Thursday, April 30, 2015

Time Savers for Interactive Notebooks



I am so in love with our interactive notebooks! I have been using them for three years and I have learned a thing or two about making the most of our notebooks with the small amount of time that we have. If you have tons of extra class time and nothing to fill it with, this might not be the right blog post for you. ;-) But if you want to use notebooks and struggle with the time they take, I hope these tips will be helpful.


Please tell me that I am not alone...but there is always a handful of students who cut so slow that I have to use all of my will power to keep from grabbing the paper and cutting it myself! Part of the awesomeness of interactive notebooks is that kids are cutting, glueing and moving. So I don't want to take that component away completely. But, I am not opposed to giving them a head start to save a little time!

When you print out a page for students to put in their notebook, there is always blank space around the outside edges of the activity. You can cut down on the time that it takes students to cut out the activity by using a large paper cutter to trim the edges.


This is so fast for me to do and saves lots of precious class time. I also recommend sending them home to be trimmed by a parent volunteer! I sent an email and asked if their were any parents who had a large paper cutter who would be willing to occasionally trim papers. My scrapbooking mommies volunteered!


Glue sponges are a huge time saver! I keep them at my small group table. Students can quickly push their paper into the sponge rather than dealing with rolling glue sticks and disappearing lids!


The glue sponges are super simple and cheap to make. Just head over to The Kindergarten Smorgasboard to learn how. He even has a video. But seriously, it is just liquid glue poured over kitchen sponges!


I love that my kids are cutting and moving, but I hate notebook activities that take longer to cut than to complete the actual skill. Some activities include cutting cute clip art that doesn't add to the meaning. Some notebook activities have lots of circles or odd shapes to cut. This takes so much longer! Before you buy a notebook, examine the preview. Look for kits that include primarily straight cuts. I also like kits that have similar cuts from one page to the next. Once my kiddos know how to cut out flaps, they are so much faster the rest of the year.


Thi is an example of one of our notebook sets and you can see that the activities have straight cuts and similar cuts. This saves tons of time! If you want to see more of my notebook sets, just click HERE.


Yup, you read that right. Put the crayons away. Interactive notebooks are awesome, but they are NOT art projects. When I first started doing interactive notebooks, I always gave my students time to color the pieces. I love to color. Most of my students love to color. But is this the best use of my limited classroom time? Nope! If you allow your students to take their notebooks home (which I don't until the end of the year), they can color at home. Or maybe you allow them to color when everything else is complete. But, I highly suggest that you do not take class time for coloring your notebooks. I actually print my pieces on color paper. Now my students don't even ask if they can color them. :-)

Now with some activities, color actually helps students with the given skill. Obviously, that is a totally different story.


My students did color their fraction bars because it helped them when we were comparing fractions.


Using your bell work time for cutting is a huge time saver. You can train your students to know that when they see a notebook activity on their desk in the morning, they should cut it out. Tape an envelope into the back cover of their notebook. This is where they should put the notebook pieces after they are cut. Later in the day, when it is time for centers, they will be ready to do the activity because the cutting is complete!

This tip is especially valuable later in the year when students already know how to cut the notebook pieces and have gotten quicker at their other bell work assignments.

If you have never tried interactive notebooks before, maybe the end of the year is a good time to get your feet wet! Then you will be ready to go full force next year. I promise that once you start them, you won't look back!



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Sunday, April 19, 2015

How I Use my Erin Condren Planners


I absolutely LOVE my Erin Condren teacher planner and my life planner! They keep me organized and beautiful! I recently shared on Facebook about the 25% off sale that Erin Condren is currently having on all of her teacher products. I immediately got lots of questions about the difference between a teacher planner and a life planner and how I use my planners. I tried to take some pictures to show you, but decided that a video would be best. Please be very kind to me. This is my very first blog video!

The first video will take you on a tour of my teacher planner.



The next video will take you on a tour of my life planner.


Erin Condren has a fabulous 25% off sale right now on all of her teacher products!


If it is the life planner that you are interested, she has many of them on sale for 40% off!

And the deal gets even better! If you use my referral code, you will receive an email with a $10 off coupon code. You can use the code with the sale!
https://www.erincondren.com/referral/invite/jamiesears0717

Happy planning!


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Saturday, April 18, 2015

Graphing Project with a FREEBIE!


We are smack dab in the middle of our state testing. On our off days, I wanted to give kids a break from our usual routine. But, I really wanted to keep them reviewing! And that is where this graphing project comes in! I have done it for the past two years and it is always a student favorite.

I break the class into groups of 4-5 students. Each group must come up with a survey question and answer choices for their question. After I have approved the questions and answer choices, the group will go around the class and survey their classmates. I like to give them a class list to keep track of who they have asked and the person's response.

After they have completed the survey, the group works together to put their data into various graphs.



I have my students make a tally graph, a bar graph, a pictograph and a line plot graph. The groups also write a paragraph to summarize their data. (Yay, integrating writing into math!)

I love listening to my groups work. By this point in the year, they are such great collaborators! I can hear them offering suggestions and coming up with ways for each student to participate.

After the graphs and writing are complete, the groups make a poster with them. I just give them a big piece of white butcher paper and markers. Then I let them be creative! They never fail to impress me!


Now you can mix in a little speaking and listening by having the groups present their posters to the rest of the class. Everyone is always interested in the data collected!

This is a great way to get kids moving, thinking, creating and working as a team! Plus, they are demonstrating their understanding of the various types of graphs. WIN! WIN!

I put all of these printables together as a FREEBIE in my TpT store. Just click on the picture to download.






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Sunday, April 12, 2015

A BIG Announcement and 11 FREE Products!

I have been keeping a BIG secret from you for the past month! It is time to spill the beans! I am honored to be a collaborator on a new blog called iTeach Third! It is a blog written by talented third grade teachers. Just look at the authors!


I am in awe by their talent and cannot wait to collaborate and learn from them!

We want to celebrate our blog launch by giving you freebies! Each of the collaborators has chosen a paid product in their store that they are giving away today and tomorrow. And the great part? Everyone is a winner! If you follow the iTeach Third Facebook page, you will receive all 11 freebies. No drawing!



I just might have included one of my most popular products as my freebie. Trust me, you don't want to miss it!

All you have to do is click HERE to head to the iTeach Third blog. On the blog, you will see a rafflecopter that will give you the directions needed to grab all 11 freebies! Be quick. This offer is only good April 12th and 13th!

Have a fantastic week!


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Friday, April 3, 2015

Managing Meaningful Math Centers


I feel very strongly about using the guided math and math center framework in my classroom. It allows me to differentiate my instruction, give immediate feedback and teach students to properly use manipulatives. 

Math centers can lead to many classroom management issues if students are not engaged in meaningful activities or are unsure of the expectations and instructions. But when properly set up, this can be the most meaningful time in your math classroom.  I am often asked how I manage this time and what resources I use. I hope this this post gives you a peak into one of my very favorite times during my day: math centers!

I have four different math groups. Therefore, I have organized my centers to include four different centers. Students will go to two different centers per day for 30 minutes each. That gives me the opportunity to meet with two math groups every day for a half hour each. I LOVE having 30 minutes with my small groups! We get more accomplished and waste less time with transitions. I post this schedule so that my students know which centers they go to each day.



I write student name in dry erase marker because I change the groups almost every week based on student need.


I am blessed to have eight chrome books in my classroom. In the technology center, students use the chrome books to complete their math iReady lessons. These lessons are assigned  after students take a diagnostic test, therefore they provides lots of differentiation


Once a student completes an i-Ready lesson, it goes right to the next lesson in their lesson plan. So I never have a student asking, "What do I do now?"


The independent center is the time when students are reviewing topics that we have  already covered and showing me what they know. I often grade these activities.

Every month, my students complete task cards. Sometimes we use my monthly spiral task cards and other times we use cards for specific skills that the students need the most practice with.


This month my students are working on their Game Day Test Prep Centers.


 Each month students are also assigned a math journal prompt or two.


I provide student choice in this center by allying students to decide which task to complete first. I don't like to waste time explaining the independent math center assignments each week. Therefore, I give my students their assignments at the beginning of the months and they are all due by the last day of the month. 

Students who complete their independent work early get to work on Math Menu tasks.


In the game center, students are practicing math fact fluency with a partner. I put math fact games in binders.


Students grab a partner and a binder and play the games together.


This is the center that can get noisy and distracting if not managed well. At the start of the year, I model the expected behavior. We all practice it. Then for the first several weeks, I picked a math group each day to clip up because they were so quiet during the game center. It doesn't take long before students have formed good habits and don't need constant reminders.


I meet with two different math groups each day. This is such valuable time to me! We spend a lot of time solving problems on white boards using manipulatives.

This is also the time that we complete interactive notebook activities.



As students work on their notebook activity, I observe and assess. I can quickly tell who needs more practice with manipulatives and who is ready to move on.

I think that my math centers run so smoothly for a couple of reasons:

  • I spend lots of time in the beginning teaching expectations and directions.
  • I reward positive behavior and redirect negative behavior.
  • I keep centers very similar every week. Students do have new directions to learn every Monday. The skill might change, but the activity stays the same.
I would love to hear your thoughts about managing math centers!


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Thursday, April 2, 2015

My Daily Schedule



I adore Angie from Lucky Little Learners and Ashley from Schroeder Shenanigans. They are both so very sweet and everything they create is adorable! They have started a fun link up for the 2nd of every month and I love the topic this month! I am always so curious about how everyone fits it all in. So I can't wait to check out everyone's daily schedule!

Now I am going to make a confession. Please don't hate me. Here it goes...I only teach from 7:20-11:40. And it is a full-time contact. Yup. I am serious. My school offers three different schedules that parents can choose from:
AM- 7:20-12:30
PM- 11:00-4:10
Traditional- 8:00-3:00
I love the choice. My own children have all been in AM since Kinder. It allows us to complete homework before dance class and scouts. It gives us more family time. So, of course, I was very excited to teach the AM schedule this year. However, this means that I have even less time to teach just as many standards.

Here is a peak at my schedule (on a good day):



Bell Work: Students write their daily I Can statements into their agenda. Then they will complete some spiral review math problems and share their strategies with their shoulder partner. This gives me time to take attendance and read any notes.

Math Whole Group: We use Engage NY math curriculum. I model a few of the problems from the lesson and students use white boards and partners to complete a few.

Math Rotations: I have four math groups. I meet with two each day. I like to meet with only two groups because it gives me 30 minutes with them and I feel that we get more accomplished this way. There is less time wasted on transitions. The three groups that are not working with me with complete centers. My centers are: Independent Work, Technology and Games.

Snack: We do not eat lunch at school. However, students are still at school for 5 hours. Most will bring sandwiches or other filling foods for their snack. We do not have recess (except before school), so I allow students to chat during this time.

Read Aloud: I LOVE to read to my students. It allows me to introduce them to authors and series that they may never have read before. I will use my read aloud to teach the weekly reading standard. If that is not possible, I will wait and teach it during small group.

Reading Rotations: Just like math, I have four groups and I meet with two groups each day. The other three groups complete the following centers: Read to Self, Technology and Language.

Spelling/Language: I wish we had more time for language. It is hard to fit in our Words Their Way lessons and still teach grammar. My partner teacher (who teaches the PM class) comes in and teaches spelling to my highest group once per week. I do the same for her.

Writer's Workshop: I give a 10-15 minute mini lesson and students spend the rest of the time writing, revising and sharing.

Specials: I drop my kids off at specials at 11:45 and I am done teaching! I enjoy some lunch, do a carpool duty and then have over an hour to prep. I head home at 2:00. I know- I am super lucky.

I would love to hear how you fit it all in!


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Sunday, March 29, 2015

Classroom Easter Egg Hunt

I just finished preparing for my annual classroom Easter egg hunt! It took me about 10 minutes to prepare this activity!


It was ten minutes of prep that results in some of the most engaging test prep in my classroom! Inside each of the eggs, I have placed mini task cards with all kinds of third grade math and ELA questions.



I hide the eggs all over our classroom. The kids find an egg, bring it back to their desk, record their answer and then return the egg.


Do you want a good laugh during the hunt? I make my kids hop to retrieve eggs. Like a bunny! It is hilarious! Third graders are pretty darn competitive. I give them a time limit. When our time is up, we check the answers together. The person who correctly completed the most questions receives an award. My daughter won last year!


I love that all of my kids are super engaged, moving and reviewing third grade math and ELA skills.

You can find all of my questions, an answer key and award in my TpT store. Just click on the picture below.


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