Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: February 2014

Math Interactive Notebook FREEBIE!

I have been using interactive notebooks in reading, language and math this year. I love them and my students are always excited to add a new page. I sometimes catch them reading through these journals on their snack break. That makes a teacher smile!

My favorite thing to have the kids put in their journal are flaps. They are super simple to prep and add to the journal and provide lots of space for students to record definitions and examples.

Here is a look in our language notebook...



Each flap is aligned to the 3rd Grade Common Core standards and has a student friendly I can statement on it. You can find my language flaps, with a list of all the skills covered, in my TpT store by clicking on the picture below.




And a look in our math notebook...


Would you like to try some of my math flaps for FREE?!!! Of course you would!

All you have to do is head over and like my Facebook Page. Click on the Free-For-All tab at the top and download a sampler for FREE!


You can find my full set of math flaps with a list of all the skills covered in my TpT store by clicking on the picture below.

Have a great weekend!

President's Day

I am loving this long weekend! Just what I needed after a week of conferences, progress reports and throwing a Valentine's Day party! But I am a Social Studies teacher at heart so I am also excited to get back to school tomorrow. I am going to be teaching about presidents all week in Reading, Writing, Math and Social Studies! I have been looking forward to this since winter break.

I thought that I would share some of the resources I will be using this week in case you are still looking for some activities to add to your plans. (Not that we would ever wait till last minute to plan, right? Ha!)

First, I made this PowerPoint that covers Washington, Lincoln, President's Day, Becoming President and Voting! Click on the photo to grab it for FREE! Yes! FREE!


I plan to go over a couple slides per day and then we will put all of our new learning together with the creation of a lap book on Friday! My kids love lap books!




I love President's Day so much that I treated myself to some fun products from some talented TpT sellers!

In math centers, my students will do a couple activities with money! They will get to play Race to $1.00 and they will be making THESE books about the presidents on the different coins and bills!

Back at the guided reading table, we will be using THIS unit. Students will read facts about presidents and then make the flip book about their favorite president. Information text reading and opinion writing! YES!

Every morning, my students will be reading informational text and filling out graphic organizers. They will also get to do a craft each day. I got them all from THIS unit. I have owned it for months and have been counting down the days!

You can also grab THESE free informational text passages with text dependent questions!

I am also looking forward to reading this book to my students. It's a good one!


How will you be celebrating President's Day?

I'm Giving Products Away!

Yup! You read the title correct! I am giving products away! And the really cool part...you get to choose the product!!! So do I have your attention? (Sorry. That's the teacher in me!)

Here is how it works....

I have a Donors Choose project. I am asking for books to give to my students through an auction the last week of school. I want to be certain that every one of my students has a book to read this summer!



So what does this have to do with you? Good question!

Anyone who makes a $1 (tax deductible) donation TODAY and uses the promo code INSPIRE, can choose any $3 or less product from my store for FREE! Wait! Even better....Anyone who makes a $3 donation TODAY and uses the promo code INSPIRE can choose ANY PRODUCT FROM MY STORE FOR FREE!!!! That's a deal!

All you need to do is make the donation using the promo code. Then email me (sears1130@gmail.com) with your Donors Choose user name and the product you are requesting for free. I'll email it to you no later than tomorrow morning!

Click HERE to go to my project. Then click HERE to go to my store and choose your freebie!

Thank you for your generosity!

Friday Journals with a FREEBIE


I am linking up with The Teaching Tribune for Tried & True Thursday.

This year has been all about trying new things in my classroom! Some have worked and some have not! One goal that I had for myself this year was to improve and increase parent communication and involvement. I am currently working on a blog post for you about lots of things I have tried and the outcome. However, I thought I might give you a sneak peak by writing about my Friday Journals!


As a mom, I hate when I ask my child what they did at school and they respond "nothing." I know all of their teachers and I seriously doubt that this is EVER the case. I figure if my kids are telling me this, then my students are probably doing the same things. So I set out to fix that! 

Each student in my class has a composition book that is labeled as their Friday Journal. The last 15 minutes of every Friday is dedicated to writing a letter to their parents in their journal. As a whole group we brainstorm activities and skills that we worked on during the week. This is the best part! I am shocked by how much they remember! Then they are given quiet time to write anything they want to their parents.



Students take the journals home over the weekend. They show their note to their parents and parents are encouraged to write back! Most of them do! I love to see the excited little faces on Monday morning when they discover the note from mom in their journal. 

If a student did not receive a letter from their parent's they can leave their journal in the writing tray and I will write them a letter before the next Friday. It is a great opportunity for me to strengthen the relationship with these students who probably need me the most.

The activity has so many benefits! Students are demonstrating to me that they remember what they learned during the week! It is a form of an exit ticket! Additionally, they are practicing their proper friendly letter format all year. Most importantly, parents get to read about all the new things their child has learned and then tell them how proud they are! 

Thinking about starting Friday Journals in your class? All you need is a composition book or spiral notebook for each student. I made some FREE labels for you to tape or glue on the front of their journals! Just click on the picture to download!



A fun way to get started is to write a note to the students and/or parents on the first page. This is a great way to demonstrate the friendly letter format!

Happy journaling! Be sure to check out the other ideas in the link party!

Update on my Reading Groups

A few weeks ago I blogged about how I needed to completely change my reading groups. You can read the post HERE.

I thought I would give you a quick update on how they are working. I am LOVING them! In fact, I may do math the same way next year! The 30 minutes of meeting with a group means we can practice a skill and even assess the skill! We are able to read longer passages and my read-to-self group is reading for longer as well. This means that they are working on endurance! Yay!

This is a student reading with his buddy from a Time For Kids Magazine.


My top two groups were assigned reading buddies. I leave something on the reading table for them to read with their buddy each time we meet. It gives me time to check on my lower kids who are working on a center.

Here is one of my other students working on their book club.


I assigned them each a book to read that was their level. They have to read for 20 minutes and then they spend the last 10 writing about what they read. My kids LOVE this center! Some of them already finished their first book!

Here is one of my students working on her technology center.


My students love having a longer period of time to work in the technology center even if it is only two days per week. Before, they spent most of their time logging in. Now they are spending more time doing lessons and practicing!

Here is one of my students working on her language center.


These centers were written for 1st graders. Some are simple, but most are still very beneficial for my 3rd graders. At the end of January, I graded their January centers. It became their grammar grade on my progress reports. I learned that they were struggling the most with prefixes and suffixes so I am doing more mini lessons in that area.

Reading is the best part of my day! Now it is time to work on my math block...

How I Save $$$ in my Classroom!

Holy cow! Being a teacher is super expensive. It must be because we make sooo much money that schools and parents expect us to provide so many supplies and resources in our classroom. {Insert LOTS of sarcasm there!} But seriously, every time I go to the grocery store I find myself buying a treat for an upcoming party or ingredients for a science experiment. And when I go to Wal-Mart, I need art supplies and office supplies. Then I stop by the dollar store for organizational products, cards, dice, etc. And don't get me near a bookstore. Or one of those expensive teaching stores! I can go nuts! And then there is Teachers Pay Teachers. I just LOVE that site! It makes my life easier and I attribute it to some of my classroom success. But I sure can drop a few bucks on the site!

Is it just me? Am I just a shop-a-holic? Probably! But I am guessing I am not alone.

Well this post is for the other broke teachers that spent their paycheck at Barnes and Noble last week! Here are a few ways that I attempt to save money in the classroom...

First, ask parents for help! I have found that many of my parents are more than willing to help if they know what I need. At Open House, I always post a display that shows families what I need.



But during the year, I plan FUN stuff and that always means I need more supplies! So I do my best to plan ahead for holiday celebrations. Then I make a digital sign up using Sign Up Genius.


If you haven't used this site yet- you NEED to. It is FREE! It allows you to type out things you need and then send a sign up by email. This way I don't need to keep track of who said they could bring what. It is a time saver! I send one before every class celebration.

My next idea may seem obvious to some. But when a teammate started doing this last year, I thought it was genius! USE PAGE PROTECTORS!

Seriously, I ask each student to bring a box of page protectors at the beginning of the year. I use them to cut back on the expensive paper that I have to provide for my classroom! During reading groups, I make 6 copies of each passage and slide them into page protectors. My students close read and answer the questions using a dry erase marker. Then I erase and use them with the next group! I do the same thing with math activities and games. Then I file the pages in a binder and I can use the again next year! Huge copy paper saver!

Next, save those printer ink cartridges! Many office supply stores will give you store credit for turning them in! I always have plenty! Stick a request in your class newsletter and you might be pleasantly surprised by how many families will send in their ink cartridges too! Then you can use the store credit for more ink and paper. Yay!

Next, always ask for an educator's discount! Seriously! You never know! The worst that will happen is they say no. I rarely have that happen! Most stores and restaurants give us penniless teachers a little break. And every little bit helps!

I love to buy products from Teacher pay Teachers. They are cheaper than books from the teaching store and more current and engaging. To save money on these great products, I always go back and leave feedback on products I buy. When you leave feedback, you get credits towards future purchases!

And my BIGGEST $$$$ saver- USE DONORS CHOOSE!!!! Seriously, if you have never used this site, you truly missing out. The site allows teacher to ask for certain products and individuals and businesses can donate money to their project. When the teacher has enough donors o fund the project, the items are mailed to you! Seriously!!! I started doing this a year ago and I have already had over $1,500 in products donated to my classroom! I received dice, base 10 blocks, base 10 kits for students, several math games, tons of fraction manipulatives, teacher books, dozens or great read-a-louds, a set of 6 dictionaries and a color printer with lots of ink! That is a HUGE saving for a pretty new teacher!


If you do have a Donor's Choose project, then you NEED to join the Caring Classroom Facebook Page. The page is run by the amazing Laura Candler. If you donate a $1 or more to one of the projects on her page, you can submit your project to be considered. Each week she chooses projects to add to her page. I have been added twice and both project were funded very quickly!

These are just a few way I try to stretch the dollar in my classroom. What do you do to save money?