9 October Favorites (and FREEBIES)

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Happy Fall, teacher friends! The beginning of the year is officially OVER and it is now that wonderful time of year where your routines are in place and real learning is happening! Hopefully, temperatures are cooling down, too! October is one of the best teaching months because there are just SO many wonderful ideas out there. I thought I would share a few of my favorite October resources (and freebies!!) 
This *freebie* by Cait's Cool School includes a week long set of Halloween-themed questions that will help to build a strong community in your classroom. Questions are a combination of thought-provoking, motivational, seasonally relevant, and sometimes a little silly. They are perfect for morning meetings or morning work! 

If you are looking for less Halloween and more general Autumn, check out her Question of the Day Fall Themed Questions.

This Nonfiction Halloween Reader and Categorization activity by Totally Elementary is perfect for your emergent readers in October! Students are able to read this nonfiction emergent reader independently using key Halloween vocabulary words and sight words. 

After reading the book, work with students to categorize the Halloween facts learned from the book into four groups: Date, Colors, Symbols and Activities. This helps students make connections to the text and organize the new information learned into categories.

One area I struggle with is teaching science. I know that students LOVE it because it's engaging and exciting but the preparation and supplies just get the best of me. I was determined to make a change so I created my very own science unit for October. There are four October-themed science activities (no Halloween references!) and it includes vocabulary and writing! #winwin 
We did our first science challenge last week: Spider Dinner Drop! I loved seeing my students work together to plan and problem solve. You can find everything you need for planning these science lessons here:

Another October math topic in 2nd grade is comparing numbers. I have these (free) Comparing Pumpkins cards I use as a math center. They would be great for small groups, too! I have mine printed on card stock and laminated so students can write on them with a dry erase marker!
Comparing Pumpkins: Ten task cards with recording sheet *Freebie*

Next is an adorable math craftivity from Becky from The Class Couple. We will be working on 2 digit fact families this month so it will be perfect to differentiate for my little learners! You can find it here: Bat Fact Family Craft

Lauren from Teaching in Stripes has SO many Fall/Halloween themed activities. This *freebie* will help your students practice ordering 2 & 3 digit numbers in a variety of ways! I love this pumpkin cut and sort puzzle. Students fill in the missing numbers to complete the puzzle. 

These autumn themed printables cover many beginning of the year 2nd grade skills! My students LOVE anything that incorporates some coloring, too! We keep our graphing skills sharp all year long.

This month we will be working on place value so I know my kiddos will need A LOT of practice in many different forms. They include skip counting, comparing numbers and more! I use these for centers, homework, morning work and independent practice. 

Next week, we will be working on even and odd numbers. This is one of my favorite math topics to teach! And I just LOVE this *FREE* Even and Odd Scoot by School and the City. It will be the perfect assessment after we spend a few days practicing!
Fall Into Even and Odd - Autumn-Themed Math Scoot

Last but not least, how cute are these mini-reading by Kaitlynn Albani? I will be using these with one of my reading groups this week. I love that they are foldable books and include questions! Find them free in her store here: Reading Comprehension Mini Readers for Fall
FREE Reading Comprehension - Mini Readers for Fall

Hope you were able to find something useful for your classroom! What's one of your fall favorites?

Classroom Reveal 2017: Bold and Brights Collection

Saturday, September 30, 2017

I am so excited to share with you pictures of my classroom this year! This is my first classroom reveal post because, to be honest, it has taken 3 years to get my classroom to the point where many of the spaces make me super proud and happy : ) So come on in, let me show you around! 
{Stay for the WHOLE tour for a chance to WIN your own Bold and Bright Collection from Creative Teaching Press!}

I really didn't plan to make many changes this year due to being pregnant. But then, I received the most AMAZING package in the mail from Creative Teaching Press.

Who could resist these borders?

So I went ahead and changed a few things up. Here's the view when you are walking into my room.

Those ugly maroonish cabinets are my nemesis lol I have tried to cover them up in the past but NOTHING sticks to them.

Make a left when you walk through the door, and you will see our closet cubbies. It's nice because after everyone has unpacked, I can close them for most of the day! There are 4 full length bulletin boards on the outside that get used A LOT!

Here is a closer look at my birthday chart! I used space on my closet doors to create the display last year. This year, I switched out the birthday cupcakes for birthday ice cream cones. I didn't have my kiddos' birthdays at the time of the picture but once I got them, I printed them off on 1.5 x 2 inch strips of paper and taped them on. 
  • Banner is from Target Dollar Spot last summer.
  • The ice cream cones are from Creative Teaching Press. It is in their Bold & Bright collection and you can find them here

Next up is my desk area. 

I ditched my big, bulky, brown teacher desk last year. This year, I bought the white desk from Ikea. I used a bed sheet and border from CTP to cover the wall and make an area to hang up all the pictures students gift me over the year. The space under my desk is an eye sore. Any ideas for covering up all those wires? : /

Here is a view of my classroom library corner. The white bookshelf is from Target. The black shelving unit was left in my room. It used to be green but I spray painted it black this year and I am SO happy with how it turned out. I organize my library by series and genres which makes up about half of my library. The other half is random baskets because, to be honest, it is not a priority of mine to keep it super organized. 

This is my FAVORITE classroom spot. I teach math and reading in small groups so this is where I spend a lot of my day. I moved the table here this year so I am excited to see how it works out. The whiteboard will house reading, writing and grammar anchor charts once we get started. I made the crate seats last year. I bought most of the crates from Wal-Mart and the fabric for the cushions at JoAnn Fabrics. My pink office chair is from Office Max. 
  • The letters on my word wall are from the Bold Brights collection at CTP. You can find them here
  • The letters for the words at the top of the wall can be found in my TPT store here. The black and white striped border is from CTP here

This is my main teaching spot. I sit in that rocking chair A LOT! I used the black and white polka dot border for both the bulletin board and for the back of my book shelf (which is magnetic!). Those white dots are magnetic hooks so I can hang a poster or anchor chart. 
  • The focus wall letters are from CTP and you can find them here
  • The READ letters are from Target Dollar Spot this year. 

I was inspired by Teaching 3rd with Mr. G to make this display of the books we have read this year. I made full page sized letters in PowerPoint and cut them out by hand to make the title. Then I printed out mini copies of the covers of books we have read so far. I attached them with mini (rainbow!) colored clothespins and yarn. The border is from Creative Teaching Press--find it here. 

I hope you enjoyed the tour of my classroom! Sweat equity, decor from Creative Teaching Press and help from my mom have all been essential for creating a welcoming classroom space : )

ENTER BELOW for a chance to win the ENTIRE Bold and Brights Decor Collection from CTP!

Lesson Ideas for Teaching Understanding Characters

Sunday, September 10, 2017

I am excited to dive deeper into reading skills and share some ideas to apply to whole group and small group lessons. In this series, I will focus on a reading skill, take a look at options for differentiating instruction and provide resources that may be helpful!

To begin to understand characters, our students need to know what are character traits? Simply put,  character traits are words we use to describe characters.  Activate students' background knowledge by reviewing and brainstorming a list of adjectives.

This free adjectives mini-pack will help with scaffolding instruction.

Next, choose a person or a character everyone in the class is familiar with. I like to pick a character from a book we have recently read as a whole group. Or you could use yourself or the principal!  We can develop words to describe the character which we will use in several ways.

Here we used Henry and Mudge because we read it the first week of school. I just projected a picture of Mudge on the Smartboard and I wrote the words around him. (Sorry the picture isn't very quality!)

If students are having a difficult time coming up with words besides "happy or sad", Workshop Classroom has an excellent free resource for students to reference.  You can find that here.

Next, we sorted the post-its in two ways.  First, we looked at the words that described his physical appearance vs. internal characteristics. I used this anchor chart to help my students understand the difference between inside and outside traits.

Then, we took a look at the positive vs. negative traits.  This prompted a great discussion including students defending reasons for their choice.

For extra practice or to reinforce these skills, you can download my Character Trait Word Sort freebie here.

Next, it is time to work on HOW we choose character traits based on a character's actions, words, thoughts and feelings. For this, I used Rosie Revere, Engineer. We kind of worked backwards and started with naming the character traits. 

Then, we went back in the book and used post it notes to mark evidence to support each of the character traits we chose. I simply wrote each word on a post it and as we re-read, students were thinking about which word best matched with Rosie's words, actions or thoughts.  Then we marked that spot in the book with the post-it!

I used the same post-it lesson with my small group except this time in reverse.  As they were reading, they had their post-its ready to mark.  For my students who still needed some support, they just marked the spot.  Others wrote a character trait on the post it AND marked the evidence.  

You can download this lesson plan here.

For more resources to help teach understanding characters, check out my common core aligned reference posters and graphic organizers.

Happy Teaching!

One BIG Beginning of the Year Mistake (and How to Fix It!)

Saturday, September 9, 2017

My first year of teaching, I was SO proud at how quickly I learned my students names. *pats self on back* Then, weeks (maybe even a month or so) into the school year, a student came to tell me something at indoor recess. He pointed at a group of girls and declared "She said I was cheating in Sorry." I asked "Who is 'she'? There are about 5 girls over there." He said "I don't know her name."

WHAT!!!!?!! Then it occurred to me: I  just assumed my students knew one another's names by now. But it was the 5th (or 6th or 7th) week of school and this kiddo STILL didn't know all of his classmates' names!!! I was HORRIFIED!! How could we be building a community without knowing this vital information?! Answer: we weren't. This was important and it needed to be fixed immediately. Here's how I have prevented this situation from happening again.

Do you do morning meeting? We are LOVING it in our classroom this year using this Paperless Morning Meeting resource from Erin Waters.

Whiteboard Morning Meeting {40 Weeks}

Even if you don't do a full morning meeting, incorporating a greeting is super beneficial! One of my favorites is a whole group greeting we do on Mondays. We go around the circle and ask each student, "_________, what's the news?!" And they share something they did over the weekend. Reinforcing names this way is a great memory tool!
We might think of having our students wearing name tags so that we can learn their names but it is also a helpful tool for students to learn, too! Here are some cute ones I have made to fit onto labels. Or you could print on card stock and laminate for multiple uses!

You can download these for FREE here: Editable Name Tag Labels

I also have editable student name tag desk plates. They use these ALL the time for math. I attach them with a Velcro dot and I love that they can take them around the room with them. 

One day, I spontaneously asked them to bring them to the carpet. We mixed them all up in the center of our circle. Students had to pick a name tag and match it with the student! It was a fun way to review names : ) 

This SIMPLE game is a way to practice names AND learn something about your students (and in turn, students learn about their classmates!). Tell students to think of something they like to do and create a hand movement or gesture to represent what it is. I like cooking so I pretend to crack an egg in a bowl. If students can't think of a movement on their own, we all help them!

Next, we sit in a circle. The first person says their name and what they like to do using their hand signal. For example, "I am Susie, and I like to play with dolls" *makes a rocking motion*. We all repeat "Susie likes to play dolls" and make the movement. Then it goes to the next person. Now comes the tricky part. After the 2nd person goes, you have to repeat what the first person said AND what the 2nd person said. You keep going, repeating each person's name, statement and movement. It gets pretty repetitive. I was thankful to only have 18 students this year-ha! If you have a large class, maybe break it into two sessions? 

Maybe you already use Turn and Talks in your classroom. This name-learning trick puts a spin on it. 

Instead of having students share out what they said during the turn in talk, have them introduce their partner FIRST! Make sure you switch up partners often so students have the opportunity to introduce many different classmates. I keep this one going for at least a month or two! 

I don't know about your students, but mine LOVE a word search! I usually use one as morning work on Fridays. This editable, personalized name word search is PERFECT for reviewing names! My friend, Lauren of Teaching in Stripes, made it SUPER easy to create your own!

You can find this in her store here---->> Editable Class Word Search

I have used a combination of ALL of these activities over the past few weeks and, to be honest, I still have just a few kiddos that need name reminders. One thing I explicitly teach is how to politely tell someone that you forget their name and ask what it is. I heard a student ask yesterday and then said "Oh yeah, I knew that!" As with any learning, sometimes they just need a reminder! 

Do you have any tricks for students learning each other's names? 

Happy Teaching!

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