Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway: Do This, Not That Tips for Teachers

5th Grade Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway August 2015DO THIS:  Assign your students numbers.

NOT THAT: Label everything (cubbies, mailboxes, lockers, etc.) with student names.

My big tip for heading back to school is to assign your students numbers at the beginning of the year.  Here’s why:

FIRST:  You can easily number your student mailboxes, cubbies, folders, and more and not have to re-label everything each year.  It saves a lot of time!  Plus, you don’t have to wait for your class list to label stuff.  If you teach upper elementary, consider using roman numerals.  Then students HAVE to learn what those mean!  Imagine NOT having to peel name stickers off of everything at the end of the year and instead just putting up those circle dot stickers they sell at Walmart once every few years.

Colored Dot Stickers for Teachers

You can get these guys at Walmart for about $4.00. There’s tons of them in a pack and they are a lot cheaper than individual name tags.

SECOND:  Finding out who is missing an assignment is so much easier.  One of my classroom jobs is “paper manager.”  Their job is to collect all papers and put them in number order.  I teach students to write their number very large in the top left hand corner of every paper at the beginning of the year.  The paper managers can quickly find who is missing an assignment and gather it from the student.  If the assignment isn’t done, or a student is absent, the paper manager writes a list on a sticky note and puts it on the stack before paper clipping the bundle of assignments together.

Teacher Humor Teacher Meme Lost Assignments

THIRD:  By about week three I have my numbered list memorized.  It helps a ton during emergency drills and field trips.  I can call my class list out from memory to see if anyone is missing.  Yes, most of the time I have my gradebook and can look at my list, but if I’m ever without it, I’m fine!

You might be saying, “But I want my classroom to be personal.  Students should have their names on cubbies!”  I have used this system with success for over a decade.  Even with first graders!  A veteran teacher shared this tip with me and I’m quite grateful!  Some students truly want their name on stuff and here is my suggestion:  Let them!  Students can decorate an index card with their name and use a piece of painter’s tape to affix the name to the cubby/locker/desk.

Now for the giveaway stuff… you’ve worked hard setting up that classroom!  Would you like to win a $25 Amazon gift card from The Pensive Sloth to spoil yourself (or buy something for your classroom)?  Of course you would!  Click the link below to be taken to Rafflecopter to enter the giveaway.

My giveaway terms:  To be eligible to win, you must be a teacher or homeschooling parent in the US or Canada.  Verification may be required.  Once a winner is chosen and contacted, he/she has 24 hours to respond by email.  If a response isn’t received in the time frame, a new winner will be selected and contacted.  If something seems fishy, I reserve the right to use Rafflecopter to select a new winner.  Only one $25 Amazon gift card will be given away.

 

More great giveaway stuff…Click the NEXT STOP image below to see what Miss Stefany has to share and giveaway!  There are nine teacher bloggers in this hop, each giving away something fantastic, so don’t stop here.  Keep going!  You can do it!  After you hop through, you’ll land at the Lesson Deli page where you can enter to win a $100 gift card to TPT.

5th Grade Back to School Blog Hop and Giveaway August 2015

Click the NEXT STOP button to head over to Interactive Learning with Miss Stefany!

Back To School: What Teachers Are REALLY Thinking

Don’t shoot the messenger, but summer is winding down.  Here’s what’s on my mind!

Back to School Humor from The Pensive Sloth Staff Development and Team BuildingBack to School Teacher Humor from the Pensive Sloth School SuppliesBack to School Humor from The Pensive Sloth Wedding VowsBack to School Teacher Humor from The Pensive Sloth Class ListBack to School Teacher Humor from The Pensive Sloth Dollar StoreBack to School Teacher Humor from The Pensive Sloth Training and Staff DevelopmentBack to School Teacher Humor from The Pensive Sloth BathroomBack to School Teacher Humor from The Pensive Sloth New CurriculumBack to School Teacher Humor from The Pensive Sloth PaydayBack to School Teacher Humor from The Pensive Sloth Walmart–The Pensive Sloth

My Classroom Isn’t Cute

Back to School Classroom Decor Ecard Teacher Humor from The Pensive SlothWith all the photos of cute classrooms making the rounds on Pinterest, I’ve given some thought to what my classroom looks like. It isn’t cute and I’m OK with that. It’s organized, most of the bins match (because I only buy the same semi-indestructible ones), and my students and I can find what we need quickly. But it isn’t decorated. I don’t really have a theme. And I don’t think cute is an adjective anyone would use to describe it.

I guess the reason I’m writing this post is two-fold. First, for those teachers out there that don’t have cute classrooms, I want you to know that it is OK. You’re in good company. There are plenty of us in the teaching world—even in elementary–with functional, student friendly rooms that don’t look like they came out of a teacher’s version of “Better Homes and Gardens.” The second reason for writing this post is a little more controversial. As professionals, how we spend our time and money setting up the classroom matters. It speaks volumes about what we hold important, and frankly it worries me when I see classrooms where more energy was placed into pulling off a jungle theme than building a classroom library.

Here’s why I don’t stress about decorating at the beginning of the year:

  1. BOOKS—If I have spare money, I use it buy books rather than decorations. In my classroom we call it “Book Christmas” when the Scholastic box arrives, and it’s a pretty big deal. Last semester I spent a small fortune building a cryptozoology section in the classroom library because my kids were crazy about bigfoot, aliens, vampires, ghosts, and monsters that year. I went to every Half Price Books within 60 miles of my house and wiped out their crypto collections. Right now I’m working to beef up my graphic novels tub, but that’s another post! Personally, I’d rather spend money to build readers than buy labels, borders, and notepads that match.
  1. FUNCTIONALITY—Everything in my classroom serves a purpose. Supply tubs have everything students need so we don’t lose instruction time during activities. The posters and anchor charts that line the room are relevant to what students are learning. Our classroom shelves hold tons of books, reference materials, and science supplies. There isn’t space for anything else.
  1. WE DECORATE TOGETHER–In fact, the walls are pretty bare when the students come in. I have a cursive alphabet chart up, but that’s about it. It’s our job as a class to fill that space with our learning. If you come back about 3 weeks later, it’s not bare anymore and students have ownership of what’s covering the walls.
  1. TIME—They say that we make time for what is important to us in life, and decorating is not at the top of my list. When it’s time to head back to school and set up the room, I revise systems so that my classroom will run more smoothly this year, or I plan and prep for lessons. In my mind, there’s more important things to do than put up colorful borders or paint all my tubs the same color.
  1. DISTRACTED STUDENTS—There are plenty of articles out there about how too much color and bling can take the focus away from learning for students who already struggle to pay attention. Check out this one from Scientific American. Food for thought! The article talks about kindergarteners. I teach upper elementary, but trust me, they get distracted too!

Now, if decorating is your thing and it makes you truly, deeply happy, then go for it. Just please don’t give the side eye to those of us who do things differently. We have our reasons.

And for you brand new teachers stepping into your very own classrooms for the first time, seeing blank walls and empty shelves, I offer this advice… Focus on the shelves first. If you’re lucky enough to have a little cash, buy a few books. Resist the urge to spend your hard earned money on jungle-themed décor.  Purchase the essentials, a few tubs, some desk supplies, anchor chart paper and markers. Make peace with your bare walls and know that they won’t be bare for long.

–The Pensive Sloth

September vs. May

It’s May and we’re out of…

–Markers that work, except yellow.  We have lots of yellow.

–Pencils, but this isn’t new.  We’ve been out of pencils since March.

–Pages in our science notebooks.  Now we just tape pages in at the back as we go.

–Toner in our classroom printer.  All the pages print with faded gray fonts and words too faint to see in some places.  It’s kind of fun guessing what we think the author wrote, isn’t it?

–Construction paper, except yellow and brown.

–Staplers that work like they should.  The green one is missing the bottom and only works on walls and the black one jams more often than it staples.

–And…

5th Grade Teacher Humor #teacherproblems from The Pensive Sloth

That’s right.  We’re completely out of tissues (and it’s allergy season in Texas).  This is my low-cost solution.

Luckily, we’ve still got plenty of books to read.  I’m kind of a book-a-holic.

–The Pensive Sloth

A Teacher OPTS OUT of State Testing

Keep Calm Standardized Testing MEME

I read an article from a fellow teacher blogger today that is too important not to share.  It’s from Chrissie at The Undercover Classroom and you SHOULD click here to read it.   As teachers, we know that this over-emphasis on state testing has brought more harm than good to our classrooms.  My teacher friends and I talk about it and I vote and contact my state reps all the time.  I’m not kidding when I say that I have them both on speed dial.  But I truly feel helpless.  Perhaps that’s why Chrissie’s post resonated with me.  Chrissie is doing something about it.  She’s opting her child out of state testing.

The post is great.  She explains how our testing culture is bad for students.  And it is.  I especially liked #6 on her list, on how professional development has changed since testing has taken over the classroom.  How have I not considered this?  YES!  Teachers across the nation are spending more time during PD learning to analyze testing data and prep kids for the test and less time improving their skills as educators.

And to Chrissie, I just want to say THANK YOU.  Thank you for standing up for your daughter so that she doesn’t have to spend 16 hours taking a test.  And thank you for being brave and speaking up about this testing craziness!

PS–Chrissie isn’t the only one blogging about how teachers are responding to the testing madness.  Sallie Borrink wrote a super important post that you SHOULD read too.  Many teacher-parents are leaving the classroom altogether to homeschool their own children.  Are teachers who become homeschoolers the indicator species we should be watching?  I think so.

–The Pensive Sloth

Shut Up and Take My Money Teacher Style: The Amazing Moving Plant

The Amazing Moving Plant Shut Up and Take My Money Teacher Style Blog Series About Classroom Gadgets from The Pensive Sloth

It’s time for another Shut Up and Take My Money–Teacher Style post because there are so many cool things in the world you just have to get for your classroom!

If you’re a elementary science teacher, then you know that SPRING means Life Science and your classroom is hopping with critters and plants.  Ours is literally hopping with crickets that were supposed to make it into the eco-columns, but that’s another story!  Well, the other day I was watching TV and saw a commercial for something called the “Tickle Me Plant.”  The official name is Mimosa Pudica, but some people call it the sensitive plant or shy plant.  What really struck me about this plant was that I knew it would be a hit with students…and might just help them to learn a little about plant adaptations.  Basically, when the plant is touched, the leaves drop and it kind of looks like the plant is dying, but it’s not!  Wait a little while and the plant will be back to normal again.  Here’s a quick video so you can see for yourself:

Then tonight, while shopping at Michaels, I accidentally discovered an aisle filled with cool science toys and there it was!  The Amazing Moving Plant (Mimosa Pudica).  And on sale!  I’m planning to set it up and let it sprout at home before introducing it to students so that when I take it to school, it is ready to wow them with its adaptation of ‘playing dead’ when disturbed.  Here’s a few other plants with cool adaptations I plan to show my students.  We might even do a little research!

Plant Adaptations Anchor Chart from The Pensive Sloth for 5th Grade STAAR Life Science

I’ll let you know how it goes!  For more Just Take My Money–Teacher Style, you can read about Circuit Scribe and how your students can DRAW working electrical circuits.

–The Pensive Sloth

***NOTE–I was NOT paid and am not affiliated with any of the above groups.  I’m just a teacher-consumer interested in new tools to make learning fun for my students!***

UPDATE–The kids LOVED this!  It took some time for the seeds to sprout, and only about half of them did, but they really enjoyed watching them grow.  Unfortunately, we planted them so late in the year that we didn’t really get to enjoy the plants before the summer break.  I sent the plants home with a student.  I’d love to know if they’re still alive.  Let’s hope they remembered to water them!