Saturday, August 16, 2014

A Bright Idea: Picture Book Organization

Oh, I just love to read about all of the Bright Ideas in this monthly BlogLand linky. I have collected so many tips and strategies and materials over the past few months... Haven't you? I am particularly excited about the August edition because I know I will have a list of Back-to-School ideas to consider!

My Bright Idea this month has to do with my picture book collection. I have a LOT of books--as in lots and lots and lots! I keep my picture books in "tall" boxes like these. I got the boxes at the Container Store, and almost any picture book will fit inside.

But here's what usually happens: I am running late for school (Why, Oh WHY do my stories always have to start like this?!) and I need a picture book for a lesson. I rip the top off of the first box, thumb through, no luck. Try the second box, thumb through, consider crying, still no luck. Try the third box, sigh with great exasperation and give up (or, less frequently, squeal with delight when I find what I need).

Based on this "system," I never knew which books I owned, and I was constantly buying a second copy of a book when my Amazon account said clearly, "You purchased this book...."  More than once, I said to the screen (withhold commentary, please): "Well if you're so sure I purchased this book, Where is it?!"

This madness came to an end this summer. I knew that this was the only time I would have for a picture book overhaul, so I took advantage of a few July days.

I numbered the boxes from one to six. (Coincidentally, I found that filling the boxes made them pretty heavy. I figured I got a "gym work out" every time I moved the boxes from one room to another. Well, maybe not a whole work out...)

For each box, I made an alphabetical index--and color-coded it to match the numbered label on top of the box. If I don't have my computer, I can quickly scan the indexes on the sides of the boxes to find what I need. More importantly, because I typed the list in Power Point, if I have my computer close by, I can just do a "search" for the book title and Voila! (Please say this with French accent since I can't find the accent key!) I quickly know which box to look in!

I also listed a possible focus for each of the books: nature, kindness, courage, etc. While it is not completely comprehensive (and there are a few typos and other errors), I have a system that works! I can search the document for a topic and see if I tagged any other books for use with that same topic. Compiling the Picture Book Index took a bit of time, but I did the work while watching movies, so it was fairly painless.

For many books, I took the system one step further....

When I read a blog post or track a pin to a resource about a book, I print it and put it in the back of the book. In this way, I have someone else's notes to help guide me through lesson planning.

Here's an example: Recently, I found a pin from Teaching with a Mountain View and a blogpost from Life in 4B about a book called Sierra that could be used to teach personification. I printed both and placed them inside my book.

So, how do I keep it all organized? I use sheet protectors cut in half! The "combo" looks like this...

I use The Important Book to teach a variety if different strategies every year, so I have (gulp!) three copies of the book (and now you know why!) (Click the pic to add a copy to your own library)

I know that my sweet blogfriend,Stephanie, from Teaching in Room 6 uses this book too. I found her blog post about the book, printed it, and placed in a "pocket" at the back of the book.  Now I can see Stephanie's notes when I take out the book to use it in my classroom.

And if you know me at all, you know that the pocket is not affixed crocked--even though it looks that way. When I propped it open (with a book of crayons!) to take the picture, the photo came out wonky-looking. Just had to set the record straight (heeheehee).

One of my absolute favorite sources for picture book commentaries is Barbara Gruener from The Corner on Character. I always love her ideas and she presents them in such a wonderful way! Here's my copy of Stellaluna... (Click the pic for a link to Amazon)

And here are Barbara's notes, tucked neatly into the "pocket" at the back of the book. I use a few small pieces of double stick tape to hold the pockets, and my notes stay right where I can find them.

It is so... refreshing... to have everything together in one place. I am forever spending my time trying to find "missing pieces" when I am trying to plan. Having the books and notes together will save me a lot of time. And having a Picture Book Index will ensure that I can find the right book in the right box without exasperation or tears.

Just look at all of the Bright Ideas listed in the Link Up below! The authors have listed a grade range--and most have listed a topic to guide your browsing. I just know you're not going to want to miss any of them!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, I'd love it if you linked up with me on Bloglovin, Facebook, or Pinterest.

Monday, August 11, 2014

DaaaaaDuh DaaaaaDuh Shark Week Hop!

WooHoo! Shark Week is here. And that means two things: There will be a lot of shark-infested programs on TV... AND there's a Shark Week Blog Hop going on!

All teachers know that kids learn more when they’re excited and engaged. For this event, a team of bloggers has come together to help your students take a BITE out of learning with a theme your students are sure to love. And we think you're going to love this little hop as well!


Each of the bloggers in this link-up is sharing a motivational strategy to keep students' interest level high. Here's my offering...

Frame by Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah Designs HERE on TpT ... Funky watches by Sarah Beth HERE on TpT
One way I help my students get excited about learning is to involve them in setting mini-goals for learning. When we are doing a whole class activity, I support them in setting classroom goals that can be attainable... with a little work. For example, if we are sequencing decimal cards or finding sets of synonyms, I ask students to set a goal for the amount of time needed for all partnerships to complete the task. I use strategic partnering (and/or modified materials) so that no one is made to feel "under the microscope." Because they are working in partnerships, they are motivated to help each other because their work contributes to the class' success. Often, students will say, "Let's try again... I think we can do better!" And they do!

Adding a shark-fin twist to an activity will add a little intrigue... So, in honor of Shark Week, I'm offering a freebie with a sharky vibe...

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My Shark Week freebie is a sorting activity involving mathematical comparisons. Students need to sort the comparisons... deciding which are true and which are not true. They look like this:

I giggle every time I look at "Mark the Shark." He's from Scrappin Doodles (HERE on TpT). I love him! And I think he provides just the right amount of motivation to take on the math task.

In order to accommodate a range of grades and ability levels, I included a set with whole numbers, a set with tenths, and a set with hundredths... all with a smiling shark. (I would never want math to be scary!) Simply choose the set that works with your students. You can mix and match levels if you need to differentiate--I put little letters in the corner so you can keep track of the cards.

Click on the graphic below to download your freebie from

Every blog in the Shark Week Blog Hop features a fishy freebie for you and your students--but you'll need to hurry! Shark Week only lasts until Sunday, August 17th. Just keep swimming clicking on the links and collecting freebies as you go! Be sure to watch for fins along the way...

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thinking About Getting Ready... Notebook Dividers

After blogging for three years, I am finally figuring out how everything fits together! All in the same day, I blogged about something and put a photo on Instagram and added a post on facebook. I opened a Twitter account as well, but anyone who knows me is aware that being succinct is NOT my best skill! Twitter will just have to wait.

I can't convince myself to do any "big planning" yet--although I feel like I have been thinking about those plans for weeks. However, I do love all those "little tasks" that are necessary before the start of a new school year. Scissors, paper cutter, printer, cardstock... check!

I make binders for my students each year. Some of my students have binders of their own, but many do not, so we have an "official" Sixth Grade Binder with everything they need to stay organized. I'll post about the binders in a week or two, but today's task was making the little divider tabs that separate the subjects in the notebook.

I have gotten pretty efficient at the process over the years. First I print the tabs.

Then I cut them out.

Then I score and fold the tabs so they fit nicely into the dividers. I've tried a lot of different tools, but the one that works best for me is still a "t-pin." Oddly, I've had the same t-pin for years and years. Funny, I can't always find two shoes that match, but I can find an ages-old t-pin in minutes when it is time to complete this project!

After I score the tabs, I fold them and stack them into little tents, so everything is in reach and in order.

Last, I put the tabs into the dividers so that I can add each group into a binder.

Having a set of class binders really helps keep everything organized in my classroom. I'll admit: It is as much for me as it is for my students. Papers stay organized and the responsibility for keeping track of things is shifted from my shoulders to theirs. It just works for us.

There is a lot going on in the week ahead! Cue shark music... (You're singing it aren't you? DaaaaaDuh....)

Starting Monday, Jenny from Luckeyfrogs Lilypad has organized a group of bloggers for a bloggy link up filled with shark-infested freebies! I hope you'll come back and check it out!

And even though I posted this yesterday (a Sunday), I am linking up with my Dearly-Loved Friend, Tara at 4th Grade Frolics.
Last time I posted my Monday Made It on a Tuesday. This time it was on a Sunday. In my little brain, +1 + -1 + 0... I'm sort of even (Which sounds a whole lot better than being sort of zero!) Click on the button above to take you back there if that's where you started!

Friday, August 8, 2014

It's a Fifth Grade Blog Hop... with Freebies and a Giveaway!

I know... My blog name is Finding JOY in Sixth Grade. And  a lot of people think my name is Joy (It's Kim, in case you were among those looking for someone named Joy). And a lot of people think I teach sixth grade. And they're right! HOWEVER, I may be getting a few fifth graders this year... and next year I will have even more. So... I'm finding a comfortable spot among my fifth grade BloggyBuddies and getting ready for the new year!

I'm lucky. We have still have a week of vacation before those "teacher meetings" that precede the time with kids. I am always jealous of those lucky to be out in May when it's well into June and I am still in school. It's a toss-up, I guess. (Actually, we don't have air conditioning in our school , so starting as late as possible is a good thing for us!)

Oh! This is a blog hop! Why am I getting to so bogged down with autobiographical details?! Sorry!

A group of fifth grade teachers have assembled some advice and some freebies (and a giveaway!) and made it easy for you to get from place to place to collect your goodies.

And since it's a Back-to-School blog hop, I get to share some Back-to-School advice.

And, if you need a Back-to-School-Get-to-Know-You activity, you can find a freebie HERE. Or click on the picture below to get it on TpT!

And... There's a giveaway. Look at all that goodness!

Just click away in the Rafflecopter below. EasyPeasy!

As I mentioned, this is a hop! So you're off to your next stop at Teaching with Grace. (You will love her!) She's got some advice waiting for you too! Just click on her button below!

See you at the Hop! And here's the evidence... My name really is Kim!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Saturday, August 2, 2014

So Cal Blog Hop

WooHoo! It's a SoCal Blog Hop... or shall we say Blog Surf? I am so excited to be a part of a little end-of-the summer fun with some wonderful Southern California BloggyFriends!

I consider myself more than a little lucky to live twenty minutes from this lovely scene...

This is one of my favorite places to be. Even at high tide, you can walk and walk and walk. I love the sounds of the ocean... the waves, the seagulls, the people... as well as the sights. And I like the beach just as much in the winter. There is not a huge temperature variation from season to season in Southern California, and beach-walking is a lovely pastime almost year-round!

Now it's your turn to join us at the shore! As part of the Hop, each blogger is offering a little beach-themed freebie! I'm sharing some "sunny" teacher notes to celebrate student success. Just click on the picture below to get a copy from

The graphics are from my sweet friend Krista at Creative Clips.  You can check out her cute and colorful designs HERE on TpT!

But that's not all! By using the Rafflecopter options below, you could win one of four $25 gift cards from TpT--just in time to gather up some must-haves for Back-to-School! In the meantime, you'll be getting to know some west coast bloggers and collecting some freebies along the way!

Since this is a "Hop," we're making it easy for you to travel from place to place. Just click on the button below to surf over to the next stop, Sweet Sounds of Kindergarten, where Kelly has something special for you!

In the meantime, I'll be sending you happy thoughts for the new school year from a sunny spot on the beach!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Friday, August 1, 2014

No. No. No. I Don't Want It To Be August (Currently)

July. August. July. August.

Yep. There's definitely a difference. July sounds like summer. And August sounds like back-to-school. I'm pretty sure that August is still a summer month. But as soon as the calendar flips over to August, my whole world changes... and something in the back of my brain begins chanting, "You've got to get ready!" And then I hear someone whining: But August is still summer! Oh. That someone might be me!

I know that lots of my BlogFriends have already gone back to school--in July! (Sorry... I think that starting school in July borders on inhumane!). And for many, maybe even most teachers, school begins in August.  In my thirty years at my school, we have always gone back to school the day after Labor Day... also known as the first week of September. Next year I will join the majority when we report back in mid-August. But as of today, there are still a few more weeks of "summer" on my calendar. Sigh. I can't help it: My brain keeps telling me to go and buy some more crayons.

Not that it matters what month is on the calendar. I am still organizing the garage! And I am trying to consolidate my curriculum so that it is more "accessible." For the first time in almost twenty years, I will have some fifth graders in my room. It is going to require some adjustment: I have to brush up on my U.S. History curriculum! There is not a lot of overlap between Ancient Civilizations (sixth grade) and U.S. History to 1860 (fifth grade), so I'm going to have to get creative. Here's a little secret: I'm actually looking forward to the challenge!

I wish I could get into my classroom. My room is in the last row of rooms to be cleaned. It will still be another week before I can get in. That only leaves two weeks to get ready. Thankfully, I sorted and cleaned most of my drawers and cupboards in June. Ahhhhh. June. Now that's a month that sounds like summer!

Tomorrow I will be a participating in a Southern California blog hop. A group of "SoCal" bloggers have put together a collection of freebies... and a chance to win some "spending money" on TpT! I hope you'll come back and visit again!

And don't forget to link up with your "Currently" thoughts. I think I meet another BlogFriend almost every time I link up with Farley. I know that's one of her goals... It's like a cross-country blogger meet up--and you don't even have to chose an outfit! Just click the graphic below to be a part of the fun!

And don't forget to leave a little extra love for the bloggers before and after you. It's back-to-school time--or close to it. A little extra love can go a long way!