Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Revamping A Classroom Library and More

It's that time of year, teachers! It's time to get back into school and set up your classroom again! As for me, I had to pack almost everything away in boxes because our floor was getting redone, so there will be a ton of set up!

When we get back into the classroom, we often change things up, right? Some things we replace every year and some things we keep for as long as we can. Well, I have had the same classroom book baskets for many years. Some of them I got back when I was a new teacher- dishwashing pans from Bradlees and KMart (remember them?) and purple plastic containers from Walmart. About 8-10 years ago I got some new ones in colors like purple, brown (random, huh?), red, yellow and more,  to replace and add to what I had. So this year, when unpacking, I decided it was time to revamp my classroom library. I found these super cute neon baskets from Learn 365 by Oriental Trading Company (they have a ton of amazing teacher classroom supplies) for my books. They are almost the same style as some of the baskets I still plan to use so they were a great match, and they come in super cute bright colors!

Take a look at the baskets below after I got them out of the box! The baskets are 11" long, 8" wide and 4 1/2/" high.
I tested out a couple of the books I had at home first, and the large hardcover picture books do fit if you put them in sideways, which is what I already do with some of my current book bins.
Then as soon as I could get access to my classroom, I  headed in and found my old book bins. I took a snapshot and the moved the books into the new bins and voila.... 
I also took some close up pictures of the old and new book bins. Take a look!
Here's a shot of the old ones! Some of them are a little warped, but the colors are dated. Primary colors were stylish at the time that I got them. But that green- blah!
So check out the dishwashing bins I sometimes used for book bins! That one has some kind of emergency handwritten label.  They are sturdy and good for holding the large books, though!
And... here are the new bins! So cute and colorful! I realized I could just have some bins displayed sideways so that even when the books are large, students can still easily browse through the titles. 
I should note, they are a little smaller than the previous baskets I used, so they don't fit as many books. For example, the Joy Berry books no longer fit in one bin, so I might have to spread them out into two bins. Another option is to still use the extra large dishwashing bins or rotate books in and out during the year. 
A few books did not quite fit into the book bins. Here they are, so note if you have very wide or large books like these, you might need an alternative! 

Now, onto the next item I found! This was not something I was looking for specifically, but caught my eye. They are called Easy Clean Flat Trays and measure 16"x12"x1 and come in a bunch of fun colors. Their suggested use is for classroom crafts, projects and painting, but I immediately thought they were perfect to contain center materials during reading and math rotations! Here is a look at them fresh out of the box!
The first thing I thought of was they would work so well to corral the TOOTHY games and materials while students played, and also outside of reading and math workshop, they would be terrific to hold all of those pieces for STEM centers! I have one set of six trays but may have to go back and get another set!

Finally, check out what I found for birthdays from Learn 365 by Oriental Trading Company! I am one of those teachers who does not have a routine for student birthdays but I have done different things like given out birthday pencils, bookmarks etc. I saw these birthday medals and immediately thought - BAM! Perfect! They come in sets of a dozen and they are all bundled up nicely so they don't get tangled in transit! You get 6 blue and black ribbons with yellow and blue medals, and 6 red and black ribbons with red and blue medals, which is nice because kiddos can choose which one they want! And I know they will love wearing them proudly all day on their birthday!
The ribbons are generous in size (32" long) so they will work for taller kids and can easily be tied to a shorter length if you prefer!
So what new items are you trying in your class this fall and how do you think they will help you and your students?

Disclaimer: These products were provided to me in exchange for my honest review. I will always share my honest opinion and only will share with you products that are beneficial to teachers. For more information, please see my Disclosure page.

Saturday, August 5, 2017

FAQs: Using Google Drive in the Classroom

Using Google Drive and other digital resources in the classroom is an amazing way to approach teaching, but at times questions can come up and you might be looking for answers!  I know that before I even began using Google Slides, Docs, etc. with my second graders that I had a bunch of questions. Well, I gathered a few top questions you might have when using Google Drive in the classroom with your elementary school students and now you can have all the answers in one place!! 
This is a common question, especially for folks who have never seen a resource for elementary students on Google Drive/in person. An easy way to get an idea  is to look on Teachers Pay Teachers and search for "Google Drive"  or "Digital". Let me show you a few examples here though of the digital resources I have created! 

Here you can compare some printables and a cut and glue activity  from my paper and pencil Cause and Effect Pack with the Digital Cause and Effect. The highlighted blue areas on the digital version show moveable pieces that a student has just clicked and dragged to where they should be. Also don't forget, if you're hoping to use less paper, Google and Digital resources are paperless!
 Yes, any Google Apps are accessible on iPads, tablets, and any device with internet including laptops, smart phones, and desktops!
Yes, Google Drive resources can be used in  One Drive/Microsoft Classroom and many other top Ed Apps. It is not hard to export and download the resources to One Drive, and in fact if you end up purchasing one of my digital resources, zipped into the file will be a detailed guide on how exactly to do that! I learned a lot and the resource will be shared with you  thanks to the amazing Danielle Knight from Study all Knight!  Which platforms can you move your Google Drive teaching lessons to? Here is a list of the ones I know of:

  • One Drive/Microsoft Classroom
  • Seesaw
  • Nearpod
  • Edmodo
  • Padlet
  • Schoolology
  • Canvas
  • Notability 
  • Pic Collage
  • Blackboard
  • EvernoteYES,  they can!  You just click on the print button like in the example below. Just a note, all my Google Drive resources and most that are from other folks are very colorful so have the colored ink handy if you want the print outs to come out like the slides/docs. If you don't mind having them come out black and white, select that option when printing to save colored ink. Just a note, some digital activities will not work on paper, but many of mine will. Just cut and paste or write instead of click and drag or type.

Students will accidentally delete or change the size or orientation of moveable pieces, and other teachers have asked me  if the moveable pieces can be locked in some way to prevent this. Unfortunately, nope. If they were then they wouldn't be moveable. BUT as I mentioned in a previous blog post (Tips and Tricks for Helping Students Work in Google Drive), the undo (and redo) button is incredibly helpful. You will need to model moving pieces around and students will improve after they have tried it a few times, but you will always have kiddos accidentally enlarge, shrink, or delete moveable pieces. Undo solves my second graders' moveable piece problems 99% or more of the time!

Thanks for stopping by and be sure to comment if you have additional questions that I might be able to answer for you!

Sunday, July 23, 2017

Five Ways to Use Google Drive For Writing Activities

Maybe you have already used Google Drive for writing with your students. You might be looking for new ideas! Or you could be a newbie and want to get started using Google Drive for writing in class this year! Whichever one describes you, these ideas will help! I have been using Google Drive for a few years and I have five ideas to use Google Drive for writing activities that  I'd like to share with you!

Seems simple, but it is often overlooked! Many students love free writing and last year, once I added it as a choice for when kids were done with other Google Drive assignments (if you need ideas, check out this post), students did a LOT more free writing! My students always loved working on free write in their paper writing journals but there was something about having the option to type in Google Drive that got students extra excited. Students would even ask me if they could use Chrome Books when the Chrome Books were put away. It also definitely made it easier for those reluctant writers to write on their own. And if you are wondering if students can plan their writing in Google Drive by using graphic organizers, brainstorms, etc., of course! There are already resources for you out there,  so just search Teachers Pay Teachers and some you can use with your students are there. However this year, even my students who often needed a lot of support getting their ideas onto paper had much less trouble when it came to just opening up a new doc in Google Drive or finding a Doc that they had already begun and saved! Don't forgot to remind your students to change the title of their Docs though - otherwise they will end up with a bunch of Docs all called "Untitled" and it will be very tough to find what they want! If you want more details on how to do that and other tips, also read my post with tips for helping students work in Google Drive here.
A terrific and fairly easy way to incorporate writing with Google Drive is to use writing prompts that are already Google Docs. After you find some on Teachers Pay Teachers that you like, all you have to do is assign them in Google Classroom or share in a shared folder or in whatever manner you usually share Google Drive activities with your students.  Here's a peek at an example of a writing prompt from my Digital Writing Prompt Collection. It's set up so the prompt is right there and students can read, and reread it as needed and there is also a second page if they end up writing a lot. I find students write more on the computer than on paper! All students have to do is click in the text boxes (where it says TYPE HERE) and delete those words and start their own writing!
If you want to get a closer look at the Digital Writing Prompt Collection, just click on either of the images  to get more details!
Google Drive allows students who are on different devices to access the same doc (or slide, sheet, etc.)  at the same time. This is a great way to have either students who are sitting together or across the room (or even someone who is home sick) work together on a project. I Googled some ideas to try with my second graders and searched on Teachers Pay Teachers and some of the ideas I found included designing a book cover, designing an app, or creating a book. There are so may other options too, and as the teacher, you can decide if you want students to work in pairs, small groups or even do something as a whole class, like create a whole class book! I don't have anything like this in my own Teachers Pay Teachers store, but you know I will be brainstorming and coming up with an idea, so stay tuned!

Clever little aspects of Drive make it easy and fun for students to collaborate. For example, different colors can be assigned to each student so it is easy for them (and you) to keep track of who contributed what to the project. Students can use the chat feature to discuss the writing piece and discuss making changes. There is also a "suggestion" feature which comes in handy (suggestions can be accepted or rejected )  and the teacher can use the Comments section for feedback in the margin. Revisions are saved too, so students can revert back to an earlier version if they would like to. As with anything in Google Drive, you as the teacher will need to model using these tools and have the students practice first.
You know when you are doing a complete start to finish writing project with students and they have so much paperwork? Brainstorm, rough draft, second draft, final draft, etc? And inevitably some students lose important parts of the project like the rough draft and end up wasting valuable time by starting over? Even I have misplaced student papers. Grr! And it is so tough to keep track of who is doing what. Well, Google Drive allows students to keep every single step of the writing process in one place! YAY!  Students can plan/brainstorm, write a draft, edit and have a final copy either all in one doc, or in two different docs in Drive (depending on what the project is, you may want to have a separate final copy as its own file. Some clever teachers have been creating templates to make this easier for your kids, and you know I have something up my sleeve too, so check out Teachers Pay Teachers and search on Google for resources! Keep all steps of the writing process together!

Google Drive is great to use for project based learning, which will allow for  students to have more choice and be more invested in what they learn. It will also help you differentiate and Google Drive has some tools that can help enrich student projects and help students be more independent when trying to gather facts or learn about a topic for a project!

Check out my Youtube video on two cool tools that you could share with your students!
Also, if students want to go multimedia, I like Google Slides because they can combine text/writing, photos AND videos! Google Drive makes it easy for students to take notes too, and they will never lose their notes if they are in a Doc or Slides presentation in Drive!

If you have not checked out Adobe Spark. do so! It got even my most reluctant writers excited to complete a "writing" piece telling all about how they spent their vacation. I mention it here because I think you need to log in with a Google account to use it, so my students simply used their Google Drive logins and got going!

If you want more information on how Google Drive can transform your classroom and your students' learning, check out some of my other posts here!


I have some Google Drive and Classroom resources which  can all be found at my TPT Store general link. If you want to look at all of the digital resources only, click here. Since we have been talking about writing, you may want to check out  my Digital Writing Prompt Collection. Click on the image covers to get more details!

Be sure to let me know how you use Google Drive for your writing activities! I am always looking for new idea and new inspiration!

Polka Dot page dividers by the talented Paula Kim Studio!

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Flexible Seating: What I'm Keeping; What I Ditched

Let's talk flexible seating! Some of you know I  changed my classroom into a flexible seating set up during the last school year. It was really exciting and so beneficial to my class. Once thing to think about if you are switching to  flexible seating for the first time, is that YOU, the teacher, need to be flexible. During the year some things were not working and I needed to change them up and some things worked great! I also implemented some new options too and I wanted to share with you what happened with my flexible seating last year. I also will share what I am keeping, what I ditched and why. Let's jump right in!

The most popular seating choice all year were the purple wobble stools. I got these from Scholastic and used lots and lots of Book Club points but they were well worth it. These are the Kore brand and are more affordable than some others. They can also be bought at If you don't have a Scholastic account, try a Donor's Choose project to get them!

The low table was also a success.  I simply took the legs off of a round table and it was perfect for sitting on the floor. I bought these $5 chair cushions at Walmart. One lost its stuffing but I am keeping the other three cushions. Though they do get gross! Luckily, they are machine washable however.
Another fun and successful option were these inflatable cushions. They are also from and I got them in May from a Donor's Choose project. They were really popular. Students like to use them when sitting on the floor and often took them to sit on when using one of our traditional metal school chairs.
Also, super popular are stability ball chairs. I started the year with these two from Gaiam. Note the legs which are supposed to keep them from rolling around. I will be honest and tell you that they still roll, but maybe not so much as other stability balls. I found my students were very hard on the ball chairs and we lost the green ball chair in the early winter and the blue one in the later winter. I ended up getting a few more through that Donor's Choose Project, however. I think this year my students may not be so rough on the furniture but I am planning to be super strict - like "no bouncing!"Just sitting and moving around a little will give students a gentle bounce and they don't need to excessively bounce on purpose!
See? RIP Ball chair!
Also, I definitely love my stools from IKEA ($5 each last year). I forgot to take a picture but you can see them behind the ball chairs in the picture above. They work well, stack for storage/end of the day, and I bought them in spring 2016 and they are still going strong. If you don't have IKEA near you, here are some similar stools on Amazon.

This was my beach chair/coffee table set up. I am keeping it, but one of the beach chairs broke. We also used cushions to sit on the floor and even ball chairs here. It was pretty well received!
Bouncy Bands are staying too! I wrote a review of them on my blog so if you want to learn more, please click here! I was really pleased with them! They are much better than wrapping plain old exercise bands around chair legs.

Last fall I bought two IKEA side tables - each one was about $8 each at the time. One of them broke (see below)! So I am keeping the other table, but wanted to be honest that one of  them didn't make it a whole school year.
Keeping my tall table - seen here -not very glamorous with the fan - but it was great for storage (we put crates for clipboards and our Journeys books underneath) and it was used every day, especially by about four to five of my boys and two girls. They could stand for hours! What is the modification, you ask?
My mom and I spent about thirty minutes (and I spent about $10 at Home Depot) covering the tall table which was bumpy and stained with some wood grain sticky drawer liner, but within the first two days of school, look what my little friends began to do. BOO! Gradually, they took off about 30% of the covering, so my idea is just to rip off the rest and if kiddos want to use the tall table, it just won't look great but will be functional!
This little area of two desks was our "nut free" table. Anyone could sit at it during work time but at snack my student who had allergies sat there with a friend. I ended up taking the desks and putting them elsewhere (spread out) because some kiddos really needed desks by themselves. Instead I had a half of a hexagon table; however, this fall, I think I will move another over and make it a hexagon nut-free table!
Also keeping - but with some changes - Sit Spots! I got some in the spring of 2016 and used them that spring and all last year. They were awesome. Sit Spots worked great for keeping my students in their own spots, and not sitting too close to each other. It also helped prevent certain students from sitting really far away or far back because they wanted to disengage. I had a flexible seating in my classroom, but I assigned seats last year on the hearts. In order to pay attention, my students had to be seated in the best spot for them, and as second graders, they really needed my help figuring out where that was. One change for this school year is that I will be buying round Sit Spots. I loved the hearts because they went with our heart program (community building and behavior) but some students tended to pick at the pointy edges - even if they were supposed to be sitting on the hearts - and over time a few got ruined. I really loved them and talked to Beth from Flexible in First who also uses them and we discussed the shapes and after that I decided the circles may be the way to go! Check out my original review of Sit Spots here.

All four of these can be seen in this  image: beige camp chairs, IKEA cushions (heartm and tally marks) pink easel style table signs and the odd, half sphere shaped light which you can see on the table.
Why? One of the camp chairs broke in September and the other got pretty much trashed by my students (note to self - don't buy chairs in light colors).  I replaced them with $10 black folding chairs (cloth seats) from WalMart. I forgot to take a picture of them so I will have to wait until I can get in to my room in August and unpack to show you.  I had to throw out the pink table signs because they kept falling on the floor and broke (I had a few of them around the room).  The strange light from IKEA apparently only lit up when it was dark, but the room has huge windows so it was never dark enough for it to light up, and anyway, who needs a night light in school? (I thought it was a regular light when I bought it). I am putting away the cushions even though the kids loved them; however, because they loved them, students would become possessive of them and fight over where the cushion should be and who got to sit on it. 
Here's a closeup of the easel style signs. Oh well!
Also, the lollipop style signs are getting ditched too. The tops would come off of the sticks all the time. And though it was a cute idea, I don't really need addresses from children's literature as table names. We ended up using practical names like "beach chair table" anyway!

Also, this peanut ball chair by Gaiam was a great idea, but didn't last long with my very active group (maybe 2-3 months) and also in my opinion, took up too much space. It was pretty wide/long.
I actually ditched these purple containers a few months into the year. The problem was the cups never fit just right and children just threw things randomly into the cups anyway so there was no need to have them to sort out materials. My solution was that I bought simple gray plastic cups from tTarget and only kept pencils at each table. Crayons, markers and glue went back on our green art supplies bookshelf. It worked out just fine!

I am so excited about Scoop Rockers! I got a set of 6 for about $50 from Amazon and found 4 more from my local Marshalls store! Can't wait!

 I am not getting these, but I saw them and was fascinated! I mean , who wouldn't want to hang in that sway chair? Reminds me of a cocoon! And that couch/chair! Is it a bean bag? Chair? Loveseat? Who knows but it kind of made me chuckle!

Let me know what flexible seating options  you are planning  for your classroom this year!  Best wishes!