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Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Storage in the Classroom

Finding a system to organise all your teacher resources can be tricky. Trust me though, when you finally find the right system- everything becomes easier!

I trialed many different ways of storing games but this is by far the easiest to keep organised. This is a special tub for file dividers- it has grooves along the side to hold them in properly. I label each divider and then place each game inside in a zip lock bag. Some of the bags get pretty thick but the file dividers are able to cater for that. These tubs also come with very sturdy lids so you can pile them high! Sometimes I take out particular games, other times I take out whole files. TIP: Sticky tape the labels in place so they don't fall out!

Fold-able storage boxes are great for lighter items. Have a couple of them flat packed in the cupboard and pull them out as needed. I like them for storing paper offcuts (scrap box) and recyclable resources.

Containers are fantastic in all sorts of shapes and sizes. I love little ones to store knickknacks. Here are some storing my guided reading resources. Click here to read my post on guided reading.

For my weekly resources I use these wheelie draws. Each one is labeled with a subject. I used to have a concertina file with each day of the week labeled but I found that difficult on the weeks where I was prepared more then a week in advance and booklets are too big for them. I use the bottom few draws for certificates, student notes and original sheets to come home and be filed.

I use the hanging canvas pockets for notes and work to be sent home and work needing to be finished. My brother made these for me.

I stole the next idea off of a fellow teacher and wanted it in my classroom simply because of how pretty it looks! This is just a clear set of draws that I keep A4 paper in. 

For A3 paper I used the box some A3 Blank paper came in and I pushed in one of the sides so I can see the colour choice at a glance. I just lift up the paper to pull out a particular piece.

It wasn't until a few years after I started teaching that I finally got all my paper resources out of big piles and organised.  I have lever arch files for my general subject areas. I made up labels and have the files colour coded according to the colour ACARA has assigned the subjects.

Inside the files I use A4 sleeves. Some sleeves contain multiple sheets and some only contain one. It depends on how similar the sheets are and my likelihood of using them.  I use sticky tab labels down the side to section each lever arch out more. Unit plans are really easy to lift out and put into my planning files at school.

I use display files for my theme resources so I can just take a single display file into school when we change topics. 

I hope you found some helpful organisation ideas! Good luck organising!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Guided Reading Setup, Tips and Tricks!

Guided Reading is all the rage right now. Most schools seem to be mandating it as a whole school strategy and that was the case for mine last year.
I had done reading groups before and always felt I spent more time doing behaviour management than actual teaching. But I believe in whole school approaches so through trial, error and research I have finally got guided reading working for me.

Set up
This is my guided reading station (and my main desk area). I love the horseshoe desk so much, the practicality of it is endless and if you are doing guided reading without one you are really missing out. I currently keep the book for each group in a white bookshelf behind my desk although I will eventually gets tubs (when I can find one style in 5 different colours).

I have all my guided reading resources on the top two shelves behind me organised in containers.
In small tubs I keep motivation tools. 

Witches fingers are great. I got a ten pack off eBay for less than $5.00. 

Magnifying glasses are very exciting for students and I got a set for less than $10.

Pointers can be as simple as fun pictures on popsticks. I got these zombie pictures from Ainslee Labs on TPT.

These questions fans come from Runde's Room. I purchased the bundle so I got 6 different sets. I love them because all the questions are sorted into categories. I never struggle to think of questions and I ensure I am covering a concept in depth.
Laminated card and whiteboard markers are great for any written work. Do yourself a favour and get magic erasers (bulk buy on eBay) for rubbing work off- 10 times as quick and easy as a tissue or cloth)

I also love this resource for assisting your students with reading problems. 

For term 1 I have a different strategy for each week that all groups cover. In term 2 I get more targeted with each group, focusing on their specific needs. 
My current planning document is a simple table that has the group names and days of the week as headers. Each section explains what they are doing at each activity and a comments column at the end. I hope to take this to a higher standard soon.


While I am with my guided reading group I like to have the rest of my students in groups. They rotate through 4 activities each week. I use the chart above to show students which group they are in and what their group is doing. The chart has blue tacked names so I can easily change the groups based on student needs. All the pieces are laminated so I change the activities as needed. I have either 4 or 5 groups depending on student needs. When I have 5 groups I still only run it 4 times a week but while my top group is reading their text my weakest group is with me, then they swap and the weaker group re-reads their text.
By having the chart I am able to tell my students to go straight to their activity without any instruction time, 

Other Students
I change the activities the rest of the class are doing on an as needed basis. This term the other group activities are as follows:
SRA Comprehension box: Those good old leveled cards that students work through. Ensure you check on the students every now and again to see what pace students are working through the cards.
Computer/iPad based: For term 1 students have to do interactive comprehension texts on Studyladder. Its a great program, it's free and has a wealth of activities. Each student has their own log on and you can set tasks for the class and see results. In term 2 I pick a more targeted text or activity for them to complete.
Oral Reading: My biggest hate of guided reading is the lack of oral reading (did you know the reading part of guided reading is meant to be silent?). To ensure students are practicing this important skill I give them an easy text (independent level 95% + accuracy) and a voice card. Students attempt to read in the given voice and then vote on the best voice. The best voice presents to the class and receives a reward for public reading. On the last day all the winners read and an overall winner is announced. In my experience the people change week to week. I got my voice reading cards from here and here. (they are in the picture behind the pointers).

Tips and Tricks
  • Make sure the other students are completing activities that have a high level of accountability i.e. easy to check to see if they did what was required.
  • Have as many of the other activities as independent as possible- don't sit students together when they are working on independent tasks.
  • Discuss with students the noise requirements. I use ninja mode. Students have to sneak around like ninjas making no sound (think ninja turtles) and sometimes I will pick the ultimate ninja for a reward. This could also be called mouse mode. 
  • Noise level apps are also great - provide students a reward if they stay under a certain noise level. 
  • Wear an accessory when doing guided reading groups and explain to students that when you have that on they are not to come to you.
  • Keep sessions short- this will ensure students are on task and don't get bored.
  • Teach independence and problem solving strategies. What should they do if they get stuck while you are with a guided reading group?

That's how I make guided reading work for me. Hope you found some useful tips!

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Shamrock St Patrick's Day Word Wall

With St Patrick's Day just around the corner I have whipped up a Shamrock Shaped Word Wall.
I love these word walls. They really stand out in a classroom and are incredible useful.

Remember I have an Easter Word Wall available for purchase (Click here)

I have an insanely cool word wall coming out this Christmas so make sure to follow my blog (link to the right), facebook page or TPT.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

10 Things a Teacher Wants to Say to Parents

Whether we can't say it because we'll get in to trouble or its something we just wish parents knew,  these are 10 things teachers want to say to parents.

Open Letter to Parents:

1: Do NOT buy the cheap pencils!

This is a pet peeve of teachers all over the world. You might think you are saving a bit of money purchasing the ridiculously cheap pencils at Target but what you have actually done is doom your child to sharpening those pencils as they keeps breaking. In the end most teachers end up giving those students a pencil. Please buy the better pencils, usually red, NEVER buy the yellow pencils. While we are on the subject of pencils stay away from the bendy ones too.

2: Get your child to school on time!

Even just a few minutes can be highly disruptive, annoying and deprive your child of learning. They need time to settle before school and catch up with their friends. Important information is usually relayed in the first 10 minutes after the bell. We understand sometimes things happen but it should never be on a regular basis.

3: Leave your child at school till the bell!

You expect it on the Friday before a long weekend but where are they going all the other days?  I can guarantee a child picked up early will forget the point of the lesson they were in and not bring home any notes for that day.

4. Do NOT ask for homework for your holidays!

It's a common scenario, parent informs teacher of upcoming holiday then asks for work for their child to do (probably because you think it makes you look like a better parent). The teacher slaves away preparing work (you can't send the regular class work because if students could do that by themselves we wouldn't need a teacher- a lot of teachers don't even use worksheets anymore). The worksheets go home and stay home, they don't get taken on the holiday. They either don't ever get completed or get done by the child the night before they return to school. Most of the answers are wrong and you still need to catch the students up on work. Save us the trouble and don't ask!

5. No, Your pet can't come for show and tell!

Thank you for  the avalanche of students wanting to bring their pets in that you have started. A photo will do fine.

6. Don't bring in take away for lunch

While there are obvious (health) reasons to not bringing in junk food for your child's lunch it's also very annoying for anyone else who has to sit there and watch. It's very hard to eat a plain sandwich when someone near you is eating take away.

7. Check how your child smells

There are many different reasons a child smells, rotten shoes, BO, cigarette smoke, unwashed clothes or poor hygiene just to name a few. In a tiny classroom bad smells can be nauseating.  It segregates your child from others who identify them as the bad smell.

8. We can tell if you read to your child or listen to them read

The difference between kids who read at home and who don't is monumental. It is the single best thing you can do at home with your child.

9. Your child never tells you the whole story.

Every child does it, its a protection thing. So when they come home and tell you a story from school take it with a large scoop of salt. If its a story about something another child did to them its highly likely they did something first or back to that child. Or maybe you ask what the teacher did about it and they say "nothing". Why did the teacher do nothing? Because they never told us about it, which brings me to number 10....

10. We're not perfect.

We try to be, we want to be, but we're human. We make mistakes, we forget things and we don't know everything. Most of all we are not mind readers!

Monday, 2 March 2015

Give Away! Celebrating being in Top 150!

I am celebrating today!
Today I entered the top 150 all time best Australian Sellers. Currently I am sitting on 147!
To celebrate I am holding another give away on my Facebook page: facebook.com/mrsamy123
To enter you need to be a liker of the page and then share the post about the giveaway! The winner will get to choose a product from my store valued at $10.00 or under.

Here are some of my suggested picks for the winner:

My Narrative Writing Unit is selling like hot cakes! Engaging, creative and sure to improve your students writing this narrative unit is a blast to teach. Check it out here.
Just in time for Easter, this word wall is sure to catch everyone's eye. Print, cut and laminate and then arrange it into the basket. Check it out here

One of my best selling resources is this First Aid Unit. It teaches life saving skills while practicing many other key skills. It is a big hit with the students! Check it out here.

If you are a fellow TPT seller then you might be interested in my basic peoples kit. Their are 50 unique characters ranging in age, occupation and ethnicity. Check it out here.

These Narrative Prompt Picture Cards can be used for a variety of fun and engaging lesson.  I love giving students one setting, problem and character card and getting them to write a story involving all three elements. Check it out here.