Thursday, July 31, 2014

Love Your Library - Part 1

Well here we go. Getting something that's been rolling around in  my head this week out and into the blogosphere.
Question: Do you love your classroom library? Is your library a living, breathing part of  your instruction? Do your students beg to visit it? Do they fight over being the 'class librarian'? These are all things that I can say (without being a Bragging Betty) are true about my classroom and my library. Because I love my library. This bloggy series is here to tell you why. And how you can too. Hopefully.

Ignore the excuses...
I'm too tired. My kids don't even like reading. They only care about video games and texting. I don't have any money. I don't have enough room for a library. I have some shelves with books- what's the big deal?

"Libraries store the energy that fuels the imagination. They open up windows to the world and inspire us to explore and achieve, and contribute to improving our quality of life. Libraries change lives for the better." -Sidney Sheldon

This is something I truly believe (tell me if you agree)- that I can walk into any classroom and immediately tell you what reading is like there. If the kids love to read, if the teacher loves to read, if reading is valued and encouraged- I can tell you that just by looking at your classroom. Really.

And no, the "presentation" isn't part of it. You don't have to have a deluxe camping tent, an adorable chevron teepee, or an elaborate tissue paper tree adorning  your reading corner.

Here's what you need to have: Books. Lots of them.
And you have to present them right. Sure, that cutesy decor may get them there, but what keeps them there? A treasured, cultivated, expressed, constant love for reading communicated by you. The teacher.

As one of my favorite fellow reading-lovers and fabulous author Donalyn Miller states, "A classroom atmosphere that promotes reading does not come from the furniture and its placement as much as it comes from the teacher's expectation that students will read.” Miller's books, The Book Whisperer and Reading in the Wild are both fabulous. Seriously. If you're having trouble getting inspired for a new year of teaching reading- read this. Or if you just love reading like me- still read it. But I digress.

Is reading important to you? Yes I did just ask that. You teach it everyday. You have millions of workshops, trainings, books, and worksheets dedicated to it. But is reading, actual book-to-eyes-curled-up-in-the-corner-in-another-world reading, important to you?

I get it. Not everyone loves reading. My husband for example, would much rather watch TV. Or play a video game. So I get it. But I really believe that if you are a teacher dedicated to your students' success, you must value reading. You must understand that it is vital. That our students cannot go out into a world not knowing just how to read, but what reading can do for them. Where it can take them. What it can teach them. To have the kind of classroom that Donalyn Miller is talking about requires you to believe this. Not to agree with it. But believe. Let it pour out from you and into your students.

So much of this "success" is driven by presentation. How do you present reading to your students? Is "library time" just another part of your day? Another "have to" on your long list of lesson plans? What does your library look like? Is it a shelf in the corner? Some books and a rug? Or is it the heartbeat of your classroom? The core of your curriculum? Another favorite author of mine, Linda Dorn, says that "Your greatest classroom resource is a good book". 
Does your library express that? Is it functional? Worn-in and worn-out? Dirty and disorganized? Good. That means it's being used. Does your classroom library get used throughout the day? Or just during "library time"?

So this is my challenge to you: Think about your classroom library. I know it's Back to School time and your mind is a million different places. But I promise you. Your library is worth it. Your attitude towards reading and books in your classroom is worth it. What is your library saying about reading to your students? And what can you change (physically and mentally) to make reading truly treasured in your classroom?

And be sure to turn in to Part Two tomorrow: Getting Started With Your Classroom Library.

Thanks for sticking with me! Here's some freebie love :)

Monday, July 28, 2014

Monday Made It! (July 28)

Hello all! I am glad to be back once again in the blogosphere. I may have mentioned this, but Husband and I live out in the country. Our internet is very temperamental. And it apparently decided to die for two weeks :( So that's where I've been! Ha.
It's Monday! You know what that means... time to link up your latest projects with Tara from 4th Grade Frolics. And believe me, I only have like a MILLION projects going on right now. So here we go!
 My first "made it" is actually NOT school-related. *gasp* I know, right? Check out my new wreath for August/September!

The story of this wreath and how I actually got myself to make something that WASN'T for school: I've had the same wreath up since spring. Like, a long time ago. It didn't really bother me though, because it was burlap, pink, and blue. Summer-ish, right? Sometimes I would look at it and think about making/buying a new one...but then I would think of something better to do (most likely school-related). So what made me change my mind? Husband. Yes. For real. He noticed how long it had been up there, and offered to buy me a new one. That's how I was time. So during my weekly (feels like daily sometimes) Walmart (small town Suzy here) I snatched up a cute wreath and some fake foliage and slapped this thing together. Oh, and a letter B for Burns. It's actually gold, not white like it looks in the picture. Whatcha think? 
My next "made it" is a new freebie from my TPT store! I've been thinking a lot lately about literature circles and how I use them in my classroom. I feel like everyone (teachers) knows what they are and generally how literature circles function, but it wasn't until this summer (after some awesome workshops) that I really learned how to set them up and make them successful. This freebie is one of the ways that I plan on doing that this year. I learned this from my super awesome student teaching mentor. She actually used poker chips (love it) with her kids!

How it works: At the beginning of the discussion, give each group member a couple of talk turns (or poker chips!). The rules? To share or take part in the discussion, you have to put a "talk turn" in the pile. When you run out, you're done! Everyone has to use all of their turns before the discussion is over. Once everyone has run out of talk turns, you can then share freely.

Let's talk about it: Would I use this all year with my groups? No. A goal of literature circles is that students learn the "norms" of discussions- when and how to take turns talking to one another about a topic. In real conversations, people don't carry around talk turn cards (although don't you wish some people did?) and my kids need to learn that. But, this is a great way to introduce this concept, especially to younger kiddos. At the beginning of the year, when we are learning the "norms" of literature circles, I will most definitely be using these, then taking them away gradually. I would also pull these out if some of my kids are backsliding into talking too much or not participating in discussions. You can do this with any small objects you already have OR you can go "Cute in the Classroom" style and download this freebie ;)
What tools do you use to make literature circles run smoothly in the classroom? I'd love to hear! 

And because I'm awesome, here's another "made it" freebie from my store...
 Another for-my-classroom "made it". I plan on using this writing process chart to track my students' progress in their writing. I'm tired of writing time being chaos and students calling my name or lining up by my desk for help (don't judge've been there). Now, they will have a clothespin (with a cute little matching number, of course) to move up and down as needed. Need a conference? Move your clip there. With one glance, I can tell who is doing what. And I like that. Feel free to grab up this freebie!

And lastly, another digital "made-it". When I make some more progress in my classroom I promise I will post more real-life ones!

More library labels! This time I made some red and black labels with white polka dots for a TPT follower. I love how cutesy these are. The thing I love (and hate) the most about my library labels (I also have chevron and zebra/rockstar) is that there are SO many choices. 172 to be exact. Today I was working on my classroom library and laboring over which categories to make or not...ah the joys of teaching. Anyways, grab 'em if you need em :)

So there are my "made-it"s for today! I worked in my room today and will return tomorrow, so hopefully I will remember to take pictures of what I "make" so I can post again next week about them! Go see what everybody is making and what not!

Friday, July 18, 2014

Five For Friday (7/18/14)

Hello all!

Linking up today with Doodle Bugs for another Five for Friday to tell you about what I've been up to this week!

First of all, I went to my classroom this week! You know what this means, right? I'm not in denial any more. I've realized that, as of today, there is exactly one month until the first day. The. First. Day. Sighhhhhh. So I went to school. And got started on a project I told you about in my last bookcases! Like I said, my six bookcases were a hideous lovely combo of yellow, green, blue, and brown. Not cute. My original plan was to make them a dark brown. Cute, right? Not so much. Walmart had other plans. They were out of yellow in the paint mixer thingy. I'm Small Town Suzy, remember? And I am not patient. So I bought some premixed black paint and that's what the bookcases are. And I only have one and a half left to do! Woo!

Which leads me to the reason why the bookcases aren't finished...

My dog baby Lewis finally caught a car :( He loves to chase them. But the other day one finally caught him. He gave me a mini heart attack, I swear. We were very lucky in that he only has a dislocated hip. Nothing broken, thank goodness. But he has to have his leg taped up and his movement restricted for several weeks. Which should be interesting for him, since this dog LOVES to move. He's been pretty grumpy about it actually. So I have been dealing with that. Fun stuff, right? Not so much. Moving on to happier things...

If you follow me on Instagram (@cuteintheclassroom), I posted today about my Back to School pile at my house. Anybody else have one of those going on? Mine is getting seriously out of control. It wasn't too bad until I hit up the school supplies aisle at the store yesterday...

Yes, I was the crazy lady at the store with no children buying tons of school supplies. We should make shirts... "Don't worry, I'm a teacher." Ha. I stocked up on composition notebooks- I like to buy extras for the kiddos that don't bring them and I plan on using some for class journals. I also got index cards (can never have too many), markers, erasers, crayons, glue, and duct tape. You can also see my pillows for the library in the background and some book bins as well. And that's just what you can see ;) What have you bought??

And now I want to share about a BIG project I have been working on lately. I shared a sneak peek on Instagram the other night...

My latest product is something I am really excited about using in my own classroom...CCSS ELA Quick Guides. Have you ever been writing the daily objectives/standards on the board for the day and needed the "number"? And then you have to go dig out your Common Core binder or find your lesson plans (my desk is a war zone) just to put "RL.4.1" on the board. Sigh. Precious seconds wasted. 
I don't really remember how the idea came to me (it's usually in my sleep...not kidding), but I wanted a way to keep the standards handy, easy to find, and easy to read. No digging around, no searching through other grades' to find mine, just there. Ready to go. Done.
So here you go! Brightly colored- you can see them across the room on your desk amidst the sea of papers, notes, and books. Organized- by each ELA subject (Literature, Informational Text, Foundational Skills, Writing, Speaking and Listening, Language). Fast- just flip right to the standard you need!

So here's how they work...
Download your grade.
Glue or staple together into a flipbook.
Get to work.

What do you guys think?? I currently have K through 4 posted in my store and ready to go. I also have plans to work on 5th grade, and if things go well, maybe some Quick Guides for Math standards?? Hmmm??? Anyway, if you're interested, check 'em out!

And finally, here's what I've been listening to lately...

His voice is amazing!!! If I'm not watching TV, I have to have some kind of tunes to listen to while I work. What do you guys like these days?

Well that's all for me on this lovely Friday! Hope you guys have a spectacular weekend.

P.S. Thanks for sticking with me! Comment with your grade and email and I will choose two lucky people to get a CCSS ELA Quick Guide hot off the presses ;)

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Two Linkys on a Sunday

Hello all! Happy Sunday :)
Hope you all are enjoying your summer vacations...I know I personally am being as lazy as possible!

Tonight I am linking up with Mrs. Laffin's Laughings for A Peek at My Week and Blog Hoppin for their Scavenger Hunt Linky.

So what does my week look like? Well, I am finally getting into the "back to school" spirit. There are countless projects and ideas rolling around in my head right now!

(1) Tomorrow my plan is to paint my bookshelves at school! I inherited six bookshelves in my classroom last year (how lucky am I, right?) but was too overwhelmed with the whole "being a new teacher and freaking out" thing to worry about what color they were. They are a collection of bright yellow, hunter green, royal blue, and just plain wood. Yuck. So my plan is to paint them all a dark brown color (to go with my color scheme currently and hopefully any in the future) tomorrow. If they look good and I don't die, they might show up in Monday Made It tomorrow ;)

 (2) I also had my first product request on TPT! I LOVE my Classroom Library Labels, especially since I revamped them not too long ago. A sweet follower of mine requested some black, red, and white polka dot labels for her classroom. So this week I will be whipping those up for her. I currently have chevron and zebra rockstar labels in my store now, if you want to check them out!

(3) My last plan for the week is to continue participating in the Blog Hoppin 2014 Scavenger Hunt! Have you checked this out? I am loving it. I uploaded like four pictures on my Instagram tonight. Sorry. But not really. Because I really want to win A CAMERA. Seriously!!! I have already highlighted a bunch of items on the list to take pictures of tomorrow at school. Planning ahead. It's what winners do, okay? Okay. Here are some of my favorite posts so far...

 A collection of seashells (just added some coral from our Hawaii trip!) and someone wearing leopard print (me... of course). Bought those sandals yesterday at my favorite place ever- Target! And they were on sale. Boom.

A coaster, a library card (mine, duh), and something gold.

Six different colors of construction paper, mismatched socks, a PD book, and a teacher mug. 

So if you haven't been scavenger-hunting...what are you waiting for? So easy. So fun. And a great way to meet other bloggy friends. Check out the rules and get your Blog Hoppin sign and item list here. If you're on Instagram, find me @cuteintheclassroom to follow my scavenger hunt journey and cheer me on! Or just follow me. Cause I'll follow back. And I like making friends :)

And don't forget to give us a peek at your week here!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Monday Made It - FINALLY!

This Arkansas girl is BACK! Remember like three weeks ago when I said I was going to do a Monday Made It about those pillows I made for my classroom library? Yeah, that never happened. Because this did...

Yep. I've had a good reason for my absence. Hawaii! It was amazing. We spent a week on Maui and ohmygoodness I didn't want to leave. I kept trying to convince everyone that technically I didn't have to come home til August...

Anywho. I refused to bring my computer with me on vacation. I usually do. But this time I just brought books instead. Fun books. Not even teacher books. And I did ZERO work. Did I think about work? Yes. Can't help that. When I was sitting in the airport did I wish I had brought my computer? A little. But sometimes you need to make yourself take a mental vacation too. So that's what I did! It was so perfect. But now I am back, refreshed, and ready to go!
It killed me being away from the blogosphere for even a week! My Bloglovin feed is OUT OF CONTROL. So much to catch up on. 

But first, I thought I would finally share with you the Monday Made It I promised like three million weeks ago: my new classroom library pillows!

So here is the story of The Pillows.
When I came to my classroom last year as a first year teacher, I was very blessed. The teachers before me had left LOTS of stuff. Most of that was a good thing. There was a lot of cleaning/chunking that happened this time last year. But they left rugs, lamps, shelves, was great. They also left two beanbag chairs for the library. Well, actually three. But one of them looked like it had been there since the 80's. So that one went goodbye. And I had two great beanbag chairs for my fourth graders to fight over sit in this year and read. Well naturally, as the year went on, one of the beanbags died. Big hole. Stuffing everywhere. Sad kids. Sad me. Because beanbags, for some horrible reason, are actually kind of expensive. And I did not want to buy new ones. I thought about trying to salvage the dead one...matching duct tape came to mind...but no. A new, better idea happened. Pillows!

When Husband and I got married (two years this month!), we got a couch from a family friend. An old, comfy, loved on couch. It is the best for naps. And it came with throw pillows that were not really my style, if you know what I mean. So I chunked the covers and kept the insides, thinking "you never know" and put them in a closet. Two years later, I remembered the pillow inserts. And decided to put them to good use.

 I bought some microfiber filling and stuffed them up some more. I had to cut them open to do this, and I don't sew, so that's why they are ghetto-tied at the tops. Ha.

At this point, I think it would have been super cute to sew some pillows in a cute, durable fabric. You know, chevron or something. But I don't sew. Not even a little. Or if you like near an Ikea, they sell pillow covers on the cheap. That would have been easy too. And probably better looking. But again, I don't sew. And Ikea is four hours away. So this is what I came up with!
I bought some fleece (about two yards of each to make four pillows...with left over!) in teal and pink, two of my classroom colors. I really wanted brown or orange or lime green. But remember, I'm Small Town Suzy. Walmart is my fabric store. I got lucky with these, okay? Okay.

So with some "help" from Lewis, who seemed to think I bought the fleece for him to lay on, I started on my pillows.

Note- This is not a tutorial. I did not follow instructions. I did not look up how to make these. I did not measure. I am a start-cutting-and-see-where-things-go kind of person. So I eyeballed two squares of each color, cut two to three inch strips on the sides, put the pillow in the middle, and double-knotted them together. Voila! Pillows. Done.

1. If you are really into being neat and tidy, you should probably look up a tutorial to follow. You should use a ruler. You should measure things. It would make you feel better, and they would probably look better than mine.

2. You do not have to use two colors. I chose two colors because (a) there was not enough teal fleece to do four pillows (b) I like pink and (c) I made myself choose something the boys would like too. Originally, I was going to make two teal pillows and two pink pillows, but then I thought about how much my students might argue about what color they got to sit on. So I made them all the same. Because I like to solve problems before I have them.

3. Get the good stuff. It's hard to tell, but I used two different types of fleece for these. The pink is the normal, thick kind. Good. The teal is thin and stretchy. Bad. You want to get all the same kind, first of all, and all the good kind. It will make measuring (if you do that), cutting, and tying your pillows easier.

4. You can look up different ways to tie these. A woman in line at the fabric section was telling me about a cool way to braid the fleece together instead of tying, that way you don't have a bunch of loose ends. This might be good for younger grades. But I am lazy and just tied them together really well.

5. This project is insanely CHEAP and easy. Hence my "don't care" attitude about the whole measuring thing. Seriously. It helped that I already had the pillow inserts (I didn't have to buy as much filling), but the entire project, including fleece and microfiber filling to make four pillows (two square feet each...huge!) cost me around $25. That's it. Even if they don't last more than one year, that is okay with me. It took one evening of work (I even did this while watching TV) and just over twenty bucks. It doesn't get much better than that.

So that is my Monday Made It. Fancy? Not at all. But this was a "made it" that my wallet and my classroom can be happy about it.
What have you made this week? Be sure to stop by and link up!