Sunday, July 31, 2016

Social Studies Linky

I love linky parties!  I've gotten so many great ideas from them, and it's so nice to see so many great resources in one place!  Check out these linkies from 5th in the Middle to find great ideas for teaching social studies!

Civil WarGeography13 ColoniesNative Americans LinkyExplorersAmerican Revolution LinkyConstitutionWestward Expansion
Multiple Topics

TeachersPayTeachers BEST YEAR EVER Sale!!!!!

I can't believe the Back to School sale at TeachersPayTeachers is coming so soon, but it is! TOMORROW!

That's right, the Best Year EVER sale is happening on TeachersPayTeachers from August 1-2 SITEWIDE!

This is a great time to clear out that wishlist--I've already moved items to my cart in preparation!  My entire store will be 20% off, and you can get an ADDITIONAL 10% off by using the promo code BESTYEAR, for a total of 28% off!!!!!  This is truly the best time to buy bundles and other $$$ items you've been eyeballing/drooling over all summer.  There is NO BETTER sale on TeachersPayTeachers EVER during the school year!

HURRRRRRRY!!! Click on the picture above or on any item to the right to be taken directly to my TPT store!

How I Make the Clip Chart Work in Upper Elementary

A few years ago, my school decided to utilize the clip chart as part of our schoolwide behavior plan.  I was glad to have everyone using the same thing.  If I saw a first grader walking down the hallway with nice procedures, I could give him a clip up.  If I saw a third grader helping a lost kindergartener, I could give her a clip up.  It was nice to have a common reward/discipline plan throughout the building.

However, it didn't take long for the naysayers to take root.  Before long, a few teachers in third and fourth grade complained that their students didn't respond to the clip chart.  They wanted to do something else.  Last year, our PBIS team demanded suggested that we use Classroom Dojo, which was met with a great uproar from a vast majority of our teachers.  I wasn't happy with the switch.  I'd tried Dojo before with very little success and lots of time spent doling out points.  I know some teachers love it, and that's fine.  We're not all the same.  I don't like it.  If you do, I'm glad you found something that works for you.  But when a group of people who have had little experience in the classroom and specials teachers who only have the kids for 25-50 minutes once or twice a week push something down your throat, you're going to want to resist.

I have to say that I love the clip chart.  I actually used a few years before the whole building decided to.  And more importantly than me loving the clip chart, my students respond and flourish with it.  How did I get fifth graders to buy in to the clip chart when younger grades couldn't?  Simple.  Spray painted clips...and lots of clipping up.

My school's clip chart has seven levels.  The bottom of the chart is orange- teacher's choice.  Yellow, a warning, is next.  Green is where everyone starts for the day.  Green is good.  Above green is purple, then silver, and gold is at the top of the chart.  Students can go above and beyond the physical chart by clipping up to the teacher, then, for exceptional behavior, clipping up to the principal.  This is a high honor bestowed upon students with truly fantastic, amazing, wonderful behavior for the day.
As you can see, there are only a few colors that are "bad," and a whole bunch that are good.  I focus on catching students in clip up worthy moments.  Even my naughtiest students enjoy their days clipped up to the principal during the year, and I'm rewarded with a few following days of good behavior out of them, too.  I don't like having students below green, and students don't like it either.  What I love about the clip chart is that students can mess up, get a clip down, but then change their attitude and work towards clipping up.  Sometimes it takes them awhile to accept the clip down, but they'll eventually do things that are clip up worthy.

Aside from lots of clip ups, I use special clips in my room.  At the beginning of the year, every student starts out with a green clip.  When a student ends the day on gold or above, they pick out a jewel to be super glued on to their clip.  When their clip is completely covered, front and back, with jewels (**Pro Tip: write initials or student numbers on the inside of the clip--that way they can figure out whose is whose when their names get covered!), they "level up" to a purple clip.  When their purple clip is covered, they move on to a silver clip, then a gold clip, and finally, a gold clip covered with gold glitter.

My kids love these painted clips.  LOVE THEM.  They work so hard to "level up" their clips.  It's seen as a competition, but is celebrated by everyone.  Every year, there are cheers for people who make it to a purple clip, and envious "oohs" and "aahs" when classmates get their gold clips.  It's a simple reward that fifth graders love.

While I like clipping students up, and tend to focus on that, I'm a bit stingy about my students getting to gold.  They really have to work hard to reach gold on the clip chart each day--it's not something they just get for showing up that day.  Because of this, I have never had a student fill up their sparkly gold clip in a school year.  Last year, one boy was really, really, close, but he just needed a few more days to get those last few jewels.  However, by the end of the year, the only students with green clips are ones that moved in throughout the year, and even my students with "naughty reputations" from third and fourth grade have earned enough days on gold to be on a purple or silver clip.

Seriously, using these spray painted clips works.  I have had several teachers comment on how mature their formerly difficult students have gotten, and that their behavior has improved tremendously.  They think it's just magical maturation that happens over the summer, but I know it's because my behavior management plan focuses on the good and encourages students to stop acting out.  Sure, we have our difficult, pull-your-hair-out, write-a-letter-of-resignation days, but they are truly few and far between.  When students figure out that I'm not out to make their school year miserable by focusing on every little thing they do wrong, they start liking school, and respecting teachers, and trusting me, which is the best a behavior plan can hope for.  
Thursday, July 28, 2016

V.I.P. Club -- Very Informed Pupils

I'm introducing something new to my classroom this year: V.I.P.s.  I've seen lots of posts and pins about VIPs in classrooms being based on behavior, but that's not the kind of VIPs I'll be having.  I got this idea a couple winters ago, while watching school cancellations scroll across the TV...I saw a few local, rural districts, and curiosity got the better of me.  I ended up spending most of that snow day browsing random district websites and their teacher blogs or websites.  I saw this idea for VIPs on one of them and loved it.  I'm not sure why I'm just now ready to incorporate it into my classroom!

Basically, the VIPs in my classroom stand for Very Informed Pupils, and this challenge will take the place of the "What Do I Do Now?" board full of random worksheets and whatnot.  On my classroom website, I've made a page simply labeled V.I.P. (I'm not linking to my webpage, because it is mainly a place for my students and parents).  I do have a free downloadable version of this list available in my TPT store.  Click here to be taken directly to the VIP Club Tasks.  When students click on this page, they'll find all of the tasks they can complete for the V.I.P. Club.  Students work on these independently, at their own pace, and at their own discretion.  They can complete as many or as few as they like, and in any order.  Some of the activities are very short, and a quick Google search will give them the answer.  Others require more work, such as memorizing the U.S. presidents in order or writing letters to former teachers.

Students will keep a V.I.P. folder with all of their work in it.  They're required to write the number and name of each task on top of their work, along with the date.  I'll come up with some simply tally sheet where I can keep track of their points/stars.  What I'm most excited about is the fact that after making the webpage, I don't have to do anything!  I don't have to print or send off for copies, or file, or organize!  It's all done by students, in their folders, with their notebook paper.  

Yes, some of these activities are very low on the DOK, but I really don't care.  Some of these things won't stick in their brains forever, but I really don't care.  All I want out of this is for my students to learn to value knowledge, even if it's briefly gained through Google or Wikipedia.  If I ever have a question about something, I'll go and research it myself, and I think that's a skill kids need.   Don't even get me started on the afternoon my sister and I spent researching Icelandic naming traditions for no apparent reason.  It's still something I know a lot about, and I've never been to Iceland, nor do I have any Icelandic heritage.  The point is, I wanted to know about Icelandic naming traditions for some odd reason, so I spent the time figuring it out.

I also think it's very, very sad that kids don't know things like the names of all the states, or continents, or Presidents, and so on.  These are things that we technically don't have time for during the day, but I believe they're important to know for the sake of knowing.

In the end, I think the V.I.P. Club will serve as a great way to keep my fast-paced learners busy learning.  And that will be beneficial in the long run.

P.S.  I know these pictures are small, and it's hard to see all of my wonderful V.I.P. tasks.  Sorry about that!  Basically, I just racked my brain about everything students should know by the end of 5th grade and made a list under each subject.  I also included some 4th grade review things, as well as some general knowledge.  Under the miscellaneous category, I have lots of tasks involving sports, celebrities, careers, colleges, and other interesting things.  I like that these lists are flexible, and I can add to them throughout the year.

Ha!  Just realized I actually blogged about VIP club waaaay back when I first started working on it!  You can read/copy/paste the ideas here!

It's #ThriftyThursday!

It's #thriftythursday over on TPT, and you know what that means!  My MEGA HISTORY BUNDLE is 25% off!  You can get ALLLLLL seven of my history interactive notebooks for a HECK OF A DEAL!

Hurry, because this offer is only available today!!!

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

#2forTuesday July 26, 2016

Each week throughout the summer, participating sellers will put two of their amazing resources on sale and all you have to do is visit Chalk One Up for the Teacher, check them out, and grab some great deals. You can also find the products directly on Teachers Pay Teachers by searching #2forTuesday.

(And, since my dentist appointment this morning got me off track, I'll keep these deals going in my TpT shop for 24 hours from now!)

I've listed two of my interactive notebook units (Westward Expansion and the Civil War) for only $7 for today's #2fortuesday!!!! Holy cow, what an incredible deal!  Hurry, though, because these prices will be gone before long!
Monday, July 25, 2016

"I Will Not Go to School Until August 1st..." (repeat)

All of my teacher friends have been returning to their classrooms to work, and I'm JEALOUS!  I want to go in and work in my room, but I've also promised myself that I won't set foot in school until August 1st!  I want to go...but I don't want to go...but I want to go!

So, to distract myself from the thought of returning to school in JULY...I've updated all of my interactive social studies notebooks.  I gave all of them a beautiful new cover, and even updated all of my bundles.  It took quite awhile, but I'm VERY, VERY happy with the results.

Check them out below, or in my TPT store, and let me know what you think!

Saturday, July 23, 2016

I Promise to Be Better!'s been quite awhile since I've posted!  This past school year was a whirlwind, and I can't believe that this summer is starting to wrap up.  I've had a very busy summer, which started waaaaay back on May 12!  Yes, that's right, we've been out of school since the middle of MAY.  And we don't officially go back until the middle of August.  We were blessed with no snow days last year and our new superintendent wanted to re-adjust the calendar with a later start date, so we lucked in to a FULL THREE MONTHS OF SUMMER.  Woah.

Let's see...I've spent some time on my grandma's farm, flew to Los Angeles for a week to see family, had my nieces visit twice, watched three days of the Olympic swimming trials in Omaha (including all TEN heats of the men's 1500m freestyle...about 15 minutes per heat!), relaxed on the beach in Gulf Shores, and spent lots of time just hanging out around my house.  Oh, and I picked raspberries in my back yard, GALLONS of black raspberries.

During my time at home, I've been busy working on new items for my TpT store.   I finished my Civil War interactive Social Studies notebook unit.  This was one of my favorite notebooking units to make, because the Civil War is one of my favorite time periods in history.  I have been researching my ancestors, and I have many relative that fought on both sides of the war.  I've always loved visiting Civil War battlefields, and visiting Gettysburg is on my bucket list.

Anyway, again, this unit is one of my favorites.  I have actually purchased Civil War units for my classroom in the past, because I didn't have one that I had made.  But, they always left me a little bit disappointed.  They usually focused on the prelude to the war, then two or three battles, and then wrapped up the war pretty quickly.  My 5th graders always LOVED reading about the battles, and would leave the unit thinking the war was over pretty quickly.  I created this unit to focus on many more battles.  Now, it's certainly not a comprehensive Civil War battle unit, as there were hundreds of battles and skirmishes, but I do include more than two or three!  You can read all about my Civil War interactive Social Studies notebooking unit here.

I've also just added a brand new item to my store.  For a long time, I've wanted to incorporate my writing instruction with Social Studies.  I started to do this at the end of last year, with great results.  My students wrote several different genres of writing to go along with our Westward Expansion interactive notebooking.  They researched, they wrote letters persuading family members to move to the West or not, and they wrote FANTASTIC first person narrative diaries.  They were able to take things they learned in Social Studies and apply it to their writing.  They REALLY understood what
 they were writing about, and they REALLY retained the information well, too!

So, I created some writing prompts to go along with my Geography interactive notebooking unit, since that's the unit I teach first.  (I'll be adding more prompts throughout the year, as I prepare to teach the unit)  This writing unit is a companion to my Geography notebooking unit, but it doesn't have to be used with it.  It can stand on it's own, but I believe students will get more out of it if they use the notebooking unit, too.  You can purchase the Geography Writing Prompts alone or with the Geography notebooking unit in a bundle. You can click here or on the picture below to view the Geography bundle.

This unit covers four genres of writing- descriptive, informative, persuasive, and narrative.  There are four different writing prompts, each with a detailed teacher directions page, graphic organizers, rough draft pages with a student checklist, decorative lined writing paper, and rubrics that feature a spot for student self-assessment, as well as teacher assessment and a place to write teacher comments.  All of these writing prompts are engaging and thought provoking, and they encourage students to take their growing knowledge of Geography to a deeper level.

And the final thing I've updated is my History Notebooking Bundle.  This includes all SEVEN of my history interactive notebooks- Native AmericansExplorersColonial AmericaAmerican RevolutionGovernmentWestward Expansion, and the Civil War, for one price.  You actually save enough money when buy the bundle, it's like getting 7 for the price of 6!  I'll also update this bundle as I add new units, so by purchasing the History Bundle, you'll be locked in for any new units at no additional cost to you!  It really is a great deal!

Now, I promise to be better at blogging this year.  I can feel the changes in my school district and I know it's going to be a fantastic school year.  I've got a great group of kiddos coming up, and I know they'll be as excited to learn as I am to teach them!  My co-teacher and I have a lot of great things already planned, and I'll be glad to share details about them soon!  Now, I'm off to enjoy my final full week of summer before venturing back to my classroom to begin to get ready for another school year!