Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: May 2014

Diggin' Into Next Year- Classroom Organization


Can you believe that Friday was my last day with students and yet I am already thinking about NEXT year?! People who know me well, are not surprised. I am a plan ahead kind of person. So sometime around March, I started reflecting on my year and coming up with plans and changes to implement the next year. So when I heard about this link party hosted by Laura Graham from Where the Magic Happens, I knew I HAD to get involved! All summer, we will be digging' into next year and talking about changes we will be making. Check out our schedule of fabulous topics:





This week, I am digging' into my very favorite topic!!! Classroom organization!!! I am obsessed with container, binders and labels! Every year my obsession grows.


I have most of my teaching resources organized in binders. I have binders for each ELA and math domain, binders for each month, plus a few extras. They make it a breeze find all my great resources! The first shelf is all binders and the second shelf is all book boxes with resources such as teacher books. I need a few more labels!


I have also gone through my classroom and put all of my office supplies into clear boxes with labels. By doing so, I will be able to get rid of my teacher desk next year. And I am going to need the extra space!



I have TONS of math resources! All of my teacher resources are sorted into these drawers. These are the resources that I typically use whole group when I am teaching a particular unit. My students do not need access to these supplies.



The games that I have for students were organized in these baskets from the Dollar Tree and labeled by skill. I keep these on a shelf that is easy for them to access. There are many times when I will say, "When you complete this task, you may choose a partner and play a game from the fraction basket."



While at the Dollar Tree, you also need to pick up these containers! They are perfect for base 10 blocks! I have six containers and use them in math small groups. I keep them on a shelf low enough for students to access when they are doing independent work.



I also organize my math manipulatives in clear plastic shoe boxes with labels. You can see that they are easy for students to locate.



I have posted this before, but I am super excited about my task card organization. The cards are organized into plastic CD boxes. Each set is held together and labeled with a binder clip.




I recently found out that I will be sharing a classroom next year. I am going to have to get even more organized (and make more labels). Stay tuned for all the changes!

Are you ready to organize all of your resources into binders? Check out my new editable binder covers and spines.





Do you have any fun tips for classroom organization?

Guided Math Book Study: Chapter One

Thanks so much to the AMAZING Amanda Wilp from The Primary Gal for putting together this book study and blog hop!

Several of us got together to read the book Guided Math by Laney Sammons.


All summer we will be blogging once per week about each chapter of the book and reflecting on how we can implement some of these strategies into our own math instruction. There will also be a giveaway each week! Plus, you are likely to find freebies (like at the end of this post!) and new products along the way! Fun stuff!

So let's get started with chapter one! The first chapter included a rational and an overview of the framework of a math workshop style of instruction. Sammons starts by talking about how math instruction was when we were in school--- teacher talks, students listen and then do a worksheet. That is exactly how I remember math! Sammons contends that this type of math instruction does NOT work and the fact that so many people cannot calculate a 10% tip in their head is proof. I got a good laugh out of this because it is so true!!! We learned algorithms but didn't have number sense! Sammons suggests that, just as we did with literacy, we need to switch from a purely whole group model to one which includes the following components:
1. A Classroom Environment of Numeracy
2. Morning Warm-Ups and Calendar Activities
3. Whole-Class Instructions
4. Guided Math Instruction with Small Groups
5. Math Workshop
6. Individual Conferences
7. An On-Going System of Assessments

I am intrigued and look forward to a chapter on each of these components!


This was a crazy challenging year for me in the area of math instruction. Last year, I LOVED teaching math! I was team teaching and I had the enrich math students. I had set up a very successful and engaging math workshop that involved some whole group instruction, independent practice, problem solving, skill games and math fact fluency games. It was organized and did not require much prep work.



You can read more about it HERE.

But this year EVERYTHING changed! No team teaching. No curriculum. No assessments. Complete Common Core implementation. Standards Based report cards. So I am the first to admit that math was a bit messy in my classroom!!!

None the less, I feel like I am ending on a high note! I think I figured out a schedule that works for me! At the beginning of the year, we were asked to have three math small groups and to meet with them every day for 20 minutes. That was a disaster challenge for me. The groups were too big and there wasn't enough time in the day! My solution? I now have four math groups that I meet with twice a week for 30 minutes each. The groups are smaller and more homogeneous and I have more time to meet with them and less wasted transition time.


I think that the activities that students complete during the workshop time are meaningful rather than just busy work. I incorporate math journaling, spiral review, fact practice and technology. And the best part...no weekly prep for me! That means I can focus more on planning the small group and whole group instruction.




Now that I have the small group and independent centers working for me, my biggest struggle is the assessment component. As I mentioned, we are not really using much in the way of curriculum as we wait for the curriculum to catch up to the new standards.

During the year I purchased math assessments on TpT that covered every math standard. The problem? Every question required the exact same skill to solve. I couldn't really tell where my students' understanding broke down.

For example, I gave a time and elapsed time assessment. A few kids scored a zero!!! But every clock showed a time to the minute and every elapsed time problem was to the minute since that is the third grade standard. So can they tell time to the hour? Can they tell time to the half hour? To the five minute? Can they do elapsed time to the hour? I had NO idea! So I had no idea how to group students and where to begin my instruction.

I fear that my groups were not fluid enough and were not always focused on the exact area that the student was struggling with.

My solution? This summer, I am making assessments and task card sets that are scaffolded! They will start with simple problems and gradually become more complex. I think these will help me to quickly tell where my students are in their understanding!

TIME FOR A FREEBIE!!!

Would you like to try my first one for FREE? It's for assessing time and elapsed time. Just click HERE to download. Then leave a comment about what you think or about your strengths and weaknesses as a  math teacher.

Be sure to hop around and see what other bloggers are saying about the first chapter. And don't forget to sign up for this week's giveaway! I donated my Telling Time Task Cards which are scaffolded very similar to my free assessment!




 a Rafflecopter giveaway

Parent Volunteer Gift

I have a few fabulous parent volunteers in my classroom. Throughout the year, I have given them lots of my candy grams.



But I wanted to give them a little gift at the end of the year to thank them for all the grading, copying, cutting, etc. Here is what I came up with...




The bread pans are mini pans that I found in three packs at Wal-Mart for about $2. Then I grabbed a boxed bread mix (Hey! It's the end of the year and I am TIRED!!!). Each box filled two pans. I wrapped the bread with sedan wrap and then taped a belly band on it. Done! Super quick, simple, and cheap.

I gave them out today and had several parents already thank me and comment about how sweet it was. Mission accomplished!

Would you like the belly band label that I used? Download it HERE for FREE!!

Totally Task Card Tuesday: HUGE Giveaway!!!


I have really enjoyed sharing some fun ways to use task cards with you. If you missed any of my posts in the series, you can check them all out by clicking HERE.

Now that you are all pumped with with new ideas for task cards, you need some new task cards! How about winning them for FREE?!!! I will be giving away two prizes: a set of ELA task cards and a set of math task cards. You have a week to enter using the rafflecopter and I will announce the winners next Tuesday. Please share the giveaway with others!

Here is a look at what you can win with the ELA set:


It is a total of 13 sets of task cards!!!!

And here is a look at what you can win with the math set:




Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Taking a Trip Around the U.S.!


I had the super fun opportunity to use a product in my classroom from a blogger that I admire. I jumped at the opportunity to use a product by Anna DeGilio from Simply Skilled in Second! I have used her flip books before with my class and I just love the way her products are interactive and outside the box. I was SUPER excited when I received Anna's Traveling Tourist unit! You probably know by now that I am passionate about teaching Social Studies in my classroom. Plus, it makes for a fun end of year activity!


The unit comes with nine different informational passages and foldables about different landmarks and symbols. I printed 8 of the passages and put them in file folders. Anna also included a welcome page with a map for each location. I glued those on the front of the folder.



I started off by telling my students that we were going on a trip. They got very excited. We decided that we better pack our bags first. So we made the suitcase together. As they made the suitcases they were all talking about where they thought we were going. One boy said "We are probably just going to the bathroom." LOL!



Next, I divided my class into six groups. I laid the folders all around the room and let groups start anywhere they wanted. When they got to the location they were told to read the passage together, discuss it and then they cut out the foldable and record three facts on it.





As they finished making each foldable, they would glue it into their suitcase.


It took my kiddos three days worth of reading time to complete the project. But I cannot begin to tell you just how engaged all of my students were! They LOVED  it. When I said "Tourists, it is time for us to continue our travels," they would cheer! My students were reading informational text, writing informational sentences, and having group discussions about social studies. This is a pretty exceptional feet for the second to last week of school.

I give this product two thumbs up and highly recommend it! Thanks, Anna! Just click HERE to check it out in Anna's store. And while you are there, check out her flip flap books! They are fun!

Be sure to enjoy the rest of the blog hop! I just love seeing products in action!

Book Auction

We had the BEST time at school today! We had our end of year book auction!


We live about 45 minutes from a bookstore and we don't have a free public library. Many of my kids don't have books to read at home. I decided quite some time ago that I really wanted to give each child a new book to get them started on their summer reading. Good books for 24 students can get a bit pricey, so I wrote a Donors Choose project for the books. I was super excited that it was funded in time!

So here is how I ran my auction:
I have a classroom economy where students earn money for turning in homework and having good behavior. Students usually use the money to buy coupons, but during the last quarter they kept their money. Earlier this week I sold them raffle tickets (purchased from Wal-Mart) for their class money.

During the auction, students put their tickets in the buckets of books they hoped to win.



Then, I randomly started drawing tickets. I told the students from the beginning that everyone would get one book. So if they won a book and then their name was drawn again- I let them decide if they wanted to keep the first book or trade it for the second book.

The kids were so excited. Lots of clapping and drum rolls on their desk!




We eventually got down to just two kids without a book. I let them come up and pick any book that was left. In the end, every student agreed that they had a book they were excited to read.

I sent my kids off to play some games and put an inscription in each book! It was a fun day and I love that every student has a personal note from me and a special book to read over the break!