Table Supplies & A 'Sharp' Giveaway!

Since switching to tables from desks, I have had to deal with the lack of quick-access kids used to have to pencils, erasers, sticky notes and the like. Granted, oftentimes these items were buried in their desk, so I use the term "quick" loosely ;)

I wanted to share with you what lives on top of our tables and how we manage these supplies communally:

The eraser label is a part of my School Supply Label Set on TpT.
Inside each bin are 2 pencils and one eraser per student and a pad of sticky notes.

I have two supply helpers as a class job and they help me throughout the week ensure that the pencil and eraser supplies are up to snuff. I also have all the kids help before I dismiss them for recess- clean table bin= dismissed first to go outside. It's amazing how quickly that gets the cups, pencils and sticky notes back in order :)

The teal bins are from Hobby Lobby- they had a whole teal bin extravaganza over the summer and I cleared them out. I will have to show you my table supplies for markers, color pencils and glue soon- that's when it really becomes obvious! I bought the tealish-clear cups from the Dollar Store (8 for $1!) and they are cheap, but easy to replace if they crack. I used my friend Kristen's idea for glass pebbles in the bottom of the cup so that it won't tip over when empty. She's a super-genius :)

Here's another thing that's different when it comes to table supplies: I don't have a pencil sharpener available to students. BIG adjustment this year, but hearing that awful thing in the middle of a minilesson was so deflating, so it's been worth it.

Instead, I have been using the Sharp & Dull Pencil Buckets and those have rocked!
You can get this FREE download in my TpT Store
This system does leave me as the primary pencil sharpener, which I actually don't mind.

Why, you ask?

Well, because even though I don't have a pencil sharpener available to students, what I do have rocks my socks! It's appropriately labeled "The Quietest Pencil Sharpener" and it makes me more than willing to be the Sharpener Queen :)

Not only is this little guy quiet, it also sharpens pencils of any quality (cheap dollar store all the way up to the amazing Ticonderoga). This has been wonderful because I love offering pencils as prizes, but those awful plastic-coated ones from Target's dollar section would always jam my electric sharpeners :(

It's also super-fast, no matter what the quality, and best of all, the point is incredibly sharp!! Now, my kids can use a pencil for much longer than their dull electrically-sharpened counterpart (this also doesn't eat the pencils to death like my old electric one).

Here's proof:

See?! Holy smokes!

This sharpener has turned pencil sharpening into my zen time :) It's super-simple to use and there's even a helpful video on the website to help you out, since it is a bit funkier than the traditional sharpener. Once you get the hang of it, though, it goes very smoothly.

Would you like to win a sharpener for your own class? They are available in green, blue, red and black- perfect for any classroom decor :)

Enter below and I will be choosing a winner on December 8th! Good luck & happy organizing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Linking up with TBA's Giveaway Galore

Listen to Reading Tip: Headphone Cord Management

Quick TpT Update- I have updated my Hamburger Paragraph Plan as well as my Writing Process Mini-Posters- If you have purchased these, head over to TpT, click on "My Purchases" and you can redownload them for free! To read about the updates, click on the product link above :) Thanks!

In our Listen to Reading Daily 5 Center, we have several iPods that I received through a grant. They are super-helpful and loads of fun, but OHMAGOODNESS, the headphones were the bane of my existence!

I don't have a "before" picture, but I can easily say that hours were spent over the course of several weeks trying to constantly untangle the seemingly endless cord that come on these headphones.

I do really like these headphones, I promise. For one, they are inexpensive, so I don't feel bad if my kids accidentally break them (accidents happen). They also are pretty clean, especially compared to the ear buds- the idea of my 27 kids sharing things that go inside the ear just didn't seem ok. They are soft and adjustable, so really, they fit the bill well.

Ok, back to my rant... no joke, these headphone cords are so long, which may be fine for me, an adult who is way way taller than a 3rd grader. But for my thirdsters, these were a mess. They were always in a knot, no matter how neatly they stored them. They would always get twisted and end up in a huge black gob. Then, they would bring them to me and I would use my planning time trying to undo them.

Well, that had to change ASAP!!

A genius parent helper and I put our heads together one afternoon (as I was getting ready to throw them all in the trash) and came up with idea of zipties.... aha!

This has been a lifesaver! To do this, simply wind the cord around your palm nice and neatly, from the plug all the way to where the cords split to go to each ear- if they are like mine, that still leaves plenty of room for the kids. Then, zip the cords down in three places as tight as you possibly can! Then, pull tighter :) Trim the excess ziptie and enjoy!

 Now, I can easily store each pair of headphones in their own ziploc baggie and never, ever, ever have to deal with huge cord knots again!

Aaaaah, I am in Teacher Heaven!
Do you have other creative ideas for storing headphones in your class? Share below- I'd love to hear about them!


Upcoming TpT Cyber Monday + Bonus Tuesday Sale!

Did you brave the Black Friday sales early this morning? Some stores started sales yesterday- craziness! Anyway, if you're like me and like sleeping in too much, then today is a day to come out of the turkey & mashed potatoes coma and start planning for Monday. Ah yes, Cyber Monday is when I really go nuts!

Great news! TpT is throwing a HUGE Cyber Monday (+Bonus Tuesday) Sale!!

Graphic courtesy of The 3am Teacher
This sale will include all of my TpT items at 20% off PLUS you can use the TpT Discount Code: CMT 12 for an additional 10% off! That's 28% off!! Woo hoo!

I hope this helps explain my recent uploading spree- I wanted to get my new units into your hands as soon as I could- I will be uploading how I used them in my class over the next few weeks with pictures of my cuties and how I incorporate the different pieces and parts into my day, but I thought you might like to scoop them up early. If you're like me, I can't say no to a sale ;)

Here's a preview of some of my old reliables as well as my new additions to my store to give you some ideas. Click on each picture to be taken to the item's page and start stocking up your carts for the big day!

Old Reliables:

New Additions:

Hamburger Paragraph Planning- for planning a complete paragraph with introduction, 3 strong supports, and a conclusion:

Extra! Extra! Star Retells- for planning and writing a complete retell using the 5 W's (who, what, when, where & why):

Descriptive Sensory Web Planning Packet- for adding description to any piece or planning a piece that is "painted with words"

May the "Fours" Be With You- a Star Wars-themed packet that will help students plan a complete story with characters, a setting, problem, and solution. Also works wonderfully for writing a complete summary of a chapter or story:

Planning Your Writing Units Bundle- this includes the four planning and writing units in my store at a discounted bundle price: Extra! Extra! Star Planning, Hamburger Paragraph Planning, Descriptive Sensory Webs, and May the "Fours" Be With You:

"Over the Rainbow" Character Study- loads of character posters and two worksheets to help identify the characters, their traits, motivations and feelings (Oz-themed! Yippee!)

Nonfiction Text Features Packet- posters, scavenger hunt, labeling activity & assessment:

How To Make a Snowflake- a holiday/winter-themed activity that will help your students practice functional writing and transition/linking words. Kids will cut their own snowflakes from paper, describing their steps along the way, and can also work with a partner to test their directions. Loads of fun!

All of my new units are aligned to the Common Core State Standards and I have identified the specific standards in the instruction sheets to make your lesson planning easier.

Have fun loading up your carts and be sure to check out your other favorite sellers as well- we all love good sales, so it's a safe bet you can score 28% off tons of products all over TpT in the next two days!


{Oz Love}: "Over the Rainbow" Character Study

In my top five movies at any given time in my life is always Wizard of Oz. Sigh.... I just love it! Such a positive message, so many wonderful characters, and of course, I love subjecting my family to my beautiful singing voice for except the "King of the Forrest" one, but I digress.... :)

Whenever I see Wizard of Oz clipart, I purchase it, if for no other reason than it makes me happy. Just looking at it and singing songs ;)

Good news- I have incorporated it into my newest unit! I wanted some quick reference posters to use for character study. My kids this year are pretty good with fiction comprehension, but the new Common Core State Standards specifically mention characters in a few of their parts, and I wanted to take my kids deeper than just test-self connections. Here are the third grade standards this packet addresses:

  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.3 Describe characters in a story (e.g., their traits, motivations, or feelings) and explain how their actions contribute to the sequence of events
  • CCSS.ELA-Literacy.RL.3.6 Distinguish their own point of view from that of the narrator or those of the characters.

And, honestly  what story has better characters than the Wizard of Oz? So, my "Over the Rainbow" Character Study was born :) Somewheeeere....
This handy-dandy packet will help you introduce and name not only types of characters, but will be a helpful reminder when it comes to thinking about traits, feelings & motivations.

There are nine posters total relating to the character study and include some complex character vocab (like protagonist and antagonist) along with kid-friendly terms (main character and opponent) and a question that will help students define each term (ex: Who is the story mostly about?).

The best part? The lovely characters from the movie are on each of the posters to help kids along.
There are three posters with definitions and examples of character traits, motivation, and feelings. I used the movie as an example for these as well.
Last, to help incorporate some of these terms and ideas in classwork, I have included two forms that I really like using when it comes to teaching characters in a story.
The first one is a character map that includes a character study during a certain event in the text and thinking about his/her feelings, motivation, and traits.

In the past, I have used this throughout a text to track how the character changes from beginning to middle to end. I have also waited until the climax of the book and had kids use the main event/turning point to fill this out.

I always start using them in small reading groups during our Daily 5 Teacher Time, but by the middle-ish of the year, kids are independent enough to complete this on their own using their individual Read to Self books.

The second worksheet is what I call the "triangle sheet"-- kids will be asked to think about an event (that they sketch and describe in the center) from the protagonist's & antagonist's perspective. They will then think about how they would have acted and if they agree or disagree with how the protagonist/antagonist dealt with the event. I LOVE this sheet because I think we are quick to always side with the main character and not think about the villain-- don't even get me started on how my world was rocked when I read Wicked! Anyways, this gets them thinking about both characters and relating to both on some level.

Those of you with an Oz-themed classroom, can I come and visit? I hope this unit can sprinkle in some of the magic from the movie (no matter what your theme) and make you happy teaching characters! Pick them up today in my TpT Store :)

Want this set for free? Leave me a comment with you email address telling me who your favorite Wizard of Oz character is and I will choose a random winner on Thanksgiving Day!

I'll leave you with this funny:


Scholastic News, Nonfiction Text Features & Star Retells.. oh my!

Happy Thanksgiving Week, friends!

We are off this whole week and it's going to be wonderful to get caught up- it's amazing how I forget every year how crazy the first few months of school are. Now that the first trimester is over, it is so nice to be in a routine and to really start to delve into the good stuff :)

Now that I've caught my breath a bit, I wanted to let you know a bit about how I teach nonfiction through current events in our class.

First, our class has a weekly subscription to Scholastic News. These are simple magazines (just a cover, two inside pages with articles, and a back page with questions) that cover main events, fun facts, and oftentimes kid reporters, all on a grade-appropriate reading level. Note: Scholastic doesn't know who I am, I'm just sharing my personal opinion :)

One of the features I have been using all of the time this year is their interactive website, found HERE (not sure if you have to be a member to access it, but it's worth exploring nonetheless). This has made Current Events so.much.FUN! There is the full version of the magazine that I project full-screen onto our white board and they also include short 2-4 minute videos for a couple of the articles that week. These have been the highlight, naturally :) It's also very fun for me, too!

We have been using my Nonfiction Text Features packet with Scholastic News this year and it's been so easy -peasy! Last Friday, we worked on finding certain nonfiction text features in the election results issue. I used different color sticky notes for each of the features and that was super-helpful when it came to guided practice.

Here's what my version looked like:

And here's a pic of my cuties working on their copies:

The final version:

There was a map on the back we labeled and we used the nonfiction feature posters to help us. If you have been reading my blog for a while, you know I am obsessed (to put it mildly) with adjusting the print size of PDFs :) These posters were no exception.

I have regular-sized posters for our classroom, but for each table group in my class, I printed off the posters in 1/2 size (using this tutorial HERE and choosing 2 pages per sheet on Landscape Orientation). Luckily, my printer at home prints on front & back, so that saved me even more room and laminating time. I assembled these like I did with my Bloom's Taxonomy cards using a binder ring. This allowed kids quick access if they forgot what a feature was ("caption" still seems to cause us problems).

We then worked on Scholastic's 10-question "No Sweat Test Prep" multiple choice test  (included with the subscription) and began working on our Star Retells. This is a new way for us to approach writing about our reading, especially in nonfiction. I really wanted kids to be more careful readers when it came to nonfiction. My group this year has awesome fiction comprehension, but when it gets to the nitty-gritty of nonfiction, I lose them :(

Enter our Star Retell packet (which I forgot to take pics of- I guess I was already on "break mode," sorry!)

I had the kids practice looking for and underlining the 5 W's in the main article of that week's edition. They then plugged the information into the planning organizer:

We haven't delved into making complete paragraphs yet, but this was a great start. The nicest part about Scholastic News is that it gives us a chance each week to keep on practicing.

If you're interested in picking up either of these units, they are much more extensive than I have even talked about here (the Nonfiction Text Feature Packet has a scavenger hunt that I'll be blogging about when we get back from break- it's a hoot!) and are listed in my TpT Store- make sure to download the previews for a freebie on the Nonfiction Text Feature Unit, too :) Click on the pictures below to be taken to the specific item:

If you're interested in my Nonfiction Text Features Packets, they can be found on TpT:
I hope that was a helpful peek into my weekly current events lessons. Do you use these classroom magazines or newspapers to teach current events? I'd love to hear about it- leave me a comment below :)

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