July 23, 2015

Things to (heart): Book Bins that last

Do you use Book Bins in your classroom? Critical to implementing Reader's Workshop/Daily 5 , finding durable book bins is a must -  and that should be an easy task, right? Yet, it's not. Book Bins take substantial abuse. In many classrooms, by the end of the year, cardboard and many plastic versions are held together by duct tape and looking really bad.

I'm very picky about my Book Bins. My criteria is (1) they have to be easy for smaller hands to manage (2) they have to be tall enough so the books don't fall out (3) they must be clear so it's easy to see what is inside and (4) they need to be sturdy enough to last for many years.

Here is my recommendation for the best Book Bins. Head on over to The Container Store and get these.

My entire classroom set of bins is five years old. Yes, five. Five separate voracious readers have toted and manhandled each one of these for nine months each. My enthusiastic cuties have not been kind to them. They have been plunked on the floor, accidentally kicked or tripped over, and roughly hauled from the shelf. Think of the stories each of those bins could tell...

 Medium size Multi-Purpose Bins.
 Only ONE in five years has a crack - and frankly it's not bad enough to replace.

 Each kid has their own bin. Setting it up was a bit of an investment @$5 each. But they are DURABLE and adaptable to any classroom theme.

I did wait to buy mine on sale but The Container Store as a teacher discount program you could look into. Any other long lasting book bin recommendations out there?

July 8, 2015

Resources for a GrowingRoots Core Knowledge Social Studies Unit

When I moved to a new state and was hired at a Core Knowledge school, I was thrilled. However, if you teach the CK curriculum then you'll appreciate my panic upon reviewing the VOLUME included in those social studies units. Although a classroom veteran, my first year in a CK school had me feeling like a newbie again. Fast forward five years; I'm really familiar with the content and have streamlined how I teach social studies. Moving from loose papers  and scattered ideas, I designed comprehensive and teacher-manual aligned student booklets (or in some cases "packages") for my social studies units.  It made my life easier and my teammates are fully on board. These units keep us focused and its so nice to have everything in one place.

I have many second and third grade Core Knowledge social studies units in my TpT store. Perhaps they can make your life easier too. Each is sold individually but you may want to check out the grade level bundles to save money.  

To implement these units you'll need these two resources.  Both are the social studies materials recommended on the CK site published by Pearson. 
Core Knowledge website

You will need the appropriate Teacher's Manual/Guide and the student text

I took the Teacher Guide out of the 3-ring binder. I've seen the student text in two formats - as individual student readers and bound together in a larger book. The text is the same. All the activities and information correlate with these. (A few units do have enrichment or additional materials. In those cases, I've created and included them.)

The second grade units are teacher-directed. Content delivery relies heavily on listening skills - those readers aren't too meaty. As the unit progresses I've found that 'retelling the story' using the reader as a memory jog is great. After a lot of modeling the kids love to take over! Much of the booklet is completed as a whole group. I always project my own copy and work along with them. Kids of all abilities need a model! Doing so shares correct information, proper spelling and, if someone is absent, it's an easy way to get caught up.
The third grade units are still teacher-directed but content delivery requires student reading. Do you find, like me, some concepts are rather abstract for an eight or nine year old? At times I know a few ideas can remain "muddy" at the end of some units, yet this is what I love about CK. They don't dumb it down. Instead they plant the seeds to support learning the following year. 

Given the varied ability of third grade readers, at the beginning of the year we do a lot of whole group reading and sometimes I pull the text into my Teacher Time/Guided Reading. This is ideal literacy/content area integration since you will teach students how to think and learn from their reading. This is followed by rereading the text with Read with Someone and Read to Self to practice fluency and comprehension. Last year I asked a parent volunteer to record the chapters so my kids have a Listen to Reading option as well.

As the year progresses, and kids become more independent readers, I modify my content delivery and pull back a bit, focusing on "who needs what" to be successful. Maybe some can handle it on their own. Maybe some need the support of a buddy. Some still need a lot of guidance. 

I still model the student booklet, but toward the end of the year most students are able to do a lot of the work in groups. Many of my third grade units have task cards requiring them to read the student text and complete work.  I often will ask a volunteer for support person to circulate around the room to answer questions or help troubleshoot. We come together as a group to share ideas and make adjustments as needed. 

Perhaps you've decided a complete CK unit is not for you..... that's ok. Check out these links. Inspired by the CK content, these are more generic and do not require CK resources.

Still have questions? My store's Q and A section is the perfect place to ask! Enjoy summer! 

July 7, 2015

Currently 7-7-15

Listening to my cat snore. It's surprising how LOUD he is. Tail twitching, lip curling... there must something dramatic going on in that little brain.

Loving a cold, misty day. Unexpected and much appreciated. 

Thinking how the 4th of July can trigger so many bittersweet emotions. Is the summer have finished or half started? Hummm.... will need to ponder.

Wanting to finish the basement clean out. I did as much as I could handle in one day. Oh.... it felt good to get rid of all that JUNK. The issue now is that I ran out of steam to complete it.... must. complete. soon.

Thanks to DH for arranging a fun evening with food, music and friends. 

All Star Long Range Plans! New grade. New curriculum. New teammates. I love making LRPs!!! No kidding! Anyone else love  making 'em too?