2016 - The Classroom Nook

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The Classroom Game Nook

Teaching Your Students to Use Accountable Talk


You can only get so far talking TO your students, right?  When the conversation only flows in one direction, you miss out on a valuable opportunity to really dive deep into a topic.  That's why I feel it is really important to teach students how to have a meaningful and valuable conversation with you, the teacher, as well as with their peers.

I, and I'm sure many others, call this "accountable talk."

Before I go on, let's make sure we are all on the same page.  

WHAT IS ACCOUNTABLE TALK?
Accountable talk to me is an intentional open-ended conversation where participants listen, add on to each other's comments, and use clarifying questions to make sure they are understanding what others are saying.

When students participate in accountable talk, they can have richer and deeper conversations that go beyond surface-level thinking.
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How to Quickly Check Your Students' Understanding


As teachers we are always checking for understanding from our students.  Whether it's a unit assessment, a reading response, or a written answer, we need to keep track of students who are getting it, and those that aren't.

But - we don't always have time for or even need a formal assessment.  Sometimes we just need to be able to scan the room and take a quick check.

Here's a quick tip for doing just that:
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10 Anchor Charts to Teach Inferring


I thought I'd go easy on you with a picture post.  No {major} reading required.  Short, easy, inspiring!

Today's Focus:  Anchor Charts for Teaching and Reinforcing Inferring

We know how important it is to teach our students to make inferences when they read.  It's a tricky concept, and one that needs to be taught again and again.  Students often confusing inferring with making predictions and observations, and some are just confused all together!

Sometimes, just the right wording and graphic will make it click for students.  These anchor charts might just do the trick!

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How to Organize Your Teacher Life With Google Calendar


Tell me if any of these statements ring true for you:

You're desk (at school or at home) is covered with post-it notes with reminders, to-do's, and ideas.

OR

You often sit down at your computer to do work and you spend 15 minutes trying to figure out where to start, and what exactly you need to get done.

OR

You're juggling a LOT - between your school work, your family, your (fill in the blank) you have a hard time knowing which end is up.

OR

You constantly feel like you're "forgetting something."

Sound familiar?

I know that it did for me...until about a month ago.

It all started with a coffee mug and a pretty planner.

Let me explain.
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12 Days of Classroom Freebies! {Don't miss out!}

Look - I know that Thanksgiving is tomorrow and that it's possible you don't want to think about Christmas juuuust yet.  All you want to do is put on your fat pants and get ready for some serious turkey eating tomorrow.  I get it.  I'm right there with you, but can I just spare a moment of your time?  I think what I'm about to tell you will actually make your holiday season in the classroom less stressful, and make you a little bit more excited for these few weeks of school between Thanksgiving and Christmas (AKA - the CrAzY weeks!).

The calendar doesn't turn to December until next Thursday, but I wanted to invite you to join me in a fun opportunity that you WON'T want to miss out on - and it begins December 1!  So get on board early!
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6 Activities to Include in Your Next Novel Unit


If you teach in the upper elementary grades, chances are you spend a good chunk of time during your literacy block reading novels with your students.

Whether your students are reading the novel as a whole-class, in guided reading groups, in literature circles, or even as individuals, there are some activities that work great with almost any novel.  And, in this post, I'm going to share 6 activities that I have used over and over in the different novels that I have read with my own students.
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Mini Series: Focus on Author Studies {Part 4: Learning and Response Activities}

Wow - we are coming to a close on this mini-series all about author studies!  If you've been following along from the beginning, get ready to hit the ground running with your own author study.

On the flip side, if you've just stumbled across this mini-series, then you're going to want to check out the first three parts of the series to make sure you've got all the background information.

You can find them here:
Part 1:  Choosing an Author
Part 2:  Selecting Books
Part 3:  Formatting and Differentiation

In this final installment of the series, I want to get specific about the types of learning activities and responses that work well with an author study and will help enhance your students' author study experience.

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Mini Series: Focus on Author Studies {Part 3: Formatting & Differentiating}


We are knee-deep in author studies here at The Classroom Nook!

If you are just checking in for the first time (HI! and...), make sure you read part 1 and part 2 of this series all about choosing an author and choosing books for your study.  Those two posts will give you some important information that today's posts builds upon.

Shall we dive in?

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Mini Series: Focus on Author Studies {Part 2: Selecting Books}


Welcome back to this mini-series on author studies.  If you missed part 1, check that out to get you up to speed.

In part 1 we talked about the 4 major things to consider when choosing an author for your study.  We also discussed the idea of choosing an author that writes picture books vs. an author that writes chapter books.  

Hopefully you’ve taken a moment to check out the author comparison guide (freebie link available in part 1) and have started to think about which author will work with your students.  If you haven’t chosen an author yet, don’t worry.  After going through this whole series, you’ll have a better idea of how an author study will look in your classroom and you’ll be more confident to make a decision.

The next step after choosing an author will be to choose the books by the author to include in your study.  Now, in most cases, you won’t be able to read EVERY book your selected author has written, so you want to make sure you pick the best of the best from that author to really meet your curriculum needs.

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Mini Series: Focus on Author Studies {Part 1: Choosing an Author}


There are a lot of things that we do as teachers to help turn our students on to reading.

We work hard to expose our students to the right kinds of texts, genres, and topics.  I love the book, Miss. Malarky Leaves No Reader Behind by Kevin O'Malley.  Are you familiar with it?  It's a cute picture book about a teacher that is determined to find a book for each student in their class that they will fall in love with, even the boy who hates reading.  By the end of the year, she successfully finds a book for each of her students to love.

Sigh.  If only it were that easy.

I think we can all relate to Miss. Malarky.  We want to be that teacher that finds the perfect book for each student that then triggers a life-long love for reading.

Although it may be no easy task, there are some things we can do.  One of my favorite ways to get students excited about reading is by doing an author study.  With my own students I did at least one author study a year and I have come to LOVE them.  And I hoping you will too!

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October Resources To Use In Your Classroom

October = Pumpkin spice lattes, pumpkin pie, pumpkin...everything.

It also means that we hit the ground running with holidays from here till the end of the year - which means....MORE PLANNING.
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Help Your Students Learn Their Math Facts...For Good!


Let's face it.

There are some things that students learn in school, take a test on, and then don't reeeeally need to remember ever again.  (um - 10th grade logics and proofs anyone?)

However, there are MANY things that we teach our students that are the building blocks for much of what they will learn in future grades.

Math facts are one of those things.

Knowing them is the foundation for sooo much of what is to come in their learning, and NOT knowing them creates a huge barrier to our students' future success.

Here's another fact:  math facts can be boring and dull to learn.  Skill and drill seems to be the obvious choice for having our students memorize their facts.  However, I am - as I am sure you are, too - a big believer in making learning fun and meaningful.  If students connect with their learning, they will REMEMBER their learning.  Simple as that.

That's why several years ago, my teacher friend and I started having our 4th grade students participate in math challenges.

Total game changer.

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Top Animal Books to Have in Your Classroom

Teaching science was not really my jam, if we are being honest.

But, there were a few science units that I really enjoyed teaching to my students.  Teaching animals was definitely one of those.  It's also one of those units that students typically get excited about.  

Win-Win!

Even though I had taught animals several times in my own classroom, I never shared my ideas for teaching about animals on TpT.  However, I have had numerous requests from teachers to create a unit on animals - and couldn't keep it on the back burner anymore.  So, for the past month or so, I've been crafting a unit full of teacher lesson plans, student activities, a bulletin board, PowerPoint anchor slides, and so much more.

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Ways to Use Audio Books to Support Your Readers {Plus - how to easily make your own!}


Audio books have become a great tool to use in the classroom for offering differentiated instruction, variety, and fun!   In this post I'm going to share with you some of my most favorite ways to use audio books in your own classroom and how making your own audio books is surprisingly easy!  I'll walk you through a few simple steps to how you can customize your own audio book library! 

(PS - Don't worry about how your voice sounds!  Your students listen to you all day anyways!)

Oh - and if you stick around to the end, I'll even give you a free recording of one of my favorite books!

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HP Instant Ink Program: The BEST Kept Secret!



As teachers, it's just basically expected and accepted that we WILL spend some of our own money for classroom resources.

Wait - scratch that.  We will spend a LOOOOOT of our money for our classroom.

I can't think of another job where you take more of your paycheck and invest it right back into your job.  I guess teachers are just extra special that way :)

The biggest money pit for me?  Colored copies.  My school did not have a colored printer, so any centers, games, and classroom decor that I wanted printed out in color was all on me.

I don't even want to know how much money I've spent over the years going in to Staples paying $0.69 per page of colored copies.  Astronomical.  Not to mention what a pain it was to drive there every time I needed something printed.

Well -  NO MORE.  I found the Holy Grail of colored copies.  I now pay only $4.99 a month for up to 100 pages of colored copies.  That is a FAR cry from what I was paying before.

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Dear Future Teacher of Clara...

Many of you know that I have a two year old daughter, Clara.  She's pretty much my whole world.

She's only two, but I know that before I can blink twice, she'll be five and ready to head off on the big yellow school bus for the very first time (#tear).

I think all time about what her school experience will be like.  You hear so much about the struggles of our education today and rarely the triumphs (even though they happen daily in classrooms like yours!).  Those who have nothing to do with the school systems seem to have the strongest (and loudest) opinions.

But you know what?  I still can't wait for Clara to go to school and start her 13-year journey in our local public school district.  You know why?  Because I trust the teachers that will shape her journey, even though I don't know them yet.

I wanted to share with you all, at the beginning of this new school year, an open letter that I have written to the future teacher of Clara.

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Summer Series: Make Your Open House a Hit!


Open house is your time to shine with your students' parents.  You are inviting them into your classroom, so of course you want to be the hostess with the mostess!

Planning a success and memorable open house doesn't have to be difficult.  With these fun ideas, you'll make your students and their families feel right at home and excited to be a part of your class!

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Summer Series: 5 Unique Ways to Communicate With Parents


Boy have we come a loooong way from just using the classroom weekly newsletter to communicate with our students' parents.  Don't get me wrong.  Classroom newsletters are still great and have a purpose, but with technology on our computers and smart phones there are some very convenient, quick, and efficient ways to touch base with parents.

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Summer Series: The Ultimate Back-to-School Shopping List

If you are like me, then you love a good old fashion checklist.
What's better?  A checklist that is completely checked off!
Wait.  I can top that.  How about a checklist that is made FOR you.
Yup.  Pure happiness.
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Summer Series: Launching Writer's Workshop


If you've been following my summer series on prepping for the school year, then you'll remember that last week I walked you through how I set up my readers workshop at the beginning of the year.  If you haven't read that post, you may want to check it out as it gives a nice overview of the workshop model in general and will give a lot of background knowledge that can be also applied to what we will be talking about in this post.

Well this week, I'd like to continue the conversation into writers workshop.  If you like the workshop model for readers workshop (RW), then you would probably like the same format for your writers workshop (WW).  Using the workshop model for both provides a nice consistency for your student as well.

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Summer Series: Launching Reader's Workshop


If you walked in to my classroom most mornings, you would mostly like have found the following scene:

Me - working with a group of small students at the guided reading table, a few students dispersed around the room in bean bag chairs, on carpet squares, or just laying on the floor reading independently, a few more students making reading responses at their desks in their reader's notebook, while others are partner reading.

Oh - and if we're being honest, there was usually THAT kid off task pealing the labels off his crayons. #truth

This scene varied from day to day, depending on what we were learning, but it always followed a certain format.  A workshop format, to be specific.

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Summer Series: DIY Projects for Your Classroom


DIY:  You either HATE those three little letters, or LOVE them.  OR - you love to hate them.
I think I'm that last option.  I always have the greatest of intentions of doing DIY projects - but alas, they usually end up staying pinned on my "To Make..." Pinterest board collecting dust (sigh).

But - in case all you need is a little push to help you actually accomplish those DIY projects you have planned for your classroom, well then, consider this post your nudge (you'll thank me later).

In this post, I'm going to share with you DIY projects that you can do depending on the time you're willing to put into it.  You've got 3 effort categories, as I'll call them, to choose from.

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Summer Series: Back to School Activities for Every Grade


When it comes to deciding on the perfect B2S activities, it can be a little over-whelming to decide. There are so many great ones out there - how do you choose?

Well - I'm putting together my top picks for B2S activities to help narrow down your choices and give you a little focus.  So, whether you've been doing the same thing for the last 5 years and are ready to switch it up, or you're starting a new grade level, here's some great options, categorized by grade levels.  View the slideshow for your grade level.  If you see something you like, just click on the slide to view more details from the original source!  Some activities appear in more than one grade, as they can be easily modified.
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Summer Series:Planning Routines and Procedures


If there were two words that came out of my mouth more often than not the first few weeks of school, it would be: routine and procedure.

Those two words can set the foundation for your whole school year.  Without them, you'll be backtracking the rest of the year.
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Summer Series: Creating the Classroom of Your Dreams


Ahhhh- summer vacay.  Nothing like it, right?  The pace of life slows down (usually) and you finally have time to do all those Pinterest projects that you've pinned throughout the year (maybe - let's not get carried away).

Well - the truth of the matter is, teachers never completely shut it off 100%.  We're always thinking of ideas for our classrooms, making those mental checklists in our head, and planning.

It's in the genes :).  The only difference between being a teacher during the school year and being a teacher during the summer is a margarita in our hands instead of a Mr. Sketch marker  :)

Don't get me wrong, I want you to enjoy your summer, I do.  But I also want to help you plan a little at a time so that you aren't scrambling at the end of the summer.  That's why I've create the JUMPStart 30 Day Challenge that is going on RIGHT NOW.  You can read all the details here.

In addition to the live challenge, I am also hosting a summer series here on the blog with posts all about prepping for the school year without sucking away your summer fun.
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How to Use PowerPoint to Increase Student Engagement


I say "PowerPoint"  ....you say.....

"...presentation..."
"...lecture..."
"...teacher tool..."
"...fill-in-the-blank..."

Did "scavenger hunt?" pop into your head?  How about "interactive timeline?"  What about "story narrative?"

No?  hmmm...let's change that!
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7 Habits of Effective Teachers


Do you have a beautiful and organized looking classroom?  Are all your lessons plans prepped and ready for the rest of the week/month/year?  Does everything in your classroom match perfectly?  Do you have a cute teacher planner?

What if I told you that being an effective teacher didn't depend on your classroom's color scheme or decor?

Don't get me wrong.  I LOVE a pretty classroom, but today I'd like to share with you 7 habits that I truly believe are the foundation to being an effective and successful teacher - and guess what?  None of which can be accomplished using items from the Target dollar bin (gasp!) :)

Let's talk about it -

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Book Review: Constructing Meaning by Nancy N. Boyles


Got your summer reading list picked out, yet?

Well, aside from those juicy romance novels that you'll be reading pool side with a cocktail or lemonade, you might want to add one more to your list.  Summer is the perfect time to leisurely catch up on some professional literature where you can really absorb some new teaching practices and prepare new strategies for the upcoming school year.

Around my 3rd year of teaching, I went to a reading conference where I was given the book Constructing Meaning by Nancy N. Boyles. (affiliate link)
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9 Uses for Music in the Elementary Classroom


Music can be so influential in the way we feel or think.  Music has always played a huge part in my life growing up and even today.  I was in choir and band all through school, I sing in the band at my church, and as of lately, I've been getting down with some epic toddler tunes with my daughter. Another round of "Old McDonald" anyone? (banging head on wall...)

When it comes to the classroom, there are ENDLESS ways to use music to spark excitement in learning.
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31 Ways to End the School Year Right!


The days are winding down (thank goodness!) to the end of the school year.

Whether you're out before Memorial Day, or hang on till the end of June, there is still plenty of things to think about before you turn in your room key and kick off your summer vacay.

So let's talk about that.

I've done a little digging and I'm gonna give you a run down of activities, organizational tips, and summer prep stuff that you may want to consider in these last few weeks (or days, for some of you!!) of school.
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3 Fun Ways to Celebrate Learning


Ceeeeeelebrate good time... come on!

You KNOW you hear that song at a wedding and you are OUT on the dance floor instantly, right? Every. Single. Time.
We all love a good celebration.  Our students love to feel celebrated, too.  So, let's give them a little high-five in some unique ways.  Stickers are easy.  Slap one on top of a student's paper and you're good to go, right?

Weeeell, maybe.  I love a good sticker (make it a scratch-n-sniff and we're friends foreeeva).  But I want to challenge you to mix it up.  Even the standards get old (except for the wedding song standards -- those never get old :) )

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My worst year of teaching...And how I survived...


It was the first day of school. 

I had *some* idea about the kinds of students that would enter in my classroom that year, but I had NO idea that the struggle would begin day 1.

Let me paint you a picture.  I was in an integrated 4th grade classroom with 23 students and 4 adults.  I was working along side a special ed teacher (who was actually just a long term sub for the teacher on maternity leave - she was amazing though!) and 2 of my students had one-on-one aids.  Our classroom was small and the kids were active...very active.  MANY of the students had emotional behavior disorders and were truly not in the right place for success.  They needed way more support than what could be provided in an integrated classroom.  Of students that did not have emotional behavioral disorders, most of the rest were reading at about a 2nd grade reading level or lower.  Yes- I said lower. 

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Creating a Community of Readers {PART 2: Turn Up the Heat!}


Before you check out this post, make sure you read last week's post on "Creating a Community of Readers {Even in the Middle of the School Year} Part 1: Start Simple. 

In that post, I featured 3 very simple ways that you can create a strong community of readers without even breaking a sweat!

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Shall we continue our conversation on creating a community of readers?  Today we're gonna roll up our sleeves a bit and turn up the heat on creating a community of readers.  Don't worry, you've got this.
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Creating a Community of Readers {PART 1: Start Simple}


Can you relate to this?
You join your students on the gathering area, share an anchor text, talk about the book, maybe teach a skill or two, and then send your kiddos off to their desks for independent reading. 

Maybe you mix in some guided reading in there, as well.  Perhaps a conference or two. You wrap it up with meeting on the gathering area once again, have a few students share out how they applied said skill into their own reading and call it a day.

Sound familiar?  This was my reading block, day in and day out.  There was few opportunity for students to really connect their reading experiences with each other. 

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Stop Lecturing, Start Connecting {3 Proven Stratgies to Up Student Engagement}


Ever feel like the way you present your lessons to your students lacks a little oomph? 

Sometimes it can feel like all we do is just talk AT the students instead of connect and engage with them.  The "pizazz" factor goes right out the window.

You can tell too, can't ya?

You know when your students are totally into - or not into - what they are learning.  I get it.  It's hard to always think of new and creative ways to present your lessons to your students.  Sometimes the worksheet is just faster and easier.

But don't give up, my friend.  I'd like to put that oomph back into your teaching.  Re-spark your energy a bit, perhaps.
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Welcome. You've Come to the Right Place.


Welcome to The Classroom Nook.  I can't even tell you how excited I am that you are here.  This is the beginning of a great friendship, you and me. 

If you're looking for that place to cozy up, chat, and learn, well then,
you've come to the right place.
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