Diary of a Not So Wimpy Teacher: June 2017

Organizing Brag Tags {Free Label}

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

It is no secret that I love using brag tags to reward my students for positive behavior and meeting academic goals. I think that brag tags are the best classroom management system out there! They motivate kids to work harder. You can read more about how I use brag tags in the classroom by clicking HERE.

Yup! Brag tags are the bomb dot com! I like that they can be used in grades PreK-5!

Using brag tags means that you will have stacks of small pieces of paper. You definitely need an organizational system. Lots of teachers ask for brag tag storage suggestions and so I am here to give you some brag tag organization ideas!

Here are four easy ways to store your brag tags....

1. The Toolbox

A toolbox, often used for nails and screws, is the perfect container for those brag tags!

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

The tags fit nicely in the drawers. (Take a tag with you when you. go shopping because all of the tool boxes have different sized drawers.)

I love knowing what tag is in each drawer. There is no need to make fancy labels (except that I am addicted to labels). Instead, take one of the tags and push it into the front of the drawer so that you can see the words on the outside. Genius, right?!

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

I purchased this toolbox from The Container Store, but you can buy a similar one HERE.

2. Really Useful Boxes

I seriously tried to think of a different name for these boxes, but that's what they are called. What's in a name anyway?

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

These containers are the perfect size for my brag tags! I like the ability to take container out and set it on my table or counter to remind myself to look for students who should receive the tag. 

The Really Useful Box can be found on Amazon, but they are far cheaper at Michael's. 

3. Double Sided Craft Container

I seriously love this container because it is small, has a handle for easy transport and fits tons of tags! 

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

The container has two sides. So you can keep academic tags in one side and behavior tags in another. Or just mix them all up, like I do. :-) Either way, you can fit lots of tags in this bad boy and it won't take much space to store.

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

I have seen these containers at Hobby Lobby and Jo-Ann's. You can also buy it for a good price HERE.

4. The Binder

I have a serious love for binders. I think that I love them almost as much as I love containers, but not nearly as much as I love tacos. 

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

I grabbed some baseball card page protectors from Walmart. You can also grab them HERE.

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

The I stuffed a stack of the same tag in each pocket. Tons of tags will fit in this one binder! And it takes an inch of shelf space. WIN!

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

I hope these ideas inspire a brag tag organization project (and maybe a taco)!

If you would like to grab the labels that I used for my craft box and binder, click on the photo below. They are free!

Tips to help you organize and store your brag tags

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Have a Not So Wimpy Day!

Organizing Math Centers {Free Labels}

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

The most asked question I get from teachers using my math centers is, "How do you store and organize the centers?" 

Let me show you just how I organize them, as well as some other storage ideas that I came up with while shopping the container aisles at every store in my town. #iamaddictedtocontainers

Plus, I made some FREE labels for you!

There are two things that I have to organize when it comes to my math center materials. First, I have to have a place to store the sets of centers that my students are not currently using. Then I need a way to store the ten centers that my students are working on.

Organizing Centers Not in Use

I have a total of nine different center units. Students will only need access to one unit at a time. Therefore, I need a way to store those units that are not in use. Students don't need to access these boxes. They are just for the teacher to keep center materials organized.

Plastic Containers

My very favorite way to store center units is in these plastic containers. I purchased mine from Target, but you can also get similar ones HERE from Amazon. 

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

The size is perfect for storing all ten centers from a unit along with the master copy for the recording book.

Plastic Envelopes

Another option for storing the centers that you are not using are these letter sized plastic envelopes. The envelopes have a slider to keep them closed and are more durable than a Ziploc bag.

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

I like that these envelopes are very slim and do not take up much space at all. They can be put in a filing cabinet, a file box or a crate. 

You can buy the envelopes HERE.

Plastic Drawers

Plastic drawers are perfect for storing centers that are not currently being used. Each set has three drawers, so you would need three sets to fit all nine center units. I got the small drawers and they don't take up much space at all! They are only about 6 1/2 inches wide.

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

You can buy the drawers HERE or at Walmart.

Organizing Centers Students are Using

My centers units each have ten different centers. During their independent center rotation, students work on these activities. I allow them to complete the centers in any order that they wish. Since there are ten centers, and only a small group working on them, there is always a center to choose. You just have to have some way to store them that is easy for students to access.

Plastic Boxes

The same plastic boxes that I used to organize centers that are not in use, can be used for the centers that students are currently working on.

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

Instead of labeling them with the skill, I just label the boxes with a number from 1-10. When it is time to change the centers out, I will put these back in their skill box and put a new set in the numbered boxes. It's so easy, that a student helper can do it for you!

Again, I got my boxes at Target. Some people have had trouble finding them there. They can also be found HERE on Amazon.

Pencil Pouches

Pencil pouches are the perfect size for a set of math centers and the manipulatives needed for the center! They are durable and have a zipper closure.

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

Pencil pouches are very inexpensive. I found them at Walmart for around $1. You will need ten of them since there are ten different centers in a set. 

I like to put my ten pencil pouches in a mini crate. I got the crate at Walmart in the office supply aisle for $1. It doesn't take up much space at all. It is just big enough for the pouches. 

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

If you have a white board, you could use a magnetic container for the envelopes! I found mine at the container store, but I have seen magnetic pouches at Laskshore. I found THIS one on Amazon and I think it would work perfectly!

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

Plastic Envelopes

The small plastic envelopes are perfect for the ten centers that students are currently working on! They are business envelope size.

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

The envelopes are more sturdy and easier too close than Ziploc bags. They will last longer. They are nice and thin and can be stored in a small crate or plastic container for students to access. The magnetic container would also be perfect and a great way to save space!

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

I got my small plastic envelopes from the container store, but you can get similar ones (that are less expensive) from Amazon. Click HERE to check them out.

Simple ways to store your centers so that you can stay organized. Grab some free labels!

I hope that these organizational ideas will help you to implement math centers and keep them organized in your classroom!

Free labels for your math centers!

Would you like some FREE labels to use on your new beautiful containers?! Click HERE to grab a collection of labels that will work for all of the different organizational ideas that I mentioned above. 

If you are looking for math center resources, I have bundles for third and for fourth grades. The bundles includes nine different skill units. Each unit has ten different centers. You are getting 90 centers!  Click on the pictures below to check them out!

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Have a Not So Wimpy Day!

10 Tips for Implementing Book Clubs

Do you use book clubs during guided reading or your reading centers? If not, you need to check out THIS post to read about why book clubs are the bomb digity.

Are you ready to implement book clubs? I have ten tips that will transform you into the book club guru! Let's get started...

1. Differentiate
Differentiate your book clubs by choosing different books for each group. The book should be a good fit for the the group's reading level. Even your lowest level of readers can participate in book clubs if you find the right book!

2. Get Books
Make sure that every student has a copy of the book to read from. When you ask students to share a book, it is very easy for students to get distracted. Since every group is doing a different book, you probably only need 5-6 copies of each book. Check your school and public library. I also suggest stalking the Scholastic book club order fliers. If you are 1:1 or have enough technology for one group, you can get the Kindle form of the book and share across multiple devices.

3. Base Clubs on Standards
Be sure to choose the book club books based on the standards you will be teaching. If you will be teaching informational text standards, then you will want all of your book club groups to be reading a nonfiction book. If you are teaching literature standards, then your clubs should be reading a fiction book.

4. Capitalize on Student Interests
Choose books based on student interest! This is the easiest way to get student buy-in and excitement. When students are excited, they will give you more effort. So if you have a group that loves baseball, maybe they need to read a book about Babe Ruth.

5. Introduce New Books
Use book clubs to introduce books by different authors or from a different series than books that have been read already. This is your chance to expand your students' reading interests. Don't give them an I Survived book if you notice they already read them a lot independently. Also, if you read a book as a full class read aloud, try not to do the next book in the series in book clubs. You already got them excited about that series! Let them read it independently and use book club as another opportunity to expose them to good authors.

6. Read More Than You Talk
Make sure that you and your students are using the majority of the book club time to read. I kinda seriously love to talk. It is easy for me to get preaching and reading time to get sucked down the drain. I am not saying that you shouldn't discuss the book, but keep the chat short and focused so that lots of reading is happening. We usually read for 2/3 of the time and write for the other 1/3. Sometimes we skip the writing and just read the entire time!

7. Read Together
Choral read during book clubs. Having students choral read will increase focus and engagement. Reading together helps students to have a shared reading experience and makes it seem less like work. When you popcorn read, you will have lots of kids who will get nervous to read and distracted when others read. When you have students read the book club book silently, they are able to skip all of the words they don't know and every kids reads at a different speed. This makes the planning difficult. 

8. Ditch the Traditional Book Club Jobs
Asign the same task to every student in the book club group to ensure that each student is practicing the current teaching point. Rather than assigning one student to write the summary, assign the whole group to write a summary. When you are working on context clues, have all of the group member find words and use clues to determine the definition. When all students are practicing the current standard, it makes book club time more valuable.

9. Meet Regularly
Have book clubs meet regularly so that students can get invested in the story and finish it in a reasonable amount of time. I meet with my book clubs as our meet the teacher guided reading group. I meet with each group for 30 minutes every other day. You can read more about my schedule HERE.

10. Get Raffling 
Keep students pumped to read by raffling off the rights to read the next book in the series. If you just read The Lemonade War in book club, raffle off the right to read The Lemonade Crime.

It feels good to have students begging to read a book! You can read more about book raffles HERE.

Now that you are a book. club expert, you are ready to lead the troops! 

If you need some book club graphic organizers, I highly recommend these ones because they cover so many standards and reading skills!

Happy clubbing!

5 Reasons to Use Book Clubs During Reading Groups

Book clubs are a great way to teach the standards while helping students to develop a love for reading!

Book clubs are the bees knees! No really! My students loved book clubs and were excited to read. That is a major teacher win! (I never had a kid get excited to get out their reading text book.)

I use book clubs during my guided reading groups. My students are ability grouped and come to meet with me for 30 minutes every other day. (You can read more about my reading centers by clicking HERE.) When they come to meet with me, we choral read from their book club book. We generally read for about 20 minutes and write for the last 10 minutes. 

Let me tell you all of the reasons that book clubs rock!

1. Easy to Practice and Spiral Standards
What standard or skill are you focusing on this week in reading? Instead of printing worksheets and passages just for that skill, you can use the book club text to practice. If you are working on summarizing, have students summarize the chapter. If you are working on main idea, have students find the main idea and supporting details of a chapter. When we are working on literature standards, we will read fiction books in clubs. When we are working on informational standards, the book clubs will read expository books. You are not having to come up with all new activities for every standard. 

Book clubs are a great way to teach the standards while helping students to develop a love for reading!

2. Increased Student Interest
Students are almost always more engaged and interested in chapter books than they are interested in stories from the basal. You are able to pick books that you think will be interesting to a particular group of readers. The book club is customized to their interests rather than everyone reading the same stories. If I have a group of students who are really interested in mysteries, they can read a mystery for their book club. Another group might prefer something comical. 

3. Introducing New Authors and Series
My biggest goal as a reading teacher is to have my students love to read. I do not believe that third graders do not like to read. Some of them just haven't found the book that they love to read. #challengeaccepted During book clubs I can introduce students to authors, series and genres that they may not be familiar with. Now students will be more willing to try new books on their own! They are one step closer to finding the books that they love.

4. Easy to Differentiate
We all have diverse reading levels in our classes. I used to think that I needed to plan completely different lessons for my leveled readers. #iwaswrong Everyone can do book clubs! I just choose books that are ideal for the group's reading level. Now all four of my groups are doing the same activity, but it is differentiated to their level. My lower level students are so happy to be doing the same book clubs with everyone else!

Book clubs are a great way to teach the standards while helping students to develop a love for reading!

5. Simple Planning and Prep
Book clubs take me almost no time to plan and prep! That is a huge bonus! At the beginning of the quarter, I chose a book for each reading group. (You can learn more about how I pick books by clicking HERE.) Then I make a list of the standards or skills that I need to teach and/or practice during the quarter. I print book club graphic organizers for those skills. I make copies for each group and put them in tubs near my reading table. Done. I am prepped for an entire quarter of reading groups!

Book clubs are a great way to teach the standards while helping students to develop a love for reading!

Are you convinced that book clubs will rock your world? I knew you would be. You probably have some questions though. And I have good news...I wrote a post with tips to get those book clubs up and running in your classroom!

Click on the picture below to get started!

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!

Tips for Using Brag Tags Without Losing Your Mind!

Lots of ideas for making brag tags simple and meaningful!

Are you looking for a positive classroom behavior incentive? Brag tags are my go to way to reward students for their behavior and for meeting academic goals. They are the bomb digity!

Isn't it funny that kids will work their butt off just to earn a small piece of paper? #lol I think what they love most might actually be getting recognized. Plus, they kind of like collecting things. 

I often hear about people who make brag tags too difficult. Then they end up giving up on them half way through the year. I am here to give you tips that will make your brag tag experience simple and effective. 

Brag Tag Prep
Prepping brag tags is super easy. It takes some time, but can be done in front of the TV. I recommend prepping for the whole year all at once so that you don't have to think about it again. 

Decide on the tags that you want to have available. Print the tags on cardstock for extra durability. I choose to print from home, but if you print at an office supply store- bring your own cardstock and they will charge less. I HIGHLY recommend laminating your tags. I use THIS laminator and love it. Cut the tags out. I bribe ask my own children to do the cutting. The last step is to use a hole punch to make one hole at the top of the tags. Done! 

Awarding Tags
You don't need to hand tags out every day! I prefer to have one day per week that I award all tags earned that week. I plug the brag tag ceremony into my Friday lesson plans and then I don't forget! 

If you see a brag tag worthy behavior during the week, jot it down on a sticky note or put the student's name on the back of the earned tag. But no need to interrupt the class to hand it out that very moment.  

If you do have some students that need immediate feedback (or if students around them will be motivated to improve because of the feedback), give them a hint to get them excited. Say something like, "You are doing so awesome that I bet you get something special at our next brag tag ceremony!" 

Be the Brag Tag Boss
My most important brag tag rule is that I am the only one who decides when a brag tag will be awarded. You cannot ask for a brag tag or ask why you didn't get a brag tag. That gets annoying! 

But the big reason for this rule is that I differentiate brag tags. What earns one kiddo a brag tag may be different than one earns another kid a tag. It just makes them more meaningful.

Keeping Track
I often have people ask me, "How do you keep track of who has earned which tag?" My answer is simple. I don't I am all about making this system simple! It is OK for a student to receive the same tag more than once! They won't care! It's like collecting baseball cards. Collectors don't mind getting several of a card that they love. 

So maybe your kiddo got a teamwork tag a few weeks ago and then another this week. No biggie! They earned it and they will still love it! If you are giving tags for homework completion, AR points, or math facts mastery- you might need to keep track, but my guess is that you are already keeping track of that kind of stuff.

Limit the Tags
If you have a million tags available at all times, you will most definitely lose your mind trying to keep up with the system. I would suggest choosing 10-12 tags that are available for students during a given month. You can switch some or all of the available tags the next month. Having a limited number of tags helps students to focus in on the skills that are most important to you during that time period. 

You might even have a special "tag of the month." You can talk to students about the types of behaviors that will help them to earn that tag and post it somewhere where students can see it every day. 

It's Not Fair
Here's the deal- in my class brag tags must be EARNED. That means that every kid will not receive the tag and every kid will not get a tag every week. That's ok! If they have to work for the reward, it will be more meaningful. Don't GIVE them away! 

Also, keep in mind that every student doesn't have to be working towards the same tag. One kiddo may be working on sight words, while other has them mastered. The ones that don't need to work on sight words, will work towards a different goal instead of being given a tag for something they didn't have to work for in my class. 

The moral of the story is that brag tags aren't fair in my class and that's exactly the way I want it. 

The Necklaces
I get asked all the time about where to get the necklaces. I have seen the ball chain necklaces at craft stores such as Michael's and JoAnn's. You can also by them on Amazon by clicking HERE

Brag Tag necklaces

Some people make a big display board where student necklaces are hung. That's fine. I keep it extra simple and just have students keep their necklaces in their pencil box in their desk. 

They only wear them on Fridays. At the end of the year, they will take them home as a keepsake of their hard work.

Brag Tag Resources
Are you ready to get started with brag tags? I have a couple of bundles that are full of tags to help you implement the brag tag program.

These brag tags are perfect for kindergarten and first grade. They include letter sounds, phonograms, and much more!

This large bundle of tags includes tags for academics, character traits, holidays and even editable tags!

I hope that these tips help you to keep from losing your mind while using brag tags. Keep it simple!

Are you looking for some ideas for storing your brag tags? I have you covered! Click on the photo below!

Have a Not So Wimpy Day!