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!

Friday, December 6, 2013

Tips & Tricks for Publishing

Every year, I tell my writing students that publishing is my favorite step of the writing process. There's just something about having all the messy revising and editing over with and being able to write the "best version" of your story on a fresh, clean page! Kids sometimes ask:

A final draft has to be mistake-free, right?

Wrong. Even the best writers still have room for improvement when the final draft has been published. Students (and teachers) also tend to concentrate mostly on conventions when they strive for "mistake-free" final drafts, but our budding writers should be thinking of all the writing traits when judging a published piece. Although no final draft is perfect, there are some tips and tricks I use on final draft day to encourage my kids to push even harder to publish the "best version" of their composition.

1. Other than my brief "over-the-shoulder" conferences with individual students and soft classical music, there is no other noise during publishing. Students must be able to concentrate on the changes that were made to their first drafts!

2. Use "drive-by-sticky-notes" to help students to correct any remaining misspelled words! Whether a first draft was edited by a peer or teacher, it's inevitable that a few misspellings will seep through. This is a quick way to fix them!

3. Discourage the "I'm done!" announcements. Our motto is, "You are not finished until you have reread!" Students need to get into the habit of carefully rereading to self-correct. Even when they are finished doing this, I have them keep their final drafts open at their desk for me to skim through.

4. Celebrate when improvements are made and writing goals are met! If we don't take the time to do this as their teachers, how else will they grow? Showcasing a "Writer of the Week" is a great celebration method and an even better teaching tool!

Click HERE to download the high quality PDF freebie!

Monday, September 30, 2013

BOO! Halloween Homophones

Since I am lucky enough to have a Promethean board in my classroom, one of my goals this year is to use more flipcharts, websites, and other pen-friendly activities! It's not just a screen with fancy speakers on the sides, right?! Also, I love keeping the "mini" in grammar mini-lessons to allow more time for composition and writer's workshop. This "Halloween Homophones" activity (below) can be used as either a flipchart or print-out station. Whether your students celebrate Halloween or not, these 13 classroom-friendly sentences will help your budding writers master commonly misused homophones!

CLICK HERE to download the file from my TpT store!

Happy fall!