Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Critical Thinking from the Start of the Year with a FREEBIE

Knowing that I am going to have a room full of not only gifted children but highly gifted children this year has really got me thinking about how I am going to challenge them from the start. It's what made me decide it would be a good idea to have a Teaching Strategies Linky Party starting this Saturday.

So, as I was planning with my team, we had some great ideas that showed me how we could take what we would normally do to another level for these kids. There won't be any back to school about me books happening in my classroom. (Not that there is anything wrong with that for most classrooms, it just would bore these kids I'm going to have to tears.) The "about me" activities they will do will require them to look at it from different perspectives. I have so many ideas swarming that it kept me up the last two nights. My sweet husband waited for me to jot them all down. My "it will only take 20 minutes" somehow turned into about an hour. The time flew by to me, though!

I've started working on my Back to School Unit. I'm tempted to call it "Not Your Normal Back to School Unit" because everything in it will encourage deeper thinking and share ideas for differentiation. I figure that if this is the kind of thing we want from our kids all year, why not start off that way?

One thing I just couldn't wait to share with you is a strategy called RAFT. It's been around a while, and it's nothing I came up with by any means. I originally learned about it when I had my 30 hours of GT training. Read Write Think does a great job of explaining it. They do say that it is for grades 5-12, but I see no reason why I can't do it with my 1st and 2nd graders next year. They just might need a partner to work with.

It's basically a strategy for showing understanding of a concept by looking at it from an unusual perspective. 
The R stands for role. Who are you writing as? 
The A stands for audience. Who are you writing to?
The F stands for format. How are you going to present this? iMovie? Story? Letter? Comic?
The T stands for topic. What are you writing about?

So to present this to kids, you may give them some kind of a chart like this:

From there, they can choose how they want to show you what they know. 

I'm going to introduce it at the beginning of the year as we talk about how we are feeling about school. Some of them may be excited, sad, unsure, etc. We are going to compare those feelings to how inanimate objects might feel. For example, they may choose to be an eraser talking to a pencil about school starting tomorrow. You can probably imagine that the eraser complaining about how they are going to have to work now because of all the mistakes the pencil makes. I love how creative the students can get with this!

If you want to download the PDF version of my RAFT freebie up there, you can grab it here:

Beg of the Year RAFT

If you like this type of thing for the beginning of the year, then you will love my "Not Your Normal Back to School Unit" when I'm done. Can't wait to share it all with you!

By the way, this simple strategy is the kind of thing you could blog about and share at my Teaching Strategies linky parting starting this Saturday. Hope you will create a post to link up!
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Monday, July 29, 2013

North Texas Bloggers Come Meet With Us!

I was so excited when Mrs. Thompson from Adventures in Teaching contacted me about a North Texas blogger meet up.

We decided to pull something together rather quickly right before we all start back to school. 

If you want to travel to the DFW area, or already live here, come and meet up with us! We've already picked out an AWESOME place and have some great goodies from my favorite SUPERSTAR bloggers and TPT sellers. I've also got some great ideas cooking for what special things I should make for you! I kinda think I'd love to be a party planner if I wasn't a teacher. You won't want to miss this!!!

If you are interested, contact Mrs. Thompson at adventures.inteaching@yahoo.com for all the details.
Seriously, you won't want to miss out on this! Can't wait to meet all of you North Texas teachers! :)

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Sunday Smorgasbord with a FREEBIE


When I saw that Fabulous in First was hosting a Sunday Smorgasbord linky party, I knew I had to participate today. I have so many random things to share! (If you don't want to read all about my stay-cation, then just scroll down towards the bottom for a freebie!)

First off, I haven't shared this with my blogging buddies yet, but we are moving into a house very soon, and I've got to start packing! YIKES! Hopefully this move can go smoothly. :)

Before getting started with all the packing, my hubby and I spent a stay-cation in Dallas. I think these can be the best kinds of vacations. Almost no travel time, and it gives you an excuse to go to those places you love but have to save for a special day.

We enjoyed fondue, the best pizza in Dallas, the Perot museum, and of course the Dallas Zoo. I'm such a kid and love going to all of those kinds of places. :)

According to my husband, the Dallas Zoo is one of the only zoos in Texas to have koalas. I think they are my favorite! Just look at this cutie!!!

 Here I am with the giraffes celebrating their one year birthday. This is before I went to the gift shop and bought a shirt so I could change it since it was so humid. Anyone else ever do that???

And this is from the new and completely crowded Perot Museum:

I know it's blurry, but it was kind of dark in the theater.

We may have to go back to the museum sometime during the school year when it isn't quite so crowded...

Now that the stay-cation is over, I am working hard on some things for school. I am eagerly awaiting the chance to get into my classroom and set everything up there. I did create some items to go with my theme, but I'm not sure which table signs I'm going to use yet. I made pennant table signs and circular table signs. I'll just decide later. :)

I also created a freebie for you! I made some blank banners with the star theme and different colored backgrounds. I'm planning on using these to create a welcome banner or to simply to hang around the classroom. Head over to TPT to grab it! I just ask that you follow me and rate it, please!

Besides that, I'd love for you to plan on linking up to my teaching strategies party. I know at this time of year, most of our minds go directly to getting our room ready, but even more important than that is the way we plan to teach our kids. If you join in or at least read some of the strategies people link up, I bet you will go back to school with a few more ideas to pull from when planning lessons for your kids.

You can read more about the linky party here.

Enjoy your Sunday!

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Let's Gear Up with Teaching Strategies!

I have enjoyed being crafty and making adorable things for my classroom this past week, but as I was with my team planning out curriculum for our new highly gifted academy I was reminded that teaching is all about the strategies we have in our toolboxes. It's nothing new to me, but I found myself asking what the best strategies are for teaching gifted students because they are things that can be used over and over again.

So... I thought about how true this is for every classroom. It's wonderful to have cute activities and lessons that engage the students, but sometimes we simply don't have the time to plan out something new each time, and honestly why should we?

I want to have a 3 week linky part all about sharing those tried and true teaching strategies so we can "Gear Up" for the new school year. 

I'm talking about the thing you go to over and over again that can be applied to any topic. Whether you are in a bind and need to plan something quickly, or you know it's something your students enjoy, it often finds a way into your plans. Maybe it's a way you introduce something new, maybe it's a way you let the kids brainstorm ideas, maybe it's the way they share what they have learned. Whatever it is, I'd love to hear it! 

Nothing is too simple to share. It could be just what someone needs to hear.

So, enough talking about it. I'm gonna go work on scheduling some blog posts!

If you have some tried and true strategies that could help the new or veteran teacher to "Gear Up" for the new school year, I invite to blog about it and join in the linky party!

Feel free to grab the picture above when you do.

I plan to blog about these strategies for three Saturdays in a row:
Saturday, August 3
Saturday, August 10
Saturday, August 17

Come join in on the fun and collect some great teaching strategies as you "Gear Up" for the new school year!
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Thursday, July 25, 2013

DIY Pencil Dispenser

Last year I found this great idea of using a straw dispenser for pencils. I love it because the students can't shuffle though the pencils for ever just to find that special one. They get whatever comes out!

I originally found the idea here:

After scouring the Amazon.com website, I finally decided on one I liked. I decided I wanted an acrylic one because with it being clear, I could see when I needed to add more pencils. 

This is the one I purchased:

Instead of doing Mod Podge like I originally intended, I decided on stickers for the word "pencil" and scrapbook paper attached from the inside. I figured this way I could change out the paper to match any theme I change to.

It works so beautifully... one pencil out at a time! :)

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Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Back to School Photo Booth Props

When we have our Meet the Teacher Night before school starts, I'm planning to have a photo booth in my classroom. Since it's a new program and that kids don't know each other at all yet, I thought it might be nice if on the first day, they come in to the classroom greeted by pictures of themselves! I hope it will help them feel more welcomed and comfortable.

I found my inspiration through Pinterest, of course! Click below the post to see the original source.

I went to Hobby Lobby and Michael's to find all kinds of pre-painted wooden cut outs as well as unfinished ones to be a nice background or place to write something.

I painted all of the unfinished wood cutouts with chalkboard paint:

After adding white dots with my FAVORITE paint pens, I hot glued the pre-painted cut outs to some and added words to others.

I thought it would be cute to let them write something on their own if they chose to, so I left one of the thought bubbles blank.

I then used the left over rulers from my back to school wreath and used those as the sticks the students could hold them by. I thought they would stay attached by hot glue longer than dowel rods anyways since they aren't circular.

I also scored these fun dress up items at Michael's. The ears were $2.00 each and the foam hats were $3.99.

I hope my new students will have a blast! Can't wait to see them use it! :)
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Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Back to School Wreath DIY

I've been eying this back to school wreath for a few weeks now and decided it was time to make it!

You make recognize it from my recent Pinterest Finds!

I went to Hobby Lobby after making a list of what I needed, but then I kind of went a different direction...

I didn't see why I should buy a wooden circle to glue to an embroidery hoop when I saw an unfinished wooden plate in the next aisle. I ended up buying the wooden plate instead, thinking that I would attach the rulers to the back of it.

Then, after I decorated the plate I thought it was cute enough already! So I decided I would save the rulers for something else (which you will see tomorrow!)

I cut the ribbon to the length I wanted and added a bow on top. My original thought was that gorilla glue would hold it just fine, but my husband wasn't so sure.

So... as you can see I ended up with picture hangers at the end of the ribbons. I think that having two nails or command hooks here will support it very nicely. I'll just need one more nail or command hook at the top to hold up the bow.

I ended up painting it will chalkboard paint so I could write whatever I want on the rim of the plate. I'm not sure if I want to just write "Welcome" or maybe "Mrs. Patton's Class". We will see!

Oh, and P.S.- the apple is a 6 inch pre-painted wooden cut out! Gotta love em!

I can't wait to hang it outside my classroom door!
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Monday, July 22, 2013

Back To School Frame DIY

Have you seen these frames floating around Pinterest?

I was inspired by these two frames to create my own for the 1st day of school.

This is from First Grade Schoolbox

I went to Hobby Lobby and bought an Open Frame (for 40% off with the coupon on their app!), the pre-painted glitter letters, the pre-painted wood cut outs, and an unfinished wooden star.

I used chalkboard paint to paint the star so I could change it out for the 100th or last day of school.

I chose a gator cut out because we will be the Gators at my new school.

These letters were awesome, and took me quite a while to decide on, but pre-painted glitter letters beat me painting them on my own!

And here is my sweet hubby who clearly loves me very much since he humored me and posed for me. Not sure he knows just how many people will see this photo, but I did mention it would be on my blog. :)

I can't wait to let my new students pose with this on the first day!

If you decide to make one, I do want to give you a few tips:

  1. Make sure the letters on the bottom don't stick out over the bottom. You will have to store it on one of the sides, so it's best if the cutouts and letters don't stick out on the bottom!
  2. Do multiple coats of chalkboard paint on the star. I did three.
  3. Use hot glue instead of wood glue. Wood glue took way to long to dry and make a big globby mess. It's possibly user error, but after using wood glue on the word "day," I gave up and plugged in my glue gun right away.
  4. To make a border on the star, I used a paint pen. My favorite ones are in the product links below. 

Have fun with this! If you choose to make one, let me know. I'd love to see it!
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