Schoolroom Swag

Elementary Teacher

Having fun in the classroom and "balancing" life!

Monday, December 29, 2014


Have you ever wondered about one of your students being gifted? Did you know what to do about it?

I have a student that might be. We don't have a gifted program at our school. We're a small, private school that is lacking in funding. I think our curriculum is advanced enough for most kids that they are automatically challenged, but our principal is studying differentiated learning for gifted students, some of his research has me wondering.

I have a student who is immature socially, but very bright. She is also very distracted, and is OFTEN more focused on engaging other kids than paying attention to me or doing his work. But she's smart, and probably only needs a couple repetitions with a new concept to gain understanding. And she has a lot of prior knowledge about many things. She's an excellent reader and can read anything you give her.

But she struggles with independence, and cannot do challenge work that I give her because she is so distracted. She is also immature, and can be manipulative. I think she has a low self-concept and is so intent on making friends that she will do whatever it takes to achieve that goal. But she doesn't have the maturity to realize what that is. And all this time she is not doing her work, and I'm thinking it's because she is bored, and I am not giving her what she needs. Sigh. Do you ever feel just stumped?

And by the way, I don't like the term "gifted". I think all kids are gifted. It's a matter of how to find and nurture that gift. But I don't think society or the powers that be agree with me, because there sure is a lot of research out there written from a different perspective than mine.

Thanks for reading.
Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Scientist biographies for primary grade readers

It's so hard to find biographies for primary grades. One of our standards in Science is :

*Identify how diverse people and/or cultures,
past and present, have made important
contributions to scientific innovation.

That's a toughie. Especially when your first graders fill in their graphic organizers with information like:

*tools scientists use:

*work scientists do:
-make potions (about 6 of that answer)
-turn people into stuff (another 6...or more!)
-make meat without killing animals...hmm...tofu????

Ok, so clearly I have some work to do.

I'm trying to teach my students that scientists use everyday objects, make predictions, and conduct experiments to test their hypothesis. They do make potions, but not of the turning-people-into-stuff-sort. I'm also trying to impress upon them the important work that many scientists have already done. And we reap the benefits! 

So I created this:
It's a unit of biographies written for use in primary grades. I have some pretty gifted readers in my little first grade class. Not everyone in first grade will be able to read these. So I plan to give them to my higher level kids and let them partner read. Or you could partner with an older class.

There are 6 different scientists highlighted in the unit. I printed and laminated them. Then I bound them into a spiral book. You could use it in multiple ways. But it saves a trip to the library to dig up biographies that are too hard to read and frustrating for everyone!
Thanks for reading!

Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Community Unit with a classroom mayor!

Resources for Social Studies can be so hard to find, can't they? My text book only touches on a small part of what our standards say need to be taught. So a couple years ago, I created my own Community resource. It touches on many things, including...

Running for classroom mayor! Here they are obtaining signatures for their petitions. They need 25 signatures, including 5 older kids and 5 adults.  Our election was Friday. Here's the voting booth:
Anyone who wants to run can, but they have to fill out an application, and we hold a debate. I send home a list of questions for Mom and Dad to help them answer, and then we take turns answering those questions in our debate.
I use a Kleenex box to put the ballots in. I had a helper come and be the worker at the polling place. He took their registration cards, gave them an "I voted" sticker (I have no idea where those came from, but they sure came in handy) and helped them write a name on the ballot and put it in the box.
We also build a community out of legos. We build it on top of a target that has urban as its center, suburban outside of that, and rural on the outside.

But sometimes natural and man-made disasters hit our community!!! They make a mess of our well-designed community, and we have to discuss the possible ways to solve this problem!
Then we discuss natural and man-made and write about types of each.

We also form councils and discuss issues that come up in the community. The president does the presenting, the secretary does the writing, and the vice-president is the runner, the encourager, and the all-around helper! The students have various issues to work through, and then write about them. After they write their solution, they present the problem and solution to the rest of the class.
This unit typically last me about a month, but it could be done faster, or slower.
My students love it, especially the building and the mayor election!
Community: A Place to Live, Work, and Play
Next year I would like to add a STEM community to it, complete with community workers and what they do. A classroom restaurant, post office, police station and more! My summer next year will be a busy one! A girl can dream... 
Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

fun phonics

I am all about fun phonics lately. And my math stations. Which are not going well at this point. But that's a topic for a different day. Phonics is going great, so let's just focus on that. Baby steps.

This week we have the short o sound. Here we are making "popcorn" words. A little crepe paper and a plastic popcorn tub and you're good to go! We wrote short o words onto pieces of yellow crepe paper "popcorn", wadded them up, and tossed them into the popcorn box!

Then we glued our short o "popcorn" onto a paper popcorn tub. Even my Crabby McCrabbensteins got into it and had fun.

Last week we concentrated on the short a sound, so we built a track. With every short a word they wrote on a white board, they got to choose a piece of railroad track. Wow. Talk about engaged. I have never seen a group of 6 year olds so excited about the short a. Just hand over that "Teacher of the Year" award, please. I have my place on the shelf  all ready.

These pictures are actually from when we used the trains to compose and decompose numbers. Cross-curriculur! Yay! That was pretty cool. We really had fun with that. We put trains together (Good ol' Thomas to the rescue!), wrote addition sentences, and then pulled them apart for related subtraction.
If you need some easy-to-implement phonics activities for those days when you're just too tired and busy to recreate the wheel, here they are. Each of my hands on phonics units are $1.50. They come with at least 4 activities (or more) and have corresponding worksheets if you choose to use them.
Thanks for reading!

Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Sunday, September 7, 2014

Hands On Phonics planning freebie

I'm always looking for new ways to practice phonics.  We use  white boards a lot. And I try to find fun activities to do that are hands on, memorable and cater to my movers and shakers. Here's one thing I've done.

I was given a MULTITUDE of connecting cubes.  So I put alphabet stickers on them and we build words.

 I sometimes use printables that go along with them where the kids write words they make with the sound of the week. You can find them here.
I also made a planning sheet that I thought would be easy to quickly look at and remember at a glance what I have planned.

I left plenty of room at the bottom for pictures of any units I am using. It's worked out pretty slick so far. You can find it free here.

Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Saturday, August 16, 2014

A calendar time tip and freebie

Calendar time...argh!! One of the most frustrating parts of my day. I used to spend SO much time keeping kids on task. I created a unit of pages that they could all fill out together while one person did the work on the actual calendar area. That helped. But I still felt like we spent way too much time at the calendar, and kids were too off-task. So I'm changing it up this year. Only one person does calendar with me one-on-one. That way I'll be able to more easily assess who needs help, challenge the people who are ready, and everyone else is at their desk working on their journal. So far we've had 2 days of practice at this. So far, so good.

Right now we're only working on the date, writing the date in numerical form, the days of school, and the h-t-o chart, which is still on tens. I'll use my calendar unit as a guide to add on to that as well. We do add one day to the big calendar at a time, but we also discuss the year as a whole. We have an event calendar, which is a year-long calendar that is posted in order on the wall next to the bigger monthly calendar. Everyone is able to add their events to the event calendar. I keep those pages on the wall in a timeline so kids can see the year as a whole and where the month falls within the year.
Calendar Time's CounterpartI put my calendar unit up as a freebie on TPT if you're interested. It includes date, days of the week, months of the year, time, teeth tallying, etc. It includes a variety of pages so that you can scaffold or differentiate. There are 20 pages all together.

Good luck with your calendar time! It seems always to be a work in progress, doesn't it? But I think it's such an important part of our day!
Thanks for reading!

Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Friday, August 15, 2014

Only 3 Rules...or principles?

I think rules should be kept to a minimum. Rules should also be achievable and assessable on our end as the teacher. 

Here are mine:
1.Take care of yourself.
2.Take care of others.
3.Take care of this place.

Of course, first we read this and discuss good behaviors that make our class run smoothly and give us opportunity to have more fun, and bad choices that just might take the fun out of it. Once we have brain-stormed those, we come to a consensus that really, all those examples fall under those 3 rules.  

I refer back to them from time to time when students make bad choices. "Oh, little Thomas, you're not taking care of yourself! Get back to work!" "Oh, little Thomas, pushing is not taking care of others!" "No, little Thomas, kicking that chair is not taking care of this place."
("Little Thomas" comes from here. I love Tim Hawkins. Hilarious.)

I try to phrase them in a positive way as much as possible. Sometimes it's just not possible, or your brain is too tired. We do the best we can. 

And I don't always give them a consequence up front. Sometimes simple redirection is enough. "Little Thomas, you chose to mess around (yes, I use the phrase mess around- we talk about what it means as we are "making the rules" together). Bummer. I'm not sure yet what I'm going to do about that, but I'm going to go think about it. Don't worry about it. I'll get back to you. You just keep working on your spelling." In the meantime, sometimes that's enough and little Thomas is corrected. But of course, that doesn't work with everyone.

But so far, so good. And with the Little Thomas' that need more, I'm taking it a day at a time. Trying to build those relationships and build up their self-concept. 

 So do I use rules, or principles? I'm not sure. Does it matter?
  Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Love and Logic discipline: a practical take-away

Have you heard of, or read "Teaching with Love and Logic?

Product Details
We heard one of the team members at a conference last year and we're doing a faculty study on it this year. It is really good. It's really changing my discipline style quite a bit. Not completely, but tweaking it and making life so much less stressful. At least at this point in the honeymoon.

The basic preface is that in order to achieve behaviors that you desire, you need to develop relationships with the students and let them know you like them unconditionally. Seems elementary, I know, but it's given a fresh, new twist. And give them choices. Allow them to fail and show them empathy when they do. They will learn and grow and gain internal self-worth and confidence, which will lead to good behavior.

The book is filled with examples of stories as well as dialogues to help teachers know what to say. That's tough sometimes. I love the ease of use of this book, and the practicality of it. Here's one practical take-away that I"ve really used a lot so far this year:

"You may choose to walk on your tip-toes to the rug, or walk normally." It's turning my runners into model students.

Ok, I've fallen asleep no less than 4 times in the last 2 paragraphs. Time for bed.
Thanks for reading!

. Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Classroom tour...secret agent style

Ahh...the first full day of school. I'll be glad when it's a month from now and routines and principles are set. When I've built a relationship with the kids and it becomes more important for them to learn from and please me than get a laugh from their peers. Will that day ever come?
As Sara would say, I'm a theme girl when it comes to decorating. I like themed d├ęcor. I know some of you don't. I don't know if I always will, but for now, I'm enjoying it. This year I tried to make my theme more student friendly, to make it easier to hang kids work and anchor charts. But I added a lot of detail as well.
Take a look at my secret agent room...
Dollar store hats with pom poms set the tables apart. We have pink, green and black tables.

Close ups of the Social Studies focus wall- the pennants are based on the theme: Agents of S.C.H.O.O.L
(self-controlled, capable, honest, obedient, observant, leader)
The library:

(My library labels aren't on yet)

Can you see the scanners?

My 14 year old son made the safe. Not the quality I would have chosen, but when your 14 year old helps in your classroom, you use what they make. Or they won't be back.
The front doors (I have 2 identical on each side of one wall)

(dollar store glasses, flashlights, walkie talkies and badges)
Supplies and the birthday board, which still does not have candles in it!

The brief case in the second picture has their morning work in it. So they have to
 open it up and get it out. Very secret agent-like!

Calendar area
The yarn on the front door were lasers the kids had to crawl through on the first day.

The classes are listed on the side for now, and I put them right-side up in order as we go along and learn the schedule.
I guess I don't have any full-on views of my room. I wish I did. I know some people don't like it and might think it's too busy. That it's distracting. But I'm a believer that environment sets a tone. And a plain classroom can be distracting for some people. Even though my colors are bold, they are bright and exciting, and I use mainly lime, hot pink and black, so the look is cohesive. All my backgrounds are black. And they are plastic tablecloth. As are the curtains in the library.
If you need any secret agent classroom supplies, my unit is completely editable.
Thank you so much for taking the tour! I can't wait to see everyone else's room!
Glitter Words
[ - *Glitter Words*]