Monday, September 28, 2015

FREE eBook of Tips and Tricks for Teachers

October is my favorite month for teaching. The procedures and routines should be starting to stick, you have had a chance to get to know your students and develop a community, behaviors are getting under control and you have a pretty good grasp on where they are at academically and where you need to take them. It’s time to roll up your sleeves and get busy. 

There are so many ways to integrate fun into the learning in October. The students are so motivated by all things Halloween which makes your job easier. Even if you are not allowed to mention the H-word, you can still capitalize on their excitement with activities that are thematic to fall and make you think Halloween without saying it.  

This week I’ll be blogging about my favorite classroom activities that I used annually to make learning fun in the month of October. To kick things off I’m thrilled to share with you a FREE eBook chock full of Tricks and Treats for Teachers.
A Free eBook containing tips and printables for 3rd, 4th, and 5th Grade Teachers

The eBook was a collaborative project put together by the team from Upper Elementary Snapshots: A Blog for Grades 3-5. The “tricks” are tried and true tips we have used in our own classrooms over the years and the “treats” are FREE printables for you to use with your students.

We are looking forward to working together to bring you more free resources and ideas in the future so be sure to follow The Upper Elementary Snapshots store and blog

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Tips for Using Writing Prompts as Inspiration During Writer's Workshop {FREE Writing Journal Covers}

I was so tired of hearing a collective groan from my students when it was time for writing. I taught the skills for narrative, creative, opinion / persuasive and informative pieces, but they weren’t always eager to practice those skills in their writer’s notebooks. The problem for many was getting started and coming up with quality topics and ideas to write about.  

This blog post will give you a link to some free printables and explain how I managed to… 
  • replace the chorus of groans with loud cheers and excitement about writing
  • solve the problem of what to do with early finishers
  • easily document their progress as writers over the course of the school year
Back in the day I used to have my students do journal writing, but found that many struggled with coming up a topic. Most kids would write the same genre of story in their journals (often starting with “Last night…”) over and over.  I decided to do something a wee bit more structured.

Each year we began by making a personalized Writer’s Notebook (inspired by the About Me collage in the book, Judy Moody) and collecting ideas in a Writer’s Idea Bank to use throughout the year when journaling. They always had the option of selecting a topic of their own, but the idea bank was a great help for those friends who “didn’t know what to write about.” However, the problem I observed was many kids still really struggled getting started. 

Once they had that initial sentence on paper they were off and running. 

That’s why I created a writing center with writing prompt task cards. The first set I made was for the month of October to capitalize on their love of all things Halloween and the intrinsic motivation it brings. The writing center included task cards with prompts and a collection of thematic paper for them to write on. They LOVED it and were more enthusiastic about writing than I’ve ever seen. It was such a hit that I made them for November and December and the other months in the school year as well.  

Last year I encouraged my class to set goals for reading and writing different genres instead of sticking to a favorite. To help them keep on track I decided to try something new. I made posters for each month to display with the task cards. The posters listed all the prompts found on the individual cards. I printed a copy of each poster from the different genres, added a cover, printed 15-20 copies of the thematic monthly writing pages (which were differentiated with different types of lines for students with varying abilities) and stapled them into monthly journals.

{Click to access and download the FREE Monthly Journal Covers}
The students used these when they completed their assigned writing projects during our writing block and when they were done with assignments in other areas as well. As part of our morning routine, they had the choice of writing in these booklets, reading a book of choice and working on their interactive bookmarks or completing unfinished work.

When writing in these monthly journals I asked that they rotate the genres from which they selected prompts so they would practice the different types of writing after the unit was formally taught. They were required to do their best work and implement the grammar skills from our monthly spiral review work, but I didn’t go through each booklet and edit every single entry. Instead, I used them as an informal assessment and based my mini-lessons and small group instruction on the needs I saw from their writing. For peer feedback they often shared their writing verbally with partners and the class. Every student would pick one entry each month to take through the writing process and publish. 

These booklets, in conjunction with the  published pieces, and our seasonal writing projects provided a wonderful way to document their growth throughout the year. 

I highly suggest you create monthly writing journals to use with your students. Each of my monthly packets includes writing prompt task cards, differentiated thematic writing paper, and the mini-posters I used to make the monthly booklets. They are available by the month or in a yearlong bundle.

I have created a collection of FREE printable monthly thematic journal covers that can be used with or without my prompt packets. 

They’re great for keeping a neat and organized record of your students’ progress for parent teacher conferences and look great when displayed at open house.

Please feel free to share this free product with any teacher or homeschool family that you think will enjoy them!

{Click to access and download the FREE Monthly Journal Covers}
What is your favorite genre of writing to teach?

Monday, September 14, 2015

Spelling Activities for Any Word List: EDITABLE {Makeover Monday Product Updates}

This week's featured remodel is the: 
Spelling Activities to Use with Any Word List

It is always challenging to meet the varied needs of the learners in your classroom. Ideally you want your students to be working on the same activity, but you understand that each learner has different needs and abilities. 

These printable activity pages and center signs allow you to easily provide your students with modified assignments without making it obvious that they are working at different levels. Each student may complete each activity using a spelling list specific to him or her.

If you already purchased this product please redownload it to access the free updates. If you haven't purchased it previously you may be interested in grabbing it now while it is temporarily on sale in honor of it being featured as a Makeover Monday Product of the Week.

I gave this one a complete makeover. 

  • It is NOW EDITABLE {differentiate and modify for your students by adding your own word lists and directions}.
  • It now includes Full Color, Partial Color, and Ink-Saving Blackline Options.
  • EVERY page has been recreated with updated fonts and clipart.

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Save Time and Money With a Personal Laminator {Deals for Teachers, Classroom Organization}

I have blogged about my personal laminator a few times because I am often asked if I can recommend a brand. I also like to share when I see it is marked down. I'm mentioning it today because there is currently a great deal available for the 8.5 x 11 inch thermal pouches.

I have now owned and LOVED the Scotch Thermal Laminator for several years and it is still working just as great as the day I bought it.

And it has seen  A LOT of use!

I initially hesitated to buy a personal laminator because the school had one, but we didn't have access to it.  If we wanted to make something shiny and durable we needed to be granted permission to do so and then wait for the authorized laminating individual to run it through the machine. Let's be honest, when we print off a new math game or task cards or center and are excited to use them, the last thing we want to do is wait three days until they can be sneezed on and wiped clean. ;)

The laminator is super light so it's easy to bring to and from school. I ultimately bought a second one so I wouldn't need to bring it back and forth and I always stock up on laminating pouches whenever they are on sale. The ones listed above are currently discounted with free Prime shipping so I thought they were worth sharing.

I found that having my own laminator and buying pouches when they are on sale actually saved me money and certainly saved me time. In addition to the laminator making my resources more durable, the kids always took more care when using them because they felt much fancier. I loved not needing to reprint color cards, small charts and games each year because they stood up to even the most fidgety hands.

You may also be interested in my recent blog post that showcased the love I have for The Best Electric Pencil Sharpener for the Classroom.

And in case you are arrived safely and has been rocking my world as I hoped. ;)

Please Note: This is NOT a paid/sponsored post, but does include affiliate links. I only recommend teacher tools I use myself and thoroughly find to be useful. I was in no way compensated by either company for my endorsement of these products.

Teacher Recharge Challenge Week 7 {Time Saving Tips for Teachers, Reduce Stress, Get Organized, Prepare for the New Year}

The focus of this site is to help teachers organize and manage their classrooms. Taking some time during the school vacation to get organized at home can greatly reduce your stress level and make your school days much more relaxed. This series contains "challenges" you can do that will become teacher time savers during the school year.

Challenge #7: Create an Teacher Emergency Kit to Leave at School

When you are in a stressful situation (getting ready to present at open house, welcoming parents to conferences, speaking at a meeting) you do not want to worry about a run in your tights, bad breath or a headache on top of everything else. As teachers things like broken nails or lunch forgotten on the kitchen counter at home can’t slow us down. Therefore, having an “emergency kit” in your classroom desk or closet is essential. 

This week’s Teacher Recharge Challenge is to gather a collection of items to bring to school that will help you in case of emergency...admittedly, a chocolate craving doesn’t warrant a call to 9-1-1, but it certainly will make life better for all parties involved if there is a Hershey Bar available.

  • aspirin
  • feminine products
  • deodorant
  • nail file / nail clippers
  • hair elastics/bobby pins
  • a change of clothes
  • a hairbrush
  • a toothbrush/toothpaste
  • chocolate
  • a can of soup, bowl, spoon and can opener
  • a few non-perishable snack items
  • a bottle of water
  • tissues
  • stain remover
  • a pair of tights/nylons 
  • lint roller
  • change for the vending machine
  • cough drops
  • chapstick
  • safety pin
If you are including aspirin or any other type of medicine be sure to store you container in an area that is not accessible to children.

If you are including food ideas you will want to invest in a container that is "critter proof."

Feel free to post pictures on social media as you complete the challenges. Use #CFCRechargeChallenge. Do you have any other ideas for things to include in a teacher emergency kit? Add them in the comments below.

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