Thursday, January 30, 2014

My 7 Grading Paper Must-Haves!

Preparing report cards this week got me thinking a lot about my must-have items for when I grade papers. I have some things I really need to have on hand in order for grading to go smoothly and to work efficiently (for me, anyway) I thought I'd share them! I mean, grading stacks of papers at night isn't always fun, right!? We gotta do what we gotta do to make it {a tad bit} more enjoyable!

1. Grading Sheets

My first and ULTIMATE grading necessity is this handy little piece of paper. I swear, if I don't have one or two of these on me at all times, I feel completely lost and unorganized!
It is a table I create within Microsoft Word that lists my students names, with as many blank columns as I can fit. I also have the four blank rows at the top for the subject, assignment description, total points, and date of assignment. Then, I list the grades as I go. When I go to the computer later to enter them, it is SO much easier! Everything is already in order as I keep in my Excel spreadsheet.. I just go straight down the line entering the numbers!

I can fit about 8 columns per table and 2 tables per page. About 30 copies of them at the beginning of the year is usually enough to last me all year. I use them for more than just grading too. They work for keeping track of just about anything and I seriously don't think I could function without them!

Wanna give them a try?!  >>>CLICK HERE! to download them for free. Beware, it is a WORD document.. I know, I'm sorry! ... just type your students' names into the boxes on the left. There is room for up to 20 students. If you don't need that many, just delete rows from the bottom. You'll need the fonts KG Eyes Wide Open & CartonSix so it looks right. But, of course, you can change them to whatever you want! :)

{disclaimer: old photo!}

2. EZ Grader

I think every teacher would agree than an EZ Grader is a MUST HAVE! My newest one was given to me by a friend who was retiring {it was brand new!} and is a Breast Cancer Awareness one. I love it, because my mom is a survivor, and so was her mom. It's a cause near & dear to my heart. Whenever I see it, I thank God she is healed!

Do I really need to add any further explanation of why it's a must-have for grading, though?!?! [if you feel I do, please leave and a comment and I'd be happy to!! :)] I will say this - whoever invented it is a genius!

3. a good set of pens

I absolutely LOVE this felt pens! They have a super fine point and come in a large rainbow of beautiful colors! My cousin was a graphic design major at U of Cincy and had some a few summers ago. I was drooling over them for this exact purpose and she told me she found them on Amazon. So, of course, I ordered them! I have since found a smaller ten pack at Staples. I have several packs now ... they don't last me too long ;)

of course, these Papermate Flair pens will always suffice if you don't have the Staedtler Fineliners.
I love them too... I especially love how they look on my desk in this Target alphabet toothbrush holder :)


For a not-so-fun activity... you definitely need to fancy up them papers with fun stickers! Students love them, teachers love them.... well, who DOESN'T love them!?! :) Creative Teaching Press makes lots of fun ones!

5. a Repertoire of Encouraging Comments

I have gotten really positive feedback from parents over the last couple of years about the comments I leave on students' papers. I know it's not possible to do all the time, but I find on certain papers, especially tests, meaningful writing, or pages where they really excel, it is not overlooked. My students inspect every page they get in their mailbox every day. I think they like to see what I have to say about their work, so I make sure that what I say counts... because it does to them!

This is my favorite comment to write :) I have a parent write it occasionally when she looks over her daughter's Spelling Notebook before she hands in her homework - so sweet!

I love responding to their sentences! What they come up with sometimes is just tooo much!

6. Grading Folder & paper clips

I HAVE to be organized. It's a MUST. So, to keep everything in order, I paper clip each set of papers together with little paper clips. I also keep a folder in my Erin Condren Teacher Planner that is ONLY for papers I need to grade or check over. I keep them in there whenever I take them out of the turn-in station and take them home in the folder with some grading sheets & stickers {though usually my entire plan book goes home with me nightly!} Once a group of papers is graded, it goes back in the folder. If anything is turned in incomplete, those papers stay on the top of the pile in the folder. The next morning, when I go back in, I take the incomplete papers off of the top and set them aside for students to complete, and the rest go on top of the turn-in station to go home as mail!

I got a set of personalized file folders from Erin Condren and made one a "Papers to Grade" folder. SO cute :)

Every morning I check my students' Take Home Binders for their homework and check off if it was completed or not so they can stay in the Homework Club. I made this checklist real quick to keep track. You can get that for free >>>HERE! too :)  {it is editable in Power Point.. just type into the text boxes and choose a font! I use KG Eyes Wide Open here, too}

7. Turn-in Station

I'll say it again, I HAVE to be organized. In order for me to be organized, my students have to be as well. When they begin to work on an assignment independently, especially something like a quiz or a test or will for sure be assigned a "grade" or set of points, I have them turn it in. When I worked with a teacher friend of mine, she used a system like this and it was genius. So, I took it and began using it too!

I have a station on top of my student mailbox organizers [it's really a ClosetMaid Shoe Organizer!] I have a stack of 4 metal letter trays on top. The three on the bottom each have a paper folder: one red, one yellow, and one green. Those are the colors my friend used, but you could whatever you want! Whenever I give the directions, right before I let my students begin working I tell them where they will turn it in. I used to write on the board a big R or Y {R for red & Y for yellow} so they knew where to put it, but it wasn't enough, someone always asked where to put it when they finished! Especially if there were other thing written on the board already, it seemed to get a little lost. So, instead I made these visual prompt cards that are on the board. I just check next to which folder it goes in. Sometimes I even add a page number or abbreviation/description such as "Lang. 27" or "Math Test" if they have multiple things to turn in. Then, when they finish they just walk over to the station and slip into the correct colored folder. They don't have to take the folder and put it in the pocket or anything, just slide it in to the folder, like a file folder. So, of course, colored or even plain file folders would work too!

The top letter tray is empty and that is where I put papers I have finished grading or other items that need to go home. When there are papers there, my classroom mail people work on putting them into the mailboxes in their free time. So, like I was describing above, when I come in the next morning, any papers that are completely graded go right there and I'm done!

As you can see in the picture, the station also has a basket of highlighters and a sign. I added the sign last year to help combat the No-Name Paper Epidemic. A teacher across the hall printed it from TpT and decided not to use it, so I did! I laminated it and have it taped over the turn-in folders, so they HAVE to lift it in order to turn in their work. This way, they are guaranteed to see that sign and be prompted to check if their name is on their paper or not. I rarely have no-name papers now :) it's a lovely thing! I scoured TpT for the creator of the one I have {to give credit where credit is due!} but failed in finding it. But, there are a bunch for free to download on TpT.. just search "highlight your name." I'm sure you'll find one you like!

If you like the visual prompt cards, you can pick them up here in my TpT store!

Well, those are my go to items for grading papers! Do you have any more, or others? I especially love seeing good pens/office supplies that other teachers have discovered! I'm pretty sure school supplies my Love Language! ;)

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Exciting News, Riveting Robots & MORE Chevron!

Hey there!

I am excited to announce that I will be pairing up with Creative Teaching Press to receive and review their products here on my blog! What's more exciting is.... I will be able to do GIVEAWAYS so you can have a chance at trying out their products too! YAY!

So, to kick it off, I am going to show you how I have been using some of their newer [and cuter] lines in my classroom this year!

The first is their Riveting Robots! Each year I have had a theme in my classroom. The first year I used stars everywhere and had a star calendar and star job chart. Last year I used owls. I love owls and have an overall general chevron theme going, but I wanted a new calendar, job chart, and additional theme since I have had the same students the past couple of years. I was shopping at Lakeshore one day [teacher heaven!] and saw these cute gears and robots borders. I did some digging on the CTP website and was hooked! I decided that the owls had been more of a girly theme [as most are, being that they are décor items] so I figured the boys would appreciate this theme a bit more :)

Here's a look at how I used them:

I decided to make my hallway bulletin more permanent this year to display student work, and change the covering on my door periodically instead [see below for my doors so far this year!] On the right is the permanent work display with their Dots on Turquoise Border, and on the left I used the Nuts & Bolts poster from the Riveting Robots Bulletin Board Set.  I love mixing patterns, so the Target wrapping papers and polka dot borders were fun to mix and match!

Here's how I use the poster more specifically: since it says "The Nuts & Bolts of" and leaves it open-ended for a variety of uses, I decided to use it to display our "objectives" or broad learning concepts in each subject. Bible is changed weekly to include our unit focus and memory verse, but the others change less frequently. I laminated it and use a dry erase marker so I can change, add, and or remove things as often as I need. I like displaying it in the hallways for parents and visitors to see what we're working on! I also used the gear to show what we will be working on in the near future!
To make attendance a bit more visual [and to cover my not so attractive desk!] I used the Riveting Robots Designer Cut-outs with some chevron contact paper I found on Amazon. I wrote my students' names and laminated them for durability all year, and added magnets to the back. My little "robots" report each day to show if they are absent or present. It's just a fun, silly way I brought in the robots some more :)
I [of course] had to buy a new calendar set & job chart to match my other new robot themed items! Since I have a lack of wall space and A LOT of windows, I decided to make my window my calendar space. Since we are in 3rd grade now, I don't feel the need to have a calendar time/morning meeting everyday. Instead, the calendar is one of my classroom jobs. We use window markers from Pat Catan's in bright colors to write the regular date and digital date below the calendar itself :)  The days of the week and weather report are below the window on the wall.
Of course the job chart needed a fun title to it [in 1st grade they were "Star Helpers" and last year they were "Owl-fully Helpful!"] This year, they are my "Handy Helpers!" :)
Lastly, I used the corresponding gears border [my favorite of the whole line!] and robot cut-outs to make my door covering to kick off the new year.... we were "Gearing Up for Third Grade!"
My only regret was not ordering the matching letters they have for this line. When I was shopping at Lakeshore they had some items for the line, but not all of them. So I had to go online to buy the other pieces I needed/wanted. I had already bought the above set of letters, so I made them work. But I am thinking I am going to have to get the matching nuts and bolts style lettering for future use.
What do you think of the Riveting Robots line?!? Leave some comments below and let me know! I personally love, as did the boys in my class!! What is great about it, too, is there are many colors and patterns mixed into everything so it can easily go along with many of the items you already have. If you have primary colors, polka dots, grays and blacks, chevron - it matches them all! and the robots are lots of fun!:)
Speaking of chevron..... CTP has some FANTASTIC new borders out that are ChEvRoN!! I just had to have them when I saw them online. Many of the colors were back-ordered in August, so I had to wait on a couple of them, but I did get a few others. I am eyeing some more of them too! As I said above [and you can see in my pictures] I have a lot of chevron going on. So I had to have the borders.. I am also using their chevron nameplates on my students' desks. I took a tip from Pinterest and use Velcro to attach them to the desks - no more tape mess! I also took ANOTHER idea from Pinterest and laminated them now. Now my students practice writing their first and last name in neat cursive everyday with a dry erase marker. We just started this after returning from Christmas break and it is working well.  Here's a look at them and a link to see them all:

These are the Chevron Name Plates we are currently using:
Since our desks open upward, we keep the markers hooked on upside down and they won't fall off whenever we open our desks :) 
At the beginning of the year I was using these name plates I picked up at Lakeshore:

I ran out of the turquoise and orange which I had used to start the year, so I bought the newer chevron ones since they were all I could find. Now, on CTP's website I discovered they have other chevron name plates in solid colors that I'm liking better for next year!
This is their Turquoise Chevron Border around my dry erase board.. it looks more aqua blue on the website, but it is a true turquoise in person!

 Valentine's door using Chocolate Chevron Border:
Christmas door - wishing I had the Poppy Red Chevron Border instead! hopefully next year :) 
What I like most about the borders [beside the fact that they are chevron ;)] is the width. They are 3" wide, compared to border that is curvy. It gives a clean, bright edge.... especially on those pesky bulletin boards! Do you have any of their chevron borders? What colors do you have, and what do you think of them!? I currently have what you see above, along with the Slate Grey. My wish list includes the Poppy Red and Lime Green too!
Well, I think that's all for today.... whew, I'm tired! :)
Have a blessed week, and stay warm!
Tami :)

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

O-H so organized!

I have found myself becoming more and more organized lately.. on top of the organizational skills I "thought" I had! I think I am finally fine-tuning my preferences as I settle into my classroom more and thought I'd share some of my organization strategies with you. Comment below and let me know what you think and share other strategies for keeping yourself, your students, your classroom, and your life in general [O-H so organized!] :)

One thing I use is a Take Home Binder system with my students. A fellow teacher friend of mine did something similar to this in her first grade classroom a few years ago, and I borrowed the idea and ran with it from there.

This is a cover I made for each of their binders with their names. I do purchase their binders. I like them to be a certain size and of good durability. I have found that parents don't EXACTLY follow class lists when they go shopping [which is fine!] so I pay for their binders on my own. I tried some from the Dollar Tree my first year since they were cheaper... but I paid a higher price to replace them less than halfway into the year -- it's worth the investment in the beginning!

In order to keep parents as informed as possible [I like them to know what's happening in the classroom and I have an Open Door policy for them to contact me at anytime] I have a Communication Log in each child's binder. Parents can write to me at any time and I can do the same. This works great for my classroom management system with the Parent Contact choice ;)
Students also get a clear pocket [I get them at Target at back to school time when they go on sale for $0.50 each] for money & important notes that need to go back and forth. Much safer than anywhere else I have found!
[*note* when purchasing the pockets, purchase some extra.. a few of the zippers have broken and I cannot currently find them at Target!]

During my first year of teaching I placed notebooks in this section. I realized by the end of the year that for many students/parents, most of the notebook was not used. Others needed to use quite a bit! They are also difficult to turn. I decided instead to use loose leaf paper so that more paper can be added if needed, and I can take the rest out at the end of the year!

Of course, every binder also has a Take Home Folder.
Students put their papers that need to go home in here each night.
I also have clear page protectors in their binders [not pictured]. I put in their spelling lists, Bible verses for memory, Speller's Choice menus, and any other important papers they need for studying/schoolwork. This is a great way to provide them tools they need to help them and you can differentiate it for each child! One student has difficulty with addition and subtraction, so one of her clear pages has a set of Touch Points for addition homework and a 100s chart for subtraction homework. Just this week they each chose a poem to learn for our upcoming Speech Meet, so I also put their poem in a page protector.
In the packet you see in the folder above, I included a page about our grading policy. Some students [or should I say, some parents] took that out of the packet and placed it in a page protector to have on hand. I am so glad the idea for those dawned on me one day - they are a great organizational tool!
Their binders also include two calendars, one that is a homework log I created to keep them accountable for homework each night, and another calendar that logs their behavior choices each night. These are updated monthly and they write other information on them, such as test dates. I also include student birthdays and holidays for them to see as well :)
My goal with this system is to [hopefully!] teach my students organization and independence. They have everything they need for success at school and know where they can find it because it is always in the same place. They also know exactly what is expected of them and can take responsibility for their homework each night.

To keep myself organized and to make lesson planning as simple as possible to do and understand, I use post-its! For the last two years I have been doing this, I was hand-writing them.... and though it wasn't a ton of writing, it was still a drag. I realized I could accomplish it much faster on the computer, but I still liked my post-it system best. Perusing the amazing universe which is Pinterest, I came across a post about printing onto post-its. I checked it out and it looked SO easy, that I had to try it! After setting up the template in Power Point and laying it out like I wanted...
it was time to try it.......


It REALLY worked! Now, I just plug in my information for each subject and the other stuff [specials/lunch/snack/tutoring] all stays the same.
No more re-writing those things over and over again! I just love it! My only regret is not trying it sooner! Now I want to make a template for every post-it note I'll ever need!

Here's a a link to the post I found via Pinterest with templates so you can create your own post-it planner too! If you choose to make your own, here's what I did:
I just purchased an At-a-Glance planner with a page per day and put the post-its on that so it's reusable. I also use transparent flags at the top for the date so nothing is written into the planner itself and I don't have to buy a new one every year!
I set up my plan book by chunks of time rather throughout the day rather than by subject. It's much easier for me with how my days are set up, and it requires less post-its/space :)
I also printed the template with a very light gray text box so it doesn't appear in case the alignment isn't perfect and on the template page I put a faint note as to what color post it goes in which box so I'll never forget or need to keep checking.
I highly recommend using Power Point to create your plans in. I make a slide per day and just duplicate every slide for less work. I saw a lot of teachers posting about it on TpT and other blogs for creating their documents and resources and when I finally tried it [I was originally using Word] WHAT A DIFFERENCE! It is so much faster and more streamlined to make anything you want!

I'm definitely a font snob, so printing these with cute fonts as opposed to writing them in my boring, sloppy handwriting calms my type-A, OCD so much more! I seriously have a problem, but there is not enough space in cyber world to discuss that....!

I hope I helped you discover some new ways to keep yourself and your classroom "O-H so organized!" or at the very least, got the ball rolling and inspired some new ideas for you. Share them below and let me know what you think! Stay tuned for some fun stuff coming soon!