Tales from Outside the Classroom

Using Powerpoint to Manage Centers Rotations

Last week I shared how I use Powerpoint to show my students their centers rotation each day for reading centers.  They have a new rotation each day and it was taking me too much time to switch out cards every morning.  Once the work is done, it's done.  I just open the slideshow, turn to the correct day, and project it for our entire rotation.  Math is a different story though.

  I tried doing a rotation where I slid the cards down to the next center after every switch.  It did not go well.  I would blow our whistle and I'd hear:


We didn't even quite make it two weeks before we needed a new plan.  I asked around if there was an app that would show the rotation.  The responses I got: Powerpoint.

It was an "Oh yeah!" moment.  So, in case you never had a similar moment, here's how I use it to help me.  There's also a detailed video tutorial at the end.

First, I created an image that I could use as the background.  I wanted it to be something I couldn't accidentally move.  I gave it a background and title and then added text boxes for each center.  The acronym I'm trying out this year is A + Math.  We go to 3 rotations a day so it takes 2 days to go to each center.

I also give my students a clean up time so that hopefully each center gets put away the exact way we've practiced.  I created a second image to put on the clean up screen.  Because the slideshow is auto-timed (more on that below) it automatically signals for students to rotate and move.  With math center sI like keeping the times regimented.  With my reading centers,  I may steal an extra couple minutes with a group if we're really working hard or in a discussion so I prefer not to have the times automatic then.

Our math center groups are organized by color.  I made a rectangle for each colored group.  I then layered a text box on top for the student names.  I grouped the two of them together and set them up with each center title.

I then inserted a text box into the right side and every two days I change out the information.  This is details on what the students are doing at each one, or what they need to bring with them to the center. This might seem like a lot of work, but it only takes me a moment to switch it up each morning.

I put three clean up slides and three center slides.  Every morning I set up the day's three slides by moving the bottom color to the top, selecting all of the other colors and dragging them down, and then copying/pasting the slide to do it again.  I'm currently trying to figure out if it's easier to do things with the colors rotated already and then just saving two different files (a Mon/Wed rotation and a Tues/Thurs rotation) and then all I'd have to do is change the text each morning.  I can't decide which is really the easiest....

Every Monday and Wednesday I set up the detailed information on the side.  It literally takes me a minute to type in and then it saves SO many questions during the two days.  We do an algebraic math program on Fridays and do not do centers.

If you'd like to watch the video to see how I created the Powerpoint step by step, click below.

I forgot one step in the video.  The last step.  To get the slideshow going, you have to hit it to start.  It starts timing immediately.  There are arrows pointing to the two options in the image below.

How do you manage centers in your classroom?  I'd love to hear some other ideas.  If you have any questions, leave me a comment and I'm happy to try and help!

Don't forget to check out the other great bright ideas posts below!

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Small Group Instruction Management

Last year I created cards to manage my centers.  My partner teacher and I combined groups so that our levels worked a bit better and then we split things up.  Our set up looked something like this (but with quite a few more places the students actually went to) and with three sessions.
This year I have 4 rotations most days and I have 6 groups.  Every morning I'd move the cards so the students knew where they'd go when.  It was taking me 5 minutes each morning to look at my chart and rearrange everything.  While 5 minutes doesn't seem like a lot, it adds up, and it's just one more thing I was having to do each morning.  I realized that if I just made one Powerpoint with each day of the week as a new slide, it'd be done.  For the year.  Or, you know, until our structure has to change for the fifteenth time during the year.  It has been a HUGE positive change for my mornings.  It's done.  It's ready.  I open the file, go to the slide, and then when we're ready, I just change it into slideshow mode.  When we're done, I escape out (of the file- not the room). ;)

I posted a picture of it on Instagram and Facebook last weekend.
I got a ton of responses from people who create the same thing.  I also got a ton of responses from people asking me to create one for them that they could buy.  It took me some time to come up with a way I could create it so that it was editable to meet everyone's needs, but still protected the clipart from Ashley Hughes.  I think this is a good compromise.  I've provided a few blank templates that people can use, but included most center options I think people need.
 This image shows the options with an editable teacher station and the blank template for the group names.  It also includes iPads, Independent Reading, and Listening as center options (among others).  It shows that the template fits 6 groups and 5 rotations.

 This arrangement shows the setup with the included group numbers, Group as the with teacher title, Computers, and Partner Reading (amongst others).

This arrangement shows the included options for colored group names, Work on Writing, Read to Self, and Tablets as included options.

I created a video to show you what's included with this file and how you can set it up and use it in your room.  It also shows you some tips I give for using Powerpoint for this type of thing.
  Just click the image below to head to TpT to check it out.
I'm also giving away a copy for free on Facebook so head over there to enter!

If you're looking for help in how to schedule your reading groups, or how often to see each group, I created these charts a long time ago when I was an instructional coach.  Many teachers spent so much time figuring out how to meet with each group so these are a nice little help.
 There are charts for 4-8 groups with 3 and 4 different sessions.  They're meant to be a base in your planning to help you get a jump start, but of course they're meant to be adjusted based on your kids' needs and abilities.

It's free in my TpT store so click the images to head over and download it to help you plan.

I've also posted how I use Powerpoint to completely manage my math centers.  Once it's set up, it manages the time, the clean up, and the switching.  Click here to check it out.

What do you use to manage your literacy centers?

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Erasable Office Supplies

If there's one thing that makes teachers happy it's new office supplies.  When I saw these from Shoplet I knew I wanted to check them out!  I was not let down.  They're ERASABLE!

First, I tried out these SuperTab Erasable Manila Folders from Smead.
 There's a little strip that has a sheen to it (that you can't see on here) on the tab for you to write on.  I love that you write on them in Sharpies.  This makes reading what's written SO much easier.  I usually write on most of mine in pencil so that I can erase and reuse them.  I'm cheap frugal like that.  I've even raided other people's file folder stashes as they were throwing them away.  No shame.

When you're done using the folder with that purpose you can erase the title you've written with a Pentel white polymer eraser and a little elbow grease.  These are PERFECT for student files since you can reuse them each year.

If my excitement for these erasable folders was going to be beat, it was certainly done by the FasTab Hanging Erasable File Folders.
 I use hanging files for my student files and so these were completely perfect.  They are sturdy and have a large, erasable writing area. Plus, I love the different colors.

I also loved these Smead Vertical File Folders.  You can have them standing on your file folder rack and still see what's written on them.  I do also like that they give you the option to write on a traditional edge or the vertical edge.

I also got to check out this Smead Step Organizer and it's my new take-home envelope.
It has tabs so you can label each section if you choose.  I switched to this one because while my previous one was absolutely adorable (I got it for $1 a while back) it was not sturdy and it only had 6 slots.  This one has 12.  As much as I don't want to publicly admit that I bring home more than 6 on occasion.  I stuffed it full this weekend and it's holding steady.

And that's it for today's edition of You Know You're a Teacher When: Erasable Folders style. :)
Life. Changing.

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Teaching Sound and Exploring Abstract Art

This year is a whole new world for me.  I'm teaching science on a daily basis.  I feel like I know nothing about anything science so it's been a challenge to really feel like I'm doing it well.  It's been so much fun keeping things engaging.  And, I've transferred to a different school in my district and it's an arts magnet.


As little as I know about science, I know even less about anything arts.  Sure, I like music.  Making music?  Um, no.  Visual arts.  Um, no.  In fact, I was excited about the craftivities I was going to be doing.  Except those aren't art.  Clearly, I'm learning. :)

My partner teacher found this amazing Sound and Light bundle on TpT and it's saved my life the last few weeks.  It includes detailed lesson plans, engaging projects, a unit test and study guide, vocabulary words, and so much more.  I didn't follow it to a T but it was what helped me get through.
We're starting light this week and so I'm so glad to be able to continue our unit with a similar theme.  Click the image above to check it out on TpT.

One of the activities in the unit is creating a straw horn.  I practiced before we got there.  I failed.  I tried with a different straw.  I failed.  I watched this video.
I still failed.

So I decided I'd let the kids try it anyway.  See if they could beat me.  Give them a challenge to be better than their teacher.  To really butter them up, I showed them the day before I let them try and I told them I couldn't do it.  They came in the next day so excited to tell me that they used a straw at home and were able to do it (without the directions, btw).  WHAT?  But as we passed out straws, we were still hardly getting any horn sounds.

I looked all over and I found some fatter straws and I thought we'd try those out and see if they helped.  And I had one of those instant "IDEA!" moments.  What a perfect way to introduce the scientific method.

So we formed our question together and students chose their hypothesis.  While "easier" isn't exactly the most scientific of experiments, I thought it was a great hands-on way to introduce it since we were essentially performing an experiment.

We created a graph of our hypotheses.

And then performed our experiment.
We all seemed to agree that the fat horn was easier to use as a straw horn.  But then once we had been successful with the fat straw, the skinny straw was so much easier.
We talked about what vibrates to make the noise, why it might be different in straws, why the sounds are different, etc.  The kids loved it!

I also showed this fun video that I happened to find.

Another idea in the unit is using bottles and water to make sounds.  This helps you explore pitch with students.  It bugged me that our pitch wasn't perfect with our water levels but I had to give up trying.
We won't talk about me realizing I needed 6 bottles the afternoon before.  Or, what logo was on the container that I carried these 6 bottles in with....

I had another moment of "IDEA!" and I ran into my storage cabinet and hunted in hopes of finding some food dye.  Clearly, I was successful and it made it so much easier for the kids to see the levels.

Also, it was hilarious to watch them freak out when I took a drink of some of the green liquid in my attempt to get the pitch juuuust right. :)

We also watched this fun video to end up our day.

And since it's Call Me Maybe, the kids loved that it was a song they knew and could sing along to.

Last, to wind out our unit, we did a little art project.  My first art project as a teacher.  My first time using paint as a teacher.  It didn't turn out so bad if I do say so myself!

I found this lesson from Art Lessons for Kids and it was perfect for us.  It held my hand enough that I was able to teach this in some capacity {whew!}.  We explored Abstract Art for a bit and learned a little about Wassily Kandinsky.  We looked at his Klamm Improvisation as well as a few other pieces.  

To lead up to the big project I chose a sound and didn't show students what it was at all.  It was clearly two dogs barking angrily at each other.  Students drew pictures to represent the sound.  I was so glad we had done this because many of them were very literal and not so abstract.

For our big unit, students chose a mystery sound and then got to work.

They did a much better job staying abstract this time, though I probably need a lot of practice on what exactly abstract SHOULD be.
We let our pictures dry over the weekend.  Then we came in on Monday and added some dimension by using multi-media on their pieces.  Some chose to make them 3D with construction paper.

Others just added some crayon.

Here's part of our display board.  I love how these turned out!

All in all I think it was a great first unit to start the year!  Do you have any great ideas for teaching sound?

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Front Row

I'm over at the Owl-Ways Be Inspired blog today sharing my love for all things Front Row!  Click the image below to head on over and see how you can use this FREE tool to help with differentiation in your room.

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A Look at the First Week {and a half!}

In my area kids normally start school on a Wednesday.  While I like it, and appreciate that the first week isn't too drawn out and extra exhausting, it does make it a bit difficult.  3 days is not enough time to do all of the getting to know you stuff you want to do, and 8 days of no instruction begins to feel like you are losing valuable time.  But alas, we combined the two and spent some time getting to know others.

As I was looking for ideas to implement the first 8 days, I came across this great post from Mary from Teaching with a Mountain View.  I borrowed a few ideas from it and there were lots of others I wanted to use from it

We did the 7Up and M&M's activity from Mrs. O Knows' blog.   I loved that it set clear expectations for the year and talked about consequences.  You can click her picture below to check out her post.

We started out by talking about the word consequences.  Of course, the students only associated it with negative things, so we talked about how a consequence could be positive.  I then introduced our activity by saying that they would have a consequence for their choice.  I then brought out the bag of M&M's and showed them how they were going to use a little cup to scoop up M&M's.  I advised them to not take a lot of M&M's because there would be consequences.  Guess what?  My kids took a TON of M&M's.  So much so that I ran out before I made it around the class.  They didn't take my advice.  Shocking.

I then had my kiddos sort their M&M's by color and record the amounts.  I told them they couldn't eat them.

Then....the big reveal...
Some of the kids were shocked and astonished.  Some wanted to cry.  During this time I also came around and "stole" some M&M's from the kids who took 100+ and shared them with the kids who only had a few because we ran out.  They then tried to adjust their number of sentences.  Nope.  Nuh uh.

I let them sit, and stew, and freak out, and write, for about 10 minutes.  Then I pulled everyone together on the floor and told them they were off the hook.  They did not need to write 48, 63, or 108 sentences.  We were going to stop there.  Phew!  They were so relieved.  We also discussed listening to Miss Maguire's sage advice. :)

During our morning meeting one day, I used the scaffolded cards from my Kicking Off a Great Year set as our share for the day.  
Then, later, during reading, I introduced PQA to the kids and referenced our morning meeting share.

I then split the students into heterogenous, random groups and they rotated through each set of cards.  I bounced back and forth between groups to keep them on task and to ensure they were using PQA.
{I have no idea why my post is now suddenly more to the right.  I've checked the html and can't find it.  Just ignore it}

 When we got back together as a group I asked everyone to share something they learned about someone else.  It was a no-pressure way to get everyone participating and joining in.Subscribe by EmailBlog LovinMy TpT StoreFacebookMy TN StorePinterestInstagramEmail MeImage Map

I also borrowed another idea from Teaching with a Mountain View and used it in my room.  It's one I've always wanted to use, but have been bound by specific classroom rules.

The only rule we have in our classroom is Respect.  Respect for others.  Respect for our belongings.  Respect for our environment.  Respect for our learning.  Respect.

We did a few other beginning of the year activities, but we've been crunched on time and they aren't wrapped up yet!  There never seems to be enough time, does there?

Classroom Tour 14-15

Kids started school last Wednesday so I'm a little behind in posting my classroom tour.  I wanted everything to be ready and perfect before I posted it.

Did you hear that?  That's me laughing at myself.

After spending many hours there on Sunday this past weekend, like I always do at the beginning of the year, I realized I just needed to take pictures, because really, my room will never be completely organized.  As much as it pains me to admit this, as much as I want it to be completely organized, I just run out of time and energy.  I moved into a new school this year because my previous school closed.  I'm loving the touches of a new building as opposed to the fifty year old buildings I'm used to, but it just takes so much time to start over from scratch.

I continued my black and white color scheme that controls most of my life.  Because there is so much blue in my room (our rooms are color coordinated with our colored pods) I decided to add a blue accent.  I ended up using more of a turquoise/sea foam color because that's where my heart led me.  I love the way this turned out.

I bought this rug on a whim this year from IKEA and I love the warm welcome it adds to my door.  The chalkboard is a simple mirror (you know $5 from whatever big box store you shop at).  Last year I used it for computer information, but I didn't need the space this year.  I'm going to use it for welcome messages throughout the year, if I can get the kids to stop smearing it. :)  The curtains were used on my windows last year but clearly wouldn't work on the large window.  This is perfect (unless you're a tall guy and have to duck on your way in.)
This is the view of most of my room right from the doorway.

Right on the door frame is my bathroom nonitoring system.  Students have a half stick with their number on it.  They move it below the 1 magnet, start the two minute timer, and use the restroom.  When they come back they stop and reset the timer.  They have two bathroom breaks per day during instruction time but may use it during arrival and dismissal.  Because of an incident a few years ago in my district, we have to have some sort of monitoring system if students are using the bathroom outside of class breaks.  I do not like taking class breaks too often during the day because there are such few stalls and it takes quite some time.  There is no consequence for going outside of the two minutes (as long as you aren't caught playing or anything) or for using more than two during our time.  This truly is just a monitoring system.  If the timer goes off it tells me to send someone to check on a student.  If a student has used their two breaks and needs to go again, they go.  But if it's habitual maybe there's something else than needs exploring.  
 Next is the student station.  On top of the station is the Turn In Bins.  The white basket on top is the Borrow Bin.  When I find random, loose student supplies they go in the Borrow Bin.  If someone doesn't have something, they know they can go there to borrow it.  This has helped keep students responsible for their supplies so they don't lose them forever.
The black cubes store resources the students will use during centers or May Do time.  The bin on the left is my Fluency Bin.  You can't see the whisper phones and task cards in there. The bin in the center contains Hot Dots and the cards.  The bin on the right contains dice of various sizes and dominoes for math centers.  

The middle shelves contain other resources the students may use.  On the left is extra scissors and glue.  The middle contains highlighters and goggles for writing.  The bin on the left was empty, but it not contains are Tidy Bins that we place out during art activities.  I copied the idea from Rowdy in Room 300.

Continuing to the left....
Here are our 5 student computers, and a built in bulletin board that I'm using to display student work.  It's currently being used to show a bit about ourselves.  I took the picture before I was finished with the board.  Oops!

Above that, is my word wall.  This is a moment when I'm showcasing reality and the not-always-Pinterest-worthy reality that is a normal classroom.  Behind there are cinder blocks.  Cinder blocks, people.  Do you know what sticks to cinder blocks?  Just about nothing.  So here I am, standing on a wobbly table filled with computers (you know since I'm not allowed to unassemble or move them), trying to reach higher than my short self is able, with a giant roll of expensive Fadeless paper that I'm trying to get stuck.  I had preassembled the paper with letters and borders.  However, in my mess of an attempt, half of them fell off and the border bubbled.  I tried to use packing tape to help it stick, and rubber cement to help it stick, and hot glue to help it stick, and anything else that I could think of.  I am not sure what combination finally got it to work, but in the process my paper got way wrinkled, my letters got even more lopsided and wavy than I'm sure they already did, but once it was up, that thing was up.  

I strategically neglected to show you my desk area.  :)  It's not so much a desk, and I'm trying to adjust myself to not having a desk.  And it's been a learning process.

Next to my desk is the beginning of the white board.  My two Share Chair stools (with correct spelling) tuck partially underneath a ledge.  I use two laundry baskets that stack to store clipboards and white boards.  My agenda is up above here.

Next is my morning meeting space.  Mounted between two white boards is my flat screen tv (yay for technology!).  Please pardon the giant glue spots.  Apparently, there was a bulletin board between there, that they ripped off to install an interactive whiteboard, which then got uninstalled to go to a primary room.  I hate those glue spots.  Any ideas for covering it short of just throwing up more butcher paper?

The posters were a freebie I posted last year on Owl-Ways Be Inspired.  They are quotes from well-known texts that I try to use as reminders for my kids.

Here's a view from behind my chair from inside the library.  I got my chair and the rugs from IKEA last year.  I think they still carry both.  The rack was one I found from Old Time Pottery this year and I HAD to have it.  

There are two large built in bulletin boards behind the shelves.  I will display posters for non-fiction text features, fiction comprehension skills, and reading strategies as we learn about each one.  Their book boxes are stored on the top shelf.  The books along the right are mine that the students cannot choose from.

The books are organized into black and white bins.  The black bins are for fiction books, and the white bins are for non-fiction books.  I got the shelves from IKEA last year.  It seems they maybe changed the name and style a bit.  I have them in high gloss for easy cleaning and to prevent scuffing. 

I created round labels for the bins to identify the authors or series in each.  Unfortunately, I couldn't find an exact template match for the Avery set I used so the border is a bit wonky.  Drives me a little bit nuts!

Something new I'm trying this year is having students place a clothespin on the bin when they take a book out.  I'm hoping this helps them identify where they need to return their books to.  Crossing my fingers!

I'm lucky to have these huge picture windows (please forgive the coloring.  I'm still not the best photographer and I couldn't figure out the natural light, indoor light combo).  Because the inside was 85"+ I couldn't find a rod that I could to hang curtains on the inside- not even a shower curtain rod.  I was walking through Wal Mart one day, saw these, and knew I needed them.  I wish they were a bit longer, but with the table and bookcases in front of it, you really can't tell.

Behind the kidney table is a table for small group resources storage as well as my Writing Process Clip chart.

From here, you can see most of the room from the other angle.  You can see my desk area a bit, and see the mess as well :)

The sink area gives me quite a bit of storage.  On top are content area leveled books, Rocket Math resources, and our mailbox filing system.

When I was taking pictures last weekend I neglected to take a picture of my math anchor chart board.  This is a picture I took earlier in the summer.  In that top left corner are now tissue paper poms.  The background is wrapping paper, and the border is tissue paper as well.
This bookshelf stores our daily binders as well as some other resources like dictionaries.  Our school wide posters are displayed here as well.
Right next to the door is a dry erase board I got super cheaply.  I use this to write notes for dismissal, or use the magnets to attach notes from parents.  I need reminders or I forget.

I love looking at classroom pictures for new ideas.  Hopefully this has given you a few ideas for structuring your room!

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