Thursday, August 25, 2011

Free For All Friday

Yea!!!  My favorite day is here!  Freebie Day!  I'm excited to browse around and scoop up everyone's wonderful free item.  I'm sure they're going to be incredible.  I'm going to share something that I posted earlier this summer, so I'm sorry if you already have it.  (I promise that I'll have some new things soon.  I have a bunches that I want to give away, but they still need tweaking.)

If you've followed my blog this summer, you know I've been working like crazy on math work stations, and I've gone a little overboard on making task cards.  The item I'm giving a way came from an idea from Debbie Diller's Math Work Stations book and can be adapted for almost any grade level.  Check it out, and  I hope you like it!  Just click on the picture.

Come and join this last day of Teacher Week!

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Advice For New Teachers

I believe that teaching has to be one of the most rewarding yet challenging professions, but I couldn't imagine doing anything else.  Here is my top tips for new (and experienced) teachers.

  • Don't get too caught up in decorating and making everything look perfect.  Yes, it's certainly important and fun, but I believe really diving into the curriculum and planning for awesome instruction is just as important.
  • Procedures, procedures, procedures!  I can't emphasize it enough.  Never assume students will know how to do anything.  We spend days going over every little aspect of how I want our day to run, and it really pays off during the year.  I always feel silly teaching things like 'how to use our pencil sharpener' or 'how to sit on the rug', but it is so worth it.
  • When it comes to behavior, consistency is key.  Students should know exactly what is expected of them.  If you tell your students you're going to do something-do it. 
  • Be flexible and ready for anything.  When you work with children (and unpredictable administration), you can almost guarantee that things will not go exactly as planned.  Be ready to roll with the punches:  fire alarms, surprise assemblies, sick children, picture day, an insect found in your classroom, parents who show up unexpectedly, etc.  I once had a parent surprise me by bringing a goat to my classroom during the middle of the day.  
  • Go home!  I truly believe I could get to school an hour early every day, stay until 6, take work home every night, work on the weekends and still never feel caught up.  A teacher's work is never done!  Two years ago I gave myself a new rule-I could only stay late one day a week.  Every other day I made myself leave at a reasonable hour and only take important things home with me.  I had tendency to become a school hermit, but I feel that I'm a better teacher when I give myself a break each day and enjoy spending time with my family.
  • Surround yourself with positive coworkers.  There are almost always pockets of negativity in schools and stay far, far away.  It will suck you in and drown your enthusiasm and enjoyment of your job faster than you would ever imagine.
  • Don't be too hard on yourself.  It's so easy for me to get down and feel like I've failed my students when I have students not meet DIBELS benchmarks, DRA benchmarks, RTI goals, and our big state test, and on and on.  It's so important to remember to look at your students' growth and think about the progress they made during the year.   
  • Don't lose sight of the big picture.  It's easy to get caught up in the details and forget that you have the most incredible job.  Of course I want my students to be successful academically, but it is even more important for me to know that I've made my students feel loved, respected, and appreciated. 

Now it's your turn to share.  Just click on the link!

      Monday, August 22, 2011

      Meet the Teacher Monday

      Hi everyone!  I'm so excited to start Blog Hoppin' and learning about my new blogger friends! 

      Tell us a little something about you...
      I'm Ashleigh, and I really just got into blogging this spring, so I feel like I still have a lot to learn.  I've been married to my very best friend for 8 years now and have an amazing 2 year old daughter.  She is an absolute joy to be around, and I've had the best summer playing with her everyday.  I got my undergraduate from FSU -------->Go Noles-------->, and I have since gone back to school for my Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction and Specialist Degree in Brain Research, and I just finished my gifted endorsement last year.  I'm now taking a nice break from going to school for a while!

      How long have you been teaching?
      This will be my 10th year teaching, and I still feel like a first year teacher.  I still get goose bumps walking down the back to school aisles at Wal-Mart!  I honestly have a hard time believing that I've been teaching that long.  This year my first group of students will be graduating high school, so that's kind of exciting to me.  My first year teaching I taught 3rd grade, and then I was moved to 4th grade for 3 years, and now I'm back in 3rd.  I absolutely love 3rd grade and could stay there for a long, long time.  

      You might not know...
      I'm from the part of Florida that no one knows exists-the part that is nothing but orange trees and cows.  I mean nothing-we used to have to drive almost an hour just to go to the movies!  I live just outside of Chattanooga now, but I think I'll always feel like a FL girl!

      What are you looking most forward to this school year?
      My new purple walls-just kidding (even though I am super excited about not teaching in a classroom that was last painted in the 80s).  At this point, I'm really excited about meeting my new students and getting to know them.  I love how everyone comes to me with a clean slate, and we all have a fresh start.

      I've also worked on a lot of new projects this summer, and I can't wait to see how they go.  I've made enrichment units for all of my social studies concepts, and I've worked and worked on math work stations.  I've always used math workshop, but I've never done work stations, so I'm ready to get it going!

      What do you need to improve?
      I always feel like I need to improve on EVERYTHING, but if I had to pick out a few specifics I'd have to say documenting formative assessment and individual conferencing.  I feel like I do lots of formative assessment, but I'm really bad about not writing anything down.  This turns into a problem for me when I'm supposed to turn in documentation for RTI and things like that.  I've tried so many systems, but I always forget about it once I get going.  I'd like to do a better job at scheduling individual conferences with students, and then finding a way to go deeper into the curriculum during those conferences.  Sometimes I feel like our conversations are too trite and without any depth.

      I also want to be a little more laid back and to be able to just go with the flow.  I like everything to be just right, so it's hard for me to not get uptight about little things, but I'm trying.

      What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?
      I absolutely LOVE my new Smartboard, but it's my Elmo and digital projector that I couldn't live without.  I love being able to show quick clips from United Streaming or Brain Pop and allowing students to share their work without having to run make a copy on a transparency.  

      It may be silly, but I really don't know if I could teach without sticky notes.  If I didn't have them everywhere I wouldn't remember anything!

      My new laminator is quickly falling into this category too.  I've laminated task cards all summer, and it's awesome being able to do school work on my living room floor while watching t.v.

      I also need my daily coke, even though every year I try so hard to give them up, but it never lasts more than a day or two.

      Now it's your turn to share!  Click on the image below to take you there!  You can use the questions above or write anything else you would like as long as it pertains to the topic of the day : YOU!


      Thursday, August 18, 2011

      4th Grade Common Core Standards

      After the overwhelming response to the 3rd grade Common Core Standards Posters, I'm excited to say that the 4th grade Common Core Standards are ready!  I'm so excited to have this new way to post my standards in the classroom.
      I don't know why my pictures are so dark....

      These are also available in 4 different themes (including the same theme as the 3rd grade standards below) and include all of the reading, writing, language, and math standards.  I've also added the 4th grade Georgia Performance Standards for science and social studies but will add Common Core Standards if they are ever made.

      You can download a preview at this link.

      Tuesday, August 16, 2011


      I've apparently been out of the loop for the past couple of years, because I had never heard of Homeworkopoly until this summer.  I saw a post about it on the Ladybug's Teacher Files blog and knew right away this was something I wanted to implement.

      Basically, it is a reward system for students and can be managed in any way to best fit your classroom.  I'm going to let any student who has turned in all of their classwork and homework for the week participate on Friday mornings (I'm not worrying about absences).  I'm not big on homework, so this shouldn't be a challenge for anyone (we'll see).
      I've hung my Homeworkopoly board on my dry erase board, and my partner will be hanging her board on a bulletin board.  To play, students will roll their dice and move however many spaces.  If they land on a 'treasure chest' card they get to go to the treasure chest, and if they land on a chance card they'll take a card from the pink card holder.  I'm making my Chance cards on Vista Print, and I'll write different prizes on the back (use a pen for the day, sit by a friend, chew a piece of gum, etc.).  All of the other spaces are labeled with different content area phrases, and to win a prize at any of those stops, the student must correctly answer a question from the content area first (I'll probably give a lot of hints and prompting at first so they can get their prize).  I'm planning on using Stinky Stickers for the rewards for answering the questions.  I think this will be a really fun way to motivate students to turn in their work.

      If you want a copy of my game board just click on the picture:)

      I know it's pretty specific, so I'll try to make adjustments for you if you need them.  However, I won't be able to make it any bigger. 

      Thursday, August 11, 2011

      Common Core Standards Posters

      This summer I have loved visiting other teachers' blogs and learning from their amazing ideas.  One of my favorites is Mrs. Jump's Class, because she is incredibly talented and creative.  A couple of weeks ago, she shared how she displayed the Common Core Standards in her classroom, and I was blown away!  I've always been so unhappy with the way I've posted my standards, but this was actually cute and easy.  She made a set of standards for K and 1st, and when asked about making more for the upper grades, she said that she wouldn't be able to.  I contacted Deanna and asked if I could use her idea to make a set for 3rd grade, and she said YES!  Woo Hoo!!!  I'm so excited about using this idea next year!

      You can hang these posters and standards on a bulletin board or on your wall, and the standards attach with Velcro, so you can easily change them out as you teach.
      I've made the posters in 4 different styles for reading, writing, language arts, math, literacy centers, science, and social studies.  I've also made the standards for reading, writing, language arts, and math.  There are no Common Core science and social studies standards yet, but I included the Georgia Performance Standards and will add the Common Core if they are ever created.

      You can check out a preview by clicking the link.

      Tuesday, August 9, 2011


      Last year I received my gifted endorsement, and I have to say that it was one of the best professional development opportunities that I have experienced.  I am not the gifted teacher at my school, but I'm always looking for ways to grow professionally.  Some of the key thoughts that I left with were:
      • Every student has the right to learn something new each day
      • Gifted students are typically the students who make the least gains during the year
      • Many of our gifted students are not straight A students, because they are non-compliant, because they don't see the purpose or value in their classwork
      • Gifted students usually make the most gains when they work with students of a similar ability
      • Offering independent studies and choices are great ways to differentiate
      The program inspired me to begin developing enrichment units for my students.  I decided to create my units for social studies, because I feel like reading and writing are the easiest subjects to differentiate, and I was already differentiating tasks in math workshop.  I created geography, government, and Ancient Greece units that I'm so excited to try out this year.
      In each unit I have an independent study contract where students must agree to certain working conditions and a daily work log to help keep students on task.
      One of my concerns about independent studies was that while students may learn a lot, what if they don't learn the curriculum that I'm required to teach.  One great idea I got from the class was to include a study guide and check point assessments to ensure students are learning the appropriate content, so in each unit I added a study guide that listed the main concepts students are required to know by the end of the unit.  I broke the concepts up into 2 groups, and once a week a plan on giving a small mini assessment to make sure students are on track.
      The rest of my units are organized in a variety of ways, but they each offer students choices in the assignments they complete and all of the tasks pull from the higher levels of Bloom's taxonomy.  I made direction sheets for each of the activities, so it should be easy for students to complete the tasks independently. 
      You can grab a FREE copy of my Ancient Greece Enrichment Unit here!

      Wednesday, August 3, 2011

      Behavior Management

      I've been so impressed with all of the adorable behavior clip charts that I've seen this summer.  There are some amazing designs, and it really made me want to do one.  However, it is really difficult to implement that type of system when you switch classes, and I team with another teacher.  I've found that you really need something that goes with your students, rather than stays in your classroom.   Through trial and error, I think I've finally found a system that works for us.  It's very basic and low maintenance, but we like it.  I've made a behavior management form that we print out each week.  We use it for keeping track of behavior, reading logs, and homework.  I will add that I'm not a huge reading log fan, but we really don't have a choice, so I added it.  I love having all this documentation on one piece of paper and was surprised to see how handy it could be during parent conferences.  I clip the chart on a clipboard and hang it on the wall with a 3M hook.  You can click on the link below for a copy of the form.  I've left it in Word, so you can make changes as needed, so hopefully it will still look okay.

      Monday, August 1, 2011

      Bucket Fillers

      I wanted to share a little more about bucket fillers.  The concept of being a bucket filler is based on the metaphor that we all carry around an invisible bucket that contains our feelings.  When we have a full bucket we feel good, and when our bucket is empty we feel sad.  We all have a choice to be a bucket filler or bucket dipper.  A bucket filler says or does nice things for others, and a bucket dipper says or does mean things to others.  Many teachers and schools have taken this idea and run with it to encourage students to kind to others by being bucket fillers.  This is the book I read first as an introduction to the idea of being a bucket filler.
      Then I use the following books as follow-up read alouds.

      Since my library pocket cards haven't come in I don't have any pictures of what I plan to use this year, but I do have a couple pictures from last year.

      I made the banner of Vista Print for FREE! 
       To encourage bucket filling, I made bucket filler forms that my students could use to fill each others' buckets.  They could put their form into a classmates' pocket.  Everyone got to check their buckets on Friday afternoon.  I used this pocket chart last year, but I just taped the pockets to my cabinet doors.  This year I'm going to place them in a more high traffic place, because it was easy to forget they were even there last year.
      I will share what I did wrong last year.  I didn't follow up with the idea enough or spend enough time modeling how to fill in a bucket filler form.  I learned the hard way, because I discovered that my pockets turned into a really cool way to pass notes.  I wish I have saved one of the notes I found, because it was hysterical!  It was from a little boy to another little boy and was all about spying on the girls at recess.  This year I am going to do a much better job!

      Here is a sign I made.  Just click on the link.