Sunday, August 25, 2013

Building a Positive Classroom Community

For the first unit of study in my classroom, I am focusing on social skills. I am doing my best to foster a community of learners that care for each other, feel safe to share ideas and ask questions, and a place that they look forward to arriving to every day.

One of the activities I did last week was with the book, How Full is Your Bucket, by Tom Rath. I was afraid that it might be too young for my 5th graders, but they seemed to really enjoy it. We had a great discussion about the metaphor of the bucket being feelings, and how when it is full we feel great, and when it is low or empty, we feel bad. 

We talked about how to fill people's buckets, and how that fills our OWN buckets. I presented an on-going project for our class. We are going to fill each other's buckets (while also filling our own!). 

If someone fills your bucket, you can fill out a slip thanking that person for what they did. If you fill someone else's bucket, you fill out that slip. Both slips are to be placed in the bucket at the front of the room. During Closing Circle, I share the slips with the class. If someone else's bucket was filled, I give them a "You Are a Bucket Filler!" reward slip. 

I started this on Friday, and it went well. Another teacher filled a student's bucket, so we gave her a "You Are a Bucket Filler!" slip - she loved it! I am excited to see how this next week goes. 

Below are some pictures of the activity: 

What do you do in your classroom to build a positive atmosphere?

Friday, August 23, 2013

Organzing for Writer's Workshop

Over the summer, I was thinking about Writer's Workshop and how I hated that the organization piece was always lacking in my classrooms. It was hard for me to keep track of where each of my students' were in the writing process, and they would lose papers ALL OF THE TIME!

I decided on a new system that I am starting for the first time with my 5th graders.

It goes like this:

1. Every student will have a Writer's Notebook (black and white composition book labeled with their name and the words, Writer's Notebook. This is also can be decorated in a way that represents the writer.)

2. Every student will have a binder with 4 sections.

3. The composition book is used for brainstorming different ideas.

4. The sections are for drafting, revising, editing, and publishing.

As the students move through the writing process, so do their pages.

What do you do to keep your students organized during writing?

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Welcome 5th Grade!!!

I am so excited! Today I get to meet all of my students and their families for the first time. It's our school-wide Meet and Greet! I also set up a new Scholastic account for them and realized I had over 2,000 points - just ordered 24 books for free!!!

I put together a little welcome package for the kids at their desks. It is a Owl Welcome Postcard, a smiley pencil and a Scholastic flyer! If they order by Sept 28, we get 100,000 points! I hope someone makes an order.

I plan on introducing myself and letting the kids look around. I hope the room gets them curious about what we will be doing this year, and excited about the possibilities of what we can do together!

Wish me luck!!


Monday, August 19, 2013

Words Their Way - How I Introduce it into My Classroom

If you have already used Words Their Way in your classroom, then you know that it is one of the best ways to teach spelling and even vocabulary!

You can buy the book on Amazon here

When it is in motion, it can be amazing. Kids are engaged and learning! The teacher can have a small group in the back of the room while others are involved. The trick to this program, (once you have figured out the pieces and parts to it) is getting the class on track. I have to say, behavior management is the biggest piece to making this thing work.

I came up with a 10 day program that will help you implement Words Their Way into your classroom. I created this a few years ago and shared it with my network of schools (teachers grades K-5). We ALL were able to successfully begin Words Their Way study into each of our classrooms. The students responded very well to the structure of the day. The Words Their Way is a great resource, and if used correctly, can produce amazing results. My 10 day program is based around having the kids practice how the classroom will run. It includes fun sorts that will allow students to focus more on what they need to be doing rather than how. The learning comes after you get the routine in place. It includes:

1. How to Introduce Word Study into Your Classroom (10 Day Program)
2. A Setup Guide that includes which materials students need to have, questions to think about for classroom management during this time, and ideas for practice sorts to get your students confident in starting this new adventure in the classroom!
3. A sort to model with any age group
4. A practice sort for students of any age group
5. Games Setup

Buy through my teacher store here at Teachers Pay Teachers! Leave some feedback and let me know what you think! I would love to hear how you set it up in your classroom!


Thursday, August 15, 2013

Morning Meeting - Where (I hope) Some of the Magic Happens

Morning Meeting. This is new for me. I originally thought, Morning Meeting for fifth grade?? If you are over the age of 6, what do you need morning meetings for?? I only considered this a place to analyze the calendar, days of the week, weather, and perhaps a cute note with some grammatical or spelling errors. I never thought of other possibilities.

Then that all changed. This summer, I read Teaching Children to Care, by Ruth Charney. It is all about what Responsive Classroom is, and how to implement it SUCCESSFULLY into your classroom. I am not obsessed with the book, but I do like it. There are some really great insights on what I want to do - create a community of learners and lovers (as I call them :)) As I've mentioned before, I want my kids to not only know how to learn, but also treat each other with care and kindness. If not 100% of the time (I know I am dreaming, but every dream needs a dreamer as Harriet Tubman once said, I think) then at the very least 90% of the time. This book helped me see how I can do that, with structure and intention.

I decided that in 5th grade this year, Morning Meetings will be all about reflecting. At the beginning of the year, I will guide that reflection by sharing a quote or interesting fact or just a phrase that catches my heart. This will be the first thing they see and do each morning. It will look like this:

1. Each desk already has their Personal Journal ready and waiting for a thoughtful reflection the moment they walk in.

2.  The easel will be pulled to the front of the room with a statement written. Something like:
No one can make a brand new start. Anyone can start now and make a brand new ending.
(This is what I am using as their first reflection, on the second day of school)

3. Students will begin writing their thoughts, feelings, etc after reading the statement.

4. We will all gather on the carpet in a circle (on their way, they will drop their journals off in a basket at the front of the room.

5. Everyone will pass around the Native American Talking Stick and share.

The journal writing before we discuss is to help the students to get their wheels turning so that they are ready to share when we get to the carpet. They are allowed to "pass" and not share once around the circle. However, by the time the Talking Stick makes its way around to him/her again, a thought(s) must be shared. The statements I choose will be something that pertains to what we are learning, something I think is totally awesome and must share with them, or something that I think they need to talk about for whatever reason.

Hope you can use this idea, or some version of it in your classroom! If you already do something like this, I would love to hear what it is!


Monday, August 12, 2013

Let's Talk About Me! 10 Fun Things About Me

It's Teacher Week '13! I am linking up with Blog Hoppin' to learn more about teachers' blogs that I follow, and want to participate in the week long project. Each day there is a "linky party" with a "hot teacher topic".Todays's topic:

Meet the Teacher - Miss Julia

1. I just moved to Wilmington, NC to teach at a school I have been wanting to be a part of since my first year of teaching - 8 years ago!! Teaching 5th grade and can't wait to start!!

2. I don't have cable, but rely heavily on Netflix for old sitcoms that I used to watch when I was a kid. I wish they would stream Seinfeld, but it's ok because I have all seasons on DVD. 

3. My favorite author is Jerry Spinelli! My favorite book by him is Stargirl!

4. My favorite place to be is on the beach at sunset or sunrise. I don't make it there often enough, but now that I live near the beach once again, hopefully that will change! (that picture was taken in Australia when I was there for a semester of college)

5. My favorite thing about teaching are the deep conversations I can have with kids while they are reflecting on a piece of literature. 

6. If I had the money, I would be a full time spa junky. I love massages, facials, and pedicures. I don't really like manicures because I hate not being able to touch anything when it is done.

7. I could hang out in Barnes and Noble for hours on end and not even realize it!

8. I am a little obsessed with clean eating, and also like to try different activities that have me exercising in a fun way. I love TRX!

9. I have a weakness for scratch-off lottery tickets. 

10. A few random things: I have a guitar and wish I could really play it, I believe I am a teacher bc the only other job I would really, truly love is to be a musician/singer and I am not nearly as good at that as I am at teaching, I still have dreams about my dog we had when I was a kid - Angel, I secretly wish everything was not as technologically advanced - I like putting grades in a grade book!, I have a bad habit of trying new things and getting bored quickly, the turtle that has been in my classroom since I moved in is starting to grow on me (but I do think he should be set free into the wild bc he really doesn't belong in a tank). 

There you have it! I hope you enjoyed meeting me, and I can't wait to read about you!

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Classroom is Complete! Here are some close-ups!

 This is the front of the classroom where I keep anchor charts and our Yearly Goal and Essential Question

 Teacher Desk Area 😍

I tried typing out my lessons one year and prefer to write them using my awesome teacher planner and flair pens 😉

This is where student materials are kept. They are oversized magazine holders and the binders are kept on the side of the holders. I hate the setback holder thingys, so I am experimenting with this idea. So far, I am liking it. 

I bought these caddies from Big Lots. The long section is for their reading books, the square sections are for pencils and when they do activities where they need scissors, markers, crayons, etc, I use the other two square sections for that stuff. 

This area is for their homework to be handed in, first thing in the morning. 

Classroom Library - enough said! 😍 

This is how students will check out a book that they want to take home. They each are assigned a number and will use the correlating library pocket. 

I "repurposed" metal shelves aka gave them another use. Here, students use a dry-erase marker to record which book they are currently reading.

This is how I keep track of where students are in the Writing Process. The colorful squares are used for them to sit on when we come to the floor (until our rug arrives) and clip boards are always necessary in a 5th grade classroom 😉 Usually come in handy when students want to work somewhere else in the room, not at their desks. 

That is my new classroom! I hope you enjoyed the "tour" and that I've inspired some good ideas for you to use in your classroom!

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Finished My Classroom! ... Well, almost...

This week has been great! When I think about what I walked into (a bare classroom, literally. I had empty shelves, desks, computers, and a teacher's desk), I can't believe how far I've gotten. Everyone seems impressed, but I am doing what I love, and of course that is going to look amazing. When we are passionate about what we are doing - whether it be our job, families, hobbies, our best always shines through and people will always be impressed.

I pretty much have everything together except a few things. I am waiting on some labels and borders in the mail, and I need to finish my Jerry Spinelli author study board. I am going to highlight an author every couple of months so that students can get excited about reading in that way. I started with Jerry Spinelli because our summer reading that I assigned is his autobiography. In our Reading Groups, I am starting with Maniac Magee and Loser. Two perfect books that go hand-in-hand with my first theme: Kindness. I will get more into my first 6-8 weeks in another blog. I am soo excited about it!

So, besides Jerry Spinelli board, some labeling and a border I want to replace with one I ordered, my classroom is ready. After I plan, then my materials will be ready, and I will be ready! (Well, as close to ready as we can be for the first day of school).

Isn't it great that we will get to have first days of school for many, many years to come? So much to be excited about!

Below is a quick tour of my room. In my next post, I will get up closer with the camera and explain some of the things going on in each area. Until then, enjoy....



 This is the view when you walk in from the front door. There is another "back" door, where I hold my small groups. That door you see in the front of the room to the right is a door to the Middle School LA and Social Studies room. It will be kept closed during the school day. Unfortunately, I can't find a way to hang anything on there. Thumbtacks nor staples will go through, and nothing sticks. 

 Another view from the front door. That is the small group furthest away, and the library to your right.

This is the library. To the left of it is the Math area.

Tomorrow I hope to finish everything completely. There's so much more I want to do, but if I let myself go, I will never stop! You know what I mean...

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Make Your Very Own "Crate Chairs"

These are actually quite easy to assemble once you have the materials altogether. It may feel like a lot of running from place to place, but trust me, once you have them, you will love them! And so will the kiddos!

Materials you will need:

- plywood I went to Lowe's and the kind gentleman there measured the crate, cut the wood and then shaved the corners. He also mentioned that he might have done this before... Don't think you have to go into Lowe's knowing the dimensions of what you need cut. They are more than happy to do it, since it is there job :) 

- Staple Gun $10 at Lowe's, and will surely come in handy again!

- Foam Mattress Padding I got this from Target (Back to School sale!)

- Crates Target, Walmart, Big Lots

- Fabric - for 6 crates I needed 1 1/2 yards. Joanne Fabrics has great coupons and also gives a 15% teacher discount!

I measured the foam by placing the piece of plywood on the foam and tracing it with a Sharpie. I was able to cut it just fine with regular scissors. I then cut the fabric by placing the foam on the plywood, then placing that on the fabric and measured how much I needed so I could wrap the fabric and staple onto the wood. After that, I was able to drop the finished piece onto the crate, and it holds me!


Setting Up the Room a.k.a. Our Sanctuary

When I think about setting up  my classroom, my goal is to make it a place where the kids:

- want to spend their time
- look forward to coming each day
- feel like their is plenty for them to do
and most importantly, could run the classroom without me around. (This will be key for when I am working with small groups or one-on-one with kids). Below are some pictures of what I have done so far.

This is my writing area. It has supplies on the shelf and the crate next to the shelf is where the students will keep their final writing pieces. I am creating full portfolios for the kids, but this is specifically for their writing. 
To the left is to keep track of where they are in the writing process. I got this great idea from blog! It's cheap and effective!

To get the trays to hang on the wall, I used crazy glue on flat thumbtacks and glued to the tray and then stuck to the wall. The labels were oversized library card pockets that I found for 69 cents each. I just snipped off the top, laminated, and labeled them. The mini pencils are decals that I also found at the teacher store. I laminated and will label with each students' name once I get a class list. The pizza trays are from Dollar Tree. I placed a magnet on the back of the mini pencils and the kids can move their pencil as they finish each part of the writing process. This was a great idea that I stole! Thanks so much!

I plan to use Lucy Calkins' Writers Workshop in my classroom to teach writing. For the kids to keep track of their writing and the materials that go along with it, I came up with the idea for a writing binder that is divided into sections. Shown below. 

I printed the page, and stuck it in the front of the binder (added the owls because that is the theme of my classroom. I got those from for free. Just search owl labels). The labels are; draft, revision, edit, publish. The plan is to have the students complete their brainstorms in a composition book and work on loose-leaf paper for the remainder of the process. They can move the pages from section to section as they move through the writing process. The composition book fits nicely into the pocket of the binder. I am hoping that this will keep things from getting lost.


I kept the classroom library pretty simple. I organized books based only on genre and some are sorted by author. I am using Lucy Calkins' Readers Workshop to teach reading. Inside each book is the scholastic reading level (A-Z). The plan is to assess their reading level the first or second week of school so that they are able to choose a "just right" book. Some of the books I couldn't find levels for, so I put up the reminder of checking with the "5-finger Rule". I want to eventually add a small rug and some comfy seating, but my budget doesn't allow for the right now. 


Perhaps one of my favorite parts of the classroom. Maybe because I love to meet with kids in small groups or maybe because I made the cute little "chairs" that are around the table. Actually, during my time in Philadelphia, my school couldn't afford to buy me a U-shaped table, and if I want something, I MUST HAVE IT. So, my genius and crafty aunt and I built the table and painted it green. So essentially, I made a set of table and chairs! I searched online at a bunch of different websites so credit can't be given to just one person. However, many teachers and parents are doing this and it is genius! Learn how to make your very own Crate Chair (as I like to call them :)) here. The 4 owls you see are taped to bathroom caddies from Big Lots. I plan to hold the Guided Reading books and materials in there for easy access. 

This took me about a week. I only have one week left to get the math area and some other bulletin boards done. I hope it happens in time!!

Teachers Learning from Teachers

Hi! My name is Julia and I am currently teaching 5th grade in San Diego! I am in my 13th year of teaching and have been blogging about my experiences since 2013. I love to learn, travel, write, listen to music and of course, I love teaching! You may find some travel posts here as I fulfill my love for learning about new cultures and experiencing new places on my time off. This past summer, I traveled to Tokyo, throughout Vietnam and spent the last few weeks of summer in Bali. I am continuing my love of the Spanish language and will be in Colombia during my Thanksgiving break. I will live with a Colombian family and take a weeklong intensive course of the Spanish language and cultural studies! By posting here I can connect with other teachers, spread the positive vibes from my classroom to yours and share ideas with you.

These amazing kids wanted a picture with me (Vietnam)

First market experience in Asia (Vietnam)

A ten year old boy who decided to become a Monk 

Wearing a handmade kimono and learning how to play these wonderful instruments (Tokyo) 

The healing process is an interesting one and it never ends (Bali)

I taught for a year in Costa Rica and surfed almost everyday while there. I have not surfed since and I live in San Diego! What is my problem?!

Jewel is my favorite singer/artist of all time. I was able to meet her on my 25th birthday!

This hat says it all! Mexico is a fun place to visit!

Went for a run to tour the memorials in DC

Daniel is my heart. Read about his story here and here 

I drove from Philly to San Diego and met up with my sister in Denver

If you've never been to a lantern release, I highly suggest it! Incredible experience! 

You can also connect with me on Facebook and Instagram

I also share videos on YouTube for classroom organization and teaching ideas

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