Thursday, November 1, 2012


I am so excited! I have finally reached the 100 follower mark! I have not been keeping the blog updated, and I apologize! This has been a very busy, stressful year for some reason. I hope that everyone is having a WONDERFUL year!

Since it has been forever since I last posted anything, I guess today is a great day to start again! Yesterday, I attended a short training about guided reading. I was curious to find out what some of you do for guided reading. Do you have specific skills you are supposed to work on? Do you use "real" literature or materials provided by your school? How large are your groups? How often do you meet and for how long? What are the other students doing?

I have struggled with guided reading this year because my class is larger than in years past, and my students struggle with working independently. However, I continue to try to work out the kinks so that my students can get a great guided reading experience. Right now, I have been focusing in on the skills/strategies introduced in our basal (Reading Street). I have been focusing more on the leveled readers than the basal stories for guided reading. Honestly, I am not "feeling" either of these. I was blessed with really good readers this year, and I am just not sure that these materials are the best. I am hoping to use a "literature circle" or "book club" approach to guided reading in the near future. We don't have a set format for guided reading, so I am hopeful I can adapt my lessons to include some good books that the students will truly enjoy.

I am using a modified version of the Daily 5 for the students working independently. It has been somewhat successful, but like I said, my students have moments when working independently seems impossible for them.

Feel free to share how guided reading looks in your classroom! 

Monday, August 27, 2012

Back to School Whirlwind!

I went back to work a week ago for 3 days of meetings/room prep, then our students arrived on Thursday. I feel like I have been going non-stop since then :) I have a great group of 4th graders this year. Almost an equal mix of boys and girls, a nice variety of personalities, all different levels. So far, after 3 days, they all seem to get along pretty well too. I have started introducing the Daily 5. It is such a new concept for them, and I think it will take some time for them to really appreciate the independence it will build. I can tell that my students will need a lot of help learning to work on their own. Sadly, it always seems that they come from tiny classes in 3rd grade (last year was about 15-16) to larger classes in 4th and 5th (25-28). It really takes time for them to get used to things.

I had some bad news right before school started that sent my motivation and good vibes for this school year down the tubes. Our 4th grade team had four members. About 2 weeks before the first day, one teacher found out that she was moving to 3rd grade so that a 3rd grade teacher could move up to do a 4th/5th multiage class that is required due to our lower enrollment in the intermediate grades. Then, just a week before school started, another of our teammates found out that she was being moved to 1st grade. They found a sub to open that classroom. Then, after spending a week working with the sub (who was so great), they hired a teacher on Friday, and she started today. She seems wonderful and I think we will get along great. However, I cannot help but be angry that my teammates got moved. Our grade level had the best test scores in the school. We worked together so well, and 3 of us spent the summer planning, creating, and sharing ideas. I really think that my principal did the best she could with a really odd situation, but I still feel really sad about it all. Why, in education, does it seem that the hardest working folks are the ones who end up having to be extra flexible, extra responsible, and extra understanding? It is frustrating!

Ok, enough boo-hooing! It will be a great year, and I am excited for all of the awesome activities I have planned. I will be getting in touch with everyone who expressed interest in my Regions of the U.S. activity very soon!

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Me, Crafty?!?!?

Well, since Pinterest has changed my life (it really has...LOL!), I decided to try to make some of the things I have pinned this year.

First up, my Teacher Toolbox! Thank you to Hedrich's Hive for the great labels! The only issue I am having is keeping the labels clued into the drawers. I tried hot glue, but they are popping right off. Oh well, it still looks great!

I love all of the "Welcome Banners" I have seen on Pinterest. I decided to create on of my own using Publisher. I think I could have jazzed it up with some contrasting colors or something, but it does look cute in the classroom. I am planning to add some bows to the sides where I have the ribbon tied to the hooks. 

Here is my Duct Tape Quilt. The little signs inside say "4th Grade Super Stars". 

My picture quality is horrible! I will replace these with better ones on Monday. This is my behavior clip chart. I am thinking that my green READY TO LEARN section needs to be a bit bigger :-)


School begins in one more week! I am excited about the year, but nervous too! Last year was the best year I have had in a LONG time, and I know it will be tough to top it. I need to stop worrying and just go with the flow!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Procedures and rules and expectations...OH MY!

Since I cannot seem to sit back, relax, and enjoy my final 11 days of summer break, I have been busy revamping my policies, procedures, rules, etc. A colleague shared an awesome handout to give to parents and students called "The ABCs of _______'s Classroom". It is an easy to use reference for classroom policies organized in ABC order. I will share mine once I have it finalized. Right now, it is full of highlighted sections and empty sections while we wait for final confirmation of our grade assignments for the year. I am hopeful that the parents read it over, but even if they do not, it makes great documentation of teacher-parent communication :)

Today I started working on my list of classroom procedures to teach to my students. I found some awesome ideas on Pinterest and TpT, but I cannot make up my mind about exactly HOW to teach about the procedures, as my list is VERY long. What are some of your methods for making sure your students really understand the classroom procedures?

As of this moment, I plan to use the same discipline plan as last year....which is turning "cards". I am adding a 5th card, BLUE, that students will get if they are having an awesome day. I figure I will have some small reward for the students who get to blue. I will explain to them that a "blue" day means they were on task all day, came to school prepared, helped other students when needed, did their very best on all activities, etc. I hope that maybe having the option to do even better than the "green" card will encourage some of the students to work even harder.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Regions of the United States Project

This year, I really need to do something to liven up my Social Studies lessons. While most 4th graders are busy studying their states, we are learning about the entire United States. The scope of our standards is HUGE, and I don't feel like my students get much out of what study.

In order to help my students get more out of Social Studies, I want to do something to connect them to peers in the various regions of the United States. I am still on the fence about exactly what to do. I have thought about doing a postcard exchange, but I really would like the activity to have a bit more depth. I am hoping to find classes around the country (at least 1-2 in each region we study) who are willing to do a few different activities with us throughout the year that aligns to our standards. I think the postcard exchange could be one great component, but I think I'd like to plan some other activities such a questionnaire or survey, letter-writing, and some technology activities. I want my students to have some ownership of this activity, so final decisions about activities will not be made until school starts. My hope is to have three or four high-quality activities to share with our sister schools that do not take immense amounts of time.

If you are interested in being one of the classes we connect with, please leave a comment with a way to contact you (blog or email would be great!) and what state you live in! I'd really love to work with 3rd, 4th, or 5th grade classes in the Northeast, Midwest, Southwest, and West regions. We are in Southeast region, but would love to connect with other Southeastern classes as well!

Map found on:

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Preventing Crazy Behavior :)

Today I wanted to share a few things that I do in my classroom (along with my 4th grade team) to keep the students' behavior on track. I was blessed with such an awesome class this past year, but I know that our rising 4th graders are very talkative and active, so I have a feeling I will get some major use out of these behavior ideas this year!

Whole Class: 

Behavior BINGO-The students earn "BINGO" numbers for various positive behaviors including all students staying on green on our behavior chart, all turning homework in, walking in the halls silently, etc. Each day (or every few days), we draw numbers and they mark them on the hundred chart we use as a BINGO board. When the students earn BINGO, they get to choose from a variety of whole-class rewards like class outside, extra recess, free computer time, etc. I might change up the BINGO slightly this school year, as it seemed to take a long time for the students to actually get a BINGO. One idea I have is to use a slightly smaller grid (maybe 8 x 8 instead of 10 x 10). The students loved the excitement of drawing the numbers,and they really worked hard so that they could enjoy the rewards.

Bucket Fillers-We use Bucket Fillers school-wide in conjunction with our guidance/character education. This year, I plan to have each student decorate their own paper bucket for use on a bulletin board. Students can write kind things about each other, and this will allow me to give students "Bucket Filler" slips which are used for a weekly drawing for a special seat at lunch, a certificate, and some other small rewards.


Card System-I used to think that card systems were "babyish" for 4th grade, but after using one for the past 2 years, I really think it works for my students. It makes communicating w/parents about student behaviors much easier. Students can monitor their own daily behavior. Everyone starts on GREEN each day. The other card colors are YELLOW for a warning, ORANGE for a consequence like sitting out of recess for a few minutes, and RED which means a phone call home. I was fortunate to only have a student get to red twice all year this past school year! This year, I think I will add a form to the student binders so that they can mark their color for each day to keep track.

What are some of the things you do in your classroom to help keep things running smoothly? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

What a Bunch of GREAT Deals!!!

I am SOOOOO excited about everything I found at the Dollar Tree today! Last year, I waited too long and the good stuff was gone. Today I found:

 1. Supply bins for my table groups

2. Lots of clothes pins

3. Erasers

4. 200 packs of ruled index cards

5. Cute word strips

6. Ziploc bags for my "Duct Tape Quilt" to show off student work (I also picked up this duct tape at Target. I wish the Dollar Tree had some.)

7. And my absolute favorite find: Book baskets for all of my students!!! (Well, if I don't have a huge class, that is!)

I also got some things at Target's $1 section, but I wasn't terribly impressed this year. What great deals have you found this year???

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Blog Awards and Crazy Week

First of all, I want to say THANK YOU! to those who have nominated me for the various blog awards over the past few weeks. I am so sorry I have not had time to "pay it forward", but hopefully today or tomorrow I can search through "teacher blog-land" and find some worthy nominees :-) This week has been crazy already! I had jury duty on Monday, and was chosen to serve on a jury for a trial that started yesterday. Funny thing was that out of the 12 jurors...4 of us were teachers! Anyway, we all arrived for the trial yesterday, sat and waited for 2 hours, only to be called in and dismissed because the person on trial accepted a last minute deal to plead guilty to a lesser charge. It was my first time on a jury, and it was very interesting to see the judicial system at work. Today, I am heading to my school to help a dear friend pack up her classroom :-( She will be transferring to TURKEY! It will be a super-exciting journey for her. So, on my list of things to do this week is to search out some great new blogs to nominate for awards! I promise I will get this done by Monday :)

Sunday, July 15, 2012


In 2010, I received a MAEd in Instructional Technology from a local university. Over the past 2 years, I have been working on a graduate certificate in Computer-based Instruction. Eventually, I'd also like to get a graduate certificate in Distance Learning and Administration. Even with this background, I feel like my knowledge of using technology in education is lacking. I really want to stay on top of things, especially since technology grows at such a rapid rate! Does anyone have suggestions for really great Instructional Technology blogs or websites? In my school, it is unlikely we will have access to tablets anytime soon, but we are blessed with several classroom computers, SmartBoards, and document cameras. I really feel out of the loop, and I'd love to learn and share with my colleagues at my school who feel the same way!

Saturday, July 7, 2012

A giveaway!

Sara at Fourth Grade Fanatics is giving away some great prizes! Head over to her site to check it out :)
Fourth Grade Fanatics

Losing my summer motivation

Uh-oh! Just 3 weeks into summer break, and I am losing my motivation to get things organized for next school year. Actually, I am sure it was the one week of painting my children's bedrooms and then 2 weeks of vacation that caused the motivation to disappear. Oh well, it has been fun! Time to start planning for next year...I will be teaching Reading/Writing/Language Arts again, so that is going to be my main focus. This past year, we "teamed" and I taught Math to two groups and my partner teacher taught the Reading/Writing/Language Arts. I am really excited to be back to a "self-contained" classroom this year. I loved working with two groups of students, and my partner teacher was great, but our schedule was so fixed and I missed being able to integrate lessons easily and to take extra time for those teachable moments. I really want to try Daily 5/CAFE in my classroom. Does anyone have any great advice for doing this in 4th grade? It seems a lot of the resources out there are geared to the primary levels. However, I can totally see the value of Daily 5/CAFE in the upper-elementary grades as well. I figure I will adjust the "5" as needed (I have seen some 4th/5th grade teachers suggest doing 3 of the 5). Well, just sitting down to write this blog post has given me some of my motivation back :) I need to research Daily 5/CAFE for 4th grade, then I will post any great resources I find here!

Sunday, May 20, 2012

I love the idea of coming up with a Summer Bucket List! Every year, I have grand plans of getting so much ready for the following school year, but I end up forgetting much of what I wanted to do by mid-July :-) This year, I have many school things I'd like to do, but I also have several things at home/with my kids that I'd like to do.

So, here it Summer Bucket List:

Pinned Image
1. Get everything ready to start the Daily 5 in my classroom next year. I am not sure if I will have time to do all 5 choices, but I hope to at least incorporate parts of the Daily 5. 

2. Organize! Organize! Organize! My classroom and my home both need help with this. I love the binder system suggested by Mrs. H at Once Upon a First Grade Adventure and I am happy that she offers some free printable labels for the binders! THANK YOU, Mrs. H! 

3. Summer Projects with my own children: My daughter and my son both LOVE doing fun, learning activities at home. I always say that I am going to work on different skills with them over the summer in fun, engaging ways. However, we end up getting so busy with trips, time in the pool, time with friends, etc. that I don't end up doing much. My daughter (who is in 2nd grade now) and I have plans to make a solar oven and to make cookies and s'mores in the oven! My son is a super-smart 4 year old who loves exploring and trying things out. I think I will try to some fun "sink or float" activities with him. I also hope to do some crafts (that they choose). 

4. READ! This one will not be hard for me! My Kindle always has a few good books on it. In addition to my light, quick reads like the newest Sookie Stackhouse book and others, I want to catch up on some books that my 4th graders might enjoy. I'd like to have my students do book talks throughout the year, and I want to have at least 3-4 new titles to share with them in my own book talks :-) 

5. SUMMER CLEANING! (aka Spring Cleaning) My poor house has been neglected this school year. Between my daughter's gymnastics schedule and the daily stuff...I have not done the heavy-duty spring cleaning that the house needs so much. I know that I have TONS of things that I can donate to charity or give away. I just need the time to really dig through boxes and closets and figure out what I can part with. Then all of the fun scrubbing and cleaning can come after that! 

I am excited for this summer! We have a nice trip to Pittsburgh (our hometown) planned. We will take the kids to a Pirates baseball game and play tourists for a few days, then spend time with our friends and family. It will be a great summer and I know I should be able to do a lot of things on my Summer Bucket List...if not all of them!!

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Opened a TpT Store!

I have to admit, it is rather pathetic at the moment, but I finally took the time to start up a TpT store. I have one freebie on there, and I am attempting to add another item to sell. Sadly, I am having technical difficulties. I promise to work on it more as the school year ends and I have some time over the summer!

Colleen's TpT Store!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

STEAM Week-Pt. 2

Our STEAM week activities were a huge success! We started our week with the landing of an MV-22 Osprey. The MV-22 is the Marine Corps' newest helicopter. The students not only got to watch this amazing machine land, they also had the chance to climb aboard and talk to the crew. The pilots and crew were awesome! They asked our students some really engaging, thought-provoking questions that showed our students how math, science, engineering, technology, and even the arts go into creating things such as the Osprey. Here is a brief video of the landing:

Since I was the "T" for the week (Technology), I wanted to introduce the students to a new program that they could use for school and for fun. Our school has a variety of software from Tech4Learning ( including Pixie, WebBlender, and Frames. My students have had some experience with Pixie and WebBlender, but Frames was new to me and to the students. It enables students to create presentations with sounds, animation, video, narration, etc. We were very limited on time, but I asked the students to create some frames to finish this sentence: Technology is.... They LOVED the activity! Many of them stuck with "Technology is fun", "Technology is cool", etc. There were some that were so creative. One little girl made a slide "Technology is making memories" and she went on to explain how that is the only way she gets to see one of her siblings and other relatives. I have some fabulous examples to share (once I remember to put them on my flash drive to bring home). I will try to do that tomorrow :-) Until then, here is my basic example video I shared with the students at the very beginning of our technology activities.

The students really had a blast, and had a completely new outlook on how important Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, and Math are in our everyday lives. Now I am challenging myself to really integrate and create some good units for next year that will keep that theme in my classroom.

Sunday, April 1, 2012


Our school system will be participating in a week of activities designed to expose our students to STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math), and to make it a constant focus in our schools. My 4th grade team has decided to each pick one of the 5 areas and create activities to go along with that area. Our students will rotate to a new classroom each day for the week. While in our rooms, they will learn about careers, as well as having the opportunity to show off what they can do in that area. The teacher who is working on Science will be doing a wonderful integrated lesson about the distance of the planets from the Sun. Not only will students be learning some great scientific facts, they will be practicing Math skills, learning about scale, and even getting some exercise. I am doing the Technology piece, and I will be honest, I have way too many ideas. I have not narrowed it down to something that I feel will be perfect for our kids. I want something that will really pique the students' interest. I will have to report back when I narrow it down and see what my blog followers think. We are limited in what we have access to, and I want to introduce them to some tools they can use. Hopefully I get this figured out over spring is all happening the week of April 23-27.

Friday, March 9, 2012


Wow, I never thought I would get to 10 followers, let alone 50+! Thank you all for putting up with the fact that I am rarely posting fun or fresh ideas this year! I feel like I want to share original ideas, but to be completely honest with you, I am one of those teachers who borrows great ideas from other, more creative teachers.

We have our testing the week after next, so today was spent planning for some fun activities that will help the students review, without completing changing our instructional time (we are not allowed to "cease" regular instruction in order to review). Since I have been using Math Stations all year, that is the format I am going to use. I will even have time to continue with our "regularly scheduled" standards :) Heaven knows, we are nowhere near through the 4th grade curriculum in March. EEK!

I am excited, though, that after March 23, the stress of testing will be behind us and we can focus on having fun while learning. I took a brief course about using Gaggle (email, message boards, homework drop box, digital locker, etc) in the classroom, and my students are itching to get to use it on a regular basis. They were my guinea pigs. I set up message boards for them much like the ones in my some of my graduate school classes. THEY LOVED IT! The interactions and collaboration were better than anything they had ever done. They were polite and respectful, but willing to debate the topics.

Thanks again for visiting my little blog :)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

Prime and Composite Numbers Smartboard activity

I adapted "Be a Prime Number Hunter" game from for the Smartboard, and my students really loved it. I think they just loved being able to use the Smartboard in a small group on their own, but it was a nice alternative to a traditional math station. Feel free to use the "game" if you are teaching prime and composite numbers. It was GREAT to hear the students debating about why certain numbers are or are not prime!

Prime Number Game

I Got the Liebster Award!

Thank you to Tales from a 4th Grade Teacher for recognizing my blog with this award!!! 
The goal of the award is to spotlight up-and-coming blogs with less than 200 followers. The rules are:
  1. copy and paste the award on your blog
  2. thank the giver and link back to them
  3. reveal your top 5 picks and let them know by leaving a comment on their blog
  4. hope that your followers will spread the love to other bloggers
Here are the 5 blogs that I chose to honor with this award as well:

Please check out these great teacher blogs for wonderful insights and ideas!!!

Monday, January 16, 2012

Math Stations

So, this year, I have been spending a great deal of time trying to "perfect" a math workshop approach to teaching my 4th graders. Sadly, I am finding that they seem to need a lot more direct instruction than I expected, so that is taking some of the "oomph" out of our Math Stations time during each day. I found some great ideas on TpT (links below) that I have used in my classroom. I am currently using the acronym M.A.T.H. to organize my groups. This includes:
M-Math Facts: Students can choose from a variety of math fact games such as Multiplication War, Multiplication and/or Division Bingo, Math Fact Memory, flash cards, etc.

A-At Your Seat: This is usually my time for small group, but for some groups, they have enrichment activities or independent work.

T-Technology: Our school has V-Math, so that is usually what students are tasked with working on. Sometimes I will assign online activities that correspond to our text, enVisionMATH. 

H-Hands-On: This is one area that I struggle with finding great activities for my 4th graders. We will often use the centers that came with our text series, but those are not truly "hands-on". I have done the typical things like having students solve problems using manipulatives, etc., but I feel like this is one section of our Math Stations that I need to revamp. Feel free to share any ideas you might have :)

Overall, I feel like the Math Stations approach is working, but I need to work on management a little better. I believe that my students who are generally proficient in math area doing well, while my students who struggle sometimes end up "playing" without really knowing what they are practicing. This is a work in progress, I guess. I'd love to hear any thoughts and suggestions you might have!

Teachers Pay Teachers Math Workshop "Stuff":
From Ashleigh:

From Littlest Learners: