Drumroll.... D5, CAFE & WBT Freebies!

Well, my Daily 5 and Whole Brain Teaching products took a little hiatus while the whole copyright issue was worked out.

I am happy to announce that they are back! Best part? They are now FREE! Woo hoo!!!

The following sets are now listed for free in my TpT Store. Pick them up today and enjoy :)


Disclaimer: The Daily 5 & CAFE resources are unofficial adaptations of the Daily 5 by Gail Boushey & Joan Moser. This freebie is not endorsed by the 2 Sisters. http://www.thedailycafe.com.

The Whole Brain Teaching posters are my unofficial adaptations of information found on http://www.wholebrainteaching.com.

Visit both of these sites IMMEDIATELY, they are awesome :) 

Happy weekend :)


Daily 5 & CAFE Book Study- Are You Ready? (and a Freebie!)

I hope that all of you upper elementary teachers are getting excited for We Read, We Blog, We Teach's inaugural book study on The Daily 5 and CAFE books by the Sisters, Gail Boushey and Joan Moser!

We Read, We Blog, We Teach

The book study begins July 1and you're all invited!

Find more information by clicking the button above or read my original post HERE.

In preparation for the book study, I have made a helpful notes page that you're more than welcome to use!
Fonts from Kevin & Amanda, Clip Art from Scrappin Doodles

This is available for free in my TpT Store or from Google Docs and can hopefully catch all of your thinking and ideas relating to this and any other book study you are participating in this summer and/or school year!

Freebie Fridays

Can't wait and see you soon!

Music During Work Time in Your Classroom

Do you use music in your classroom?

I do and I couldn't imagine it any other way :)

Every year I seem to appreciate having it more and more. Especially this past year, with my boy-heavy group, I really enjoyed the tranquility and focus it gave us during our reading, writing, and other quiet work times.

Many of you may have heard of the Mozart Effect (read about it HERE)- its basic premise is that listening to Mozart for as little as 10 minutes improves certain parts of a student's IQ.

If you Google "Music in the Classroom" you will find numerous websites, articles, and books all about the benefits of background music and its impact on learning, environment, and classroom management.

One article worth reading is The Benefits of Incorporating Music in the Classroom by Audrey Merrell. She points out the highlights of several research studies that support the role of music in learning. A few key points are:
  • Music is a set of patterns and and processes that benefits the brain and the act of learning
  • Music increases attention and lowers behavior problems
  • Music lowers stress and anxiety levels within students
  • The type of music played directly relates to the mood you can create- calming music=calm class, stimulating music=raises energy
This might be a nice article to show to your administration since Ms. Merrell quotes quite a few books and articles throughout her paper.

Ok, so onto how I use music in my class!

In the Classroom:

Have you ever used Pandora? I am in love with it!

It is a free music program that is web-based and allows you to create your own radio stations based on a song or artist.

It's free, but with commercials. I spent the $36 for a one-year subscription that allows me to listen commercial-free- this has paid for itself 10 times over and makes using Pandora in the classroom possible.

You can create up to 100 stations and believe me, they have nearly every artist and song imaginable in their database!

Best news: If you hear a song you love, you give it a thumbs-up and it will direct more music of that style to your station. If you hear a song you don't like, give it a thumbs-down and you won't hear it again :)
I name my classroom quiet work time music "Classroom Guitar Music". On this station you will find acoustic, classical guitar artists with no lyrics. It's all very steady and lovely- the music is complex, but not distracting.

The artists I love include:
  • Don Ross
  • Andy McKee
  • John Danley
  • Tommy Emmanuel
  • Leo Kotke
  • and many, many more!

What's great is that when you create a station, you can "Add Variety" and add additional artists to the station to make it more diverse and finer-tuned to your needs.

We use this music during Independent Writing Time and during DEAR (Silent Reading). I have also used it during Daily 5, social studies and research time. It fills the room quietly and really does help my students stay focused.  I have even reminded students that their voices need to stay quiet enough so they can still hear the music if they are whisper-reading or conferencing.

Helpful Hints:
- If you are interested in using Pandora, START NOW! It takes a while, in my opinion, to make a station "your own" and ensure no wild cards are in there ;) This would be a fun summer project!

- Pandora requires consistent internet access- your district may block it (boo!), so you may want to find some fun artists you enjoy and get their music on iTunes and make your own playlist

- My laptop is my best friend during the school year, but the speakers are not great- it sounds so tinny and doesn't project the sound across the classroom. I purchased these speakers which are perfect and simply plug into the USB port, no extra power cord needed!
click to see them on Amazon
- I have highlighted classical guitarists- you may want to use Mozart or other genres (Hawaiian Slack Key Guitar is AWESOME!)- play around and make a station that you wouldn't mind hearing a lot- you need to love it and it needs to soothe and relax you, so then it can benefit your students :)

- Try finding other fun music that fits with your content areas and/or the time of year! We listened to some instrumental Celtic music during St. Patrick's Day, Bluegrass Instrumental and Native American Flute during our unit on Pioneers & Native Americans, and Holiday Instrumental during the wintertime. The key for me is to remove the vocals so kids are not distracted by the words and a sing-along doesn't break out in the middle of Workshop time. You can choose to include vocals in your selections, it's up to you and what works for your group!

- Stuck trying to find artists that fit your style? Ask your music teacher in your school or in blogland!

Do you use Pandora, iTunes, or any other music in your class? How does it go? I would love to hear about your experiences :)


Word Work: Place Value Words

I am looking to add to my Word Work Center this summer while I have time to actually think and plan :)

The important aspects I wanted to include were: ease of use, practicality, and the ability to self-differentiate (so kiddos who are spelling "also" and "admission" can both use it without any complex adjustments).

I have received great feedback on my current activities, including Scrabble Tile Spelling and How Much is Your Word Worth? In fact, I have exciting news in the next week or so about them :)

What I loved about both was the incorporation of mental math and money math- something we always need to practice!

Well, on that note, I created another activity that checks all of the boxes and will be especially helpful at the beginning of the year: Place Value Spelling!
This is a similar concept to Word Worth, which will be great because easy-to-follow directions are important when building independence and ensuring kids have enough time to do the work.

Each letter is worth a place value block- either a one, ten, or hundred. Students will need to figure out the value of their word and can use the place value blocks to help- in fact, I would strongly encourage it!

For example: DOESN'T= 10+10+1+10+100+1+100= 232

At the end, there are questions that extend the lesson- ordering from least to greatest, naming the word that is the least and the greatest, and asking if any words had the same value. This is a nice way to squeeze in some math practice during literacy time!

I am going to print these out in color on cardstock and laminate them (just like the others) so they can get reused over and over again.

I have also bundled all three Word Work activities (Scrabble Tiles, Word Worth & Place Value) into a trio set in my TpT Store as well.


North is Up? Chevron Directional Signs to the Rescue!

How many times do you ask your class which was is North and a little kiddo points to the ceiling?

No, North is not up to the sky :)
One piece of classroom decor that is always around are the directional signs: North, South, East & West. I place these on each of the corresponding walls and use them throughout the year.

Included in the packet are the cardinal and ordinal directions:

The other great uses for directional signs?
  • Back to School Room Scavenger Hunt- Where is the attendance sheet? On the West wall!
  • Voting- If you agree, go to the South wall. If you disagree, go to the North wall
  • Multiple Choice- each wall is an answer- GREAT way to check for understanding and get kids moving
  • Splitting up into groups or meeting areas
  • and more!
These match all of my chevron products, including the oh-so-cute Welcome Flag Banner with the lovely chevron background in red, blue, green, teal, orange, gray and purple. Plus, there is a blank background if you would rather print on colored cardstock.

Would you like these directional signs? They are listed now in my TpT Store :)

Hope you are all enjoying your summer!


Whole Brain Teaching: Reciting the Rules on Friday

Every morning, at the start of our Morning Meeting, we recite our five classroom rules.

The rules I use are similar to Whole Brain Teaching's, but with a twist. I use the set from The Polka Dot Patch. You can read all of the specifics on the rules and gestures HERE.

Something fun that we do every Friday is reciting the rules in a different voice. It helps keep up the interest and engagement, plus, we all need a laugh Friday morning :)

I have seen different fluency practice ideas a lot on Pinterest and I think these would be a wonderful resource for rule-reciting. Sometimes the Meeting Leader has an idea themselves- one girl decided to recite the rules as if we all had a mouth full of food!- but other times, the student may need some inspiration.

Find these at I Love 2 Teach!

All I am doing is printing these on cardstock, laminating them, and putting a binder ring though a hole in the top corner. I will keep these near our Morning Meeting Bucket and talking ball for our Meeting Leader to use if he/she needs them.

Do you have these fluency cards in your class? Try incorporating them into your rule recitation- it's a great way to wrap up the week!


Whole Brain Teaching: Yes/No Way! & QTs

One of the many reasons I love Whole Brain Teaching includes their frequent progress monitoring tools.

Throughout a lesson, there are many ways to ensure that students are learning what teachers are teaching.  "Teach-Okay" uses students as teachers and at the end of the lesson is the "Yes/No Way!" and Quick Tests.

Have you been to the WBT website? Go there immediately if you haven't! They have TONS of free resources and ebooks to help you through each step of the process.

One of my favorite ebooks is shown above- Whole Brain Teaching Model Classroom. It is FULL of great descriptions of each of the parts of WBT.

On page 25, there is a fabulous description of Yes/No Way! and Quick Tests (QTs). I am summarizing both below.
Yes/No Way
At the end of your teaching minilesson, you will have kids participate in Yes/No Way. This is a whole-class activity that involves gestures (of course!) and requires yes/no questions about the lesson just taught.

You begin by asking a question, such as, "Is water a liquid?" and they will reply "Yes!" and fist pump (from WBT) or I have them give me two thumbs up and a nod. You could certainly create your own gestures, but don't forget about them- they are an important part to Whole Brain Teaching!

If the answer is wrong, such as, "Is steam a solid?" they will reply "No Way!" with disbelief and a gesture. WBT recommends pointing their fingers to their foreheads and then extending their arms outwards. I had my students shake their heads and move their hands from side to side in front of their body, as if they were refusing something. We say "No Way!" as if what I'm asking is the craziest thing I've ever said :)

Quick Tests
After you have a good sense that the kids understand as a whole group about the concepts through Yes/No Way, there is a more individual assessment called Quick Test, or QT ("Cutie").

Again, this is found on page 25 in the WBT Model Classroom book. When the teacher says "QT" the students reply "Cutie" and cover their eyes with one hand, while getting ready to answer questions with the other.

The teacher will ask true/false questions and as the kids answer, they will give a thumbs-up for true and thumbs-down for false. This is a quick gauge on a more individual level. Kids might sometimes try to sneak a peek, but if you have the questions prepared in advance, you can keep up the tempo so they won't have time to do anything else but focus and answer.

I always look at my strugglers during this time to see what they are answering. If you see that less than 90% of your students are getting these answers correct, you will need to go back and reteach those concepts with new material.

I love Yes/No Way and QTs because they are quick, easy, and familiarizes your students with assessment-type questions from the very beginning in a non-threatening format.

Be sure to check out the WBT Model Classroom book from their website and let me know if you have any questions!


Classroom Supplies: Sharp & Dull Pencils FREEBIE

I am so happy to hear that so many of you liked my classroom supplies labels in a variety of sizes (available on TpT HERE) for everything from pencils to glue to paints :)

I have been busy cutting them out and placing them here and there to find the perfect spots to allow my kids to access them when needed, but not take up too much space in the meantime.

One thing I was talking to my friend about, who is also switching from desks to tables next year, is how we will manage sharp and dull pencils. I have seen a variety of management posts about this and I like the idea of creating an area in class for the dull pencils to live, to be resharpened at a later *and more convenient* time. There would also be a place next to this bin for sharp pencils- or I could just use the "pencil" label that I currently have in my class.

I am mulling this idea over in my head for a few reasons:
  1. Nothing irks me more than hearing the pencil sharpener in the middle of a minilesson- even though there is a class rule preventing this, it still happens :(
  2. Although we have two pencil sharpeners in our class, they always have a long waiting line at the beginning of math and writing- this steals valuable time and kills the momentum we were building after the minilesson
  3. Kids tend to sharpen their pencils down to the bitter, bitter (and metallic!) end- this has killed many a sharpener, so hopefully this system will keep mine alive next year
Do you use this dull/sharp system in your class? I made some labels (in just one size- but they match my TpT labels) for you to try out- If you use them, I would love to hear how it goes! Click on the picture or HERE to take you to my TpT Store for this FREE download :)

Have fun with these!


Using Google Forms for Reading & Writing Conferences

I love using Post-Its for the informal, quick assessments, but  I recently came across a fantastic resource for more formal conferences: Google Forms!

Have you ever used Google Forms before? They are SUPER easy to create and you can access them from any computer, including iPads. Plus, they have fun backgrounds to choose from, so it makes me smile every time i pull them up ;)

Farrah, from Think * Share* Teach has a wonderful tutorial to take you through this entire process! I created one for my own classroom and believe me, it took no time at all!

You can see a few pieces in the screenshot above, but here's the full list of what I have on my Reading Conference form:
  • Name
  • Book Title
  • Fiction/Nonfiction
  • Level (drop down menu with levels J-T+)
  • Fluency (1-4 based on unsat-advanced)
  • Comprehension (1-4 based on unsat-advanced)
  • CAFE Strength (I used checkboxes so I can check off more than one)
  • Examples 
  • CAFE Focus 
  • Focus Strategies (I left this blank so I can type it in quickly)
  • Observations
  • Next Steps
You can see the full example of my Reading Conference form HERE.

My Writing Conference form is similar and uses the 6 Traits if Writing. The specifics are:
  • Name
  • Title/Topic of Piece
  • Mentor Text/Minilesson that inspired this piece (if applicable)
  • Quick Draft Assessment (1-4 based on unsat-advanced)
  • Writing Strengths (using 6 Traits categories)
  • Examples
  • Writing Focus (using 6 Traits strategies)
  • Teaching Points & Next Steps
You can see the full example of my Writing Conference form HERE.

I LOVE Google Forms since I can customize each section based on what I need and what my kids need- yay! Plus, I can put a bookmark to these forms on my iPad and use it all over the classroom with any student- very easy!

I also love that it timestamps each entry- are you as bad as me with dates?! I have found so many notes throughout the years that have not date and I feel it renders the info useless- Google takes care of that down to the second :)

Best of all, you can access your data in a spreadsheet and graphs. Super-neat, super-organized, and all ready to go for grouping, conversations with other teachers, your principal and/or parents, report cards... everything!

I am so excited to use this next year! Be sure to stop by Think * Share* Teach for the full tutorial. What else do you think you could use Google Forms for? I am thinking other informal assessment times... maybe math groups?


Target Dollar Find: Brain Benders & Brain Twisters!

While perusing the dollar section in Target yesterday, I happened upon some great cards that I knew would be a perfect fit in my classroom: Brain Benders & Brain Twisters!
On the box, they say Ages 14+, but I definitely think these are doable for my higher-achieving and gifted students. These are typically the kids that are done with an assignment first and I think these will be the perfect way to keep them challenged and excited!

Each set of 36 cards comes with 3-4 questions on the front in blue and has the answers on the back in green or purple (making it easy to tell if you are reading the question or the answer!)

Some are pretty tricky, but others are fun and challenging brain riddles. See if you can solve these:
  • What day follows the day before yesterday if two days from now will be Sunday?
  • What can run but never walks, has a mouth but never talks, has a head but never weeps, and has a bed but never sleeps?
  • A sundial is a timepiece that has the fewest moving parts. What type of timepiece has the most moving parts?
  • What leter would come next in this sequence: M, A, M, J, J, A, S, O, ___
  • and MANY, MANY more!!
I can even picture doing a few of these as a Brain Break or a time filler for the whole class. There are certainly many in here that are short, easy to understand, and require thinking outside of the box- something we all need from time to time :)

Our Target is right next door to Michael's {yay!}, so after I spent a whopping $2 on 2 card sets, I ventured over to see if I could find a nice bin for these cards, and voila!
As luck would have it, they had 40% off these photo cases that are teal (matching my classroom!) and perfectly sized. Here's a close-up for you:
Hopefully you'll find these on sale at your Michael's, too- they are perfectly sized for these cards! They can easily fit two stacks into one bin, but I split them up into two so I can spread the wealth. Another $2 spent, making these fun additions to my class only a bit over $4- I can handle that :)
Lastly, I had to make cute labels for them:
If you'd like a copy of the labels, you can find them HERE. Fonts are from Kevin & Amanda and the frame is from Graphics from the Pond.

I hope your Target has these cards if you're interested :) Did you get the answers to the Brain Twisters above? They are:
  • Thursday- the key is to realize that "now" must be Friday
  • A river
  • An hourglass
  • N for November
Fun fun!


This & That: Supplies Organizer & Chevron Welcome Banner

Just a quick post to show you two things I was up to this weekend.

1. Supplies Organizer 
Inspired by Molly at Lessons with Laughter, I made my own supplies organizer that is all ready to go for next year!

2. Chevron Welcome Banner
New to my TpT Store, this Chevron Welcome Banner matches the rest of my chevron supplies and is a lovely way to welcome your students back from summer and to each new day in your classroom next year :) This comes in all chevron colors: red, gray, orange, blue, teal, purple, and green. Plus, there is a set with empty flags in case you would like to print this on color cardstock.

I hope you all had a wonderful Monday!


Using Post-Its for Reading Conference Records

I have used a variety of methods to keep track of independent reading conferences over the years.

One of my favorite methods came from Beth Newingham- she's amazing!

I love her use of labels on a clipboard so that she could jot down information quickly and for any child without a huge binder or flipping through a lot of pages- this frustrates me and I think intimidates students. I prefer a more laid-back, listening-in type of independent reading conference.

I used these labels for a while, but holy cow, they got expensive!

While thinking of a solution, I found inspiration from Kristen @ Ladybug's Teacher Files and her tutorial on post-it note printing.

Post-its + Conferring Information=
The numbers next to fluency & comprehension come from our standards-based report cards:
1= Unsatisfactory, 2= Partially Proficient, 3= Proficient, and 4= Advanced
This post-it can keep lots of helpful info on your students and costs way less than labels :) When printing, print this sheet out first. Then, place the post-it notes inside of the squares and send it through again, making sure the sticky side will go in the printer first.

I keep about five sheets ready at any given time- then, I just reuse these five sheets over and over. I try not to transfer the post-its too often, to keep their stickiness. The post-its I found best for this project were the Super Sticky kind:
These are such fun colors :) You could use different colors for different groups, different grading periods, different classes, etc.
Then, during my planning, I transfer the post-its over to the student's individual page in my Assessment Binder. Their page is just a piece of cardstock 3-hole punched, so I can collect a lot of post-its throughout the year. These notes give me great insight when it comes to reading groups, parent conferences, and future student conferences.

Would you like a copy of this template? Download it for FREE from Google Docs HERE :)

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