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Thursday, August 3, 2017

How Symbaloo Saved My Sanity!

I don't know about your school, but in the last few years our school has had major updates to technology happening every summer.  I am incredibly grateful and I'm always excited to have the newest of the new....but it always comes with the dreaded email that says, "Make sure you have all of your data backed up to the cloud and don't forget about your web browser bookmarks.  We will be wiping everything clean this summer."  I've read that statement from our technology guys for three years in a row now! Luckily, I am cool with the cloud now, so I don't have to worry about my files being lost! However, I wanted something faster for saving bookmarks and reloading them each year.  I was so tired of sitting down at every student computer in my classroom and reloading last year's bookmarked websites.  Yes, I'm sure there are super quick ways around that, but I'm still learning about the quick techy ways to do things. This frustration with reloading bookmarks is what motivated me to find my beloved Symbaloo website.

Symbaloo is an online bookmarking website that allows you to create a free account.  Through this website I can access my bookmarks from any web browser or computer and I can customize the bookmarks to meet my needs.  The first day that I signed up, I created a username and password that I could share with my second graders.  Then, I added all of the student websites that we use in our classroom and I uploaded an image to represent each bookmark.  I knew that this would not only help me stay organized, but it would help my students get to their websites quickly.  It also helps my non-readers find websites that they enjoy because all they have to do is click on an image.  I divided my student bookmarks into four different categories by creating four tabs, which the website calls a "webmix".  I also added my own background to each "webmix", to help my students distinguish the different pages.  Here are the following tabs/webmixes that I created:

Reading Tab/Webmix - used during reading centers

Math Tab/Webmix - used during math centers


Just for Fun Tab/Webmix - used during indoor recess and computer prize time


Research Tab/Webmix - used to help students navigate online research material and publishing sites

The research tab is probably my favorite tab, because it is so dynamic in my class.  Last year, the students did a huge research project on animals local to Pennsylvania.  However, our primary library didn't have a ton of books on the birds included in the project.  To solve the problem, I bookmarked a few trustworthy sites that had information on their animals.  This allowed those students to work independently until I could make a stop at our local library and find appropriate books for them.  I also love to add bookmarks of live web cams from zoos and aquariums when we are doing research as a whole group.  Then during their computer time they just click on the icon that I create and it takes them right to the live cam website.  

Let me know what you think! Do you use a bookmarking website?  If so, which one? If you try Symbaloo out, let me know how it goes.  Also, if you need help navigating how to use the website, I'll be posting a how to series very soon.


Tuesday, August 1, 2017

The Basics of Using ClassDojo

July always seems to fly by for my family, especially when we are having picnics, vacations, and lots of pool days! We've been very busy this summer.  Andrew (my 6 month old) and I need to stay busy or else one of us will get fussy, hehe. #busybuddies

Each summer I start thinking about my classroom when August arrives.  I like to reflect on what worked last year and what needs to be changed. As I was reflecting, I started to think about all of the technology that I've implemented in the last two years.  Some of the tech was implemented seamlessly and other tech needs some tweaking before I add it into our daily routine again.  For example, I tried using Edmodo with my second graders, but it just didn't work since we aren't 1-to-1 yet. It is an awesome website and it would be great if we had just a few more iPads or laptops, but I just wasn't able to implement it properly.  If you're curious about Edmodo, I'll be posting about it soon.

Other technology that I added into our routine was much more successful.  The best addition to my classroom was  I've gotten rave reviews about this website from all of my parents, since it's so interactive.  I know many of you have heard of this website before and many of you might already be using it.  However, if you are like all the teachers that I know...sometimes its hard to make a change when you have a system that is already working.  Why make more work for yourself?  I get it! I have to admit, there was a little bit of a learning curve when I switched over to using for behavior and communication, but it was so worth it.  I'm hoping that I can help make your transition a little bit easier.

Step 1 - Signing Up/Logging In:


After you've gone through the website's easy steps to create a classroom and you've added your student names to the class, then you can move onto step 2.  However, please pay attention during classroom setup because the website will create a PDF file that has parent letters for each of your students.  These letters will have your student's names and their login information.  You need to download, print, and hand these out to students on back to school night.  This is the only way that parents can access their child's ClassDojo account and monitor their progress, message the teacher, and view classroom posts.  I always save this PDF file because their will always be a few parents that misplace their letter and you'll need to send home another copy for them.  You can also access it on the website if you forget to download or save the PDF.  On your class page where all the names are displayed you would click on settings and "Connect Parents".  That'll take you to a page where you can download the letters again.

Step 2 - Getting Started Each Day:


Here is where it gets tricky...the first time that you open your class page all of your students will have 0 points, but it won't always be like that.  You need to decide how you want your point system to work:

1. You can have the students earn points for the entire year, which means that they never clear their points. I can't imagine how many points some students might have by the end of the year!

2. You can have the students earn points for a week and then you'll clear the points at the end of the week.  This is what my team teacher does and it works great for her because it's less maintenance.  The kids love it too because she gives prizes at the end of the week for the most points earned.

3. You can have the students earn points for a day and then you'll clear the points before the start of a new school day.  This is the method that I use, because I find it easier to view daily success with my young students.  I also believe that each day is a clean slate for my students, so even if they have a horrific Monday and end up with negative won't effect the rest of their week.

Step 3 - Daily Use:


Step 4 -Integrating ClassDojo into Your Classroom Routine


Since I use ClassDojo to monitor points on a daily basis, I updated my old behavior clip chart to match up with the little monsters on the website.  I did this so the students would be familiar with the behavior clip chart just in case the internet wasn't working or if they have a substitute.  At the end of each day, whether they were using ClassDojo displayed on the SmartBoard or they were using my "old-fashioned" behavior clip chart, they mark their points in their agenda.  Yes, I said they mark their points.  Second graders learn to be very responsible and I learn to trust them.  However, if I find that they are being dishonest about their points, then I can easily check their record of points on ClassDojo.

Also, I love that ClassDojo has a free app!!! I've put the app on my cell phone and all of the classroom iPads.  Now when I'm instructing at the small group table I can keep the app open on one of my devices so I can give and take points without saying a word.  It syncs with the SmartBoard display so the entire class will hear the "ding" of points awarded.  Upon hearing the "ding", students working at their centers work harder, because they want to earn a point.  On the flip side - if they hear the "werhhh" sound, then they start working extra hard because they don't want to be the student that lost a point.  At my school I can take my cell phone in the hallway and to assemblies, so that I can give and take points while we are away from the classroom.  I also use the app to take pictures and videos at special events so I can post them to the class story page automatically.  It makes it super simple to share what is going on with the parents.

Tell me what you think.  Do you use ClassDojo?  Do you need help doing anything else on the website?  There are a ton of features that are really awesome and interactive, such as student story pages.  I plan on implementing those this year, so that students can have their own page where they display their work.  Have you used student story yet?  I'd love to hear from you!


Sunday, November 30, 2014

How To Writing Units and a SUPER CYBER TpT Sale!

I'm finally home from our Thanksgiving trip! It was an awesome extended weekend with family and friends.  It is always a little bit crazy with everyone around.  Despite the craziness, everyone makes me laugh. And to top it all off...I made a special friend down the street from my parents house! !

Now that I'm back home and getting ready for work I started to plan ahead for the month of December. The three weeks of teaching before Christmas break always go so, so, so FAST! I created and updated some products, so that I can teach "How To" writing to my second graders.  The first packet is an oldie, but a goodie! It is my original "Peanut Butter and Jelly "How To" Writing Unit.  It is a week-long unit that is a blast to do in your classroom! I've had this in my store for a while, but now it's updated with newer texts, borders, and formatting.

Click on the picture or click HERE to download this packet

I also took some time to create a camping unit to support our new curriculum, Wonders. In second grade, Unit 3, Week 2 the curriculum introduces stories that are all about the nighttime sky, camping, stars, and the sun.  To support this week I created a mini literacy unit on camping for my second graders to do while they read through Wonders awesome stories. I know there are a lot of camping materials and ideas floating around out in the TpT and blogging world, but I have to say that my packet is specifically made for second grade. It is working on the following skills: "how to" writing, similes, present tense verbs, sight words, compound words, comp skills (including: key details, problem and solution, and plot).  

click on the picture or click HERE to download this product. 

It has literacy games, such as sight word fishing and a board game called "Cliff Hangers" that can be added to your L.A. Center stations. I know my kids have much more fun playing games, than doing worksheets.  They interact more, discuss the answers, and use socialization as a way to practice and learn their skills. Here are a few of the games included in the packet:

And of course, included is a week long "how to" unit on making s'mores! It is taught in the same way as the PBJ how to writing unit, but with ooey, gooey, delicious s'mores. 

Check out these great products and more at my TpT site and enjoy a SUPER CYBER SALE, which will be going on from December 1st through December 2nd.  My store will be 20 percent off and you can get additional discounts from TpT by typing the promo code: TPTCYBER.  ENJOY!!!

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Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Gobble Gobble! Getting Ready for Thanksgiving Centers

I have been soooo stressed lately.  It should probably be an indicator that I need to go to the gym, do some yoga, or take a bath; instead I end up eating more comfort food, drinking more coffee, and eating all the candy we have leftover from Halloween.  I've pretty much given up hope on eating healthy until after Christmas.  And one more thing that makes me want to cuddle up, not move, and eat lots of hearty meals....uh it is 20 degrees tonight in Pennsylvania - with a "feels like 10 degrees" because of the wind chill.  Now, we get weather like this is PA, but it isn't usually until January!!!  I wasn't ready for this!!! I ended up safety-pinning my winter coat today, because I never sewed on my buttons that fell off last year. Yikes, it was a sight to see, but at least it kept me kind of warm. And to add on to my was the day of our 6 day cycle that my kids don't have a I have no prep time.....then they cancelled recess because it was too cold for them to go out....soooooo I had a full day with NO break.  I literally RAN across the hall so that I could fit in a bathroom break in the afternoon, because let's be honest, I cannot hold my pee for 3 hours straight (especially since I drink 2-3 Nalgene bottles of water a day). Sorry, was that potty talk TMI? Oh wait, one more thing to add to my list of complaints and then I promise I'm cards are due this week! AHHHHH! After all of these things that make my head spin I had one little girl who handed me a sweet little note at the end of the day, which made me remember why I love teaching primary.  It doesn't take away my stress, but it definitely makes me feel better about why I work so hard.   I really have the sweetest group of second graders.  They are all so kind, caring, and considerate of everyone in our classroom family.   Wouldn't a note like this make you smile, too?

With all that said, I thought that I'd give out some freebies that I've been working on in all my spare time, haha! (that was a joke).  The first one goes along with an awesome freebie that The Peanut Gallery created.  I loved her thanksgiving dinner prompts, but I wanted this to be an independent center, so I made a writing template for it.  Here is a picture of her freebie (click on the picture to go to TpT to download her freebie):

Here is the freebie that I posted that goes along with her ideas! Click on the pictures below to go to TpT and download this if you'd like to print out the writing template that goes with her prompts! 


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Sunday, November 16, 2014

Secrets to Having a Quiet and Well Behaved Classroom

At my previous school we did a school wide system called "Green Cards".  As we walked down the hallway our class could be given a green card from another teacher that recognized how quiet we were.  Once we gained 20 green cards the entire class received a prize.  I thought that the system was fantastic because it was reinforcement and praise from teachers throughout the entire school.

I've now tried out some different methods at my new school and I love all of them.  I don't necessarily have a favorite, but instead I tend to change what reward system I use throughout the year so that the kids don't get bored.  Here is a list of the different reward systems:


One of the teachers that I worked with when I was student teaching used something called a punch card.  The kids would wear them as necklaces in the hallway and if they were walking quietly the teacher would give them a punch-out using her hole puncher.


This system is so fun, especially because I use it during the time of the year when I am doing a mystery/detective theme in my room.  In reading we work on mystery books and the kids learn to look for clues.  Then I start using "mystery walker" in the hallway, which means that I will pull a stick with a number on it and that will be my mystery walker for the hall.  Side note: my kids have numbers assigned to their name tags, so that I don't have to write student names on everything in my room each year.  So back to the mystery walker.  As we walk down the hallway I keep my eye on that child whose number was pulled.  Nobody knows who I am secretly watching, but at the end of our walk I will announce if that child did a good job or not.  If they did a good job I'll reveal who my mystery walker was and then give them class cash.  If they did not do a good job I won't reveal who my mystery walker was and I'll let the class know that we will have to try again later with a new walker. This way nobody will be embarrassed and it'll also motivate all the kids to try harder next time. Here is a sample of the numbers that I printed and glued to popsicle sticks for the mystery walker cup: 

RACE TRACK: An individual behavior chart that I just developed for one child who has difficulty in the hallway is a race track. He gets a little velcro car and a race track on his desk.  Each time we take a walk in the hallway and he does a good job he gets to move his car one spot further on his race track.  When he gets to the finish line he gets a reward from me. This little guy loves it so much, especially because he is obsessed with Disney's Cars. So I made sure that when I printed out his little car that I chose a picture from the Disney movie as his car. 

I put all of these into a packet for you all if you are interested in using them in your classroom.  It's only $1 - so grab it if your interested.  It also has my debit card cash system that I recently posted (Click HERE), but that one is a freebie on its own, so you can go to my store to grab just the debit card for free :) For the entire packet click the picture below to go to my TpT store:

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Classroom Cash Replacement - Introducing.....the Student Debit Card!!!!

I have always used some sort of classroom cash system so that my students can earn rewards and prizes for their good behavior.  I have used whole group rewards, such as a jar of money, a jar of marbles and I now use a jar of "fuzzy peaches" which are really just craft pom poms.  I don't where I got the name "fuzzy peaches", but the kids love it!

For individual behavior I've done everything from tickets to fake money.  It works for the most part, but there are always some issues with kiddos who lose their cash and claim they had more then they are showing me.  I want to believe them and replace their lost money, but I never do because it is a life lesson.  Keep track of your money....because in the real world if you lose is GONE! But I guess that seems harsh for 7 year-olds, so I came up with the class debit card that I am going to launch in my classroom in place of the cash. The idea is that the kids get stickers on the back of their debit card as a representation of their earned money.  Then when they spend it I will cross it off.  That way they don't have a bunch of loose dollar floating around in their desks.  Instead, they have 1 debit card with THEIR NAME on the front of it (so nobody can steal their reward money - we don't need any identify theft in second grade, haha)  This one is a freebie, so if you'd like to grab it, click on the picture and it'll take you to my TpT shop where you can download it. 

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Currently November and Phonics Fun with Clowns and Clouds

I can't believe that it is almost Thanksgiving and before you know it it'll be Christmas! This time of the year always flies by with how busy our family is and how crazy work can get! I luckily finished all my Christmas shopping :) Yeah I know you probably want to kill me for saying that...I know my mom rolled her eyes at me when I told her that because she does everything last minute!

Well today I am finally linking up with Farley's November Currently...check it out:

LISTENING: The Cranberries station on Pandora is my all-time favorite! It gives me all of that 90's alternative rock music that I love, but they never seem to play on 90's on 9 on my Sirius radio.  I sometimes get some good 90's songs on Sirius, but then after a really great song they'll put on Ice Ice Baby and while I do love jammin' out to a little Vanilla Ice, I can only take about 1 minute of it before I have to change the channel.  Therefore, I tend to listen to Pandora if I want to get the rock 90's music that I miss so much.  

LOVING: Yes, I am one of those people that goes insane over pumpkin flavored things when they first come out in October.  Well, I had tooooo much pumpkin this year and now I really can't eat anything with pumpkin in it for a year now.  So I've switched over to the December flavor already and that is peppermint.  I got a peppermint mocha from Starbucks and it was to die for! It probably had wayyyy to many calories, but I don't care because it was soooo sweet, and minty, and chocolately, and delicious (did you like my and, and, and sentence...that is just how my kiddos write in their journals, haha)

THINKING: Now that this chilly weather has settled upon us to stay I have been wearing a coat to work everyday.  I swear each winter coat that I've put on is missing 1 button.  I must have a button thief in my closet, because I honestly don't remember losing buttons last winter.  So I guess I'm going to be taking some time today to sew on some mismatched buttons, because I surely don't have the originals. 

WANTING: I love to wear boots in the fall and winter, but they take such a beating! I whipped out my boots from last year and one pair the rubber sole is ripping off and the other is stained from the salt that they lay on the road to melt ice.  Is there a cleaner that would take that out?  They are black boots, so it is almost like they got bleached by the salt. 

NEEDING: Who doesn't need more time?!?  It seems like my "to-do" list gets longer and longer. When will I ever have a day where I check everything off of it and then I just relax instead of constantly trying to accomplish everything.

READING: I have to be honest...I hardly ever make time to read, because I always have so much reading to do to keep up with my small group guided reading groups.  I have a few groups that are working on chapter books and so when I give them reading assignments at night, I also take home a book and read so that I can make sure I am on the same page as them while I teach.  I have never had such a high group in second grade, so none of these books are familiar to me. But when I do make time for me and my reading I have been working on one of my favorite author's books: Mirror, Mirror.  Gregory Maguire wrote the famous Wicked series, so I have grabbed some of his other titles because I love his style of writing and fantasy is my favorite genre. 

Head on over to Farley's blog, Oh' Boy 4th Grade if you want to see all the other great currently bloggers! Lastly, to recap my week in 2nd kiddos have been working on the "ow" and "ou" vowel sounds.  We did some awesome crafts to reinforce our vowel patterns of the week.  The first was a clown covered in "ow" words.  Then we made a cloud with rainbow "ou" words.  These would be easy for you to do with your kids!  I didn't have a tracer for the cloud, so I made a quick one by hand and ran it through the copier.  Then I had my high school helper cut out strips of paper for the rainbow colors.  The clown I had a template for.  If I get time later this week I'll scan it in for you and share it as a freebie. 

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