Sneak a Peek/ Registration Freebies!

I have worked at two different schools and both had a chance for families to come in before school started to meet the teacher and fill in paper work.  One school called it Registration and the other called it Sneak a Peek. For the sake of the clarity of this post, I will refer to it as Sneak a Peek. It is such a cute name! LOL!

I always worked like a dog to get my room ready for Sneak a Peek!  It was the last day of pre-planning and I slaved to get my room set up and pretty in time.

Here is how I set my room up!  I usually did it the SAME way every year, just to make it easier on myself.

I always created a rotation system.  My desks were always set up into table groups.  I put any papers on the  desk groups.  I told parents as they entered to simply rotate to every table (including my guided reading table) in the room and they would get everything! 

This first rotation was the most important and was the table group closest to the door.   I labeled the picture to make it easier to explain!
a.) I always put a bucket for parents to return forms to.  This made it easy to organize and sort papers. I had one on each set of tables to keep the papers organized.

b.) I kept a basket of pens on every table group so parents would always have something to write on.

c.) I typed up a quick set of directions for each table and printed in on cute paper.  This was no frills.  I also TAPED it down so it wouldn't' get lost in the shuffle of papers.

d.) This was my parent contact form. Parents filled out the info at the top.

e.) This was a form for the whole class to show how students went home. It might seem redundant, but I liked to have the whole class on one sheet for subs and such. I put it on a clipboard because it did not have to be returned to the bucket. Parnet just had to write on it!

f.) This was just a sign in sheet.  We had to turn these into the office. I also kept it on a clipboard because it wasn't put in the retur papers bucket.  I felt like the clipboard made parents less likely to try to move the paper! LOL!

This was  the second set of desks to create a table group. This one pretty much focused on transportation.

a.) I always put a bucket for parents to return forms to.  This made it easy to organize and sort papers. I had one on each set of tables to keep the papers organized.

b.) I kept a basket of pens on every table group so parents would always have something to write on.

c.) I typed up a quick set of directions for each table and printed in on cute paper.  This was no frills.

f.)  through d.) Were all transportation forms. At the schools I worked at kids had a million and one ways to go home.  ti was mind boggling.  And they ALWAYS changed.  The first day, was different from the first week, which was different from the remainder of the school year.  So we were overly cautious and asked for LOTS of documentation!

Here are two different forms for the first week of school- both are for the first week, but are just a different format.  There is no need to give parents both!  Just choose the one form that best first your classroom! LOL!  You can click on the pictures to download both forms FREE!

Another important form is this itty-bitty bus tag.  You can attach these to bookbags the first day or have students wear them on a string or nametag badge.

This is a filled out version if you want to use it and it works for your school. 


I also have an editable version so you can change it to meet your needs!  Simply click on the pictures to download your FREE copies!

The third table had information about (c) volunteering and then (d) a get-to-know-my-child form. Parents could return the forms to the bucket, or could take them home since the get to know you form took a bit to fill out.

This last table just had a bunch of information from the school.  Parents didn't need to fill anything out- they just took it with them!

I also had a few other, not as important, areas set up around the room.

The kids loved this one! I put a basket of candy (a great attention getter!) around stars with items I would love donated in the classroom.

I typed up this quick list!  It sticks with the sea creatures theme from above!

I made the donation requests really simple to cut apart. Just click on the pictures above to download this freebie!

I also liked to give parents a little gift.  I just bought microwaveable popcorn and stuck a cute little Avery label on it that said, "Thanks for popping in!" You can download the labels here free!

On the board I made some homemade business cards with my information.  I just die-cut a cute shape, stuck on an Avery label with my contact info, and laminated them.  Then, I cut them out and affixed magnets to the back.  This way parents could keep my contact info on the fridge for easy access!  I  also ordered some magnetic business cards from Vista Print some years! This was much faster! LOL!

Next to the business cards, I put little post its with reminders.  The reminders had information about our Open House.  I just hand wrote the day and the time.  Then parents could grab a post it reminder on the way out the door.

 I made these little slips if you would rather use them.  My friend printed them back-to-back.  One side had the supply list and the other had Open House information.

I made these editable so you can type in your own supply list and Open House information!  Just click on the pictures to download this freebie!

Are you looking for parent forms for back to school?  I have all the forms listed in this post for only $2!!!

If you liked the Sea Creatures theme in all the freebies, I also have it in the matching parent forms!
Here is a preview of what is in all the parent form packs! Only the clip art and titles may be slightly different to match the themes!!



10 Tips for Starting Interactive Notebooks

I went out to dinner with another teacher the other night. You guys know how it is, I am sure!  We started chatting, and OF COURSE school popped into the conversation!

She mentioned that a friend was entering her FIRST year in the classroom and had bunches of questions. So, this blog post is really a result of that conversation (love ya, Tina!). She wanted to start interactive notebooks, but wasn't even sure how to get started!

Here are a few tips and thoughts to help you get started on your interactive notebooking journey!

The first problem many teachers run into right out of the gate!  Maybe this one is already decided for you, simply by the supplies your students do (or do not) bring in.  There are pros and cons to both spiral and compositions notebooks.

Spiral  Notebooks:
      Pros- super cheap during back to school sale, have larger page size
      Cons- pages tear out very easily, the spiral can easily become "unwound"

Composition Notebooks:
      Pros- sewn binding so pages don't tear out easily
      Cons- more expensive, actual page size is a tad smaller

Really, it is up to you and what works best for your classroom and age of children.

If you do choose composition notebooks, you can get around the smaller page size by simply reducing the copy size to 80-85% on your copier ;).

Storage pockets are so handy and easy to create!  Either create a pocket by stapling together construction paper or cutting off the top of a clasp envelope.  Then have students glue it onto the back or front cover. 

 If students are unable to finish an activity, but the pieces are already cut out, simply have students store the pieces in the pocket!

"Turn to the next page, please."

How many times have you said this, but somehow your sweet cherubs end up turning a chunk of pages and have skipped about 30 some odd pages? Yeah, that is real life.

One way to prevent this is by hot gluing a thin piece of ribbon to the back cover in the top left corner.  Students can use it as a bookmark to help them find the correct pages. At the very least it will help them remember where they left off!

Another trick is to actually teach kids how to turn pages. I teach my kids to pick up a page and gently rub the corner of the page to separate any that are stuck together. It does help some kiddos!

Model, model, model.  Interactive notebooking requires kids to have good listening  skills and the ability to follow directions because they are multi-step.

Make sure you model what best effort should look like in your classroom? What lines do students cut or fold on? Where and which side do they glue activities on? Do they color?  How much?  Is coloring done at home? Will the pages be numbered?  Will you keep a table of contents?

Many interactive notebook activities require a great deal of cutting and pasting. I highly suggest that they jot down their classroom number, initials, or SOMETHING on the back of each piece to identify it.  This way if their work is mixed in with a neighbor's work, dropped on the floor, or mysteriously  found in the trash can, it can be returned to the owner. 

Just to make it as speedy and efficient as possible, we used classroom numbers in my second grade room.  This is what kids wrote on the backs of their pieces.

I actually am a fan of letting kids get up to throw trash away.  Honestly, I feel kids sit too long as is and need time to stretch and move. So I rarely banned trips to the trash can unless they were wayyyyy too excessive. 

 However, there were times when we did cutting projects where I wold place a basket at each table groups just to control the chaos.   This would be great for interactive notebooks since many of the activities do require a great deal of cutting.

You can use just a Dollar Store basket, or even those super cute mini trash cans that can be found at the Dollar Store!

Ah, the great glue debate!

So, should you use stick glue or white bottle glue?  Well, there are pros and cons of both.

Stick glue is easy to use and much cleaner.  However, the glue can lose its stickiness and the papers can peel off.

Bottle glue is a hot mess, but sticks for a long time.

I am always afraid my kids will look like this:
(Affilate Link)

I guess the choice is yours.  I did use glue sticks and just asked kids to reglue loose pieces. You could also teach an explicit mini lesson on how to glue with dots.

Some people swear by glue sponges, but I haven't done that.

I love that it can be easy differentiate  activities in the interactive math notebook.  In the picture above you can see color coded folders. Each folder corresponded to a math group.  All the work in the pockets looked the same, but was differentiated for each group. Since all the teacher prep required is copying, this was super easy!

This is a tip for assessing.  If you choose to grade notebooks, just snip the top corner of the pages you have checked over.  That way you don't have to thumb through alllll the pages to figure out which is next.

I got that fabulous tip from Mary, at Teaching with a Mountain View.  Isn't it fabulous??!?!?!

Interactive notebooks are an amazing resource!  Students can go back and check their learning as reference.  

Want to make the most of using your interactive math notebooks as a reference tool?

Click on the pictures above to get a FREEBIE pack of math tools for students to add to their notebooks! The freebie pack includes a number line, hundreds chart, place value chart, coin chart, clock and MORE!

You can glue them in at the beginning of the year to teach kids how to cut and glue, or glue them in as each concept is introduced!

Are you thinking about starting interactive notebooks? I have a monthly math interactive notebooks exactly correlated to the second grade standards.  Do you think it might be a good fit for your classroom? Here are a few hints on why they are a FABULOUS classroom learning tool!

Interactive notebooks are actually more than just cutting and pasting. It is a system for leanring and organizing thoughts and practice during lessons.  Jennifer from is an expert at this!  She created the image above to show how one side of the notebook is for teacher directed material and the other is guided practice.

My monthly interactive math notebook packs are perfect for the output side.  The notebooks cover a variety of skills for students to practice their learning. 

My monthly interactive math notebooks are a great "quick and dirty" check of students learning.   They target specific skills and are  perfect for a check in.

And last, but not least, my monthly interactive math notebooks are FUN!  Kids LOVE working on them and I have been told by more than one person that their students actually REQUEST them!  For real!

Want to check them out?

Until tomorrow only (until midnight) all my math interactive notebooks are 20% off for only $4.40!!

My math bundle of interactive notebooks are ALSO discounted 20%  Get Aug though December for only 17.60!

And just because....I discounted ALLL my interactive notebooks 20%, too!  Check out my ELA, spelling, science, and social studies interactive notebooks!

And one last thing...did you guys see this awesome video, Molly from Classroom Confections made?  It is PERFECT for introducing interactive notebooks with students and getting them excited!  Love it!!

Click here for this great pack of FREE math centers, plus get tips and updates from me!



Throwback Thursday: Organizing Guided Reading Books (FREEBIE)

I am going to start a feature this month of highlighting past posts on the blog.  I have so many back to school posts, that I want to make sure you guys see them and get the freebies!

This is a simple blog post, but OH SO helpful!  I hope it helps you get organized, too!


I am so very lucky. My district gives each classroom a zillion guided reading books to use in small groups.  It is a fantastic problem to have- and it can be a wee bit of a problem.

 Too many resources... cry me a river, right?

 However, all those fabulous resources have to be stored somehow.  We are given a table with has compartments to sort the books- but it is open and very visible to the eye.  Ick.

 I like my clutter and crap hidden.  It gives the illusion of organization.  Perception is reality, right? If I appear organized, people will believe I am organized (even though I haven't filed the 8 foot pile of student work on my filing cabinet).

Instead of the table I use a piece of furniture that is like a set of cubbies with tubs.   Many people use them for supplies.  Not me, because I must be different.  Instead I sort my guided reading books into each tub.  Some tubs have one level, others have a combination of levels.  It simply depended on how many books fit in each tub.

(Please forgive the post it- I forgot to print a label!)

To make it easy to access all my books, I label each tub.  I like pretty, so I made pretty hot pink, chevron labels that pop against the blue tubs.

Jumps right out, doesn't it!

If you would like a set of these alphabet labels, click here to download them for FREE!



Pencil Problems

I just had a reader post on my Facebook page and ask me to poll my readers about classroom management and pencil management.

Some people might laugh about having to manage pencils in the first place, but we all know those laughing have never taught elementary school before.  Or maybe even middle and high school, but that is out of my range of experience! ;)

I am sure most of you have experienced a gorgeous jar FULL of freshly sharpened pencils, only to find it bare and desolate  by lunch time.  Where do the pencils go?  I know some kids eat them, for real. I also know that Natalie-Never-Has-A-Pencil inevitable has 7 under her seat at any given time. Bless her.  It is like me with my cell phone.  I just can't keep track of the dang thing!

My system was totally imperfect, but I will share it.

First, I had two things. I had a sharp and a dull jar.  This was located on my back counter (where the sink was) where general supplies that kids had access to was located.  Each table group also had a black, plastic tote that held pencils, crayons, and colored pencils.

In the morning kids got two pencils from the sharp pencil jar to use.  The pencils were stored in the black totes on the tables and were used by that group.  In theory, kids wouldn't lose the pencils. If a child needed a sharp pencil in the middle of the day, they could trade a pencil out and return the dull pencil to the dull jar for a sharp pencil.  They could only do this when the teacher wasn't talking. At the end of the day one students would collect all the pencils from the black totes and sharpen them and return them to the sharp jar. If the sharp jar needed more pencils, then I would refill it as needed.

Did it work?  Well, yeah, kinda. Not the best, but not the worst.  So I am a world class expert on this obviously ;).

* Buy tons of pencils in the beginning of the year.  Don't go cheap, they don't sharpen as well.  Ticonderoga is a great, but expensive brand.

*Buy extra erasers during the back to school rush.  Erasers often go before the pencils and this can extend the life of your pencils. These are great things to put on your extra supplies list for parents to gift to the classroom.

* Do you have classroom volunteers?  ALWAYS have them sharpen pencils for you outside the classroom.  Our library always had a great pencil sharpener we could use.  Kids didn't have access to it (so it was less likely to jam), it got volunteers out of the classroom if you aren't comfortable being observed, and you will ALWAYS need more sharpened pencils.  I had a huge tub and we just kept adding to it.

*Invest in a good sharpener, but know eventually it will die if your kiddos are messing with it.  Some last longer than others, but kids are just hard on a sharpener.  PLUS, that poor sharpener is a work horse and kids never get it a break.  I would peter out myself.  I have heard that the more expensive Boston Brands are good.  I have also heard that the World's Friendliest Pencil Sharpener is great, although I have not actually used one.

I also got some great responses on my Facebook page!  There were too many, so I can't share all of them, but here are the highlights!  if you want to read ALLL the comments, click here to read that post!

  •  Liz said, “We do the great pencil challenge each week! Usually by table groups....we count the pencils on Monday for each group and write it on the board, then count again on Friday, and the group that has at least as many as they started with and then the most pencils (that are useable!) in their bucket on Friday gets a reward....I will usually give prizes to each group that has at least kept their number the same. I use different rewards, free reading time, give free movies, shoes off for the afternoon.....did you don't necessarily have to purchase. It was AMAZING how many pencils adjusted in my classroom and the critical thinking the kids were doing to win!!
  • Kathleen AND my friend Angie, shared a similar tip! Kathleen said, “Papermate sharp writer mechanical pencils (lead cannot be refilled) I give each student 1/month with their student number on it. When it runs out of lead or breaks they use a regular pencil. They trade a broken for a sharp one. Students do not use the sharpener during class.
  • Amanda likes the same brand I do! She shared, “Community pencils...with a pencil sharpener job for students. They take turns sharpening pencils from the "red cup" (unsharpened) and move them to the "green cup" (sharpened). They are allowed 3 in their desk but there are always going to be hoarders. I also found that presharpening all new pencils after collection makes it soooo much easier and have even put sharpened pencils on supply lists. Another HUGE help is using the best pencils first...Ticonderoga is the BEST and I have requested those for pencils on supply lists, too!
  • Echoing Ticonderoga and the Great Pencil Challenge, Melinda said, “Buy Ticonderoga pencils and start the great pencil challenge. I make labels at the beginning of the year with each kid's initials and number them 1 to 6. They start with 2 pencils, and I do a pencil check at the end of each month, and make a big deal about it and give brag tags. It's a bit to manage at the beginning, but it pays off.
  • Michelle is another fan of Ticonderoga! She shares, “Each student has 1 pencil with their number on it. I only use Ticonderoga because they are the best and typically do not break easily. If it needs sharpened during the day, they signal to me and I will do it for them. All Pencils are turned into a cup at the end of the day and sharpened. I teach them that this is their one and only pencil and not to be chewed on, drawn on, etc. Last year my kids went through an average of only 5 pencils each...for the whole year. More than 1 pencil creates clutter in their table buckets, in my opinion. I do not offer prizes regularly, but I will randomly award each student that has taken care of their pencil with a new neon Ticonderoga of their choice. 
  • Kristine’s method was super simple…I like that! “I just have a big basket with sharpened pencils then a bin with ones that need to be. If they want a special pencil sharpened they can ask me before school or in the morning. If one breaks they know where to find a new one. I sharpen about once a week, and every so often ask kids to donate from their desks to the pencil basket. Worked great last year!
  • Roxann shared something I have never heard of…have you heard of these? “ I buy Finger Fitter pencils, as I have yet to find a regular pencil that doesn't break a dozen times a day. The Finger Fitter pencils are triangular and larger than regular pencils. I label them with numbers and pass one out each six-weeks. They are collected at the end of the day to sharpen. If a student loses their "good" pencil, they have to use a pencil from the stubby box. They are old, chewed on, not sharpened, and usually have no erasers. It works very well!
  • Pencils ARE a germ fest when shared, so this is a pretty good idea that Karen left, “ I have two bins in the back of the room, one for sharpened pencils and one for dull pencils. Students may trade a dull one for a sharpened one at any time. However, the student must rub the dull one with antibacterial gel (kept next to bins) before putting it in the appropriate container because many of them put pencils in their mouths. I don't want their germs transferred to my hands when I sharpen them.
  • Here is another shout out for that pencil sharpener.  It must be pretty good. Diane said, “Each group keeps a basket of pencils with about 2 pencils per student (community supplies). I also kept some big pink erasers cut in half in the baskets. At the end of the day, one student in each group would sharpen the pencils that needed it. I have several Classroom Friendly Sharpeners. I also let them use pen for Writing Workshop and random other things. I try to minimize pencil-written assignments with lots of Coop. Learning, dry erase, etc.
Here is the best part!  The sharpener that everyone keeps mentioning?  You can win one!!!!!!!!  Yahoo! Click below to enter! Hurry- it ends VERY soon!!!



Paired Reading Passages {FREEBIE}

I was recently talking to a friend of mine and she was mentioned that some of the district testing included paired reading passages.  She said it was hard for her kiddos, which was very interesting to BOTH of us.

Paired reading is nothing new. Mary Pope Osborne mastered this awhile ago with her Magic Tree House books and nonfiction companions.  They (and the author herself!) are brilliant and kids eat them up.

We found it curious that her kids took a ride down struggle street until we identified two factors:
1.)  the passages were unlike any the students had seen before because they were SO similar and
2.) most of the students' experience was with paired BOOKS. Passages were not as familiar to the kiddos.

I found this quote from this website, and loved it!

"Close reading, text annotation, text-dependent questions, and paired passages are all tools that should be woven into ongoing instruction in order to develop students’ independent strategic reading skills.  While effective implementation of these strategies will result in better outcomes for all students on the Virginia English Reading Standards of Learning assessments, they are not test-taking strategies.  Rather, they are critical thinking strategies that provide students with opportunities to practice reading deeply and making meaning out of authentic fiction and nonfiction text (Boyles, 2013).  This shift in strategy practice will give students the skills they need to be successful throughout their school careers and into their postsecondary lives."

Um, yes.  That is a nice way to paint the big picture and usefulness of paired passages.

So, I decided to create a little something to support those kiddos!

I am working on a series of paired reading passages!  I will be releasing them as SETS. Each set will have two passages...or something.  Some will be a nonfiction and fiction passage, others will be a passage and a poem or another type of reading. I am going to try to keep it as fresh as possible.

In this pack, I included a nonfiction passage and a poem that I wrote about sharks. I wanted to make sure that the passages could reach ALL kids in the classroom.  I wrote leveled passages that have the same information, but at different levels.  The levels range from end 1st- end 2nd.  If a poem is included, there is only 1 level. 

I wanted to include some practice with questioning. Each passage includes these flip flap books.   In one flip flap book students answer the given question. In another flip flap book, students create and answer their own questions about the text. 

Also included is an additional flip flip book that targets a different reading skill for each passage.

And finally, I wanted to include a constructed response in each set. This gives students practice answering a question in sentence or paragraph form and using the text to cite evidence.

So far I have managed to complete Set 1!  

I wrote set one for the beginning of the school year.  It focuses on friendship and bulling.  One passage is a fiction passage about bullying at recess.  The other passage is a nonfiction passage about how to play Freeze Tag.  I am trying to keep the packs super cheap for you guys- only $3 a pack.  Click here to check it out!

Set 2 is *almost done*.  It will include a fiction story about playing make believe as pirates and a nonfiction article about maps! It will happen SOON, I promise!

And lastly, if you read this WHOOOLLLLLEEEEE long post, I have a surprise for you!  I know shark week was last week (Late is my middle name!), but I have a SHARK WEEK paired passage set! 

This 17 page freebie has a shark poem and nonfiction passage!  In fact, it is what is in all the pictures above!



Back to Top