Saturday, January 17, 2015

Using "Unusable" Space


In my past two classrooms, I've had huge windows along one entire wall. And in both cases, due to the location of my room (near the playground, near the front door), I have to keep them closed the majority of the time. Here are some ways that I've thought of to use that space, even if you don't have to keep everything closed.

If you have horizontal blinds, angle them to that the slats point up. Take a clothespin and clip on your anchor charts, posters, presentations, rubrics, whatever. The good news is that you can also open your blinds if you put the clothespins up high enough.



If you have shades or blinds, you can take a couple of Command hooks, put them on either side of your window (which you can't see in this picture), and connect them with a cord. Then use clothespins to hang whatever. Caution: If you do a zig-zag with one long cord, take a binder clip or something to hold the cord in place (the left point midway down is actually attached to the flag holder on my wall) because everything hanging on it can make it heavy. This also allowed me to open the shades when recess wasn't going on outside.



If you enjoyed this bright idea, please consider joining me on {Facebook}, {Pinterest}, or view {previous Bright Ideas} for more great ideas.

For more bright ideas from many more bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that interests you. Thanks for visiting!




Friday, January 9, 2015

Free Your Time Blog Hop {Freebie and Giveaway}


By now, most of you have completed your first week back after break. I'm exhausted, and I'm guessing that you are, too. I have joined together with teacher-authors from {Fifth Grade Freebies} to bring you some products that can help you with your planning. And when you get to Fifth Grade Freebies during the hop, you can enter to win a TpT gift certificate!

Here's my "official" Fifth Grade Freebies intro graphic in case you've never been here before:


I posted earlier in the week on {how I do close reading} in my classroom. For this hop, I'm sharing {my new close reading freebie}. I hope that it helps you with your literacy or social studies class if you have school on the 19th. Of course, you could use it anytime, really.


Once you have downloaded it (and hopefully left feedback - please and thank you!) you can continue the hop by clicking on the button below!

Mrs. O


Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Wordless Wednesday and Stamp Winners


And so it begins... no school today due to the cold temperatures. Today's projected high is -7˚F without factoring in wind chill.


And the winners of the Re:Marks! stamps:

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Sunday, January 4, 2015

2014 Stitch Fix Keepers

I'm telling you up front that this post is not teaching related. At all.

I decided to take a look back at 2014 and the {Stitch Fix} pieces that I ended up keeping. And I've come to the conclusion that if they send me a dolman shirt, I will keep it...





Out of everything above, I love both of grey the dolmans, the aqua v-neck/cowl thingy, and the boyfriend jeans. Everything is just so comfy! I think that I am going to back off on the frequency of the shipments, though. First of all, it does get expensive. I'm not going to lie about that. And my most recent fixes have kind of been "misses". I am NOT sharing those pictures. However, I think that the experience has helped me to know what kinds of things I can try on and I might be pleasantly surprised.

Here is my {Tried It Tuesday post about Stitch Fix} so you can see how it works if you are interested in trying it out for yourself. Disclaimer: I get a credit in my account for people who sign up through me and order. Not going to hide that fact. But only sign up if you really want to try it. No pressure ;)


Saturday, January 3, 2015

What is Close Reading?


As you know, I am a big fan of close reading. I think close reading engages students so much more than traditional types of reading instruction. And it's not something that you need a special product to incorporate.

What is close reading?
Close reading is when a text is read for a specific purpose. Whether you're asking students to make connections, cite text evidence, or figure out a meaning of a word, close reading is very flexible. It is NOT simply asking students to read the same text over and over again for no apparent reason. If you do that, the students will hate it.

What is a good text for close reading?
Anything! But I try to create or find something short (or something larger broken into parts) and high-interest. If you do use something from your basal, it is my recommendation that you make copies of the part you want to focus on. I try to get 2 pages to a side and copy them front-to-back to save on paper.


What do you do on the first read?
I have my students either read it independently or I slowly read it aloud. In either case, students are responding to the text and making connections by writing on the paper using these symbols:


After a few paragraphs or the whole text (depending on length), I give students a few minutes to share with a partner.

What about second and third reads?
This is usually a targeted skill, such as finding text evidence to answer a question, transition words, similes, pretty much whatever you are studying. ALWAYS have students highlight, underline, or otherwise mark the text to find these things. They love doing it, and it helps to make the activity more interactive. This is also a great opportunity to discuss how to highlight, ie. just doing a few words as opposed to entire paragraphs.

Anything else?
I usually wrap it up with a short writing prompt, maybe just a paragraph or two. I ask some sort of question related to the topic, usually some sort of connection that they can pull from their own experiences. Another idea is to ask a question that requires them to think deeper about an idea or why something is.

Those are pretty much the basics!

If you need some resources to get you started, check out my {close reading freebies}!


Friday, January 2, 2015

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reflecting on 2014 and Looking Ahead

Time for a little flashback to last year. Last January 1, here is what I had for my 2014 goals:


"I'm going back to my roots. When I started this blog, it was mostly ideas - classroom management ideas, project ideas, and organizational idea. As I got braver, I started adding in curricular activities that we were doing. That's when I felt like I was really connecting with everyone out there in the blogosphere, so I want to get back to doing mostly that. Occasionally, I would still like to do freebies and giveaways, because who doesn't like free stuff?!"

UPDATE - I feel that I did really well with this. My highest-viewed posts in 2014 were my {Bright Ideas} posts. 

So what am I going to stop doing? Self-promoting. Because, personally, I don't like to read blogs where all the blogger is doing is promoting their TpT products. Although I can think of about two exceptions to that opinion, but I knew that's what they did when I chose to follow them. Anyway, so I'm going to stop promoting on my blog just for the sake of promoting. However, I will share about one of my products if I use it in my classroom. I promote other people's products that I use, so I can promote my own that I use.

UPDATE - Yep, stuck to that for the most part! *pats self on back*

And there will be some company product reviews. Because, honestly, I like getting free stuff, too!

UPDATE - Did a lot of that, too ;)

That being said, here is what you can expect if you follow me other places online in 2014:

Facebook - Updates on blog posts, sharing things that I find funny or true, sharing giveaways, update you on new products, and various flash freebie and sale announcements.

UPDATE - I really grew my online presence this year and did a nice job sticking to this.

TpT - Product updates. I guess that's pretty obvious.

UPDATE - Duh.

Pinterest - Pins from my blog, my TpT store, giveaways, and interesting things that I find. I also pin things for friends that ask me to help promote their products. Just being honest.

UPDATE - Did pretty well on Pinterest. Left a lot of the collaborative boards, so I didn't pin a ton for others the second half of 2014. And that's okay.

Instagram - Honestly, I don't post here a lot. If fact, not really at all. Maybe that will change in 2014, but I'm not making any promises.

UPDATE - Still learning the IG nuances, but thanks to those of you who stuck with me during the Blog Hoppin' scavenger hunt.
Now on to 2015...

I really like my 2014 social media and TpT goals/guidelines and want to maintain those.

I need to recommit myself to myself and my family. The close reading products that I started in 2014 took a lot of time. A. LOT. OF. TIME. Although I'm thrilled with the results, I am not okay with the time it took from my family. And me. So 2015 is going to be about balancing my priorities. I'm sure many of you are with me on that one. And I know that it's easier said than done...

See what others are doing in 2015 or add your own thoughts at {Passion in a Portable Land}.