Friday, July 31, 2015

What's in Your Cart? BTS 2015 Linky Party

The only thing more exciting than all of the prep for a new school year is an AWESOME Back-to-School sale! Tons of sellers are marking down resources in addition to TPT offering a 10% discount (just use the code BTS15). We are linking up with Speech Room News to share a few great deals from our store as well as to share what we are counting down the minutes to buy!

First up, one of our best deals, our Year-Long Word Study Bundle. This bundle gives you everything you need to expand your students' understanding of key prefixes and suffixes in order to read, write and understand unknown words. Our kiddos LOVE putting together their Word Study Notebook and it becomes a challenge to hunt for words using the prefixes and suffixes we are learning!

Another resource that we can't wait to get started on with our own kiddos is our Publishing S.Q.U.A.D.s pack. We always struggled with how to get our kiddos talking about their writing in a way that actually benefited both the advisor and the advisee! This system gives your students a framework for how to talk about writing. You will be AMAZED at the conversations you will hear them having!

Our best seller is also on sale! Are you struggling to help your students understand Bar Modeling? We were and found that taking our kiddos on a little trip back in time to see how they learned about bar modeling in previous grades helped us to create a solid foundation for building their knowledge of bar modeling. We printed the slides and used them as anchor charts throughout the year. We loved watching kids refer to them as they worked through word problems.

Now for a few resources that we can't wait to get our hands on!

First up, Math Projects from Teaching with a Mountain View. She is AMAZING! We love all of her resources but we are revamping our math this year and we are looking for fun and engaging math projects that get our kiddos applying what they have learned. These are perfect!

Next up, Teaching and Tapas awesome Close Reading Bundle. She is a wonderful writer and we love the way she includes such valuable work in a student friendly format. Looking forward to using these for whole group as well as for intervention.

Last but not least, we are excited about purchasing Color-By-Number For Big Kids from a fellow Michigander, Kristine Nannini. These will be the perfect fit for our new math workshop!

We are so excited for the sale because we feel like it will get us one step closer to being ready for a new year full of fun, growth, and learning!

Happy shopping everyone!!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

21st Century Classroom Design: A Look Back

I have been meaning to write this post for a while but we have found so many great blog link-ups and book studies going on this summer that I have not had a chance. Mollie and I did a complete overhaul on our classrooms last summer and got rid of desks! We wanted something completely different that would provide our kiddos with more choice and an environment that encouraged self-directed learning and collaboration. After doing TONS of research and TONS of scrounging (ugh and buying) to get just what we needed to put something awesome together, we finally put together what we felt was the perfect classroom design for us. I have to tell you, a year later, it was exactly that... a PERFECT classroom design for us!

Here are links to the two posts where we give you a sneak peak into our classrooms: Amy's Classroom and Mollie's Classroom.

I've started setting up my classroom for this coming year and to be honest I am changing VERY little. The classroom really worked for us last year and the feedback from the kids was positive. 21 out of 26 kids would choose a classroom design like they had this year over a traditional classroom design. For those that would prefer the traditional design, they said they missed having a desk to "keep all their stuff". I have to say the kids not having a messy desk was one of my favorite things about the design this year!

* Some of the reasons kids liked the new design were:

  • "You could interact with different people and you didn't have to be around the same people all the time." 
  • "You could choose cozy items and they made learning more comfy." 
  • "You have lots of choices." 
  • "I like being able to move a lot. It is hard to sit all day."
* Some things kids would change are:
  • The personal white boxes were not sturdy enough to make it a full year. They thought if they got one at the beginning of the year and then one after winter break, it would be better.
  • The kids did not like the times they had to sit in their home bases. (I'll talk about this more later in the post)
I felt like the kids expressed everything I hoped they would when reflecting on the year. They understood that this year was about strengthening their independence and their ability to think about their own learning. Think about how powerful it will be for these kiddos as middle schoolers, high schoolers and even COLLEGE age students to KNOW exactly how they learn best and to make educational decisions that are best for them. 

So what will I change? I did move my "Math Gear" (new pics to come!) to a different spot in the room. 

I am not done setting up my room but my thinking is that I want to get rid of any obstructions that make it difficult to see kiddos. I moved it to the back wall so that my kiddos were not behind the shelf  and difficult to see. Some of the issues I had with off task choices were behind this shelf so it made sense to move it. :-)

Another change I will make is purchasing two white boxes for each student. These boxes are made out of cardboard so I knew they might not last but I had to give them a shot because they were so cheap! I am still happy with the boxes as a whole but I do think replacing boxes in January will help. My kiddos were rough on stuff in general this year (boy-oh-boy! I lived with three brothers growing up and I never could have imagined how rough kids could be until this year! I love them anyway!!!) so I am going to go into next year prepared with two boxes per kid but who knows! Here are the boxes I buy from IKEA (CAN YOU BELIEVE THE PRICE!?!?!) $1.99 for 5!

Mollie and I had written a grant to purchase the furniture we felt necessary for this design. Unfortunately, we did not receive the grant (they had decided to no longer purchase furniture with the grant money) but we were able to "frankenstein" a classroom that was close to our original design. The one thing that was missing was a place for kids to stand and work. We committed to keeping our countertop cleared off so kids could stand and work there if they wanted however, most kids did not choose that. I don't know if it was because their backs would have been to the rest of the room or if it just felt strange standing at the counter but I am still interested in a space for kids to stand when they are working. I came across these tables at IKEA for $21.99 and I think I am going to buy one to see how it holds up and if there are kiddos who would prefer to stand. I'll keep you posted!

I will not be changing the idea of "Home Base" for my kiddos. I know they said they didn't like sitting in their home base because they liked making their own choices but for me it just meant that home base was doing its job. My kiddos only had to sit in their home base when there was a guest teacher OR if as a class they were struggling to make good decisions. I did not need to utilize this natural consequence very often but when I did it obviously had the impact I had hoped for. I would love to consider ways to have the kids earn not sitting in home bases when the guest teacher is there but I am worried about overwhelming the guest teacher (can you even imagine walking into a classroom with zero desks and learning that the kids just sit wherever they want!!!). This procedure also helped my principal to feel more comfortable with the new design considering when things are going well with a guest teacher, she is the one called in to support.

I have said more than once that redesigning our classrooms was the best thing that I did in my 15 years of teaching and I still stand by that. I can't see myself EVER going back to a more traditional design. Next up... technology!!

We have received great feedback from people who are interested in giving this type of design a try. If you have any questions, please don't hesitate to leave a comment here or email us! We are so passionate about this, we would LOVE to talk!

Friday, July 10, 2015

Book Study: Making Thinking Visible - Chapter 3

"Better late than never" is a saying for a reason right?! Things have been a little hectic around here so I have not had a chance to read Chapter 3 from Making Thinking Visible by Ron Ritchart, Mark Church, and Karin Morrison until now! I am linking up again with The Owl Teacher to reflect on this book all about how to create opportunities for kids to not just share their thinking but to SHOW their thinking.

This chapter explains what "thinking routines" are and why they are important to students' learning. As I am sure we can all agree, routines are key to our survival! When our kids know what to expect and what is expected of them, it saves us valuable learning time and our sanity!

The authors broke routines down into three categories: tools, structures, and patterns of behavior. The first way to use thinking routines is as a tool. My big take-away from this section was before giving our kiddos a task, we should determine what type of thinking we want our kiddos to do. Once we know what kind of thinking we want from them, we can select the appropriate thinking routine for them to use as a tool.

The second way we can use thinking routines is as a structure. This is section got me super excited to learn more about thinking routines. The structure of these routines naturally scaffolds students' thinking and helps them to systematically get to higher level and deeper thinking. I LOVE THIS! I am always trying to create opportunities for my kiddos to go deeper and think at a higher level but I am always concerned that if I push them there too quickly, and their understanding breaks down that I won't know where I lost them. A structure that scaffolds allows me to see where my students are struggling so I can support them.

The final way we can use thinking routines is as a pattern of behavior. This section simply explains that incorporating thinking routines into the classroom consistently will help your kiddos develop into true thinkers. In the past, education has focused too much on students learning and understanding the thinking of others without encouraging them to do any real thinking themselves. Adopting thinking routines in your classroom will ensure that you students not only gain a real understanding of skills and concepts but also that they uncover their own thinking about them.

I am so eager to learn more about these thinking routines and start to plan how they will be present in my classroom this school year. Visit back next week as we start looking at routines for introducing and exploring ideas!

Don't forget to check out The Owl Teacher to read about her thoughts on Chapter 3!

Saturday, July 4, 2015

Happy Fourth!

We are linking up with Jasmine at Buzzing with Mrs. McClain and MANY other sellers to throw a big sale in honor of Independence Day. 

You can head over to our store and find everything (INCLUDING BUNDLES!) 20% off today and tomorrow! Here are just a few awesome deals that may be helpful as you prep for a new school year (yes the Back-2-School displays are starting to role out at the stores!). 

If you are looking for a way to deepen your students' understanding of words and build their toolbox for identifying and understanding unknown words, this is a perfect bundle for you! Everything you need for Word Study for the entire year! Just print and go!

Now is a great time to set up our Teacher Resource Binder. This resource has tons of forms that will help you to get organized and stay organized throughout the entire year. Head over to our store to see the three different designs to choose form. And the best part? Once you purchase it, you will have updates every school year so you will never need to buy another resource binder again! 

Head on over to our store, Two Nuts Teachin' from the Same Tree and grab some awesome deals. Also, check out Buzzing with Mrs. McClain to find more great deals!

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Currently: July

It has been a little while since we linked up with Farley over at Oh' Boy 4th Grade for her monthly Currently blog series so we are excited to be back!

Listening: I love Ellie Goulding (and my daughter Ellie is convinced it is because of the name). I have a playlist on Spotify that I am listening to over and over again! :)

Loving: Jen at Hello Fonts updated her bundle and added several new fonts this month. I LOVE THEM ALL!!!!

Thinking: WHAT HAPPENED TO JUNE!?!? My kiddos are counting down the days to our family vacation and every time they mark a day on the calendar they get excited and I shed a tear. Summer is going WAY too fast!

Wanting: I really need to make a trip to IKEA. It is just sooooo far! I think they need to build one here... although my hubby may disagree...

Needing: I really want to run a half marathon in September but it has been a LONG time since I ran on a regular basis. I totally thought that I would have all kinds of time now that it is summer... think again. :(

All Star: I do love to-do lists and I can rock several at once!

Be sure to stop over to Oh' Boy 4th Grade to check out what other bloggers are up to this month!