Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Leveled Text Resources

One of the geekiest things that I get excited about as a teacher is finding new texts for my students to use! I feel like I struck gold when I find an appropriate text for the skill I'm teaching in my mini lessons that week. I pretty much stock pile and meticulously label both fiction and nonfiction texts for future use!

 I love differentiating for my kiddos and making sure that they are reading texts that challenge them and are also developmentally appropriate. But I sometimes struggled to manage multiple different texts being read in my class. The amazingly talented special education resource teacher in my building suggested a sneaky trick last year, and I've been obsessed with using it ever since! 

Her solution? Have my struggling readers pre-read a lower lexile version of the same text. Then, when we read the on grade level text as a whole class, my struggling readers are already familiar with the topic and are ready to be challenged with complex vocabulary and sentence structure. 

My struggling readers get a confidence boost, because comprehension is not as difficult in this second read and they are reading the same text as the rest of the class. Because, lets face it, my big kids are TOTALLY aware of who is reading what text and who is reading something different!

Want to try this out in your own class? 
Below are a list of sources I go to for free leveled texts!

{fabulous nonfiction articles PLUS multiple choice and written response questions!}

{brief nonfiction articles available in 3 levels of difficulty}

{great for middle schoolers- choose a themed topic & focus question}

{short stories organized by lexile level. my favorite is Fly Away Home}

{technically not free, but my PTA pays for my subscription & it's an invaluable resource!}

Do you have recommendations of text sources?! I'd LOVE to hear about them :)
XO Emily

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Turning Passion Into Profit

Today I'm over at Say Yes To Happy, guest blogging for Julie!

The thing is you don't need to be brave enough to start. START DESPITE HOW SCARED YOU ARE! JUST START.:

I'm sharing my Teachers Pay Teachers story & how I turned my passion into profit.
I'd love for you to check it out :)
XO Emily

Monday, October 5, 2015

Social Skills Problem Solving

"Mrs. G, can I ask you a question? I tried standing up for a friend when she told me that someone was being mean to her. I asked that person to stop talking about my friend, but now that person is mad at me. I just wanted to defend my friend! What do I do?"

As a 6th grade teacher, I have heard this question (and many just like it) time and time again. My heart aches for my preteen kiddos who are navigating these tricky social situations. I'm fortunate enough to have both male and female teachers on my team, so we'll sometimes split up our girls and boys and have family chats with them about appropriate social behavior. 

During one of these talks, my girls posed a couple of hypothetical situations, just like the one above, and asked how to handle them. It was then that I realized that I needed to give my students time to reflect on difficult situations before they occur so that they can talk it out and problem solve, removed from the emotions they feel in the moment.

The next time we met, I gave my kiddos these problem solving task cards. They pose hypothetical situations and ask students how they would feel in that situation and what they would do. 

Of course it didn't solve all petty arguing and gossip in my class, but it opened up the conversation to let students practice these crucial skills in a safe environment. 

Click the photos above to download the cards and try this out for yourself!

XO Emily

Monday, September 21, 2015

Reading Survey Freebie!!!

Wahoo! Happy Monday Made It, friends!

One of my favorite beginning of the year activities is giving a reading survey. It's a simple confidence booster for the students, because there's no right or wrong answers- it's all their opinion. However, it provides me with SO much insight into what they know and how they view themselves as readers.

This survey also serves as a jumping off point for our discussion about what makes a good reader/writer. I usually make an anchor chart based off of our conversation about what good reading looks like & sounds like.

CLICK HERE to download this freebie to use in your upper elementary classroom :)

Looking for more beginning of the year resources? 
CLICK HERE to follow my back to school Pinterest board!

Looking for more teacher freebies? 
CLICK HERE to follow my teacher freebie Pinterest board!

XO Emily

Monday, September 14, 2015

Missing Homework Letter

Today, I'm linking up with 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It, and I'm sharing some things that I made for my classroom this year that are going to save me from some major headaches!!

Few things drive me crazier than managing homework! I usually visually check in homework and mark in my grade book a check for completion and a zero if it's missing. When I first started teaching, I would have students eat lunch in student support and complete the homework. They were free to return to lunch or recess once they were finished with the work. 

However, I began to realize that the same students continue to miss homework and parents weren't aware that this was occurring and that it was affecting their child's grades. I knew I needed a system that held students accountable, gave them an opportunity to correct the mistake, and included parents in the process.

Enter, the missing homework letter.

This simple, half page letter has saved my sanity more than I can say! So how do I use it?

-If a student is missing their homework, they go over to the missing homework letter basket and grab one of these letters.
-As I check in homework, the student shows me that they took a letter, and I temporarily mark a O in my grade book.
-The student fills in the letter, addressing it to an adult at home.
-That night, the student must complete the missed homework and have a parent sign the form.
-If students bring the missed work & the signed note back to me tomorrow, I put a check in the O and the student receives credit for the assignment. If a student doesn't bring it back, they have to complete the assignment during lunch that day.

This little letter did so much for both me and my students! First, parents were now involved and made aware of any missing work. Students also had another chance to make up their work, which communicates to students that mistakes happen, but I will always provide second chances to succeed. 

The biggest benefit is that I got to see why students were missing their work, because students check off why they didn't have their work. This helps me assist students where they need it. Do they complete it but forget it at home? I'll organize their homework folder and touch base with their parents. Do students not have a calculator or colored pencils at home? I know to lend the necessary materials to students before they go home that day.

Interested in using this letter in your own classroom? 
Click here to download an editable version for free!

My team is departmentalized and this year I'm teaching writing. One of the most challenging things to manage is peer editing & revising. It's so difficult to structure this time to actually be productive! Last year I tried out specific rubrics for revising different aspects of writing and it worked fabulously. Those guides are majorly popular on my TPT, and I just bundled the written response, narrative & informational packs together for the new school year :)

 Click the photo (or here) to check it out!

How do you manage peer editing/missed homework in your classroom?
XO Emily

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Establishing a Behavior Policy

So many of my posts recently are behavior management based, but that just reminds me how important is it to establish clear expectations in the beginning of the year! 

My first year teaching, I definitely wasn't as clear as I should have been when it came to outlining the steps that would be taken to address misbehavior. My second year, I created a behavior contract that helped communicate my classroom's behavior policy to not only my students but to parents as well.

I established the steps that would be taken if misbehavior occurred, because those are non-negotiables. However, I work with the students on the first days of school, and together we identify what "not following school rules" looks like. It's actually kind of fun to brainstorm together because I usually phrase it "What types of things drive your teachers bonkers?!" The kiddos laugh at that, but it also gives them a chance to reflect on their past behavior and have an honest conversation about what those behaviors (and their consequences!) look like.

I love that the students and parents sign the contract- we're all on the same page and asking students to sign it makes it feel official and puts the responsibility on them.

Want to try this in your own class? Click the photo above or click here to download the editable file for free :) 

XO Emily

Monday, September 7, 2015

Best Behavior Bingo Guest Post

I am over the moon excited to share that I am guest blogging today over at Teach. Inspire. Change. Caitlin is an awesome teacher author & I've loved collaborating with her.

Best Behavior Bingo is a simple behavior management system that relies on positive reinforcement to make positive changes in your classroom! It's specific, it's simple, it's fun. Click the photo below to read my post on my absolute favorite behavior management tool!

You can also learn more about Best Behavior Bingo at my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

Happy Monday, friends!
XO Emily

Monday, August 24, 2015

Dear First Year Teacher

This year, my teacher bestie moved to another district and we just hired a new teacher. The girl that we hired is fabulous and I'm sure we're going to have an awesome year. She's just out of college (we graduated from the same university!) and is excited and nervous to have a classroom of her own. Talking with my new teammate gave me an opportunity to reflect on all that I've learned the past two years as a new teacher...

Dear first year teacher,

You're excited and scared. You have more ideas than you know what to do with. You're new. You could probably use some advice. I'm no expert, but I've certainly learned a few things in my first few years that might be helpful...

make friends with the staff

The secretaries, paraprofessionals, custodians, lunchroom staff, special ed. resource teachers, school social workers, school psychologists, and nurse are all crucial in making your first year a success. It truly takes a village and these people are your village. Teamwork among colleagues communicates to students that they are part of a cohesive community that cares about them.

plan ahead

Of course teachers are natural planners. We love to color code our Erin Condren teacher planners. We stay late & go in early. But I'm talking about the things you might not anticipate. Going to a parent meeting? Bring some notes on their child and a couple samples of their work. Need copies for Monday morning? Suck it up and make them on Friday. Anything you can do to make your life easier, do it!

keep your space organized

Your sweet babes are going to be a hot mess. Missing glue stick caps and broken pencils come with the territory of being a kid. Do what you can to keep them organized, and definitely keep your own space clean & functional. Set 5 minutes aside at the end of each day to tidy up and file any paperwork that needs to be tucked away. It's a pain in the moment but will save your sanity in the long run.

be flexible

Things change at the drop of a hat (or a pencil sharpener... If a child has not dropped a pencil sharpener and unleashed an explosion of crumbly pencil shavings all over the floor in the middle of a lesson that your principal is observing, count yourself very lucky). It's okay. It's going to be okay. Laugh it off and push the lesson back by ten minutes.

take time for you

Some days, this job will push you to your limits. Do what you need to do to nurture yourself. You can't pour yourself for others until you fill yourself up. Go out and get some fresh air on your lunch break. Take a quiet bubble bath at night. Try a new recipe for dinner. Make sure your don't lose yourself in helping others.

be easy on yourself

You're doing the best you can. You're doing a good job. You won't know it all and nobody expects you to. Ask for help when you need it and continue to learn for next time. That's what we tell our students when they make a mistake, right? :)

XO Emily

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Teaching Upper Elementary Procedures

I'm sure every teacher would agree how crucial it is to thoroughly teach our kiddos classroom procedures in the first days, weeks, and even months of the school year. Clearly communicating our expectations is so important in providing our students the structure for them to be the most successful they can be.

However, what does this look like in an upper elementary classroom? In grades 4-6 our kiddos have been in school for at least four years or so. They understand the concept of homework, they've used the bathroom at school, and more likely than not, they've missed a day or two of school and needed to make up missed work. As a first year 6th grade teacher, I was tempted to gloss over these procedures because my students were older and more mature- surely they didn't need a step by step tutorial on how to sign out and go to the bathroom... right?

With our upper elementary babes, it's a fine line between treating students like mature preteens and talking down to them and babying them. Teaching procedures needs to strike the right balance. During this time, I explain the routines and procedures slowly and clearly, while communicating to students that this knowledge is empowering them to make responsible decisions. I also explain that we need to work together as a team. It's my job to provide materials and time for them to work, it's their job to treat our class tools with respect and use their time responsibly.

I definitely want to clarify- I do still have kids asking me to go to the bathroom right in the middle of a lesson and by the end of the year my colored pencils are dwindled down to just the orange, brown, & white and homework is still incomplete on occasion. And that's okay. Students make mistakes or are forgetful. But because I took the time to explain, model, and practice classroom routines in the first months of school, the responsibility to correct the mistake is now on the students.

Below is my list of must-teach procedures in my upper elementary classroom...

25 Procedures for Upper Elementary

 - Morning work routine
- Sign in/out policy for using the bathroom
-When they can use their lockers
- How to transition between class periods
- Where to find classroom supplies such as markers, scissors, etc.
- What respectful use of classroom supplies looks/sounds like
- What respectful use of classroom laptops & iPads looks/sounds like
- How to sign up for lunch
- Where to find missed work after absences
-Writing down homework assignments
-What to do if we finish early
- Turning in homework & reporting missing homework
- How to line up to leave the class
- What our dismissal routine is
- How to share an idea or question during a whole group lesson
- How to share an idea of question during a small group lesson
- How to ask for help
- When is it appropriate to use the pencil sharpener
- When/where to throw away trash or recycling
- Getting a tissue/replacing an empty tissue box
- How to turn in a lost item
- What is kept in our desks vs. our lockers
- When is it appropriate to clean our desks
- Fire drill/lock down routines
- How we assign class jobs
- What to do when I am speaking to another teacher or on the phone
-When we eat snack
- How to ask to go to the nurse

What procedures are your must-haves for the first few days of school? Did I miss any? I'd love to hear how you teach procedures :)

XO Emily

Sunday, August 2, 2015

First Day of School Activity

I'm linking up today with some of the most fabulous teacher bloggers to share our tried and true first day of school activities. Thanks to Undercover Classroom & Education Electrification for hosting!

My favorite is back to school activity that I learned back when I was getting my masters, before I ever had a classroom of my own. I've done it for the past two years with my kiddos, and they absolutely LOVE it! This activity is great for practicing communication skills and building teamwork. It's also just a ton of fun!

The Materials

1.    Two fairly generic and simple pictures. They can be black and white or color, but your students will be drawing with only a pencil, so it doesn't really matter!

These are the pictures I used with my students. You want the pictures to be fairly simple and easy for anyone to recreate.

2.    A computer & projector to display the pictures OR a small print out of the pictures for each student.
3.    Two plain white pieces of paper
4.    Pencils
5.    Blindfolds (optional)
6.    A sense of humor ;)

The Rules

Students will work in partners to draw a picture that looks like one of your two sample pictures. The catch is that one student will be blindfolded and the other must give them directions to draw the first picture! 

1. Partner students up and position one student so that they can see the photo. Turn the other partner's back to the photo and have that student close their eyes (or use a blindfold).
2. Reveal the first photo and have the students start verbally describing the photo to their partner, giving them directions on how to draw it. Be sure to monitor students' voice volume because a lot of students will be talking all at once!
3. Give students anywhere from 5 to 15 minutes to work. Some years my kids seem to take forever, others they whiz right through it!
4. Once time is up, show the blindfolded students their own drawing, as well as the photo they were trying to create. Get ready for lots of laughter and talking!
5. Allow partners time to discuss what worked well and what didn't when giving each other directions.
6. Repeat the process, now with the first student blindfolded and the second student giving directions.
7. Once both partners have had a chance to draw and give directions, you can either lead a class discussion on the reflection questions below or have students work together to write their responses.

Reflection Questions

1. What was difficult or frustrating about this process?
2. What was easy or fun about this process?
3. What strategies did you and your partner use to communicate clearly?
4. How would this activity change if you and your partner were angry with each other? What about if you completed the activity with a parent? Your teacher? Why would it be different with these different people?
5. Which photo was more accurately drawn- the first or the second? Why do you think that is?

Not only is this activity totally hilarious, it helps students to become aware of how they speak to each other. Do they speak very fast? (I'm guilty of that one!) Are they vague in their descriptions? Are they impatient when their partner doesn't understand a direction? All of these are skills that our students must learn if they are going to be successful in whole group, small group, and partner settings. This activity is great, because it allows them to work out those ideas out in authentic context before any of those issues arise. 

What do you think of this activity? Would you try it in your own class?

I can't wait to see the other teachers who linked up!

XO Emily

Friday, July 31, 2015

Back to School Giveaway!

I'm so excited to share that I'm joining in a giveaway for back to school! 

(Click the photo to enter on Sunday!)

The giveaway opens August 2nd and there are tons of categories to submit for if you're a secondary teacher! High school math, high school English, middle school math, middle school English (the one that I'm participating in!), science, and any grade level bundles are open for submissions on Sunday!

You'll get my September Morning Work for Upper Elementary PLUS a ton of other super fun products for your upper elementary/secondary classroom. 

Thanks so much to Julie & Lauralee for hosting! The link will go live on Sunday, so be sure to come back here and click the photo above enter!!

Have a fabulous weekend, friends!
XO Emily

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Managing Absences

Over the past two years, one of my biggest teacher headaches came from a place I never expected: absences. I definitely was not as prepared as I could've been when managing how my students' made up missed work.

Something that makes me even crazier when trying to keep up with missed work is that I have students in and out of my classroom throughout the day. Our talented and gifted kids are out for half a day one day a week for an enrichment program, our band and orchestra students have half hour lessons during the day, plus our band and orchestra kids have their full group lessons at the end of the day! This is in addition to the students who are absent due to sickness or family vacation.

I went to Pinterest in search of management ideas and found a lot of great resources! Combining their ideas with my classroom needs, I created my own system.

The Inspiration

I love the little graphic on this one! I started to realized that I wanted to have separate folders for each weekday, but I didn't love the idea of the weekday folders sitting loose in a bin. Knowing my 6th graders, it would get very disorganized.

Here's another great idea! I like that the weekday folders were hanging folders and that this teacher has a separate folder for missing forms. That would be perfect for my homeroom kids who missed the daily notices from the office in addition to the classwork.

I love that this is on a bulletin board, because I have a ton of wall space (the entire back wall of my classroom is a bulletin board!) and not a lot of counter space. This was also helpful because it was labeled by class periods and I teach 3 periods a day. I like the idea of a calendar, but I wasn't sure what realistically I needed the calendar for and figured it might end up making more work for me in the end.

Another great bulletin board option, but this one used pocket folders.

Here's another compact file folder option! This one just didn't leave me room to fit in multiple periods worth of work. I didn't want my kids to have to go through more papers than necessary. Simplicity is key!

So after looking through other teachers' ideas, I came up with what worked best for me.

My System

Here's my finished product! I am lucky enough to be able to staple things directly to my back wall, so that's how the folders are hung up. My two columns are for each period. Periods 1 & 2 have the same work, so I could consolidate those periods. Then I had a folder for each week day, plus a folder for social studies. All social studies work is the same, so I could keep that in one folder too.

It came together very easily too with supplies that I already had in my room. I color coded my file folders based on the ones I had in my cabinet. The label up top is just construction paper and the period/week day labels are sentence strips.

My homework is always written on the front whiteboard, so the students come in and grab their missed work and check the homework section of our board to see what was classwork and what was homework. We also have an "Ask 3 Before Me" policy, so my students ask three classmates their questions about their assignments. This prevents me from being flooded with questions, and saves me a bit of sanity.

My life became much simpler once my kiddos became more independent. I can't wait to set this system up again in my classroom for next year.

How do  you manage absences and missed work? I'd love to hear your ideas!
XO Emily

Wednesday, July 8, 2015

Book Lovin' : Gabriel Finley

A couple of months ago my class had the privilege of having an author come and visit our class! George Hagen's first novel for adults was published 2004, but in 2014 he published his first novel for young adults, Gabriel Finley & The Raven's Riddle.

He talked to our kids about the writing process and what inspires him. I had just finished mini-lessons in  my writers workshop narrative unit about where good writers draw inspiration from and his timing couldn't have been more perfect! He talked about stories he read as a child, people that are important in his life, and places that mattered to him that influenced his novel.

My kids ate it up and were engaged the entire time! He also gave my students an opportunity to ask questions, and I loved how thoughtful their questions were. One of my boys asked "Do you use figurative language?" and George responded "Every chance I get!" I could see my students' eyes light up and the wheels start turning in their head. It was so much fun to see them making the connection between what they were doing as writers and what professional writers do!

George was incredibly generous and gifted signed a copy of his novel to my classroom as well as our school library! My students couldn't wait to finish our current read aloud so that we could start on Gabriel Finley! By the end of the year, many of my students cited this book as their favorite that we read all year! It follows the story of a young boy who becomes wrapped up in a world of mystery and legends that he didn't even know existed, following in the footsteps of his father. It's a magical coming of age story reminiscent of Harry Potter.

I'm so grateful that our media specialist was able to set this up for us, because he made such an impact on our class with his insights into the writing process and introduced us to an awesome novel! I highly suggest it as an addition to your class library or as a read aloud!

What are some of your favorite books for a read aloud?

XO Emily

Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Amazon Book Listing

A few weeks ago I found this post on one of my favorite teacher blogs, Teaching With a Mountain View. I was just finishing up my last novels for the year with my kiddos and was looking for a fairly simple, but still engaging project to wrap them up. When I read about how Mary used the Amazon listing format to have her students think critically about their novel, I knew I had to try it.

At the time, I was reading two different novels with two different groups of students. My students who were reading above grade level read The Boy in the Striped Pajamas. My on and below grade levels kiddos were reading Wonder. I wanted all my students to be challenged, but also working at a level that was appropriate for them, so I create a differentiated version.

I allowed students to use this template or create their own based on the format they were given. In hindsight, I think I'll have the kids create their own next year. My borders are cute, but definitely limit the amount of space they have to write. Above is a sample from the template. The student below created her own!

I'm so bummed that I forgot to take pictures of my differentiated students' work! Their version still required critical thinking, but focused more on levels one and two on the DOK- recalling important plot events, citing significant quotes, etc.

My kiddos loved this, because they knew it connected the real world concept of Amazon listings with a book that they felt they were experts on! Want to try this for yourself? Download both the standard and differentiated versions for free here!

XO Emily

Monday, June 15, 2015

June Survival Guide

I have four and a half days of school left with my kiddos, and then I will officially be done with my second year of teaching! Time certainly flies, however it's been especially slow in the month of June when the weather is warm and both my students and I are dreaming of summer vacation. Here are a couple of things I've been relying on heavily to get through the past fifteen days:

  • Coffee. Today was the last day that our fabulous building tutors were with us this school year and they were generous enough to leave bagels, muffins, and coffee in the teacher's lounge! Much needed on this rainy Monday.
  • Good tunes. My students wouldn't stop singing Taylor Swift on the bus ride to our most recent field trip, and now I've had Bad Blood stuck in my head ever since. Have you heard this version by Brooklyn Duo? Brilliant.
  • Me time. Without as much need for planning, my weekends have been gloriously free to play golf with my husband and spend more time in the kitchen. (I can't get enough of these healthy sweet potato skins by Pinch of Yum!)
  • Engaging literacy activities that are fun, but still challenge my students and allow them to get creative. Below is one of my favorites!
Available at Scholastic
Have you read the book Wonder by R.J. Palacio? Guys, it's phenomenal for the upper elementary grades! The changing point of view and distinct voices keep my students engaged while also teaching them valuable lessons about empathy, friendship, and courage. As a wrap up to this novel and a way to keep my kiddos actually focused and working, I found images of the faces of the characters that make up the book's changing perspectives (what did we do before Google?!). Then I asked students to brainstorm a list of important characters/events and adjectives associated with their favorite character/perspective. From there, they created word art in the characters' heads characterizing their perspective! Take a look at some of their work...

I love how they came out! It was so fun to see what characters/events from the book my students included along with what adjectives they came up with. There was a lot of "Mrs. Gablenz, can I go get a thesaurus?" going on in my classroom. I love how they "fit" their words into their silhouettes all so differently!

Fun? Check.
Easy? Check.
Still related to literacy skills? Check.
What more could you want from a June project?

Want to try this out in your class? Click here to download the PDF of the face silhouettes. 

Full disclosure: the images are super pixel-y on my computer and print a bit blurry as well due to enlarging them/my lack of computer skills. My students remedied this by tracing around the borders with a sharpie or tracing it onto a new piece of paper. Tracing it onto a separate piece of paper also allows students to leave the hair portions empty so they can fill in that space as well!

I'd love to know if you use this in your own class! Leave comments below to share your experience.

XO Emily

Sunday, June 14, 2015

New Here

Hi friends!

I'm Emily, and I'm new here. I'm so excited to finally get this little project of mine off the ground! Thanks for joining me on this journey and check back soon for my first official post!

XO Emily

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