Saturday, August 16, 2014

Use Classroom Magazines Effectively - A Bright Idea

Hello!  If you are lucky enough to have a subscription to classroom magazines, then you know how easily they can slide from being effective to being something else to take care of.  (If you don't have classroom magazines, be sure to check your Scholastic book catalog at the beginning of the year - they usually have a deal where you can "try it for free in your classroom.")   

Here are my top tips for using Classroom Magazines effectively.
 I know... slap a post-it on there to help you remember that this is a great article for summarizing, casue/effect, etc.  That will save you a bit of time in the future.
 I have class sets of several classroom magazines that I received ages ago.  I love, love, love using these magazines with my Upper Elementary kiddos, because they have great content that can used for close reading (annotate with sticky notes), reader's theater (I just love watching them prepare to perform; they don't realize they are practicing fluency!) and poetry studies.
Occasionally, we aren't able to get to all of the things I have planned.  I make sure to clip them together, slap on a sticky note for instructions, and keep it in my sub tub.  It's always a great idea to keep some "extras" in the sub tub, in case they need something to do unexpectedly.

Any other ideas?  Feel free to leave them in the comments below.  For more Bright Ideas, consider browsing the link-up below for topics and grade levels that apply to you.  Happy Weekend, everyone!!

Sunday, August 10, 2014

5 Resources for Teachers of English Language Learners

If you are a teacher, you will eventually need to have resources to help you teach students who are English Language Learners.  Here's a quick round up of my favorite go-to resources for working with ELLs.  Enjoy! - Picture Reading Rockets in a Bilingual Format... Yep, it's amazing.  It contains resources for Parents, Teachers, Students, and Administrators in English and Spanish from Pre-K through High School.  They are translating the parent and student resources into many languages, so keep checking back if you need resources in a language other than Spanish.  Also, they have many timely topics, such as Guidance and Resources for Schools and Staff Working with Unaccompanied Minors. - Benchmarks, Strategies and Resources for Teachers of English Language Learners.  I constantly use the K-12 ESL Proficiency Benchmarks search, which gives you information based on different levels of language acquisition.  I just discovered the student writing samples and analysis, and I think this is incredibly helpful for teachers across the globe (even if you don't teach in Canada.) - Yessir...  Brain Pop geared towards English Language Learners.  This is a pay subscription service, so try the free resources before deciding to sign up to make sure it meets the needs of your classroom.

CAPL: Culturally Authentic Pictorial Lexicon - (located online at  This amazing resource provides images demonstrating the true meaning/intention for words in a variety of languages.  This is a work in progress so not all words are represented, but it does help teachers to remove any cultural bias when assisting ELLs. - This is a wonderful way for all students to tell stories through comic strips.  My students always enjoyed selecting their characters, making them talk with speech bubbles, adding thought bubbles to show character motivation, and telling their stories.  This appeals to reluctant writers, too!  The site is bilingual (English/Spanish) and is also available as a free app in the iTunes store.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Take Care of Yourself and Each Other :)

Ugh.  One of the worst parts of having depression is that sometimes, for no reason at all, everything stinks.  This happened to me last spring.  It started with being a bit tired/unmotivated.  A month later, I realized I had neglected housework, the yard, and things I am usually passionate about - like this blog.   At the same time, I felt completely overwhelmed. by. everything.  I got through it with a lot of rest, time, support from friends, love from my family, and learning not to be so hard on myself.  I am working on my gratitude, and seeing the blessings present in my daily life as a way to beat depression, including opening myself up to new friendships and opportunities.
As we gear up to begin a new school year, I just want to remind myself (and all of you) to be gentle on yourself and each other.  We truly don't know what personal struggles each other face, and we need to be mindful.
Teachers are a resilient bunch, and I am no exception.  I am hoping that reducing my hours (again) and spending more time with my family and friends will keep me on an even keel.  Unfortunately, since I don't feel right taking medical leave, it means a bit of increased stress financially.  It is scary, but what is life without a bit of risk, right?
I'll have something teaching-related next time... most likely!  Thanks so much for listening, again.

Saturday, August 2, 2014

5 Back to School Freebies!

Here's a quick roundup of 5 freebies and tutorials as you gear up for Back to School from my TPT store:

1.   A tutorial on how to create your own Chair Pockets from a person who rarely sews...

2. The Guided Reading Cheat Sheet: A handy reminder of what to do before/during/after reading:

3. The Mystery Word of the Week:  Print a free week here...

This one isn't a freebie, but you can download 2 weeks of Mystery Words free from the preview on this product...

4.  The Brain Booster Box:  Grab the instructions and a free set of open-ended questions here.

5. Do your kiddos need to learn Greek and Latin Stems?  Here's my 5 Minutes a Day Strategy:

Also, you may have heard about the upcoming BTS sale on TPT!  Shop my store now to add to your cart, and they will be 28% off (August 4 and 5) when you enter the code: BTS14  (Friendly reminder to use the code...  occasionally I forget!)
Button credits: Creative Clips by Krista Walden
Off to do some weekend errands, housework, laundry, or maybe I'll just pretend I'm still working on my blog post....  :)

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Brain Booster Box Bright Idea!

The Brain Booster Box is one of my fave Bright Ideas so far!  The Brain Booster Box is my lifesaver.  It's a glittery treasure box I received from Highlights magazine ages ago, with a few special additions, and a perfect way to begin the school year.
Brain Booster Box from Hello Mrs Sykes
 First, I add some open-ended question cards, task cards, or questions I like from "I Have.. Who Has...?" games.  At the beginning of the year, these are open ended questions.  (Items that can fit in your pocket; Ways to create the number 42; Games that use a ball; etc.)  There is no winner/loser, and students don't mind because they get to use these babies...  Fun Buzzers!!
Fun Buzzers Keep Everyone Interested
I am so protective of the buzzers (which make different sounds - one is a doorbell, one is a spring-type "boing," etc.)  They also came from Highlights.  Now for the frowny-face part: when the materials are misused.  From the beginning, I make sure they know that if a buzzer is pushed when it is not supposed to be pushed (like when I'm talking!) the buzzer is automatically returned to the teacher.  The group who lost their buzzer still participates, but they have to "chime in" using their voice instead of a buzzer.  Since I make them "chime in" as roosters, pigs, cows, and other barnyard animals... I think they prefer the buzzers!

Inside the Brain Booster Box - Question Cards and Task Cards - Some content specific
When I use the Brain Booster Box with my own class, we split up by tables, etc.  When playing with another class, we mix it up: boys vs. girls, sneakers vs. non-sneakers, short hair vs. long hair, etc.  It is so funny to watch 45 kiddos frantically whispering about how many wheels are on 6 tricycles, the number of legs on 7 cows, or 3 alternative words to say, "said."  I love it!

At the beginning of the year, I explain that the Brain Booster Box is a special occasion, not for every day.  We practice using it for some open-ended topics (things that fit in your pockets, objects that are about the same size as a loaf of bread, etc.)  Throughout the year, we grab the box when we are waiting for the guidance counselor, the lunch line is running behind, or a special guest is running a bit late.

When my colleagues are running late or need a minute, I grab their class and add them to mine for 15 minutes or so.  It is truly tempting to flip on a video... however, I find that classroom management is easier with the Brain Boosters Box because of positive peer pressure.  My kiddos are always quick to warn the others: "Don't push the button when you aren't supposed to, or we'll have to cluck like chickens!"
For more Bright Ideas, click Here.  :)
Really, I shouldn't admit that this post is being written the day before it is posted, as I'm sure many other bloggers had their posts ready a month ago...  But here I am on Friday, finally posting.  Better late than never, right?  ;)

Do you think you'll incorporate a Brain Booster Box in your classroom?  Do you already use something similar?  For more Bright Ideas, consider browsing the link-up below for topics and grade levels that apply to you.  Happy Weekend, everyone!!

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