Tuesday, July 29, 2014

It's Wish List WINSday...Almost {Emergency Sub Activities}

Hi friends!  I know it's technically NOT Wish List WINSday just yet, but I'm headed out of town to celebrate my 15th year anniversary tonight {how did that happen??} so I'm a bit ahead of schedule. :)

The next most popular item(s) on our Teacher's Clubhouse wishlist is our 2nd and 3rd Grade Emergency Sub Units.

Can I just say that these things have saved my tush a time or two??  This is why I think our sub units are so amazing. 

1) They offer 3 days worth of activities in ALL subject areas!  THREE DAYS WORTH!!

2) Each day focuses on a picture book.  The sub reads that book aloud to the class and ALL activities for the day will center around that book.  Everything from reading to writing to math to science/social studies to word work....yep, everything!

3) There's minimal prep - just print the pages, prep what's needed, store with the book and you're ready for those emergencies!

4) Many of the books used will be either well-loved classics or newbie favorites that your students will love!

Books Used - Little Blue and Little Yellow, A House for Hermit Crab and Mouse Count}

{1st Grade Emergency Sub Activities: Books Used - Moira's Birthday, How I Became a Pirate and A Very Busy Spider}

{2nd Grade Emergency Sub Activities: Books Used - Diary of a Worm, Flotsam and Ira Sleeps Over}

{3rd Grade Emergency Sub Activities: Books Used - Alexander, Who Used to Be Rich Last Sunday, Arthur Meets the President and Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs}

{4th Grade Emergency Sub Activities: Books Used - A Bad Case of Stripes, Sylvester and the Magic Pebble and The Sweetest Fig}

{5th Grade Emergency Sub Activities: Books Used - The Eleventh Hour, Jumanji, and Math Curse}

We have the Emergency Sub Activity Units available for grades K through 5.  Here's a sneak peek and the books that are used for each grade.

I create a "Sub Tub" and leave these printables along with the picture books in there for emergencies.

You can grab my Sub Tub labels HERE for FREE!

If you'd like to win one of our Emergency Sub Activity Units, just comment below with your email and the grade that you would like.  We'll choose a winner Thursday night!  All of our Emergency Sub Units are on sale in our Teacher's Clubhouse TpT shop for 30% off through Friday! 

Get Your Craft On {An Instagram Contest}

This time of year teachers are frantically creating all kids of goodies in preparation for the new school year.  Well, I have some great news for you!  Michaels is holding an Instagram contest just for us!

The contest starts on August 1, but I'm giving you a little heads up so you can go ahead and get your craft on!

How easy is THAT?!  Just post a pic of your crafty goodness to Instagram and remember to tag @MichaelsStores in the caption, along with these hashtags - #create2educate and #sweepstakes.  That's ALL you have to do!  Once you do that, you're entered to win a $50 giftcard from Michaels!!

They'll be selecting a winner every single day from August 1 - August 15.  You can enter every single day of the contest.  Multiple times a day, if you want.  So, go get your craft on and take lots of pictures!

Beginning on August 1 I'll be sharing some pics of my craftiness, too!  I may even have a freebie or two for you also, so be sure to follow along with me! 

Monday, July 28, 2014

Show Me Your Teacher Tote!

It's almost that time, friends.  I know we don't want to think about it yet, but finding that perfect little teacher tote may just make "getting back into school mode" a teensy bit more bearable.  So, I'm linking up with my friend Jen from
Teacher by the Beach
to show off my teacher totes.  That's right...totes...plural.  I've had a lot of teacher totes in the past, but once I found Grateful Bags, I was smitten.  Grateful Bags is a company that creates stylish bags with interchangeable monograms.  I mean, every southern girl loves a good monogram, but one that can be switched around to different bags to create different looks....heaven!

Here's my number one teacher tote - the Maggie.

Sized large enough to hold a 3-ring binder notebook along with several other books and notebooks, with pockets on the inside and outside, it's the perfect teacher tote!  The classic black and cream design goes with absolutely everything and the block monogram is icing on the cake! <3

But every once in a while, a girl wants a pop of color...especially come spring time.  So, let me introduce you to the Julia.

The Julia is a bit taller and holds a ton!  This one has a 3-ring binder, clipboard and notepad in it but you can't tell...sooooo roomy!  And the leather on this one is the softest leather I have ever felt in my life.  Seriously.  I love her.  Julia is also perfect to use as a large purse/bag.  <3

I first discovered Grateful Bags through Twelve Saturdays, one of my favorite gameday boutiques. {Go Cocks!}  I purchased the Zoey crossbody in garnet (and later in black) and fell in love!

I am definitely a sucker for a little crossbody.  So perfect for sporting events, concerts...all of my favorite things!

You can see a few of my Grateful Bags in this pic....

I'm up to 6 now {with 3 more on the way at the moment...eek!} and with gold, gunmetal, black, and tortoise monograms I'm at the point where I can just order the bags and trade the monograms around to create new looks!

Some girls love shoes, but I'm definitely a bag and arm candy girl.  If you're looking for an incredible teacher tote, you might want to check out Grateful Bags!

If you already have a teacher tote you love, go link it up with Jen!!

Sunday, July 27, 2014

I'm Lovin' Homework: That's a Wrap! {A Mini-Series}

Hi friends!  I'm back today to wrap up the Homework Mini-Series.  Thank you so much for all of the comments and feedback during this series.  I'm so excited that many of you are going to try this approach to homework this year and I can only hope that it works as well for you as it has for me!

If you've missed the past days in this series, click below to catch up! :)

Post 1: TEAM Homework

Today, I'm going to focus on my MONSTER folder (daily take-home folder) and the "extra options" that are available for homework. 

Right now, my classroom theme is monsters (or MonSTARS, as I like to call them) so our daily take-home folder follows right along with that theme.

I have tried everything from binders to folders for my take-home organization system and I found that the two-pocket, pronged, poly-folders work the best for me!  I purchase them myself at the back-to-school sales so that I can have them prepped and ready for the first day of school (and so that they all match), but you could certainly place them on your students' supply lists.

I use the Avery full-page labels to print the cover and attach it to the folder.  If you are looking for covers that match your theme, we have a ton of covers for every theme imaginable on our website.  Just click here and select your theme to find the covers!

Right now, my folders are organized using one pencil pouch and four clear sleeves (page protectors).

Let's take a peek inside...
The first time the folder goes home, I stick in an "overview" page that lets parents know exactly what they will find in the folder and how it is set up to be used throughout the year.

We use this front folder for important papers that will need to be returned to school.  Think field trip permission forms or anything that parents will need to sign and return promptly.  Placing these in this front pocket ensures (hopefully) that parents will not miss them!

Then, I place a pencil pouch inside the folders.  I purchase these at The Dollar Tree usually and the great thing is that they can usually be used for a few years at least!  This is the pouch where their math game cards, other games, or study cards are placed.  This ensures that students have them at school and also at home or daycare - wherever they go!

If you flip the pouch over, you'll see our weekly newsletter.  We are required to publish a newsletter weekly, so this is the perfect place for me to list homework of the week.  If you don't publish a weekly newsletter, you could send home Homework Bookmarks with the weekly options listed.  A template for those (as well as a parent letter explaining the TEAM Homework approach) is included in our Dealing With Math Homework Card Games  (See Post 2 for more information on that).

On Mondays, students will enter the room to find their new newsletters on their desks.  It takes a couple of weeks, but they quickly become pros at removing and inserting papers into the sleeves in their folders.  I do not do this for them.

Flip over our newsletter and you will find our Daily Schedule.  I find it helpful to include this for parents so if they are planning to come eat lunch with their child or thinking about early dismissals, those times are available at their fingertips - no need to send an email to ask. :)

Next up is the monthly writing calendar.  (See Post 4 in this series for more on that.)

I also include a class roster for parents.  Again, this just saves them from emailing me to ask for a class list when they want to send birthday invitations or make Valentine's cards, etc.

The next piece is our "MONSTERS Club" page.  This is used as one of the "extras" on our TEAM homework at all times.  It's an enrichment piece that is perfect for those students who like to go that extra mile.  You can read more about my MONSTERS Club HERE.

Next, I have some type of Spelling Menu or Choice page (I'm working on a new one of these that will be included in my Differentiated Spelling Unit).  Students may use this page to get ideas for practicing their spelling words in new and different ways.

Finally, I have our unit study guides.  I only provide study guides for our science/social studies units, but I always place the study guides in this sleeve on the very first day of the unit.  I do this for several reasons 1) so I don't forget (ha! But seriously, that is one of the top reasons) 2) So parents have ample time to help their students prepare for the tests 3) I love that students can use it to preview/review.  I know typically study guides are a review, but I love that by providing it at the beginning of the unit, some students will begin "previewing" it right away and by the time we get to certain topics they are able to help teach it.  They are so proud! 

Often times I'll list the "review study guide" as an "extra option" on our homework up until the final week before our test.  Then, I'll move it to one of the nightly suggested options.

If, for some reason, I have an additional study guide there is space left for that, too.

The back pocket of our folders is used for classroom work and/or graded work that is ready to be taken home and kept at home - no need to return these papers to school.

Besides the "MONSTERS Club" and study guides, I will sometimes add other options to the extras, like practice lowercase cursive letters (after we've practiced those in class) or visit (a certain website) to practice (a skill we're focusing on).  The great thing about this approach is that you can add or delete things as you wish to make it meet the needs of your students at any particular moment.

That's it, friends!  That's a wrap on homework!  If you decide to use this approach I would love for you to let me know how it works for you this year!  Enjoy the last days/weeks of summer!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Budding Bloggers Showcase {Alison from Cupcakes & Teaching}

Happy Saturday, y'all!  Today I'm thrilled to be sharing my blog space with another new blogger.  Read on to meet Alison and find out more about her passions and teaching style.  I hope you'll show her some bloggy love by dropping by her blog and becoming a new follower.

Hello! Hello! And welcome to my blog...Cupcakes and Teaching! Teaching the Sweet Way! HaHa! As you can tell two of my passions are teaching and cupcakes!! 

Name:Alison or Ali 

Cupcakes and Teaching 

Personal info:
I am originally from Cleveland, Ohio. I went to college is Pennsylvania. And I now live and teach in Las Vegas, Nevada. I am not married...currently dating someone who is an amazing drummer and country musician (check him out on some of my posts!). I have no pets but would love to have a wiener dog! I think they are the cutest little guys ever! 
I love to run and workout. I ran track in college and have continued to run since then. I now run half marathons. Never a full one though because I am not that crazy! I also play kickball. Yes kickball. Just like you used to in elementary school and just like your students do but this kickball is a bit more competitive. I mean intense kickball. My team practices weekly, plays in two different leagues a week, and travel to different states to compete. We finished 3rd in the US. Yes... There is a huge nation wide kickball tournament in October that is held in Las Vegas. 
Along with running and kickball, I love to craft! I hold a monthly craft night with my friends, where we all come together with supplies, chat, create and maybe drink a glass of vino or two. :) 

This is me after running the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in Disneyland! 
My kickball team!!

Grade You Teach:
This yeah I am teaching 1st grade! 
I taught 1st for 5 years in the past, then moved to 3rd grade for a year, and was then selected to be a reading interventionist for the past 2 years. I made the decision to go back to the classroom this year. That is truly where my heart is...I loved being a reading interventionist but I just wasn't get enough out of it. I was often being pulled out to help with testing and schedule things.

How long have you taught?
This will be my 9th year! I cannot believe it has been that long!

What is your favorite subject to teach?

I love teaching Reading and phonics. I really truly enjoy using all the amazing picture books to teach my students. I love watching their eyes light up from some of the different pictures! 

What would we likely see if we popped into your classroom unannounced?

So much going on! I am very centers and small group based. I give my main lesson to my whole class for about 20minutes and then really focus on working with my small groups. I know all my students learn differently and at different paces. We are always active and moving around. You would also see my students smiling. Many of my students have a very rough home life, so when they are with me....I make sure they are having fun, enjoying themselves, not afraid and most importantly...learning! 

What gets you through one of “those” days?

COFFEE! I am a huge Latte drinker! Plus knowing that the next day will be better...always pushes me through it!

What is one “can’t live without” teaching resource?
Explicit Phonics. I have been trained up and down on it. I can blend words many different ways with my students. Plus who can't live without Teachers Pay Teachers now a days....I love getting new ideas from everyone out there!!

Give us a glimpse of your teaching style by sharing a brief summary of a favorite classroom activity/project.

I love teaching character traits to my students. I use so many different books to help them understand how characters act and feel. This year I am looking forward to using Spaghetti in a Hot Dog Bun. It is about a little girl being different and her classmates making fun of her. Check back to see the activities that I will use in the future. 

What is one of your blogging goals for this year?

I want to help other teachers. I want teachers to follow me...learn, and gain some useful information for them to use in their own classrooms. I want them to comment and give me helpful tips and advice to go with different activities and lesson that I use in my classroom! 

~ Alison

Friday, July 25, 2014

I'm Lovin' Homework: Spelling

Welcome to Post 5 in my mini homework series, friends.  If you missed the previous posts, click below
Post 1: TEAM Homework

Today is all about Spelling Homework.  I feel like this is the homework that most people will probably be able to relate to, but....is your 

When I think of traditional spelling homework, I think of the teacher having students copy their spelling words from the board and assigning them a task such as "write each word 5 times each" or "write a sentence with each word."  The problem with this?  First, copying the words from the board.  We know that's a tough task in itself.  Words may or may not be spelled correctly and if so, may not be legible.  Second, the assigned task may not be effective for ALL students.
I used to assign all students the same words for the week and use a spelling menu.  I've used lots of different spelling menus but they're all very similar - give the students lots of different ways to practice the words so that there's something for every learning style.  Most of the menus would require students to earn "tic-tac-toe" or a certain number of points, etc.

Now, I still provide students with a spelling menu or some sort of list with a variety of ways to practice their spelling words.  The difference is that I do not require them to complete a certain amount of activities from the menu.  The list is merely there to provide options.  My students keep the list in a clear plastic sleeve in their daily take home folders so that have it as a reference all year long.

I use differentiated lists for my class.  On Mondays I give a pretest.  If students score 80% or higher on the pretest, they receive a more challenging list of words to practice for the week.  Both lists follow the same spelling pattern so that my lessons apply to everyone. 

Instead of copying their words down, I provide the words for students.  In the past I have put both lists on my newsletter and after the pretest students would highlight their list (A or B) for the week.

This year, students will receive spelling cards (very similar to my math game cards) each week.  These cards will be kept on a ring and students will highlight their list on the card each week.  This will allow them to have a running list of their spelling words for the year for continuous practice and review.

I'm a strong believer that some people are just "natural spellers."  Even with differentiated lists, I will have a few students who will not need to study their words at all for the week.  So why should they be required to complete activities to practice spelling those words every single night?  They shouldn't.  The TEAM homework approach allows those students to select other options, rather than spelling, for their homework credits.  LOVE!  I am all about students using their time on meaningful tasks and writing words that you already know how to spelling 5 times each just isn't time well spent - even to make tic-tac-toe. :)

I also believe sending the pretest home is extremely helpful.  It allows parents to see which words students already know how to spell so that time is spent on the unknown words rather than those.

Even if you don't use differentiated lists, the TEAM homework approach allows you to differentiate your spelling HOMEWORK.  Don't require students to spend time practicing something that they don't need to practice!  That's just craziness, I tell ya!  If a student has a strong grasp on this week's spelling pattern, let him/her choose other homework options.  Or, if a student has an "aha" moment after one or two nights of practice, don't require four nights of practice!  It's all about options and making homework fit students' needs.

I hope you've gained several ideas from this homework series.  Tomorrow, I'll have my Budding Bloggers Showcase so I'll be back on Sunday to wrap up this series with a bit about my "extra options."  If you still have questions about this approach, leave them below and I'll answer them as I wrap it up!

**I get a lot of questions about my differentiated spelling, so I am currently working on a 2nd grade differentiated spelling unit.  I'm hoping to have it ready in the next week or two so if you're interested in that, be sure to follow my TpT shop to be notified when it is up.**

Thursday, July 24, 2014

I'm Lovin' Homework: Writing

Welcome to Post 4 in my mini homework series, friends.  If you missed the previous posts, click below

Post 1: TEAM Homework

Today I'm going to focus on writing homework.  Say what?  You give writing homework?  Who does that??  I love writing.  I love to teach writing.  I love to write (especially poetry).  I love to read writing....especially second grade writing.  PRECIOUS!  And, yes, I give writing homework.  Well, it's one of my "extra options" at all times.  So, my goal is to make 
I want to make writing just as much of a priority as reading and math!  I am a strong believer that students at this age need to WRITE!  It doesn't matter what they write, they just need practice recording their ideas!  If there is one subject that my students come to me dreading it is writing.  That makes me sad.

Nothing breaks my heart more than having student after student say "I don't know what to write" during writer's workshop.  You know why they say that?  It's because they don't have much experience writing.  Sure, they write answers to questions, but to actually come up with ideas of their own and record a story....it's not something they do as often as reading or math.  And, they are afraid that what they write is going to be "wrong" - after all, their answers in math and most other subjects are either right or wrong.  They need more experience with writing to understand that there is no wrong topic to write about.  They can write about absolutely ANYTHING!

Also, writing is the one thing that parents often don't get to "see" how their students are doing.  They see math papers come home, science tests, they read with them nightly, but they have no idea how their writing is progressing.  I think it's important for parents to see this and be just as involved in writing as they are reading.  In fact, I tell my parents that I would prefer they trade some of their reading time and WRITE instead!  By second grade, my students are on their way to becoming fluent readers already, but writing is often another story.  And do you know what?  Reading and writing go hand-in-hand.  If the students are writing, they're also using many of those reading skills!  But it doesn't work the other way around. :(

Traditionally, I don't really believe writing homework is given.  I know I never gave it my first few years of teaching.  I mean, sure, students may have reading responses or essay questions to respond to in other subjects, but writing homework?  Nope.
When I first started offering the option of writing homework, it was to respond to reading.  Whatever book the student read that night, he/she was to write about it - a response, a summary, their thoughts.  Now, don't get me wrong, all of those things are important for a student to be able to do.  But I believe that assignment is better suited for the classroom.  For one, I don't want the writing to take away from the enjoyment of reading at home.  Also, I want them to write more creatively in order to foster that love of writing.  Who wants to be TOLD what to write about?  That's no fun at all.
Several years ago I decided that I wanted my students to begin practicing the same types of writing that we were working on in class at home, too.  Not only would it give them more practice, but it would also let their parents see exactly what quality of writing their children were producing.

So, I created writing calendars.  I've always taught writing through genres in my classroom.  So, I created a calendar for each genre.  At the beginning of the year, we always start with sentences.  Yep, just sentences.  We work on expanding them into "fancy sentences" using lots of adjectives and adverbs - details!  Then we move on to writing a paragraph.  After those are mastered we dive into our genres - descriptive, persuasive, friendly letters, expository, how-to, poetry, dialogue, and comparing/contrasting.

After teaching each of these in class and giving students lots of exposure and practice with each genre, I place a writing calendar choice as an extra homework option.  The actual calendar is placed in students' daily take home folders (in a clear page protector) to stay for the month.  The calendar is FILLED with topics so students have lots of choices (or they can come up with their own ideas...these are just to help those who are "stuck"). 

{Writing Calendars from Teacher's Clubhouse}
I definitely don't want students to complete a writing task each night.  I don't want it to become a chore.  But, I encourage parents to have them choose this option once a week - especially if they could benefit from the practice.  The topics range from (persuasive) "Persuade your parents to let you get a new pet." or "Persuade someone else to do one of your chores." or "Persuade a monster to stop scaring people." or "Persuade an alien to take you back to his planet."   Lots of choices for lots of personalities!

With the change to common core and a strong focus on Narratives, Opinions, and Expository pieces, I am redesigning my calendars for this year.  Each calendar will surround four monthly themes and the topics will all be narrative, opinion, or expository pieces about these themes.

{Core Writing through the Year BUNDLE}

I also send out a Family Write Night idea each month to parents.  This is a FUN writing-themed night idea for the entire family to participate in!  It is so important for kids to see adults writing, too...and for it to be FUN!  You know I'm all about having families incorporate learning into QUALITY family time. :)  So, even if they just choose to do this one monthly writing piece, I know that they are building a LOVE for writing. <3

From having each member of the family write a persuasive piece about a movie for family movie night to writing spooky stories to read while roasting marshmallows, this resources gives a fun family "write night" idea for each month of the year!  It gives the task, ideas for creating a setting for the "mood" and also provides a skill to work on - an instant family hit that gets the entire family writing!

If you have our Summer Buckets Unit you already have this resource as a part of that pack!  If not, you can pick this resource up on its own at our website - look under the "Summer Buckets Unit" for the "Family Write Night Idea Packet" - it's a steal at $0.99!

If you aren't providing a writing homework option, I hope I've given you some ideas to think about.  Come back tomorrow to learn how I handle spelling homework!

And, CONGRATULATIONS to Krystyn from Ms. Richard's Musings for winning the Great Poetry Race Pack!  Look for an email from us soon. :)  If you didn't win, remember that is on sale for 30% off in our TpT shop through Friday!