Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Classroom Economy: Day One

One of my most favorite things I do to manage my class is my classroom economy.  It is something that gets instant buy in from my students and allows me a chance to teach many different standards, all while keeping the students focused on their learning tasks at hand.  I have written about it several times here on the blog, but I wanted to share with you how I set it up the first few days of school.

Day One:

On the first day of school, I start my math block by explaining that in this class, things will run sort of like how they do in the real world.  We will be conducting a classroom economy.  What that means is that everything you do in class will either earn you classroom money or cost you classroom money. 

This is where the kids usually start to look at each other and squirm around in excitement.

I then hand out the check register to the students, which is attached to a postcard with all of the classroom fines, expenses, and earnings.

We look at the back together, focusing at first on the earnings.  I let them know that they have already earned their first dollar in class.  Since they came to school on time (everyone comes to school on time the first day ;)), they will get $1.00. 

Again, kids look at each other...but usually there is cheering at this point.

I then show them how to enter this into the register.  Since this is a credit into their "bank", they add it to their total.  They now have $1.  Click here to grab the check register page.  

It is here where I pull out the wallets.  I tell them that they MUST have a wallet in class.  We can't have money just hanging around willy-nilly in their pencil boxes.  But wallets don't come for free.  They happen to cost $1.  So I hand the kids the wallets while they hand me $1.  We then record the debit into the register.  Their balance is now $0.

I like to use the Lakeshore pencil cases as wallets because the kids can then decorate them.  If you want, a plain old white envelope will do.  I also like the recipe holders from the Target Dollar Spot. 

That just about does it for the first day.  The kids get pumped about it and learn a bit of the vocabulary they will be using as the year goes on.  They also have learned how to balance and keep up with their check register.

OK...that is enough for now.  I will be back tomorrow to tell you about Day Two of introducing the economy.  What questions do you have for me now that I can try and answer in my next post?

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Starting the Year Off Right: Communicating with Parents

OK...this is a long one.  But it is worthwhile if you make it to the end :)  

Communicating with parents is one of the hardest (if not THE hardest) aspect of our job. Each and every day, the light of someone's entire world walks into our classroom doors.  It is only natural that we keep them informed of what is going on in our room and with their child.

With that being said, it is something that I struggle with each year. Keeping 30+ students’ parents informed of the goings on in class is challenging to say the least. But there are some things that I have done to at least try to keep the lines of communication open. Here are a few ideas for you that I use in my classroom.

Communication Magnets
On the first day of school, I send home a packet of information about my classroom. In that packet is a magnet with my name, room number, school phone, classroom website, and my email address. This magnet has a little letter accompanying it asking the parents to place this on the refrigerator for the entire year. Even if it is just to remember my name, the magnet helps the parents to feel comfortable contacting me. I made my magnet using the business card sized magnets you can buy at your local office supply store and my computer. It was fairly simple to create, yet has a tremendous impact on my year.

Welcome Packet
As I mentioned above, I also send home a welcome packet with all of the information that the parents could possibly need in order to really understand my classroom.  In this packet, I include a welcome letter, information about my discipline policy (classroom economy actually), a heads up to the daily planner and weekly folders that will go home, permission forms for checking out my library books, a volunteer form, etc...  Basically, everything that they will need to feel confident and comfortable as a parent in my room.  Here are the letters that I send home.  They are editable (in Word) for you to customize to your own classroom.

Weekly Reports
This is a Spanish sample (that I made up, for privacy reasons)
The most effective way I have found to keep the parents informed is by sending out a Weekly Report. I have created a form, which I use each and every week in my class, that is basically a “check and circle” type of form. I note the behavior, academic progress, and any areas of need each week and send it home. Even in my classes of 36 students, I was able to get these done and sent home. The parents become accustomed to looking for it, and the students become accustomed to getting it signed and discussed with their parents. The best part of it is that I NEVER have a parent who is “surprised” come report card time. The Weekly Report basically keeps them in the know of all things regarding their child.  You can get the Weekly Report form I created {free} here.

Tell Me About Your Child
One of the most effective ways I have found to get to know my students better is by enlisting the help of their parents. At Back to School Night I place a little brainstorm bubble on the desks of the students. As the parents sit there, I ask them to fill it in with anything they wish me to know about their child. This truly has opened my eyes about the little learners sitting in my classroom. But a side effect is that the parents then know that I care about their child as a CHILD. It helps to put them at ease when the person who represents their entire world is sitting in my classroom for ¼ of the day. They are then more apt to work with me because I showed I cared.  Here is the {free} document that I use for this. 

So there you have it…four simple ways that I have used to try and keep the flow of communication between the parents and myself going throughout the year. What have you done in your room that has been effective?

Now that you have some great Parent Communication Tips, I want to help you to replicate some of the ideas in your own classroom.  I am giving away a $25 ecard to Staples, so you can buy the magnets, paper, and ink, and a $25 ecard to TpT so you can buy the Welcome Back Packet (and some others too...as that is only $5!)  All you have to do is enter the Rafflecopter below.  I will draw a name August 2.  

What is extra special though is that by entering my giveaway, you also enter yourself into a Collaborative Giveaway to win a pack worth nearly $300 worth of other TpT goodies from some of the best Upper Elementary sellers out there.  Yes, you read that right, $300!!!!! (including my Welcome Back Letters and my Back to School Goal Setting pack)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Do you want even more chances to win more great giftcards???   Follow the links below and they will take you to MORE great ideas for your classroom, MORE great giveaways, and MORE great chances to win!!!

Giveaway Rules:

This giveaway is open to classroom teachers grades 2-6.
Two names will be drawn from Teaching in Room 6.  One winner will get the two $25 ecards and another name will be put into the Collaborative Giveaway drawing (which will then be randomly selected from all blogs)
Giveaway ends August 2, 2014.
Winners will be announced here and notified by email. 
An InLinkz Link-up

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Bright Ideas: Student Supply Bags

On the first day of school, I like to have all of the students' supplies (ie: pencils, pens, erasers, etc...) ready for them so that I know they have the tools they need to function on the first day of school.  So, since I was getting things prepped for the first day of school anyway, I thought I would share this very simple Bright Idea with you!
Such a simple way to distribute school supplies to the students AND to make sure they stay organized.
Starting day one, each student entering my room is assigned a number (based on alphabetical order of last names.)  This helps with organizing everything from where they stand in line to knowing which papers have been turned in.  Another thing it helps with is knowing which supplies belong to which student.  

Now I don't know about you, but due to budgets, I know that many of my students won't come to school on the first day (or any day after that) with the supplies they need to be an active and productive student in my room.  So I go out and purchase those supplies myself.  I want to make sure that they get to the student in the most effective manner possible, so here is what I do.  Before the first day of school, I make sure that I label all of the pencils, pens, rulers, sharpeners, etc...that I give the students with their classroom number. 

I use little labels, write the number on them, then stick the label onto the school supply.  All of the supplies then go into a gallon sized ziploc and they are ready to go for day one!  Then, once students enter the room, I can hand them the bag that corresponds to their student number and they have everything they need to have a productive year as a student in my classroom.  At least supply-wise!

Doing this serves two purposes.  First, it helps to cut back on the time it takes to pass out supplies to the students.  They all get a bag and it is over.  Secondly, it starts the students on the path of using their number on everything.  I mean, they see the number 8 times as it is on all of the things I gave them!  :) 

 So there you have it.  A VERY simple and easy way to get the year started off right, fast, and organized.  How do you handle first day supplies?

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Circles INSIDE of Circles

Nothing terribly life changing today, but I wanted to share with you a little tidbit that I have been doing to make circles for some classroom signs.

Now, you are probably thinking, "WHAT?  I know how to make circles!  This girl is crazy trying to show me."  I would probably think the same thing.  But seriously, I discovered how to put circles INSIDE of circles to make some fun looking borders that will look awesome on a bulletin board.

So here is what you do.

1.  Open Power Point and select the Shapes tool.

2.  Select a circle and open that up onto your document.  Make the outline black and have "no fill".

3.  Then play around with the outline.  To do this, you go to the "Format" section on the top and click "Outline".  A little box will come up on the side of the page that looks like this.  Find "Composite Type" and, after you click it, you can choose double lines and everything!  It is really fun!!

Now, here is where I became incredibly proud of myself.  I figured out how to put a circle INSIDE of a circle.  (Do you see above how there is an outer circle that is made of the double line and then an inside dot ring?  I am going to show you how to make that now!)

4.  Follow the same steps as above for the second circle.  This time, though, right click on the second circle and the "Outline" bar will appear.  Go down to "Size and Position".  When you click that, you will be able to make the inside circle EXACTLY the right size (so it isn't lopsided and wonky!!!)  Honestly, that was the best discovery I made all day.  My circles are NEVER the same size when I try to do this, and now, knowing that I can make my outside circle 3" and my inside uniformly 2.8" is a HUGE discovery for me. 
This is the measurement for the INSIDE circle.
5.  Then, you can use the same right click to "Outline" to make the inside circle have a different outline.  I chose to use the "Dashes" and then "Round Dots".  I think it looks fun that way!

6.  Finally, place a text box in the middle of the circles, and you can add a letter.

I have no idea why the top of the E cut off on the picture.  It is there on my computer.  So weird!!
I am going to cut the circles out, using a handy dandy circle cutter, laminate, attach some ribbon, and then have a cute little saying to go on my bulletin board (and when I actually get around to putting it all together, I will take a pic, I promise ;))

Thursday, July 3, 2014

5th Grade Essentials

Every year, as summer reaches its midway point, I sit down and think about what I would like to do the same the next year, what I would like to get rid of, and what I would like to try.  This summer has been no different.

When I sat down and really thought about what programs make my year as a teacher run smoothly, four things popped up into my mind:

5th Grade Spiral Math
Calendar Math
Paragraph of the Week
Essay of the Month

Math Homework
Calendar Math

Essay of the Month
Paragraph of the Week

I can honestly tell you that these year long programs save my sanity.  Each one of them helps me to build eager, excited, motivated, and skilled scholars from my students.  Each one of them makes my day as a teacher fly by.  Each one of them lets me leave the classroom at the end of the day knowing that I did all I could to teach the standards and enable my students to excel.

How do they do that, you ask?

Well, all four of them take these big huge things that I am supposed to teach (hello, writing an essay!!) and breaks it down step by step into manageable chunks.  Kids are constantly practicing paragraph writing.  Kids are always going over those math standards that they just can't seem to master in the one lesson I have to teach it.  Kids are going back to things they never thought they would see again, and practicing, practicing, practicing.

Calendar and the Math Homework keep me on top of the math standards.  I love them for that.  I know that even if I don't get to a math lesson that day (because of pull outs, assemblies, fire drills, whatever) my students are covered for their math skills just because we do Calendar and HW.   They also cover the skills so I can focus on problem solving in class.

Paragraph of the Week and Essay of the Month (known as POTW and EOTM in my room) help my students to build STRUCTURED writing pieces so that in class we can focus on craft.  Knowing how to effectively build a paragraph, and then practicing it, has made my students competent writers who are able to then apply this structure to, say, the standardized tests where they are expected to formulate a complete essay within a given time frame.

These four things have truly revolutionized my classroom.  I am not a stress case about teaching.  I know it will all get done because I have the simple basics covered.

And now I want to help you get it covered too.  I have bundled these four things....all four YEAR LONG programs....into one big bundle, the 5th grade ESSENTIALS pack.  Getting it this way saves you about 20% off the price of all four individually.  Now, I know it is still expensive, but I know that you will find it worth it in the end.   But to help ease the pain just slightly, it is on sale at an even bigger discount!

I am also going to give one pack away.  All you have to do it pin the link from tpt, write on your pin why you would want this pack, and leave the link to the pin in the comments below (with your email address so I can contact you if you win).  Because this is such a big pack, I am going to be checking the pins closely.  I will chose the winner using a random number generator at 8pm PST on July 5, 2014.   Happy pinning and good luck!  (and if you can't wait because you want to get started NOW, it is on sale for you!)