September 26, 2014

Mind, Heart, Body - Educating the Whole Child!

Have you ever attended the Elementary School Conference? It's an exciting event hosted each fall by the NC Association of Elementary Educators (NCAEE). This year's conference will be held October 19th through the 21st at the Embassy Suites in Concord, NC, near Charlotte. I'm the current president of NCAEE, so you'll be hearing more about the conference over the next few weeks.

Our theme this year is "Mind, Heart, Body - Educating the Whole Child," which is appropriate because elementary teachers work hard to meet ALL the needs of their children, not just their academic ones.

Click here for registration information, including group discounts.

The best way to describe this conference is "one stop shopping" for elementary educators. Math and reading conferences are nice, but they only have ... math and reading sessions. The Elementary School Conference has everything you need in one place!

What's Planned for the 2014 Conference
We're excited to have Dave Burgess, author of Teach Like a PIRATE, as our Keynote speaker during our luncheon on Monday, October 20th. I personally haven't heard him speak, but he has rave reviews so I'm looking forward to his Keynote.

Our featured speakers include Kathy Bumgardner, Dr. Kathy Kennedy, The Bag Ladies, and Pat Calfee. I've seen all of these presenters in the past, and every one of them will motivate you and give you practical strategies to take back to the classroom. We also have over 50 other breakout sessions from outstanding elementary educators, including classroom teachers, principals, and university professors. I'm excited that Angela Watson of The Cornerstone for Teachers blog will be presenting a session, too! Click here to see a preliminary list of all sessions and presenters. The conference begins at 2 p.m. on Sunday and ends at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday. To view a complete agenda, visit our Conference Schedule page.

DonorsChoose Jackpot $1000 Giveaway!
NCAEE loves to support teachers, and this year we are introducing a new way to help teachers get money for their classrooms. During the conference we will be giving away TEN $100 DonorsChoose gift certificates! As many of you know, is an organization that helps public school teachers get their classroom projects funded. Teachers write project proposals, post them on the site, and donors choose which projects they would like to help fund.

The winners can use their gift certificates to add funding to their own projects or choose to help a friend. If the winner doesn't already have a live DC project, he or she may keep the certificate for up to 2 months to allow time to learn about DonorsChoose and write a project proposal.
Entering the contest is easy. Just fill out an entry form at the registration desk and drop it into the DonorsChoose Jackpot box. The sooner you do this the better because we'll begin drawing names during the Exhibitor break on Monday morning.

Laura Candler's Conference Sessions
Were you wondering if I'm going to present any sessions? Of course I will! In fact, I'll be presenting two sessions at the conference this year. One is on math stations, and the other is about how to use DonorsChoose. If these topics interest you, I hope you you'll plan to attend!
  • Math Stations - Meaningful and Motivating!
    Monday, October 20th (3:15 pm - 4:30 pm)
    Math stations aren't just for little ones! Older students enjoy math stations, too. Not only are math stations fun, they actively engage your students in meaningful review and provide enrichment challenges. In this session, you'll learn easy ways to set up and manage math stations, how to create your own games and activities, and how to hold students accountable for their work. Discover how easy it is to make math stations both meaningful and motivating!

  • DonorsChoose: A Jackpot of Classroom Funding
    Tuesday, October 21st (9:45 am - 10:45 am)
    Do you regularly spend your own money on classroom supplies? If so, attend this session to learn how you can hit the DonorsChoose jackpot! You'll learn a simple, step-by-step process for writing proposals to obtain funding for your classroom projects. Seventy percent of projects are fully funded; you'll learn tips and tricks to increase the odds that your projects are funded, too. The session will end with a drawing for a $100 DonorsChoose gift card!

There you have it! If you haven't attended the Elementary School Conference before, you're in for a treat. Register now, and you'll have a unique opportunity to learn from other elementary educators and network with your colleagues. Plan to stay with us at the Embassy Suites where the conference is being held so that you can relax and enjoy yourself during your stay. If you reserve a room by the end of the day tomorrow, September 27th, you can enter a drawing for a $50 gift card! Click here for details.

Be sure to find me and say hello, too. Not only am I the president this year, I'm also the conference chair, so I'll definitely be around all three days. However, I'm never too busy to stop and meet my virtual friends in person!

September 8, 2014

25 Bulletin Boards You Can Keep Up All Year

Advice from Real Teachers Series

Even if you love creating bulletin boards, chances are good that you don't have time to dream up a new bulletin board every month for all of the boards in your room. Wouldn't it be great to have at least one board that you could keep up all year and not have to replace?

Today's Question
April, a fan of the Teaching Resources Facebook page, asked, "What is a good bulletin board to keep up all year?" Over 150 teachers responded to her question with some terrific ideas. I compiled the answers and removed duplicate responses, but I could not narrow the list down to any less than 25! Luckily you'll only need one or two of these ideas if you plan to keep the board up all year.

Bulletin Board Photos Needed!  
The ideas below are terrific, but in this case a picture really is worth a 1000 words! I would love to see some of these ideas in action, and I know my blog followers would, too. If you create a bulletin board from one of these ideas, please take a picture of it. Email it to me at If I'm able to use your photo in this post, I'll send you $15 worth of teaching materials from my store - your choice! In order for me to use it, it will need to be clear, sharp, and taken in good lighting, so turn up the lights and keep your hand steady!

25 Bulletin Boards You Can Keep Up All Year
Here are my picks for the top 25 bulletin board ideas in no particular order. If you would like to read all of the ideas, you'll find that question here on the Teaching Resources Facebook page.
  1. Debbie Powell - I did a Classroom Timeline last year that the kids and I loved. The timeline is put up at the beginning of the year with the months of the year spaced along it. Each month I put up pictures of students having birthdays and other pictures of classroom activities.
  2. Diane Fulp - I just bought some window valances and curtain rods.  I am going to make one of my largest boards a "window".  I'll use sheet protectors for the windowpanes to display student work all year.  I'll cut strips of a darker paper to use as lines to divide the windowpanes.
  3. Elizabeth Odrap - I have a giant world map on one of my boards (Under $10.00 on Amazon) Students place a pin on it to mark the setting/ location of the current book their reading. Two years using the same map, and it still looks great!  It was an excellent opportunity to interject geography into every day! 
  4. Paula Gentry - My 5th graders created an interactive social media board where the kids posted notes to each other and they used the board to ask questions to the teacher. I also used it to post missed assignments when a student was absent.
  5. Stephanie Bradshaw - I have a giving tree and at the end of each day I have the kids post something positive about themselves. As the year moves along, I have them pull a name of a fellow classmate and say something positive about them. They hang all the responses on the tree. 
  6. Paula Colvett - I have a board where I put a new random question each week. Students put their answers on a sticky note sometime during the week and stick it on the board. They enjoy looking at all the answers, some funny, some serious.
  7. Mischa Yandell - I put up black paper black and white filmstrip border. Red glitter letters saying "NOW SHOWING" and foam stars on clothespins. I hang their work on them each week.
  8. Zena Lewis - Google Board: This could be a white board or a bulletin board. When students have a question that needs be researched later this is your spot. The lesson can continue but it is not forgotten.
  9. Jan Bryant - I give everyone a piece of paper that has a puzzle piece for them to cut out and decorate. Their assignment is to decorate it in any way that would represent them. Then I put them all together on a bulletin board titled "You Fit Right In."
  10. Jenn Davidson - I have always kept our "Writing Wall" up all year. I put a writing sample up for each student each month. The latest is always on top so I can see the progress by lifting the pages. I do one on the first day of school and one every month detailing the student's personal favourite thing they did during the month. The last is done during the final week of school. I bind it nicely and attach a letter to each family telling then the significance of the writing. I do not edit this writing so that it is a true reflection of the students work and progress (both written and artistically). Each year I am brought to tears in June as I take it down when I realize how I have been a small part of a huge journey in the Grade 1 year.
  11. Allie Serna - I love the idea of this Facebook bulletin board... It's fun and up with the technical age :-) and it can be used for famous people in history, characters in a book, student of the week, and many more. 
  12. Mary Tudor - A birthday chart is a great year long bulletin board. When a student has a birthday have the other students write a positive comment and put it on the board.
  13. Tina Thorp - On my large bulletin board outside my classroom in the hall, I have a large world map and heading with "Where in the World is Flat Stanley?"  I use this as my first book club book to introduce the rules and expectation of the book club.  I also use this as a social studies tool for geography, map reading, and cultures. I pose 3 questions for each location while my class and the entire school try to locate Flat Stanley.  After the clues, I write the location and connect red yarn from the location to point on map.  I also include a picture and 3 important cultural facts from that city/country.  All the grades love this!
  14. Dan Watt - For the past four years (with this past year being the best year ever) I've created the "We Have Character" board where we share photos of people/pets/ items very important to each of us.  We talk about it and share it with the class.  As the year progressed, we posted pictures of family members who passed away, so the board evolved into a tribute board.  Very touching, and even more difficult to take down for the year.
  15. Bobbi Jo - A couple years ago I made the Twitter bird and said, "A Class to Tweet About." Then I laminated conversation bubbles and the kids could tweet questions, comments, and compliments on their conversation bubbles w dry erase markers. The kids loved it.
  16. Kelly Shuffield - I have a brag board. Each student has a piece if construction paper with their name at the bottom mounted on the board. Two paper clips are at the top of the paper. Students choose which graded assignments (90+) they want to post.
  17. Vikki Grimley - I did a 'Celebrating Success' wall where students were able to display extracurricular achievements or just something they were particularly proud of. It was a mixture of photos, art work, certificates etc. all with captions from the kids.  It worked extremely well, particularly with the less academic children.
  18. Kelly Witte - I do one that says, "I am proud..." And then the students can write on a star and put it up that says what they are proud of. It can be from home or at school.
  19. Stephanie Borden - Instagram board. Take pictures all year long and post.
  20. Mike Allan - I do an "inspirational quotes" bulletin board for middle schoolers!
  21. Darby Gerke - Academic language word wall along with high frequency words
  22. Heather Smith - I have jungle theme so I do "Spotting Great Work" (little safari guy/binoculars) on leopard print fabric. Just change the work out. Works all year!
  23. Nicole MacDonald - "Look Who's Hard at Work" with a construction scene and workers. Or "A Handful of Learners" - trace hands, write 5 qualities(one on each finger). You could even send that home to the parents as homework, then put their picture in the middle
  24. Stefanie Geoghegan - I'm going to build a tree outside my classroom and hang up leaves for each book the kids have read. All year I'll be adding leaves, but won't have to cover up anything for testing and I'll never have to take it down.
  25. Joan Armstrong - I put up monthly calendars and we put examples of work, notes, birthdays, newsletter articles. Year at a glance, we can see where we've been and where we are going.
Question Connection - Advice from Real Teachers
Do you have an idea for a year-round bulletin board that you would like to share? Please post it in a comment below. If you would like to submit a teacher question of your own, be sure to watch for the Question Connection announcement on Wednesday evenings at 8:30 pm ET on the Teaching Resources Facebook page. Even if you don't have a question, please follow me on Facebook and offer your advice when you see the questions come through!

Great Questions + Advice from Real Teachers = The Question Connection! Enjoy!

September 6, 2014

4 Square Planning: The Key to Organized Writing

Guest post by Catherine Reed, the Brown Bag Teacher

As a fifth-grade ELA teacher, I spent many hours writing together with my students. We worked on developing ideas, learning writing conventions, giving opinions, and most importantly, organizing our thoughts.

My students were expected to learn three differentiated classes of writing, and my lowest writers really struggled with the execution of ideas.

My students knew what they wanted to say but struggled to write it in a logical, organized manner that allowed others to understand. Throughout our first 9 weeks together, I tried planner after planner including a pyramid planner, a traditional main idea planner, genre-specific planners, etc., and found that these planners did not work for my students.

I was blessed to visit a neighboring school which has shown tremendous growth in their on-demand writing scores and I asked questions. My first question - How do you teach students to plan? The answer - Schoolwide (K-5) we use a 4-Square Planner. So, back to 5th grade I went and introduced the 4-square planner, this time, very successfully.

While my gut feeling was to provide my students with a printed planner that they would 'fill in', I fought it. My 5th graders (even my lowest writers) needed ownership in the process and were very capable of creating the planner themselves. Additionally, on state testing, my students definitely wouldn't be given a pre-printed planner; we needed to practice like we play. The format went like these - a horizontal and vertical line down the middle, a small box in the center of the paper. Below is a typed version of the planner. If you would like like it for your reference, you may grab it below from DropBox.

Below is an example of a template planner for Opinion Writing. The great part of the 4-square planner is that it's not mode-specific. We used this planner for opinion writing, narrative writing, and inform/explain writing. We could meet and teach all components of the Common Core Writing Standards through this one planner.

Some students choose to write a very detailed plan, methodically recording their ideas on the planner and then, on their formal writing piece. While others include a main idea for each paragraph (required by me) and then, a main word/idea for each supporting detail. When students wrote an entire piece, I wanted to see the following things on their planner: a full thesis, 3 main ideas, and at least 2 supporting details/words in each box/paragraph.

Using the 4-square planner, I found many students preferred to fill in the 4th box (the conclusion) only after they had written the bulk of their piece. once their piece has substance, they would then return to the planner to play around with their ideas and anchor their ideas.

Ultimately, we give a planner format to help guide their work and organize their thoughts, but as they grow as writers, students must learn what works best for them (How do I best organize my thoughts? How thoroughly do I need to plan? How long does it take for me to plan vs. write?). After much practice and modeling, students then have ownership over their writing process and know what parts of the planner work for them. It's at this point that we as teachers have to give up control and trust our students.

Catherine Reed is a former-fifth grade ELA teacher in central Kentucky and is now visiting first grade for her second year of teaching. Catherine blogs at The Brown Bag Teacher where she shares ideas for creating learning experiences and integrating technology in the everyday classroom!