Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Summer 2013 and Back-to-School Planning

Tomorrow, I will be going back to school!  My first day is August 7th, but the students' first day isn't until August 16th.  Our in-service is over a week long!  I'm excited to go back.  I don't yet know who will be in my class, but I do know most of the kiddos coming into 5th.  I requested a 4th grade roster before I left for summer and have been praying over all the student names on the list.

So besides putting a lot of prayer into this upcoming school year, what else have I been doing this summer?  Honestly, I worked a lot over the summer on school stuff.  Our school has an accreditation team visit to prepare for and all the teachers have been required to complete a million hours of paperwork.  Seriously.  We are having to recreate all of our units and complete something called a Unit Template; each one took me around one and a half hours to finish.  I did about 40 Unit Templates, even though there are close to 100 total.  Two other people are helping out with 5th grade's Unit Templates.  That was my focus during the month of June.

Once July came, I was able to take a few trips and spend some time with family and friends.  My husband and I took a vacation to the Florida Keys.  We stayed in Key Largo, but traveled down to Key West and everywhere in between.  We celebrated our 5th anniversary on our last day in the Keys.  We spent the week snorkeling, swimming, kayaking, and sight-seeing; it was a great trip!
Once we returned from the Keys, we spent a couple of days visiting with family in Orange Beach, Alabama.  Finally, I went to Mississippi for a week to visit my family.  After three weeks of traveling, it was good to get back home.

Over the past couple weeks, I have been working on a few Pinterest projects for my classroom.

I created an "All About the Teacher" book:
I bought the editable version from Brooke Hilderbrand's Teachers Pay Teachers store, which you can access by clicking HERE.  She has great stuff! 

I added Pom-Poms to my dry erase markers to create attached erasers for my students to use with their individual dry erase boards:
I bought a touch light from Dollar Tree and added stickers that read, "NO QUESTIONS."  When I'm working with a group (or conferencing with an individual student) and the light is on, we may not be interrupted.
I bought a bell (I've gone my entire teaching career with no bell.  I find them annoying, but I have a specific plan for how I will use this one in my classroom).  The store only had red.  I didn't like the red color so I painted it:
I created a "1st Day of School" photo frame since I always take pictures of my students on the first day.  I found an old large frame that had been stashed in our office closet, took out the glass and picture, painted it, and used Christine Maxwell's space decorations on the edges. 
This is perfect décor since the highlight of 5th grade is our Space Camp trip!  Visit Mrs. Maxwell's TPT store by clicking HERE. 

I made Birthday Balloons attached to silly straws:
I created a class set of whisper phones with PVC pipe from The Home Depot.  I've never used these with 5th grade, but so many of my students from last year were intrigued with the one whisper phone I had in my classroom (saved from when I tutored younger readers) that I decided to make a set available for students who may want to use them in reading groups.
Add some decorative Duct Tape to bump up the cuteness factor and we're good to go:
I'm in the middle of three other projects--a Dum-Dum Sucker Bouquet, an "I Didn't Do My Homework" binder to hold students accountable, and "Helping Hands" to display my classroom wish list for Open House.  Below are pictures of these projects from Pinterest; I'll post mine once I finish:
I've also been working on a non-Pinterest project.  I bought The Complete Book of Presidents & States, which I thought would be great for my classroom. 
In it I found a sticker page of all the states and their abbreviations.  I decided I would use this page to create a state identification challenge for my students...I think I'll call it "State Scramble" or something.  I used white-out to cover the abbreviations (after copying the page, of course), then I numbered the states with a Sharpie.  The students' task will be to correctly identify the numbered states.  It's quite tricky because the states aren't shown to scale; for example, Rhode Island looks larger than Arkansas!  The students will really need to know the shapes.  How many bonus points should I give the first student who identifies them all correctly?  ;)
I was able to go to school last week and check out my classroom.  I wanted to get my game-plan together on how to clean up the mess from summer.  I also wanted to go ahead and get my Back-to-School bulletin board out of the way.  I will tell ya--I hate putting up bulletin boards.  I don't know if it's because I put too many up as a child or what.  In 5th AND 6th grade, I was the official "Bulletin Board Putter Upper" for my teachers...and I loved it.  Not anymore.  Last year, I had a little guy who really enjoyed helping me decorate the bulletin board.  After his first offer to help, I was like, "Hey!  Would you like to put up the next one...on your own?"  Yes!  He did a fantastic job!  I simply showed him a picture of what I wanted (I've taken pics of all my boards and put them on file to help jog my memory) and he put it up.  At the end of the year I asked him, "What am I going to do next year without my Bulletin Board Assistant?!"  Man, I miss that kid!

Anyway, I had the idea to display letters that my 5th grade students from last year wrote to the 5th graders this year.  I would simply post "WELCOME" on the board and that would be that for the first week of school.  Kids could read the letters at their leisure, or the letters could be a great conversation piece at Orientation, the day before school.  I had great plans!  I used thumb tacks to sort of position everything and it looked awful!  It was information overload and I just could not deal!  So...I think I have an idea for a different Back-to-School board and I won't have to change the background or border.  I'll have to reveal it once it's done.  The letters, though, will still be read by the students and I'll even provide a link if you'd like to have your students write to the next class in the future. 
You should be able to edit it as needed--CLICK HERE.  As always, the font (and size) is distorted.  I'm not sure why that happens when I post these Google Docs.  Oh well. 

Finally, I was able to catch up on some reading and check out 5th grade literature that I hadn't read before.  I've got some great read alouds for this year!

As you can see, I had a busy, yet fun, summer.  I was able to get a lot of work done and still had some time to relax.  I had a wonderful break, but I'm ready to get back into my classroom!   


  1. I love all of your Pinterest inspired projects. One project that I had my kids do when I taught 5th grade was a Nation Notebook. Have you ever seen those? It was a TON of work, but the kids loved it and learned ALOT. It was also fun to share the Nation Notebook I did in 5th grade with them.


  2. Thank you! I've never heard of Nation Notebooks. I'll have to look that up! Thanks for sharing!

    1. Here is a link: http://www.abeka.com/ABekaOnline/BookDescription.aspx?sbn=134899

      This website will let you see some of the pages included in the research project.