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How many times a day are you asked that dreaded question…”can I go to the bathroom?”  For me, it is quite a few!  In my classroom, I only allow one boy and one girl out of the classroom at time.  More often than not, my response is “when so-and-so returns, you may go.”

To alleviate this problem, I have tried many different things.  I don't like to do bathroom passes where the students bring the pass to the bathroom with them.  My school doesn't require that and I think it's kinda gross.  Last year, I created these Pinterest-inspired hand sanitizer passes.  

The students would put them on their desks.  That way, I would know exactly who was out, the kids would know if they could go and they could clean their hands again once they got back!  I did like them for second grade a lot.  In fifth grade, I have so many students and classes in and out of my room that it would just not work quite as well.

As an alternative, I have created Stop and Go signs for both boys and girls.  I got the idea from a week-long field trip that I went on last year to Nature's Classroom.  These signs are meant to be hung in your classroom, preferably near the door or wherever your students can see them.

Here’s how they work:  When a girl leaves the room, she flips the “girls” sign to red.  When she returns, she flips it back to green.  Easy as pie!  It’s a great visual for students and requires less talking on my part.

This photo shows the larger signs.  There is a girl out, but no boys out.

The whole set - 2 small signs, 2 large signs and a bathroom sign-out sheet

I do have a conversation with my students at the beginning of the year about appropriate times to use the bathroom (i.e. not when I am teaching).  They are also required to sign out on the bathroom sheet (included) so I know where they are in case of an emergency.

I recommend printing the signs on cardstock and laminating them for durability.  The signs can be hole-punched and then hung from a hook with string.  You could also add a piece of Velcro (or a magnet) to each side and a piece to the wall so then the students can just flip and stick!

You can grab your own set in my TpT store or by clicking on the picture below!

Happy Thursday!  Here's a random fact - Thursday is my favorite day of the week.  I'm not sure why.  Maybe because it's so close to Friday?  Who knows.  Anyhoo, here's a post from way back in 2011!  I created some holiday activities to go along with our geometry unit in second grade.  Take a peek!

Holiday Geometry

As I promised, here is one of the activities that I did with my students before vacation.  We are elbows-deep in our geometry unit for math.  I created a holiday shapes activity for my students to do.  It was originally meant for the students to do with a substitute when I was at a meeting, but the meeting got cancelled - yay!  We did it anyway because it was fun.

Here is my version:

I originally created it to show my students what they should look like when they finished.  I then changed my mind.  I let their imaginations create them instead.  I'm so glad I did!  Check out their  original creations:

So different than mine and so awesome!  I didn't get any pictures of the Christmas trees because we finished them on a day when I didn't have my camera.  Want this freebie I created?  Check it out over at my TpT store!

At my school, it's a pretty well known fact that I love organization.    I am teased about it on a daily basis.  But I'm okay with that!  There's a spot for everything and everything has a spot, is my motto.  Sometimes I wish my students shared my passion for organization, but I don't think that's going to happen.

One of my favorite ways to keep my classroom neat and running smoothly is to use plastic drawers.  For, well, just about everything.   Here are some ways that I use them in my room and maybe they will work for you too!

This large set of drawers (it's actually 3 different sets) is for my weekly assignments.  My students get the same type of homework each week.  On Monday, they get a Daily Language paper, a Reading Log and set of vocabulary words.  My teammates and I like to make our copies ahead of time.  Using these drawers gives me a place to put the papers before I need them.  Otherwise I would never find them!

This is a close-up view.  Not only do I have a drawer for each assignment, but they are all labeled as well.  If I were out, the substitute would be able to easily find them.

I feel as though my mailbox is always overflowing with Scholastic News and National Geographic subscriptions as well as book order forms.  I definitely use all of them, but not always right away.  Rather than have them build up in a pile on my desk, each one gets their own drawer.  This makes it very easy to pull from when I am ready to use them!

This set of drawers is currently in my classroom, although I haven't figured out a use for it yet.  I used it quite a bit last year.  I had five different reading groups, which were color coded.  In each drawer were differentiated reading assignments for each group.  The students were very independent in retrieving their work during word work time.  It was also easy for me to glance quickly at their work without having to dig through individual folders.  Win-win!

This set of pink drawers is to the left of my desk.  At the top, I have a spot for paper clips, binder clips and elastic bands.  The top drawer is pens, pencils, highlighters, etc.  The middle drawer is post-it notes and the bottom drawer is white-out, tape, glue stick.  However, I don't sit at my desk very often so this is just a basic set-up.  My REAL organizational masterpiece is by my small group table.  This, my friends, is the best thing that has ever been invented.  Yep, even better than sliced bread.

My Teacher Toolbox.  My pride and joy.  This is, by far, my favorite thing I have ever owned.  I'm sure you have seem examples of the teacher toolbox all over Pinterest.  I made mine a few years ago and it is the best.  I am never digging for a paper clip or an elastic band or an eraser.  Everything is right at my fingertips!  And it is so organized, not just one big pile of junk.  And it's so pretty!

I hope that I have helped some of you gather new ideas for organizing your classroom.  I know that for me, my day runs so much smoother when I have a classroom that is neat and put-together.  I also know that I am probably in the minority.  I am okay with that.  I don't mind the teasing.

But maybe this is my real secret...
We did the best science experiment this week!  We use the GEMS-NET science kits in our district.  This is not an experiment that I devised on my own.  The kits include lesson plans and all the materials to put the experiments into action.  It's an amazing program!  The amount of materials and length of time required for the lessons can be a little overwhelming, but the students (and I!) love the hands-on activities and really understand the concepts.  Our experiment this week was on density.

We started with a basic whole-class experiment on what density means.  I showed them two water mixtures and dropped a 5g piece in the cup.  One sank and one floated.  Ooohs and aahs all around as they were amazed!  I then explained that one cup contained a large amount of salt mixed in.

Each group of scientists received 4 vials of solution.  Each solution was a different color and contained a different amount of salt.  The students did not know how much salt was in each one.

They used the pipettes to drop the liquid into a straw, one color at a time.  They had to determine which solution was most dense and which one was the least dense by layering them.  They needed to be able to distinctly see each color to successfully answer their question.

We ran into the issue of air bubbles...

Getting close! 

 I didn't get a picture of a group's final results, but they all figured it out!  Here are my pretty awesome science diagrams on the board.  We figured out that the order of the colors was: blue, yellow, green and red on top.  We then determined that since the blue solution was the most dense, it was also the most concentrated.  The red solution was the least dense, so it was also the least concentrated (it had no salt at all in it).

I also have two winners for my giveaways!  The winner of the Target gift card is Jeanette and the winner of the TpT gift card is Emily!  Thank you to all for participating and check your emails ladies!

Happy Thursday!  I'm throwing it back to last October by request.  At the beginning of the month, I blogged about how I am using Dialogue Journals in fifth grade.  I had a few readers ask about using these types of journals in the younger grades.  I definitely used them in second grade, so here is what they looked like!

Reader's Notebooks:

This year I wanted to do something different to push my higher readers.  I decided to stray away a little from just a Reader's Response Journal.  I turned it into letter-writing instead.  The students write a letter to me, telling me something about one of the books that they have read in their book bag.  I then write back, creating a conversation between the student and I.

The students get so excited to share their ideas and thoughts with me and definitely look forward to the letter that they get back from me.  I enjoy learning about what they are reading and it gives me insight into the comprehension (and writing) areas that they are struggling with.

I used composition notebooks to create my students' journals.  I put their name on the front cover:

I taped a sample letter on the inside front-cover for students to refer to:

On the inside back-cover, I taped writing prompts for students to use if they are stuck:

Mine is pretty simple, but I spruced it up a little for you!

I included some extra pages as well as journal covers and pages if you wanted to make your own notebooks.  

Check it out in either of my stores:

It's Throwback Thursday time!  I'll be revisiting some of my favorite and most popular posts from my old blog, Smiling In Second Grade.  Today is a Thanksgiving Throwback from last November.

It's Turkey Time!

I wrote a Thanksgiving book!

My resource teacher was struggling with teaching her students the concept of retelling a story simply because she didn't have enough time to read a full book and then discuss the parts of the story.  So I said that I would write one!

I wrote a very basic story that includes characters, a setting, problem, solution and 3 main events.  It's called Tom the Turkey's Great Idea.  I had so much fun writing it!  The kids got a kick out of the fact that their teacher wrote it too.

I ended up writing two Thanksgiving stories!  

You can check them out in my store:

We've been diving into character traits over here in fifth grade as we read Esperanza Rising.  I quickly discovered that many of my students were confusing feelings with character traits.  Oftentimes, they were writing that the character was happy or sad.  Yikes!  Time to take a step back.

I found this very simple, basic anchor chart from Simply Second Grade.   It was perfect!

So I made my own version:

The orange post-it notes were the examples that I gave the students.  During our mini-lesson, the students contributed the pink post-it notes to complete our anchor chart.  I love that it says "adjectives that describe a character on the inside."

We then filled out Rachel Lynette's Character Traits worksheet {it's free in her store!}.  We chose to do the main character, Esperanza and describe her with 3 character traits.  This worksheet is great because the students have to prove, with an example and page number, how the character exhibits each trait.

I think we are starting to get it!  We will re-visit this lesson again as we are introduced to more characters in Esperanza Rising.

P.S. ~  Don't forget to enter my giveaways!  You can win $25 to Target here and $25 to TpT here!  You have until tomorrow night!
Dialogue Journals.  Reading Response Journals.  Letter to the Teacher.  There are a lot of different names!  No matter what you call them, these journals are a great way to individually interact with your students about reading.

I have only done dialogue journals with second graders before, so I decided to do some research on how to best go about this process with fifth graders.  I met with the reading teacher at my school and she gave me some great ideas.  I also came across the blog, Teaching My Friends.  Nancy has some awesome posts about using these journals in her classroom!  Here are the links to her posts:

Definitely check out her posts to get some ideas.  A lot of what I am implementing came from Nancy!

When I started out, I knew that I wanted students to write about more than just a summary of the story.  I wanted them to use some higher level thinking skills and, let's face it, summaries are just plain boring.  They are boring for the kids to write and for me to read.  I really wanted to get inside their heads and have them share what they are thinking as they read.

I started out with a lesson on what a Dialogue Journal letter looks like.  I wrote a letter to them about a book that I had read and we pulled apart the letter to see what should be included.  The blue post-its are the parts of a letter and the basic information that should be included (author, title, etc).  The pink post-its show my thinking (feelings, questions, thoughts on the book, etc).

Then the student received their Dialogue Journals.  Each journal has a colored smiley face on it.  This corresponds to the day that they will write their letter and pass in their journal.  That way, I only get 5-6 to read each day and not 25 on Friday!

 The inside of their journals includes several tools for the writer.  First, is their "Words to Learn" page.  This was an idea that I got from my reading specialist.  There are two pages stapled on the inside cover of each notebook.  It has one box for each letter of the alphabet.  When a student misspells a word in their letter, I mark it and it is their responsibility to write it on their chart.  If it is a word that they will use often (such as character), they now have their own dictionary to refer to when spelling it in their future letters.

On the next page, is a sample letter from me.  It is the same letter that we used in our mini-lesson.   I include this as a point of reference for my students.

Next, I have included Thinking Stems for the students to use if they are having difficulty coming up with ideas on what to write in their journals.  This idea came from Teaching My Friends.  She has a link to the original document as well.

As the year progresses, I will continue to do mini-lessons on how to write a variety of letters (non-fiction, unfinished book, etc).  I will also have the students switch journals and respond to each other throughout the year to see the conversations that they can have with each other.

Do you use Dialogue Journals in your classroom?  What does it look like?  I am always looking for new ideas!

Don't forget to enter my two giveaways!  You can win a $25 Target gift card here and a $25 TpT gift card here!

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