August 29, 2016

Monday Made It: New Lunch Count System FREEBIE

For as many years as I can count (make that 36) I have taken lunch count one way... call the child's name and put a check next to it if he/she is buying. Even after lunch count went digital online, it was the same way. This takes time, especially with a larger class, and once we went digital you must do attendance FIRST in order to take lunch count. No problem though; it was all good UNTIL...

This school year my students leave homeroom IMMEDIATELY after morning prayer and announcements. For 36 years my sixth graders have been with me for first period. Gulp! I have no time to take lunch count so I had to scamble up a new system. Luckily, I have a terrific teaching partner across the hallway whom I remembered had the same issue last year when this very same group of students was in fifth grade. They left immediately after prayer and announcements last year, too. I asked her how she handled it. What she did was brilliant! Some of you already use systems like this, but for me this was brand new!

She concocted a pocket chart (from the Dollar Tree) with student numbers. Then made small rectangles of red and white to fit in the chart. If a student was buying, he/she would place the red rectangle behind his/her number; if he/she was packing, he/she placed the white rectangle. So clever, so simple!

I followed her lead. I added a little bit of duct tape to my green Dollar Tree pocket chart to match my classroom decor and made a set of selection cards on my computer. I spruced up the cards with some glittery clip art from Glitter Meets Glue and laminated them for durability. I hung up the chart on our classroom door so my kiddos can make their selections before entering the room (hopefully cutting down on forgetfulness).  The last student out the door after prayer and announcements shuts the door so I can read the chart and enter their selections! Problem solved, thanks to Dollar Tree, Duct Tape, and Julie across the hall.

Would you like to own a set of these lunch selection cards? Just click HERE and they're yours, a forever FREEBIE!

How do you do your lunch count? Do you have something cute and clever or tried and true? I'm in search of additional ideas, just in case I need to do something new again next year!

Don't forget to stop by 4th Grade Frolics to check out other fun Monday Made Its posted by teacher bloggers. I always find such fun, clever ideas there!

August 21, 2016

ONEDAY TpT Bonus Sale

Did you miss the Best Year Ever sale that TpT held a few weeks ago? Just not ready for back to school back then? Guess what? You've got one more chance to save on all your back to school teaching products from Teachers Pay Teachers.

And to sweeten your experience, I'm giving away a TEN DOLLAR TpT gift certificate in time for you to spend during this fabulous ONEDAY sale on all your TpT teaching needs. Just enter below before midnight today.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you're not sure what to spend your gift certificate on or just looking for some TERRIFIC teaching materials, head over to Mrs. Mc's Place. She is hosting a sale linky party where MANY TpT'ers have posted their BESTEST teaching products for you to peruse. HAVE FUN!

August 20, 2016

Back to School Must Haves and TpT Gift Card Giveaway

I start Back to School with my kiddos this week and I CAN NOT WAIT!

There are three items that I just can NOT do without during a school year.

1. Scoot cards/Task cards
2. ZAP games
3. Mystery pictures

Scoot or Task Cards are THE go to activity in my classroom. 

Versatile beyond measure, they can be used as a whole class activity, as part of a literacy center for individual cstudents, or for small group instruction or practice. The traditional game of Scoot  is only one way to use these activity cards. Images of cards can be uploaded to Quizizz or Plickers for a fun online, digital assessment for your students. Combine bingo cards with task cards for a new twist on an old game. I have created and purchased task cards for nearly every skill that I present to my middle schoolers: kinds of sentences, nonfiction text structures, antonyms, multiple meaning words, the periodic table, etc. Because I teach in a Catholic School, I have even created Scoot cards that incorporate aspects of our faith: All Saints' Day, Stations of the Cross, St. Lucy, St. Patrick, and MANY more.

ZAP games are without a doubt my students' favorite activity!

High paced and engaging, I have used ZAP (originally called BOOM or KABOOM) in my classroom for over 35 years. Such a simple game to assemble and institute, you simply include skill items on slips of paper, along with a few ZAP slips, place them in a container and have students pull the slips and answer the question/problem...and the FUN begins when the first ZAP slip is drawn! Read more about how to play this awesome game HERE.

I've made and used ZAP games for nearly every skill I've ever presented to my classes as well, and have even incorporated religious themes in them, too. Deb Hanson from Crafting Connections affectionately dubbed me "The Queen of ZAP" after I introduced her to this fun, engaging game.

It's no mystery that Mystery Pictures take the sting out of humdrum skill practice!

What's a mystery picture you ask? It's a color by skill activity. Given a grid of words and a color key, students determine the type of word in each box of the grid, color it its corresponding color, and reveal a hidden picture as they work.

The mystery pictures that I design and publish all deal with ELA skills, particularly identifying parts of speech. My students no longer mumble or grumble when they have to identify types of nouns, or distinguish between adjectives or adverbs. Mystery pictures have taken the sting out of boring worksheet drills.

Don't these three teaching tools all sound FUN for your students? And you? Perhaps they may sound like something you can't live without either, especially if you teach ELA to middle grades students???

You can snag ALL of the items pictured in this post as a bundle of Back to School ELA items. Included in the bundle are THREE ZAP games, TWO Mystery Pictures, and ONE Scoot game for a total of SIX items. Normally priced at ten dollars, you can grab the bundle at a significantly reduced price. Just click HERE to download the complete bundle now.

OR enter this Rafflecopter giveaway for a TEN DOLLAR Teachers Pay Teachers gift certificate. You may be the lucky person who wins. Then you can purchase this bundle on Monday, August 22nd and save even more by using your gift card just in time for Back to School!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

In the market for more Back to School items? Hope on over to XClass to the Rescue. There is a wonderful linky party going on that is featuring Back to School teaching products.

August 19, 2016

Five for Friday

I am sneaking this post, I am actually in an inservice, one about technology. Everyone is required to have a laptop for a hands-on training...and we all know what happens when thirty different laptops start to log on to an online grading program. I am raring and ready to go but the other twenty-nine aren't YET. Soooooo, it's time for...

First.... I finished my classroom this week. Here is the grand reveal!

Second... I have been having such a great time with the app Face Swap. I posted a few pics earlier, but here are a few more.

Third... My 17 year old fur baby had her wellness exam this past week. This is Daisy's happy face as we are getting ready to go home. She passed her test with flying colors, yay! The vet assures me that I should enjoy her for many years to come.

Fourth... This is the BIG WEEK BEFORE THE FIRST WEEK so I've been busily getting notebooks, posters, punch cards, and brag tags ready to go. I just finished up my starter set of tags and got them assembled (with a little help). I just LOVE using brag tags with my older kids. They are a fun, inexpensive reward system. Mine are chiefly used as a homework incentive system. Students do their homework on time and receive fun little tags to collect, showing their accomplisnment. When they collect enough tags they will earn a no homework coupon... GOLD for my kiddos!

Fifth... I had something happen to me that has NEVER, EVER happened before. I live near a long stretch of highway, Ohio Rt. 11. It is rather desolate, exits lead to long distances to small cities or towns. While it does pass near a few larger communities, it is safe to say there is no reason to ever be caught in a traffic jam on this road. However, coming home from a long, first day back inservice that was held 60 miles away, I ran into this. For a moment, this The Walking Dead fan thought she was caught in the zombie apocalypse retreat. I have no idea what caused this jam or why it took me and hundreds of others more than 20 minutes to crawl less than one-half mile... not a nice thing to have happen on that first teacher day!

Something really nice to have happen, though, is being able to link up with Kacey over at Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five for Friday. Be sure to visit her blog and read all the fun weekly postings from teachers around the blogging world.

August 18, 2016

First Read Aloud of the New School Year

Every once in a while a book comes along that is just...

RIGHT...right for the first read aloud book of the new school year for my incoming fifth grade ELA class!

Reading Is for Idjits
by W.W. Rowe
illustrations by Charles Filius
Charwood Publications

Humorous events, engaging text, likeable (if not silly) characters, and colorful, delightful illustrations abound in this quick read recommended for ages 6-12. But there's even more to this tale, something teachers treasure... a terrific lesson: Reading well is important!
Martin and Morton are identical twins! They had the same scruffy dark hair. The same beady eyes. The same pointed nose. Which one is which?  
"Smarty Marty" loves to read. "Morton the Moron" hates it. "Reading is for idjits!" he declares. But Morton's faulty reading gets him into BIG trouble. His entire world falls apart!
After a series of humorous disasters, Morton finally learns to read. He even saves the day with his new skill!...

Teachers always try to impress upon their students the importance of reading, especially reading well. Our learning standards focus on deepening student understanding of text, interacting with text in meaningful ways, and increasing text comprehension, in other words being able to read well. Reading Is for Idjits imparts this message in a fun, engaging way that students won't realize they are being taught such a valuable lesson.

Perfect as a read aloud (the humorous story begs to be shared), this book could be used as the initial text presented to a class and serve as a mentor text for skills such as theme, characterization, and word choice. The strategies of making predictions and connections can be practiced as the story unfolds while the literary skill of mapping a plot line (including conflict) could be introduced to young readers or reinforced with older readers.

I can NOT wait to share this title with my newest students and use it to begin our learning this year!

To read more about this title or similar titles, please visit Charwood Publications.
To purchase your own copy (available in paperback or Kindle) of Reading Is for Idjits, click HERE.

I'm once again linking up with Andrea from This Literacy Life for her Book Talk Thursday linky. Be sure to stop by to discover new titles to share with your students or to add a title or two of your own!

August 16, 2016

August Show and Tell Tuesday

By the time this post is published I will already be officially starting my first day of the 2016-2017 school year... no kiddos yet, just a day of meetings and inservice. Still, summer is over...sigh! But our fun monthly linky is only beginning!

And so I found THIS when I visited my classroom for the first time last week! Such a beautiful sight! While I was getting my bearings, the techies began setting everything up! OH YEAH! I am so excited to have computers back in my classroom. I have had anywhere from three to eight computers typically in my classroom. When I changed rooms last year, I left five computers behind (they were a bit outdated, as in still running Windows XP). I went without student available computers all year, so you see why this teacher is just a tad bit over the moon! 
I hope to reveal m y classroom later in the week when you will see these babies all reved up and ready to go!

We have had such warm, muggy weather this summer. It's almost as if NE Ohio has become Florida (now if only the winter would be like Florida). With all the summery weather we have had the most beautiful skies! This pic was taken just before sunset last week. The photo does only small justice to the actual view. While that pink is quite bright, it was ten times more intense in person... just breath-taking!

And then the next evening ...THIS! 
What a storm that moved SOOOOOO fast! 
If you look at around the seven-eight o'clock position you can see a bright spot and the edge of the storm front. The sky had been bright blue NACITS (not a cloud in the sky). Within three minutes all that was left of it was that small spot.

The day after the storm dawned bright and clear once again. However, if you look in the far, far distance you can see faint storm clouds forming. Another terrible storm was on its way!
Look who was seeking shelter before the bad weather hit. 
This flock of Canadian geese blocked traffic both ways on US 20 while they waddled home. Took them ten minutes to finally clear the road. Luckily this was very early in the morning before most traffic was out and about.

I am adding some bonus pics this month. Have you worked with the Android app Face Swap? Oh my! I am not one for selfies. In fact, prior to finding this app I had only taken two selfies in the three years that I've had a smartphone. I am LOVIN' the chuckles, guffaws, and smart remarks being generated by my family and friends over the selfies I've been creating. TOO MUCH FUN!
I'm planning on having some fun with Face Swap and my sixers this year as well. 
The potential for creative stories is limitless!!!

The only drawback to the Face Swap app is the numbered watermark in the lower righthand corner of each photo. I'm sure if I chose to purchase the app rather than use the free version that number would disappear.

Something for which I promise there are no drawbacks is for you to hop on over to Forever in 5th Grade and visit the other bloggers posting for Show and Tell Tuesday. Better yet, why not add a Show and Tell post of your own.

August 11, 2016

March of the Suffragettes

With the advent of the Common Core State Standards there has been a heavier emphasis on nonfiction literature in the classroom. Examining the ELA cadre of standards finds a complete section devoted to informational literature alone. As a result, I have been on the lookout for engaging nonfiction titles to use with my middle school students.

The March of the Suffragettes: Rosalie Gardiner Jones and the March for Voting Rights by Zachary Michael Jack, set for publication on September 27, 2016, by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Children's Book Group caught my attention due to its timely content (US Presidential election).
March of the Suffragettes tells the forgotten, real-life story of “General” Rosalie Gardiner Jones, who in the waning days of 1912 mustered and marched an all-women army nearly 175 miles to help win support for votes for women. General Jones, along with her good friends and accomplices “Colonel” Ida Craft, “Surgeon General” Lavinia Dock, and “War Correspondent” Jessie Hardy Stubbs, led marchers across New York state for their pilgrims’ cause, encountering not just wind, fog, sleet, snow, mud, and ice along their unpaved way, but also hecklers, escaped convicts, scandal-plagued industrialists on the lam, and jealous boyfriends and overprotective mothers hoping to convince the suffragettes to abandon their dangerous project. By night Rosalie’s army met and mingled with the rich and famous, attending glamorous balls in beautiful dresses to deliver fiery speeches; by day they fought blisters and bone-chilling cold, debated bitter Anti-suffragists, and dodged wayward bullets and pyrotechnics meant to intimidate them. They composed and sang their own marching songs for sisterhood and solidarity on their route, even as differences among them threatened to tear them apart. 
March of the Suffragettes chronicles the journey of four friends across dangerous terrain in support of a timeless cause, and it offers a hopeful reminder that social change is achieved one difficult, dauntless, daring step at a

Normally, I do not LIKE to read nonfiction. With March of the Suffragettes I had to change my mind. Surprisingly, I did like reading this nonfiction selection!

First there is just the right mix of narrative and informational text. This book reads more like a story than expository material. Second March of the Suffragettes introduced a new character to my knowledge of the struggle to gain the right for women to vote, Rosalie Gardiner Jones. Lesser known than Elizabeth Stanton or Susan B. Anthony, she is nonetheless just as instrumental in gaining the passage of the 19th amendment. Third, the book includes more than just material about suffrage. Tidbits about fashion, music, and food as well as other noteworthy historical events (the sinking of the Titanic) are included that makes the action and era come alive for the reader, especially for young female readers, an audience that often eschews nonfiction.

Finally, I judge a book by it usefulness in my classroom. March of the Suffragettes could be a great nonfiction read aloud, appealing to both boys and girls; it could be implemented as part of a reading club or literature circle, by virtue of its challenging content; or it could be studied as a class text in both language arts or social studies. Because of its textual content and genre it meets many of the Common Core Standards for teaching Informational Text, among them analyzing text to determine structure and comparing narrative with expository material.

All of these qualities leads to a perfect text to use in a middle grades classroom as well as a great read!

To order your copy, click HERE.

I'm linking up with This Literacy Life for her Book Talk Thursday linky. Hop on over to check out great titles for use in your classroom.

August 8, 2016

Monday Made It

I've been busily working at preparing all those things that are needed in a classroom each year: signs, bulletin board elements, instructional materials, classroom management pieces, etc.

so I think it's time to join Tara over at 4th Grade Frolics for...

I am launching a new theme this year... SCRABBLE! The colors (brown, black, and the primaries) are more in keeping with the classroom I moved into last year. One of the first things that I made was a cursive alphabet pennant banner. Also in this line are a welcome banner and brag tag starter set.

Speaking of brag tags... I've been working on several new sets (a growing bundle of glittery emojis) and one set that I started two years ago, used in my own classes, yet never uploaded to my TpT Store (spelling tags for the entire school year). Here you see my assistants providing suggestions as I create my emoji tags.

I printed out all my tags and signs and ran them through the laminator, while binging on "Penny Dreadful" on Netflix.

Here is the next step in my Made It saga... cutting out EVERYTHING!

The final Made It this week is the punch cards that I use in conjunction with all those brag tags. Punch cards are the means for tracking the targeted behaviors I observe and reward. In this case, homework. For each homework assignment that is competed on time, a student receives a punch on his/her card. Every five punches, a student earns a brag tag, and when the entire card has been punched, a student earns a no homework coupon. My kiddos LOVE no homework!

Be sure to hop over to this week's Monday Made It to see all the terrific things that teacher bloggers have made. I know you'll find something there that you'll just have to make, too!

And if you're reading this and it's still Monday, hop on over to TpT to check out all the #mondaymadness deals being offered. Just search using #mondaymadness to find loads of great deals. Teacher sellers mark down favorite teaching items to one dollar for this day only. If you visit my store, you can pick up FOUR sets of brag tags suitable for bigger kids for just one dollar each. Hurry though, #mondaymadness last only for today, Monday!

August 4, 2016

Book Talk Thursday: Toto's Tale by Sylvia Patience

One of the most distinctive memories I have from my childhood is that of a just three-year old sitting in her miniature rocking chair watching "The Wonderful Wizard of OZ" on a small black and white television set. My favorite part of the movie was Toto, the little black dog. I remember clapping and laughing for and at him until the flying monkeys snatched him away. I started screaming and crying so much that I never was able to finish watching the movie... until next year.

I looked forward to viewing this movie each year (this is in the days before recording devices and streaming films). Sometimes the wait seemed unbearable. As I got older and visited the public library, I soon discovered a series of Wizard of Oz books by author L.Frank Baum. The complete saga was so much more than what was revealed via the movie.

And now fifty-five years later I discover that there is even more to the tale as it is now told through the eyes of my favorite character!

Toto's Tale and the True Chronicle of Oz
by Sylvia Patience
Independent Book Publishers Association
The Wonderful Wizard of Oz was written in 1900 by L. Frank Baum. Many other Oz books followed, as well as the famous 1939 movie. Not until now, however, does Toto tell the story, as he remembers it. In Toto’s Tale, we read his version of the beloved adventures. Toto tells how he first found Dorothy when she arrived in Kansas on an orphan train and how they were both adopted by Aunt Em and Uncle Henry. In the end, he says, the silver shoes (not ruby slippers as in the movie) weren’t lost in the desert, but put to good
Normally, I steer clear of retellings, new versions, or knock-off stories. They just never satisfy as the original. However, something made me check-out Toto's Tale. Perhaps it was a fond childhood memory of Dorothy's cute companion. Whatever it was, I'm thoroughly delighted that I did. The spunky, once orphaned, critter tells the familiar story of Dorothy, the scarecrow, tin man, and lion with just the right mixture of the familiar (movie script) with fresh material.

The yellow brick road carries our travelers throughout the land of Oz. While we meet the familiar Munchkins we are also introduced to the Winkies. Instead of familiar ruby slippers Dorothy is gifted with silver shoes that still magically help her return home. The Wizard is indeed terrible to behold, but he appears differently to different subjects. The Emerald City is green but only through the use of special glasses. The travelers seek the typical gifts from the wizard: a return trip home, a heart, a brain, and courage. It's Toto's turn to seek a gift. Toto just wants to talk like all the animals in Oz.

While predictable due to familiarity there is just enough new to keep the plotline interesting for older readers and exciting enough for younger readers. This feature also makes it a wonderful book to use in a 5/6th grade classroom. Current ELA standards require teachers to involve students in comparing/contrasting written texts with visual media. It would be difficult, I think, to find a student this age who has not seen the classic film. With Patience's addition of material regarding the Orphan Trains and the precursor events leading up to the era of the Dust Bowl, this tale would do well in comparing/contrasting informational and literary texts.

Toto's Tale is charming, exciting, inviting, humorous, predictable, and fresh... a recipe for a terrific read that might open the door to Baum's original series for young readers.

If you, like I, are a fan of The Wizard of Oz (movie or book series) you'll want to read this delightful little tale! You can grab your own copy HERE.

I'm adding Toto's Tale to Book Talk Thursday over at This Literacy Life. Be sure to check out other titles featured there.

August 3, 2016

August Pinterest Pick 3

Welcome to August's Pinterest Pick 3! 
This month's linky is featuring Back-to-School pins.

Up first is a pin for some terrific bulletin boards to start your school year off. I really like the one that is shown as the cover of the pin. Besides being so simple to create and assemble, it's eye-catching!

Those who know me know that I love technology. My friends have nicknamed me the "Gadget Trash Queen." As a result, I am always seeking new projects for my kiddos that incorporate technology. There are some fun, yet so simple, classroom technology project ideas tucked away under this pin. 

One of my favorite activities of all time to engage my students is task cards! In fact, I've got several sets ready to go as back-to-school skill reviews for my sixth and seventh grade ELA students.  There are so many things that you can do with them from games to assessment. Under this pin is a great list of suggestions.