Monday Made-it Gone Wild!

Only two more Monday Made Its before school starts, and I've been busy!  I'm linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics to show you all the things I've made for my classroom.


 I bought a Lightbox at the beginning of the summer, and I've been in love ever since!  Yesterday I finally uploaded my Lightbox Letters to my TpT store (it's on sale for the next 24 hours!).  I'm still playing around with the other designs, so they're not in my store yet.


I've had this rolling cart in my room for years.  Since I no longer have primary colors in my room theme, I decided to give it a new look.  I think it turned out great (other than the fact that the drawers stick!).

This desk belonged to my grandfather, and I used to play school with it when I was little.  It's been up in my attic for years, so I decided to clean it up to take to my classroom.  I think I'm going to use it as a VIP desk.  I know the kids will get a kick out of its old school style!  

I bought two of these cushions at Hobby Lobby for my classroom.  Unfortunately, they didn't even last a year before my students destroyed them.  Instead of throwing them away I decided to duct tape them!  Four rolls of duct tape later and I think they're somewhat indestructible and kind of pretty!

 I love my Silhouette Cameo and use it to make lots of things for my classroom.  I decided to try working with heat transfer vinyl since  teacher t-shirts are one of my favorite things.  It took me several tries to cut and peel the letters, but I'm pleased with how my first shirt turned out!!

If you've ever visited my TpT store, you know I have an obsession with jars.  I started using them for workstations ten years ago when I taught 1st grade.  They're portable, easy to manage, and fun!  Since I'm now teaching a 3rd/4th self-contained high ability classroom, I decided to make a jar for project based learning.  My Project Jar has 40 project cards for any topic.  I can't wait for my students to use it this school year!

I like to have lots of fun and quick activities for students to do during the first week of school.  This getting to know you All About Me iPad lets students tell all about themselves using iPad icons.  Students can be as creative as they want with their drawings and choose from the 12 icons included or make their own.

I still have a few more Made Its for next week along with my classroom reveal!  Head over to 4th Grade Frolics to check out all the other Monday Made Its!!

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!  

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.

How do you review the eight parts of speech?

This school year I've really been enforcing parts of speech in my 3rd/4th grade high ability classroom.   At this point in the school year students have learned all eight parts of speech, and we are now in the review mode.  We review parts of speech two different ways.  Every Friday I give my students a sentence quiz where they must label the part of speech under each word.  On most other days, students have fun ways that they can review parts of speech during stations or as an early finishers activity.  I made an Eight Parts of Speech Jar for daily review.
There are several different ways that students can do this activity. 
Individually or with a partner:
Students choose a card from the jar and place it in the correct part of speech column.  They must agree with each other before the card can be placed.

Small group or partners:
Students sit in a circle.  One student chooses a card from the jar, reads the word, and names the part of speech.  The other students agree or disagree.  If the student is correct, he/she keeps the card.  If he/she is incorrect, the card goes back in the jar and the jar is passed to the next student in the circle.  To make this activity more challenging, I have students give proof that their answer is correct or use their word in a sentence.

This activity can be differentiated by allowing students to use an iPad to check their answers.

I knew that all of our hard work was paying off the other day when we were trying to figure out the definition of an unknown word in guided reading.  One student said that the word had to be a noun because it followed a preposition and every prepositional phrase ends with a noun!

If you would like to take a closer look at my Eight Parts of Speech Jar, you can find it in my Teachers Pay Teachers store.