Saturday, August 31, 2013

Benchmark Testing

Next week we will begin school-wide benchmark testing.  A team of learning support teachers and reading specialists will 'sweep' through each classroom and assess students using AIMSweb benchmark tests. The purpose is to establish the students' beginning levels in math and reading and identify possible candidates for intervention.

In addition to the AIMSweb tests, students will also take the Study Island math and reading benchmarks.

That's a lot of testing to begin the year.  We'll repeat the testing process mid-year and at the end of the year.  Additionally, we'll administer the Developmental Reading Assessment twice this year and give the PSSA (state assessment) in the spring.

I often find myself wondering if there is a way to streamline the process without sacrificing the information that is gained.

I'd love to hear your thoughts...  Has testing begun in your district? What do you use?  How often?  How do you feel about it?

Sunday, August 25, 2013

SLANT Box Reveal

I'm so excited that my SLANT Box arrived!

Have you heard of The SLANT Box Exchange? SLANT stands for Sending Love Across the Nation to Teachers.  It's a monthly gift exchange for teachers hosted by Lessons with Coffee.   I love, love, love this idea!  I had to join in the fun!

The SLANT Box Exchange

I spent this past month getting to know my two teacher-matches, the Tropical Teacher and Ms. O Reads Books.

Jen Jones is my first match; she sent her SLANT Box my way.  From Starbucks and white wine, to pedicures and post-it notes, to sand and surf, to a love of reading and a love-hate relationship with running, Jen and I have so much in common.  Read on to learn about the sweet gift she sent me and then hop on over to her blog, Tropical Teacher, and leave her some love.

The SLANT Box Arrives!

First peek inside...I LOVE the scarf so much!

What a great idea...peeling the layers was so much fun!

Oops! I peeled TWO layers the first time around to find...

Shout wipes and colorful binder clips.  Then onto the next layer...

A mini Sharpie!  Let's peel another layer...

Purse-size Kleenex.  What does the next layer reveal?...

Twix...yummm!  And there's still more layers. :)

I'm in love with these little one-inch Post-it notes.  So sweet!
What will the next layer reveal?

Hand sanitizer.  One final layer to unwrap, what's inside?

K-cups for my morning caffeine fix.  :)  
This project was super fun.  It was wonderful getting to know Jen.  She and I are alike in so many ways.  I enjoyed unwrapping the layers of fun and finding the clever little surprises Jen chose for me.  She did a wonderful job selecting a mix of her favorite things and mine.  I'll be well prepared for the start of school on Monday.  :)  Thanks so much, Jen!

Don't forget to hop on over and visit Jen at the Tropical Teacher.

If you'd like to participate in SLANT, visit Jameson at Lessons with Coffee.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Going B2S with Clark the Shark

Many of my teacher friends are headed back to school next week. Students in my district begin on Monday.  We'll spend the first few days getting acquainted, building relationships, and learning classroom procedures and rules.  I found a gem of a read aloud that is perfect for the beginning of the school year.  

Story Overview:  Clark zooms into school, crashes through the classroom, and is rowdy at recess.  He loves life—but when his enthusiasm is too much for his friends, Clark's teacher helps him figure out a way to tone it down.

Lesson Idea:  Clark the Shark is a great book choice for launching a conversation about classroom rules. After reading the story, explain to students that classroom rules are made to keep us safe so we can learn. Ask students to brainstorm rules that they think are important.  Make a list on chart paper. 

Activity: Each student chooses a rule from the list.  They illustrate and write about the rule on their “Stay cool and follow this rule!” sheet. These student pages can be bound together to make a class book. 

Click {here} to download the Clark the Shark activity.  I'm offering it as a back-to-school freebie.  If you find it useful, please leave a little love in the "Ratings and Comments" section of my TpT kiosk.  Happy Friday!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Seriously Sharp!

This year will mark my 20th year of teaching, and in that time I’ve never met a pencil sharpener I’ve liked.  In fact, I’ve had terrible luck with sharpeners.  They jam, sharpen crooked, eat pencils, and make way too much noise.  I’ve been on a mission to find one that really  works.

In fact, I’ve been admiring the Classroom Friendly Supplies pencil sharpener on all the teacher blogs lately.  I read wonderful things about this sharpener, and I hoped it could live up to the hype.  So when the new sharpener arrived on my doorstep, I couldn’t wait to put it to the test!

Getting Ready
Set-up was quick.  First I found a location for the sharpener.  Then I clamped it down and tightened it.  The sharpener also works well without securing the clamp; simply apply pressure to the top while sharpening.

Operating the Sharpener
Using the sharpener was super easy.  I simply pinched the two black levers together, slid the pencil in place, and turned the handle.

When the pencil point is sharp, the sharpener stops feeding the pencil into the blades.  Therefore, you can't over sharpen or grind down the pencil.

I love this feature!  My students will stand at the sharpener forever sharpening a brand new pencil down to an itty bitty nub.  This sharpener prevents that.  :)

The Test
I tried it out on the traditional pencils and it worked perfectly.  The pencils sharpened quickly (and quietly).  Take a look at those points. Sharp.  Seriously  sharp!

The Challenge
Quality pencils sharpened easily in this device, but I bet you are wondering how it will do on those cheap foil and plastic wrapped pencils that students often use.  So I put it to the test, and it passed with flying colors.

The Report Card
The Classroom Friendly Sharpener gets straight A's from me.  If you're in search of a sharpener that really  works, check out Classroom Friendly Supplies.  This is the only pencil sharpener I have ever loved!

Sunday, August 18, 2013

TPT Back 2 School Sale

Teachers Pay Teachers is holding its annual Back to School Sale starting today, August 18th and running through Monday, August 19th.  Items in my little TpT kiosk are 20% off.  Use the code BTS13 to get an additional discount. :) 

My own shopping cart is stocked, so I'm heading over to make my purchases...I just can't wait another second!

Saturday, August 17, 2013

B2S Name Activities

I'd like to send out a big thank you to Amanda from Teaching Maddeness for featuring me today in her Budding Blogger series.  If you are visiting today from Amanda's blog, welcome!  I'm so glad you are here!

Back-to-School is right around the corner for me.  Our students officially begin the new school year on August 26th.  Those first few days of school are so important for setting the climate of the classroom, learning student names, and helping students develop peer relationships.  

Along those lines, I'd like to share with you a few of my favorite picture books and "Getting to Know You" activities to use during the first few days of school. 

Read Aloud Books (with a 'name' theme)

Chysanthemum by Kevin Henkes

The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi

My Name is Yoon by Helen Recorvits

Getting to Know You Activities

1.  Name Comparison

This activity is great for kindergarten and first grade students. Students will need scissors and a glue stick.

Download the Venn Diagram and letter tiles {click on the image below}. Copy a set for each student.  You may wish to have a few extra copies of letter tiles on hand. 

Directions for Use  
Partners use a Venn Diagram to compare and contrast the letters in their names.

2.  HELLO! Bingo 

This activity is great for students in kindergarten through third grade. You will need a class list, bingo chips, and bingo cards. 

Directions for Play 
The game is played like regular bingo.  The bingo cards have a student's name (or photo) in each square.  The bingo caller announces name of a student; if the name appears on the bingo card, it is covered with a bingo chip.  

The twist in this version of the game is that when a student hears their own name called out, they must stand and say, "Hello!" Play continues until a child has covered a complete row on the bingo card and shouts, "Hello Bingo!"

Preparing the Cards  
There are many options for preparing the cards.  Choose the one that is developmentally appropriate for your students.

Kindergarten:  Provide students a sheet of photos of their classmates to cut out and paste randomly on a blank bingo card.
You can make the cards with pre-printed names on them by using an online bingo card generator.

Grade One:  Provide a sheet of names for students to trace, cut out, and paste randomly in the squares. 

Grades Two and Three:  Provide a class list for students to use. They will write the names of their classmates in the squares of a blank bingo board like the one pictured.  Click {here} to download this freebie.  :)

3.  Name Trace (Write & Wipe)

This center activity is great to use with students in kindergarten and first grade during the first few weeks of school.  

Laminate a sentence strip with each child's name and picture on it.  

Directions for Use 
Students use the sentence strips to trace the names of their peers with wipe-off markers.  In doing so, they learn to identify the printed name with the photo on the strip.  

4.  Classmates Match (Pocket Chart Activity)

This center activity is great to use with students in kindergarten and first grade during the first few weeks of school. 

Reuse the laminated name strips (from wipe and write activity).   Cut the pictures and names apart.  Shuffle the pieces and store them in a basket.

Directions for Use 
Students match the pictures with the corresponding names, then display them in a large pocket chart.

Use the sentence strip pieces to play a memory matching game.

5.  Build a Name 

This center activity is also great to use with students in kindergarten and first grade. 

You will need the sentence strip name pieces and fun manipulatives like letter tiles, blocks, dough, letter stamps, scented markers, etc.

Students use the manipulatives to spell classmates names.

How do you help students learn their classmates names during the first few days of school?  Leave a comment.  I would love to hear from you!

If you haven't already checked out Teaching Maddeness, hurry over and will love her blog.  Amanda has so many great will love, love, LOVE her!  I promise.  :)

Teaching Maddeness

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Ten Fun Facts About Me and A Monday Made-It

It's time for Teacher Week '13 at Blog Hoppin'!

10 (Really Random) Facts About Me...

  • I have a serious sweet tooth for cupcakes (especially from Magnolia's Bakery), brownies, and everything sweet. However, I rarely eat my vegetables.
  • My dream vacation would be to the Mediterranean.
  • I love roller coasters. When I was college, worked at Hershey Park for one day. 
  • I'd be happy anywhere there is sand, surf, and sunshine.
  • I drink cinnamon coffee every morning.
  • I'm extremely ticklish.
  • This summer my husband and I started watching Dexter from the beginning. Tonight we are watching Season 6 episode 2. That's something like 60 episodes of Dexter so far - and a whole lot of creepy
  • I can't live without my kindle or my laptop.
  • If I had to eat only one food for the rest of my life it would be homemade baked macaroni and cheese.
  • I have the sweetest husband, three great kids, and a beagle named Bailey. I love them all so much!

Monday Made-It: French Memo Board Makeover

This week I decided to makeover my memo board for 4th Grade Frolics Monday Made-It linky.  There was nothing wrong with my memo board except that it didn't coordinate with my classroom or my new desk accessories.  The OCD in me would not allow for that.

Project Supplies
I'm pleased with the way it turned out.  I can't wait to tuck pictures into the ribbons and hang it in my classroom.

If you haven't linked up with Blog Hoppin' or 4th Grade Frolics yet, hurry on over and share your own fun facts and Monday Made-It project.  :)