Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Back to School Student Gifts- with a FREEBIE!

For my student gifts this year, I wanted to do something I hadn't seen already on Pinterest. 

After searching the Oriental Trading site for some things 2nd graders would like, I came across various smiley face items, and then thought of the phrase I could use for the gift. 

You've got me smiling ear to ear since you'll be in my class this year!

After making the baggie top, all I had to do was stuff ziploc bags, cut out the tags and staple them on. They are ready to go for my new students at Meet the Teacher night. :)
You can click the button below to grab this FREE printable for yourself!

Just don't be like me and forget to unclick "Black and White" when printing. I think they would have been much cuter if the yellow had printed behind the letters!
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Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Birthday Bags

I haven't always been great about doing things for student birthdays, so I wanted to do something easy that wouldn't require me to prep or remember too much throughout the year.

One of my sweet colleagues used birthday bags last year, and I borrowed her idea! :)

Inside each of these bags is a pencil, a happy birthday blower, and a few toys. I stuffed the bags with items in the picture below.

Each bag has the items on the right inside as well as 2 of the items from the left. I purchased the pencils from Oriental Trading, and found everything else at Party City.

Since they are all stuffed and on the wall, all a student has to do when it is his/her birthday is pick one from the wall and take it home.

The students will be so excited for their birthday to come throughout the year so they can pick their bag! I won't have to write out any personalized certificates or anything like that. I love that it is something I can do before I have my class list.

You may be wondering what to do with the extras on the wall... well, that is just something fun that someone may win at the end of the year! :)

Don't forget to check back later this week to hear about my favorite GT strategies that I wish I knew about sooner! And no, these are not just for a highly gifted classroom. I would have used them with all learners in my classrooms before if I had known about them!
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Monday, August 10, 2015

My New Cozy Classroom!

I'm so excited to share my classroom photos with you, as promised! So glad to be done decorating before we have to be back at school so I can focus on other things then. There's always plenty to do!

My goal was to have a warm, cozy and inviting classroom where students feel instantly at home. I'm happy to say that everything has a place! Organization has always been a goal that I was close to meeting, but wasn't able to reach until I purged a bunch this year. Can't wait to start teaching in my new room!

Here's a view of the front of the room:

I love my teacher chair area! 

It's complete with a comfy chair, side table with storage crate underneath, a basket with files for my materials I need close by, a homey lamp, and the framed saying, "Everything says something!"

I learned this saying from a mentor I admire very much. I want my students to remember that the way they react, carry themselves, answer questions, sit, etc. says something about them!

My favorite cozy spot in my classroom is still my classroom library.

I have a new organizer from IKEA for my math games for math workshop. The labels are laminated and on velcro. They are ready for me to write on with Vis-A-Vis markers so students know exactly what is inside.

I made this welcome banner to keep up for Meet the Teacher Night and the first day of school. I just love how it turned out!

And, of course, my interactive Thinking Hats board is ready to go!

I found these adorable baskets at Big Lots and put mason jars with only the ring piece of the lid on to organize community supplies. I love how they add to the homey feel!

Next to my board I have my calendar, our class jobs chart, our stools for another option for seating, and storage for some book boxes. I am trying to spread the book boxes out this year to help with the class "mob" that always happens when everyone goes to the same place!

I also have our birthday bags along this wall. I'll tell you more about those tomorrow! :)

Along the side wall I have storage for the materials they need for our STEM-like passion projects and a display for work they are proud of.

Along the same wall, I also have more storage for classroom supplies and book boxes.

I also laminated the labels on the book boxes on the top shelf. These are for me to organize things and I wanted the flexibility to change what I wanted to use them for.

Here is our Bloom's Taxonomy bulletin board and the turn it in basket area. This also has more storage for book boxes as well as blue baskets to store clipboards and whiteboards. I LOVE this organization system from IKEA!

Here is a view of my teacher area at the back of the room.

I love how the labels turned out that I created for my organizational tool chest. A little spray paint and matching labels goes a long way!

 I love this file organizer from Scholastic. It will be nice to have all of the forms, stacks of papers to be graded, etc. close by without cluttering my desk!

I cannot express how happy I am with the way my classroom turned out. It's not often that I'm able to make my vision a reality!

Come back tomorrow for my post about the Birthday Bags, and come back later this week to hear about the GT Strategies I love and wish I knew about/used when I first started teaching!
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Wednesday, July 29, 2015

An Organized and Cozy Classroom Library

I had to change rooms this year, so I decided to take advantage of that. I'm getting SUPER organized and went ahead and changed up my classroom theme. I don't have it done entirely yet, but I wanted to go ahead and share my classroom library with you.

My goal was for my classroom to feel warm and homey. I decided on a light blue, gray and black Moroccan style Quatrefoil, and went with it!

My bookshelves are from Walmart, the baskets were a GREAT deal at Big Lots, and I made the labels. The curtain rod, circle rug and curtains are from IKEA.  I just love the way the curtains turned out! 

The back of my bookshelves wasn't so pretty, so I added matching wrapping paper. I'm hoping it will be out of the way enough that it won't get torn apart.

I also wanted to make sure I had lights to add to the homey feel. This floor lamp was just under $8 at IKEA!

Here's a peek at the front of the room. I purchased this beautiful rug during a sale on Zulily, the chair was an awesome clearance find at Target, the lamp is from a friend and the basket is from Hobby Lobby.

I can't wait to finish the room and show you all of it!
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Tuesday, July 28, 2015

The Engineering Design Process

After moving to the highly gifted academy in my district, I realized quickly that the Engineering Design Process was something I needed to teach my students. Although we are not a STEM program, many of my students LOVE to design things and needed a guide to help them see the importance of creating a plan and redesigning.

After researching the process and coming up with kid-friendly language, I settled on six steps:
  1. Ask- Where students identify the problem
  2. Imagine- Where students brainstorm solutions to the problem
  3. Plan- Where students create a plan
  4. Create- Where students design their product
  5. Improve- Where students redesign their product after testing (redesign as many times as needed!)
  6. Share- Where students share and reflect on what they have learned
I cannot stress enough how important seeing the words "plan" and "improve" were to helping my students see that just because you tried one time doesn't mean you've solved the problem as best you could. 
Here is what the bulletin board looked like in my classroom:
I had Staples print the large poster for me. I believe they called it an "engineer print" (fitting, isn't it?). It was the cheapest way to get such a large poster.
The Engineering Design Process is something that can be incorporated into so many science activities. Instead of having students experiment with motion, why not have them create something using the design process like mine did with their marble roller coasters?
If you're interested in these posters, you can check them out here!
Can't wait to share more about this with you.
I also have my favorite GT strategies coming. I just taught a professional development on this (first one ever... EEK!) and am so fired up to share! 
And just in case you're wondering, working in the new gifted academy in our district and this little guy have taken up my time that I used to blog. I'll get better, I promise! 
I have so much I SO badly want to share! :)
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Monday, February 9, 2015

Exploring Motion with Marble Coasters

We've been up to so much in my classroom lately, that I hardly know where to start! One of my favorite projects (and one of my students' favorites, too) was creating marble roller coasters.

In order to study motion, they were tasked with creating marble roller coasters. I gave them tiered options depending on the challenge they wanted:
Level 1- One hill and a curve
Level 2- Two hills
Level 3- A loop-de-loop

We first found a roller coaster engineer to Skype with which got them VERY excited!

They then experimented with pool noodles split in half and marbles. (If I was pressed for time, I might have just let them tape pool noodles to big pieces of cardboard as their project.)

After that, they created a plan and created their roller coasters using cardboard tubes from paper towel and toilet paper tubes and masking tape.

Here are some of their finished projects.

I really stressed the test and redesign part of the engineering process. This project was a lot of fun, but taught some of my students that failure is definitely okay and is something we have to persevere through.

And in case you are curious.... this little guy is the one who has been keeping me from blogging as much as I used to. I'm finally getting to the point where I feel like I can breathe again!

One last thing, for anyone who is an Etsy fan, I just started my new shop. Check it out if you'd like:

Have a great week!
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