Category Archives: Uncategorized


Cool Classroom Themes: Calm Classroom Decor

I love a calm classroom.  You can feel the learning going on when students are focused and engaged.  I’ve been planning ways to make my classroom environment an even more calm and peaceful place using simple classroom decor ideas and management strategies.  I have compiled these ideas on my new blog: Cool Classroom Themes.  I’ll continue to add new themes to help teachers find cool classroom themes that fit their style and motivate their students to learn!  


Loving my GIANT world map!


Our school is using the theme reading theme “Around the World in a Million Words” to encourage students to read a million words this year.  Together with teachers, students track their progress and work toward mini goal parties throughout the year and one giant party with a GAME TRUCK (semi filled with video games) at the end of the year.  The theme has encouraged me to integrate more world studies into my lessons, and I refer to my giant map (55 x 39 inches) all the time.  For those of you without the giant free wall that I had, the poster site also has a smaller version (36 x 24 inches).  Just thought I’d share!

World Map

World Map

Buy This at

DIY Non Floral Wedding Boutonniere


DIY Non Floral Wedding Boutonniere

I’ve returned to the USA (and have loved every second of seeing family, friends, and blue skies!) and have taken a nice chunk of time off from teacher planning and directed most of my efforts towards wedding planning for my Oct. 5 wedding!  I just finished my non floral boutonnieres!  I knew I didn’t want to use real or silk flowers, but it was hard to find inspiration for an alternative, so I made my own diy non floral boutonniere tutorial to hopefully help out some craft loving brides like me.  (On another note, I’ll be going back to teaching in a couple weeks, so I promise I’ll get back to school related posts soon!)

Cool Literacy Websites


I just figured out how to see who has been checking out my Paragraph Attack Video on YouTube, and noticed Mrs. Ellis in Michigan (my home state–woot woot!) linked my video to her blog for students.  (Thank you!) You can find several other cool literacy sites there too!  Enjoy!

I also found these 2 videos about how to write paragraphs:

1. A paragraph writing wrap using a burrito and hamburger example (motivated me to have the kids create their own paragraph writing videos):

2. A family of chefs explains how to write a paragraph like you make a hamburger (I’m currently in China, where good burgers are hard to find, and these ladies are making me hungry while they educate!)  I love how this family worked together to create this educational video.  Sounds like a fun choice homework assignment!

I’m engaged!!!


Exciting news, everyone!  My boyfriend, Dan, gave me the biggest surprise of my life on the Great Wall of China on Friday the 13th.  No bad luck for us!  He asked me to take a picture with him, handed the camera to our friend (who also had no idea what was about to happen), and got down on one knee.  I never saw it coming, which you can see in the pictures!


Student Independence


Do what only you can do.

My new motto this year is (I seem to have a lot of these), “Don’t do anything for the students that they can do themselves.”  This ties is nicely with a statement by preacher Andy Stanley, in which he said, “Only do whatever it is that only you can do.”  He didn’t mean shirk all responsibility, but to delegate where you can, so you can focus on the areas in which you are gifted and called to make the greatest difference.  With these things in mind, I brainstormed this list of things my fourth grade students can do themselves.  Allowing the students more independence in running the classroom allows them to grow as responsible students and you more time to “do what only you can do”–teach!  (The picture will link you to the 3 min. video of Andy speaking about this point.)

So, in no particular order…

What Students can do Themselves

1. Take attendance and tally lunch choices.

2. Begin AM work.

3. Complete tasks and begin a new one.

4. Determine who has turned in which papers (students check off their name or move a clothespin).

5. Line up

6. Transition to carpet

7. Connect my laptop to the LCD. Set up classroom computers (pull up program or my blog to begin working on skills).

8. Practice Shurley English using the ActivBoard (while I assist other students in small group).

9. Change jobs each week.  Manage jobs (who is/isn’t doing their job).

10. Assign points to on task student groups.

11. Organize book shelves by genre, level, series, or topic. (Which got me thinking, why not invite some former students into the classroom to help me set up my room at the beginning of the year?  They would love it, and so would I!)

12. Move from lunch to transitional activities to PM classes.

13. Write in agendas. “Today I learned… HW… Positive moment for me…  Something I should work on…”

14. Rotate through centers during Reading and Writing blocks (student will set timer, transition quickly).

15. Return checked out classroom books and literacy bags (make a student’s job to peer check and use a CueCat–I NEED one of these!).

16. Find new educational game sites to add to my (our) blog!

17. Write newsletters and call out messages with the most important and current class information.

18. Grade (Self and Peers): Spelling Tests, Vocabulary Quizzes, Word Work, Reading Journals

19. Peer Revision (provide with revision form “1 Glow, 2 Grows” and labels with specific feedback)

20. Make bulletin boards of student work and create specific student feedback (high level thinking!).

Now, with the students managing themselves, I can get to the business of TEACHING!  🙂

What do your students do independently?  How do they take the lead in their own learning and running of their classroom?  I can’t wait to hear your tips and tricks for student independence!

Peer Grading


Found this great article, “Escaping the Paper Grading Trap“, and I’m ready to devise a system for students to do more of their own grading.  I have fallen victim to the 40lb teacher’s take home bag more often that I care to admit.  This article stresses, “Don’t do for students what they can do for themselves.”  Not only does allowing students to grade their own (or peer’s) paper free up my time to focus on planning instruction, but it provides more immediate feedback than I can hope to provide on my current grading weekend warrior schedule I’m currently on.

This will be especially useful for daily homework and word work workbooks.  We can create an accountability system and process for teaching cooperative learning groups to grade each other’s papers.

Grading Papers in Stages


Just found this great idea at, and I can’t wait to make some rubrics to go along with it.  Kim offers a sample timeline and assigns each date a task and point value.  Students accomplishing the task get 100% of the points that day, while students not completing the task get partial or no credit.  I think this could really help some of less motivated students complete their work on time, PLUS provide some meaningful daily grades for writing (even when we work on a large paper for an extended period of time).

Planning/Drafting/Editing Daily Assessment


Due Date


Sign Off





____/____ /____

____/____ /____

____/____ /____

____/____ /____

____/____ /____











Total Points_____/_____

Final Draft Rubric

3 points 2 points 1 points
Introduction Engaging beginning
Thesis statement
Introduces topic
Includes 2 of the 3 Includes 1 of the 3
Body 3 detailed paragraphs
3 topic sentences
3 closing sentences
Includes 2 of the 3 Includes 1 of the 3
Conclusion Restates thesis
Includes opinion
Wraps up the paper
Includes 2 of the 3 Includes 1 of the 3
Conventions Correct capitalization
Correct spelling
Correct punctuation
Includes 2 of the 3 Includes 1 of the 3

Total Points ____/12   (x 3 = final score)

Add the total points from each of the 2 assessments to reach a final grade for the project.