August 2015 - The Teacher Studio: Learning, Thinking, Creating
bulletin board ideas and more
It's hard to believe that it's back to school time...and there is so much to do to get our classrooms and our "selves" ready for the rush of the first days of school.  I thought I'd get back into the swing of things with a quick back to school photo show!  Once things settle down, I promise to get back into the routine of real blogging!  Although this post isn't a real classroom "reveal", I thought I'd let you in on a few things I have been working on.  Let's roll!

First of all, my door!  I have "hidden" the names so you can't see all the fun fonts--but you get the idea.  These colors make me so happy!  
Back to school door
 I wanted to have a bulletin board ready for "Meet the Teacher".  I always do this--but usually just write our units/concepts on sentence strips.  I really wanted to highlight that we are going to be focusing on cooperative work and collaboration this year and came up with this.  I'm pretty happy with how it turned out.
Display ideas for back to school
 Like last year, I am using my collaborative name tags.  I changed the backgrounds on mine, but last year's version is still available in my store.  I can form groups according to the background color, the dice color, the numbers on the dice, and the colored triangles in the corner--all groups of different sizes.  It makes it SO easy to get students working with EVERYONE right away!
Collaborative groups
(Just click the image if you want to see more about these)
 Sometimes just having something in their hands makes it easier for some students to share.  I actually got a new critter to add to the basket during our trip to Baltimore, so I will be adding a white seal soon!
Classroom culture
 I cannot WAIT to dig into the "growth mindset" activities I have planned.  I think I hit a nerve with many because tons of you have bought my bulletin board/lesson idea resource.  I'm starting the year with it, but it would be a great thing to do at ANY point to help students learn about how to reframe their thinking to be more growth-minded.  It DOES make a difference!
Growth mindset bulletin board
 We start our year of writing with a "launch" unit--we review personal narratives and small moment stories, but my big push is to make sure we develop some good writing "behaviors".  
These are the 6 points I stress as we complete our launching unit.
Writing expectations
Here is how we start working on narratives.  
 Even though the students seem to learn our schedule after the first week, I am \not so fast!  I make my schedule cards large enough that I can read them from across the room so I know where we are going!  Our specials meet at the same time every day so I don't need the times--for scattered people like me, that is such a relief!
Classroom bulletin board
 With only a few days until the students arrive, I have my travel folders stuffed and ready to go!
classroom organization
 My math zone is ready to are made, manipulatives are ready for students to use, word problems are ready, and a whole BUNCH of challenges await my fourth graders!
math problem solving
Word problems can be found HERE
So there you have it--a sneak peek at a few places in my room...and a few other tidbits!  Watch for more classroom shots as the next week unfolds!  If you are starting this week--I wish you all the best!
Check out today's post over on "Primary Chalkboard"!  I share some of my thoughts about getting a year of problem solving started--and how a few key phrases can go a long way toward making a difference!  (Grab the freebies while you are there as well!)

Just click the image to take you there!

Whether we are digging into our school year or getting ready to finish it off, one thing that is often a year-long issue is keeping all the math "stuff" organized!  If you are doing any small group work, you know that pieces and papers and parts can end up all over the place!  Here are a few tips that might help things run a little more smoothly-and save you and your students a little time and frustration.
For me, this is huge.  If I am teaching a small group or coaching a student, I don't want to be interrupted to be asked where the rulers are or where to find something.  I start my school year by showing students where everything is and how to put it away.  After all, we don't want them to only use a ruler or other supplies when we TELL them to, we want them to recognize when they are needed and go get them independently.
I often have different activities that I want my students doing during their independent or cooperative time, but they may not remember what they are called or where they go.  I have a few different types of baskets and storage systems--but I hang laminated cards on each where I can either list the name of the activity or specific directions.  When it's time to switch activities, I can wipe them off and start with a new one.
I use a TON of games in my room, many of which have cardstock card decks that I make.  Before I cut out the cards, I swipe different colored marker across each row of cards--and then when they are cut out, each card in the set has a colored mark.  I tend to make 3-6 copies of each game, so this helps students know where missing parts go.
Much like my laminated labels, I love using one of those rainbow drawer towers for the games I want students to have access to.  I do NOT leave all my games out at once--just the ones that I choose for whatever reason...fluency work, review, and so on.  Not all students use games from ALL the drawers, but this way there aren't 40 games around the room all the time.  Notice that I even have wipe off labels on the drawers to write what skill that game works on.
I use a lot of baggies for games...small baggies for parts, large bags for the game boards and smaller parts.  It was SO worth it to me to buy a huge pack of dice so I can put the needed dice and counters in each game so students can grab a bag and searching for dice and supplies.  No wasted time!
Similarly, every time I introduce a new game, I show students exactly what parts are included and how it should be stored.  The goal is for ME to do NOTHING related to game organization!  Students can rise to the challenge if they know the expectations.

So...hope you found something that might be useful to you this year!  All the games shown above are found in my store under my "Dollar Deals" category.  They are all low prep games that are a great way to have students practice skills, to use in intervention groups, or even to send home for review.  Here are a few of the ones pictured.
It's DAY 3 of my Back to School Bash...and if this is your first day here, scroll down for the last few days of posts to learn more about what you might have missed on days 1 and 2! Don't forget to sign up for my newsletter if you haven't already...just check out the upper right corner of my blog to sign up to get exclusive freebies, teaching tips, special deals, and more. But now...

Today is my FIRST installment of "Reader Tips", a new feature on my blog where I work to collect some of the GREAT expertise from my readers on a certain topic. My first question was simply a request for back to school tips--and I think you'll agree with what you read below! If YOU want to contribute to my next "Reader Tips" post, check the end of the post for the link to click to fill out the form. I can't include everyone's ideas--but I would love to hear from you! So ready to roll? Read on!

Tips about building culture...

Jessica from Arizona writes..."On the first day of school, I have my students write me a letter about themselves and things they think I should know about them. It gets them writing, helps me get an initial writing sample, and gives a lot of insight into their lives and perspectives. Even if students do not share deeply, this exercise communicates that I care about what they have to say and want to build a relationship with them."

"Always great your students at the door. I'm not sure if that's necessarily "back to school" but is something that should be implemented starting Day 1. I always tell my kids they can give me a hug, handshake, or a high five before entering the door. It really helps monitor their attitude as they enter and if I see a student is already having a rough morning, I make an effort to have a mini conference with them where they can share what's going on if they'd like to. With those special students, this has really made a difference and it's clear to them that you care and are invested in their overall well being." (shared by Mrs. Bathman, grade 4/5 teacher)

Sarah from Kovescence of the Mind says, "Don't spend the first day going over rules, Dos and Don'ts. Have something fun and engaging. Hands on activities that get students back into gear."

"Enjoy the moments of new discovery. The details of routines and expectations will fall into place as your students see that you are there for them and want to share learning together." (from Mrs. T, 16 year teacher)
Tips about management...

Celeste writes, "Always make at least 5 extra copies of your class information packets and keep them handy. They are good to have for students who join your class during the year."

Becca (blogger at Chalkboard Creations) says, "In order to save as much time as possible on the first day of school, I print my students' names and all the subject areas on address labels. Then, when we are getting our folders and binders ready, I just hand each child a sticker with their name and the subject for them to label their belongings. I also have address labels printed with their user name and password for our school's online lesson plans. This way they never lose their password!"

Jen, another fourth grade teacher writes, "Stocking your classroom with books can be expensive. There is no way to be able to buy them all so I always try to utilize my local public library to "try out" new books and expose my students to favorites as well. I spend some time a week or two before school starts checking out books that I can put on display for back to school. These books often become favorites for my students and it helps me to know what new books to buy to add to my library at a later date. Teachers spend a lot of money on supplies for going back to school, but using the public library is free - it doesn't add to our already tight budgets!"

"On the 1st day of school, hang a brightly colored fabric for a backdrop and take 1st day of school pictures in ABC order. I use these pictures for a multitude of things. First I'll upload all of the pictures to my computer and rename them to the student name, recording their number 1st (01 Mike, 02 EmmaT, etc.) so it stays in ABC order. That night use the picture to memorize student names, quizzing yourself on their names with the file names hidden. This always makes me better prepared for Day 2 knowing most, if not all, of their names.

These pictures can also be used for various beginning-of-the-year activities and projects for display. At the end of the year I'll take another picture to include in my end of the year slide show. It's fun to see how much students have grown and changed over the school year. This year I even had one student wearing the same thing for both pictures, which was funny to see." from Megan, a reader from Chicago

Ms. BBZ, grade 2 teacher, reminds us, "Remember that simple is better! So many of us like things to be cute and beautiful and perfect, but that's not always the best use of time. Be purposeful with the ways you spend your time. If your to-do list is full of "cute" stuff, stop and ask yourself whether all those things are going to make an impact on kids' brains, or just their eyes. :) And then with the time you save, do something for YOU!"

I am constantly looking for ways to make my blog more "interactive"--and I hope some of you will make suggestions for my next "Reader Tips" post--all about your best read aloud ideas.  Want to share your favorite read aloud book and what makes it so special?  Have a suggestion for how to make your read alouds more meaningful?  Just click the image below and send me YOUR contributions--and you might see yourself "published" on my blog! back to school items are on sale through August 9, and the rafflecopter continues for a few more days. Thanks for stopping by...and come back tomorrow for the final day of my Back to School Bash!
I promised some more fun this "Day 2" of my Back to School Bash has a number of products that are great for back to school on sale for you through August 9.  This is a special little bonus to help you with your planning!  
So what's on sale?  CHECK these out!

Don't forget to check out YESTERDAY'S POST for details about signing up for my newsletter (or check out the easy sign up in the right corner of this page).  Thanks for stopping by!

OK...first of all...if you are like me, you forgot to buy something during the sale.  I do it EVERY year-I promise myself I will be organized enough to get everything in my card ahead of time, and it didn't happen.  (Believe me, I spent plenty thought!).  In case YOU are like ME, I extended my sale one more day.  I can't get you the "bonus" discount from TpT, but my store will stay on sale one more day.

But I wanted to do more...I had to do something FUN to kick off the school year.  I know all of us are SO stressed--so let's make sure to take some time out over the next weeks to "play" a little!  Here's how this will work...

I have several days in a row with something FUN and special just for you...while these days are going on, I am going to have a HUGE giveaway going on as well.  This giveaway is a great chance for me to say "thank you" to all of you for following me, for sharing my ideas with your friends and coworkers, and for continuing to be encouraging and supportive of me and my lil blog!

This giveaway is also going to be my final big push to get people signed up for my newsletter--and the first issue will be coming out shortly so this is my chance to get as many people on board now as are interested so they don't miss the back to school edition. goes!  Click the image below if you missed the first sign up for the newsletter.  It's a way to get 3 entries into the giveaway!  I am really excited for this new way to interact with my readers, offer best practice teaching ideas, exclusive freebies, classroom tips, special deals not advertised anywhere else, and more! You even get a special freebie just for signing up!
So...without further ado...Here are the details for the giveaway!  You can enter in as many ways as you want--none are required.  If you want to share daily, you can come back and do will give you more entries!  Share with friends on email, on Facebook, on IG, or on Twitter.
Seriously...I'm pretty excited about the I'm thrilled to be able to give prizes to FIVE are the prize packages!
  • One winner of a new Kindle Fire HD
  • Two winners of $50 worth of your choice of Sit Spots
  • One winner of $25 worth of your choice of Sit Spots and $20 from Teachers Pay Teachers and $20 from my store
  • One winner of a $25 Barnes and Noble gift card plus $20 from my store
I hope you stop back all week to find some more back to school fun each day!  There will be teaching tips, freebies, sales and more!
(A remember, raffle entries are moderated and entrants not following rules will be disqualified)

a Rafflecopter giveaway
It's true...the bizarre cycle that is our lives continues!  We meet a new group of students, learn about them, lose sleep about them, work 18 hours a day for them, then they leave.  We get a few weeks in the summer to recover and revamp and refresh and rebuild.  And then we start again.

To say "thanks" to all the hard working teachers out there, Teachers Pay Teachers is throwing a huge sale on August 3 and 4...and I am joining in!  There are so many amazing products on sale, and I'm joining up with my new "Chalkies" friends to share!
Today I am highlighting a few of my products that you might not want to do without this year--and this would be a great time to stock up.

So this post is going to be 100% self-promotional. I had to decide what some of my favorite products are...and it was tough!  What ARE my favorites?  I had to do some real thinking about it!
Because it is the big back to school sale at TpT, I thought I'd use this post to highlight some of my favorites and tell you why.  Again...I'm disclosing up front that this is totally self-promotional.  SIGH.  Here goes.
My number 1.  My fraction unit.  This unit literally took months and months and was a true labor of love as my students and I worked through it.  I believe it to deepen true understanding of fractions at a level no textbook I have seen provide, and I love that you can use it as a complete replacement unit or use parts of it to supplement a textbook.  

With it, my fraction word problems, and my fraction sorts, you have a month's work of quality fraction explorations.  Thanks to a loyal follower who suggested I bundle them!  I would say my fraction unit is my favorite. 

 Then it gets tricky to choose...

Another set of "favorites" are my word problem bundles because I am PASSIONATE about getting our students to do more problem solving and whether or not your have a series you love, a series you despise, or no series at all--we ALL need to have more word problems on hand to use as class warm ups, cooperative problems solving, stations, and more.  My bundles of word problems are pretty popular and I have gotten lots of feedback about what a time saver they are.  Here are a few!
Another thing I feel pretty passionate about is helping students learn to be independent readers and book lovers!  These two resources have been helpful to hundreds of teachers who are looking for new ways to keep their kids reading, to track their reading, to build excitement about books, and to realize that reading is a personal and enjoyable experience.  Both have been updated since last year...
I know lots of you have used my concept sorts over the last year, so I had to include my latest one. If you haven't tried using concept sorts--either that YOU have made or that you got from seriously HAVE to try.  It is so much fun--and you can see how much more deeply your students will think about the topics.  I have more in the works--but this one is a GREAT one for back to school because it really gets them thinking about the concept of "equals"--the foundation of SO much math work!  There are also fraction, geometry, and angle sorts available so far in my store.
In staying with a math theme, developing number sense is SO important--and many students move to the intermediate grades with a less sophisticated understanding of our place value system than we would like.  Using number limes in an open ended way has really helped me both see where my students' understanding is AND help me create lessons and practice opportunities for them. Last year I created a resource using the numbers 0-1,000 and it was a perfect thing for first quarter.  As the year went on, I realized that I wanted to do more with the higher numbers, so this resource was born!  It is a challenge for many at first, but you will see their understanding grow as you work through these and share ideas as a class. I have both sets available and on sale.
Along the same line, I feel pretty strongly about helping students learn to tackle challenging problems--even problems that may have more than one answer--so that they learn the trait of perseverance.  So often students are unwilling to take risks when they come to my class OR math has always been so easy for them that they don't know what to do when they encounter something tricky.  Thus, "Perseverance Problems" were born.  In my class I used them in a few different ways--from cooperative problem solving exercises to challenge work for some of my top students.  This is definitely one of my favorites--so check it out!
Using formative assessment is SO key to making good instructional decisions.  I found myself CONSTANTLY creating exit and entrance slips to go with my lessons--so I created this resource as a time saver!  Each one has a whole bunch of "empty" slips for you to use to tailor to your lessons--almost like graphic organizers.  New to this?  I have given suggestions for use for EACH one!  Check out the preview for me.  I use these ALL. THE.  TIME.
Finally, last year I was complaining to my friend about how my students over the years seem to lack the creativity they had years ago and we chatted and put blame on everything from TV to video games to our textbooks and so on.  I went home that night and decided to do something about it! Over the next months, 6 different "activities" were born and all 6 of them are included in this bundle.  This is rapidly becoming one of my best sellers--and my students LOVE them!  See what you think!
I also am in love my new new line of novel studies including one for the AMAZING "Fish in a Tree" book.  Have you read it?  If not, I highly highly recommend it!  

And finally, my "Maps and Globes" unit is done...this is how I start the year and it is full of projects, creative thinking, interactive notebook components, assessments, and more.  I am super proud of the level of challenge--AND the level of fun!
There!  I could keep going, but I am already embarrassed about this completely product-based post!  To make up for watching this week for even more amazing deals and opportunities.  I have already added several things to my cart for the big sale tomorrow...hope you can find some great things for your 2015-2016 school year as well.  (DON'T forget to use the BTS15 promo code!).  Finally, don't forget to provide feedback on all your previous purchases to earn you points toward NEW purchases. I have some catching up to do in that area!  Want to check out some other great deals?  Here you go!
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