Category Archives: Classroom Environment

Reading Incentives


Some people possess a natural desire to read, and some learn to love to read by watching others enjoy it. Still, there are some people that resist reading and/or struggle with it. It can be quite a challenge to motivate some students to read.

Personally, I have always enjoyed reading. Reading was my way of escaping the real world. I could experience the life of someone else, meet different people, visit places I would never be able to visit otherwise, and even learn new languages.

As a teacher, I use many strategies to get my students to love to read. Every day I build in a “read aloud” period where I read literature to my students so they can hear fluency and expression. We also discuss author’s purpose and craft. Independent reading time is also provided for them. However, just providing time does not mean students will use it productively. So I also use a school wide Accelerated Reader (A.R.) incentive program and a 30 Book Challenge.

For the A.R. incentive student progress is tracked on a chart, and performance is rewarded at different times throughout the year.


I got the idea of a 30 Book Challenge from The Book Whisperer. Students that make the 30 book challenge will be rewarded with a book from Scholastic Reading Club at the end of the year. What an eye opener for them! I have a few students that have already met their point goal, but they have only read 5 books. The class had quite a discussion about both programs.


How do you motivate your students?


Building Pyramids Through Team Work


I am lucky enough to work with some amazing kids. They vary in socio-economic backgrounds, cultural backgrounds, social development, and academic ability levels. There are twenty-eight mainstreamed students in my class, and two students that visit my classroom through an inclusion program.

In order to keep my classroom running smoothly, I need to incorporate team building and class building activities. Many of my ideas stem from Kagan Classbuilding Cooperative Learning Activities and Kagan Teambuilding Cooperative Learning Structures.

My class is set up in groups of four. Each group is assigned a different color. Within each group, each student is assigned a number: 1, 2, 3, or 4. I use these colors and numbers to help set up learning structures and jobs.

This week’s teambuilding challenge came from Science Gal, and she got the activity from a FOSS training.

Each team needs: 6 plastic cups, 1 rubber band, and four strings (each 24 inches long)

The challenge: Each team moves cups from a “wall of cups” (length of 3 cups, height of 2 cups) to a “pyramid of cups” (3 on the bottom, 2 in the middle, 1 on top).

All of my teams were able to accomplish the task. Early finishers were given the task of putting the cups back to their original state. They had a blast!


First Day Fun


Welcome back! What a great day! It was wonderful to see so many excited and friendly faces.

We started our day together by sharing about our vacation in our table groups.

Throughout the day students took turns introducing themselves to the class and asking a question about classroom procedures using Really Good Stuff’s Classroom Orientation Cards. This was fun and engaging.

During our Language Arts block we started writing an “I Am A Fifth Grader” poem. We will also be making an adjective art project to go along with the poem. I hope to post pictures once our completed projects are up on the wall.

During our Math block I introduced Calendar Math. It’s a wonderful way of practicing key standards on a regular basis.

In addition to teaching procedures, we spent some time as a class planting our classroom plants which now adorn our classroom library.

I’m looking forward to another great day tomorrow.


Mission Possible: Organization


This week was all about organization. Organizing for the classroom, my home files, and Sam’s school projects.

The projects I worked on for the classroom were Day of the Week Drawers, group project material buckets, and my Teacher’s Binder. Once again, I found some ideas on Pinterest to help me with this.

I have tried many organization techniques for my daily materials, but I have not been happy with them. They always ended up looking messy to me. So I was excited when I found teacher organization drawers on Pinterest. The organizers were $4 a piece at Target and the letter stickers were $4 at JoAnn’s. I can’t wait to see how they look on my desk.


I had some letters left over from the first project, so I decided to label the table group baskets I had picked up at the dollar store. These are going to be used to organize special project materials for each group. Hopefully they will make it to my classroom. I keep finding them in Rachel’s bedroom.


Erin Condren lesson planners seem to be all the rage right now. I just couldn’t see spending $59 plus for a lesson planner. It got me thinking about how I am always scrambling for my lesson plan book, grade book, student test data, standards, or meeting notebook. I decided to create an all-in-one-place teacher binder. So I picked up a $4 binder at Target that included dividers, binder pocket, ruler, and binder. Then I hit TPT and started looking at teacher binder inserts for free. I chose:

* Editable Teacher Binder Cover

* Monthly Calendar

* Notes and To Do List

I also have sections for pacing guides, data reports, and standards. Although this project started out as a lesson planner, I have decided to keep everything I need to lesson plan in it, and I will have a stand alone lesson planner.


I had bags of Sam’s art projects and school work in my closet, next to my bed, and in the garage. Needless to say, this irritated Karl to no end. So I have started going through those bags and organizing them in pockets to be kept on one of my closet shelves.


Now I just need to finish Sam’s pockets and organize the garage this weekend. I’m off to work on  my classroom next week!

Pinterest – Friend or Foe?


I was beginning to wonder if Pinterest was my friend or foe. I spent a lot of time pinning Pins, but rarely took the time to use any of them. That changed this past week! I was determined to try a few of the Pins, so all that time spent on Pinterest wasn’t wasted time.

The Craft Projects:

Project #1 Birthday Crazy Straws: I was lucky enough to find crazy straws in stock at the dollar store (6 for $1). I was all set to go home and make balloon labels for each straw when I came across a packet of cute birthday bookmarks at Lakeshore Learning  (30 for $3.40). My students now have a 2-in-1 gift. Score! I love it when I find things that save me time. Besides, I think they turned out pretty cute. Total project was about $9.


Project #2  Inspirational Frame Quotes. I made five different frames that I plan to place on top of the bookcase in my classroom. I chose to decorate my $1 frames with Trendy Tape ($1.50) and to print the quote on colored card stock ($1 total). My son, Sam, told me after my craft session that he preferred the frames plain. Oh, well. The total project cost me about $8.


Project #3 Student Number Marble Magnets. I made two sets of students numbers and one set of stars. The student numbers will be used to keep track of where students are and for my homework club. The compliment stars will be used for a class incentive. At our local craft store I bought the marbles for $3 and the magnets for $7. I was able to make make magnets for three different classroom management purposes for $10. At a teacher supply store stores I would have spent two to three times that amount.


Project #4 was to make glitter clothespins with thumb tacks attached to the back. I plan to use these to hang student art work on bulletin boards. I wanted a color that was subtle but interesting. Sam picked out Champagne Mist. This happens to be very close to the original wood color, as my husband pointed out. I still like it. It draws the eye and won’t take away from the art work. The clothespins and tacks were $2 at the dollar store, and the spray paint was $5. I’m hoping to find other uses for the spray paint.


I’m excited to get all of these projects into my classroom!

I also tried out some recipes. Frankly, I’m not posting pictures of the food, because the pictures on the links look better than my food. Recipes Tested:

Food #1  Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus: It is delicious! If you are crunched for time, it is just as good cut up into pieces and tossed together as it is wrapped.

Food #2  Pot Roast: two of the four of us really liked this recipe. The two that did not are texture eaters. They thought the fall-off-the-fork meat and vegetables were too moist. Oh well, I had a delicious lunch for the following two days!

Food #3  Salty Cocoa Energy Bites:  I substituted almond butter for the sunflower seed butter, and I was pleased with the results. I plan to keep some handy for emergency snacks. Sam does not care for almond butter, so I am also going to try this with peanut butter.

Food #4  Apricot, Pecan & Chocolate bars:  I was disappointed. The apricots I used seemed to disappear into the bar. The picture showed bright orange apricot chunks. I’m going to try again with a different brand of apricots.

Food #5 Choco Banana Smoothie this is rich and delicious! I would not recommend this for a refreshing smoothie, it’s more of a dessert smoothie. The texture eaters in my family thought it was “banana” thick but tasty.

Is Pinterest your friend or foe? Have you made any Pinterest projects lately?