Thursday, May 31, 2012

It's More Than Just a Planner

Do you use student planners with your students?  I did until I went with a few fellow teachers to observe a teacher in another district.  I was so impressed that I began using this new found idea in the middle of October.  This past school year was my first full year of using what they called a Brain Book, and I can tell you that I will never go back to using a simple planner.

When I was first introduced to the Brain Books they were in a one subject spiral notebook.  I quickly found out that I preferred the composition notebook over the spiral.  Although there is a bit less space, they are much more durable.

At the beginning of the school year, you can buy these one subject composition notebooks really cheap.  I think I found them for a quarter at Wal-Mart which is significantly cheaper than a $3.50 student planner.  Because they are so cheap, I went ahead and bought two per student.  One notebook lasts for half the year.  I allowed my students to personalize their Brain Book.  As you can see by the pictures below not all students jumped at this opportunity but, then again, it was up to them.

At this point, you are probably wondering what a Brain Book is.  According to me and how I used it this is my version:

I use this notebook as a replacement for the traditional student planner.  Everyday upon arrival to the classroom my students date a brand new page in their notebook.  They then copy the days learning objectives onto that page.  As you can see from the pictures, they are required to place the name of the subject.  On the bottom portion of the page they draw a small t-chart.  On the left side is where I may write comments that are to go home or their parents may also use this space to send me a note.  On the right side is where parents sign that they have seen the Brain Book.  It is a requirement for my students that their Brain Book go home with them on a daily basis. 

Beyond writing the objectives we use this same notebook for placing important things that we can refer back to.  In the very back, students had their reading record.  Other items included word wall words they needed to know, foldables that they made,notes that they had taken, and many other items.  If it could fit into the notebook and it served a purpose, they placed it in their book.


During reading if I had a question that I wanted them to answer, I gave them the question and they taped or glued it into their Brain Book.  They would simply write the answer to the question right in their Brain Book.  When reviewing word wall words, their Brain Book was the place they wrote.  When completing a few math problems, their Brain Book was the place where they showed their work. 

The perks to using a Brain Book:
  • I like that parents see what we are doing in the classroom on a daily basis.  They don't have to wait until papers go home. 
  • It is so easy for me to do a quick check on all my students' work and I don't have to deal with collecting papers.
  • There is no question about where they are to write.  They know that their notebooks are their "think pads" they write their thoughts.
  • They don't have to search in folders or desks for a missing paper, they know that they can find it in their Brain Book.
  • I don't hear, "I don't have any paper".
If I had to pick what I like best about the use of the Brain Book, it would be the pride that my students take in their books.  They take pride in the work that they put into it and they love to show what they "do".

These Brain Books have worked wonders for me.  I am so thankful for the opportunity to have seen them at work!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

A DIY Project

An empty cereal box and a magazine holder.  Do you want to know what these two have in common?  I am excited to announce that I am a new author for Charity Preston's new blog, Classroom DIY!  Once again, Charity has created a blog that will inspire many.  I encourage you to check it out!  There are already a lot of fantastic DIY projects with daily projects in store.  Also, you will find out what a cereal box and magazine holder have in common!

Classroom DIY

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Summertime Freebie

Whether you are nearing the end of the school year or want a fun game to play during summer school, this summertime freebie might interest you!  In the past I created a couple of seasonal I have...Who has games.  They were a hit with students.  Its been awhile so I thought a summertime I have... Who has would be a bit fun.  You can download this freebie HERE or by clicking the image.  Happy Summer!!!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Conferencing Gloves

The ONLY thing I like about packing up my room at the end of the year is it gives me a chance to organize, purge, and occasionally find something that I forgot I had.  This year I scored big!  Obviously in order to appreciate this treasure you need to be a teacher and a frugal one at that.  

Tucked away in an empty wipe box I found three pairs of work gloves.  These were not the typical work gloves; they were the ones that I wrote on about five years ago.  

We all have those students that we sit down with to conference about a book and they are stumped with what to talk about.  We want them to lead the conversation, but sometimes they need a little bit of a nudge.  By putting on a glove they have an instant choice of the conversation that they want to lead.  Not only will they have a conversation starter, they will need to identify the genre to choose the right glove and they will become familiar will the text elements that their genre encompasses.  

I made a small document that shows exactly what is on each glove.  The pictures are a little hard to see.  You can download it HERE and also by clicking the image below. 

I am excited about my new/old find.  Not only do I have an instant resource, my brain is working on other ways I can use these $1.00 a pair work gloves with other subjects.  These gloves are not going to find their way into the back of my cabinet next year; they will be out in plain sight ready for use!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

End of the School Year Freebie

It's official, the end of the school year for me is right around the corner!  I say it every year and I'll say it again, it is hard to believe that another one is gone.  In 6-1/2 days my summer begins.  I'm ready to spend some summer time with my girl!!

As an end of the school year culminating activity I have a Think-Tac-Toe I created.  It's fun, low key, and students can leave the school year with a keepsake or two.  You can download this freebie HERE from my TPT store.

Monday, May 7, 2012

It's a 5 Star Challenge

5-Star Blogger

I have a confession to make. I have a classic case of procrastination. Although I don’t think that it is simply a case, rather the plague. I did not used to be like this! I have been Type A all the way, but for some unknown reason I feel that I am becoming a world class procrastinator. It is stressing me out to the max!

I do have a reason for my confession, if only to make myself feel better I suppose. On April 16, Charity Preston from The Organized Classroom Blog challenged the blogging community. I knew about it then and feel fairly confident that I have completed the challenge yet I’m just now getting around to posting about it on this day May the 7th!

It is the 5 Star Blogging Challenge. In order to qualify as a 5 Star Blogger, Charity has five challenges. You can read more about them on her blog, The Organized Classroom Blog.

I first began my blogging journey to share my own experiences. I am thankful for this challenge, because it has caused me to reflect on my own purpose. With all things in life, there are times where we may lose focus. This challenge helped to remind me of my true purpose, to share! Thanks Charity for the reminder!

To fulfill challenge five, I am to share a great teaching idea. Well, I have an idea and yet another confession. I have wanted my students to make a lapbook. There are so many fantastic ideas on the web. So here is my confession….we did one, but you can definitely tell it was my first!! I think we were lacking in the creativity department.

As fourth graders, my students were to research a famous Missourian. We started the project by reading the Important Book by Margaret Wise Brown. If you haven’t read this book, I highly recommend it. It is a great book for teaching Ideas in writing also.

While researching, students were to find five “important” things about their famous Missourian. The last would be the most important thing.

After researching, we started the lapbook. As you can see from the photos, the title was called The Important Book. Inside they had to use one mini book per important thing. You will also find a pocket. This pocket held a printed picture of their Missourian.

Now here is the part that I may very well need to tweak for next year, the portrait. These two portraits were by far a couple of the best! Inspired from a Pinterest picture, I thought I would have my students create a picture out of scrap construction paper. Well, we did use the scrap pieces but the creativity was a bit stunted.

We learned about 21 famous Missourians in all. Our artwork may have not been out-of-this-world, but the most important thing is that we learned. Right?

Thursday, May 3, 2012

You Be The Judge

We had enough and we took our case straight to the top!  All the way to the top, all the way to the Neal Supreme Court.  Okay maybe it wasn't quite so drastic, but to my fantastic 4th graders we had some serious legal issues to debate and debate we did!  Laura Candler from Corkboard Connections has a fun project titled Green Court Claims.  Here is a summary of how we put this fun project to the test.

To begin we discussed what we were all familiar with, recycling, although very few claimed they did it.  The most common material that students recycled were soda cans.  This led to the discussion of how there are many companies that are "going green", claiming that their products are environmentally safe.  This intrigued them, and they set out on a classroom mission to find products with some type of claim.  After a few short minutes they were finding all kinds of things claiming to be of recycled materials or environmentally safe.  It was amazing how many items they found in a short amount of time. 

Fact:  Did you know that on a small box of 24 count Crayola Crayons you will find three claims?  They even have a trademarked initiative called Crayola Eco-Evolution!

After our classroom scavenger hunt they were sent on their first mission.  They were to go home and look for items in their own house that claimed to be "green".  They came back with a wide variety of claims including tissues, cleaning products, plastic bags, and even dog food!

Students worked in teams of four.  Each team came to a consensus on what product they would research and bring to the court, also known as their fellow classmates.  After a bit of deliberation, team members came to an agreement and they were off on their next mission.  They were going to try to prove their side.

Here are three of the most interesting products that were chosen:

Coke- not due to packaging but due to the amount of water that is used in making the drink.  This actually blew my own mind!

Bottled water- due to plastic of course but also they found out that some brands of water, exported from other countries, actually have their own people getting sick as a result of a limited supply of clean water.

TerraCycle Notebooks- these notebooks are made from recycled candy wrappers.  It was the first time I had seen one, but I do have to admit they were fairly cool!

After all facts were gathered, students were ready to present their case.  This part was the most fun and they LOVED it!  All silliness and 4th grade behaviors were set aside, they were lawyers and jurors ready to take a stand!  Students were asking some serious real-life questions.  Some of the students were getting down right defensive.  Things were getting personal, in a good way.  It was fun to see them take it serious and think about real consequences of their actions.

When all was said and done my students voted that all but one product was harmful for the environment in one way or another no matter what the company claimed.

This was a fun project and I can vouch for the fact that it has most definitely raised awareness with not only my students but with me!  I now feel extremely guilty drinking a bottle of water or a can of soda, especially with 22 sets of eyes on me!!

To learn more about this project and to download your free lesson and activities, make sure to visit Laura Candler's Corkboard Connections.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

It's a Jackpot and Everyone Wins!

Teacher Appreciation Week is right around the corner, and you are about to cash out!  It’s the first and the most amazing “bloghop” of its kind with a total of over 130 participating bloggers.

Here is the B-E-S-T part!  Each of the 130+ bloggers have agreed to give away one of their products to you for F-R-E-E.  You read it right FREE!  Each gift is valued between $3 and $8 leaving the jackpot worth over an estimated $500!  For the actual jackpot amount, tune in on Saturday, May 5th.

Due to the number of participating bloggers, the jackpot is divided into three grade level groups.  Each of the smaller events is coordinated by one blogger as shown below:
The day is finally here and my gift to you is my Telling Time Cooperative Learning pack.   This card pack includes directions for three cooperative learning strategies, 25 mini question/answer cards, 25 full page question cards and answer sheet.

I hope that you have a fantastic week and are told time and time again just how much you are appreciated!