Monday, August 11, 2014

Meet the Teacher Linky

Hello all! Well, school has officially started for me. We are in PD all this week, then kiddos come a week from today! I am so excited for my new class, and I have a really good feeling about my second year of teaching. But, of course, I am super busy. And tired. It's hard to get back into my routine after being spoiled all summer with sleeping in and being lazy!

Anywho, I am so excited about this linky from Stephanie over at Falling Into First! I am loving reading about my blogger friends and I love sharing with you guys about who I am "behind" my blog. So here's a little about me :)

Hey guys! I am Hannah Burns, a 23 year old fourth grade teacher from Arkansas. I am staring my second year of teaching! I love my fourthies and I love that I only teach Literacy ;)

Here's me and Husband in Hawaii this past summer! We've been married two years now. I am so thankful for him and how he puts up with all my crazy teacher madness!

  Me and my dog baby Lewis. Yes, he is spoiled :)
And below is me and my two sisters and best friends. 

These are a few of my favorite things...
 Pens. School supplies in general. Books. Reading. Creating things for TPT. Dumb TV shows. Sleeping. Shopping. Candy. Instagram.

If you weren't a teacher, what would you want to be?
A wedding or party planner. I love crafting and being creative. And I can't sit still. So I think that would be a good job for me! Ha.

Three Little Words That Describe You.
Restless. Bossy. Free-spirited.

Finish the Sentence, "_______, said no teacher ever!!"
We should have more meetings....said no teacher ever! ;)

It's your birthday and you can invite anyone (dead or alive) to the party. Who are you inviting?
 Ahhh so hard to choose. JK Rowling to rub off some genius on me. The Civil Wars (I'm in denial about them breaking up) to sing. Ed Sheeran to also sing. And all my blogger friends!!!

If someone wrote a book about your life, what would be the title?
Life in the Clouds

You get to pick one superpower. What is it?
I think I would have to agree with Stephanie on this one...teleportation would be legit. Think how much time you could save not driving in the car! And maybe then I would be on time to things. But probably not.

What's your favorite quote or saying?
"Use what talents you possess; the woods would be very silent if no birds sang there except those that sang best." - Henry Van Dyke 

If you had to sing one song on American Idol, what would it be?
Um, none! I have a horrible voice. Maybe Broken Wing or Strawberry Wine. A classic. A hilarious classic.

Are you a morning person or a night owl?
I am so a night owl. Me and mornings don't jive. But once you get me up and caffeinated, I'm good.     

What's your favorite resource that you've created in your TPT shop?
This is so hard to pick....I think every new thing I make is my new favorite. Haha.

I think it would probably be my Helen Keller activity. This was my very first TPT product. I created it for my second grade student teaching class. And I will always love the spark of creativity this little freebie started!

Share something we might not know about you...
I love to sleep! I take a nap after work almost every day. No shame in this game.

I LOVE this linky party! Go add your link so I can read all about you! And thanks again, Stephanie :)

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

August Already? My Currently

Hello all! Where has the summer gone? I'm headed back to work tomorrow! I think I'm in denial. So I'm distracting myself by linking up with Oh Boy 4th Grade for her August Currently!

Most of this is pretty self-explanatory...I am soaking up my last real day of laziness with my little sister. Slept in, watched TV, went to the pool, read a book. But of course in the back of my mind are all the things I still want/need to do for school. Physically, my room is ready. We went up yesterday and finished hot-gluing numbers and and decorating. But now I feel like I have a million little things to do. Which is okay. I have time. 6 days of professional development before open house. That kind of time. So what am I wanting to accomplish before then? 

First up is my reading area. I've moved it separate from my library this year. Last year my students were a little too distracted by choosing and looking at books to actually do any reading. So I'm going to try separating that some this year. In this picture you can see my cute rug ($10 thrift store find) and reading pillows I made. I love the way this looks. I'm also going to use this space for our meeting area and read-alouds. Last year, I didn't design my room with this area in mind, and we were meeting at the back of the room because it was the only space big enough. It wasn't very intentional at all. And I think my kids picked up on this. So this year we are going to meet here! But check out my teacher chair...yuck! I inherited it with my room last year. It's good for some things...but not meeting time. So it's going out. I'm not sure where yet, but it is. Instead, I bought a little black stool from Ikea ($4.99 what what) that I'm going to use. So I have to put that together. Or convince Husband to.

But can you see my desk in the background? All the wires and cords and junk? That's my next project. Since my desk is actually just a table (legit, right?) I want to make a little curtain to go around the edge of my desk and hide some of that clutter. I think it will help separate my desk area from the reading area as well. So I bought some lime green fabric yesterday (one of my other colors), some ribbon, and some liquid stitch. I don't really have a plan for how this is going to work. I don't sew. So fingers crossed it works out well ;)

Next, I need to put the finishing touches on my Writing Process Chart. I had to pick up some more clothespins, and then I am going to number them so they're ready for the kiddos. I love the way it looks all hung up! I just used a little ribbon and some hot glue to put it together. Don't forget it's a freebie in my store if you think you could use it!

We don't get our class rosters until usually the day before Open House. So I also have a million and one things I want to do when I find out my kids' names. My Birthday Wall, for example, is blank. I also want to print out the labels for each of their notebooks like this...
But of course, I need names! So that's going to wait. If  you follow me on Instagram, you saw that last night I was working on a little Time Capsule Project for my kiddos during the first week. I usually do some version of this with my kids, but it's pretty casual and thrown together on the spot. But this year I've made a cute little book for them to fill out and decorate, then "open up" at the end of the year to see how they've changed. I am working on putting it up in my store as well.

On top of that are all the usual back to school things...organizing supplies, take home folders, seating charts, etc. And of course, I need to print and prep my Back to School Survival Guide for the first day! Can't wait to use this as an interactive way to go over rules and procedures. And finally (yeah right), I also have plans to make these cute little gifts for my kiddos at open house that I found on Pinterest... 

Of course, without the zebra. But I love this idea! So yes, that is the cherry on top of all the things I have going on right now! What are you working on? And don't forget to link up your Currently if you haven't already :)

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Love Your Library - Part Three - Organization

Happy Saturday everyone! If you're like me, you're soaking up your last few weekends of summer vacation. Actually I think this is my last one. Sad face. But that's okay because I'm going to Ikea this weekend. Celebrate! How are you celebrating your last days of summer?

I wanted to let you guys know that I will participating in the TPT Back to School sale coming up!

Monday and Tuesday you can get up to 28% off my entire store! Make sure you use the promo code above to get that extra 8%. This is a great time to get some of those wishlist items you've been storing up :) Happy Shopping!

Today is Part 3 of my Love Your Library bloggy series. So far we've gotten inspired- we know that our classroom libraries are a representation of how we feel about reading and that our enthusiasm about books and reading make all the difference. Yesterday we got started- I talked all about where and how to get books for your classroom library, and the importance of growing your collection with a large variety of genres and titles.

Today is all about classroom library organization. What? You mean you can't just buy some books and put them on a shelf? Please, no.

Nothing makes me more sad than seeing a classroom library with no labels or organization whatsoever. Think about it this way- What if you walked into Booksamillion or Barnes & Noble and you saw shelf after shelf of books. Sounds good right? Except none of the shelves are labeled. There are no categories. There are no sections. It would take you hours to find the book you are looking for or even just a book that you want to read. You'd probably do one of two things- give up and go home or just settle for one of the first books you see. Neither of these things are what we want for our students. So this is me begging you to spend an afternoon organizing your classroom library.

There are several ways you can organize your books. Some popular ways include by genre and/or level. This is really up to you- what works for you, your students, and your school. Personally, I want my library to be as close as possible to a modern bookstore or library. In stores like that, you "book shop" by interest, not by level. However, I also use a leveling system in combination with this to help my students choose "just right" books. At such a young age, they still need help identifying books that are "just right" for their reading level. Although, I never tell my students they cannot read a book from my classroom library. And it breaks my heart a little that some people do.

"I never tell students they cannot read a book they pick up, but I do guide them toward books that I think would be a good fit for them. I think of myself as a reading mentor—a reader who can help them find books they might like". Donalyn Miller, Reading in the Wild

Once again, Donalyn comes to the rescue. This is exactly what I try to live by in the classroom. Do I want my students to become frustrated by reading something that is way too hard for them? Of course not. Do I want them to build confidence in reading through books that are "just right"? Absolutely. But on the other hand, do I want to squash their reading interests by telling them that they shouldn't read a book? In my opinion, there are so many "voices" in the world right now telling students not to read. TV, video games, computers, phones...the usual culprits. If a student expresses interest in book- if a student stops watching TV or thinking about video games long enough to find a book they want to read- who am I to say no to them? How dare I squash that.

So while I agree that leveling your classroom library is a necessity, this is me begging you not to make it the focus of your organization. If you can help it.

Moving on. The types of categories you can organize your library into are again, up to you and your students. My kindergarten-teaching Mom, for example, (Hey, Mom!) organizes her library into fiction and nonfiction. It helps her young students learn the difference, and it's a system that is easy to maintain for such budding readers. As a fourth grade teacher, I am really wanting my students to be more genre-specific. I want them to go beyond fiction vs. nonfiction and into Historical Fiction, Realistic Fiction, Fairytale, Mystery, etc. At the same time, I also want to spark their interest. I want it to be easy for my often apathetic fourth graders to find a category that they like. So I use a combination of genres, popular series, popular authors, and popular subjects to organize my books. Some of my classes' most popular book bins: Diary of a Wimpy Kid, Geronimo Stilton, Books for Girls, Sports, Scary/Ghost Books.

But you know what? These categories aren't always the same. They change every summer when I re-organize my books, and they change throughout the year with our subjects and the seasons. If we are studying Planets, I make a Planets bucket and put it at the front. If it is Christmas time, I make a Christmas bucket. A library that is always the same can easily become a boring library. Keep your classroom library always "up with the times".

Now I want to show you my own library system and I few of my favorites.

There are SO MANY choices when it comes to book bins. Dollar Tree, Really Good Stuff, Big name it they have bins you can use for books. It's all about finding your favorite. Personally I use the clear/sometimes colored plastic shoeboxes that you can buy pretty much anywhere. Why? Because they're like 88 cents and I inherited a big stack of them with my classroom. They are also easy to replace or add to when I run out. I don't have to order them online or match colors. I can just run to the dollar store and be done with it. They also fit chapter books. Which is good! Not all bins are created equal in that way. As you can see, I use attached (hot-glued) labels to the front so that students can easily see what category is which. In my library, each book bin or category has an abbreviation. I use this abbreviation on the books to help students and class librarians know where to easily return books without my help. It doesn't always go this way, of course, but it's a pretty good system. Below is a chart of the abbreviations that I keep in my library. It also gives you a good look at some ideas for genres/categories.

Above is the leveling system I use. To determine this, I use a combination of Lexile, DRA, and GLE levels to determine whether a book is above, on, or below fourth grade. I encourage you to look beyond just one leveling system (if possible), because they each focus on different things. Scholastic is a really good website that offers you multiple levels for every book. Ultimately, you know your kids and what they can read, and that should determine if a book is "just right". In my opinion.

These are the labels I use for my leveling system (along with the yellow). I love these stickers because they're cheap ($1.00 a pack), and like the shoeboxes, you can always get them. Each book gets a label in the top right hand corner, according to its level. On the sticker, I write the abbreviation for its category. In the pictures above, for example, you can see the books from the Animal bucket with the letter "A" on their stickers. With one glance I can well level AND genre a book is. Love time-savers!

So that's it! Pretty simple. And easy for my fourth graders to navigate independently. Which I like.

Here are some libraries I love, found on Pinterest, the ultimate place to find anything and everything. In my opinion.

Again, it's not all about being the most beautiful (though these libraries certainly are). It's about making reading interesting and accessible to your students. Both appealing and functional. I encourage you to go to Pinterest (or a website of your choice) and search for "classroom library organization". You will find SO MUCH. So many helpful articles, blogs, and pictures out there. Find something you like and make it work for your classroom!

Thank you so much for sticking with me. I could go on and on about reading and books and libraries. But I'll stop here and do something fun instead...

Leave a comment with your email and the set of Classroom Library Labels you would like the most and I will pick two winners! These are what I use in my own library. I love all the categories AND having some blank ones to add your own :)

Have a great weekend!

Friday, August 1, 2014

Love Your Library - Part 2 - Getting Started

Hello all! Happy Friday! I am back with Part 2 of my "Love Your Library" series. In my last post, I talked about Getting Inspired and the importance of your classroom library. I challenged you to really think about how you present and teach reading in your classroom and how your library reflects that. So...did you think? I hope so :)

Today I want to share with you about getting started with your classroom library. I will be starting my second year of teaching this August, so I am very familiar with the ins and outs of starting a library collection. Some questions I will answer: Where do I get books? How many should I get? Which books should I get?

These are all great questions for you newbie teachers out there! But if you are already a teacher and you already have books, maybe you can get inspired to grow your library or change your thinking :)

Let's start by taking a look at my library...

Okay first of all, my apologies for these pictures. I am clearly not a photographer!! What I wanted you to see is that I have A LOT of books.Your first question is probably... Where did those all come from?! And I don't blame you.

Let's talk book hunting. Now, I will say, I was blessed to come into a classroom that already had a small collection of books. That first shelf on the left, for example, might be the amount I was happy to find in my classroom. The rest? All me! And guess what else? I didn't pay full price for a single book.

So listen up, new teachers, teachers wanting to grow their collections, student teachers, want-to-be-teachers, and anybody else! Here are some great ways to get books:
  • Garage sales (both online and in person)
  • Flea markets and thrift stores
  • Half-priced or used bookstores
  • Relatives/family members/friends
  • Teachers that are retiring/moving grades
  • Scholastic Bonus Points 
(Know of some other great places? Leave a comment below)

As soon as possible, begin collecting books. I started my collection in college, and actually found that having my own books made some of my assignments easier! (No late-night library trips) Don't be afraid to Facebook post about what you need. Chances are, someone has a whole box they are needing to get rid of. Scrounge around in flea markets and at garage sales. I bought a stack a couple of weeks ago of chapter books that were all 50 cents or a dollar. And you really hit the jackpot when another teacher retires or moves.
Did you notice, though, that my list didn't include big-name stores like Walmart, Booksamilion, or Barnes & Noble? That's because (unless I have an incredible major coupon or they're having a fantastic sale) I never buy books there. If I want a brand new book, I use my Scholastic Bonus Points to buy it or wait until I find it at a half-price store. (Now I know that newbie teachers won't have any bonus points stored up, but it's definitely something you want to keep in mind for the future.)
But Know This: You can't find what you're not looking for. If are not looking for books - if that is not your priority - I promise you will pass right by them. Change your mindset. Remind yourself that "Libraries can change lives for the better" (Sidney Sheldon). 
So there you go! That's where you get books. Although I will tell you, invest in some good tape or clear contact paper to keep your used books looking good for as long as possible.
How many books are enough? And though my husband and my wallet might disagree with me, my answer is you can never have too many. Which books should you buy? As many as you can, in a wide range of topics and interests. You never know what book a kid is going to pick up. You never know which one they will connect with. I, for example, have always hated disliked Goosebumps books. I cannot get past how creepy the covers are. But some kids LOVE them. Look for them, ask for them, share them with their friends. So I buy them anyway. Because you know what? What's most important is that they are reading. And that they are enjoying reading. So it's important to buy books from a diverse collection of genres, particularly those that are high-quality (really good authors with really good writing) and high-interest (sports, monsters, celebrities, etc). 
Furthermore, your library needs books that are on, above, and below grade level for your students. Not every child reads on the same level, so our library should reflect that. Think about it this way...what if you walked into a bookstore that had only huge, scientific textbooks in it. You could pick out some of the words in them, but you ended up leaving empty-handed because this library wasn't made for you. There was no way you could enjoy that. If we only include books that are on-grade level, that's how our low students will feel- discouraged and empty-handed. Because they know that library wasn't designed for them. And this is true for students at the other end of the spectrum as well.
 I am a fourth grade teacher that has Clifford and Harry Potter. I have Junie B. Jones and I have Hunger Games. And all kinds in between. The point is, there should be something for every reader in your library. And while I'm at it, don't think if you are an upper elementary teacher that your library doesn't need picture books. I made this mistake early on, and now I find myself searching for more picture books than chapter books. Why? Because picture books are incredible mentor texts. They are wonderful classroom read-alouds. And if you Lexile level them, you'll find that many of them are in a very high range! In your picture books, you can find some really quality writing. So keep that in mind as well.
This is how I show my students that I love them - by putting books in their hands, by noticing what they are about, and finding books that tell them, "I know. I know. I know how it is. I know who you are, and even though we may never speak of it, read this book, and know that I understand you.” - Donalyn Miller, The Book Whisperer
In order to find "that book" for each of our students, we need a wide variety of choices. We need to be willing to go the extra mile to find what will help them enjoy reading- whether it is in our own library or someone else's. Let your library grow. Ignore the voice in your head that says "I don't need any more books. What I have is fine". Don't settle for fine.
Thank you so much for reading. My challenge for you today is to go beyond "fine". Go beyond "the basics". How you approach reading is how your students will approach it- whether it is with dread or with enthusiasm is up to you.
Check back tomorrow for Love Your Library Part 3 - Organization.