Classroom Library Update 2018-2019

Wednesday, September 12, 2018 No comments
My classroom library is the part of my classroom I am most proud of! It has been a work in progress for the past 18 years. I am sure I have thousands of books... I am not really sure of a total number (or amount of money spent!) over that time. 

My books (most of which came from Scholastic Book Clubs and many, many projects over the years), are sorted by genre. Each genre is in a different colored tub/bin/basket from Really Good Stuff

Here are the latest photos of my classroom library. Little changes make big differences! Keep reading to see what's new since my last post!

The newest sections of my classroom library are books by popular authors and a section just for graphic novels.  This picture was taken before I finished labelling them, but the author bins and books have white dot labels. 

And the graphic novels have bright/light blue bins and labels.

I also added a LOT of new Biography books, thanks to! This section has quadrupled in size in the past year or so!

Here are all of my Informational/Non-fiction books (green).

The biggest change I recently made is to organize my Fiction sections horizontally across the shelves instead of in vertical clusters. Before, all of the Fantasy (blue), Realistic Fiction (purple), Mystery (pink), Science Fiction (orange),  Historical Fiction (brown), and Traditional Literature (red) books were clustered vertically on top of each other. Students weren't looking all the way down the shelves for all of the choices. Now, to look for each genre, they have to look across all of the shelves. Not sure if I am making sense, but it HAS made a difference. Kids are noticing different books that have been there the whole time!

For example, this is what the Fantasy section looked like before:

Here is what it (and the rest of the Fiction books) looks like now (with each color stretching across instead of up and down, and some room for new additions):

All of my bins are labeled with these labels I found on TeachersPayTeachers. This set had ALMOST everything I needed. (No set could possibly cover my entire ridiculous classroom library, but this comes close.) Each bin has a colored dot with a number (the color matches the bin color) and all of the books have the same colored dot/number which makes them easy for my students to put away.

My students each have their own book box. They trade their books every Monday. They are supposed to pick one from each genre (color) every week, to encourage them to read a variety of different kinds of books. 

I hope this helps you organize your own classroom library! Please comment down below with your questions or suggestions!

TPT/DonorsChoose Giveaway!

Monday, August 20, 2018 No comments
Enter to win a $10 TPT gift card!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

DonorsChoose Student Thank You Notes

Sunday, June 10, 2018 No comments
After your project is funded, it is time to create your thank-you package!

If your project requires student thank you notes (not all projects do), you are probably looking for some good ideas! Doesn't everyone want to get this note in their email?

Here are some tips from for Fantastic Student Thank-You Notes:

All that being said, I don't think you have to go "over the top" to create fantastic thank you notes. I think the most important part is having your students express themselves! 

Here is a thank you note freebie I have found VERY handy from TeachersPayTeachers:

This is my go-to thank you letter template! I use this every time. I brainstorm sentence stems with my students and then they write, draw, and decorate. Everyone's is unique, and I have received that special note from several times!

Here is an example - this is actually NOT from a project (I always forget to take photos), but hopefully you get the idea!

What are YOUR creative ideas for thank you notes? Post your ideas, comments, or questions below!

Breaking Up a Large DonorsChoose Project Into Manageable Chunks

Saturday, June 9, 2018 No comments
One of the best tips for writing projects is to keep your project cost as low as possible. This increases your chance of funding!

Oops, did you already write a BIG project? Read below to see how to easily break it apart into more manageable chunks!

STOP and read this first: Does your project already have donations? If they are from someone you know, this is good news. They will get an email about your project being removed and they will be able to pass the donation back to you. If they are strangers, chances are 50-50 they will re-donate the money to you vs. another teacher. This is important to think about before archiving!

OK, Ready to get started?

First you will need to archive your existing project...

Then, write multiple, smaller projects for the items you wanted for your large project - break it into logical parts. They can even have the same title, just name them “Part 1” Part 2, etc… (I do this all the time - see photo.)

If you need to go back and look at your old project to cut and paste ideas or see what items you shopped for, look here:

Hope this helps! Post a link to your new project in the comments below!

Are you a teacher in Florida who wants support with Please comment below with any questions you might have. Also, please come and join our Facebook Group!

Learning From Mistakes in Math

Thursday, June 7, 2018 No comments
I do a lot with growth mindset in my classroom - constantly encouraging my students to learn from their mistakes instead of getting frustrated. I find this is a lot easier to teach with Math than most other subjects.

I have this poster set up in my classroom from Really Good Stuff (sadly, I don't think they make it anymore...). I love how it groups the types of mistakes students often make in math, so I took these ideas and used them to help my students learn from their mistakes.

About 2 months before state testing, we start doing daily mini-quizzes to practice all of the standards, starting way back at the beginning of the year. I use the "High Stakes Testing" book that comes with our math series (GOMath), but this could be used with any math test, quiz, or worksheet. 

We complete one quiz a day (usually about 4-8 questions) and I grade them right away while my students are working on other things. As I grade them, I staple this page to the front of each quiz:

For homework, my students are to correct their mistakes and indicate which type of mistake they made. Many, many times, they discover that they did not read carefully or do all of what the question was asking. This is a big lesson for them and causes them to be more careful as time goes on (because they don't want homework!). 

I also give out buttons for 100%s on these quizzes, so there is that incentive as well. 😊

Give this a try with your students and let me know in the comments how it goes!

Daily Reflections Using ClassDojo's Student Stories

Tuesday, June 5, 2018 No comments

I've been a ClassDojo user since it began, but 2017-2018 was my first year using the "Student Stories" feature. I used it for a daily reflection for my students at the end of each day. 

We started out the year with two sentence stems that they were required to write about:
  1. One thing I am proud of today is...
  2. One thing I could have done better today is...
Here is an example of a student reflection from the Fall:

Once they mastered that, I had them start adding "because" to their sentences. 

Eventually, I gave them more variety of sentence stems to use (with the requirement of choosing at least two per day):

My goals for this were:
  1. to get my students to reflect on their learning and their behavior
  2. to improve their keyboarding and writing skills
  3. to involve parents more in our day to day learning/work - THIS was huge! These daily reflections gave parents a springboard for dinner table conversation! 

ClassDojo is implementing "Student Portfolios" in the coming school year - I can't wait to see what is new! 

PS - here are some of my favorite last day of school reflections:

Button Reward Lanyards - Student Motivational Tool

This a reward system I came up with a couple years ago that has worked very well for me. At the beginning of the year, I give each child a lanyard. (I use the one pictured below because our school mascot is the cougar, so it sort of fits. But any lanyard would work.)

I give out buttons for academics and behavior. The lanyards stay at school for the whole year. They can be worn in the classroom. At the end of the year, my students take their lanyards home! Parents love them!

More about how this system works:

Any time a student receives a 100% on a test or quiz, they get a button! This has been a GREAT motivator for some of my higher students (and all students, really) who don't put 100% effort into their work. Because they WANT that button, they take a little extra time and check things over. It can mean the difference between a C and an A for a lot of students!

I buy mini buttons in lots of different designs, so they can get "special" ones for different subject areas.

 .  . 

I also give out buttons for good behavior. At the end of every day, whichever student has the highest points in the class on ClassDojo gets a button. (Again, these are "special" behavior buttons.) I also occasionally give out "team work" buttons or other buttons specific to good behavior I see happening in the classroom.

I also give out buttons for holidays! 


I buy the buttons on Oriental Trading Company, Amazon, or at the Dollar Tree! 

Have fun trying out this reward system in your classroom!

Teaching Cursive in Third Grade

Monday, June 4, 2018 No comments
My cursive is awful, and I HATE teaching cursive because I am not a good role model.

Enter HEV Project.

This year, I tried out this cursive writing course with my class. We started after state testing ended and did one or two lessons a day - we finished the last week of school, so it worked out perfectly. My students LOVED it. The strokes and letters were taught in a very logical sequence.

I highly recommend this course!

Find the YouTube playlist here.

Find the free worksheets here.

Right now, they only have the lowercase letters. Hoping they add uppercase soon!

Prodigy Math Game

Have you tried Prodigy yet? My students are completely OBSESSED with this math game! 

A few tips:
  • I like to save Prodigy as a trick up my sleeve for the spring time. I don't want my students to get burned out on it, and also they get a little silly about it... so I save it and introduce it right around state testing time. I assign test prep questions for them to answer and they are so excited about the new game that they don't realize they are practicing!
  • Prodigy is a GREAT reward for completed work, good behavior, etc
  • Be sure to send home the login information - this is a game your students will actually play at home!

Prodigy is a free to use, curriculum-aligned, adaptive, online, RPG (Role Playing Game) style video game. Join 800,000 teachers and over 28 million registered students throughout 2800+ school districts in using the game that will revolutionize the way you approach math instruction!  

Featuring over 50,000 questions spanning Grades 1 - 8 in 6 different curricula, players will get to watch their very own wizard grow stronger, learn new spells and acquire new equipment while facing ever more powerful opponents, all by answering math questions! 

As a Prodigy Champion, I would love to help you get started using this engaging platform with your students! Comment below if you have any questions!

DonorsChoose - Helpful Tips from a Volunteer Teacher Ambassador

Sunday, June 3, 2018 No comments
Need help writing your first project? I would love to help out! I am one of several Volunteer Teacher Ambassadors for the State of Florida!

Here are some step by step instructions for writing your first project:

(Want to print this out and save it for later? Download here from TPT)
  1. Create your account on
  2. Login to your account
  3. Click on “Create a Project” (blue button)
  4. Click “Let’s Go” (green button)
  5. Describe your students.
    • Describe the demographics at your school
    • Keep it positive
    • Talk about special programs your school has to help students succeed
  6. Click the green “Save and Continue” button.
  7. Select a vendor for items you want for your classroom (you can combine more than one vendor into a single project).
  8. Another window will open. Shop on the vendor’s website just like you would normally. Keep your total around $200-300 (the smaller the project, the better your chances of being funded).
  9. Go through the checkout process on the vendor’s website, this will send your cart to
  10. The vendor website will close and you will be back on You should see your items that you had in your shopping cart in a list.
  11. Write a one sentence summary of what you are requesting. You will add a more detailed description later.
  12. Continue through the project submission process. Follow the directions to describe your project and how it will impact your students. Don’t forget to check for spelling and grammar errors!

  • When you receive donations, be sure to thank your donors each time!
  • Once funded, follow the instructions for your Thank-You package carefully!
Are you a teacher in Florida who wants support with Please comment below with any questions you might have. Also, please come and join our Facebook Group!