Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Optimum Organization: Classroom Library

Organization is one of the keys to my happiness!  I cannot function without a system for EVERYTHING!  I am one of THOSE people where everything has a place and must return to that place when no longer in use.  I don’t do well with clutter and my students soon find that they are responsible for taking care of “our classroom”. 

Today I am linking up with Elizabeth at Fun in Room 4B and Kristen at Ladybug’s Teachers File for their new linky party Optimum Organization.  I will be watching this linky very carefully.  I love new ideas on better ways to organize my room.

I am going to share how my classroom library is organized.  I have over 3,000 books in my classroom library and almost 300 books that we use for literature circles.  I have tried many different ways to get things organized, but this has been my favorite.  They have been organized this way for 4 years.

The library is located in three different areas of my room.  One section contains fiction books, one section contains nonfiction books with the exception of fairytales, fables, folktales and legends and the last section contains books that focus on math and they are kept in the math area of my classroom.

All of the books are kept in baskets. Baskets do require more shelf space, but for me this is the best option.  The baskets truly help the students keep the books organized. 

·      Picture books are organized by alphabetical order by book title.

·      Chapter books are organized by favorite authors, genres, and series.

·      Informational books are organized by subject: science, biographies, places, United States, reference, animals, marine life, reptiles, insects, plants, weather, solar system, history, careers, reference, facts, and grammar.

·      I also have baskets of short stories, poetry, folktales, fairytales, fables, and legends.

Here are several pictures of my classroom library. 
Literature circle book sets are hidden behind the curtains.

Students are responsible for replacing their books in the correct basket.  In the inside back cover of each chapter book, I place stickers listing the genre, basket number, whether it is part of a series, or a favorite author.  For informational books, the sticker will show the subject.  This has been a TREMENDOUS help to me and my students.  After much modeling at the beginning of the year, most books are returned to their correct basket.   I do have a “librarian” that checks a few baskets at the end of the day to make sure that books are in the correct place.

How do you organize your library? 

I hope you will stop by Fun in Room 4B and Ladybug’s TeachersFile to learn of other great ways to organize your room. 

I look forward to responding to any comments, suggestions, or questions you may have about my classroom library.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Must Have Monday and Tried It Tuesday

Happy Tuesday!  Sabra at Teaching with a Touch of Twang is hosting a new linky party called “Must Have Monday”!! (Yes, I am a day late.) I love linky parties because I am able to find wonderful new (to me) blogs to follow.  I, also, love all the new ideas, tips, and resources I am learning about from fellow bloggers.  I am also linking up for the first time with Holly at Fourth Grade Flipper for Tried It Tuesday.  I faithfully look at her blog each Tuesday to read all the great ideas that others blog about, so I thought today was my day to link up, too.
I can name a long list of must have items for my classroom, but I am going to limit myself to three this week.  All three items fit well together and have helped me tremendously!  Now that I have them, I don’t know how I would function without them.
My first item is my Brother MFC J430w Printer.  I love this printer because it saves me money and produces great color copies.  I make a lot of literacy and math center materials for my classroom and I like to print them in color.  This printer has made that possible.  Brother printers allow for you to change separate colors instead of an entire ink cartridge.  When my blue ink is low I can change just blue and not worry about losing other valuable ink due to one color.  The prices of the cartridges are a great buy, too!  I purchased mine from Staples when it was being sold for $68.00.  (That was a $30.00 savings.)

Next up is the famous Scotch Laminator.  This laminator and I have been best friends for the last three years.  I laminate anything that crosses my path!  It has truly helped my center activities and task cards to last through the years.  I purchased it for $25 at Walmart and I have never regretted it!  (I do believe they are now $30.)  I purchase the laminating sheets from Sam’s Club.  They are $20.00 for 200 sheets.  I am on box number 4 for this school year!  I think I am in need of a support group!

Last but not least I need something to print on and laminate.  That is where cardstock comes into the picture.  I purchase both white and colored cardstock.  I try and stock up on it when Michael’s or AC Moore Craft Stores have it on sale.  Both stores offer weekly coupons and if I am driving by the store I will run in to grab a pack of cardstock.  Both stores offer teachers 15% off with their work ID.  Michael’s is definitely easier to use your discount.  The sales cashier can just scan a code to get the discount, but at AC Moore you have to wait for a manager to verify the discount.  I do appreciate both stores for recognizing teachers.
What are your classroom “must haves”? 
Don’t forget to link up or stop by Teaching with a Touch of Twang to see what other teachers “must have”.  I am sure you will find something new to add to your “summer must purchase list”.
Now it is time for Tried It Tuesday.
Each year I am trying to find a better way to help my students stay organized and help the supplies last all year.  This year I think I have a solution that I finally like. 
Each child in my classroom has a pencil pouch where they keep three pencils, a green pin for grading, a blue erasable pen, a pink eraser, and a box of crayons.  Nothing else is allowed to be placed in the pouch. 
On the top of each group of desks we have these...

I just call them their “group supply crates”. In each crate you will find, enough pairs of scissors for everyone in the group, a bottle of Elmer’s Glue All, individual boxes of colored pencils, two pencil sharpeners (for the color pencils, only), and sticky notes.
 These are the pencil boxes that hold each student’s color pencils. The color pencil boxes are numbered, so that the same child gets this box all year.
I have found that not having so many “fun” things to play with in their desk have helped my students to stay focused while working independently.  I have less complaining about “Someone took my supplies!” or “I left it at home.” I have had to replace very few things this year. 
Each morning students may exchange up to three dull/broken pencils for sharpened ones.  We also do a pencil exchange right after recess/lunch. One of the class jobs in my room is to sharpen pencils at the end of each day.  (My students keep their jobs for a full month.) This has helped my students be responsible for keeping up with their pencils and also my pencil sharpener has lasted all year for the first time EVER!
Don’t forget to link up or stop by Teaching with a Touch of Twang to see what other teachers “must have” and Fourth Grade Flipper to see what is working in other classrooms.  I am sure you will find something new to add to your “summer must purchase list” and wonderful tips, ideas, or resources for your classroom.
As always, thank you for stopping by and I love responding to comments!

Monday, May 20, 2013

A Peek Into My Classroom... Alternative Seating!

When a student or parent walks into my classroom for the first time I want them to feel welcomed.  I want them find my classroom inviting, comfortable, resourceful and organized.  I truly believe all of these things contribute to a positive learning environment.

Today I would like to share with you some of the alternative seating that I currently have in my classroom.  Each student has his or her own desk and chair.  However, I allow them to move to a more comfortable spot during the day to complete their independent work, work with a partner, to read, etc.

At the beginning of the year, I put my student names in alphabetical order.  Each student is given that number.  They put the number on their assignments, it is the same textbook number they receive, we use their number to make groups and last but not least they use these numbers for alternative seating.

Students with even numbers may sit somewhere in the class on the even number days on the calendar and the students with odd numbers may sit somewhere else in the room on odd number days on the calendar.  This prevents too many students from gathering together in one spot, cuts down on who gets what pillow or chair, and everyone gets their fair share of time away from their desk.  All students come to a large rug area twice a day for mini-lessons and/or read-alouds.
I have several benches, rug areas, comfortable chairs, stools, and many pillows (sewn by my mom).  The alternative seating is spread throughout my room.
I currently have an owl theme in my classroom, but will be changing it this upcoming school year.  I am on the lookout for some new seating.  I will be revealing my new classroom here in August.
I hope you enjoyed another peek into my classroom.  Now, I need your help!  What kind of alternative seating do you have in your room? Do you have a system for who may sit where and when?  Please share your ideas so I can make some changes for next year!

Sunday, May 19, 2013

New Year, New Gear!

Hello Friends!  I haven’t posted in over a week.  The end of the year is getting to me.  We have so many things happening at school and reviewing for testing is so stressful.  Our last test will be this Wednesday, and then I can breathe a lot easier. 
I just finished updating my student school supply list for the upcoming school year and I am late but wanted to link up with Pinkadots Elementary.  Who doesn’t love new school supplies?
Here is a copy of my student supply list.  I ask for all supplies at the beginning of the school year and store the extras until students need to replenish items.
I have a class supply of clipboards, rulers, protractors, scissors, markers, and colored pencils so you won’t find them on my student list.  I teach at a private school and students supply everything else.
Do you have any “unusual” items on your supply list?  What are they and how do you use them in your classroom?
Don’t forget to stop by Pinkadots Elementary to see what other teachers have on their lists.  You might find a treasure that you never thought to list on your student supplies.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Workshop Wednesday - Motivating Students to Write and Teacher Appreciation Sale!

Yay!  It’s Wednesday.  Friday would be better, but Wednesday is better than a Monday!! 
I am linking up with Jessica at Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesdays.  Today we are sharing what we do to keep our students motivated about writing.
An assortment of materials have been the key to motivating my fourth graders to keep going.  We use all sorts of fun papers and writing tools in my classroom - twistable crayons, colored pencils, any color ink pens, fancy pencils, markers, and their all time favorite gel pens. 
When students complete their weekly writing assignment* I allow them to do a free write from any of the writing genres I have all ready taught them.  They are allowed to use one of the writing tools that I mentioned above. 
(I do require them to conference with me on their writing assignment each week.  This definitely helps me to learn about them as a writer, help them improve their craft, and holds them accountable to the assignment.)
One thing that I have learned that has been invaluable don’t put everything out at once for student use.  I change the writing tools and papers each month.  I always make sure there are at least three types of writing tools and yes; they are repeated throughout the year.  Anytime I can throw in paper related to a holiday or something we are studying in class, I do it.
What type of writing tools do your students use in your room?  What are their favorites?  I would love to hear from you, so I can add some new tools to my collection.
Don’t forget to stop by Jivey’s blog and learn about other ways to keep your students motivated to write! 
I would also love it if you would stop by my Teachers Pay Teachers Store.  I have quite a few products and freebies geared towards grades 3 5.
 In celebration of Teacher Appreciation Week, there is a site wide sale. All of my products are 20% off until midnight tonight, and TPT will offer an extra 10%.  Click on the button below to visit my store.
 If you purchase three or more items, email me with your TPT user name and I will send you a product, $3.00 or less, of your choice.
Enjoy your Wednesday!

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Workshop Wednesdays! "Help! Somebody Get Me Out of Fourth Grade!"

Glad you are back!!  This is my second week of linking up with Jessica at Ideas by Jivey for Workshop Wednesdays.  Today the focus is to share your favorite book to read with a small group.

It was EXTREMELY hard deciding on just one book.  Half way through preparing my post I decided to begin again with a different book.
I finally decided on “Hank Zipzer Help Somebody Get Me Out of Fourth Grade” written by Henry Winkler and Lin Oliver.  The Guided Reading Level is R and the Lexile Score is 780. 
This book has been a favorite of my students since I began using it three years ago.  Not only do we have great conversations sparking from the text but the students moan when I tell them they can’t read ahead.   

Here is an overview of the book.
It’s time for the end of year parent-teacher conference and Hank’s in a panic. He may be failing fourth grade and afraid that his teacher is going to tell his parents, he comes up with a plan. Hank enlists the help of his friends, and even his annoying younger sister in an elaborate scheme to have his parents win an out-of-town trip so they’re gone during the conference days. Of course, the plan backfires. Will Hank have to stay in fourth grade forever?

This is book number 7 in the Hank Zipzer Series.  After reading this book, I can’t keep the other books from the series in my classroom library.  Both the boys and the girls enjoy reading them.  Here is a website dedicated to the Hank Zipzer series and authors.
I would love to add some new books to my small reading group list.  What are some of your favorite books to read with your small reading groups or book clubs?
Don’t forget to stop by Jivey’s blog and learn about other awesome books to use with your small groups!