Texas Teaching Fanatic

A look inside a 4th grade classroom

The Safe Place

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The Safe Place is just that…safe. Safe from people being bothersome. Safe from people talking. Safe from harm.

I have a special place in my classroom where students may go when they feel angry, sad, or upset. It’s a comfortable space in the back of the room that is still visible to me, but not in the line of sight of any other students.

Have you ever had that kid that always came into your room in a bad mood? Or the one who gets upset after recess? Or that other one that gets frustrated with everything his neighbor does or says? Yep, we all experience some sort of issue throughout the course of the year. Let me tell you, my friends, the Safe Place is a great way for students to get away from peers or other issues that are bothering them.

Here’s how it works. As a class, we talk about the Safe Place on the very first day of school. We talk about the rules of the Safe Place. 1. You may go there ONLY when you are angry, sad, or upset. It is not a place to relax and read or play with anything that belongs there. 2. You still have to pay attention and listen. I will not directly call on a student who is in the safe place, but work is still expected to be completed. 3. This is NOT a permanent seat, and the goal is to transition back to your desk within 10 minutes. (Of course, there are always extenuating circumstances)

Some teachers think that I’m crazy for having such a place in my room, but it has worked miracles for some kids!! And I always hear, “Oh, my kids would just always go there or would abuse it.” All I have to say to that is, if you set up the expectations early and stick to it, they won’t. In 6 years I’ve never has a student abuse it.

This, coupled with the Social Contract, is a great way to manage an effective classroom with a positive atmosphere.

Try it. What have you got to lose? 😉

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Back To School Forms: Make Up Work & Corrections

I don’t know about you, but I have a hard time keeping up with students who have missed assignments and those that need to make corrections.  In order to remedy that, I have created some forms for both the students and the teacher.

Make Up and Corrections

The student forms will be cut apart, hole punched, and put onto a ring to keep track of them before handing them to students.  You could just file them away somewhere, but I think the hole punch idea works better for me.  Click here to download Student Copy: Make Up Work and Corrections.

Teacher Corrections

Here is the Teacher copy for keeping up with students who need to make corrections on assignments.  At our school, we are allowed to work with students to help them make corrections to raise their grade to a 70.  (That’s why I put a conference date on the student copy.)  I will put the date of the Correction Conference underneath the student name in that column.  Click here to download Teacher Corrections Sheet.

Teacher Make Up

Last but not least, the teacher copy for keeping up with students who have been absent.  I will put both of these forms with my grade book to make tracking these kiddos easier.   Click here to download Teacher Make Up Work Sheet.

Hopefully these will help you organize your classroom, too!  🙂

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Parent Communication Log

Parent communicationI think the next few days I will be uploading more documents that I’ve been creating.  Today’s FREEBIE: Parent Communication Log.  It’s simple, but exactly what I need.  I have other documents that house phone numbers and important information, so I wanted this form to be skimpy and just focus on the communication rather than have too much on them.  I’ll print one for each student to put behind the parent survey.  I have the Word format, so I can always adjust it if I find that I left something off.  Do you use parent communication forms?  If so, what information do you put on yours?  I’d love to hear back!

Click here to download the Parent Communication Log.

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Parent Survey

I’ve been working on some documents for the beginning of the year.  I have created a BOY (Beginning Of Year) parent survey that can be used with any grade level.  Feel free to use it or change it for your needs.

parent survey

Is there something else that you would like to see on it?  If so, please leave me a comment and I will try to add it and repost.  At our school, the teachers are given cards with lots of other information, including address, special needs, comments from the previous teacher, and educational data, so I left some of those things off intentionally, but I can make one personalized for you if you want it.  Just let me know!  Click here to download the file –> Parent Survey.

This is part of TBA’s Linky Party!  Head over to their blog to find AMAZING blogs by AMAZING teachers!!

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Earn FREE School Supplies!

Teachers LOVE free stuff. Even if it’s just something small and useless to put in the prize box, we love getting things for free.

I came across a legitimate website where you can rack up points for free school supplies. Actually, you pick what you want since you earn gift cards to Amazon. It’s a site that gives you points for taking surveys, trying new apps, watching YouTube, playing games, and more. Each point is worth $0.01, so 100 points = $1.00.

You can check it out here.

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Word Clouds: They Aren’t Just For Fun!

Word Cloud of my blog by Tagxedo

Word Cloud of my blog by Tagxedo

I hate to admit it, but I’ve only used word clouds with some of my students.  I wasn’t really sure how to use word clouds when I first heard about them, so I only selected a few individuals that I thought would benefit from using it.  Mostly to help them in their writing.  You see, when the idea of word clouds was presented, I was only showed a website and was allowed about 3-5 minutes to “explore” it.  The more I read, the more I found out how helpful they can be.

So what types of things can you do with word clouds?  I know I won’t even begin to touch on everything, but here are a few ideas on how they can be used with your students.

1. When students have finished a piece of writing and they need to check for redundant words, put them on Wordle.net.  The best part about Wordle is that it counts the number of times the words are used and makes the highest count the biggest in the cloud.  That way, students see how many times they have used words like then, I, me, and so on.  This is how I used them in my classroom, and it really makes the students aware of the overused words.

2. At the beginning of the year, allow students time to write an “About Me” paragraph and then type it into a word cloud creator such as Tagxedo.  This is another word cloud site that easily downloads the image you create and has an assortment of shapes for your words.

3. After students read a passage or discuss content in class, allow students to write down the words they feel are most important to the lesson and put it into a word cloud.six flags

4. Use a word cloud for vocabulary words.  This can be used in any subject!

5. Use math vocabulary words in a word cloud and ask students to come up with a mathematical story using the words.  Great way to combine some writing and math!

6. In Social Studies, create a word cloud using character traits of various leaders or important historical figures.

7. For a Mother’s or Father’s Day project (or anytime, really), allow students to make a word cloud as a gift.  This could be with characteristics of the

person, a thank you letter, a poem…you name it!

8. Students could actually draw their own word clouds as an activity to “fill time” when they get finished early.  They will probably end up doing this on their own, anyway.  It’s sort of addicting.

9. Use Wordle to create a word cloud with units of measurement.  I say use Wordle because you can decide how big or small you make the words.  This way students would get an accurate picture of which units of measurement are bigger than others.

Word Cloud by ABCya

Word Cloud by ABCya

10. Use word clouds at the end of the lesson or day to see what the students remember.  The teacher can either assign a certain amount of words, or the students can write as many important words as they can at the end of your time together.  This could be a neat twist to exit tickets!

Now that I’ve written about all of this, I will have to do some of these before school starts.  I’m excited to begin another new year!  I will post some of my results!

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It’s a Mystery!

“What’s in the box?”  “I wonder what’s in there this time!”  “Can I be first to figure it out?”

These are quotes from children who are anxious to find out what is inside the mystery box.  Many times I stand at the door and let the students put their hands inside for about 3 seconds before entering the room.  Other times I walk around the room and let students feel inside one by one and use a word to describe what is inside.  I’ve used the Mystery Box in many different ways, but one thing is the same every time: student engagement!

THE Mystery Box

THE Mystery Box

Principals always want to walk into our classrooms and see students “actively engaged” in their learning.  I’ve heard that phrase MANY times over my short career as a teacher.  The fact is: Not every lesson is engaging.  Sometimes we are forced to teach the “boring stuff” because it’s what the state mandates.

However, I have found a way to make some of those snoozers a lot more eye opening.  (Pardon the pun!)  The answer?  That Mystery Box you see in the picture.  Sometimes it takes just the simplest tweak of a lesson to make it more engaging for all involved.  And it’s one of those things that the kids continue to enjoy throughout the year.  It’s not something that they groan about–they get so excited when they see it come off the shelf.

How I made it:

I bought a hat box, a feather boa, black material, black foam sheet, and stickers at Hobby Lobby.  Before covering the box, I cut a 3.5″ x 3.5″  square in the center of the lid.  Then I covered the box and the lid with the material.  After that, I cut a circle to fit inside the bottom of the lid (for sturdiness) out of the foam and glued it in.  Once it dried, I took my exacto knife and cut an X in the lid where I had cut out the square.  You will be cutting the material and the foam at the same time.  This is where the students will be able to put their hands inside.  When I was finished with that, I cut the boa into smaller pieces and glued it around the edge of the lid and more around the X on the top.  The last step was to decorate it with stickers.

I’m sure many of you out there have used similar techniques in your classrooms.  How does it work for you?  Do you see that the students are more engaged?  I would love to hear your stories!  And if you haven’t tried it yet, let me suggest it!  You might just be surprised to see how much the level of interest increases in your room!!

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Anchor Charts

I finally uploaded some of my anchor charts that I used with my kiddos last year. Head over to my Anchor Charts page and check ’em out! 😉

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Now on Bloglovin!!

You can now follow my blog with Bloglovin!

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OUT with the OLD and IN with the NEW

Ugly Filing Cabinet

Ugly Filing Cabinet

I needed to get out of the house today, so where better to go than my classroom, right? The custodians have

finished waxing the floors and all of my stuff is on boxes, so I might as well just go ahead and jump in, especially since I’m planning to give my classroom a facelift before school starts.

I strutted in with my zebra contact paper in tow. Although I had grand plans for getting LOTS done, I couldn’t help but stare at the ugly tan filing cabinet just sitting there in all of its awfulness. I couldn’t help myself–I attacked it with my contact paper!

I thought it turned out pretty good. And the best part is that I’m now extremely motivated to clean out filing cabinet #2 and get rid of that bad boy! After an hour and a half of covering one, I decided I didn’t really want to have to do another.

Cute Filing Cabinet

Cute Filing Cabinet

Sorry, if you thought this would be an easy project, you’re wrong. The sides weren’t bad, and even the strips that go up and down on the front and in between the drawers weren’t bad. It was the drawers that took the longest and were frustrating. But..I did it…and am really glad that I did!

I will post pics of my room once it’s all finished, but I still have a long way to go. I took the “before” picture today, and it’s not pretty!! Stay tuned!!

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