Saturday, July 23, 2016

My Erin Condren Teacher Planner for 2016-2017 arrived!


My friends and coworkers know that I am Erin Condren OBSESSED. Something about these planners make me so darn happy! Feel free to use my referral link to get $10 off any Erin Condren purchase! 

Since these planners are personalized and made-to-order, it took about two weeks for it to arrive. What did I do while I waited? Something productive? NOPE. I watched lots and lots of YouTube videos of people unboxing their planners and talking about them. I'm sure the hours that I spent watching these I could have learned a new language or how to waterski. But instead I know way too much about planners. #priorities.



Seeing this box in my mailroom immediately made my heart jump! It is GORGEOUS! Opening it up is like a mini-Christmas in a box. As you can see, the company includes lots of fun freebies too. My favorite freebies are the ones shown on the right. These are gift stickers to put on presents or bags to add some extra cuteness and pizzazz!










The planner also comes with a mini-sticker freebie book. It gives you a glimpse into some of the fun planner stickers that Erin Condren sells. I am personally not a sticker person- I love all the clean white space of a planner. Gives me inner piece. But if you like to add some color to your planner, these stickers are definitely a fun way to do so! The "do-it-all dots" are super cute and have symbols like a hairdryer or a hair appointment, dumbbell for working out, etc.



And then we open it up.... and here is this beauty! I chose the lace pattern and I am obsessed. I am even more excited that it has a "Mrs." on it.... two weeks until I get married! So excited, and this is making it seem even more real. It comes with a see-through plastic ruler that serves as a bookmark so you always know your place in the planner.



The inside of the front and back cover are dry-erase. Now personally, I would never use dry-erase markers on this. I love my planner too much to be happy with smudges all over it from the dry-erase markers! However, permanent markers work just fine on this thing and don't smear. To remove, just grab a Clorox wipe and get rid of it. I'll be using this as my dashboard with my guided math and guided reading groups on it.





You will get a set of date dots to put the dates on the Teacher Planner. Okay, I understand the point of these is to use the Teacher Planner whenever you want. But if there's something I don't like about the planner, it is this. You have to stick all the dates on for the monthly calendar! I am a fast-paced person, so this part drives me cray cray. The things I do for a beautiful planner. Moving on.
















Here's some images of the introduction pages. There's a spot for birthdays, important holidays/dates to remember, an all about me section with contact info in case you lose your planner. All the same things as the old one had!



Finally, the good stuff! I love calendars. The planner comes with a whole bunch of stickers. I went ahead and looked at our yearly school calendar. I put down yellow stickers for any day that we have off during the year (like voting day, Thanksgiving Break, etc). Pink for holidays that we are in school, but obviously still need to celebrate! 

For tests/quizzes, I write down the assessment in pen and go over it in yellow highlighter. For guidance dates, I write down "Guidance" and highlight in blue. Assemblies get a green highlighter. 



This is the empty shell of the lesson planner. I bought stickers from a Etsy shopped called "Owl Plan With You" that will list all the subjects, week #'s, and dates. 



Next, the student checklist pages! I LOVE these babies for field trip forms, classroom money, chaperones, etc. It is all in one place, which is perfection since when it comes to paper in my classroom, I lose EVERYTHING. It's really bad actually... I walk around with important pieces of paper, put them down, and never see them again. Luckily my kids are super competitive, so I call out "FIRST ONE TO FIND THE FIELD TRIP FORM GETS A CAPRI SUN" and they run all over the room looking for the item. Thank goodness for children helpers :-)



In this handy pocket, I stick leave slips, purchase orders, and building use forms. I always need a leave slip, purchase order, or building use form but hate walking down to the office to get one. I am located in a modular and am literally the farther classroom away from the school. This makes things less stressful and allows me to fill one out when needed!

Another pocket, but a lower one. It's currently filled with the stickers, but I'll be moving this. They will fall out of the low pocket in no time! I might flip flop the contents of the other folder with this one. Love the color on the pocket folder, so pretty.



Ta-da... that's it! What do you think? Would this be useful in your classroom as well? I absoutely, 100% recommend this product. The minor annoyances (cough cough dates dots) are blown away by all the fabulous features. This made my teaching so much more organized last year.

What do you think? Want to get one of your own for the first time? Use my referral link to get $10 off any Erin Condren purchase! 


Sunday, July 3, 2016

Book Clubs in the Classroom

Book clubs improve reading comprehension and include activities that encourage kids to love reading. Read six easy steps to launch literature circles with your students in the classroom.
Many readers asked about how I conduct book clubs, so I am excited to write up about my use of book clubs (also known as literature circle) in the classroom.

There are lots of different ways to do book clubs, I am just sharing what I like best in my room. Feel free to leave comments about how you run yours in the classroom, I am always looking for new ideas to incorporate into my teaching!



STEP 1: CREATE YOUR GROUPS
There are two different ways that I create groups for book clubs.

Firstly, you can group by reading level. This is what I do most often, since it allows me to find books that are slightly challenging for the reading level. We use the DRA at my school, so I do a mixture of their DRA level and whether or not each student can "handle" a certain book.

The other way to group is by interest. I have a pretty good idea what each student in my class is interested in, so I can mix reading ability this way. Students who are interested and are eager to read a certain book are going to keep a growth mindset and conquer reading a book, even if the reading level is a bit more challenging or easier than usual. Remember, book clubs allow for self-differentiation. A too-easy book for a high student can still provide a plethora of ways for critical and higher-level thinking in terms of the assignment given. Sometimes a less-than-challenging book allows a less confident student to decipher and interpret it in more complex ways.



STEP 2: CHOOSE YOUR BOOKS
Time to get thee to a nunnery. Err... reading room. Hamlet has always been my favorite Shakespearean poem, can you tell?

Don't have a reading room? You can prep for book club with a variety of methods.

  • Firstly, you could buy the books for cheap in the New/Used section of Amazon. 
  • You can also check out the $1 Deals on Scholastic. 
  • You could also purchase the books on Scholastic, and use all the points you get to receive more books for free. 
  • Look into Donor's Choose to fund your book club and set up a project to better your classroom.
  • Finally, you could always just submit a purchase order for books from Amazon into your school finance person. I have done this several times instead of going through our reading room specialist, who is more picky about what books we can/cannot have. 

When choosing the books, I love to lean toward the classics. Many students are so enthralled with their Wimpy Kid series or Harry Potter (nothing against Harry Potter.... I am an HP fiend. #teamslytherin), that there are many classics and award-winners that they choose not to pick up. I like to use book clubs as a way to get those sorts of books into the hands of my students. Some of my favorite books for book clubs that my students particularly enjoy as well:

FOR HGH READERS


STEP 3: ASSIGN PAGES
I like to sit down ahead of time and map out all the pages that the kids will be reading. My first year I started teaching, I would assign pages on the spot. This resulted in a lot of unequal pages for various weeks. Instead, I now decide how long I want to do book clubs. I usually do four weeks. I take the total amount of pages in a book and divide by four. This number is roughly how many pages they will read each week. I say roughly because I like to end on the end of a chapter, so sometimes their reading will be a little longer or shorter to ensure that the last page they read each weeks finishes at the end of a chapter.

My Literature Circle packets have a spot in the beginning where you can first choose the number of weeks for the kids to complete a book (four, five, or six weeks), then they have spots to write down all the pages. If you don't use my packets, you could have them write the pages on a sticky note used as a bookmark!


STEP 4: MEET!
My book club meetings are in place of any guided reading/small group work. What I love about book clubs is that it is mainly student directed. Whichever one of my students is Discussion Leader leads the discussion. I am there to monitor the discussion and make sure everyone is on task... but for the most part, I pretend that I'm simply a fly on the wall. I want to hear their ideas, not project my own ideas!

In the beginning of the year as they are first learning how book clubs are conducted, I serve more as a mediator and leader. It is a lot of fun to start loosening up on the reins and passing on the leadership role as they become more comfortable. I also tell the kids that they are graded on participation- which involves listening as much as it does talking. Often kids (and adults.... I am often 100% guilty of this) wait for others to finish talking but are not listening to what they are saying. Participation is listening to others and voicing one's own opinion in a respectful manner.


STEP 5: KIDS DO WORK ON ROLES
I use literacy stations in my classroom. During our book club cycles, one of our stations is Book Club work (the other stations are generally DEAR, reading comp, and small group time when I work on something with the students). Kids can take their book home and read for the required 20 minutes a night, and they are also more than welcome to do book club work at home. It is up to them! It is a great way to teach time management to kids. Often kids will want to spend most of the language arts block independently reading, so many of my kiddos will take their work home to make sure that this happens.

I use my literature circle packets to conduct my book clubs, available here. My roles generally consist of:

  • Discussion Leader: Come up with higher-level questions from the reading and lead meeting
  • Word Wizard: Use a dictionary to learn new words from reading
  • Character Kiddo: Compare two characters of one's choice on a Venn diagram
  • Summarizer: Write a summary from the reading
  • Connection Conductor: Find connections to your own life from reading
  • Voracious Visualizer: Draw a scene from the reading
Each week one role is assigned per student (if your groups are large, double up on a role). The student comes ready to share their role with the group.



STEP 6: REPEAT
I meet weekly with my students. Book clubs can be personal- I want the kids to read the book and enjoy it, not feel rushed to finish. Some teachers I know have book club meets a few times a week. I personally feel like this is too much - I am an advocate for encouraging reading for pleasure at a young age. However, I also see how this would be a good way to track your students and ensure that they are keeping up with the work. So anything that works best in your classroom- you know your kiddos best!


How do you do book clubs in your classroom? Is this something you'll be doing this year?


Book clubs improve reading comprehension and include activities that encourage kids to love reading. Read six easy steps to launch literature circles with your students in the classroom.