Monday, May 18, 2015

End of the Year Organization

This is the hardest time of the year.

I always felt like this about now.

and maybe a little of this....

One last piece of paper, one last assessment to score, one last RTI folder to fill out, don't forget the EIP paperwork, end of the year checklist, supply order for next year, and any test scores for report cards.  Oh, that's right.  We also have to do report cards!

Here are a couple of easy cheats to keep you organized at the end when a mountain of paper is coming your way!

On my desk I kept a simple manila file folder labeled end of the year.  I put in any papers that I had to keep up with and complete in the file.  While it got really fat and wasn't the most organized, I could still find things when I needed them. I kept things like:

papers for report cards
EIP checklists
supply order
end of the year checklist
my to do list (it was huge)
and any other incoming papers for the end of the school year that I would need to refer to or complete.

I always had to do DRA assessments on each child in my class at the end of the year.  At my previous district I had to do a different reading assessment, but still one for each child. The assessments were always one-on-one to assess fluency, decoding, and comprehension with some sort of running record and comprehension check. 

To keep these organized I kept a class list on a clip board.  I kept any completed running records/ assessments on the clipboard as well.  As I completed a child's testing, I marked the child off the list and wrote the level next to the student's name so I could have all the final levels at a glance.  This made it easy to transfer to whatever spreadsheet the school required. These were also included in the end of the year portfolio, so it helped to keep them altogether. Then, I could easily sort them into portfolios.

Speaking of portfolios, we had to provide one of these for each student.  We had a required list of materials.  I found that it was much easier to keep all of the samples together by assignment, rather by student.  

For example, each student had to have a sample of writing from each genre.  Initially, I always filed students' writing samples into their file that I kept on each individual student.  Bad idea.  This means I had to pull each sample out of each individual file when it was time for end of year portfolios, because of course, these were TOTALLY different. Sigh.

Instead, I kept a folder labeled "opinion writing sample." Inside the folder I kept one sample of opinion writing from each student.  I kept all the samples in order by student's numbers.  That way, when I sorted my portfolio by student number I could easily (and quickly) sort the papers.  

I kept all the papers throughout the year that need to be filed in portfolios in this filing cart.  I got it from an office supply store like Office Max or Office Depot. Here is one you can get from Office Depot.

At the VERY end, I recruited help!  My students were always glad to help.  The last day of school I asked students to help shut down the classroom.  I wrote about that here.  I feel that students should take pride in their ownership of the classroom and take part in caring for it.  So, they helped clean it up, too!

We usually spent about 1 to 2 hours the last day cleaning.  I assigned student's jobs or let students pick.  I kept a running list.  I have shared the list before, but I have updated it to make it pretty AND added a few more jobs!  

Click here to get your FREE copy!

Did I miss anything?  What else do you or your students help do to keep it together and organized until the end?

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Preparing for Next School Year NOW!

I remember a few years ago I was teaching second grade.  A friend on mine came in carrying AR cards (this was when the school was in full AR mode) and mentioned she was going to laminate them.  I remember asking her, "Why? Don't you already have them?" It was, like, the last week of school.  Who were these kids that were taking so many AR tests that they needed new cards? Say what!?!?!

Then, the angels sang and she replied, "Oh, these are for next year."

Wait, NEXT year?

I was barely holding on for dear life.  Field day had wiped me out.  End of the year assessments were piled and in dire need of scoring (just as a little note of irony, I misspelled this word when first writing the blog post and spell check corrected it as "screwing!" That is about right, too! LOL!!!) . And report cards? Let's not even GO there!

Then, I decided to give it a go. And it was miraculous. How had I never even THOUGHT of this before?!?! I always started preparing for the new school year....well, when it was the new school year! But this dear friend (love ya, Shannon!) taught me better!

So, how can you make this as painless as possible?

First, sit down and consider creating a list of all the things you can copy, create or make, and buy for the next school year. I am a big fan of lists and I think they can help you stay on track.  You might also want to grab a teacher friend and pick their brains to see if you guys can come up with things to do in advance to make life easier.

These were my to do lists from a few years ago if you want an example.  Want a blank copy of the list above? Click on the picture below for a FREE copy!

Looking for more specifics on how to prepare?  Let's think about this!

I always tried to hit up the teacher store (I always went to the School Box) in May.  I usually knew my theme for the next school year and we found out our next year's grade assignments with about 2-3 weeks left in the school year.  This made it MUCH easier to prepare!  The teacher store was always CRAZY come August, when school started.  And the week of pre-planning was just a MESS!

Usually the store as pretty well stocked- even in May!  I went and picked up things like:
A new grade book or planner
More border if I was out
Charts/ bulletin board displays I knew I would need
People cut outs for my Classroom Promise
Library Pockets- I used a billion of these
Die Cuts for my Hall Display- I laminated them and put them on clothespins.
Name Tags- I used these for name tags- but also to label things around the classroom
Smaller, theme matching die cuts- I used these to label my organizational boxes, the kids book boxes, etc.

Any other ideas?

I know this time of year, the copier may make you feel like this...

or even this...

Really though, it can be your best friend right now.

The beginning of the year copier lines were CAH-RA-ZEE. And on top of that, we had to WAIT until the paper even came in!  It wasn't available that first day. So, if you have access to paper and copies now?  Jump on that thing!

What are some things you can copy now?  Well, how about...
Anything  you know you will use each week:
Weekly fluency poems
Estimation jar sheets for each month
Math speed drill tests
Friday folder covers
Weekly progress report
Spelling tests

Any beginning of the year assessments you know you will need like:
 DRA test
Anecdotal note sheets
DRA graph sheets

Papers that you use regularly like:
Guided math binder sheets
Copies for student dictionaries or resource books

Sneak a Peek/ Registration paperwork for Parents:
Email/ sign in sheet
How will I get home the first week?
Transportation form for rest of the year
Child information sheet
Info card on card stock
Volunteer form
Phone information sheet
How will I go home sheet
Website permission for pictures 

All of these Sneak a Peek/ Registration forms above are available in my store for only $2. A variety of themes are available.  You can find them here or by clicking on the picture below.

Are you lucky enough to have parent volunteers?  I know as the school year winds down they may not be able to work with the kids due to special events and disruptions to the schedule.  Still have them come in and do some grunt work!  Most parents love to help in any way and they can save TONS of time!

So what can volunteers do?  How about:
Create/ staple student dictionary
Laminate and cut out any hall displays, name tags, labels, or border for next year (HUGE time saver for you!)
Laminate large sheets of construction paper (12 x 18) for hall display and cut out
Hot glue die cuts to clothespins for hall display
Create book baggies to go home for guided reading and laminate (I should write a post on this...)
Sharpen pencils (mundane but oh-so-needed)
Stuff or create birthday bags or treat (if you give birthday students a treat)

Here is an example of my hallway from the past:

It is nothing special, but a great use of parent volunteer time (rather than mine!).

Any other ideas I am missing?  I am sure there are several!

Start thinking about all the things, such as school supplies, you need for next year.  I did have *some* money the school provided and I always turned in the order before the year ended.  This was great because I got my supplies, such as construction paper earlier, which was much needed.  However, it was never enough.

The VERY end of the year (I am talking about post planning here) I tried to go through my cabinets and make a list of things I needed such as velcro, paper clips,  clip boards, a new bucket for recess toys, or sheets for the bulletin board display.

This was very helpful because when you are going to garage sales (do you do this, too?  Guilty pleasure of mine!) you can look for any  of the items on your list for super cheap.  

It also helps when all those back to school flyers start coming out so you actually buy what you need...rather than what you "feel" you need.  Or "might" need.  But you're not sure because you haven't looked in your cabinet since school got out two months ago. So you will just buy it "in case." You will return it if you don't need it.  Except you get too busy and never return it. don't do that? 

You can store all this in your "Next Year" box.  You do have one of those, right?  If not, read here or click on the picture below to learn about this life saver!

Anything I can add to my list?

How do YOU prepare for the new school year?

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Second Grade Brigade

I have been doing a lot of thinking lately. It seems like this is a great time for it, doesn't it?  The end of the school year leaves lots, well, maybe some time for reflection. Personally, I would like to make sure the products I am creating best meet your needs (and your needs, and yours, and yours, and you, too!) and those of your students.

But to do that I need help.

So, I have decided to ask for some :).

I have decided to hand-pick a small group of teachers to be my field testers and opinion-ers.  I know that is not a real word, but it gets my point across! I need some people that aren't afraid to be honest and hurt my feelings :).  I am actually made of pretty tough stuff, I promise.

I would like to create a closed group of teachers to preview products, suggest products, suggest improvements and revisions, answer specific questions about current teaching strategies and assessments. Basically be my guinea pigs to make sure my stuff is, well, up to snuff!

There will be a pretty tight criteria to even be eligible for participation:

  • experience in second grade
  •  a strong grasp of Common Core Standards OR your state standards.  I know many states don't follow the CCS....
  • SUMMER access to the 2015-2016 pacing guide
  • SUMMER access to several common assessments or benchmarks used by the school/ district (or really any assessments so I can analyze HOW the questions are designed)- I will not be "stealing " any questions I promise.  Sometimes it is nice to hear or see examples to make sure I am on the right track, though.  
  • be available for immediate feedback or answer questions in a closed FB group.  You will be expected to respond within 1 day (unless you let me know you will be out of town or there is an emergency). 

So, basically I am asking a pretty good bit of you.  There will be some days (or even several days) where I will ask for you opinion/ input several times.  However, there will be others where I don't ask at all.

I know that is asking a lot, but what will the closed group (or "Second Grade Brigade" as I am calling them!) get? Participating teachers will receive all field tested products discussed FREE, as well as a $30 credit in my TPT store.

Since your time is valuable and short during the school year, I will really only need to group for June 1st to Aug 1st (unless we decide as a group to continue it- you will have the opportunity to opt out).

I  will only be selected TEN teachers for this group.  I think any more would make my head spin! :)

I am going to be kinda a hussy about all this: if you agree to all this I will expect for you to stick to it. If you are not available frequently as agreed, you will be removed from the group and will not receive free products or the $30 store credit.

Are you interested?  If so, just complete this form.  I will close the form on May 17th and announce the group shortly after.  We will not start until June 1st!

Thank you so much!  I hope you guys know how much I truly value your input and feedback!!!

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Keeping Students Motivated Through the End of the Year

About this time of year, I always felt like that poor, little, scraggly owl.

I counted the days.

I was tired. So.very.tired.

Unfortunately, so were the kids.  So, it was MY job to keep them motivated, and together, and fresh for a FEW more days!

Hop on over to read my post at the Primary Peach!  I have several freebies in there for you ;)!!!

Sunday, May 3, 2015

TONS of May (and End of the Year) Goodies and FREEBIES!

I put together an (somewhat, to my non- type A eyes) organized set of rough, month long plans for May.  May is always such a crazy time of year with award ceremonies, assessments, field day, celebrations, and the list goes on and on and on. It is easier to look at the days where we aren't jam packed and then plan backwards from there! 

I wanted to put together an organized list of  my freebies, other sellers' freebies that suited the units of study, and some of my products to help you.  Click on the pictures.  They will take you to a pdf file.  If you download the pdf file, all the images (and the highlighted text) are hyperlinked to the products and freebies. 

First up is a look at reading!  In May we spend a great deal of the time reviewing some of the bigger concepts in second grade.  We  focused on retelling plot, recounting stories, and comparing and contrasting.   The unit covered MANY standards. When you look at retelling, it is easy to incorporate SO MUCH.

Have you read any of William Steig's books?  They are oldies, but goodies.  Most of his books have awesome vocabulary and are a little on the longer side for picture books- perfect for those almost third graders!

In math, we were usually  trying our hardest to firm up our addition and subtraction skills with larger numbers. Subtraction across zeros is always a tough skill.

I don't know about you, but we spend so much of our time in May finishing paperwork and assessing kids.  These Cite That passages are perfect for SHORT reading assessments.  They are differentiated AND leveled- perfect for a common assessment! The math printables are perfect for a quick glance or assessment of review skills.

If you want time to finish up all the "loose ends" AND keep your students engaged until the end, check out these end of the year units My students LOVED them. I mean, really LOVED them.  We performed a reader's theater (linked below for FREE!) for parents and students in other grades.  The units contain lots of FUN and engaging activities for students to complete independently.  We hung the work up in the hall to decorate for our readers theater performance. The parents LOVED it!

Unless you are living under a rock (like me the last few days. SO.BUSY!), you are fully aware that TpT is about to have their big Teacher Appreciation Sale!

The sale is Tuesday, May 5th through Wednesday, May 6th.  Make sure to use the code to get up to 28% off your order.  ALLLLL the items in my store will be 20% off- if you use the above code it will actually be 28% off! Wahoo!

And to show how much WE appreciate you, I have teamed up with my girl Jivey.  Do you know her?  She has some AWESOME mentor sentences packs! Seriously, if you struggle with teaching grammar in context, she is your go-to girl!

We wanted to make planning ELA for August super easy.  So, here is everything you need!

On our Facebook pages for TODAY only we will be giving away the following to one lucky winner:

Go to both of our Facebook pages for a chance to enter! BOTH of us will pick one winner, so you can actually enter twice! ;)!  The contest ends TONIGHT! 

Thank you for making a difference! So proud to be a teacher!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

It's a New Georgia Blog with FREEBIES!

I am so excited to be part of a new adventure!  I am joining about 30 other Georgia  Elementary School bloggers to create an exclusive, collaborative blog chock FULL of tips and treats JUST for Georgia teachers!!! I'd like for you to meet...

For the first blog post we are doing a blog hop full of FREEBIES!  And not just any freebie, a freebie that is tailored for the end of the year.  The kids are wild, the weather is warm, and we are all holding on for dear life.  Can I get an "Amen, sista?" Each blogger has created an exclusive, end of the year freebie, just for you!

But first, let us introduce ourselves.

My name is Mandy Gregory!  I am the author of this blog as well as the website Mandy's Tips for Teachers.  I have taught 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade in a variety of settings from gen ed, gifted clusters, ESOL clusters, as well as inclusion. I love 'em all!  I am a firm believer in a hands-on, gamed-based learning environment.  Let's make learning fun! Currently, I am a stay at home mom with two beautiful little girls.  Kinley is four and Maddie will be two in June.  We are VERY busy! So busy, the most recent family picture I have is from this past Halloween.  Squint a little and ignore the cat ears, and we look exactly the same ;).

I have a special little sweet treat, that was written specifically for second grade teachers.  In May, we still had tons of things to cover, but we also had to continuously review for the benchmarks...and they seemed to always come so early! I created this little freebie to help review!  It is a pack with 18 mixed review math questions, with geometry, word problems, place value, addition, subtraction, and more.  Really, just a little bit of everything.  It is in black and white to save your ink and I made it easy cut out for you! Students can use the questions to play either the included board game or tic-tac-toe game!

Click on the picture below to snag your copy!!

Want to win to win one of FOUR TPT gift certificates?  There will be one GRAND PRIZE of a $50 TPT gift certificate and three other lucky winners will each win a $25 TpT gift certificate!  Make sure to check out the Rafflecopter giveaway on the Primary Peach and follow along! Click on the picture below!

Want to meet the next Primary Peach blogger, Theresa, and collect another freebie?  Click below!!!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Informational Writing with Jimmy Carter (FREEBIE)

I don't know about you guys, but somewhere around this time of year I fell apart.  I always got sick, was tired, and struggled to come up with engaging and fun lessons.  I felt like the wheels just came off!  

This was a short, guided writing activity that took about a week. While it didn't have tons of bells and whistles, my kids still enjoyed it.  It was short, to the point, and everyone was successful.

In second grade, we study famous Georgia historical figures. The last nine weeks was also review pretty much all of the standards.   I wanted to combine social studies, writing, and  grammar in context to get the most bang for my buck.   So, this writing activity was born!

My classroom was a co-taught classroom.  We had a variety of students with different needs: speech and language, ESOL, learning disabilities, and general ed.  So, we did a lot of guided practice.  We wrote a shared piece about Jimmy Carter.  Then, students wrote an informational paragraph about Jimmy Carter. We had just finished studying him, so he was a familiar topics and kids had lots of knowledge about him.

To start with, we described the writing task to students.  We were writing an informational piece about Jimmy Carter describing why he is remembered today.  Then, as a whole group we brainstormed a topic sentence. I purposely created it as a sentence frame for students to complete. 

Next, students went to their seats and wrote the topic sentence and completed their sentence frame. Students could use the topic sentence we brainstormed (and fill in the blank) or could create their own.  Honestly, all of that took about a day.  Just to set it all up and get everyone started.

The next day we did a shared writing activity with details about Jimmy Carter.  We create a web first, but I forgot to take a photo.  Here is a similar photo of a web we created about Jackie Robinson. 

Students then went to their seats and worked on a web about Jimmy Carter. You can get your copy of the web (and a blank version, too!) here.

After we created the web, I modeled writing the details in paragraph form. I also color coded the shared writing so students could see exactly what we were working on AND the parts of an informational paragraph. I only have a photo of the finished paragraph (sorry!), but the details are in red!!!

This took about two to three days for us to model and the kids to complete the web and details.

Then, we did the same activity with brainstorming a closing sentence (in blue).  We brainstormed the closing sentence as a sentence frame and students filled in the blank.

When it was time to model revising, I really wanted to focus on students choosing and using adjectives and adverbs.  We created a chart (I just did this quickly on the white board) of adjectives  that described Jimmy Carter using the word "because." We created a chart full.

The next day we created a similar chart using adverbs.

First, we brainstormed verbs of things Jimmy Carter did and wrote them in a sentence. After we created the sentences with the verbs, we brainstormed adverbs to describe HOW Jimmy Carter did the verb.  This was much more difficult for our students than the adjectives brainstorming activity.

Students can fill out the charts above to create sentences with adjectives and adverbs. Click here to get the charts!

Then, I modeled how to  choose one of the sentences with adverbs or an adjective and add it in an appropriate place in the paragraph (the purple marker). Students then edited and wrote a final copy of the paragraph. 

The whole process took about a week from start to finish.  It hit a BUNCH of standards.

Since the Jimmy Carter paragraph was so guided, students could then choose another Georgia figure (Martin Luther King, Mary Musgrove, James Olgethorpe. etc) and write their own paragraph using the same process!  Boom!  What a great grade for adjectives, adverbs, and informational writing!!!

If you are looking for more Jimmy Carter activities, I have this pack full of stuff!  He can be a bit hard to find grade appropriate materials on!