Fall break and pumpkins – What could be better?

It may be Wednesday but it feels like Friday to me. We are starting our fall break, which is also known as MEA break here in Minnesota (Minnesota Educator’s Association break) so I have the next 2 days off!

Kids only had 2 days this week and we, as teachers, had 2 and a half days. Because they only had 2 days, I didn’t really want to do a whole lot so I tried to make them as much fun (and low key) as possible.

On Monday we pretty much spent the day talking about letter writing and started our 1st pen pal letters of the year! If you followed me last year, you know that my class had a set of pen pals from a school up north in Minnesota (about 3 hours away from our school.) One of my friends from when I was really little teaches up there and we’ve recently reconnected when we both got into teaching. We thought it would be super fun if we had our kids connect through letter writing. Last year my kids were 3rd graders writing to her 4th graders and now this year, my 4th graders are writing to her 3rd graders. (We pretty much flopped grades!)

My kiddos LOVED it! I found a free, off of TPT, an introductory pen pal kit for them to use. Last year I learned that writing these letters were not the easiest thing for them to do. I got this kit from Primary Queen‘s store to be super helpful! It was super fun!

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Yesterday I was hoping for an even more relaxed day. The other 4th grade teachers shared the awesome idea with me about how they were going to be showing Because of Winn Dixie so I decided to copy their idea. While they were watching the movie, which pretty much took of most of the time they spent with me, they worked on a fun pumpkin/Halloween project to spice up the back of our room! I let them create their own creative pumpkin to hang on their display number. I gave them each a piece of black, orange, green, and white paper and told them to make a pumpkin. That was the only direction I gave. They then went off on their own and did awesome! There pumpkins were so cute!

My Top favorites were these two cuties!

But these two were my ABSOLUTE favorites!! “The Green Lantern Pumpkin” and “Colonel Sanders the Pumpkin.”

This was such a fun project and their ideas were amazing.

The reason I wanted relaxed days was because I had to prep for conferences. We had our first round of conferences for the year which are always goal setting conferences. They were after school both Monday and Tuesday and then also this morning. Because of that, I was exhausted by the end of Monday night. Luckily my families are supportive so they were pretty easy. I can’t lie though, I’m glad they’re over.

 

This is also super random but I wanted to share something that I’ve decided to try. When I was 11 I got braces, you know like most preteens. The funny thing about my mouth, however was that they were on until I was 16. It was rough. Even after 5+ years of braces, my mouth is already starting to go back to the way they were before my years of teenage torture.

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Because of that, I decided I was going to try one of the Invisalign knock off companies. I looked into Smile Direct Club and decided to get molded for nighttime wearing aligners and a set of retainers when I’m done with the journey. The molding kits were easy to use and the whole process took me about 20 minutes. I will now be sending the whole kit back and my aligners should be back to me in 2 weeks. My fingers are crossed that my teeth FINALLY straighten up and stay that way!

 

 

For more day to day action and more detailed lessons and project examples, go follow my teachers instagram account @lifeoftherookieteacher!

Book Clubs, Tug-a-War, and M&M’s


I went into this week thinking it’d be a normal week, but I forgot, normal weeks don’t exist as a teacher. We did some fun activities that I thought would be fun to share!

Tuesday our first Scholastic book orders came in the mail. I’m trying something new this year. The Scholastic Book Club has a book a month for specific grade levels that are only $1.00. Last year, a bunch of teachers in my area were asking for donations from friends and family on Facebook to sponsor a child in their class. They were asking for individuals to donate $9.00 so they could buy a student in their class 1 $1.00 book a month for the whole year. I was apprehensive because I HATE asking anyone for money so I didn’t participate. I saw how much of a success it was for the classes that participated last year and thought I would give it a try this year to see what would happen. My friends and family were AMAZING. I got a full class worth of donations within a day.

This past Tuesday our first $1.00 book set came in. Each student got the book Frindle by Andrew Clements with a note inside saying who their sponsor is for the year and how they are connected to me. It was so adorable to see how grateful they were when they found out a stranger donated enough money for them to each receive a free book every month. It was also super cute to hear, “My sponsor is Miss Nygaard’s mom!” or “My sponsor is Miss Nygaard’s favorite cousin!” It made my day! My friends and family LOVED to see this picture and LOVED to hear how excited they were!

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Just look at how cute they are!

Last week we had our annual grade level race (that is usually a Homecoming Friday activity but was postponed due to poor weather.) The sad part was that by the time we ran (on the makeup day), it was cold and raining so we had to cut the afternoon fun short. What we usually do as a grade level after the race is have a grade level class tug-a-war tournament. Each class plays tug-a-war against every other class in their grade. Last year, when I taught 3rd grade, my class literally lost EVERY round but one, (and they only won that round because the PE teachers joined their team) it was tragic. This year, my class DOMINATED! We won every round except for 1. We only lost to the class that got 1st place who won every round. I went from having a class that was dead last, to a class that ended up being the runners up! It was awesome! They were so into it and I LOVED it! It was just as much fun for me as it was for them!

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Today I wanted to end the week with something fun. It’s Friday, who doesn’t want to do something fun? For math, we had to end our first unit reviewing bar graphs. They’ve been working with bar graphs since kindergarten so I wanted to make it fun for them. I pulled an activity I did with my 3rd graders last year (when I also taught bar graphs) that was all about graphing M&M colors. They were so excited when they found out we were working with M&M’s. You’ve probably either heard of this activity, or have done this activity before but it’s fun nonetheless. Some even said they have done this activity before with M&M’s or Skittles but they were hyped to do it again!

I found this awesome (free) TPT worksheet from Thomas Teachable Moments‘ shop that guides them through everything! Once they finished the activity, they made their own bar graphs (as their assignment.)

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Yesterday we talked about frequency tables. Students went around and found data on a question of their choosing to create their own frequency table. Today, they took that data to make their own bar graph. They thought it was awesome. It was a little chaotic but my kiddos are resilient and did a phenomenal job. Seriously, these kids are awesome.

It was a fun week but I’m exhausted. To make it even more exhausting, it’s been raining and cloudy the past few days and then today, we saw our first snow flakes of the season. I’m now sitting on my couch (drinking some wine) with candles lit and the snow falling. It feels like it’s the middle of the winter but it’s only October….only in Minnesota.

 

For more day to day action and live videos (which got featured in the #teacherlife’s story on Instagram today) go follow my teacher Instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher! Today I posted on my story an ADORABLE writing response one of my kiddos wrote about when the prompt was “What do you want to be when you grow up?” and he wrote he wanted to be a teacher. His response will make you smile! Go check it out!!

Crazy Scheduled Week

I’m a day late but I’m here to share so many different things that happened this week. This is a week that was fast but long at the same time. The week itself went by fast but the days themselves seemed like they lasted forever.

Monday and Tuesday were normal days and went by relatively fast. Wednesday was insane! On Wednesdays, teachers have to be in PLC meetings for an hour, which ends up going 15 minutes past when school starts. For those 15 minutes, students go to the gym and have a mini assembly with our school counselors. It’s a great thing in theory but students leave this assembly hyped and it usually takes another 15 minutes to get them settled in for the day. That right there takes up 30 minutes of our Wednesdays. This past Wednesday I was stressed because I was supposed to be having my 1st observation of the year with my new principal. Luckily, my class was awesome and calmed down right away (I also may have put the fear of behaving in them ahead of time but that’s beside the point.) I had this great lesson for my observation but my principal warned me he might be a little late. I waited as long as I could for him but eventually had to start teaching without him there. He ended up walking in as soon as my lesson was over and my students were doing the activity that went with the lesson.

Later that day we had our make up race that we had to postpone from last Friday due to weather. We had our races scheduled for the afternoon. The morning was beautiful but, of course, it started to rain when we went out for our race. After the running, we have a grade level tug-a-war tournament. Each class goes against every other class until we have the tug-a-war champions. This and the race take about an hour and a half. Because of this, I obviously didn’t have our afternoon planned. Because of the weather, we were only outside for the race and had to cancel the tug-a-war. That meant that when we went back inside, we had an hour to kill that wasn’t planned. We had a snack and did some cleaning. I then read to them for the remainder of our day.

**Side note: If you are a teacher, or have kiddos around the age of 10, I have the PERFECT read aloud suggestion for you!! The book series is called The Land of Stories written by Chris Colfer. It’s about these 11 year old twins who fall into their grandma’s fairy tale book (called the land of stories) and have to find their way home. They go through this crazy journey while also meeting their favorite fairy tale characters. The best part is this is a 6 book series. The past few years I’ve read the first 3 books to my classes and they have LOVED it. They get so hooked they want to read the second half of the series to themselves. Seriously, go look it up! It’s also super funny and has a lot of adult humor hidden inside so it makes it entertaining to the adult reader as well.**

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Thursday was a semi-normal day. The only change was that in the afternoon we had our annual walkathon during our kids’ specialist time. Our walkathon is our fundraiser for school activities, playground equipment, app subscriptions, etc. Students are asked to ask 5 different people to donate $5.00 to help their school (we call this “Strive for 5.”) They then spend one hour on our walkathon day walking around the track at our local high school (which is the backyard of our elementary school) as their way to make the most of the money the donated. In my opinion, it’s a fun fundraiser and gives the kids a chance to do something to help their school. They aren’t required to donate any money (which I like because I hate asking anyone for money) but they all get to participate in the walk. It’s a great class bonding activity and a great way to get everyone in the school active for a day. Teachers are asked to walk for half of the hour their students are out there. I love that part. It’s so fun to just talk to your students without worrying about teaching or meeting any standards. At the very end of the grade’s time, our phy ed teachers lead them through a couple different dances to do all together. We did the Cupid Shuffle and the Hokie Pokie. It was so fun!

Friday was an early release for the students so we could have an afternoon of staff development (focusing on our individual growth plans for the year….so much fun) so it was another crazy day. I wanted to do something fun since we didn’t have as much time for things as normal. I decided that we were going to do some major multiplication facts review.

Last year in 3rd grade, they learned all about multiplication. The only problem was that after the summer, some don’t remember their facts. We needed to review these so I thought a half day would be the perfect day to do this.

I set up 4 different multiplication stations for us to do instead of our usual new math lesson. Before we did any stations we played a multiplication “I have, who has” game (I bought the game for $2.25 from TchrBrowne’s store.) I timed them so we could have a starting point on how fast they could get through the game with their basic facts. I then split them into 4 different groups to switch between 4 15 minute stations. The stations included; multiplication bingo with me, an October multiplication packet (First Tries and Sunny Skies store), a choice between 2 different multiplication games (Multiplication Squares from Flying through Fourth‘s store and Multiplication Connect 4, also from Flying through Fourth ‘s store), and 2 different multiplication IXL assignments done on their iPad.

Once we finished the stations we played “I have, “who has” again and they dropped their time by a whole minute. They did awesome! My plan is to continue this game throughout the year so they become experts at their facts.

This week was fast but slow. The crazy days Wednesday-Friday threw it all off. It’s weird because days when the schedule is different, it should seem faster, but in reality the day is so much slower.

I am exhausted and ready to sleep in tomorrow as late as possible. I honestly can’t wait, however to be back on Monday. I love this class. They are so amazing and sweet. I have had 2 hard classes (each hard in their own way) the past 2 years, so this year, compared to that, these kids are a piece of cake. Happy weekend friends!

 

For more day to day action, pictures, and videos, go follow my teacher instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!

Task Cards for the Win!

Happy Friday! It’s been a fun and crazy filled week! This week was Homecoming, so that added an extra crazy twist on the week.

Monday I started a “review” of multidigit subtraction with regrouping. This is something that I taught last year to them when they were in 3rd grade. Of course I assumed that this would be an easy review math lesson and that they would be bored out of their minds because they would remember everything they learned last year. Ha. I’m laughing at my naiveté just thinking about it.

I went through correcting their assignment and wow…..they BOMBED. During my “review” lesson, they acted just how I thought they would. They were looking at me like they could fall asleep any second. I honestly thought they were so bored that they would go home and tell their parents about how math is too easy and they aren’t being challenged. I felt comfortable doing only a few practice problems together before setting them off to work alone.

When I saw how poorly they did, and how overly confident they were acting, I figured I needed to do some major and serious review. Monday after school I bought a set of multidigit subtraction with regrouping task cards on TPT (from Little Achiever‘s account) and had them spend the entire math time Tuesday going through every card.

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There were 24 total cards so, for some of my students, this took them the entire math time. I had the answer key posted (backwards on a magnet) on my board, so students who were finished ahead of time, could check their own work, followed by doing some more challenging problems on IXL (BTW if you don’t know what IXL is GO CHECK IT OUT!!! This is a teacher’s dream for math and language arts review!!)

This worked wonders!!! They thought it was super fun to spend their math time moving around the room doing problems on their mini whiteboards. It was amazing! After this small (but fun) activity, they seemed to have better memories on how to regroup when subtracting.

I was able to see how well this worked today when I had them take an adding and subtracting quiz. All but one student passed!!! That is insane when you think about a class of 25 students. If your students are struggling with anything in math as a class, go and take an extra couple days of review, it WILL pay off!! It’s okay if you fall behind your teammates or your scope and sequence. If your kiddos need more practice, give it to them!

The rest of the week was pretty relaxed, apart from our crazy dress up days. This week we also started some switching for subjects with different teachers. My students have been with me for the past few weeks learning about some basic grammar topics, like nouns, verbs, and types of sentences. Thursday, my students finished their first grammar round with me and got to begin a few weeks of science with another teacher. Because of that, I got a new group of kiddos to teach grammar to for 40 minutes. This new class made me love my own class even more. The class that I’ll be teaching grammar to for the next few weeks, has a lot of energy. 6 of my students from last year are in that class, so I knew that having them for 40 minutes a day would be interesting….I remembered quick how exhausting my year ended up being last year with some of those kiddos. Those 40 minutes yesterday and today were the most exhausting my year has been thus far. Because of that, I realized how AMAZING my students this year are. I seriously love them. They are so sweet and so calm. I am so lucky to have such a great class this year.

One month ago I found out that I’d be moving from 3rd grade to 4th grade (only a week before school started) and I was not thrilled. I was nervous, anxious, angry, and stressed. After this month, I can honestly believe that everything happens for a reason. If I didn’t have this chance to move up a grade level, I would not have had this opportunity to have the most amazing class in the world. A class I may never have the opportunity to have again. I am honestly so blessed and lucky to get the chance to be their 4th grade teacher.

 

For more day to day posts and class activities, go follow my teacher instagram account @lifeoftherookieteacher!

First Full Week With Some ELA Fun!

The first full week is complete and I am SHOT!! Don’t get me wrong, it was a great week but man I am exhausted with this new sleep/work routine.

I love my class! I knew that last week was great but that was only 2 days. I got to have a full week of “normality” with them and was able to see their real personalities. I have a few chatty kiddos but after my overly emotional class last year with multiple chatty kids, this feels like nothing! They are also super sweet and thoughtful! I had one of my amazing kids bring me a little pick me up this morning. (His mom is a teacher so that was a major part of it but still, it made my whole day!)

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This week we started our first official reading unit/lesson. The main focus of this week was to talk about story structure/elements. Because these are 4th graders, most of them are pretty familiar with characters, setting, and plot. (Last year, even at the end of the year, some of my kids didn’t know what a setting was???) I didn’t want this week to be too dull and boring for them. I obviously love projects and doing something other than boring worksheets whenever I can so I had to look into my giant reading resources binder.

**Side note: My first year at my old school, we didn’t have the best reading curriculum (in my opinion of course.) The main idea of the curriculum was that there was one main target taught for 3 full weeks in a roll. Meaning that if the unit was on main idea, we taught main idea for 3 weeks. The down side to that, the curriculum gave us NOTHING to use for those 3 weeks. I spent many hours searching TPT and Pinterest that first year finding hundreds of activities, projects, and graphic organizers for each unit. It was a lot of work that year but I have so many great resources to use now!**

One thing that I found in the binder was a graphic organizer that I actually got from my mom (who has been teaching for 23 years.) She copied it from one of her reading resource books she bought from some teacher store (life before TPT and Pinterest.) The organizer was in the shape of a quilt square. I’m not exactly sure what it was originally made for but my mom used it to share books and certain chapters students would read. I used it as a way to share story elements from different books they have read to practice our week’s topic strategy.

They took the organizer and put the title, author, and rating (that they gave out of 5 stars) in the middle. I then had them share the setting, characters, and plot from the book. Finally, they wrote about their favorite part. Once they were finished they got to color and decorate there squares. I did this last year and took all of their quilt squares to make a giant quilt on the wall. I have yet to post their squares this year but most of them finished and did an AMAZING job. (Again, incredible kids!)

This week was a little crazy trying to get back into the groove of things but these kids made it so fun and easy. I am so excited to get back and see them on Monday!! I just have all of my fingers crossed that they stay this sweet and awesome!

Happy Friday friends!!

 

Because the summer is over and we are officially back, I am now back to posting as much as I can on my school’s instagram page! Go follow me at @lifeoftherookieteacher to see all of my day to day stories and pictures of my awesome class and our adventures!!

New Classroom, New Grade, New Challenge!

Uff-dah (yes that is the Minnesotan in me but that is how I feel!) It has been one insane week with some BIG changes!!

Last Friday I posted about finally finishing my classroom but then was hit with the bombshell, someone in our grade level would have to move from 3rd to 4th grade. Well fast forward to Monday and that bombshell hit me especially hard. Because I am the rookie on my team, I drew the short stick and was told by our new principal and superintendent that I would have to be the one to move.

This was a lot to take in! They were both super nice about it when they came to talk/comfort me. They told me that they were going to make this change as easy as possible for me. I told them that I had just finishing moving into my new room (in the 3rd grade wing) 3 days prior so they told me I could stay in that room if I wanted to. Honestly, that day was all a haze. I had originally thought I was going to move over to the empty 4th grade classroom but as the day progressed instead of worrying about the new curriculum and my new students, all I could think about was moving into a new room. I realized my priorities were not in the right spot so I shouldn’t move.

I talked to my 4th grade team about that decision and they told me they would have made the same choice and there was no reason for me to add that stress! Of course other staff in the building didn’t agree with that choice so I was bombarded with non stop opinions for 2 days. I kept hearing from other staff members that parents will be upset and students won’t like “sharing bathrooms and locker areas with 3rd graders.” I get that some families might not be thrilled about the location of the classroom but at the end of the day it’s what happens in the classroom that matters the most. Finally, I told another team mate about the constant “advice” I was receiving and she stopped it in its tracks. She literally saved my sanity!

After all of the drama dust subsided I finally got to meet with some of my new teammates and spent many hours replanning my first few weeks of school. I definitely spent more time at school this week than I had planned (especially considering it was workshop week so I knew I would be there everyday anyways) but I left today feeling like I can do this. I taught 4th grade 2 years ago, so I know what to expect. It’s just sad that I don’t get to work with the same awesome people again. I was also excited to know what I was teaching for once but I guess I’m made for the challenge.

Anyways… after all of that fun stuff I wanted to share my new classroom that was prepped for 3rd grade but was transformed for 4th grade!

First things first, it might look plain but I love to use tables instead of desks. I HATE clutter. Tables don’t completely solve the problem but nothing gets buried inside. They are also a great way to promote groups and collaboration between students throughout the day. I also added little buckets on each table filled with a mix of markers, crayons, colored pencils, and pens. I found these adorable buckets (confetti themed) at Target for only $1.00 a piece. I have 7 tables so I have 7 buckets, each with a sticker number on them so I can have numbered groups.

The front of my room is not the most exciting but I centered it around our reading curriculum. When I thought I would be teaching 3rd grade, I was only going to be teaching reading. I found many word work, spelling, and writing activities on TPT over the summer to go with the curriculum, so I didn’t want them to go to waste. I LOVE the Teacher Resources confetti theme! I used it last year so I built off of it this year. I found those cute confetti circles with positive affirmations. I am BIG on positive mindset in my classroom so they were perfect!

Next is my new reading corner. I don’t have all of the space I would like for this area but I made the most of it! Our school does AR to encourage reading. The school gives away prizes for students when they earn a certain amount of points but to encourage taking AR tests more and having point goals, I have my own point/incentive program. Last year, AR was new to me so I didn’t have much set up. This year I wanted to have a bright and fun display of the points each student has next to a sign of the incentives for each goal. When a student gets 50 points they will get to take a clothes pin (they are all numbered so students find their class number) and clip it to the sign. As they get more points, they get to keep moving their pin. I found these amazing confetti/neon labels for $3.00 on TPT from Cherry Workshop‘s store. I used the signs in this file for many labels around my room.

I bought these mini confetti labels from amazon for $6.99. They come in a pack of 30 and I love them for my lunch count/attendance taker. I used them last year as well. It’s a quick and easy way for me to see what the lunch count is and if anyone is absent. Last year I struggled with organizing papers for each subject that was handed in throughout the day. This year I decided to buy these drawers from Target for $9.99 each (not the cheapest but worth it) and label them for each subject. This way when my students hand things in, they will already be sorted by subject for me. I also wanted to spruce up my dull walls (I like to put fabric in the background to brighten things up but the walls are so high in this new room that I can’t reach the top) so I put up these 3 positive mindset posters from the teacher store Lakeshore Learning. I love their messages but I also find them super cute!

The back of my room is my favorite. Again, most of these are all from the confetti themed section found at Teacher Resources (also their store on Amazon.) My schedule was made using the neon labels I bought on TPT that also had the signs I used for my AR display. I love the teacher hack of using a push pin wall to display student work in a quick and easy way. I hot glued a push pin to the back of a clothes pin and a number tag to the front of the clothes pin to make the mounts. That is all the work I have to do there. Now as the year goes on when we have a project, I won’t have to waste time stapling or taping up their work because they can easily do it! Growing up with a teacher mom, I would usually be the one to put up and display her students’ work. I hated it and it easily became my biggest pet peeve. So seriously, this is my favorite time saver!

 

Oh man it has definitely been a week and the kids aren’t even here yet. I’m just hoping it’s all is up hill from here. To help take care of with my newly added stress, I got a sweet little surprise today. I have one student this year that I also had in my class last year. Luckily, she was one of my all time favorites! Today I got a sweet little gift and card from her saying she was excited to have me again. It’s those little things that make all the difference! I seriously started to cry when it showed up at school today! Now to enjoy the last official weekend before the year begins.

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