Saturday, August 30, 2014

Super Family Literacy Night: Superhero Themed Reading Events! *Freebie!

If there's one thing I love, it's a good theme. In my own classroom, the theme was "bees". Obviously. 
But every year, my librarian buddy and I try to plan a new and fun theme for the kids to center our reading events around. 
We make bulletin boards, celebrate the 25 Book Campaign with the theme, and even plan our Family Literacy Night around it, too. 
Last year, (yes, it's been a whole year and I haven't blogged about this yet - give me a break, I got married :) our reading theme was Superheroes! 
Superheroes are a great theme, because what kid doesn't want to be a superhero? It also lends itself to lots of fun, creative activities and events. 
In this post, I'll share a little bit about how we used this superhero theme to build excitement about reading! 
We also used it for our Family Literacy Night, which is our BIG literacy event each year!
We used superhero bulletin boards for everything - our GIANT  25 Book Campaign recognition board:

We divided up the space into months and posted each teacher's name under the month. After the 25 Book Campaign for that month had been turned in, we took pictures of each class' students who participated! They were proud to be featured on our board!

Our welcome back to reading board at the front of the school:

You can read about that here!

And of course, our Family Literacy Night. The year before, we had a Camping Themed Literacy Night, but this year, our theme was Super Family Literacy!  

The week before the evening we were celebrating literacy, I created student bookmarks, tickets, pledges and stuffed brightly colored (donated) plastic bags with the materials they would need for the evening. 
I put the reading pledge sheet and the bookmark inside the bag. Some (about 15) of the Reading Pledges had a pumpkin sticker in the corner. 
If a child received a pledge with a pumpkin sticker, he/she could choose a free book to take home when they turned it in!

To the outside, I stapled their "Super Snack" ticket. This ensures that each student actually gets one snack - if they get more than one, we'll run out and some won't get any. 
We notified kids that they could wear their costumes because it was a couple days before Halloween. It was absolutely adorable. 

As kids arrived, we handed out the bags and directed them gym floor to listen to the book, Dex: Heart of a Hero being read aloud. It was absolutely adorable - such a precious story about a wiener dog who decided enough is enough! He takes action to get stronger and quicker, and of course ends up saving the day. 

After that, we directed them to complete several of the seven stations we had available to develop literacy and family fun! After completing each station, each child received several pieces of candy in their bags (we had plastic pumpkins full of candy and spider rings at each station). They carried their bags from place to place, completing stations, collecting candy, and having fun!

This was our Smack Attack Station: here, students listened to words being read from cards by the teacher, and then used the superhero-decorated flyswatter to smack the rhyming word!

At our Secret Identities Station, students decorated a cardstock cutout of a mask and used yarn to wear it!

We Need a Hero! required students to create a superhero using alliteration and then illustrate a cover for a comic book!

Everything we do, we do in English and Spanish to grow bilingualism in our students and help our Spanish-speaking parents communicate with their children about these activities.

At this station, This Looks Like a Job For..., students used a sentence strip to create a comic book about a superhero! 

At the Super Snack Station, kids decorated cookies to look like superhero symbols! Each student received one snack ticket as they arrived, stapled to their bag. When they arrived, we collected the ticket to help make sure we didn't have repeat customers at the snack station!

Of course, we had a building words station! Kids wrote "Superheroes read" on a sentence strip and cut between the letters to make cards. Then they built as many words as they could using those letters - parents actually got pretty competitive here! 

Our most simple station was the Reading Headquarters. We used the gym stage and added some cozy furniture and a rug to make it an inviting area to read in!

We added some baskets of high-interest books and (here's the best part) made capes out of plastic tablecloths and yarn!

Students donned a cape and read a book with their buddies in Reading Headquarters! Even some of our older students enjoyed doing this!

A week or so later, I finally took all the pictures, pledges, and student products we had been given, and created our Super Family Literacy Night display in one of our glass display cases!

Want to learn more? Check out my How to Plan an Awesome Family Night video!
To grab the materials I made for our Family Literacy Night and to host one of your own, visit TPT and check out my new Super Family Literacy Night Materials, and now it's available in English and Spanish, too!

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Monday, August 25, 2014

Wedding DIY: Circle Garland Backdrop

So a few months before my wedding, I was pinning away and I saw all of these beautiful photo backdrops. And I thought, "I can do that."

And it turns out, yes, I did.

I used these supplies (string, a 2-inch circle punch, double-stick tape, and clothespins), plus a lot of pretty scrapbooking paper in our wedding colors and a five-foot wooden dowel.

I started by cutting long pieces of string and taping them down to one end of my dining room table. The string pieces were long enough for the height of the backdrop, so about five feet long. 

On the other end of the string, I attached a paperclip to keep it from blowing around too much, but a metal washer would've probably been a better idea.

Then I cut approximately a million circle squares of all different shades of our wedding colors (blue and yellow-gold)

I placed the circles at a variety of intervals under the string. 

Then I stuck a piece of double-stick tape to hold it to the string.

After that, I stuck another circle of the same color on top of it, making a little sandwich and adhering both sides to each other and the string.

After I'd made the first set that fit on my dining room table, I tied them to the wooden dowel at intervals and taped them down. Then I made another set, and another, and another until my hand was puffy from smushing down the circle punch.

The really tricky part (and this is a DUH moment...) is getting it where you want it. Of course, the day I decided to move it, it was windy. My mother lives a block and a half away from me, and I couldn't bear to roll this all up and clip it or any such thing, which would have probably been far smarter than what I did. Because what I did was walk it, down the street, all the way to my mother's house. On a day that was calm in front of my house, but quite breezy in front of my mother's house. So yeah, don't do that, because you will then spend several (thirty) minutes untangling and retaping your precious backdrop. And you won't be that happy about it.

To hang it up, we drove two nails into the brick wall (not kidding) at my mom's house, where we had our wedding reception & party. One of our photographer friends staked out this spot and took pictures of our guests as they walked in to the party!

One of our awesome groomsmen, his lovely fiancee, and my husband. Rawr-ing. In front of the backdrop.

Check out 4th Grade Frolics for even more Monday Made It posts!

Happy Crafting!

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Monday, August 18, 2014

Easy DIY Gift: Decorative Clothespin Pushpins!

The past few years, I've made something small as a "welcome back to school" gift for my teachers. Two years ago, I made Rollo pencils, and last year, I made flower pens. This year, I went for something easy and useful! Decorated clothespins with thumbtacks on the back!

They're so easy to make, too. I made a couple hundred- enough for all of our faculty and then some - in just a couple hours. Basically, my husband told me, "You should really watch that last Wolverine movie. It was really good," and I watched it with one eye while doing this will all the rest of me. 

I started out with a ton of clothespins and some washi tape. I went a little crazy here and chose waaaaay too many styles. Couldn't help myself. Tape across the top of each clothespin and tear off the tape after the edge.

Then I flipped them over and used scissors to snip off any excess. Some tape is exactly a clothespin
s width, so it fits beautifully! And some tape has to be trimmed not only at the ends, but along the sides as well.

Then I glued a thumbtack to the back of each with a glue gun and cut a million little cardstock cards in a few different complimentary colors. I clipped three clothespins to each card.

After that, I used a permanent silver marker to write a little signature and I was all done! 
Easy Peasy!

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bright Idea: Response Rings to Check for Understanding

It's that time again! Time for all the little people to come and ruin our endless summer! Just kidding. Hopefully you're as excited as I am for this new school year because it's coming whether you want it to or not. Heehee. And here's a Bright Idea to help you be ready!

Have you ever taught a beautifully, meticulously planned lesson, delivered it to perfection, and then watched in horror as all of your kids proceeded to butcher their assignments? What happened? you thought. Where did I go wrong? 

This happened to me...a lot... especially my first year or two of teaching. And then I realized what I was missing.

One of the most important things about teaching a great lesson is constantly checking for understanding and making sure students are engaged in the thinking of your lesson on an individual basis. To help do this is a quick, easy way, I created these simple and affordable tools! 

Response Rings to check for understanding!

Response Rings are so versatile and easy to make. I take five index cards for each student, in five different colors. 

I label each index card with specific responses that I anticipate I might want students to use during a lesson, and then I laminate them.

This side I labeled with A, B, C, D, True/False, and Yes/No.

This side includes mathematical operations and their corresponding visual representation that I want kids to use in their problem solving.

Then I hole-punch them and put them on a ring.

Each student has a ring during every lesson. I ask them to take out their Response Rings and then I pose a specific question. This could be "What operation are we going to use to solve this problem?" or "Which is the better answer? A, B, C, or D?" or "From the details in the chapter, is it reasonable to predict that the Nick will follow this new rule?"

Then I ask them to "flash" me the answer! They hold their response card out in front of their chest (not waving it in the air- this discourages copying) and I get a quick check of who's with it, who's lost and what I need to do next! You can quickly scan the room and, because they're color-coded, get a visual picture of how the kids are responding! It holds all kids accountable for thinking and deciding on a response to your questions.

Easy Peasy but it makes all the difference!

If you enjoyed this bright idea, follow me on TPT, facebook, or instagram for more great ideas!
For more bright ideas from more than 100 bloggers, please browse through the link-up below and choose a topic/grade level that insterests you! Happy browsing!

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Wedding DIY: Etched Mason Jar Candle Holders

For our wedding last October, because we had the dinner and party outside, I knew I didn't want flowers as centerpieces because my mother's backyard is already full of green and flowers! So I hunted around for ideas to make a simple candle centerpiece unique and special.

These jars were a huge hit and easy (and better yet: cheap) to make! To start, I had my family and friends collect as many jars as they could. Spaghetti, jelly, salsa, olives and more come in jars! 

Once I had a large box full of jars, I filled the sink with hot hot hot soapy water and scrubbed the labels off witha steel wool scrubber. Sometimes this took some hard work, but those jars were free so you know I was going to find a way to use them!

After the jars were clean and dry, I used some handy dandy materials I bought from Michael's to etch them. Martha Stewart produces an etching cream that works very well. It comes with a little brush. Separately, I purchased some Martha Stewart sticky vinyl stencils. The stencils were surprisingly durable and lasted for over 130 jars. 

I stuck the stencils on several sides of the jars and painted over them with the etching cream. Then I let them dry and stuck them back in the sink. I used a sponge to clean off the jars with the stencils still on. Then I peeled off the stencils and laid them out on a plastic sheet. 

And then I cleaned the jars again, making sure I took off all of the residual cream

It was some work, but they were awfully affordable centerpieces and they turned out lovely.

For more great ideas, check out the link-up at Fourth Grade Frolics!

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