Thursday, August 10, 2017

Minds in Bloom!

Greetings, bloglings!

Here are two things most teachers probably think don't mix: Montessori and the Common Core! This guest post shares one teacher's insight and experience with combining these two seemingly separate teaching structures. Click through to read her full post on Minds in Bloom.

Head on over to Minds in Bloom to see my guest blog post on integrating Montessori and the Common Core!

I also added a few more Montessori-based products to my TPT store this week.  Today was the last day of summer school, and I am feeling ready for the new year!

Montessori Grammar Symbol 3 Part Cards
Grammar Symbol & Definition Cards

Montessori Grammar Symbol Posters
Grammar Symbol Posters

Place Value Riddle Task Cards
Place Value Riddles

Singular and Plural Noun Sorting Activities
Singular & Plural Noun Activities

Montessori Infinity Street Place Value Activity with Recording Sheets
Infinity Street Place Value Materials

Happy Friday Eve,

Monday, August 7, 2017

Poetry in the Elementary Classroom

Greetings, bloglings!

I've started planning this year's Writers' Workshop, one of my favorite subjects to teach!  I always loved writing as a student, and I especially love it as a teacher.  I love to read what my students write, because it's usually hilarious, and it is so exciting to see students transform from reluctant to fearless writers.  They begin to develop their own unique voices, especially as third graders.  

Writing Process Posters

In Writers' Workshop, we focus on the process of writing.  Our mantra is, "When I'm done, I've just begun!"  I try not to offer too many corrections as that can cause young writers to shut down; instead, I strive to guide them through the process of learning from their own and their peers' mistakes.

One specific area that I plan to focus on a bit more this year is poetry.  We read poetry daily, and we do a unit on it in April for Poetry Month, but I want to make sure that my students engage in writing poetry all year long. 

Students need to be exposed to a variety of poetry beginning at the early elementary level in order to fully access its benefits and develop an appreciation for it.  In addition to being a great vehicle for self-expression and connecting with others, poetry teaches students about language and speaking from the earliest nursery rhymes.  I find that most students enter second grade with the misconception that all poetry has to rhyme, so we have fun exploring different forms with different rules, as well as free verse poetry.  

I created these writing journals for my students to publish their work as we learn about different forms of poetry throughout the year.  You can see the Table of Contents that lists the forms of poetry included in the journals on the product's page at my TPT store.  

Poetry Journals for Elementary Writers

Poetry Journals for Elementary Writers
The journal includes a cover page, 19 pages with headings that include the type of poem, a brief description of its structure, a line for the student's title, unlined space for writing and illustrating, and an About the Poet page.

Here are some books for inspiring and celebrating poetry in your classroom throughout the year:

Image result for julie andrews poetry
Julie Andrews' Treasury for all Seasons has become a staple in my classroom; we read from it on a daily basis!  Every morning, one student is chosen to select a poem to be read aloud.  It's a large collection of beautiful, seasonal and holiday-themed poetry divided by month, so it never gets old!  

Image result for joyful noise poems for two voices
We study insects in science every other year, and Joyful Noise is an amazingly dynamic collection of insect-themed poems.  The poetry in this collection is especially rhythmic and full of onomatopoeia.  It's the perfect text for demonstrating that poetry is meant to be read aloud:  All poems in the collection are for two readers, so students read the lines either alternately or simultaneously, making it a great tool for buddy reading and building fluency.

Here are some of my other favorites:

How do you teach and incorporate poetry in your classroom?

Friday, August 4, 2017

Freebie Friday: TPT Store Templates & Tutorials!

Greetings, bloglings!

It's Friday and I've got more freebies for you!  Because Photobucket changed their third party hosting rules, I needed a crash course in designing my TPT store quote box banner.  After sprucing that up, I decided to update my store logo, as well!  Here are free templates and tutorials for both:

1. Download the template at the link above.
2. Design the banner on the third slide as desired.  The existing background color will look transparent on your storefront.  The slide is completely editable, though.
3. Save the third slide as a jpeg (select all on the slide, right click, 
click 'Save Picture As,' and save it as a jpeg image).
4. There are a few different ways to do this, but I use Pinterest to save the image as a pin to a private board.  This allows you to get an image URL for the code you will use in step 7.
5. Right click on your pin, and click 'Copy Link Address.'
6. Visit Bitly.  Paste the link address that you just copied into the provided box, and then you have your shortened URL for the HTML code.  Keep this page/tab open.
7.  On TPT, go to 'My Account,' select 'Store Profile,' and click 'Edit.' Paste the following code into your Quote Box:


*If you are reading this on mobile and the full code does not appear for you, it is also included in the template download!

8. Paste the tiny URL from Bitly, and then add any link where you would like store visitors to go once they have clicked on your banner.  This might be to a product page or your blog.
9. Save your edit, and check out your store; the banner you created should appear in your quote box!

1. Download the TPT logo template at the link above.
2. Use the template on slide 3 to design your logo. If you want to use a photo background, right click on the circle and select "Format Shape," select "Picture Fill" and upload your desired photo.  Only what is inside of the circle will appear on your TPT logo.
3. Save the slide as a jpeg.
4. On your TPT store, go to 'My Account' and click on the 'Store Profile' tab.
5. Click 'Edit.'
6. Upload your logo by clicking on 'Replace Photo.'  You may want to trim the edges a bit so that the black line does or does not show, depending on your preference.
7. Once uploaded, the logo should be updated on your storefront!

I hope these instructions were clear. Let me know if you have any questions!

Happy Friday!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Student-Centered Classroom Library Organization

Greetings, bloglings!

Today I tackled the monumental feat of organizing my classroom library!  I weeded out some older, sad looking books and added some shiny, new-ish ones that I've been admittedly hoarding in my closet lest little fingers crumple their crisp pages.  

I was not planning on it, but I have almost completely rearranged my classroom again!  It's not entirely finished; I have a few odds and ends to work on and I am anxiously awaiting my class list so I can label all of the things!  Luckily, one thing that I do not need to worry about is labeling the library's book bins and shelves.  

When school begins, I will open the library gradually until students have access to the entire library, and students will create the labels themselves.  My mom is a retired teacher, so over the years I have inherited hundreds of books from her.  This has greatly enriched our literacy environment, but it can be a challenge to keep the bins and shelves organized throughout the year.

A few years ago, I had some mini-librarians who loved to organize and re-organize whenever they noticed the books getting mixed up.     

Fountas and Pinnell recommend that classroom libraries have between 300-600 good books that vary in genre, length, and difficulty (be sure to visit that link to read the research behind this!).  It is incredibly important for students to be surrounded by a variety of books, and that the library area is as spacious, attractive, organized, comfortable, and prominent as possible.  The literacy benefits that this offers for students across all grade levels 
is fascinating.

Here is my freshly organized library:

It now surrounds our morning meeting space.  The library lived in the back of the classroom last year, but I wanted to put it in a more prominent and accessible area.  I am already looking forward to starting our lessons on genres and library organization when the students will make the bin and shelf labels!

For this activity, we introduce a few books from each shelf or book bin in a book tasting format.  In small groups, students determine the best genre/category for the collection, and they create the labels on index cards with clear text and illustrations to support each other in navigating the library throughout the year.  I laminate these cards, attach them to the bins, and voila!  We have a labeled library that the students take pride in.  They understand how and why libraries are organized as they are, and they are better able to take ownership of this integral part of our classroom.

Students also decorate their own "book bags" (using Crayola markers on blank, canvas tote bags) that they use throughout the year:  These are for holding longer chapter books that students will read for several days.  It keeps the classroom books separated from other books that belong to the school library or are from students' homes.

While it might be more efficient to label the library ourselves, or to keep it labeled and organized in the same way from year to year, it is definitely beneficial for students to engage in the organization process themselves.  Students need to learn how to interact with books on many levels, which includes taking care of them, as they explore their individual interests, develop a deeper understanding of literary genres, and access many texts in a new, shared space.

How do you organize your classroom library?

Monday, July 31, 2017

Back to School Sale!

Greetings, bloglings!

It's the most wonderful time of the year! The store-wide Back to School sale on TPT is tomorrow and Wednesday!  

Remember to use the promo code BTS2017 when checking out to receive the full discount. 

Here are some resources that will get your students engaged in creative writing from the very first day of school:

Back to School Newspaper

This Back to School Newspaper is one of my favorite beginning of the year activities!  It's one of the first writing activities we do together as a class and a great way for teachers and students to get to know each other.

Last year, I used this activity as an introduction to Newspapers, non-fiction text features, and expository writing!  We used the Newspaper unit from the Curriculum Corner; it was incredibly thorough, hands-on, and my students loved it!

These "All About Me" posters are also great for Back to School bulletin boards as well as birthday or Star of the Week spotlights throughout the year.  You can snag them for just 75 cents during the sale!

All About Me: Star of the Week, Back to School, or Birthday Poster

To continue with the theme of writing, the beginning of the year is the perfect time to introduce journal writing as you are kicking off your Writers' Workshops and getting students into the classroom routines.  I have compiled all of my monthly journals into a bundle for an entire year of journal writing!  

Monthly No Prep Journals for Elementary Writers
Monthly Journal Prompts for the Entire Year!

You can also purchase these separately by month. Each month includes journal prompts in three different formats:  A calendar of 30 prompts is provided for each month which can be used as a display or student reference; a journal with a cover page and 30 lined pages with space for illustrating; and 30 task cards for laminating and using at a writing center, or cutting and gluing into student journals.  This makes it versatile and easy to use what works for your classroom, even if that changes throughout the year.  I am planning to use these in the journal format as my students' morning work! This will only need to be prepped on a monthly basis while giving students meaningful morning work and daily journaling/creative writing practice.

If you are looking for seasonal rather than monthly writing prompts, I have compiled those in task card format for writing centers, as well!  They are sold by season or as a yearly bundle.

Fall Writing Prompts

Writing Through the Seasons: Prompts for the Entire Year

If you are looking for classroom decor ideas & resources, you can check out my classroom schedule, supply, and job labels at the following link.  Each set is also sold separately as linked on the product page:

Classroom Labels (Bundle!)
Classroom Schedule, Supply, & Job Labels

I also have Days of the Week and Months of the Year Calendar Labels that include both the name and abbreviation in different formats:
Days of the Week & Months of the Year Calendar Labels
Days of the Week & Months of the Year Labels

These work great as a display or they can be printed and laminated to use for a center where students arrange the months in order. I use printed cards for my students to place in order around the "sun" to walk around for each year of their life during birthday celebrations!

You can also check our my colorful minute hand clock labels at the following link.  These are excellent support as students learn to tell time independently.

Clock Hand Labels:  Rainbow Minute Hands
Colorful Minute Hand Clock Labels

The sale begins at midnight.  Happy back to school shopping!

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Target Time!

Greetings, bloglings!

Great news:  Target is bursting with Back to School teacher treasures!  
What a time to be alive!

I like to consider the theme of my classroom as "Peaceful Rainbow."  Montessori classroom colors are often calming and earthy, but rainbows are earthy, too!  There are literally rainbows all over the earth at this very moment (probably).  Operation Classroom Set Up commences tomorrow morn' at 1100 hours sharp!

I am especially excited to use these clips as what will surely be the prettiest anchor chart holders to grace the walls of any classroom!  Anchor charts are so important, but also they are sometimes ugly.  I always want to frame my anchor charts, but even I know that this would be absurdly impractical.  I almost bought the entire bin of these beauties, but, alas, three shall suffice.

Rhonda Stewart at Scholastic offers an excellent guide for Anchor Chart usage: 
"As the teacher models the lesson or strategy, the lesson reinforcement or strategy tool is written on chart paper. Once the lesson is complete, the chart is placed in a convenient student-friendly location that the students can access it independently. This is another vehicle for academic support, especially for the visual learner. The beauty of an anchor chart is that it can be displayed as needed or determined by the student work. Some anchor charts live all year long in the classroom, while others are only displayed during the current unit of study."

It is also important to make anchor charts together with your students during the lesson.  This tool loses almost all of its value if it is simply teacher made and displayed without student involvement and input.  One option is for students to copy or design their own charts in their notebooks to reference when the large chart is no longer displayed on the classroom wall.  

Charts that I leave up all year include classroom rules and shelf work choices.  These clips will make it so easy to change other lesson-based charts without needing to find wall space, and I can plan where to display the few that will stay up for longer periods throughout the year as I set up my room.  It is critical to minimize clutter in the classroom, so I make sure to only leave up charts that reflect current learning in addition to keeping the charts concise, easy to read, and free of unnecessary or distracting graphics.

I have a few decorations that I leave up on my classroom walls year after year:  Our Morning Meeting area includes the calendar, days of school counter, schedule, job chart, and 100 chart.  I also have a framed print of Norman Rockwell's "Happy Birthday Miss Jones," a framed print of Henri Matisse's "Goldfish," two maps of the U.S. and the continents, our CAFE bulletin board, and the display in the picture above that includes our three classroom rules (be respectful; take care of each other; and take care of our classroom), our attendance magnet chart, and our Daily 5 and Math buddies magnet chart (I made these with cookie trays and labeled the magnets with Sharpies!).  

The rest of the wall space is either empty or used to display student work.  For example, in the picture above, you can also see the twine and clothespins that I use as an easy and simple way to display whole class activities like poems or artwork.  The clothespins make changing the display a breeze; I had students doing it themselves last year!

How do you display anchor charts and student work in your classroom?


Friday, July 28, 2017

Freebie Friday!

Greetings, bloglings!

It's Friday and I've got some FREEBIES for you!  

First thing's first:  I am in love with The Daily 5, and I don't care who knows it.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, the Daily 5 is a program for structuring literacy blocks so that every day students are engaged in:

1) Reading to Self
2) Reading to Someone (Buddy Reading)
3) Work on Writing
4) Listening to Reading
5) Word Work

Daily 5 Labels

This allows the teacher to conference with individual students and implement small group instruction.  In my opinion, Gail Boushey and Joan Mosher are, in a word, brilliant, and they have transformed my Montessori classroom for the best.  Using this structure of literacy (and math!) instruction has infused my classroom's work cycles with balance, variety, and student stamina and accountability.  Above all, it has blended seamlessly with the Montessori philosophy:  Because of The Daily 5, my students are equipped with the support and tools necessary to work independently while making meaningful work choices and exploring their individual interests.  I am able to implement individual and small group instruction while resting assured that my other students are engaged and learning even though, at the moment, I am not by their side.  I truly cannot imagine following a different format, especially in a multi-grade classroom with so many different abilities.

Blending the Daily 5 and CAFE strategies with Montessori and Common Core did involve a fairly steep learning curve, and I created several resources that have helped tremendously with my time management and organization.  For example, in my classroom, Grammar has taken the place of "Listen to Reading."  My students have the opportunity to listen to reading during Buddy Reading, Read Aloud, and as a choice at our computer listening center when the rest of their work plan is completed.  Grammar is strongly emphasized in the Montessori curriculum, so students use shelf work in this area during our Daily 5 cycle separately from their weekly spelling/word work.  

And now for the freebies!  Drum roll, please...

Freebie #1:

I mapped out a daily launch of all components of the Daily 5 with CAFE strategies.  I've uploaded my plans to my TPT store, and you can find them at the link below.  This is what has worked for my classroom.  It is slightly abridged from the "official" plan, but it has been a great pace for my second and third graders.  

I found that when I launched everything too slowly, I started to lose the students who were familiar with the routines from the previous year.  The beauty of having returning third graders each year is that they know the classroom expectations and can function as role models for their younger classmates.  Do what works for you and your students!

Daily 5 with CAFE Launch
My 14-Day Guide to Launching the Daily 5 with CAFE

At the following link, you can find the Work Plan that my students use during math and literacy blocks.  At the first through third grade level, Work Plans are used in Montessori classrooms to guide students in independently managing their assignments, but they would be valuable tools for any classroom that implements the Daily 5.  The Work Plan functions as individual checklists for students, helps students make choices, and increases students' level of personal accountability during periods of independent work.  The resources at the following link include Work Plans for both ELA and the Math Daily 3 (Math By Myself, Math Writing, & Math with a Partner), as well as word work materials!

Click Here for my Daily 5 Resources

...and here are 3 more freebies for you!

I created posters to align with the Daily 5 plan for establishing rules and expectations for each component.  These expectations are reinforced daily at the beginning of the year, and on an as needed basis afterward to ensure that each child knows exactly how to execute every routine successfully.

Students learn how to select books that are a "good fit" for them.  This eliminates the need for segregating books by level, and allows students to access a wider variety of texts for independent reading. 

Students learn how to be a "Reading Coach" and help each other during shared reading experiences.  This has been so helpful during our guided reading/book club lessons.  Students are no longer offering corrections and are instead allowing their peers the time or help they need.

How to be a Reading Coach Poster 

Teach your students the EEKK poem and they will always remember Buddy Reading expectations!  I had a student who actually taught this poem to her siblings for when they read together at home :)  Be still my heart!

Buddy Reading Poem Poster

Another tool that I cannot recommend enough is CCPensieve.  This is a paid subscription, but I find it to be highly beneficial for record keeping and small group management.  As a Montessori teacher, observing students, documenting progress, and following the child is paramount.  This can be overwhelming with over 25 students in a class, but there are tools out there to make it manageable, and this is one of them!

Do you use the Daily 5 in your classroom?

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Sight Words in the Summer

Greetings, Bloglings! 

We are working through many a phonics rule in summer school these days:
When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking!  I before E, except after C!  Use /ck/ after a short vowel!  Magic E makes the vowel say its name!  Listen to the Bossy R!  
My sweet second graders have these rules memorized.  The problem, of course, is that they only occasionally apply in English.

Enter Sight Words.  Aside from for the benefit of individual students, I have not found a great need to emphasize sight words in my second and third grade classroom during the school year.  Most of my students come into second grade with a strong enough reading foundation that has allowed me to implement balanced literacy instruction with high engagement in authentic reading.  We systemically study words and spelling patterns in daily mini-lessons and independent work, and I am cognizant of the research supporting the importance of inventive spelling opportunities as opposed to memorizing weekly word lists in isolation.  However, summer school has rendered me a bit less idealistic.  This teacher only has four weeks, and I am pulling out all the stops to make the biggest impact possible in a short amount of time.

Sight Word practice can get very "drilly" very fast, so we've been using games galore to keep things fun!  Today I introduced my Sight Word I Have... Who Has?  game, and it was a hit! You can find 5 sets of this game, including every Dolch Sight Word from Pre-Primer through Grade 3, at the link below the picture. 

Another fun option is Sight Word Splat!  This gets kids moving as they "splat" colorful bugs labeled with sight words that are called out by the teacher or student partner.  It's a silly game that's great for small groups. 

Perhaps my most favorite part of teaching in a Montessori classroom is that students are expected to learn at their own pace.  In order to track their progress through the different Dolch lists, I am using the following form that you can pick up for free at the link below:

How do students practice sight words in your classroom?


Minds in Bloom!

Greetings, bloglings! Head on over to Minds in Bloom to see my guest blog post on integrating Montessori and the Common Core! I ...