Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Teachers Really ARE Heroes!

I'm so excited to participate in TpT's "Teachers Are Heroes" sale! Everything in my store (excluding items that are already free, of course...) will be 20% off tomorrow! Thank you for all you do, heroes!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

Grammar is Greatness!

Education trends come and go, but we should never lose sight of our best judgement and common sense. Recently, I've noticed that elementary writing teachers are being encouraged to value content over grammar when evaluating their students' writing. I wholeheartedly agree with this. I've always felt strongly that voice, above all, is really what makes a piece of writing effective and memorable. However, I hope this isn't an ideal that gets widely misinterpreted by busy, time-constraint-ridden teachers such as myself. Grammar still needs to be explicitly taught, practiced, and somehow assessed; starting in the primary grades. This is where using your best judgement comes in. I really hope that grammar isn't turning into the "new handwriting." (I fear the repercussions if it gradually disappears from our curriculum.)

Decent grammar can be just as essential to effectively communicating a written message as the content itself. I think as long as grammar lessons are engaging and the teacher is knowledgeable, grammar can be effectively taught without discouraging or burning out our young writers! It's all about making time for it, weaving it into our shared writing sessions, being excited about it, and having lots (and lots) of patience. So, here's to the kindergarten teacher who works with her whole class every day on capital vs. lowercase until she's blue in the face. Here's to the third grade teacher who, when faced with three pages of "sentences" with no punctuation whatsoever, takes a deep breath and sits beside her student to help him find the missing periods; even if that means going back to nouns and verbs. Here's to the fourth grade teacher who still enthusiastically slings her students classic spelling tricks such as, "Drop the 'e' and add '-ing!'" or "'I' before 'e' except after 'c,' or when sounded as '-ay' as in 'neighbor' or 'weigh.'" Our hard work WILL pay off; although we may not always have the pleasure of witnessing it. Let's make a New Year's resolution to keep grammar in the classroom; even when no one is keeping tabs!

In the spirit of the greatness that is grammar, I created a new flipchart to teach good ol' homophones!

Click HERE to download this grammar goodness. Happy New Year!

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Picnic Perfect

Now that I finally have some time to update my lonesome blog, I am so excited to show you my newly-minted, picnic-themed classroom! For the past six years, I sported a black and yellow theme. I adored it, especially since yellow is my favorite color, but I felt that it was just time for a change. I still have so much more I want to do/buy, but my budget forced me to hit the brakes. Anyway, here's what I have for now! If you're interested in incorporating the picnic theme into your classroom (or any room), be sure to read the bottom of this post for more inspiration!

Mrs. McMurrough's "Office!"

I had to bring my family to school! Burlap frame from Target

The Writing Process on a wall

Since I'm self-contained this year, I went ahead and labeled my books by genre. I found these great labels by Cheryl Smith on TpT.

I had a similar "Writer of the Week" nook before I changed up my theme. The silk bouquet is actually my matron-of-honor bouquet from my best friend's wedding.

I love these colorful, user-friendly parts of speech posters by Colleen Analiz on TpT. Pages from a mini-notepad make for cheap and precious locker tags! My local Mardel had a great "sunshine" one.

Here's where I have to toot my own horn: "TOOT TOOT!" Download these writing traits posters from my TpT Store!

It was so easy to turn paper plates plates, plasticware, and scrapbook paper into the tastiest table numbers I've ever seen!

The 3 most important posters in my room!

Got this "antsy" idea from a Pinterest pin,which linked here!

If you follow my blog, you know that the picnic theme was born with this bulletin board! This is one of the few spots where I display student work, which is so important! Burlap borders make a huge mess when you put them up, but it was totally worth it!

A cozy spot for read-alouds! I love my bandana whiteboard eraser and FRODE chair, which was only $10.99 from IKEA!

Talk about a storage solution! Picnic baskets at each table give students quick access to the supplies they'll need for the day! (Plus, they're adorable!) I ordered mine online from World Market.

The pencil caddies were a lucky find from the Target Dollar Spot.

Focus boards are great for self-contained teachers! I love posting objectives right above anchor charts to keep everything in one place. The kids always know where to look.

Hard work paid off! I LOVE the picnic theme, and my kids do, too!

It's the little things...

...and the sweet things. These buddies were yet another great IKEA find.

Thinking about a picnic theme? Here are my top 5 reasons why I've grown to love it:

1.  Picnics are like classrooms; the more variety, the better. Everyone brings something different to the table (no pun intended) in our classroom community. On the first day of school, I shared this metaphor with my new homeroom class right after we played the Picnic Name Game. I hope to make this a little tradition.

2. Who doesn't love food?! Seriously.

3. Picnic baskets are fantastic storage solutions for the "little things" such as scissors, glue sticks, pencils, sorting cards, flashcards, etc. that you don't always have time to pass out. I love being able to say, "If you reach inside your picnic basket, you will find..." I'd like to think it gives the students a little extra anticipation to learn.

4. Speaking of ANT-icipation, ants are a fun accent! I bought an ant stamp from JoAnne's Fabrics, and he appears on student work, agendas, and at the bottom of parent letters from time to time.

5. You can whip out a bottle of ketchup as a visual anytime your students need some "catch-up" time on their work! (Strangely enough, the whole idea of having "ketchup time" is WHY I adopted the picnic theme in the first place!)

Do you have a classroom theme that you're crazy about? I would love to see it! Please feel free to comment on this post with a link to your blog or photos of your classroom.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

TpT Back-to-School Boost

It's about that time! I'll be participating in the Teachers Pay Teachers Back-to-School Boost. On August 20, everything in my TpT Store will be 20% off. There are plenty of freebies, too!

Happy Back-to-School!

Thursday, July 24, 2014

"Ant"-icipating Purposeful Changes

"If it ain't broke, don't fix it!" This is such a contrast to how we think about education these days, but am I old-fashioned for agreeing with it most of the time? I just think if something is proven successful, the only change that needs to be made is fine-tuning. Sometimes the wheel is reinvented so many times it doesn't even fit the car anymore. I don't hate change. Change just has to have a purpose; especially in education!

I'm going into my seventh year teaching fourth grade in Room #314, and two big (and more importantly, purposeful) changes are taking place this year! We are going self-contained, so I will be going to the dark side (A.K.A. teaching math) for 90 interesting minutes per day. Thank you for your prayers. My team and I decided that we need to make better connections with our kids and their parents, and I love that they were open to this idea when I threw it out there at one of our team meetings. 

I'm also changing up the theme of my classroom. You're probably thinking, "So what?!" You don't understand... I was MARRIED to my black and yellow classroom! I even blew up Pinterest a couple years ago with pictures of my decor. I still love it, but it's simply time for me to look at something new every day! A classroom should be inspirational to the teacher as well as the students. My new classroom will be PICNIC-THEMED! 

You might be disappointed in how I got the picnic idea. Towards the end of last year, my students had a lot of unfinished work and a few minutes to kill before the end of the class period. I gave them some time to catch up on whatever they needed extra time on. They exchanged confused glances with each other since "extra time" in class was so rare. Right then, I randomly wished I had a ketchup bottle so I could put it in front of the class and announce, "It's 'ketchup' time!" How fun of a visual would that be? Ketchup made me think of condiments, condiments made me think of a picnic, a picnic made me think of cute little paper ants scattered all over the room, and then it was all over. Just like that, a change was born.

Stay tuned for pictures of my new and improved picnic-themed classroom! For now, this is the only thing I have to show off:

I also found this epic duct tape at JoAnne's Fabrics a few months ago:

I can't believe how just redoing a bulletin board had me beside myself with excitement! I was smiling at a bulletin board by myself in my classroom. Either I have finally lost it, or this confirms that this change is a purposeful one. It's probably a little bit of both. 

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

Midsummer Night's Freebie

I have been quite the absentee blogger, but as any teacher knows, spring is the most chaotic time of the school year! I simply had no time! It's funny how I always anticipate school being out for summer, only to spend all summer thinking about the upcoming school year! I think that's a "teacher thing." We start a mental countdown of days left, take all the posters off of our walls, and battle for the first place in line to get our cumulative folders done and rooms checked. Not even a week later, we find ourselves "window shopping" on Pinterest or at our favorite teacher stores to gain some new inspiration. I think it's just a weird sign that we truly love what we do!

If you're like me, you've already been gathering up some new goodies for next year. The first item I always send home is a Student Information Sheet for parents to fill out. (I love announcing on the very first day of school, "Okay, I'm passing out tonight's homework! Make sure every page gets done..." just to provoke a reaction!) I created a new Student Information Sheet for next year's group. As a consolation for my lack of blog updates, I thought I'd share it as a freebie! Enjoy and HAPPY SUMMER!

CLICK HERE to download the FREEBIE from my TpT Store!

Thursday, December 26, 2013

Writing Traits Posters for 2014

If you're like me, the holiday break gets you thinking about changes, updates, and renewed goals for the classroom. What worked well this semester? Who are the students I still need to reach? How will I reach them? It's almost as if teachers come up with their own New Year's resolutions just for school, which I think is very healthy and reflective! If one of your "school resolutions" is to stock up on new writing resources, I have something perfect for you! I have always been a fan of teaching the 6+1 writing traits, and I finally got around to creating my own posters. I hope there are some hardworking writing teachers out there who find them useful! Happy 2014!

Click HERE to download all 7 posters from my TpT Store!