Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Superbowl Writing Project Freebie

I made this freebie last year when our beloved Patriots were Superbowl bound. 

That didn't end well for us New Englanders.


Nor did last Sunday's playoff game.


But football fever is still in the air as I'm sure it is in your neck of the woods as well.

So I thought I would spotlight this free writing packet once again in case you missed it. 

It's ready to go when you print it so it will make an easy addition to your Thursday or Friday plans this week.

If you've wondered about my writing packets, this is a good opportunity to see what they are all about.
Pictured above are the 6 pages I printed to use with my class.


They include webs, draft papers and final product pages as well as 4 full-color printables to use as bulletin board titles or class book covers.

Here's the cute bulletin board that I made to show off their writing samples.



I began with a large football cutout.

I typically use a brainstorming page from my writing packets to have the students come up with topics and ideas. However, despite the bubbling enthusiasm for all things football that the majority of my kiddos are showing this week, I knew that some of my little learners are not so interested in the gridiron.

Anticipating that this would translate into writer's block, I opted to brainstorm together. We did so by adding topics on Post-It notes to my big football. My 3rd grade football fans frantically waved their hands in the air begging me to call on them so they could add such phrases as Tom Brady, Rematch with the Giants, and AFC Champions to the potential topics list. Another popular choice was Rob Gronkowski. Lucky for me 1/3 of my class was sporting Gronkowski jerseys so I was able to spell it without consulting Google.

And then there were my non-football fans. We talked about things that are associated with football that they could select as a topic. I had kids write about cheerleading, Gatorade and nachos. By the time we were done, each little sweetie had a topic they were excited about.

After we went through the web-draft-edit routine, they completed their final copy and then it was time for our craftivity.

These caused me to lose sleep. On Monday we completed the heads and bodies. I thought they looked like astronauts. I literally woke at 4:30 and the first thought that popped into my mind was "facemask." Sure enough when we added the 3D face masks it all came together.


I was so excited by their cute little football players that I impulsively blurted out, "Oooh get me the silver glitter. These need some glitter."

In case y'all didn't know....I LOATHE glitter.

It is not a secret.

I had to laugh when one of my little boys leaned over to another and said, "Mrs. D TOTALLY just got caught up in the moment. She never would have used glitter if she had thought about it." So funny because it's true.

I put green paper and white stripes on the back of the board.

The border makes me smile. I simply cut 12x18 construction paper into a spiral. It actually went all the way around my board. I love how it looks.

All of the writing pages I used for this project are included in my Football-Themed Writing Packet Freebie. Swing by my products page to download it for free!

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

How to Plan for a Sub for More Than a Day

I'm sure I'm not alone when I say that, as a teacher, it is much easier to muddle through a school day when you aren't feeling well than it is to plan for a sub. Still the occasional day comes along when you just can't make it in for reasons beyond your control and your emergency sub plans kick in (see my planning for an emergency sub series for tips on preparing for those days).

However, there are times when you need to be out of the classroom for a bit longer than you would like and you'll want your kids to carry on with the learning they deserve in your absence. Admittedly, that really comes down to the quality of your sub, but you can certainly do your part in making things go as smoothly as possible.

While there is no right or wrong way to go about doing this, I thought I would take the opportunity to share how I prepared for my absence.

The idea of being out of the room for over a week was overwhelming. Add in that I wasn't entirely sure how long I would be out or how I would be feeling post-surgery really muddied the waters. It was for that reason that I over planned. I was very glad I did (but, more on that later in the post) so this system for preparing for a sub proved to be priceless in my situation.

Luckily, as part of my emergency sub plans I have a copy of my procedures and routines manual at the ready along with a template for each day of the week saved on my computer. The template lists our schedule along with the expectations in great detail. For example...

8:25 Students enter the classroom. During this time they will be unpacking and getting ready to start the day. Position yourself in the doorway so that you can see the students in the classroom and at their lockers in the hallway at the same time. The expectation is that they will be unpacked and reading at their seats by the time the morning song ends.

8:40 Read Aloud: Sound the wind chimes to signal that it is time for the students to transition to their assigned spots in the group area. The expectation is that they listen quietly to the story. They are asked not to use the bathroom or get drinks during read aloud or direct lessons. Today you will be reading ______

That way I just need to fill in the book title for that day. Because my schedule is very structured by the day I was able to create a start to finish overview of each weekday with blank boxes for the specific details of lessons, page numbers and assignments. Having these documents on the computer is invaluable. My regular daily plans are obviously not that detailed because I know my routines, but in a real pinch I am able to print the template and just staple my daily plans to it.


In planning for my leave, I actually compiled all of the resources (worksheets, activity pages, read aloud books, packets, etc) and lined them up sequentially by day. I used post-it notes to create tabs between subject areas in each pile and wrote directly on them (math workshop, reader workshop, writer's workshop, etc).

Then I took one pile at a time to my desk, opened up the related day's document and typed in the specifics. Once everything was printed and copied I added an attendance sheet and placed the plans on top of the pile. I had initially used rubber bands to secure the piles together, but decided sliding them into bags was a better option.
As you can see, I added a quick construction paper tab with the date the plans were for. I staggered the placement of the tab so they could all be seen at a glance and placed the bags in order in a bucket.
I then placed the bucket on my desk with the teacher's manuals next to them. This way the sub had everything she needed at her fingertips for the planned leave. But then... 

I went to my follow-up visit with the surgeon feeling great and hopeful that I would be cleared to go back to school a day earlier than planned.

Unfortunately, not only did that not happen, but instead I was surprised to find out there was an additional stone in my bile duct which resulted in a whirlwind that included an MRI, a hospital stay, medical transports to Boston, a team of specialists brought in on a Saturday and an "emergency procedure." Long story short, my leave ended up being longer than I had planned. For that reason I was VERY glad that in addition to the plans I left in my bucket above, I also had written out and prepped plans for this week as well. 

All seems to be well now. I feel fabulous and am planning to return to the classroom in the morning. Yeah!!!



Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Monday, January 28, 2013

While You Were Out: Make a Classroom Expectation Chart With Your Students


One of my most popular posts of all-time has been a compilation of a series I wrote about How to Plan for an Emergency Sub Situation (you know, for those moments when your child gets sick and can't go to daycare or you wake up in the middle of the night with food poisoning). If you haven't read it before, you may want to check it out and grab the related freebies that are included in the post.

Tomorrow I'll be posting about how to set up for a planned extended absence (which thanks to my gallbladder...or as it stands now my lack of a gallbladder...I am all too familiar with now).  Today I wanted to show you something I did with my class in an attempt to make life easier for any sub that is placed into my room.

Because, let's be honest, no matter how well you plan for your absence and no matter how many "pep talks" you have with your little cherubs, they are going to try to get away with things when you are not around.  When you return to the classroom you want to just roll up your sleeves and get busy making up for lost time and not fielding reports on who did what while you were home sniffling and sneezing. 

But it happens.

When the cats away...the mice shall play...unless you have them put the classroom expectations into their own words in their own handwriting and post it on the wall as evidence that they know what's what. :)

Over the years I found that each time I was away from the classroom, the same items were "up for debate." As I've written about many times before I feel very strongly that having concrete and consistent procedures and routines within the classroom is the key to excellent classroom management. It is important to communicate those in your sub plans. However, kids will be kids.

And that means that kids are going to try to get away with stuff when you aren't there. That was why I targeted the items that seemed to cause the most issues when I would be out and put together a quick, but effective activity with my students.

Here's What I Did:
  • I already had my own mental list of those pesky things that I would get reports on (both from the sub and other students) upon return.  But I solicited input from the kiddos. And they hit the nail on the head. They know the deal as much as we do. We made a list of each of the typical areas that needed to be addressed.
  • Next I took that list and divided my class up into that many teams to work collaboratively at working on explaining the expectations in writing for the area they were assigned.
  • Then I had each group present what they came up with. The read what they wrote to the class and added in anything that classmates suggested for further elaboration.
  • Finally I glued them onto the chart. I typically will make my anchor charts fancier, but felt that this one was important to leave as is so they really had ownership for it.
I added to the top of all my sub plans (both emergency and planned absence plans), "Start the day by reading the chart out loud to the class.  Ask them to elaborate and clarify if needed."

This way the sub and the class are all on the same page. The kids know that the sub knows the deal. The day runs much smoother.

{Be sure to check out my procedure and routines workbook and related video for more ideas on how to better manner your classroom}




Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Make a Clean Sweep: CFC Project 2013 Challenge #3


If you are just joining us, you'll want to start here or check out my Clutter-Free Guide to Classroom Organization & Management.
It's time for week 3 of the The Clutter-Free Classroom PROJECT.

Last week had you all developing plans for getting rid of the clutter. You were asked to come up with some non-negotiable rules for deciding if an item can stay or go and to make a plan for where the unwanted stuff would go to. Now it is time to roll up your sleeves and MAKE A CLEAN SWEEP!

Let's take a quick second to look over some things that I really and truly want you to embed in your brains and think about throughout the process...
  • You can't organize clutter.
  • The less you have, the less you need to manage.
  • Your trash is {quite possibly} another person's treasure.
  • There is no value in an object that isn't being used.







Throughout this week I want you to make a clean sweep of your classroom. Don't get overwhelmed. It's actually a lot easier than it sounds. We won't be getting into those crammed cabinets, overstuffed drawers, and bursting-at-the-seams boxes you have stuffed in the closet just yet. We'll tackle those when we really roll up our sleeves and take on one section of the room at a time for a hardcore decluttering, deep cleaning and organizational makeover in the coming weeks. For now I just want you to take on the obvious clutter that is causing visual chaos and is a constant source of stress. We're going to wipe out the stuff that makes people think you aren't as organized as you could be people when they walk into your room. 

I want you to start in one corner of your room and work from top to bottom and left to right. Ultimately you'll do a complete 360 around the entire classroom.  Get rid of anything that is out in the open for everyone to see that does not fit within the rules you decided upon. If an item is out of place, move it to where it should be. Don't worry about doing a deep cleaning, but wipe down surfaces as you go.








  • If you haven't already taken "before" photos make sure you do so prior to taking on this week's task. You'll be so glad you did.


  • If you haven't already made a plan for where your clutter will go or prepared your sorting bins, be sure to do that first as well (related links to help: large Sorting Bins , Small Sorting Bins, Make Labels for Sorting - free printables included).
  • Ask an honest friend to help. We are in our classrooms so often that we take things for granted. Having an outsider come in and offer honest thoughts and opinions about how your room presents itself can be a huge asset. 
  • Make sure you have a timer of some sort to keep you on task. The faster you work the less you'll second guess yourself. Use a countdown timer and set a goal. For example: I'll clear off this counter in less than 10 minutes. Play beat the clock.
  • Break the task into manageable goals. Look at it as a weeklong project. Plan to tackle one of your four walls (including open shelves and counters) each day Monday through Thursday and then use Friday for the surfaces in the center of the room.
  • Don't be tempted to go into cabinets, closets, closed containers, desk drawers, etc. This week is strictly about the surface clutter. It can include excess furniture that is not being used, piles of papers on counters, decor that isn't purposeful, outdated anchor charts, etc.
  • Get the stuff out of there IMMEDIATELY. Use your plan for where the clutter will go and get it there right away rather that means walking it to the dumpster, recycling bin, teacher lunchroom or another teacher's classroom. Just get it out of there and don't look back.
  • Take pictures after you make a clean sweep. Compare them to your before pictures. It will feel great and motivate you to keep going.








On Friday, I'll put up another Linky Party related to the Clutter-Free Classroom PROJECT. The Linky will be ongoing and you can always jump in and link up at anytime. If you don't have a blog you can respond to the prompt in the comment section on Friday's post. Below is this week's prompt. Keep these questions in mind as you take your pictures:

BLOG PROMPT for Friday's Linky:
Show us your "Clean Sweep." Let's see those initial before and after pictures or photos of your pile of "clutter" just before it exits your room and starts you on the path to having a "Clutter-Free Classroom."
classroom organization tips classroom organization ideas classroom organization supplies classroom storage classroom management classroom arrangement classroom organization skills organization ideas for the classroom organization ideas for teachers organization ideas for elementary classrooms decluttering a classroom declutter classroom before pictureskindergarten first grade second grade third grade fourth grade fifth grade sixth grade preschool 1st grade 2nd grade 3rd grade 4th grade 5th grade 6th grade time management, professional organizer, ways to get organized, organizing products, helping kids get organized, organizing teachers, the organized classroom, tips for getting organized tips for classroom organization storage manipulatives school supplies

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Be Careful What You Wish For

I can't tell you how many times I've uttered the phrase, "I just really need a week alone in the house."

Which clearly falls in the category of "be careful what you wish for."

Because a random week alone comes at a price. 
If this were a Tweet, I would be all about the hashtags...

#ThingsIDon'tHaveTimeFor

#ButIt'sHighStakesTestingSeason

#ControlFreaksAndSurgeryDon'tMix

Without getting into the nitty gritty details of my intenstines, I'll say it's been a rough couple of months culminating in my gallbladder no longer being part of my body organ inventory and me going on 29 days sans coffee.

The latter being more traumatic to me than the actual removal of a body part.

I. really. miss. coffee!

I had surgery last Thursday and am "recovering" at home.

And by recovering, I mean partaking in painkiller-induced online shopping sprees (bathing suits in January in New England? Makes sense to this girl).

I'm going back to the doctor on Friday and am hoping to be cleared to return to work on Monday.

Because that's as far as my sub plans go.

And let me tell you, planning for an extended sub is no fun at all. But, I do have some pics and a blog post in the works for those of you who may find yourself in a similar situation down the road.

Luckily I lined up an awesome sub and I have a wonderful classroom aide this year so I have peace of mind that all will be well while I'm gone.

I'm not sure how this week will turn out. I was hopeful that the extended couch stay would result in having a chance to chip away at my blog and product to do list, but the past few days have actually found me falling behind. I'm feeling better each day. My kids are going back to school tomorrow so the house will be quiet.

Hopefully you'll be hearing lots more from me soon.

I hope all y'all who are off today are enjoying the l-o-n-g weekend. xoxo Jodi



Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Friday, January 18, 2013

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Groundhogs: Informational Texts and Non-Fiction Resources

Yesterday I shared some writing ideas and a few of my favorite fiction books about Groundhog Day. Today I'm continuing with my "Get Ready for Groundhog Day series" by showcasing some great non-fiction reads that you may want to share with your class.


 Groundhog Day (Rookie Read-About Holidays) is a simple book, but has some decent pictures and facts. It's best suited for grades 1-2, but my 3rd graders were able to pull some facts from it for their research writing.


The Groundhog Day Book of Facts and Fun contains a lot of great information and is presented in a way that is easy for the kids to understand and holds their interest. It not only 
discusses Groundhog Day, but also explains the seasons and why they change.


Groundhog at Evergreen Road - a Smithsonian's Backyard Book is an informational text that is part of the Smithsonian Backyard Series. This book is especially good if you are researching groundhogs because it focuses on their predators.


Animal Research: Templates to Guide Student Writing When Researching Any Animal is a 55 page packet that includes everything you need to have your students write an animal research report. It includes pages for brainstorming animals to research, task cards, graphic organizers, primary and intermediate-ruled draft pages and pages for publishing the final product. This is such a motivating assignment for students. I complete one with my class and then it quickly becomes a favorite choice activity for independent work.

Groundhog Day: A Writing Resource Differentiated for K-5 includes 15 printable pages of thematic materials to use in your K-5 classrooms. The packet is open-ended so that you can use it with any of the writing ideas that I listed above or your own ideas as well. There are 4 full-color printables to be used as class book covers or as titles on your bulletin boards when displaying the student writing. I carefully design each of my writing kits to include differentiated versions of my webs, draft paper and final copy pages to make it easy for you to modify within your current class and to be timeless enough to use if you change grade levels.

The Groundhog Day packet is also included in my money-saving February and March 6 Packet Writing Bundle along with writing packets for: President's Day, Teeth, Dr. Seuss, St. Patrick's Day and  Valentine's Day.


For additional Groundhog Day ideas and resources to use in your classroom, please check out my...
These are some links that I share with my class when we are working in the research projects:







Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Monday, January 14, 2013

Groundhog Day: Fiction Books and Writing Ideas

Groundhog Day is one of those holidays that totally sneaks up on you. By the time you turn the calendar to February...BAM...it's already here. Over the next two days, I'll be blogging about books and ideas to help you plan ahead to celebrate the little guy (and more importantly, the start of spring). Today's post features some fiction books that I enjoy reading to my students and my own kids at home. Tomorrow I'll share the informational texts that I use.


Go To Sleep, Groundhog! by Judy Cox features a furry little fellow who has a hard time falling asleep. Despite hitting the sack on Columbus Day as usual, he tosses and turns. Ultimately he creeps out of his burrow and comes to realize he's been missing lots of holidays by sleeping. He meets characters such as a Halloween Witch, a Thanksgiving Turkey and Santa. This is a fun book for reinforcing calendar concepts with little learners.


Mr. Groundhog Wants the Day Off is about a groundhog who needs a break. He's tired of being blamed for 6 more weeks of winter and tries to get others to do his job. This book is a great springboard for a writing project about a job/responsibility that your students would like to give away. Since the characters in the story point out the reasons why the groundhog is good at his job, it also lends itself to writing about a chore they are good at.

Along those same lines, Substitute Groundhog tells the tale of a groundhog who is feeling under the weather and interviews other animals to fill in for him. This book pairs nicely with having the students write about an animal they think would make a good substitute for the groundhog.




Ten Grouchy Groundhogs is a cute story about grouchy, grubby, gobbling, gabby, giggly, groovy, graceful, glitzy, gleeful, groggy groundhogs getting ready for their great big day. This book easily lends itself to math extensions for young students, but I think it's a fun one to reinforce adjectives. Challenge your students to think of even more adjectives that start with the letter G or have them each pick a different animal and brainstorm adjectives that begin with that letter as well. While this book was written for younger learners, it's a fun one to read to intermediate students as well. You can do the same activity, but with a lesson on alliteration and dictionary skills by having them use a dictionary to find even more adjectives that start with that letter. 

AND MY PERSONAL FAVORITE...Groundhog Weather School by Joan Holus. While most groundhog books are geared towards the little folks, this one is a great read for my third graders. It's funny and engaging and chock full of facts. The style of the writing and pictures really appeals to them and they gather details to use in their groundhog animal research writing as well. If you aren't familiar with this book I highly suggest you snag a copy to share with your students.


Animal Research: Templates to Guide Student Writing When Researching Any Animal is a 55 page packet that includes everything you need to have your students write an animal research report. It includes pages for brainstorming animals to research, task cards, graphic organizers, primary and intermediate-ruled draft pages and pages for publishing the final product. This is such a motivating assignment for students. I complete one with my class and then it quickly becomes a favorite choice activity for independent work.

Groundhog Day: A Writing Resource Differentiated for K-5 includes 15 printable pages of thematic materials to use in your K-5 classrooms. The packet is open-ended so that you can use it with any of the writing ideas that I listed above or your own ideas as well. There are 4 full-color printables to be used as class book covers or as titles on your bulletin boards when displaying the student writing. I carefully design each of my writing kits to include differentiated versions of my webs, draft paper and final copy pages to make it easy for you to modify within your current class and to be timeless enough to use if you change grade levels.

The Groundhog Day packet is also included in my money-saving February and March 6 Packet Writing Bundle along with writing packets for: President's Day, Teeth, Dr. Seuss, St. Patrick's Day and  Valentine's Day.


For additional Groundhog Day ideas and resources to use in your classroom, please check out my...

Groundhog Day Pinterest Board which features crafts, cooking and more 

Blog Posts about Shadows 

and my Groundhog Day Non-Fiction Book Blog Post {tomorrow}





Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

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