Door hangers for the entire school year

I'm joining Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It!

I just added a fun new product to my Teachers Pay Teachers store!  I made 30 door hangers to for you to hang on your classroom door to greet students, remind students of upcoming events, and let others know where to find your class.  It also includes editable door hangers for you to personalize your own!

You can take a closer look at my door hangers here!  They're on sale for the next 24 hours!
Head over to 4th Grade Frolics to check out the other Monday Made Its!

How do you plan on planning?

Every school year teachers are faced with the same dilemma... What lesson plan book am I going to use this year?  For years I always used the boring plan book that was provided by my school corporation.  The only things I can remember about it were it's pale blue cover and enormous size.  The last few years I have used the Teacher's Lesson Planner from Erin Condren.  I love her lesson planners!
The Teacher's Lesson Planner has everything a teacher needs, and they are so stinkin' cute!  The only deterrent for me is the price.  The planners range from $55-$75.  If I decide to continue with an Erin Condren planner this year, I'm probably going with the geometric circles planner.

A less expensive option than the Erin Condren planner is the Today's Teacher Weekly/Monthly Lesson Planner from Blue Sky.  I was recently asked to review this planner and their Today's Teacher Desk Pad Calendar.  I was thrilled to review the planner and compare it to the planner that I had been using.
 There are so many things about this planner that I love!  I love the bright colors and dot design on the planner.  The cover of the planner also allows you to insert your own cover or photos!  The planner has a clear pocket in the front for miscellaneous papers.  Another feature is the inspirational quote at the top of each month (I love the quote for July!).  It is set up a lot like the Erin Condren planner.  Each day of the week is a different color on the the planning pages.  I like that the weeks are already labeled for you!
 Some other features of the planner are the references pages.  It has a page for class birthdays, weekly activity schedule, yearly holidays, and pages for notes.
This lesson planner provides many of the same features as the Teacher's Lesson Plan at a fraction of the price ($19.99).  It is a definite contender for the upcoming school year!
I love that the planner has a matching desk calendar that can be purchased separately ($14.99).  I hang a monthly calendar in my classroom by the door with upcoming events.  The desk calendar has two holes at the top that allows for hanging.  I also like that it has plastic corner sleeves to keep each page in place.  There is also an inspirational quote at the top of each month!
Another option for planning is online planning from  I haven't used, but my two teammates used it last year and loved it.  It has so many options for planning, and you can re-use lesson plans from one year to the next.  There is a yearly subscription fee of $12.  This is an appetizing option for planning.  The only drawback for me is that I'm old school.  There's just something about having the planner in your hands and at your fingertips.  I worry that I would feel lost without my planner in my bag at the end of each school day!
I'll let you know as the school year draws closer which planner I decided to use.  I would love to hear your thoughts on planning!  

Get a grip... on good handwriting (and a giveaway)!

This year I had a few students with very strange pencil grips.  One student held the pencil between her index finger and middle finger.  She had decent handwriting, but speed was an issue.  Another student held the pencil with all four fingers!  It had no resting place.  She lacked in speed and neatness.  I usually don't have to deal with pencil gripping techniques in fourth grade, so when I was asked to review three pencil grippers from The Pencil Grip, Inc. I was thrilled.  I was sent their Three Step Training Kit which teaches comfort and control with three different grips.

The first step is the Crossover Grip.  The wings of this grip prevent the student's fingers from crossing over.

 Students then transition to The Pinch Grip.  This grip balances structure and freedom.  It keeps the hand and fingers in the proper position but allows more freedom than the Crossover Grip.

The final step to the correct pencil grip is the The Pencil Grip.  This is the #1 grip recommended by therapists.  The ergonomic design allows fingers to fall naturally into place.

The training kit worked wonders for my student that held the pencil with all four fingers.  She quickly transitioned to The Pencil Grip and continued to use it for the remainder of the school year.

If you would like to try the training kit, you can purchase it through The Pencil Grip, Inc. or through Amazon.
I would love to give away a 3 Step Training Kit!  If you would like an opportunity to win a kit, please complete the Rafflecopter below.
a Rafflecopter giveaway

Pens and more pens

Reviewing items that can be used in my classroom is so much fun!  Recently Office Supplies asked me to review various pens from Pilot.  I was thrilled to do so because I knew I could use them in my classroom throughout the day.  My students love to write with pens!  It's almost like they feel like they're getting away with something when they do.  Students write with pen when grading their work or when writing a rough draft and I don't want them to erase.

 The pens I reviewed were Acroball Pro Hybrid Pens, Acroball Ballpoint Pens, Acroball Colors Pens, and the Dr. Grip Frosted Pen (they're so new, they're not even on the site yet!).
 The Dr. Grip Frosted pen is wonderful!  I really liked it because it was comfortable in my hand and the grip allowed me to control my pen strokes easily.  The girls in my class will love this pen!

 The Acroball Pro Hybrid pen is a medium point pen.  I prefer fine point pens, but this one worked well.  It contains a hybrid ink that is smear proof.  The pens come in three different ink colors.

 The Acroball Colors pen is also a medium point pen.  It writes like the Pro Hybrid pen, smooth and comfortable grip.  The pens also came in three different colors.
 The Acroball Ballpoint pen was my favorite!  It has a fine point which writes very smoothly.  I loved they way it felt in my hand.  I was really hoping the ink matched the pen color, but unfortunately all the pens had black ink.

Here is a sample of all four types of pens. You can find other Pilot products, medical supplies, and cleaning supplies on!

Best Avery Labels E.V.E.R.

I was recently asked by Office Supplies to review the Easy Align Avery Self-Laminating ID Labels.   Yes, please!  Avery has managed to combine two of my favorite classroom must haves... labels and laminating!  These are AMAZING!  When the labels first arrived, I was a little confused about the process of designing, printing, and sticking.

No worries!  Avery solved all my problems.  I simply went to and downloaded their design software for my MAC.  I decided to test the labels by making name tags for my daughters' cubbies in our mudroom.  Designing was so simple!  In six easy steps (and less than ten minutes) I had my labels designed, printed and ready to go.

Now to make a list of all the ways that I can use these labels in my classroom!  New labels for my mailboxes are first on my list.
You can find Avery labels, cleaning supplies, medical supplies, and office furniture all at!

Gigantic Fraction Strips... you need these!!!

I started teaching fractions a few weeks ago in math.  Our math series comes with individual fraction strips for students to manipulate.  Unfortunately, these strips break apart and many of the pieces have been lost.  I really wanted a set of gigantic fraction strips without paying a fortune, so I decided to make my own!
I made the fraction strips in four different sizes.  The extra large strips (11 x 17) are used for teaching whole class lessons.  They're perfect for the large white board in front of my whole group area.  The large fractions strips (8.5 x 14) are used on my portable white board easel.  The medium fraction strips (11 x 8.5) are used at the table during my guided math groups.  Finally, the small fractions strips (8.5 x 11) are for students to keep in their math folder.

Once the strips are printed, laminated, and cut, magnetic strips can be placed on the back for use on the white board.

Or strips can be printed, laminated, and cut into fraction pieces.  The great thing is when a piece is lost, simply print it again.  No more missing fraction pieces!!

The fraction strips are available in color and black & white!

I printed the black & white strips from my computer straight to the copier at school.  The small, medium, and large colored strips were printed on my personal printer.  Since the school copier does not print in color, I had the extra large fraction strips made at my local print shop.  The total cost for printing and laminating was under $4.00!
If you would like to take a closer look at my Gigantic Fraction Strips, you can check them out in my Teachers Pay Teachers store!

How to teach students to annotate their reading

One of the reasons I like close reading so much is that it forces encourages students to record their thinking.  When students annotate their reading it gives them a purpose for reading, and it also allows teachers to get an inside look at student thinking.
I started off teaching students to annotate with lots of modeling.  I would model highlighting and annotating by copying pages in our current read aloud (this way students were familiar with the text).  As I read the passages, I would stop, highlight, and annotate my thinking to show students how simple but effective it was.

Each time I modeled I tried to stress the importance on not becoming a "happy highlighter".  Happy highlighters are people who highlight everything they read as important.  I reminded them that highlighting the key parts of a text allows it to stand out.  It also teaching them to be more specific with their thinking.  My happy highlighters were quickly discouraged when they realized that each highlight required an annotation.  
Another way that I eliminated over highlighting was to make close reading cards.  These cards are like task cards for close reading.  Each card has a different purpose.  I would chose a card, and we would decide if it pertained to our text.  If it did, we would think about this task as we reread the text.

 Once I felt students understood the process, I turned them loose during guided reading.  To remind students of best practices, I made close reading toolkits.  Each tool contains five highlighters (yellow, orange, pink, blue, and green), a highlighter color code key, and close reading cards.  Here is an example of a toolkit.

Students know to use different colors of highlighters to show different types of thinking.

Thinking about reading and annotating our thinking has become second nature in my classroom.  I can see a huge difference in group discussions about a text and on their standardized reading test scores!  
If you would like your students to make annotating thinking a part of their daily routine, you can take a closer look at my Close Reading in a Jar or my Close Reading on a Ring in  Teachers Pay Teachers store.