Wednesday, December 31, 2014

New Year's reSOLUTIONS

It's almost a new year!  I don't know if I should be excited, or depressed, that time keeps stomping all over me!  There never seems to be enough time for anything, whether it's teaching or holidays or watching your children grow.  Before you know it, summer will be upon us...and I will be turning 40!!!  Maybe that's what is feeding my time frenzy.  The big 4-0 looms before me, and though I don't feel 40 (mentally or physically...well, except for maybe my lower back...and my knee), it's the idea that 40 years have passed in my lifetime and there is still so much that I want to do!

In the last 4 years, the phrase "one day at a time" has become something of a mantra for me.  That's how I try to live life.  It has certainly relieved a lot of the pressure that I used to place on myself.  I used to have a crystal ball in my mind, and I used it constantly to make today's decisions based solely on how they would affect my tomorrows. 

But what about today?  Do I sacrifice today's joy worrying about what tomorrow may bring?  I used to hate the phrase "It is what it is."  Five words that seemed (to me) like giving up.  As in, it is what it is, nothing I can do to change it.  No!  I can change things!  I can change people!  Just give me a little time, a little (okay, a lot...I mean, a TON) of mental and emotional elbow grease, and they'll eventually come around to my way of thinking!  Ugh.  Ugh ugh ugh.

Today I choose joy. 

Why all of this philosophical rambling, you ask?  Because I'm tempted to make a New Year's Resolution.  Because I'm tempted to start typing out my goals for the new year.  Because I'm tempted to put down in black and white a bunch of things that I may or may not be able to accomplish tomorrow or the next day or the next, and frankly, I don't want to be disappointed in myself.   So...TODAY I will:

1)  Finish this blog and post it.

2)  Post a freebie in my TPT store!  It's a People Book Craftivity that I used with my kiddos when we were researching Ben Franklin, but it can be used for any historical figure (MLK Day is coming up!), on Mother's Day, as an autobiography, for character analysis, or anything else you can think of!  Click on the link to download your free copy for a limited time!  Here are a couple of pics of how one of my student's work turned out:
Inside (informational paragraph about Ben Franklin)
 3)  Share with you some images from my jobby (my job/hobby as a photographer).  I love my JOBBY!!!
Love the ginger!

What a cutie!

4)  Warn you that chalk paint is NOT easier than regular painting, no matter what other blogs may say!!!


5)  Wish you a HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

Stay safe this holiday and enjoy the last few moments of peace and quiet before the race to summer begins!  Bring it on, 2015!!!

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

So Close...And Yet So Far

Is it only Wednesday?  I swear when I woke up this morning, it was Friday.  Clearly, my brain and my body want Christmas vacation (ahem, I'm sorry, Winter Holiday) to get here...QUICK!  I mistakenly thought that I would return from Thanksgiving break renewed and refreshed.  I don't know about you, but a week off just didn't cut it.  We leapt right back onto the 5th Grade Grindstone, and will remain there until next Friday (with a teensy break on the obligatory Polar Express day - yay for PJs at school and an hour-and-a-half to get stuff done!).  Seven more days til rest and relaxation (in the form of last-minute Christmas shopping) doesn't seem like too much, until I look at my jam-packed lesson close, and yet, so far!!!

So we ended our unit on American Colonization this week.  I've tried really hard this year not to fall behind in social studies.  It's my favorite subject, but with STAAR tests in reading, math, and science, it always seems to be the subject that is ignored when we are in a time crunch (a.k.a., all year long).  I wanted to make things more interactive for the kiddos - they are a special bunch that require LOTS of hands-on activities.  I also wanted to make sure that I integrated informational reading with this unit...two birds, one stone, and all.  Here are some of the interactive activities that we used in class!!!

Accordion books to record information about each colonial region

Passage on the effects of colonial climate on economy and industry
(It was a great way to integrate cause & effect with the topic!)

13 mini-flapbooklets to record information (the Who, When, & Why) for each colony

Colonial Map
This unit is one of my social studies favorites!  But I really can't wait to move on to the American Revolution!  I'm a total National Treasure junkie - every time it's on TV, I just HAVE to tune in!  The Revolutionary War is one of my favorite periods in American history, just behind the '60's and the Civil Rights Movement (I would've been a total hippie, I'm sure of it!).  I haven't decided if I'm going to attempt to create an entire unit on the American Revolution, but knowing me, I probably will!  In the meantime, get your copy of my American Colonization unit at 20% off for a limited time!  It's over 80 pages of interactive goodies, and it's available in my TPT store.  Click HERE to grab the unit at a discount through December 13th!!!
Seven days to go...Merry Christmas, y'all! 

Monday, December 1, 2014

The Fraction Trilogy

The fraction craze continues in 5th grade...  I really enjoy seeing my kiddos move from "This is too hard," to "This isn't so bad," to "I can do this," and finally, "This is easy!"  That's been this fraction far.  I know it can't always be sunshine and roses, but for now, I'll take it! 

We've moved into comparing fractions, a new 4th grade skill that got lost in the shuffle of TEKS over the summer.  Thank God for the awesome 4th grade teachers at my school for introducing this at the tail-end of last year!  It made the models and numbers and word problems (oh my!) that much easier to teach. 

And then came cross multiplication...  Ah, yes, the lazy man's strategy (according to the "Powers that Be"), but quite useful if I do say so myself!  Then again...cross multiplication seems like such an easy concept.  However, you never know what your kiddos are going to do with a new concept, and that held true for comparing fractions!  They wanted to multiply all kinds of different ways, but eventually...they nailed it!  Here are a few of the activities we worked on today...


More models...and benchmarks!

Cross-multiplying...with an impromptu story problem when one of my kiddos asked, "What if they are EQUAL???"

And a few simple story problems...we will tackle more challenging word problems tomorrow!
Download your FREE copy of my Comparing Fractions Mini-Unit for a limited time!  Enjoy!!!

Monday, November 24, 2014

The Fraction Frenzy Continues...

It's the first day of Thanksgiving break, and I'm blogging about school...WHAT???  On Friday at 3:00, I was certain I wouldn't be blogging again 'til we were back in the classroom, but here I am!!!  I just had to get this new set of mini-lessons out!

We wrapped up our week talking about equivalent fractions - yes, the learning continues in 5th grade, even on the Friday before Thanksgiving break.  One of the things that I LOVED about this set of lessons is how it scaffolded the kiddos through models, numbers, and finally...problem-solving!  I remember last year how DIFFICULT it was for my kiddos to think of creating equivalent fractions to figure the number of onions in Johnny's garden ("Three-fourths, Ms. S!  Three-fourths!  He has THREE onions in his garden!!!).  But this year...totally different story!

We started out coloring fraction models and fraction bars - I left the manipulatives out for these lessons because my kiddos are famous artistes, and they love breaking out the crayon box for math!

After talking about models, we created equivalent fractions using two workmats that I created to target my kiddos' areas of need.

Finally, we tackled problem solving as a class, and then I gave them an assessment - just four quick problems, and I'm ECSTATIC to say that every one of my students got a perfect score!  WOOHOO!!!  Download your FREE copy of the mini-lessons HERE for a limited time!!!

So here's how my break started out...

I have my kiddos this week (lots of thanks going on over here!), so I decided to decorate for Christmas a bit early.  This will be our first official Christmas in the new house, so we went out yesterday and bought a tree and all new decorations.  We have pumpkins and turkeys AND this beautiful UNLIT tree gracing our home this week!  Why isn't it lit, you ask?  Well, that's because Momma, in her haste to get all the little packages of extra lights off the cord, CUT the darn thing in two!  Yep.  Ugh.  So today, I'm playing electrician, and headed off to Lowe's to buy electrical tape and a pair of wire-strippers (are those even a thing???).  So yeah...pretty typical holiday season over here!  Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!!!

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Fraction Frenzy

We started a new unit this week.  Bring it on, fractions!  Knowing my kiddos the way I do, I knew that they weren't ready to jump right in to comparing fractions (SAY WHAT, CURRICULUM???).  First, we needed a few interactive lessons to review fractions as parts of a whole and parts of a set.  I came up with a little bundle of activities to refresh my kiddos on fractions, and prepare them to dive in to MUCH more challenging work with fractions.  EEK!!!

Available FREE in my TPT store for a LIMITED time!
To kick off the mini-unit, we talked about fractions as parts of a whole.  We busted out the pattern blocks (yes, we still use these in 5th grade!), and discussed how many triangles or rhombi make a hexagon, trapezoid, etc.  Sounds simple, right?  Not so much.  I threw in a few problems using multiple shapes.  Creating fractions using more than one shape kind of threw my kiddos for a loop! was the perfect opportunity to start talking about equivalent fractions.

If we'd had more time, we would have created some pizza fractions, but we are already behind!  Story of my life!!!  Maybe next's what it would've looked like.  Sigh.

Next, we started a "Fraction Friends" activity to begin talking about fractions as parts of a set.  We played a fun version of "Guess My Rule," creating fractions for the number of kiddos with light-colored eyes, sporting hoodies, wearing accessories, etc.  It was so cute watching them scrutinize each other and try to figure out what they had (or what they were missing)!  We wrote various statements to describe the attributes of class.

Finally, we created our very own "Fraction Friends," which included fractional statements of shared attributes.  I can't wait to hang these cuties on the wall outside my classroom!

Get this fun bundle of activities in my TPT store FREE for a limited time!  Click HERE to download your free copy!!!  Make sure to share the link with your friends and colleagues, because it will only be free for a short amount of time!  Be on the lookout for future mini-units on equivalent fractions and comparing fractions - they will be coming VERY soon!!!

Thursday, November 13, 2014

A How-To Hullabaloo!!!

Time has just flown by!  I can't believe we are coming up on Thanksgiving break, but I have to admit...I am ready for some down time!  We have been going non-stop in the 5th grade world, muddling through lots of new math (but still finding time for some fun!).

This week, we started a unit on procedural text.  Frankly, it can be kind of a snooze-fest.  I wanted to jazz it up a bit, so I created a quick little lesson to kick off the unit.  My collab partner was sweet enough to pick up some bubblegum late Tuesday night so that we could get our kiddos excited about procedural text.  And boy, were they!

We started by passing out the bubblegum, but instructed the kiddos NOT to chew until they were told.  I know, so mean, right???  Once they were FINALLY instructed to chew, we went through the process steps and wrote them out together on this page:
In their table groups, they came up with a topic sentence and conclusion.
Then, they took this prewriting, and put it all together to create a how-to paragraph on blowing a bubble.
For some of the kiddos, it was the first time they'd ever blown a bubble!  So cool!!!  After writing, they were able to complete a quick (operative word), cute craft that we will eventually put up on our bulletin board next to the paragraph.

I love having my kiddos get interactive with a skill!  We will be transferring what we know about writing procedural text to analyzing it in reading.  Having the background knowledge on writing it will give them a boost in understanding the features and purposes of procedural text!  Yay!!!  Get your FREE copy of the lesson for a limited time in my TPT store: How to Blow a Bubble: A Guide to Writing Procedural Text.  Today, we are using the book Cook-a-Doodle-Doo by Susan Stevens Crummel to continue our discussion on procedural text.  I have a fun guide available for this unit in my TPT store, too!  Get your copy HERE!

Next week, our kiddos will be using what they learned this week about writing procedural text to create a booklet with steps and fun Turkey Tips to help turkeys survive Thanksgiving!  Check it out HERE!!!

So, on a personal note, I captured this sweet image of one of my little darlings on the way home yesterday.  Yep!  Momma feels the same way!!!  I just love that she's snoozin' away with her new book and pen in hand.  Gotta love the Book Fair!

Monday, September 22, 2014

Accept My Apologies...

I am officially the worst blogger ever!  I really WANT to blog more, and offer more freebies, but I can't seem to find the time!  In my defense, the last few weeks have been crazy!  Between early release staff meetings, multiple doggie escape attempts, ARDs out the whazoo, and a feeble attempt to get back to my workout routine, I have been too spent to blog!  Not to mention that technology has not been my friend this week!  I have been having MAJOR issues with Google Drive, so if you visited my blog and were unable to download the freebies, I'm sooooooooooooo sorry!

So we have been working with place value and decimals in my classroom.  Since I have such diverse learners, I needed to differentiate how I taught rounding.  No way could I introduce rounding decimals when some of my kiddos struggle with rounding to the hundreds place!  I created a bundle of materials that gives multiple opportunities for guided practice, and includes four sets of materials - rounding to the hundreds, thousands, millions/billions, and decimals.  I definitely needed to scaffold my students through basic rounding first, then into the millions and billions place, and finally into decimals.  It was tedious, but we made it through with our sanity (almost) intact! 

I also included four sets of fun games in the bundle for reinforcement throughout the year.  It is the same game, but geared towards hundreds, thousands, millions/billions, or decimals.  My kiddos can get the practice right where they need it!   I have a tub of baggies in my classroom FILLED with task cards and games to reinforce the concepts I've taught.  I add to it with each unit/skill I teach.  It's awesome for those fast finishers, and I love breaking out the tub during my math blitz just before STAAR!

Enjoy the sampler - I included the interactive notebook materials for the millions/billions place.  As always, please share with your colleagues and teacher friends!  If you'd like the full bundle (with all activity sets and games included), click HERE!

Rounding Sampler
Happy teaching!

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Science FUN with Skittles!

I don't know about you, but all the getting-to-know-you fun has come to an end, and we are already getting deep into curriculum!  I was so excited last week because I tried out a lab from my newest creation - exploring weathering, erosion, and deposition with CANDY!  I did the lab last year, and my kids loved it, but back then, I didn't have anything but the idea in my head.  We wrote out the details of the experiment by hand in our science notebooks.  Not only did this take much longer than I'd like, it had ZERO cute fonts or clip art!  For shame!  This year, I expanded on the idea and created lab sheets based on the scientific method to go with the experiment (cute fonts and clip art included!).

So far, we have done one of the three labs.  It got loud, and at one point, weathered Skittles flew across the room (make sure they have that lid on TIGHTLY!).  But, they got it!  They understood weathering!  Tomorrow, we will move on to the erosion portion of the lab, and hopefully get to deposition, as well.

Please feel free to download the file!  Your kids will love it, and I included a teacher prep page at the beginning of the file so that you can get everything together ahead of time.  I also have a bundle of foldables, flapbooks, chart toppers, vocabulary cards, and other goodies in my TPT store on the constructive and destructive forces of weathering, erosion, and deposition.  They are a great way to introduce the activity before beginning the labs.  Visit my TPT store by clicking on the link in the sidebar to download your copy!  Enjoy!

Candy Crush Lab: Experiments with Weathering, Erosion, & Deposition***

***The freebie link has expired, but you can get your copy of the labs and lab sheets in my TPT store!  Happy teaching!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

Science Rocks!

I freaking love science!  I love learning about it, and I especially love teaching it.  My students' reactions are priceless when they complete an experiment and finally get it!

I also love reading aloud picture books to my kiddos.  I love watching their faces as I give the characters a voice. I love hearing them laugh at the funny part.  I love when they sigh or groan or squeal...anything that tells me they are just LOVING this story!

One of my teammates showed me the picture book On a Beam of Light: A Story of Albert Einstein by Jennifer Berne, and it totally inspired me to create a bundle of activities based on the nature of science.  Not only is there a mini-lesson based on the book, but there are WAY CUTE scientific processes posters and vocabulary cards, interactive materials for scientific processes and the scientific method, and an assessment on the scientific method (with an answer key, of course!).

I knocked this one out in a week because I am so SUPER excited to teach it next week!  I definitely wanted to offer it up on the blog as a freebie before the first day of school.  I hope you enjoy it and share it with colleagues and friends!

Happy experimenting!!!!

The Nature of Science Bundle***

***The freebie link has expired, but you can still get your copy from my TPT store!  Happy teaching!!!

Thursday, August 21, 2014

That Time of Year

I am so tired, I could swear my eyelids are made of sandpaper.  It's Work Week, and I am frantically trying to get my classroom ready for the first day of school - posters hung, plans written, copies made, supplies organized...  I know you can all relate!  My children don't seem to realize that Mommy is no longer on vacation.  They still want to stay up late watching movies, and sleep in.  Not to mention that despite my exhaustion, my body isn't ready to call it quits until after ten o'clock.  I've confused it with 5:30 a.m. alarms and 3 regularly-scheduled meals a day.  It's that time of year!

I've had today's creation on my mind for the last couple of weeks.  Lazing around in bed after 8 am (as the back-to-school countdown begins) will do that!  I wanted a go-to bundle of miniature anchor charts to use in my students' folders and interactive notebooks.  I love when my students have valuable resources at their fingertips - it makes my life so much easier!  I am also the collaborative teacher for my grade level, so I have several students whose IEP requires these resources to be on hand at all times. 

I created this bundle with every chart I could think of (after hours of working in my classroom, so forgive me if I've left out a few!).  I plan on placing some in interactive math folders for all-year use, and others I will shrink and glue into interactive notebooks during that unit of study.  I will be updating the file when I realize I've forgotten something (which you can bet your STAAR scores will happen more than once)!  So follow me on the blog and on TPT to get notification updates!  Enjoy!!!

Math Mini-Anchor Charts***

***The freebie link has expired, but you can still get a copy in my TPT store!  Happy teaching!!!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Didn't I Already Answer That?

"Can we use markers on this?"  That has to be the #1 question that my kids ask, no matter the grade level.  What's the deal with markers, anyway?  I, personally, love crayons!  Markers smear and get on my hands and ink from the paper always bleeds in with the markers, ruining the color.  Okay, so maybe I'm a little OCD.  And perhaps I've done a lot of thinking about this.  But when you get asked that question as many times as we teachers do, you tend to obsess over it.

Not to mention all the other questions we get asked on a day-to-day basis. "Is this for a grade?"  "Can we work on the floor?"  "Where do I put it when I'm finished?"  "Do I take this home?"  "Can I work with a partner?" 

Wait.  Didn't I already answer that when I was giving the directions?

The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results.  So I guess I must be just a tad bit crazy (what teacher isn't???) because it took inspiration from a friend to get me thinking about my latest creation.  Why not have signs on the board that answer those never-ending questions?  I have signs everywhere else, and there is just a tiny bit of space on the left side of my white board. 

These signs answer those never-ending questions!  Just post them and make multiple copies of the stars that are included in the bundle.  Velcro the stars and a corner of the posters, and place the stars on the posters that answer those questions about the given assignment!  Voila!  No more questions!  And they go great with the last freebie I posted - classroom posters for the fast finishers in your room.

What? Where? Who? - Classroom Posters for those Never-Ending Questions***

***The link has expired!  Please visit my TPT store by clicking on the link in the sidebar to get your copy!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

What Can I Do Now?

"What can I do now, Ms. S.?"  It never fails.  Doesn't matter how many enrichment activities, ELAR stations, math games, or task cards that I have set up all around my room, it's a daily question.

We all have them - those "Fast Finishers" who complete an assignment before you've even finished passing them out.  Yes, of course, you have a TON of things that your kiddos can do when they are finished (starting with that jam-packed unfinished work folder!!!).  Problem is, they can never seem to remember all the wonderful things that you've spent HOURS and HOURS preparing just to avoid that question!

I can't complain too much because I, too,  have the memory of a fly.  I am a very visual person, so I can't rely on my memory or my ears to get me through the day.  I LOVE signs and posters, and I ABHOR empty walls, which is why it's difficult to find an inch of bare wall space in my classroom!  I created these cute little posters (with a little inspiration from my equally-OCD best friend and coworker) as a visual reminder of all the things my kiddos can do when that assignment is safely turned in!

Enjoy the download!  And if you're anything like me, enjoy the next couple of weeks of putting your classroom back together without any AC!!!

What Can I Do Now? - Classroom Posters for the Fast Finisher***

PS - Be on the lookout in the next couple of days for a set of posters to answer more of those everyday questions - "Can we use markers?",  Where do I put it when I'm done?",  "Can we work with a partner?", and more!!!

***The link has expired!  Please visit my TPT store by clicking on the link in the sidebar to purchase your copy!

Monday, August 4, 2014

Wiggly Eyes and Craft Sticks and Cardstock...Oh My!

One of my favorite things about Back-to-School are the supplies!  I love stocking up on brand-new boxes of crayons, fresh markers, stacks of notebooks and folders, glue...and pencils, pencils, pencils!!!  I fill my cabinets with extra supplies because there will always be a student who doesn't have something he needs, or runs out of pencils by October.  I swear, sometimes I think they eat them when my back is turned!

What about the fun stuff, though?  The glitter glue and sequins and pipe cleaners and feathers that we use throughout the year?  Half of my classroom closet is dedicated to art supplies because I LOVE integrating hands-on crafts whenever I can.  My kiddos love it, too!  The problem is, I always seem to forget about the paper plates or colorful pom poms until the day before I need them, and then I find myself scrambling to get to the Dollar Store/Walmart/Hobby Lobby during 5:00 traffic with three kids in tow (soooooooooooooo not fun!).  I used to have some simple cards that I taped on my door with donation requests, but simplicity doesn't suit me, so I created these cute cards, instead!  I'm going to place them outside my classroom door on the sign-in table at Meet the Teacher.

I also made up a cute little rhyming poster to tape on the wall, and some thank you cards so I don't forget to be show my gratitude in the hustle and bustle of back-to-school activities.  Please download and share with colleagues, friends, family, etc.!  Hope you enjoy them!

Back-to-School Donation Bundle***

***The link has expired!  Please check my TPT store to purchase a copy!!!

Monday, July 28, 2014

Whoooooooooo Knows Vocabulary?

Okay, I'm stretching it a bit on these bundles with the owl theme, but they are too darn cute!  I ran across these shabby owls as I was trolling on Teachers Pay Teachers for clip art to use in my curriculum creations, and I knew I had to find a way to use them.  I just happened to be working on these vocabulary bundles at the time, and the owls soon found themselves a home!

So what are these vocabulary bundles???  Well, being back in a testing grade this past year reminded me how important vocabulary is during state testing.  I realized that many of my kiddos were missing questions (on skills I knew they had mastered!) because they didn't understand the language being used on the test!  Eek!!!  I immediately started a vocabulary component to my language arts block, and created a vocabulary wall in my classroom that targeted high-frequency words found in the various content areas and on state-testing.  However, my kiddos need more than just visual reminders, so I came up with these fun flash cards and activities for some hands-on practice.  I can't wait to use them with my upcoming group!!!  The activities are engaging, with familiar games like Concentration and Go Fish, except that they have an added twist (and degree of difficulty)!  Students must give the word's meaning, use the word in a sentence, determine the part of speech, and give a synonym or an antonym.  They can be used to set up stations, or during group work, and they will DEFINITELY be used in my classroom when someone says, "I'm finished, what can I do now?"

Click on the bundle you need for your classroom (or all three!), and enjoy!  Feel free to share with friends, family, and coworkers.  I'd love to hear how you and your kiddos like the activities, so leave a comment, if you'd like!  Aren't those owls just too stinkin' cute?!?!

High-Frequency Vocabulary Flash Cards & Activities - 3rd Grade***
High-Frequency Vocabulary Flash Cards & Activities - 4th Grade***
High-Frequency Vocabulary Flash Cards & Activities - 5th Grade***

***The link has expired!  Please visit my TPT store to purchase your copy!

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

I Spy Sight Words!

I apologize that it's been a while since my last post!  My photography life has taken over the last several weeks with sessions and editing, but I'm not complaining.  I don't know what I enjoy more - creating lessons or creating images.  I suppose it would have to be whichever I'm working on when you ask me!  Hop on over to my photography page on FB to see what I've been up to!  Just click on the link in the side bar.

Here's a sneak peek of a session that I had with my own baby while we were on vacation at the beach!

This was my first time shooting at the beach, and I must say, I LOVED it!  I wish I lived closer!

Since it's been a while, I decided to post multiple freebies today.  I worked on these bundles a couple of weeks ago (between sessions and editing).  Although I currently teach 5th grade, I've spent most of my teaching career in 2nd, so I know the value of learning those sight words!  Today's bundles include grade-level appropriate flash cards using Dolch sight words, and various activities for stations or group work.  Feel free to download as many of the bundles as you can use in your classroom!  They can be great for intervention and enrichment!

Sight Words & Activities - Pre-K/Kinder***
Sight Words & Activities - 1st Grade***
Sight Words & Activities - 2nd Grade***
Sight Words & Activities - 3rd Grade***

Enjoy!  And be on the lookout out in the next few days for high-frequency vocabulary freebies for 3rd, 4th, and 5th grades!

***The link has expired!  Please click on the link in the sidebar to my TPT store to get your copy!!!

Monday, July 7, 2014

I Love a Good Novel Study!

Wow, it's been a busy week!  Between photo sessions and bookings, editing, pool time with the girls, swim team, yard work, installing a storm door, the gym, and testing out my new BBQ grill, I decided to take a break from curriculum.  But I'm back with another freebie!

I LOVE novel studies!  In my opinion, they offer so much more depth than stories in the anthology.  I've spent years collecting class sets of novels that I love so that I can share them with my students.  Tuck Everlasting is one of my very favorite novels to teach!  I'm a reader who likes language (my favorite author is Stephen King), and it has some serious imagery and symbolism!  I can't wait to share this novel with my upcoming group of kiddos!!!

Click here*** to download my novel study bundle for Tuck Everlasting.  And if you are a teacher who loves novel studies as much as I do, click on the link in the sidebar to my TPT store.  I have lots of others available there.  Some of the goodies you will find are activities for Miss Daisy is Crazy, The Tale of DespereauxDear Mr. Henshaw, The Landry News, Al Capone Does My Shirts, and Because of Winn-Dixie.  I also have genre studies available, as well as an author study on Patricia Polacco.  Hope you enjoy!

***The link has expired!  Please click on the link to my TPT online store to purchase a copy of the Tuck Everlasting novel study. 

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Reading Logs for Teachers Who Hate Reading Logs

I am OBSESSED right now!  I always knew I had a font fetish, but recently, I found the cutest frames, borders, and backgrounds to use in the curriculum and materials that I create!  How is it that I'm just now figuring this out???  I've seen products with all that great stuff, but I never really thought too much about how they got there.  I just typed in my debit card number and downloaded my copy.  But now that I know where and how to get them, I can't stop creating!

Here are two items that I created a couple of days ago, with a little background to go along with them...  I HATE keeping up with reading logs.  I mean really, REALLY hate it.  As a teacher, what am I looking for?  A book title with a parent signature next to it that says you read for 20 minutes each night?  What's the purpose in that?  Yes, I realize that reading every night is important (I even have a cute chart that breaks down the total minutes per year vs. a student who doesn't do the reading).  But if it's not quality reading, what's the point?

And here's a dirty little secret...sometimes I sign my own kids reading logs when they haven't even read!  I know!  Sacrilege!  Please don't turn me in!!!

So anyway...I decided to create a reading log that will actually hold my students accountable for analyzing what they've read each night.  Each bundle contains 36 weeks of thought-starters or questions - one for each week of the school year.  (I tried to fit them to one or two pages to save the baby trees!)  The logs prompt higher order thinking in a multitude of ways.  Download your copy for FREE to see just what I mean!  Choose the Grades 2-3 logs, or the Grades 4-5 logs, or BOTH!

Daily Home Reading Logs - Grades 2-3*
Daily Home Reading Logs - Grades 4-5*

Happy reading, everyone!

*The links have now expired, but you can purchase the logs on my TPT store by clicking on the link in the side bar.  Enjoy!

Sunday, June 22, 2014

Not (Just) Another Project!

When I was in school and heard the word project, I always groaned.  "Another project???"  It usually meant a research paper, or maybe we got to "create" some sort of display (which was really just a research paper all cut up and glued on poster board).  I didn't like writing papers when I was a student.  I got more caught up in the logistics of writing the paper than in actually analyzing the topic.  Have I written enough words?  Should I single-space or double-space?  Are the lengths of my paragraphs varied enough?  Do I need a header?  Should I include page numbers?  Is my bibliography accurate?  It seemed those were the things the teacher graded, rather than the content of my paper. 

Did I mention that, as a teacher, I HATE grading those infernal things?  But research is an elementary TEK in Texas, so what's a teacher to do? 

Sorry, Curriculum & Instruction, but we won't be writing research papers in my classroom.  I will teach my students critical-thinking skills, but I'm not going to make 10- and 11-year-olds get carpal tunnel syndrome typing a thousand-word research paper on animals and organisms.  I'll leave that to their college professors.

Instead of writing a research paper, my students created a magazine and a 3D model based on an animal or organism of their choice.  The Animals & Organisms Project*** is something I created to help keep my students on track.  It's a 15-page bundle that includes research guides, note-taking pages, checklists, a letter home, and other helpful information.

This was one of my kiddos' favorite activities this year!  Download it for FREE by clicking on the link above.  Click on the link in the sidebar to visit my TeachersPayTeachers online store for more activities that aren't just "another project."

***The Animals & Organisms Project link has expired, but you can always find it, and much more, in my TPT online store!

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

It's only Tuesday!

It's been a heck of a week!  I watched my Spurs win the NBA championship, dropped my cell phone in a cup of coffee, mowed, edged, & watered a half-acre yard, cleaned my house, ran 4 miles, created an order form for some sports photography I'm shooting on Friday, went to lunch with my family on Father's Day, captured head shots for an up-and-coming teen star, hung with some girlfriends and all the kiddos at the pool, and made my own dusting spray (because I was too tired to run to the store for some Pledge - and it's awesome - comment for the recipe!).  This is how I spend my "spare" time when my kids are with their dad.  And it's only Tuesday!

And yes, I'm still teaching summer school!  Six more days to go! 

At the end of last week, I got an email from my principal that she'd like me to present a mini-lesson to the faculty during staff development in August.  (Sigh of relief!)  I already have something that I used this past year.  Thank God for small favors!

My school kiddos really struggled with understanding decimals.  After the first assessment, I realized that they needed some serious reteach.  Soooooooooooooo...I taught a mini-lesson on ordering decimals, then used the Batting Average Decimal Challenge*** that I created as a fun activity to practice ordering decimals.  I added an assessment to the activity to monitor the success of the my reteach.  Click on the activity to download a copy!

Here's to the rest of the week! 

***The link has expired, but you can find the Batting Average Decimal Challenge in my TeachersPayTeachers online store!  Happy teaching!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Summer School Blues

I hate test prep.  That is so NOT why I became a teacher, and it's not how I teach.  It's just not. 

However, I am 4 days into summer school.  Around Day Two, I realized that I had a grand total of nine (yes, I said NINE) instructional days to prepare these kiddos for their third administration of state math testing.  All seven of my new babies failed to master the first two administrations, and this is their final chance to pass a test that determines whether or not they are ready for middle school (don't even get me started on that).  These kiddos are struggling in every category of math - geometry, measurement, fractions, place value, probability...  So it's not like I can focus on one area.  I have to review and reteach 180 days of instruction in just nine days. pressure.

Teaching this way lit a fire in me, a fire that usually doesn't rekindle til the end of July.  I want to jump into next year with an arsenal of strategies to target my kiddos' areas of need.  So I created Number Stumpers, a bundle of activities and assessments to do just that (click here*** to download a copy).  I teach 5th grade, so I started out focusing on decimals, but soon realized that math is a foreign language without a fundamental basis in number sense.  So I added activities to target developmental needs in primary and intermediate grades. 

I did find a way to have a little math fun.  The school I'm at for summer school has a beautiful courtyard with a HUGE painted map of the United States smack in the middle of it.  Though we have no "official" recess, after lunch on Thursday we headed to the courtyard.

Me:  "Find four states whose borders create perpendicular lines." 

Them:  "Miss, what does perpendicular mean?"


***The link has expired, but visit my TeachersPayTeachers online store to get yourself a copy!  (link in the sidebar)

Monday, June 9, 2014

What Was I Thinking???

Summer school started today.  This is the first time in thirteen years that I've worked during my vacation.  I'm still on the fence about whether or not it will be worth it.  Certainly the extra money will be nice.  But God gave teachers several months of vacation for a reason!  By the end of the year, we are very near burn-out (if we haven't spontaneously combusted!). 

When state testing ended this year, I knew it hadn't truly ended for me.  As of today, I have nine kiddos that need me to help them pass their third attempt at the standardized math test so that they can move into middle school.  How will we do it in eleven instructional days?  I'm hoping today's freebie will help.  Fractions are difficult, especially for children with learning disabilities.  Games break up the monotony of test prep, and that was my intent with this activity - racing to change improper fractions to mixed numbers, and vice versa.  Click here to download Fraction Find!***  All of my products are always available at my TeachersPayTeachers online store, but if you sign up to follow my blog, you will never miss a freebie!  You'll receive an email every time I update!

Eleven days.  That's what I keep telling myself.  Just eleven days.  And then my summer can officially begin...

***The link to Fraction Find has expired!

Thursday, June 5, 2014

(Not) The End.

Today was the last day of school, and much more bittersweet for me than usual.  I've been teaching for 13 years, but unlike previous years, ending my first year as a 5th grade teacher was full of tears.  The last day of school is always the preface to a new book in the series, no matter what grade you teach.  It happens every year.  But for me, this year was different.  

This wasn't just my first year as a 5th grade teacher - it was also my first year as a special education collaborative teacher.  More than half of my class had a learning disability, and they had to pass two state tests - reading and math - in order to move on to 6th grade.  Almost half of them did not master one or both of the tests last year.  I entered the classroom on the first day of school full of doubts and questions, mostly about whether or not I could cut it.

Today, nineteen kiddos walked the stage.  Today, 180 days of hard work paid off.   It wasn't always pretty.  There were definitely tears (mine and theirs).   My collaborative partner and I worked harder than we'd ever worked before.  But those kids put forth more effort than I could ever dream of producing!  They did extra homework, attended ENDLESS tutoring, listened to me drone on incessantly, muddled through intervention after intervention...and 100% of them passed both tests. 

I decided to post my kids' favorite activity from this year.  We read The Tale of Despereaux by Kate DiCamillo because they were struggling with making connections in literary text.  I developed the activities and assessments in this bundle to get them thinking about symbolism.  They especially loved the project - comparing symbols of good and evil in the novel through art.  We did an entire lesson on chiaroscuro, an artistic element that boldly contrasts light and dark.  They used what they learned to analyze symbols and characters, and then created paintings to demonstrate these symbols.  I wish I had an example to post!  But, I'm an overzealous packer at the end of the year, so they are buried at the bottom of my closet.  Enjoy the download by clicking here***, and don't forget, it will expire with the next post.  But you can always find it on my TeachersPayTeachers online store!

As teachers, we always have moments that touch our hearts forever.  Today was one of those moments for me.  My tears were pure joy and amazement and PRIDE.  Nineteen faces smiled up at me for the last time today.  I want to be just like them when I grow up. 

***The link is now expired!

Sunday, June 1, 2014

Four Days and Counting...

I'm rolling my eyes as I sit here and write.  This is my third attempt at a blog.  Yep, you heard THIRD attempt.  My first attempt was a spiritual and (hopefully) encouraging look at life.  At some point, my life became jam-packed with encouraging moments, and I couldn't seem to find the time to write about them - not a bad problem to have, wouldn't you say?  A Voice from the Vine is still active, and maybe someday I will find the time, but for now, it is what it is.

My second attempt at a blog came with my photography business, which I started about a year-and-a-half ago.  I thought blogging would be the perfect way to showcase my work.  Alas, Facebook has proven to be much more efficient, and so that is where Courtney Lindsey Photography currently lives.

So why this blog?  Why now?  Well, for starters, summer is right around the corner - four days and counting!  I will have GOBS of time on my hands in between summer school, three kids, four dogs, swim team, photography, VBS...  OK, maybe not.  But luckily, these blog posts will be short and sweet (with the exception of this one!), and they will give away free stuff! 

You see, I also create lesson plans, activities, curriculum, recording sheets, posters, anchor charts, vocabulary cards, games, projects...just about anything that this obsessive-compulsive single-mom teacher can use to make life easier, a.k.a. more organized and efficient.  Yes, my OCD can be ANNOYING (and sometimes counter-productive)!!!  I wish I could just sit back and stick with last year's stuff.  But as soon as I kick my feet up, my fingers start to twitch and, before you know it, I'm back at the computer, poring over fonts and creating text-box after text-box.

So back to the blog...  I decided to share my creations with anyone who moseys on over this way, because let's face it...if you're taking the time to read my nonsense, you deserve to get something out of it!  And if something I've created can make your life easier, then WOOHOO!!!  Here's my first freebie - an End-of-Year Memory Book*** that's sure to keep your kiddos engaged while you finalize grades, stuff report cards, count textbooks, and pack up your classroom for the summer.  I created it for my 5th graders, but it will work for other grades, too.  Go ahead, download it!  It's FREE, but the link will expire with the next freebie I post, so don't wait!!!  Never fear, though - if you miss out on something, it (and TONS of other goodies) will always be available in my TeachersPayTeachers store

***The link to the Memory Book has expired!