Sunday, June 30, 2013

Catching Fire and Hunger Games

With November's movie date fast approaching, I am one of many eagerly re-reading Suzanne Collin's Catching Fire.  While I liked the movie adaptation of Hunger Games, it pales in comparison to my love of the books...but isn't that always the case?

I am also preparing for reading these novels with a new group of fifth graders in a few months an preparing for the inevitable comments from a few stinkers about "can't I just watch the movie instead?".  No, you can't.  Movie fans lack the development of Katniss and Peeta's relationship.  More importantly, they can' tell me who Madge no, the movie doesn't replace the book.

To prepare for these literature circles, I've made sorts where students must put the events back into chronological order.  This requires them to pay attention to key details, re-read the parts of the book and think critically about how the chapters and events build upon one another.

They are available on my TPT store now :)
(Mockingjay should be up within the week but Hunger Games and Catching Fire are available now!)

My students enjoyed this sort and would have some great literature discussions.  They'd often independently start talking about which characters they liked best and which events were the most meaningful to them, which is always exciting as a teacher :)

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Wowzers, it has been a busy week.  In addition to trainings, I completed and uploaded comprehension sorts for the first five Harry Potter novels where students have to put the events back into chronological order.  This reinforces concepts of text structure and how chapters and events build upon one another.  You can grab them here.

My goal is to finish books six and seven tonight, then upload them so I can start working on Hunger Games and the Percy Jackson series :) 

I'd love to have everything up and available for purchase by the time the school year rolls around...since oddly enough, many educators aren't thinking about sorts during their summer breaks. I can't imagine why not! Learning is on my mind all the time :)

Wednesday, June 26, 2013

Classroom Cuteness

There are few things I like more than making my environments a happy, cozy place.  I love decorating for the seasons and putting pink or polka dotted things everywhere.  My classroom is no exception.  I figure if I'm going to spend a lot of time there, I might as well make it cute.

So first things first, a classroom sign

Using a craft board, wooden dicuts, chalk paint markers and glue, I created a happy welcome sign for my room.  (Then proceeded to make them for my team mates so we could have a cute hallway)  All the supplies are available at any craft store and they take about ten minutes each to make.  
I've used fake flowers, rhinestones, decorative masking tape and stickers (if you don't like your handwriting) to personalize them.  

Second, an adaptation of the daily five with Harry Potter themed cafe signs, which were another exciting TpT freebie!

I have the higher readers for small groups, so we focus on accuracy, vocabulary acquisition, fluency and comprehension.  I was beyond giddy when I stumbled upon these zebra print signs, which mesh well with my zebra and pink reading strategies board.

Here is our reading corner:

To further encourage reading, I found these cute motivational signs that I put on books.  

Here they are pictured on our science FOSS Landforms books underneath my smartboard.  Something fun and whimsical to add a little joy to our day.

Here is one of our quick and easy centers:

Students add a post it with what their favorite character in their novel would say at that exact moment :)

To track their progress in writing, they use star magnets on our "star writers" board

While I am in no way super organized, here's a snapshot of my classroom.  If possible, everything is pink or polka dotted :)

I'm excited to set up my classroom again in a few months :)


Due to budget cuts and attempts to be thrifty, I am a huge fan of upcycling.  Essentially, it's reusing and recycling objects into cuter, more useful objects.  

Project One

Mason jar + stickers + Popsicle sticks = I'm done jar.  Students can draw a stick when they've completed a task and choose their next activity until the rest of the class is done with the task at hand.

(Popsicle sticks not pictured)

Project 2

Using tissue box wood covers from a craft store (Hobby Lobby, Michael's, Joann's, etc), modge podge, packing tape and scrapbook paper, I created cute tissue boxes for my classroom.

The batman one was made by photocopying old comics from the 1960's onto pink paper before making a collage.  The other is just polkadotted scrapbook paper.  

Just a quick project to add a touch of whimsy to my classroom :)

Project 3

Using old, brown magazine holders, electrical tape (pink and blue), scrapbook paper and modge podge, I upcycled to these: 

Way more fun then standard brown ones.  Pink chevron print, black with white hearts and blue polka dots fit perfectly in my classroom.  Plus, they were under $2.00 each to upcycle!

Happy crafting!
-Ms. Vice

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Adventures in bulletin boards

As both a former student council member and RA/CA in college, I am well acquainted with bulletin boards.  Secretly, I kind of love bulletin's like scrapbooking for everyone to see! I get to pick cute borders, fun saying, fancy fonts, pretty borders...sigh.  Unfortunately, our bulletin boards sometimes get a little wear and tear from young hands roaming the hallways.  Luckily, we are able to staple plastic up to make the boards last...kind of like an iPhone case for the wall.  Here are some of my favorite bulletin boards :)

Any time I'm able to do a football theme, I will :)  We need to kick off our new year with our academic learning goals.

After our goals came down, I used the background to do a data analysis unit with Superbowl predictions.  I made a very simple sheet (gender, prediction, grade, class) and distributed the sheets to fellow teachers.  My students then collected the data and analyzed it in anyway their group saw fit: double bar graphs comparing grades or genders, bar graphs looking at grade level predictions or class predictions, you name it.  I think my little mathematicians had a little too much fun with their graphs, but that's never a bad thing!

I've also done several social studies boards where my students write persuasive letters to King George either for or against the American Revolutionary War.  I dye regular printer paper overnight in tea or coffee, let it dry, then have my students use feathers and paint to create their letters.

  It is time consuming, but an authentic task that helps them gain a little more appreciation for the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and many other fine, hand-quilled gems.

Then there are the days when I'm inspired by my iPad and try to be technologically relevant.  So I use my elmo and projector to trace this bad boy:

Then I spend hours coloring it as a way of procrastinating setting up my room.  Then I laminate it to protect my procrastination.  Then I write my students a "dead word warning" from you guessed it, the zombies.

I tell them that I found one of these juicy word plants, fueled by sun synonyms.  They had a blast making sun synonyms (yellow circles).  Then one day while they were at specials, I assembled this:

That bulletin board stayed up, untouched, for several months :)

More to come, but happy bulletin board crafting :)

Ms. Vice


While chronological order and sequence may seem like easy concepts for fifth graders, I assure you my latest sort is deceivingly simple!  Students will have to recreate Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone by putting the 34 events into chronological order!  By analyzing the events and discussing which came first, they are secretly reviewing the importance of text structure and analyzing how events come together to make a story (RL 5.5).  Mwhahaha! I love when they secretly learn and don't even realize it!

The first sequence sort for Harry Potter can be downloaded here, for free.  That's right, for free :)  You are welcome.  If you like it, consider grabbing the second.

I'm hoping that you'll like the sort enough to download the rest of the series (once they're up later this week...okay, summer. Let's not get too crazy ambitious here!). Maybe you'll even tell all your friends about them...but that's only if you really like it.  I'm also hoping you'll leave feedback on how I can make these activities even better :)

My munchkins liked them and here's hoping yours will too!

Ms. Vice

PS: final teaching tip:
Print each book on a different color of paper and color-code the baggies.  It makes cleaning up less stressful :)

Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets Sort up & ready!

For all you muggles out there, you should I know I love Harry Potter perhaps more than any other book series, ever.  So naturally, I created sorts to go along with the novels. I have quote sorts and events sorts, but the first one is up and ready for your downloading pleasure :)

(Yes, I'm aware the first one I posted is actually the second novel, but that's okay.  The rest should be up soon!)

My munchkins had a great time with this sort and enjoyed reading the quotes in what they imagined to be the character's voices.  Hopefully your young scholars will have just as much fun!

As always, any feedback here or on TpT is much appreciated :)

-Ms. Vice

Monday, June 24, 2013

Combating First Day Jitters

Naturally, a few weeks into summer, I'm starting to think about the start of the school year.  Last year I created some cute welcome notes to help my students feel at ease and welcome in our new classroom.  After all, fifth grade can be a scary place!

While some of the ideas are modified from things on Pinterest, I am still rather proud of the cuteness that occurred in my classroom.  

First things first, every student needs a shiny new pencil to help them show off their best work!  So I found the image, dicut a lot of large circles, added two hole punches and stuck a brand new pencil into their treat.  Time intensive? Perhaps...I think I accomplished the whole assembly process during an episode or two of the Office.  But my students loved them and I'm glad I made them, since many munchkins forgot a pencil on their first day.

Plus a pencil...

Of course, I am not above bribery during the first week.  While I tend to wear a black dress on the first day when we read Ms. Nelson is Missing, I also make sure they feel included with treats like these during the first week:

That's right, we are bursting with excitement!  During standardized testing time, we are bursting with knowledge :)  I cut these out and attached them to a few mini packs of Starbursts.

A slightly healthier option is going with a bag of Lucky Charms :)  A nice, dry cereal snack for the first few days while everyone's tummies are readjusting to the school schedule (and needing to wait to eat!)

Good luck on your first day smartie pants!

To encourage reading, I found these cute freebies on TpT.  The image is small, but they are colorful bookmarks that say: "Hey, I just met you and this is crazy, but here's a novel, so read it maybe" 

I love the first weeks of school almost as much as I love summer :)

Ms. Vice

First Product! Tuck Everlasting Quote Sort

After a productive afternoon, fueled by Netflix and tea, I have published my first products on TpT, which you can grab the freebie here.  It is a novel sort for Tuck Everlasting, which is one of the exemplar texts for the Common Core.  More importantly, it's a timeless novel (pun intended) that my students absolutely loved.  After we finished the novel as a class, I introduced them to this sort and had them analyze which characters said which quotes.  During their discussions, many referred back to the text to confirm their answers and groups were discussing how they knew it was a certain character based on the author's word choice.  Thrilled by the success of this center, I went on to create more based on the readings we'd done in class.

It is a freebie of the full sort, which you can get here. I have created similar sorts for the Harry Potter series, Percy Jackson's adventures, Number the Stars and the first few books in the Series of Unfortunate Events.  

I laminate the sorts (fifth graders can be rough on centers!) and color code if the book is part of a series.  For example, each of the Harry Potter sorts was printed on a different color so when I inevitably find a yellow quote of "Or worse, expelled!" by Hermione Granger, I can immediately figure out which baggie it goes back in, thus eliminating the headache that always comes with finding missing pieces after school :)  More importantly, my munchkins can be responsible and clean up after themselves and ensure that they're putting the center back nicely for the next group.

Hopefully you find it useful and if you can think of ways that I could improve, please let me know! I thrive on constructive feedback :)  (Although compliments are nice too!)

Ms. Vice

Testing Motivation


For many of my fifth graders, standardized testing means lots of anxiety.  To ease their fears, I created little incentives to boost their confidence each day.  I wrote letters home to families (in English and Spanish) asking for good luck letters for my young scholars.  Coupled with treats and good luck banners, my students felt loved and encouraged to do their best!

Other testing ideas include:

"good luck smartie pants!" (always a classic when combined with smarties candies)

"don't be an airhead!" (with airhead candy)

"don't blow it! Take your time and do your best!" (with blowpops)

A new pencil to help you dazzle your readers (for the writing test)

I love when my students feel successful :)

Welcome and hello!

Ahh...summer.  The time when teachers rediscover this concept called free time.  However, if you're like me, summer means time for reflection on the past school year, lots of reading and planning to make next school year even better!

I just finished my fourth year in fifth grade at a Title 1 school in Las Vegas, NV.  I absolutely love my school and have the most supportive team.  I've been blessed with some amazing young scholars who continually push me to redefine my teaching.  In hopes of engaging them in literature based discussions while I am meeting with other groups, I created various sorts based on their novels: Hunger Games, Harry Potter, Percy Jackson and more!

I am in the process of uploading many of these sorts and teaching resources on (TpT for those in the know!), which you can visit here.

I also love pinterest's fabulous teaching ideas!  Follow my teaching pins here.

Please check back often!  

-Ms. Vice