Sunday, July 7, 2013

Blogging in the Classroom with Kidblog

Want an easy way to blog with your students.  Check out  It's great for elementary students - no student email needed! 

Sunday, May 5, 2013

Time and Money: 10 Ways to Make a Teacher Smile Before Winter Break!

Time and Money:
10 Ways to Make a Teacher Smile before Winter Break
By: Jessica Zannini

Over the summer, schools are cleaned, students relax, and teachers start planning for the new school year.  The beginning of the school year is the time to put excitement to work and start making plans to save time and money.  You will be glad you did it on those busy weeks when you need to type weekly plans, grade papers, and inspire learning. 
1. Get to know the standards: Print a copy of your standards and search the textbooks, supply closets, your cabinets, and the media center to find materials that you can get your hands on for free. For those standards that need new materials shop around for the best price or see what you can make.
2. Spending your money right: After searching for materials at the school talk with the secretary and PTA president to see what money the school will provide you for supplies.  Make a list of what you still need.  Use that school money to buy consumable products.  For those items you know you want to keep and use wherever your teaching takes you, use your own money. 
3. Shop around at the beginning of the school year: During tax-free weekends and Back to School sales you can find great deals.  Think through your school year.  Do you need class sets of colored pencils, clipboards, or markers?  It is cheaper now to stock up on paper than to buy more in January. 
4. Make copies now: For those quizzes, notes, etc that you already know you want to put in the hands of your students, go ahead and make them now.  Be sure you know you copy limit for the year.  Maybe you have a friend, family member, or parent volunteer that has access to a copier and can make some of these for you. 
5. Laminate those weekly folders and posters: Anything you know you want to keep – laminate it. Create two folders per student so that you can have fresh ones after the holiday season.  Laminate those store bought and teacher created posters so they will last over the years.  You will appreciate it the following school year when you already have one thing checked off the list.
8. Make a Wish List: Decide on materials you would like to have throughout the year such as tissues, snacks, pencils, and copy paper.  Put the list on your website.  This will eliminate shopping during the school year and help save a few dollars. 
6. Use Parent Volunteers: Create a list of help you will need throughout the school year.  For those parents that can come in during the school day have them make copies, create bulletin boards, be reading and math tutors, or study buddies.  For those parents who work full time and can’t get in the room, have them cut out laminated materials or donate supplies and snacks.  If you ask for help, the parents will come running. 
7. Let Students Choose Their Own Seats: Don’t spend time on a seating chart before you know your students.  You will learn that first day, your talkers, friends, and responsible students.  Let this information guide you in making seating charts in the future.  You may just find that the students will be able to handle this arrangement and you don’t have to make time for rearranging.  This knowledge can also be used for cooperative grouping activities.
9. Create Book Lists: Find great read alouds and have them handy.  Look in your classroom and the school media center.  What books do you already have that match standards and the interest level of your students?  Make a list for those units and standards to pull out when you teach each unit.  The media specialist can pull the books for you or students can use their research skills to find the books and place them at your fingertips.
10. Go Through Those Permanent Records: Look at past scores.  Are there students you could already plan for reviewing and strengthening skills?  Find out how you school district wants the records organized and go ahead and make sure they are accurate and have the right materials.  Some may get disorganized throughout the school year, but you will be glad this is done in May.
Side Bar:  Want to keep them on track?   Research popular songs appropriate for school and make a CD of the songs to have on hand.  Push play anytime you need to motivate the students.  This is also a great discipline tool to get students on task and working at a pace to get you through a busy day. 
Find a way to eliminate road blocks you face in a school year, and there will definitely be more time and money. As one of my former students told me while plopping a peppermint in my hand, “Keep up the good work and there’s more where that came from.”

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Common Core Connection: Using Nonfiction Series In the Classroom

Need ideas on how to teach nonfiction?  Check out Nonfiction Series at:

When You Reach Me: Book Review and Teaching Ideas

When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead is the first book that as soon as I finished the last page, I turned back to page one and started reading it all over again.

It's sixth grade and Miranda is discovering life without her best friend, Sal.  He no longer wants to be her friend and she is faced with the challenge of making new friends, navigating past the laughing man on the street corner alone, and discovering why things must change.

I haven't enjoyed reading a book this much in a while.  When You Reach Me is the kid of book that sticks with you, runs through your mind, and makes you think.  I can't wait to use this book to teach.

For more information check out:

Create a year long unit with this book in mind to meet all of the needs of Common Core standards.  Pairing When You Reach Me with A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L'Engle and several nonfiction texts on New York City, the seventies, and science will meet the needs of all Literature and Information Text standards.  

Why I Teach?!?

There are times (especially when I get my paycheck) that I question "Why do I teach?"  Why did I choose a job that follows me home, wakes me at night, and has me reviewing the day as I shower, dry my hair, and drive to work.

Each and every time I question my choice, I get to school and find the answer, in the "I Got It!" moments, the smiles, and my coworkers.

A few years ago in the middle of independent reading, I had one of my best moments.  It was the first week of school and I was setting up the procedure of independent reading.  When I do this I have all students reading at the same time (later in the year this changes), and as they are reading, I model by reading as well.  One student was having difficulty staying focused and kept talking to his neighbor.  I had corrected him once and on the second occurrence asked him to return to his seat.

He came up to me with something in his hand and held it out for me to take.  I hesitated, not 100% sure what was being placed in my hand, but curiosity won over and I held my hand out for the "gift."  Into my palm dropped a peppermint.  The student smiled up at me and said, "Keep up the good work teaching, and there's more where that came from."

And that is why I teach.  

Using Choice Boards

How do you motivate and meet the needs of all students in assessing Common Core standards?  Choice Boards and Menus are great ways to do both!

Choice Boards and Menus allow for you to design authentic assessments that allow teachers to  differentiate, meet the needs of all learning styles, and motivate students to give their best.

In working on the Choice Boards and Menus below, my students were excited from the moment I handed out the assignments.  The energy in the classroom was amazing.  Once I discussed the choices and allowed them to start, I could see the wheels turning and the results were astounding!

In a world where information literacy is a must, the students showed me that not only had they gained new information, but they were able to USE the information as well.

Tips for Creating Choice Boards and Menus: 
1. Use your top row of choices or your first item on the menu for your easiest options.
2. Check to be sure that each column or menu course has an option for various learning styles.
3. Be creative.  Incorporate current trends into your choices.  (Ex: Write a graphic book, write a song using the tune of a popular song).