November 29, 2013

Advent: Happy New Year {FREEBIES}

Advent, from the Latin "ad-venire" meaning "to come to", is the first season of the Church year. For Christians, New Year's Day then is this Sunday, Dec. 1st. Advent is the time leading up to Christmas, a time that is oft neglected in our consumer oriented world. In the rush to BUY, BUY, BUY for Christmas, we neglect to prepare for the sacredness of the holiday... the real reason for the season. This is what the season of Advent is for.

Because I teach in a Catholic school, I have the luxury of celebrating the Advent season, a time of expectant waiting. Santa is kept to a minimum and only in the guise of St. Nicholas, the actual man- a bishop in Turkey long, long ago- who eventually becomes our modern Santa. Christmas songs are overlooked in favor of Advent songs. Instead of reds and greens festooning everything, our halls are decked with purple and pink, the colors of Advent.

We have a Christmas tree in our gathering space at school on which hangs holy ornaments, and the wreath in our hallway is an Advent wreath. It won't be until the last few days prior to Christmas break, starting with our school Christmas program that our attention will focus more on Christmas. Until then, we must remain patient, waiting in joyful hope, preparing our hearts for the coming of Jesus on Christmas.

Even my lessons and activities next week will focus on Advent rather than on Christmas.

Next week's Spelling words...

... an editing practice lesson...

... and two graphic organizers...

... all have an Advent theme.

If you would like any of these Advent items to use in your classroom or homeschool, you can purchase the Scoot pack and Zap game HERE or by clicking on the pictures above. The spelling list, revising paper, and graphic organizers are a FREEBIE, and can be downloaded HERE or by clicking on the picture below.

Happy Advent,
Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

November 28, 2013

Favorite Feedback, Fabulous Finds, and a Winner!

Black Friday is quickly approaching! However, that is not a sale that I am looking forward to. No, the sale that has me really excited is...

It's almost time! The Cyber Monday and Tuesday Sale is right around the corner! Get your wish list filled and ready to shop without leaving home on December 2nd and 3rd! I am offering 20% off all of my products (except for my holiday bundles- they already are discounted) and TpT will give you another 10% if you use the checkout code CYBER. This makes for a total of 28%. 

I have received some encouraging feedback on several of my products lately. It might give you some encouragement to start shopping at TpT, filling up your wishlist in time for the upcoming sale.

First, about my Scoot Packs for practicing various Language Arts skills...

Second, about my Mystery Pictures for practicing various Language Arts skills...

If bossfan, leifyleify, MarissaStix, manabeth422, or deerella happen to read this blog post, please email me or leave a comment below. I would LOVE to send you your choice of an individual holiday ZAP! game as a thank you for taking the time to provide feedback for your purchase from my store.  ZAP! is a fun way to review essential classroom skills. My fifth and sixth graders love ZAP! and even my eighth graders beg to play it!

Now... on to some fabulous finds. Here're just a few items that I already have on my wishlist...

Are you inspired to shop? What's on your wishlist? And if a sale at TpT isn't enough, Teacher's Notebook is also have a holiday sale. Everything in my store over there is also 20% off. Plus they've got a fun Build-a-Bundle deal going on. Head on over and check it out!

Finally, I'd lie to announce the winner of my pencil sharpener giveaway: CHERIE M. Cherie has chosen to receive a red sharpener. It will be on its way in a few days! Thanks to all who participated in the contest. It was fun hosting it!

Happy Shopping,
Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

November 27, 2013

Wednesday: Memories (pin party), Beginnings (a sale), and Endings (a giveaway)

Wednesday used to be my favorite day to blog. It was the day that a Pinterest linky was hosted, and if you know anything about me... you know that I LOVE Pinterest! As often happens in bloggyland though, linkies fade away or disappear. My favorite linky is no more! I miss posting my pins; I miss seeing all the great pins my bloggy friends shared. SIGH! So today, at least, will be Pinsday Winsday wherein I share my winning pins from this past week! A girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do to feed her addiction...

First, those for the holidays...

Then, some for Science(a little humor, too)...

And even some for my products on TpT...

Ah, I feel better already, just posting my pins! And if pinning on Pinterest makes you feel better, you're invited to share a pin below. Just leave a comment with a link to a winning pin (about anything that strikes your fancy). I'd LOVE to see what you are pinning!!!!

BEGINNING soon... a CYBER-ific Sale at Teachers Pay Teachers!

I can't wait. I've already begun filling up my wishlist. I think I've put about six or seven items on it already... with more to follow, I'm sure. I enjoy being able to get wonderful teaching products at such great savings! I've also been filling up my TpT Store with fun holiday teaching items just in time for the sale. Check out some of them HERE! And while you're shopping be sure to fill out your wishlist also!

ENDING later today...

a giveaway for the WORLD'S BEST, QUIETEST pencil sharpener. Just hop on over to this blog post to enter before midnight tonight.

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

November 23, 2013

Spark Student Motivation: Homework Helpers. a FREEBIE

I'm linking up with my new bloggy friend Joanne over at Head Over Heels for Teaching for her weekly linky party...

I have the luxury of knowing and working with my sixers while they are still in fifth grade. This year's crop were hesitant homework completers last year so I knew going into this current school year that I would need to work on this very important skill/habit. BUT what to do?

I did a LOT of thinking, a little praying, and a TREMENDOUS bit of Pinteresting! Beginning last spring,  I repeatedly began seeing pins for brag tags (used these years ago, but got discouraged with the trouble of finding/making them), punch cards (used these years ago also), and no homework coupons (use these ALL the time as gifts for my kiddos). These pins got me to thinking... and deciding... and creating!

I decided to set up a homework reward system for my sixers this year. Consisting of a homework punch card...

... Each assignment successfully completed and turned in on time receives a punch. For every five punches, a student receives a brag tag which are collected for special prizes (treats, pencils, erasers, etc.)...

... Fill up the punch card and earn a no homework coupon!

I am VERY happy to say that my sixers (and my fifth grade Language Arts students) are great at completing their homework and turning it in on time! They love to hear me say, "Yea, I get to punch you!" (we have new tags each month). They enjoy collecting the brag tags (I've quite a collection amassed in my TpT store with more coming), and they ADORE the no homework coupons! This system REALLY works for my students.

Here's a little FREEBIE for you, to get you started with your own homework reward system,  a thank you for reading my blog and following me through bloggyland, and for sharing your ideas with me. Just click HERE or on the graphic below to download your copy. 

Before you go, I'd like to tell  you about a little giveaway that I am hosting. I am happy to offer you the chance to obtain your very own Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener in your choice of color (there is even a pink one available). Just enter the giveaway at this blog post between now and 11:59pm Nov. 27, 2013. On Thanksgiving Day I will announce the winner of the World's BEST Sharpener in a blog post and by email. The winner must have a U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

November 22, 2013

Five for Friday: A Week of Meetings

It's time to link up with Doodlebugs for...

When I sat down to write this linky post (one of favorites each week) I realized that I had no photos, no student work, no fun items to share... WHY? You might wonder. That's because all I did this week was attend meetings. SERIOUSLY!

MONDAY: I attended an after school IEP meeting... enough said!

TUESDAY: I attended a K-12 Staff meeting. This was about how to interpret Standardized Test results more effectively as an aid for instruction. It was actually quite good and USEFUL!

WEDNESDAY: I attended a School Liturgy Committee meeting at which we finalized plans for our Thanksgiving prayer service, planned our upcoming Immaculate Conception Mass, and organized/assigned Advent prayer services. This meeting I always enjoy!

THURSDAY: I attended an Elementary Staff meeting. During this meeting we set schedules to allow Christmas program practice, we scheduled our Annual Christmas Tree Lighting Prayer Service (this is an all day affair filled with reading, songs, hot cocoa, and more). We also planned the Advent Prayer service that our level is responsible for leading for the whole school.

FRIDAY: I had a meeting with my car after school. I drove home as quickly as I could, parked the car, and hunkered in my home awaiting the snow storm promised for Saturday night through Sunday late night... hmmm? Snow day Monday?

Have a great weekend! Be sure to check out all the fun posts in the Five for Friday linky party hosted by Doodlebugs!

And before you leave, you're invited to participate in a great giveaway for the BEST pencil sharpener in the world that I am hosting now through Nov. 27, 2013. Just hop on over to this blog post to enter.

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

November 19, 2013

Tried It Tuesday: Autobiographical Wordles and a Giveaway Reminder

It's time to link up with Fourth Grade Flipper for...

... and with Technology Tailgate for ...

This week my fifth graders and I tried Autobiographical Wordles. "What's that?" you say. Why it's a great way to integrate technology with the writing process.

First we reviewed the writing process MY WAY. I add peer conferencing into the standard process that these students have worked with for years. I also explain my writing process clipchart and what we will be doing with it.

And we go over the six traits of writing via the acronym MOVIES.

Next we discuss what makes a great paragraph and the hallmarks of the genre autobiography. Finally, they write an autobiographical paragraph via the writing process. Once I have read and OK'd each paragraph, each fifth grader word processes his/her paragraph and saves it in the class file on the network.

Next I introduce what a word cloud is via Once the fifth graders are comfortable with this website via my demonstration, they are encouraged to "play" with it independently. Once they are able to maneuver through the Wordle website, I show them how to copy/paste their paragraphs into the Wordle site to make their autobiographical word clouds.

Here are their creations...

And that's what we tried this past week! How 'bout you? Anything technology related? Check out all the great posts over at Fourth Grade Flipper and Technology Tailgate for more fun.

Before you go...

I am happy to offer you the chance to obtain your very own Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener in your choice of color (there is even a pink one available). Just enter the giveaway at this blog post between now and 11:59pm Nov. 27, 2013. On Thanksgiving Day I will announce the winner of the World's BEST Sharpener in a blog post and by email. The winner must have a U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

November 16, 2013

Sparking Student Motivation: Review/Practice Games and a FREEBIE

It's Saturday and I've been watching this linky for a long time. I decided this was going to be THE WEEK! So I'm linking up with Joanne at Head Over Heels for Teaching for the first time to share something that I did during the week that motivated my students.

More than twenty years ago I took a summer professional development course at Youngstown State University. Called "Using Learning Centers and Games with Middle School Students", this class was probably THE BEST one I have ever taken, including undergraduate, graduate, and beyond level classes. For three weeks, three days a week, eight hours a day we did nothing but MAKE learning centers and games based on what we taught in our curriculum. We were even given the supplies: coloring utensils, scissors, glue, paper of every variety, envelopes, canisters, etc. to make our "stuff". I was in heaven! 

It was during this class that I learned about a game called Kaboom! I wasn't crazy about the graphics or name (a bomb, explosion) so I changed it to ZAP! and used a lightning bolt. This game was nothing more than some cards in a decorated Pringles can. I think the first one that I made might have been about complete sentences and sentence fragments. My fifth and sixth graders LOVED it and begged to play it ALL the time. I made several other ZAP! games for various skill practice and we used them frequently.

To Play Zap!...

1. Divide your class into several teams depending on the number of students.
2. Determine how long you will play or how many rounds you will complete. 
3. Have a student draw a strip from the container without looking inside. I hold the container above the player’s head.
4. The team should read the words on the strip, then confer to determine the answer.
5. If the team answers correctly, it keeps the strip. If it answers incorrectly the strip is returned to the container.
6. Teams take turns drawing/collecting the strips. However, there is a twist. If a team draws a ZAP! card, it must return ALL of its strips to the container.

About ten years ago I moved buildings and in the process purged a LARGE amount of stuff I had in my classroom. I just did NOT want to move it. Among those things purged were my ZAP! games. That first year in the new building was so hectic as I also assumed the position of music director at my church. ZAP! was forgotten in the hustle and bustle.

For whatever reason, this year I remembered ZAP! and whipped up a Fall version to help my fifth and sixth graders practice identifying independent and dependent clauses. It was a hit! 

And now I'm trying to keep up with new versions, introducing new skills each week while helping my students maintain old skills. I've quite the collection already in my TpT Store and have MANY more planned. This past week we played Thanksgiving ZAP! Verb Tenses.

This coming week we will play Turkey ZAP! to help us practice identifying nouns, verbs, and adjectives in context.

If you've never played ZAP! with your class, you might like to give it a try. Here's a FREEBIE version that you can download and use with your upper elementary students. Designed to give them practice with main idea and vocabulary development, What's Wrong ZAP! is sure to spark motivation for learning with your kiddos. Click HERE  or on the graphics below to download your copy.

I'd love to hear how your students react to this fun and engaging motivator. If you ZAP! your class, please return and leave a comment!

And before you leave, you're invited to participate in a great giveaway for the BEST pencil sharpener in the world that I am hosting now through Nov. 27, 2013. Just hop on over to this blog post to enter.

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

Freebie Fridays

Classroom Freebies Manic Monday

November 15, 2013

Five for Friday: Classroom Friendly Supplies BEST Sharpener Giveaway

It's time to link up with Doodlebugs for Five for Friday (I think I might make it... just).

You might remember me telling about my sixers' buddies- the second graders- and how we meet periodically to do lessons and activities together. We had the opportunity to meet twice this week with our second grade buddies: once to do a non-standardized measurement lesson and once to TRY and complete the bat literacy lesson I had started two weeks ago and got interrupted by a fire drill, then was postponed due to my bout with the flu. Get this--in the middle of the make-up bat lesson, doesn't the administrator come on the PA announcing that we are going to practice our emergency evacuation procedure. You should have heard the groans from my kiddos. All's well that ends well... we did manage to complete the dang bats!

We managed to accomplish an AWFULLY LOT this week in all our classes. Phew! I am whipped just thinking about it. We completed setting up our Writer's Workshop in Fifth Grade Language Arts. This is what we now begin with each day. In Eighth Grade English we finished our discussion of "The Tell Tale Heart" by Poe and examined "In Flanders Fields" by McCrae. Since both pieces deal with conflict we used this element to write their choice of personal narrative or first person fictional narrative in which conflict is the central theme while focusing on the process of writing. WOW, WOW, WOW! is all I can say after hearing just a few initial pieces. One young lady is writing a Holocaust piece that IMO is publishable. She had us in tears. Meanwhile my sixers were finalizing their exposure to the major Literature Circle roles and practicing how a circle should run. Next week... a full-fledged Literature Circle using the novel "My Side of the Mountain" by Jean Craighead George. And on top of this, my sixers spent the week delving into cell theory, learning the differences and similarities of plant and animal cells as well as 16 different organelles that compose them. There is a great CELL RAP video that has really helped them learn this complicated material; however, it is catchy... they randomly burst out singing, "Cells, cells, they're made of organelles..." not only in my classes but in their other teachers' as well.

To help my sixers learn all those organelles I created a ZAP game. We've had a great time playing it this week. Zap is a great game for engaging students in curricular material while having FUN! My sixers beg to play Zap all the time. I can hardly keep up with new games for them. Cellular Zap as well as Zap games for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Advent, and even St. Lucy Day are available in my TpT Store. Stop by and check them out, and if you'd like a copy of this ZAP game, just leave a comment below. If you are a no-reply blog commenter, please leave your email address so I can send you a copy of the game.

We're going on a field trip! YIPPEE! Well, it's not until December 5th, but I am EXCITED!!!! We're going to the Great Lakes Science Center to see the special Titanic Exhibit! I can NOT wait. My sixers don't know about this yet. I just finalized the arrangements today. They'll find out Monday afternoon when I pass out the permission slips. I'm waiting anxiously for their reactions. This is a heavily advertised, heavily attended, highly reviewed exhibit that we didn't think we'd be able to get into. I actually tried earlier in the year but there were no open slots until November and December. Let's just hope we do not get cancelled due to bad weather. You never can tell in NE Ohio at this time of the year!

FINALLY, I am so THANKFUL for this wonderful pencil sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies, a company run by a teacher for teachers. I was able to obtain one and review it this past summer. It now resides in my classroom.

It is simply the BEST sharpener in the world! Just ask my kiddos! They leave other classes to come back to my room to sharpen their pencil. I've caught two of them this week. They asked the teacher if they could use the restroom. However, they popped into my room instead and sharpened their pencil. Luckily I had a planning period so no lesson was interrupted. Of course, the sharpener is SOOOOO quiet that it does NOT interrupt anything. My eighth graders pass it around during class. They love to sharpen their pencils for the day since it works better than any other sharpener in the building.

I am happy to offer you the chance to obtain your very own Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener in your choice of color (there is even a pink one available). Just enter the giveaway posted below between now and 11:59pm Nov. 27, 2013. On Thanksgiving Day I will announce the winner of the World's BEST Sharpener in a blog post and by email. The winner must have a U.S. mailing address. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6

November 8, 2013

Five for Friday: Conferences, Goldsworthy, Zip Zap Zop, Thankful

It's time to once again link up with Doodlebugs for...

Parent/Teacher conferences were this week. Although the day is grueling: teaching from 8:00am-2:15pm followed by conferences from 2:30-7:30pm, it is also rewarding. I enjoy meeting with my students' parents, discussing their children's progress in school. You may have heard me say this before, "There has got to be a better way!" With only 10 minute time slots for each conference not much can be discussed. Often a parent and I may be in the middle of a discussion and time is up. I've made it a habit to meet with the parents of students who are struggling, be it academically or socially, on separate days before or after school so that we have the time we need to discuss a plan for their student, and now with the ease of electronic communication I am in contact with the majority of my parents at least once a week. However, the idea of the conference day/evening... gotta be a better way!

Our art teacher and I have developed a great curriculum for my sixth graders over the past three years. We have selected notable artists who depict a particular style or technique to teach our sixth graders about. I prepare the lesson ABOUT the artist, generally a Powerpoint full of pics and/or videos about the artist, while the art teacher prepares and implements the hands-on art lessons. Our latest artist study was Andy Goldsworthy who is know for his unique natural sculptures. Here's one of Andy's pieces crafted of leaves of various hues. Each piece is ephemeral, lasting but a few moments. It is the photo of the piece that captures the sculpture for permanence.

Here are a few of my sixth graders' nature compositions. The students worked in small groups, having gathered materials over several days from the school property or from home. They completed them today near the end of the day with the art teacher just before the cloudburst. I was able to capture just a few snapshots in between the raindrops.

My mind works in random, yet connected, ways. For whatever reason, a few weeks ago I was reminded of a favorite game that my sixth graders and I would play when I would take them overnight camping as an outdoor education experience (back in the day). The game is called Zip Zap Zop. I won't go into how to play it; however, if you are interested you can read about it HERE. I will just say that both my fifth and sixth graders are clamoring to play it everyday. It makes for a great brain break!

Zip Zap Zop reminded me of another game that I used to play with my fifth and sixth graders- ZAP! I hadn't played it last year because the class was rather large and rambunctious. Playing games tended to amp their excitability to a level that I couldn't tolerate so we did OTHER things, and ZAP! was forgotten.. ZAP!  is a great way to practice humdrum class skills in a fun way. Played in teams, the basic premise is to collect paper strips drawn from a canister on which are written response items. If answered correctly, the team keeps the strip. If not, it's returned to the canister. At the end of play, the winning team is the one with the most strips. However, there is a twist. Inside the canister are a few ZAP! strips. Draw one of these and ALL of the team's strips must be returned to the canister. There is lots of cheering and chanting as the game progresses.

I busily made several ZAP! games this past week. Both my fifth and sixth grade Language Arts students have had a great time with them this week. We played Fall ZAP! practicing dependent and independent clauses. This game REALLY helped the fifth graders tell the difference between the two clauses.

We also played Veterans Day ZAP! where we practiced the difference between complete sentences and sentence fragments, something my sixth graders can not seem to remember, while we learned a little about the background of this special holiday.

Both ZAP! games are available in my TpT Store along with a third, St. Nicholas ZAP! This ZAP! game provides students practice with distinguishing between subjects and predicates while teaching them about the story of St. Nicholas, a bishop in fourth century Myra who eventually evolves into the modern Santa Claus. 

By now, you know that I teach in a Catholic School. Many of the items that I use in my classroom, even games like Scoot and Zap, incorporate the things that I reach in Religion as well. I've recently begun to share some of my "religious" teaching items in my TpT Store. Catholic Prayers Brag Tags was the first followed soon after by All Saints' Day Scoot.  I wasn't sure how they would be received, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they sold quite a few. I was quite encouraged as I began to receive positive feedback. I especially enjoyed this comment by STEDS regarding my All Saints Day Scoot:

I teach in a Catholic school, too. This was a fun way to practice language skills and incorporate religion facts.

 STEDS, if you read this blog post, please contact me by leaving a comment below. I'd like to send you the St. Nicholas ZAP! game as a thank you for taking the time to leave a positive, thoughtful comment about one of my "religious" items. You encouraged me to continue creating and offering this type of item. Currently, I'm working on an Advent ZAP! game and an Advent Scoot pack, as well as a Saint Lucy, Our Lady, and Nativity ZAP! I can't wait to finish making them and using them with my kiddos!

Happy Friday,
Happy Teaching,
The Teacher's Desk 6