Back to School GIVEAWAY!

Hi, this is Kelly from Teaching Fourth. Back-to-school has always been such an exciting time to me. Even as a child, I loved going back to school. It always meant new shoes, new clothes, and new school supplies! Even after teaching 25 years, the beginning of school is still exciting to me. It still means a new pair of shoes, a new outfit, and new school supplies, but most importantly, it means a new group of kiddos who are going to become very special to my heart.

To celebrate this exciting time of year, Upper Elementary Snapshots has some fabulous back-to-school ideas, some fantastic freebies, and an amazing giveaway planned just for you! Each one of our bloggers has a wonderful back-to-school tip and a fantastic freebie just for you! Simply visit each of our blogs below to find some great ideas and freebies for your classroom.

Once you have visited each blog and claimed all of your freebies, come back here to enter in an amazing giveaway! You will have a chance to win one of four $100 TpT gift cards! That might be better than a new pair of shoes! ;)

Anchor Chart Solutions

What do you do when you run out of wall space for your anchor charts? 
How do you display your anchor charts?
Do you make new anchor charts every year?

Hello, friends!  I am Deb Hanson from Crafting Connections, and you may or may not already know that I am addicted to using anchor charts in the classroom!  I frequently blog about the ones I create, and I'm constantly pinning great anchor chart ideas I find on Pinterest!   Because of this, a few questions about anchor charts are sent my way throughout the school year. I must admit, a few years ago, I hadn't figured out any great solutions to these common anchor chart problems.  However, thanks to Pinterest, I have found some answers that I'm going to share with you today!

Answers to Frequently Asked Anchor Chart Questions

Question 1:  How do you display your anchor charts?

Answers to Frequently Asked Anchor Chart Questions

Before I found the creative solution shown above, I hung my anchor chart tablet on some hooks that were previously attached to my white board... or I used about 10 heavy-duty clip magnets, which was rather unattractive. The drawback, of course, was losing precious board space.  I love this idea first shared by Sam from Fun with Firsties.  You just need to mount two large command hooks on an open wall, hang an inexpensive curtain rod on the hooks (I bought one at Walmart for less than $3), and use binder rings to attach your anchor chart to the curtain rod!  Voila!

Questions 2 & 3:  Do you tear the anchor chart out of the notebook to display?  If so, what do you do when you run out of wall space for your anchor charts?

There are times that I tear my anchor charts out of their notebooks, but it nearly crushes me to do so!  Once it gets torn out, it nearly always eventually ends up getting tossed into the garbage, or rolled up and misplaced when I want to find it again.  The above solution would make it possible to keep all of those anchor charts in their notebook where they are easy to find!

But what about when you want to display multiple anchor charts for an extended period of time? Create an anchor chart binder!! I first discovered this idea on the Teaching My Friends blog.
Answers to Frequently Asked Anchor Chart Questions
Notice that I create sections for different subjects so it's easier to find the anchor chart I am looking for!

Simply snap a photo of each anchor chart you make, print it out, and place it inside a special binder!  Now you can easily refer to various anchor charts throughout the year by finding it in your binder and placing it under your document camera.

Anchor Chart Binder
A page from my "Language" section
Affixes & Roots
Anchor Chart Binder
A page from my "Reading" section
Context Clues & Main Idea
Anchor Chart Binder
A page from my "Math" section
Fractions & Operations
If you want to download the FREE cover, just click here.  I created covers for the next 4 school years!

Question 4:  But if you use a binder, don't the students lose that "easy access" to the anchor charts?

Not if you create small versions for students to glue inside their interactive notebooks!!  This post by Nasreen at Upper Grades are Awesome inspired this solution.  

When you take a photo to insert into your anchor chart binder, simply make smaller versions for students to glue inside their interactive notebooks.

Answers to Frequently Asked Anchor Chart Questions
I reduced the size of the photo so that I could fit four onto a page.  Each student is given an image to glue inside their interactive notebook!  Now they have easy access to their own personal version of the anchor chart.
Answers to Frequently Asked Anchor Chart Questions
Hop to this blog post to check out my Connections Anchor Chart and to download this interactive notebook FREEBIE!

Question 5:  Do you make new anchor charts each year?

It just depends.  I know the purpose of anchor charts is to be interactive, so if it's a more interactive anchor chart (like the one shown below) I make a new one every year.

Answers to Frequently Asked Anchor Chart Questions
These anchor charts are more interactive, so I would create new versions each year.
Word Choice & Adjectives
However, I must admit that there are anchor charts that I make before class, and we do a different type of interactive activity with them after we review the information on the anchor chart.  For example, my "Connections" anchor chart is one that I keep from year to year (I feel that the interactive aspect comes when students create the interactive notebook page shown above).  Also, other anchor charts, like my "Point of View" anchor chart, is created more for student reference, so I reuse it from year to year.

Answers to Frequently Asked Anchor Chart Questions
I reuse this anchor chart from year to year, because it was designed to be used for student reference.

If you are a fan of anchor charts like I am, or if you just want to challenge yourself to create more of them this next school year, feel free to follow my anchor chart board on Pinterest.  Also, check out my personal blog to see my newest anchor chart!

Teaching Writing: Balancing Process Writing and Demand Writing.

Teaching writing is hard.  REALLY hard.
As many of us are starting to get ready to go back to school, we have lots of "structures" and procedures to think about.  Some of us use published writing programs, others have district curriculum documents to follow, and still others are out there on our own!  There are so many components to teaching writing--from dealing with students who have fine motor issues to difficulties coming up with ideas to challenges getting ideas on paper to spelling to organization to...I'll stop.  You teach.  You get it.  For many years, we have worked to develop writers who can plan, draft, revise, share with peers, respond to feedback, and create final products.  Unfortunately, when it comes time to evaluate where each and every writer is, I struggle to give good information to students and parents when the writing has been "touched" and coached by so many hands.

By far one of the biggest “difference makers” for me as a “teacher of writers” has been my use of demand prompts to guide instruction.  In my class, we have a balance of free writing, process writing, and demand writing—but for me, the most effective way to ASSESS students is to do a regular demand prompt to see how students are doing on the targets we have worked on all year.  Process writing is critical in the classroom, but as students work together, confer, share, revise, and so on—it becomes difficult to know what they can do independently.  I really feel it is the most efficient, effective, and stress-free way to measure student growth and to see what areas I need to provide additional instruction—to individual students, small focus groups, or the entire class.  
My method is simple:  Each prompt is graded using the exact same checklist at the top.  I try to keep my checklist the same no matter which genre I use (descriptive, opinion, narrative) which allows me to measure student growth ALL year.  I try to give one demand prompt per month or, at least, 2 per quarter to help me make sound instructional decisions and to watch for student growth.  I keep all demand prompts in files for the students and share progress at parent teacher conferences.  Parents and students are WOWED by how much growth is made from beginning to end!  I also make copies of some (no names!) to use as mentor texts in following years. 

How do I do it?

*Students are given a sheet of paper to use for planning if they wish.  Planning is not graded.

*Students are given 35 minutes of writing time to complete the task.  At 30 minutes I give them a 5 minute warning to wrap up their writing or to go back and “make it their best”.  Use your judgment about time based on the attention and stamina of your students.

*I collect their work and evaluate it based on the checklist.  Do NOT spend huge amounts of time fretting about whether to give certain scores.  The purpose is to collect information about what students still need more experiences with!  Give students a “3” if you feel their skills meet your grade level expectations.  I can score a class set in 60-90 minutes. 

*Our team of teachers will often bring a few samples of these to team times to compare notes and see if teachers are on the same page for assessing grade level standards.  This is great staff development!

*My checklists are tied not to a specific set of standards--but to what teachers have told me are the CRITICAL writing skills they want to be looking for.

So as you begin to think about your year of writing and how you assess it, consider WHAT you are grading.  Are you grading final copies?  Drafts?  Demand prompts? There is no right answer, but be deliberate.  I love to grade project that go through the process with an overall "writing process" grade--but tend to grade drafts and demand writing when wanting to know exactly what my writers can do on their own.  I really try to remember that my goal as a teacher is really to see what areas my students need to focus on, where my class as a whole needs more instruction, and how to budget my time when I do my lesson planning.  After all, we assess to get information--and the next steps are to USE that information to help us better reach our students.  Because of that, we need to make sure we are collecting good, useful information.

I have been making different sets of prompts for intermediate students (I have sets by genre, by season, and so on) but I have had many primary teachers ask me to make an adaptation for younger students—and here are a few.  If you are interested in seeing more, just visit my store and click the category "writing prompts"!  

 This is my newest demand prompt resource which is really geared toward quick, 8 minute writing prompts to get a fast glimpse at how your students are doing with some key, foundation writing skills.
This set of prompts is perfect for primary grades and for special education..
Here's the demand bundle for intermediate grades in 3 different genres...
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Back-to-School Routines & Procedures

Before the start of each school year, I spend a lot of time reevaluating the routines and procedures that I use in my classroom. Establishing routines and procedures early on, sets the stage for a well-managed classroom and helps ensure "smooth sailing" for rest of the school year!!

Below is a list that I refer to each year when establishing routines and procedures for my classroom....

Like anything else we teach our students, these routines and procedures need to be taught, modeled, practiced, and reinforced!!

The following are the routines and procedures that I focus on the most, and the ones which I believe help foster a high-functioning learning environment....

Entering the Classroom "Ready to Learn"

One of the first procedures that I teach my students is how to enter the classroom, and what to do once they come in. I strongly emphasize that they need to enter the classroom "ready to learn". We spend a lot of time talking about what it means to be ready to learn.... coming in quietly, having all materials needed for class, ready to follow directions or routines, and ready to GET TO WORK!!!

My students learn quickly to always look to the white board for directions. First thing in the morning, after recess, and after lunch, I always have specific directions written on the board. Students learn to come in, look to the white board, and then begin following directions right away. This gives me time to take care of business, especially in the morning. At the same time, it teaches students independence. I always love the compliments I get from subs about how well my students follow directions, and how quickly and easily they get to work!!

Teacher Signal

The "teacher signal"-- No teacher should be without one!!

For me, I have always use the simple and easy, GIVE ME 5.  With this, I simply raise my hand and say, "Give me five," and my students raise their hands and show me that they're ready to.... STOP! LOOK! and LISTEN! Below is the graphic that I have displayed for the first weeks of school. We spend a lot of time discussing the expectations, and PRACTICING during those for first few weeks.

Most of the teachers at my school and our principal use this strategy, so it's something consistent for the kiddos from year to year.

However, I have always been very intrigued by some of the fun and catchy "attention grabbers" out there. I have often thought about giving some of these a try. Here are some great examples....

                                   {SOURCE}                                                   {SOURCE}


I will never forget my first year of teaching.... It never occurred to me that I would need to teach students how to transition from one activity to the next. So of course, chaos would ensue each time I gave students a simple direction, such as taking out a text book, or coming down to the rug. Each simple task would turn into full-blow conversations!! I would then have to get their attention all over again to give the next direction. A vicious cycle!!

I quickly learned that quick and quiet transitions needed to be taught, practiced, and reinforced, NON-STOP for those first few days of school. The key is to always wait until students are quiet and then set the expectation for WHAT they need to do, and HOW they need to do it. I also teach my students to save their movement for when I am COMPLETELY done giving a direction.

Quality of Work

I spend A LOT of time at the beginning of the year discussing the quality of student work. It's always amazing to me how upper grade students forget {or do they?!} some of the most basic skills they learn in the primary grades. We're talking things as simple as using a period at the end of a sentence, or misspelling the word "read". 

In my class, I like to have a list of "must haves" that students refer to as they are working, and before they turn an assignment in. While of course there is always room for error, there are just certain things that are simply nonnegotiable for upper elementary (general ed.) students....
If anything on the list is missing, I simply hand assignments back to students, and remind them to refer to our Must Have List.

Additionally, we spend a lot of time focused on "presentation" and students taking pride in their work. For example, when I assign projects I ask students to outline their writing with black or colored marker, add details and at least 3 colors to their illustrations, and to make the most of the space they have on their paper. I spend a lot of time modeling this, and I am constantly reinforcing high-quality work. In my classroom, time, effort, and pride go a long way!!

Final Thoughts

With any and all routines and procedures, it is so important to constantly set expectations during those first days. Right before recess, I always remind students about what is expected when they come back into the classroom after recess. Before an assignment, I ask students to tell me how I expect them to behave while they are working. We are constantly talking about expectations! Plus, we practice ALL THE TIME!! When we line up for lunch, we practice how to walk in a line. When we come in after lunch, we practice how to come in the classroom quietly. It seems like a lot, but it is so important to get them in place so that the rest of the year is smooth sailing!!!

If you're looking for some Back to School activities and printables to ease you into the school year, be sure to check out this Back to School resource in my teacher shop. Click on the pic below to learn more!

Free Stock Photos from The 3am Teacher!

Hi Everyone!!

I hope you all had a very safe and relaxing 4th of July!

I can't believe this is my first official post as the newest member of the Upper Elementary Snapshots Collaborative Blog! I will be heading out to Vegas for the TpT Conference this Tuesday and I hope to get a chance to meet as many of you as I possibly can!! I've been so busy planning for my session, From Sketch to Digital Masterpiece, that I will be so happy to get a chance to just enjoy spending time with everyone in person!

I wanted to keep my first post short and simple, so I decided to offer you all a free set of photos I recently took. I have been taking a lot of pictures and I've been a little obsessed with hummingbirds lately. They are so stinkin' cute.  I have about five hummingbirds that frequently visit my backyard and they have become accustomed to me taking their photos! There are two in particular, that really seem to like getting their photos taken. One is a beautiful Costa's Hummingbird with an amazing royal purple throat. I have several hundred photos of that little guy already. The other little one is a female and I believe she is an Anna's Hummingbird, but I am not quite sure. I named her Flick before I knew she was a girl, but I didn't change her name because she still looks like a Flick to me..haha They both seem to fight for my attention. The other hummingbirds that frequent my backyard are far more shy and getting a photo requires a great deal of patience. The Costa's hummingbird often chases the other ones away and sits on the same branch every time I go outside... almost as if he is waiting for my attention. It is really quite something how unique their personalities are. My new hobby has me researching about all sorts of birds and desert plants and I have had a lot of fun learning about them.

A great way to get students excited about writing is to provide them with real photo prompts. From descriptive writing lessons to expository writing lessons, photo prompts can be a great tool to get students more excited about writing. Using photo prompts allows students to be unique while staying within the perimeters of a writing style. The completed works will show you where students struggle and where they excel. Grab my very first mini set of hummingbird photos to use with your own lessons or just to enjoy. Please make sure to read my Photo Terms of Use before using the photos. 

Click the image below to grab 4 high resolution photos of  Flick, the hummingbird!!

Have a great week everyone & I would love to see pictures or read about what you were able to do with the photos!