Beginning of the Year Tips

Sunday, August 31, 2014

This year has started off smoothly and I thought I would share a few "new" things that I have tried this year.  First, I started the year off by hanging a "Ready to Learn" banner in my room.  It is bright and cheery so it gave the room a little sparkle!  Download a copy of the banner by clicking on the pic. 
        Next, I started morning writing journals this year.  I was thinking that when I taught the lower grades, this was always a staple in my day.  But, when I started teaching the upper grades I just never made time for journal writing.  Who says the bigger kids can't keep a journal?? :) So, I decided to start journal writing in my fifth grade classroom.  As the kids come in the room in the morning I hand them their writing prompt.  The kids head to their desks and start taking out their homework.  As they wait for me to come around to check their homework, they start writing in their journals for about 20 minutes.  The kids are loving this.  It is really kickstarting their writing fluency and they even look at it as a sort of "diary"!  The prompts mostly have been personal narrative type questions, but I am thinking of expanding later in the year to other genres.  This does not serve as our writing block, but it is a great way to calmly start the day and squeeze a little writing in.  It is sort of like the writing version of SSR.  I don't necessarily call it SSW (Sustained Silent Writing) because 5th grade diaries or journals seems much more exciting to them!  Here are a few samples: 

 One of my girls was noticeably upset one morning before we went to recess last week.  When I asked her what was wrong, she just didn't want to talk about it BUT she did say, "I don't know, but I DID write about it in my journal and that made me feel much better." SUCCESS!!!!!! Click on the link below to get the first 11 days of my writing prompts...(That is all I have completed so far)

Finally, I wanted to share something that has been a LIFESAVER for homework.  I am using a homework data chart that the students pull out every morning as I am checking homework in.  First the students lay out their homework so I can see every sheet on their desk.  I can just eyeball to see if they have done their homework and if so I give them a stamp for the day.  If the student's have "perfect homework" for the month, they get a no homework pass for the following month.  This is the ONLY time I give out no homework passes SO they REALLY want it!!!! I had about 85% of my students have perfect homework for August so I would say that was a success.  Click on the image below to grab it!

Getting to Know You Projects! Part One

Friday, August 29, 2014
We have been back in school a few weeks and I have to say that I have gotten to know my kiddos pretty well already, thanks to a bunch of projects that we have done! The first one was centered around the challenges that the students would be facing for the upcoming school year. They are so nervous and excited about finally getting to 5th grade, that filling out a circle map of things they felt would be challenging for the year was a good way to ease their fears!

I decided to try and motivate the kids by telling them they would be doing a project that would allow them to brainstorm ways for facing their fears.  They would now become "mountain climbers".  I presented 4 inspirational quotes to the kids that were centered around overcoming challenges and mountains.  They chose the one that "spoke" to them the most and they recorded it on the flappy piece of paper seen in the sample above.  On the inside of the flap, they wrote what the quote meant to them.  Next, The kids then each got a mountain shaped writing template.  They referred to the circle map and chose 3 challenges to write about.  They wrote details about HOW they were planning on overcoming their fears and challenges for the upcoming year. 
     Next, I took the students photos and they had a blast posing like they were climbing up a mountain, I even got to get in on the fun! (see below) I printed them out at home on my color printer (alot of ink but it was worth it!) and the kids LOVED getting their hands on them to cut them out!  They even designed their own personal walking sticks, backpacks, and hats on a separate sheet of paper that they glued on to their pictures.  They thought that it was SO much fun to "customize" their backpacks. :) 
My bulletin board backing is black felt SO I needed an idea for the black paper that they mounted everything on to stick out.  On a whim, I gave the students some green scrapbooking paper so that they could cut out rectangular strips to make a border.  This way, I really didn't need to back them with another color of construction paper since they stuck out pretty well with the border.  I loved their finished products.  They are SO much fun to look at.  Students had a great time making these, but I think that the parents got an even bigger kick out of seeing them at back to school night!

At the end of the year, I plan on students having students reflect on their challenges to see if they stepped up to the plate and met their goals.  Hopefully, they will see a lot of growth and success.  The entire bulletin board looked like this.  To get a copy of ALL of the materials used in this project (minus) the pictures of course, click here.  I would love to see your bulletin board in action! Send a pic to   

SoCal Blog Surf

Saturday, August 2, 2014
 So I am so thrilled to be a part of the So Cal Blog Surf today!  There are some amazing Southern California bloggers that have joined together to share some fabulous freebies and teaching ideas for all to enjoy.  This summer, I had many opportunities to visit some of my favorite California beaches and I must say that my favorite trip was heading out with my daughter to celebrate her 3rd birthday!   Here is a pic of my cutie with her bff!

Now that summer is coming to a close (1 week left!), I made the following freebie to ease my students into our Language skills challenge for the year.  Many of my kids spent their summer days at the beach so I am hoping to get them in the swing of things with this one!  Most of these skills are a review from 3rd and 4th grade, but I have some who will really need the repetition and extra practice.   Grab your copy here!!! Click on the image below to download this google doc...

Also, here is your chance to win a $25 gift card to TPt! Enter the rafflecopter here...

don't forget to surf on over to Katie's amazing blog, "the art of possibility" by clicking the link below!  

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