • out of area
  • disrespect
  • missing work
I have to say that since using ClassDojo, I hardly have to use these at all.  Kids really want to do their best and earn those points!

Late last year, I even added in having the students to trade in their points (i.e. 50) for class privilege coupons (silent read anywhere, bring a stuffed animal to school, etc.).  These incentives are easy and free, and ClassDojo tracks the points for me.  What's not to love?  I'm a fan.

Want to check it out for yourself?  Click here

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Class Constitution FREEBIE

It’s August 7th, and back-to-school is on my brain…  classroom setup, Meet the Teacher Night, daily routines—there are so many things to think about!  Anyone else having those dreams where the kids are walking in on the first day of school and you haven’t even put stuff up on the walls yet? J  That’s usually my signal to jump in and start planning. 

Even after teaching for 11 years, I still love to take this time to tweak things here and there and make the school year even better!  I love starting with the classroom environment piece first, and mapping out how to build great climate from the start.  I want my students to learn and grow academically through the year, but it’s equally important to me that they have great social skills, great manners, and a positive experience being at school every day.

I started to think about where to start on this during that first week of school.  How do I want students to treat others?  How do I want them to feel in our classroom?  How can I guide their work ethic?  I narrowed these down a simple list of positive traits for our “Class Constitution.”  This might be something that we add to through the year, and might even be our class pledge.  I’m planning on enlarging it on the poster maker, and  to have the students sign it with me that first day of school.

I’m hoping that this will be a great anchor for students to refer to about the positive expectations for our class climate.  Hope that it’s something you can use too!  Enjoy!

                        Download this FREEBIE here.

Monday, August 6, 2012


Welcome to my blog, and thanks for stopping by!  My name is Melissa, and I'm a 3rd grade teacher/mom/chihuahua fan.  I love teaching and love sharing, and have been going back and forth about starting a blog for months now.  Now that the school year is starting up again soon, I'm finally just doing it!  I love being in the classroom, and love sharing resources, ideas, inspirations, frustrations.... The hardest thing about teaching is "reinventing the wheel"--hopefully the things that I share here will be something that is helpful to YOU! :)