Thursday, August 21, 2014

Blasting Off A Great Year

A few of my literacy blogger friends and I joined up to host a blog hop with high-flying literacy ideas to blast off your new year.

Launch A New Year With Interactive Literacy Notebooks

Interactive Notebooks are a great tool for students to use to document their learning.  The notebooks become a personal text book for students to reference as they need.  If you are wondering how to get started, then this post is for you.  I'll be sharing 10 Tips and a FREEBIE to help you launch your own literacy notebooks.

Interactive Notebook Supplies

Select the Notebook

Decide if you prefer for students to use a composition book, binder, or spiral notebook.  I use composition books because of their overall durability and because the pages are less likely to be torn out.

Choose the Glue

Decide what glue will best meet your needs: bottled glue, glue dabbers, or glue sticks.  I am a firm believer in Elmer's Glue.  While some teachers may be horrified at the idea of using "wet" glue, it is the only glue that stays glued for the long-term.  When I have tried other options, the items eventually became unglued from the notebooks.

Using white glue requires a mini-lesson, teacher modeling, and lots of practice.  I demonstrate making tiny dots with the glue, and students practice on a strip of paper until they get it right.

Cover Page

Author Page

Make It Personal 

This is one of my favorite steps to setting up the notebooks.  Students add a cover  design and author page.  The notebook pictured above is open to a sample author page.  The student will write down titles of books she enjoyed reading.  Taking time to personalize the notebooks builds enthusiasm, a sense of ownership, and pride in the overall appearance.  I never skip this step.

Include a Table of Contents

There are two ways to do this and both are equally effective in my opinion. You can save three pages at the very beginning of the notebook for a table of contents. Or, another option is to use each section's divider page to list the contents of that section. I prefer the second option for my students.

Divider Page with Tabs: A Table of Contents will be written here.

Add Tabs

Think about the sections you might want to have in your notebook. Our literacy notebooks have a section for Reading Strategies & Skills, Vocabulary, and Written Responses. 

Number the Pages

I have students number the bottom corner of each page at the beginning of the year. However, some teachers prefer to do this throughout the year, in case a page is messed up and needs to be removed. Since I use composition books, I do not like students to tear pages out. The books start to fall apart if too many pages are torn out.  So we number them at the beginning of the year.

Add a Storage Pocket

Attach an envelope or ziplock baggie to the inside cover of the book to store pieces that have not been glued into the books yet.

It may be a good idea refrain from using trash cans until the very end of the lesson to prevent the chance of pieces being thrown away by mistake.

Composition Book Storage Pocket

Model, Model, Model

During the lesson, create a teacher example in your own notebook.  This is a great visual for students and will be especially helpful when a student is absent.  

If you teach multiple classes, create a new book with each class. 

In the photo above, you can see the clever plastic cover I purchased for my teacher book.  It has a plastic zipper pouch.  I use the pouch to store lost pieces and materials for absentees. 

Use Book Marks or Cut the Corners

One tip that has been a real time-saver is book marking our place in the notebook so that we can flip right to the next fresh page.  This can be done by using hot glue or duct tape to secure a ribbon to the back cover.  Another method that works really well, especially if you have multiple tabs, is to cut the top corner of completed pages as you go.  Read more about this trick here.

Use a Rubber Band to Hold It All Together 

As the books grow in size, a file-size rubber band can be used to hold them together.  Using the rubber band helps to prevent things from falling out of the book or getting crumpled.  A mini-lesson on the appropriate use of rubber bands is always a good idea. ;)

Time Savers...

Cutting, coloring, and gluing take time.  Here are a few ideas to streamline that process...

  • Cut out as much as possible ahead of time.  Enlist the help of parents, substitutes, aides, and student helpers whenever possible to get the cutting done. 
  • Take advantage of morning arrival time, snack time, indoor recess, and transitions to have students cut and color.  Pre-cut items can be stored in the notebook pockets.
  • Set a time limit.  If you create a sense of urgency, students will usually work more quickly.  Early finishers can help other students cut and paste.  Students that work slowly can finish on their own time.

Grab Your Freebie Here!

Here's a little Back-to School treat just for you.  It will be available as a FREEBIE until the hop ends.  Enjoy! :)

Don't stop reading here.  ;)  Melissa has another awesome Back-to-School tip for you at Don't Let the Teacher Stay Up Late.  Click on the rocket and blast on over to her blog.

Wishing you a wonderful school year!

Fonts and graphics used in this post were courtesy of Creative Clips, Scrappin' Doodles, Library Au Lait, and Dots of Fun.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Tackling Text Complexity

Are you trying to select the perfect reading material for your students?  Selecting a 'good fit' book is more than just a Lexile level.  Come join me today over at Adventures in Literacy Land where I'll break down the topic of text complexity.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Back to School Tips and Tools Freebie Blog Hop

I am so excited to join my PA blogger buddies in hosting Tips and Tools for Back-to-School. 

If you are anything like me, you're probably feeling just a little anxious that summer is ending and school is just around the corner.  It seems like August just ticks away so quickly.  To help you with your back to school preparations, we each have a tip to share and a tool for you to use when you return to your classroom.

Make Positive Contact with Parents 

Start the year off on a positive note with parents.  Providing pleasant feedback early on will help to build a rapport with families and even soften a difficult conversation you may have to have later.  

On the first day of school I write a note in each child's planner.  I mention what a wonderful addition the child is to our class, and I share one special moment from the day.  
Example comment: "Kelsey had a great first day of 2nd grade! She was an excellent line leader today.  I'm looking forward to our year together."  
In addition, during the first week of school, I make phone calls to a few families each evening.  By the end of the week, I have had one positive conversation with each family.  Establishing a good rapport with families during the first few weeks of school will help to ensure a successful year.  :)

Message Bracelets

My tool for you is a set of message bracelets to use the first day of school.  Before school dismisses, simply attach a message bracelet to students' wrists.  When students arrive home, they can share the message on their bracelet with parents.  

You can print the bracelets in full color or copy the ink-friendly black and white version onto colored paper instead.  :)

Click on the image below to grab your freebie.

Thank you for stopping by my blog today! I hope that you enjoy the freebie.  If you would like to be the first to know about new posts, giveaways, and blog hops follow me on Bloglovin' by clicking the image below.

 Don't stop reading here!  We have more tips and tools for you.  

Just follow the link below and visit my blogging buddy Andrew at Mr. First Grade

Have fun hopping!

Graphics and fonts used in this post were courtesy of I'm Lovin' Lit, Melonheadz, and KG Fonts.  Check them out!

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

A Little Meet Up

One of my favorite events during the summer is the blogger meet-up.  I look forward to seeing my blogging buddies in person and catching up with them.
Graphics by Creative Clips and I'm Lovin' Lit
This year we met at Houlihan's in Hershey, PA, on a perfectly sunny, breezy day.
We shared teaching stories and blogging tips and had a truly wonderful afternoon.  Here are a few pictures of our little patio party.

Meet Andrew from Mr. First Grade and his adorable wife.  
They've spent the summer traveling to England and California.
When they aren't vacationing, they give trolley tours through Hershey.
While we're talking about the trolley tours...
Here is a picture of the Mr. and Mrs. on the trolley on their wedding day.
Umm, how adorable are they?

Meet Catherine from ABC 123 Is 4 Me.  
This was her first time joining us, and I just loved her.  :)
She spent her vacation in Cancun and is heading to Alaska this week.
She traveled the farthest to meet with us, and I am so glad she did.

Meet Angie from Rulin' the Roost.  She brought her two beautiful boys.  
They visited Zoo America and Chocolate world while they were in town.  
Angie has lots of exciting changes happening in her life right now...  
a grade level switch this school year and a NEW BABY on the way!  

Love these bloggers...what a phenomenal day!

I hope you'll stop back and visit us on August 10th for a Back-to-School Blog Hop.  We'll be joining our other PA blogging buddies to share Back-to-School tips and tricks.  We've each prepared a special treat just for you.  :)

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Currently July

It's July?!

I'm joining Farley to share what's happening with me, currently.

Listening:  It's morning.  It's quiet.  And peaceful.

Loving:  I'm loving my morning cup of Cinnabon coffee.  Seriously loving it.  I'm also just tad bit infatuated with my funky new running shoes. 

Thinking:  Our school is growing.  I'm changing rooms next year.  I'm wondering how everything will fit into my teeny tiny new room.  It's time to start unpacking...and purging.

My tiny new classroom.
What's not shown are the piles of boxes waiting to be unpacked.

Wanting:  I'd love a little trip to the beach.  My toes miss the warm sand.  I miss the sunshine and ocean air.

Needing: We are heading to Maryland for a lacrosse tournament.  Our son made the All American team for Pennsylvania.  His team will play Connecticut, New York, Washington DC,  and Minnesota this week. Can't wait to cheer them on, but first I need to pack my bags.

That's our boy...Lucky #7

4th Plans:  Looking forward to a low key family BBQ.

So what are you doing, currently? Hurry on over to link up with Farley and share your Currently.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

That's a Wrap

Ahhh, sweet summer!  We wrapped up our school year much later than usual due to some nasty winter weather.

I'm so pleased with the progress my students made; they worked their tails off and grew by leaps and bounds.

One of the challenges my students face is keeping that momentum going during the summer months. The "Summer Slide" seems to have a greater impact on developing readers.  In an effort to prevent that,  I made sure I sent students off with summer reading material.  I assembled a reading packet for each student based on their individual interests.

First, I printed several Reading A-Z books.  I attached a Post-It note to each book and spread the books out on the tables in my classroom.  As students came into class, they were asked to "place an order" for their summer reading bags.  They chose the books that they were interested in reading by adding their name to the Post-It note.

Then, I submitted copy requests for each book from our district copy center.  The books were copied, stapled, folded, and returned to me in about three days.  I separated the books into piles for each student. Each pile of books was different, since students chose their own books.

Next, I found a simple reading log, offered as a freebie from Ashley Reed, and printed a copy for every student.  Each year I try to create a fun, fresh summer reading incentive program.  Ashley's reading log was perfect for this purpose.

What I loved about Ashley's reading log was that it came with a sweet letter to students and it wasn't complicated or expensive to implement.

What my students loved was that they received stickers to apply to their calendars for each day that they read.

The Goal: Read for 15 minutes to earn one sticker on the calendar.  Use every sticker provided.  (There are 96 stickers which equals 24 hours of summer reading.)

The Incentive:  Students who complete the challenge will get to brainstorm and vote on the prize of their choice.  (I suggested - reading in the park, picnic lunch, pizza party, or VIP seating at an assembly - but ultimately students will choose.)

Finally, I put all the components together.  Viola!  An easy-to-manage summer reading incentive packet kids are sure to love.

How do you encourage summer reading with your students?  Please share your ideas in the comments.  :)