Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Classroom Economy as Classroom Management

In the last five years,  I have tried many classroom management systems.  I have tried sticker charts where they purchase items from a classroom store based on their stickers.  I have tried creating avatars and using a point system that works sort of like a video game achievement system. (You can read about the way I used video games as my inspiration for classroom management here.)

This year I tried www.classdojo.com.  I love Class Dojo.  I think it works really well much of the time, and my students loved creating the little avatars.  I decided to try Class Dojo because since all of my students have access to laptops I have tried all sorts of technology and websites. Because we use the computers off and on all day, I think Class Dojo seemed like less of a novelty for my students. They could not see their points all the time, so it was out of sight out of mind.  I do not have a Smart Board to display for everyone all the time.

I recently decided to try something a little different for our classroom management system.  I felt we needed something more tangible and visible.  Another teacher suggested using a classroom economy.  So I went to www.teacherspayteachers.com and searched free resources on Classroom Economy. I found lots of great resources.

I chose to use the classroom cash from this set because I like idea of Hoot Loot.  Our school mascot is the owls, and my classroom is decorated with owls.

We used the little printable wallets from this set to put our Hoot Loot in.

Laura Candler also has a Classroom Economy pack.  Every thing Laura does is amazing!

I created this little form to track our points or cash flow for the week.
I created different categories and for each category they can have cash added or taken away (debits and credits.)  At the end of the week, they turn in their form.  I give them their hoot loot.  They then can purchase items from a class store.  Any cash they do not spend, they save up in their wallets.  You can get a copy of my classroom account summary form here.  It is a Word Document, so you can make any changes you need to.  How do you run a classroom economy?

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Farewell Google Reader

Hopefully, I am not the only one who did not know until the last minute that Google Reader was put to death. I was unprepared for this.

I would have been lost.

However, someone had a blog post about Feedly that saved the day.

I just signed into Feedly with Google Reader and all my feeds magically moved over.  I was terrified I would have to re-add the 500 million blogs I follow individually.  That would have been arduous!

So if you are lost without a blog reader like me, go check out Feedly.

If you need some help with this, Pinterest always has a solution:

Saturday, March 16, 2013

World Poetry Day and Point of View

One of the things I love most about teaching is the way kids surprise you.  They surprise you with their honesty, their clarity, and their over-simplicity. I have a couple friends with young kids whose one-liners are the highlight of my Facebook newsfeed. Kids see the world so black and white and sometimes have the hardest time seeing that so much of the world is gray.  We see the world through our own eyes and through the lens of our experiences.

This is one of the things I love most about teaching history.  I love helping kids develop a deeper understanding of how our experiences affect the way we understand circumstances and events.  Almost every topic you discuss in History comes down to the idea of point-of-view, which is why it is such a vital concept for students to grasp.  I love discussing point of view when teaching reading or writing.  (My ultimate goal as an educator is to create History curriculum for elementary students that they can relate to and that helps them build the conceptual foundations they need to be successful in later grades.)

Next week I look forward to using my March Poetry Practice with my students and continuing poetry into the month of April for Poetry month. Thursday, March 21st is World Poetry Day.  This is a fabulous way to introduce poetry as you approach the month of April.  It is also a fabulous way to incorporate discussions of point of view.  You can discuss how an author's country, language, and experiences would affect the way they write poetry and the topics they choose.  You can discuss how different people interpret a poem, and why they might view them differently. How does our world view affect the way we read texts and see the world?

Here are some ideas for World Poetry Day from Read Write Think. One lesson idea for World Poetry Day is to have your students read two different English translations of a poem and discuss differences.  If you have students who speak multiple languages, you can even bring in a poem in a language they can read.  Have them look at the difference between the English version and the original version. You can go to www.poetryfoundation.org and select poems by region to find some translated poems. Here are some poems that have been translated through a Poetry Translation Workshop.

For writing poetry, you could have everyone write a poem on the same topic and discuss the differences and similarities in their poems.  (This also ties to Common Core because students are supposed to be comparing and contrasting texts with similar themes or from different cultures.)

I was thinking earlier about some fun hand-on activities for thinking about point of view:
  • Have everyone bring sunglasses and then switch with someone.  You could discuss how you might see the difference with someone else's "eyes." 
  • You could do the same by having them switching shoes. What is it like to "walk in someone else's shoes?"
  • Bring disposable cameras or a digital camera.  Have them take pictures and then write a poem about a picture they took or someone else took.  This gets them thinking about seeing the world "through a lens."
  • Bring old pictures, paintings, postcards,etc. and have them write a poem about the picture or from the point of view of a person or object in the picture.
Using hands on ideas like these will get your students thinking more metaphorically or visually, which helps them think about poetry.  I love reading poems and having students discuss and draw what they visualize.  Younger students are often more creative and less inhibited than older students and adults.  They are not so molded to fit in a box yet, so they often surprise you with their creativity and metaphoric insight. Poetry is one of my favorite things to teach with students when you make it fun, creative, and challenging.

Here are some World Poetry Day resources I found on Pinterest as well:

Source: tes.co.uk via April on Pinterest
Source: examiner.com via April on Pinterest
Source: tes.co.uk via April on Pinterest
I think the book Every Day's a Dog's Day sounds like the perfect way to introduce this idea of discussing point of view with poetry.  I intend to try and pick up the book at the library tomorrow.  Another fun way to introduce World Poetry Day or your poetry unit is through reading the poem "Introduction to Poetry" by Billy Collins.  How do you teach poetry and point of view?

Monday, March 11, 2013

Monthly Poetry Practice for Common Core

I have decided I want my students to start essentially having a poem of the week that we will analyze, and they will use for writing inspiration.  We are going to analyze the poems in small-groups, more as a guided reading text so that I can encourage more students to be actively engaged and discuss. I have created my first monthly poetry practice set for March.  It has a March poetry word wall and activities for 4 poems.

"The Rainbow" by Charlotte Richardson
"The Echoing Green" by William Blake (a Common Core Grade 4-5 Exemplar Text)
"Fireflies in the Garden" by Robert Frost
"Two Sunflowers Move in the Yellow Room" by William Carlos Williams

You can get a copy at my store here if you are interested.  Poetry is a fabulous way to get your students to practice metaphoric thinking, higher-order thinking, and using their imagination.

I am off to Florida for 4 days to visit my grandparents.  When I get back, I am finally going to set up two giveaways for you.  One will be a 500 follower giveaway and one will be for the 1 year anniversary of my blog.  I hope you have a fabulous week!

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

Organizing Your Environment to Organize Your Mind

I have too many ideas. 

It is both my strength and my weakness.This is why I started a blog called The Idea Backpack.  This is my outlet for sharing and organizing my ideas.  I am extremely analytical, but somehow this fuels my creativity.  My brain is like Wikipedia - it jumps from tangent to tangent.  I have a journal I keep in my purse of lists and post-its of ideas and to-do-lists.  I have to empty some of my brain in order to bring a little order to my mind.

This is the time of year I start getting overwhelmed.  I have so many things I still want to cover and accomplish with my students, and I continue to think of more ways to approach things. Last weekend I was feeling completely overwhelmed.  I suddenly had an overwhelming urge to put something within my control.  I went up to school on Saturday and spent several hours de-cluttering.  Physical clutter adds to the mental clutter. Organizing the physical space helped bring about a little more calm and a little less tension to my mental well-being.

I organized our supply baskets with plastic cups (an idea I had seen from Ladybug Teacher Files).

 photo F2F662A4-88C4-4449-8E3F-8A2484F91E37-55579-00000EFC1C2EBC48_zps9797cd89.jpg

I emptied out my students' binders for the start of a new quarter and cleaned off my desk. I also moved my students binders and their book boxes from our tables to the cubbies at the corner of my room.  We already have so much on the table with everyone's cords and laptops.  The books and binders were too much. 

Monday morning all of my students and the parents liked the simplicity the de-cluttering added to our room.  The first student walked in and said "It is so organized.  What happened?"

This is my desk:

 photo 5319A446-B650-4893-AE6C-96488026BCC9-55579-00000EFC2111C889_zps73180b71.jpg
 photo 9A3A6F8F-E0C4-45E5-AA5A-11A147BA0BA2-55579-00000EFC1EB10217_zps6aa7fcde.jpg

The last 3 days have seemed calmer.  If my students need a book, journal, or something from their binder, they just go grab it. Sometimes less can be more.

This same idea carries over to writing.  Have you ever had a brilliant student who struggled with writing?  Have you ever struggled with how to help them?  The gifted students often have a hard time with writing because they have so much going on in their brain they do not where to begin.  They do not know how to organize their ideas or condense them. Sometimes students can be so concerned with making it perfect they will not write anything. Sometimes the best thing you can do is just get them to learn to just jump in and write.  Journal writing for 10-15 minutes where they have to write the whole time is helpful.  Graphic organizers help them organize.  Sometimes making lists before using a graphic organizer can also be helpful.

Good night.  I hope the rest of your week feels calm and less cluttered.  I am off to bed, so I can get up for yoga at 5am. Starting the day with exercise and stretching helps me feel less mentally cluttered and gives me a lot more energy.

Friday, March 1, 2013


This week has been one of the most roller coaster weeks for me, full of ups and downs. I am glad to be doing this Currently on  this Friday.

 photo DD452BEB-4583-41D2-8ABF-4C8E26CC284C-12490-00000AA6069D5BD6_zpscad4b0e5.jpg

I am listening to some George Strait on Pandora. "I Saw God Today" is always a good reminder to take time to find reasons to look for the things bigger than me.

I am loving my iPad. This is my first time to actually blog on it. I was sitting in bed and saw it was time for Currently. I'm too lazy to go back to my laptop tonight.

I am needing some yoga. I have not been in 5 days and my mind and body have been all kinds of mess. Next week I want to just start going at 6am and start my day off right. Accountability, wake me up please.

My roller coaster week has been hard. I am an analytical, logical person. I suppress emotions and only express them when I intellectually decide to. So being a little more emotional due to stress and probably holding too much in frustrates me. Being emotional makes me feel out of control and uncomfortable. Anyway, I have just been stressed lately and not finding enough time to express thanks. Over and over I try to do it all myself and God reminds me it I need him. Sometimes we have to get uncomfortable to surrender our burdens at the cross.

I want some Pomegranate green tea. It is my favorite hot drink.

I love sleep and hot showers...oh, and Whole Foods. Those are my happy places. Last night I went to Whole Foods after a hot shower at 9pm in my PJ's. I wandered and bought a cookie. It made me feel better.

I hate the loud cat that belongs to my husband. I love the cat when he sleeps. When the cat is awake, he has to make sure everyone else is awake...except my husband who never wakes up.
So link up with Farley and share your Currently.
P.S. Anyone in the Dallas area want to do a blogger meetup. All of the Texas meet ups have been about 4 hours a way and I haven't been able to go.
Pin It button on image hover