HearALL Assessment Recorder GIVEAWAY!!

Did that title grab your attention?  I have been dying to get my hands on one of these little devices so I was thrilled when Learning Resources offered me the opportunity to review one!

First, I am completely in awe of how lightweight this device is.  It's slightly larger than the iphone in size, but still can very easily be held in one hand.  Despite its lightweight, it is very durable and has no knobs or hardware that could easily break off.  Let's face it, durability is a key when little ones will be using it!

If you're not familiar with this device, it is an "assessment recorder" designed to be used to record students while working in small groups.  For this purpose, it has four omnidirectional microphones (one on each corner) to pick up all of the voices in a small group setting.  PLUS, it automatically reduces background noise so the voices that it picks up are much clearer than I expected!  The buttons are color-coded and large enough for students to use independently.

I've had my eye on this baby for a while and have a LONG list of ways to use it in my classroom!  The possibilities are really endless, but here are some of my favorites:

1.  Reading Groups/Partners - While I'm working with one reading group, this device could be recording another group.  This would allow me to assess how well the other group was working together, staying on task, and also let me hear how they were doing with their reading and what areas/skills we need to work on when I do meet with them personally.

2.  SSR/AR - During Sustained Silent Reading time, I know some of my readers (especially lower readers) could benefit from this device.   I could have them read their book while being recorded, then play back their recording to listen to the story again.  Not only would this let them hear the story, it would also let them listen to their reading and fluency.

3.  Mystery Readers - I could use the HearALL as a regular recorder...having other staff at our school read stories to play back for my students.  They would have a new voice reading to them, and would have fun trying to guess the "mystery reader!"  (The great thing about this is that these files can be transferred from this device to our class computer to keep for future uses!)

4.  Readers' Theater Groups - I use LOTS of readers' theater groups in my classroom and I KNOW that the HearALL would be a tremendous help during these!  I can't always meet with each group every day, but the HearALL could record the groups' practices so that I could listen to them at a later time and know what their goals for the next day should be.

5.  Running Records - Let's face it, running records are so hard to do in the classroom without distractions!  This handy dandy device could record a child reading a selection while you are working with the rest of the class and you could go back and listen to the recording later at your convenience!

6.  Podcasts - I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY want to do more podcasting with my class this year!  This device makes podcasting super easy!  Recorded files could also be sent to parents via email (some of those cool, fun songs we love to sing!) or placed in electronic portfolios for students (would be a fantastic form of authentic assessment)

Seriously...I could go ON and ON with the ways I could use this in my classroom, but I also want to highlight a few of the cool features:

1 - Plugs right into your computer with a USB cord (included) to transfer the files (PC and MAC compatible)

2 - Does NOT require batteries - charges by connecting to your computer.  Fully charged within a few hours

3 - Can hold up to 62 tracks, regardless of the length of each track!!

4 - Records in either MP3 or WAV mode (your choice)

5 - No required software to install - just plug into your computer and drag the files to your desktop

Does this sound like something you could use in your classroom??  The HearALL Assessment Recorder is available from Learning Resources for $99.99, but you can WIN one for your classroom for FREE!!!

There are LOTS of ways to enter this giveaway below.  Good luck....the winner will be announced on Monday, August 6th!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Sub Tub, WBT Rules, Shelves and More!

This random title can only mean one thing...it's time for Monday Made It with Tara at Fourth Grade Frolics!
I didn't have a lot of time for craftiness this week and still have SEVERAL projects in the works, but here are a few that were finished up this week!

Made It #1Whole Brain Teaching Rules
{Ignore the spray paint area set up in my garage...there are several projects still in the works out there!}
I'm taking the dive into Whole Brain Teaching this year and decided that I wanted to display my rules in picture frames.  I created a "Subway" style layout for each rule and, of course, added some monsters peeking in on each to incorporate my theme!  I picked up five different frames from Wal-Mart ($3 each) and decided to paint them all red to go with the rest of my decor.  Here are some close ups of each rule.
Sorry for all the shadows and quality of the photos from the garage.  They're still a bit sticky so I didn't want to bring them inside yet.  Now, I just need to decide how to hang them in the classroom...maybe with a bit of ribbon?
Made It #2Author Showcase Shelf
This one was a "re"made it!  It was an old display shelf that I picked up at Big Lots several years ago.  It was yellow with "ABC" on the sides.  It had multi-colored "pocket shelves" to display books, but the pockets were made with a type of paper (not actual fabric) so it got destroyed very easily (and quickly) in the classroom.  I was just going to throw it out this year, but my husband insisted on bringing it home to salvage.   He repainted it and bought new (real) fabric.  His mom sewed the new pocket shelves for me and it's ready to hold the books for our current author study again! (I just put folders in it to show you how it holds books.)  YAY!

Made It #3: Chair Pockets
I'm going to throw these in here while I'm talking about my sweet mother-in-law.  I purchased chair pockets from Jeannine, whom I met online years ago (I've used them for at LEAST 8 years) and they are STILL in perfect form!  Well, except for the yellow ones...that light color just gets so dingy and the red (because when I washed them, I missed a black crayon....therefore everything in that load...and the load after was ruined!)  But the green and blue sets I have are still in perfect condition...they have held up SO well!  Anyhow...my mother-in-law made me two new sets of chair pockets to replace the two "dirty" sets!  YAHOO!!
**If you're looking for chair pockets, I highly recommend Jeannine and just discovered she now has a website/business making these - Sew Not Retired - check her out!**

Made It #4:  Sub Tub
Are you required to have emergency sub plans?  I actually am not sure what my current school's policy is on that, but my previous school required us to have 3 days of emergency lesson plans on hand at all times.  I thought this was an excellent idea since you NEVER know when an emergency will arise, so I've kept the routine going at my new school.  I previously kept my sub plans in a binder, but you know how I love my unit tubs, right?  So, I knew I wanted a tub for these as well...plus, it's just fun to say SUB TUB, right??  
I made some fun labels for it and used the emergency sub plans that we have at Teacher's Clubhouse.  I love these because there's an activity for each subject for each day and they all revolve around a different picture book for each day.  Just leave that picture book and make copies of the activities and your sub is set!  Easy Peasy!!  Click below for the "Sub Tub" label.

Don't forget to set some New {School} Year Resolutions and link them up with my linky party so we can help keep each other accountable when school starts (which is going to be way too soon)!!


New {School} Year Resolutions...Link Up!

I usually reserve Sundays for posting about personal stuff, but as the beginning of the new school year draws near, it's all I can seem to think about! My to-do list is still as long as ever (and growing by the day)! Please tell me I'm not the only one! :)

I almost NEVER make New Year Resolutions, because let's face it, I never keep them! It always seems like the resolutions I need to make are work-related anyway and who can implement those in January when it's the middle of the school year? So, I've decided I'm going to make my New {School} Year Resolutions...publicly...on my blog, so that you guys can help keep me accountable for them! You'll do that, right? :)

As I was thinking about this, I thought you might like to make some, too! I mean, who doesn't want to try to improve their classroom in SOME way for the new year? So, go ahead, and link up to share your resolutions, too!

This school year, I hope to....

Resolution #1: Take more pictures of my classroom activities!  I always have high hopes for this, but somehow I fail to follow through.  I'm hoping now that I'm blogging, I will have a reason to NEED to do this....to share pictures of our class activities with YOU!

Resolution #2: Keep the piles cleaned off of my desk!  No matter how organized I am, I always tend to start the day with a sparkling clean desk and end the day with piles of paperwork!!  I am determined to put things in their place as I go to keep these piles off my desk!

Resolution #3:  Stay focused on my students.  I really want to not worry about pleasing everyone else and learn to say "NO" so that I'm not taking on too many things.  I don't want my focus to be on anyone or anything other than my students.

Resolution #4:  Work smarter.  It's so tough not to want to "hang out" with other adults in the mornings before school starts or on those planning periods since our adult-time at school is SO limited.  However, I'm really going to try to use my time wisely so I don't have to bring so much home with me.  I really want to spend my evenings with the hubby (and, according to him, this doesn't count if I'm working on the computer the whole time!)

So, that's it!  Those are my New {School} Year Resolutions!  I really think they're realistic and I will be able to keep them this year.  I'll let you know how it goes!  What are your resolutions?  Link up at the bottom of this post to share!

Sundays in the South: Concert Recap

On, the personal side, I promised to share a bit about our trip to Atlanta for the Aerosmith Concert.  Well, we  went for a quick overnight trip, staying at the Ritz Carlton....I told you I was picky about my hotels and the Ritz is it for me in Atlanta!  Not, only is the location perfect, right in the middle of downtown so we can walk to concerts, but their service is always IMPECCABLE!
This was our room with a great view of Atlanta!  The entire hotel was booked with people for the concert so that was a lot of fun!  We almost always eat at the Hard Rock Cafe since it's just a couple of doors down.  This trip was no different, and they were having a little pre-concert tribute to Aerosmith so everyone was rocking out!

We had GREAT seats at the concert...lower level, row 8, end seats (end seats are our thing...whether it's football, races, or concerts we always have to have end seats - don't you HATE having to climb over people to get in and out?  I always feel like a bother and I hate that!) 
Mr. Madden was VERY worried about this concert since Aerosmith is one of his all-time favorites.  He was really worried that he would be disappointed and that Steven Tyler wouldn't sound the same in person.  Let's just say we were VERY happy!!  It was an AMAZING show and Steven can still hit every one of those screaming notes!  I love that he came out in a long red sequined cape (that he ended up throwing out to an audience member!)  I also love the ribbons that were tied all around his microphone...I would totally do that if I were a rockstar! :)
I would definitely recommend snagging tickets to this tour if you're an Aerosmith fan!  Now, we've got a few months with no concerts (but that's okay since we'll have football games to fill those weekends!)  The next concert (Madonna) is the one that I'm worried about...I sure hope she does a lot of her 80s music to make this girl, happy!

The next morning we had breakfast credits at the hotel so we ate at its restaurant, Atlanta Grill.
It was delicious (but so not worth the money had we not had credits!)  We decided not to stay in Atlanta too long (we were just here not long ago) but I had planned on swinging by IKEA since it's just a few miles from the hotel.  However, I talked myself OUT of it since I really didn't NEED anything else for my classroom.  We did stop by the outlets, but Mr. Madden was the only one who purchased anything (I love that my hubby loves to shop as much as I do!)  Why was I so good?  I planned to swing by a store on the way home and buy a Silhouette Cameo!  I've been wanting one for sooooo long.  So, on the way home I searched to see where I could find one and was surprised that they aren't sold by most of the big chains (only a few small scrapboooking stores...none in our city)! :(  BOO!!  But, I did end up ordering one online the next day and can NOT wait for it to arrive this week!  Hopefully it will SO be worth not shopping in Atlanta! :)  I'm sure it will inspire some Monday Made-Its once it arrives!


Hoppin' Friday!

Whew....I am pooped!  We just got back from Atlanta where we saw Aerosmith in concert (more on that in Sunday's post) and that trip wore me out!!  I came home and took a multi-hour nap.  I must not be as young as I'd like to think! :)

You bloggers just keep on creating these irresistible linky parties and blog hops, so I'm joining up with several in this post!

First for Elizabeth's Fabulous Find Friday.
Of course, I have a find from Target's dollar bins....where else? :)  Just when I thought I had found every monster item ever made, I was strolling through this section for the billionth time when I saw....Monster Water Bottles!!  Here's a pic Mr. Madden took of me checking out.

I didn't know he snapped this pic, but he sent it to me via text asking, "Are you creating a monster army?" Hehehe...I think I may be!  You see, I don't like my students getting up and down to get  water throughout the day so instead, I ask them to bring water bottles to keep at their desks.  The only rule is that they must have a "pop-up top" instead of screw on lid....you can imagine why!  So, I decided to go ahead and buy them all a water bottle that I'll label with their names!  Each night, my students take their water bottles home to fill-up and bring back to school the next morning (no filling up at school....that would take too long!) LOVE this fabulous find that goes with my class theme!

Now for Kelley's linky party...
 Let's see...5 things I couldn't live without in my classroom.  This should be easy!


I use name badge holders purchased from my local office supply store for student nametags.  Here's why I love these...

1. They can be used over and over, year after year.
2. I can design and print my own inserts to match my classroom theme.
3. I don't have to create sticker nametags EVERY time they're needed throughout the year.
4. They are easily accessible for substitutes to use (even for unexpected absences!)
5. There's enough space to include the student's name, as well as other information (teacher's name, school, lunch number, etc.)

Honestly, I don't create a lot of charts on chart paper (I know, I know...I am inspired by all the cute ones on Pinterest...but I'm an electronic kind of girl), but when I do, I LOVE these markers.  Okay, so I love all Sharpies but these are super cool since they don't bleed through the paper!

These aren't my actual chair pockets, but they look very similar (this pic is from etsy).  Since I use tables in my classroom instead of desks, my chair pockets are a MUST!!!  Students keep their folders and journal in there for easy access throughout the day.

I could insert soooo many books onto this list, but one series that I couldn't live without is Stuart J. Murphy's MathStart books.  I wrote a grant for all of these one year and they are spectacular!  I believe they come in 3 different levels and there is one for just about every math concept.  I use these as activating strategies for lots of math lessons!

I think every first year teacher should stock up on playing cards and dice.  You can find them in multi-packs at the Dollar Tree and they can be used for SO MANY DIFFERENT MATH GAMES!!  I remove all face cards and use the ace cards to represent ONE.  Easy to replace, saves ink, and usually kids have these at home to replicate playing the games with their families.

Since we're already talking about must have resources, I'm going to link up with Mrs. Castro's linky while I'm on a roll. :)
My number one teacher tool to have at home is a hot glue gun!  What teacher doesn't have one of these plugged in at all times?
And, this little baby is CORDLESS!!  Now, that is a must in the classroom AND at home!

I have to agree with all of the others who have said the Scotch Laminator!  How did I go for so long with just using the one at school??  For $28 from Target, this one is a no-brainer!  An ABSOLUTE must-have at home....no more waiting for the school laminator to warm-up or waiting in line to use it!
And, soon to be added to my list (like, it is in my cart on Amazon right now and my finger is itching to tap that "one-click shopping" button) is the Silhouette Cameo....this linky might just push me over the edge to take the plunge!
I've been waiting (and hoping) since my birthday is coming up, but there are just sooooo many things I could use this for right NOW!

I'm going to wrap up this post by joining the First Day Jitters Blog Hop from Fierce in Fourth.
We all love to read this book on the first day of school and I love how it shows the kids that teachers have jitters, too!  Three things causing me to have First Day Jitters this year are....

1.  A New Principal - Our principal retired last year and we have a new principal.  From everything I've seen, I think he's going to be great...but, I hate the unknown.  I like to plan and be prepared and, well, it's hard to plan for the unknown!

2.  My Schedule - We received our school's master schedule and let's just say 2nd grade got the short end of this deal!  As of right now (hoping something changes!), we have NO instructional time until about 11:00.  SERIOUSLY??  Our school starts at 8:00 and we have a morning news show that airs until 8:15.  Well, at 8:15 we will have our pull-out (resource, speech, etc) so we can't do major instruction during that time (we usually do SSR and some word work).  Right after that we have RELATED ARTS and immediately after that we have LUNCH (yes, at 10:15....we got stuck with that dreaded first lunch last year, too).  UGH!  I cannot imagine trying to cram ALL of our instruction into one LONG AFTERNOON block.  Poor kiddos! :(

3.  The New Batch - It doesn't matter how long you've taught, I think you always get jitters about a new batch of students and parents.  I'm excited about it, yet nervous, at the same time....every year!

Have you linked up lately?  Join the linky parties and blog hops above!


My Birthday is on the FIRST Day of School!

Okay, so technically, my birthday is the day BEFORE the first day of school this year, but growing up it was on the first day of school quite often.  It's a good thing I loved school! :)

This year we have Meet The Teacher on August 20, then (my birthday) the 21st is a teacher workday and the official day for the kids is the 22nd.  I love to use my birthday to model how we will celebrate birthdays for the year. ;)  I thought about giving the kids an invitation to a birthday party on the first day of school (no presents allowed, of course!) just to get them REALLY excited about that first day.  I'm not sure though.  What kind of super fun, really cool activities could we do to celebrate?  Any ideas?

I've been thinking about this because yesterday I went to school and put up my birthday display.  I FINALLY found those giant pixie stix at Dollar General and they were only 25 cents each!!
I created my little balloons and stuck them in my birthday display!
For my Hollywood theme I used pencils with stars taped to the tops and red and gold bags.  I found these short-ish gift bags and tissue that coordinates with my theme at Target!
What else do you do for students' birthdays?  I'm going to switch up the traditional "Happy Birthday" song (because my kiddos DROVE me CRAZY with all the add-ons at the end last year....at first they were cute, but then as the year went on it lasted about 10 minutes.  When the "EAT MORE CHICKEN" line was added last year, I knew I needed a change!)  Instead, we're going to try this Happy Birthday Cheer that I found on Pinterest (of course, I needed to cutesy it up...click to download your copy).
I also have my students work on a page to create a "Happy Birthday" book for the birthday student for morning work instead of the traditional assignment that morning.  Since the birthday kid doesn't need to create a page, he/she gets to design the cover of the book!

The birthday kid also gets to pull a birthday coupon from a birthday bag for some type of special treat for the day.

At the end of the day (while waiting on car numbers, etc), the birthday kid gets to play a "Birthday Bonanza Game" with a friend of his/her choice.  It's really just a sneaky way to get in some addition and subtraction practice (there are one, two, and three digit card sets for different times of the year), but they think it's FUN!

I want to know -  what do you do to celebrate student birthdays?  And, what do you think I should do about the first day of school?  Celebrate or not?  I've always wanted to have a party/celebration for the FIRST day of school (shouldn't we have kids celebrate the start of school rather than the end of school?), but I definitely don't want parents to send in gifts.  Help me out here....what do you think?

Also, swim by to visit Courtney at Swimming into Second today and you could win the Non-Fiction Text Features Sign set from Teacher's Clubhouse!  Click below.

Writing Workshop Series: Post #5 - How-To Writing & 2nd Grade Common Core EQs Freebie

I'm finally back for another writing workshop post!  But, before we get to that I thought I would share a little something with you.  I created some 2nd Grade Common Core EQs for a friend of mine and thought maybe some of you could use them as well.

There's a chevron print in both ELA and Math and a Hollywood print in each.  Click to download.

How-To Writing Unit
This is typically a short writing unit, but we pack a lot of fun into it!  I always start this unit by telling my students that I want them to write directions for doing something that they know how to do very well - slide down a slide!  I don't stress adding details, etc....I just let them write it how they think they should.  Then, I put it to the test!  That's right...we go outside and I randomly (okay, so not SO randomly, I'm kind of scanning these and putting them in order of weakest to strongest as we're heading outside) select some to read.  I attempt to follow the directions EXACTLY as they wrote them.  If they didn't write to climb the stairs, I don't.  If they didn't write to sit down, I don't.  I usually go through about 6 of them before FINALLY reading one that is clear enough to successfully make it down the slide!
When we get back inside, I tell them that I have a friend from another planet {Al the Alien} and that he will be visiting our classroom soon.  Since he's from another planet he doesn't know how to do ANY of the things we do here on Earth.  I tell the students that I know he would love to slide down the slide, but they will need to be able to explain exactly what to do in order for him to be successful.  They all revise their writing and the improvements are INCREDIBLE!  

Of course, I don't REALLY have a friend from another planet, but I do have some cool Alien hats and boots that I found in the Target dollar bin last year that I pull out the next day!  I let some of them take turns being Al the Alien to attempt to follow their friends' writings.  I also continue to bring up Al throughout the unit - "Would Al be able to follow those directions?"  It works wonders!!

The next day, students make an expert list as a prewriting activity (things they know how to make, do and be).  I also have students hold "how-to" discussions with a partner (I do this for most of my writing units).  I give them cards with topics on them and they have to take turns explaining in words how to complete the tasks.  I find that these "writing talks" are very beneficial, as they let the students experience the genre through discussions before actually putting it into writing...this really helps those who struggle with IDEAS of what to write!

Over the next few days, students work on How-To writings based on their expert lists.

I wish I had more read-alouds for this unit, but a couple that I love are...

We use the second book toward the end of the unit, once students have mastered how-to writings.  They always think it's hilarious!  We write our own class book about "How to Visit the Principal's Office" where they write about how to get sent there!  Of course, the last page assures readers that we would NEVER do any of those things....instead we would just ask for a tour.  :)
I'm wondering if anyone has used the above book (or other books in this "How-To" science series).  They look like they might be a good addition to this unit, but I'm wondering if they might be a bit too easy for 2nd graders.

One of my favorite projects to do during this unit is the "Monster Exchange" or "Monster Swap" (won't that be perfect with my new theme this year?!)  There's an actual website where you can pair up with another class from somewhere else in the world.  I've done that before and it works wonderfully as long as your partner class follows through!  Now, I usually do this project within my own class (partnering my own students with each other).  Basically, each student draws a monster then writes directions for "How To" replicate his monster.  These directions are given to the partner and they have to try to draw the monster using only the written directions (they can't see the monster beforehand or ask for any clarification).  Then students compare monsters to see how well their "how-to" was written!
We make several class books in this unit, also!  You can see all of the How-To resources from this unit at Teacher's Clubhouse.

As a celebration to this unit, I hold a "Teach It Day" where students actually teach their classmates how to do something that they are an expert at!  I send a letter home to parents about this special day and students work on the writing at home to bring to school on "Teach It Day."  I've had students teach their classmates how to make paper airplanes, how to draw monsters, how to braid hair, how to do a cartwheel....the possibilities are endless.
They love being the "teacher" for a lesson!  Do you have any activities that you love to incorporate while teaching "How-To" writing?

All posts in this series:

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