Digital Writing Conferences with Google Docs

So, I think I mentioned in a recent post how our district signed us up for Google accounts (in Color-Coding Google Docs Folders). 

And by "us" I mean ALL of us...including our students!

This is great for so many reasons, one of which I'd like to share today.

My 5th grade classes has been working hard on drafting their memoirs. And you know how it goes as you get closer to the end of a big writing piece...those conferences become really important.

I hope I'm not alone in saying this, but I find it really hard to get to everyone as much as I would like. It's like I need five of me to conference.

And that where Google Docs comes in!

Thanks to the sharing feature, my students are able to work on their memoir drafts, share with me, and I can write notes back to them...providing a conference digitally, even if I don't get to see a particular student that day.

And it's very easy to do (which is always a relief to hear, right?)

Students work on their writing piece on their Google account:
Once finished, students share the document with me:
Any shared docs get sent right to my mailbox, so I can see which of my students are ready for my input. 

Then, at home (in the bliss of my fleecy pajamas!) I can write notes for that very important conference, even if we didn't meet that day:
My students go back the next day and work on the checklist, then erase any notes I left them. I always use a colored font, so it will stand out easily.

And that's it!

My 5th graders love this ("Did you see my memoir?" "Did you write to me??") and I LOVE that I can touch base with them, even if I didn't get to in Writer's Workshop that day.

Do your students have access to Google accounts? Do you have ideas for student docs to share with us?

Thanks so much for stopping by!

ETA! Thanks to the wonderful Barbara from Fourth and Goal in Fourth Grade, I learned you can use the comment feature in the top, right-hand side of the Google Doc to comment on highlighted sections of the document...SO much better:
Once the students have addressed the comment, they can click Resolved and the paragraph will no longer be highlighted and the comment will be taken off the side. Thank you Barbara!!

Thanks for all of the comments...I love how we can all learn so much from each other :) :)


Organizing Files for the Week

Happy, Happy Thanksgiving my friends! I hope your day is filled with fun, laughter, and great food!

As a very small way of saying thanks to you today, I have a little organizational file to share.

First, I will be very honest and share a picture of how my table looked a couple of months ago.

Brace yourself, it's not very organized...

and PROMISE you will not pin this image!!!
Ok, I realize it's not the end of the world and please believe me, my table has been MUCH worse but that really is a totally jumbled mess of things stuck in random pretty bins. And I couldn't find anything I needed without an extensive search.

This is why I have to label literally every.single.thing in my room. 

Otherwise I tend to just throw supplies and files into random bins, just to have a clear workspace.

I finally have it under control now, with some new labels and a set of folders...
(see the sunshine all around them, giving them a glow of happiness? That's how I feel when I see my table now!)

I made labels for Monday through Friday and then folders for each subject and part of our day, for each day of the week:
This lets me file work ahead of time (if I'm ever lucky enough to be ahead of schedule!!)

and keeps everything filed away for the day, without looking cluttered:
The best part? 

If we don't get to an activity, or it must be extended to the next day, I just move the folders on down.
I have two additional bins, for Assessment Papers and Important Forms as well:
The Important Forms bin holds folders for permission slips, book orders, popcorn orders, goal forms, class lists...anything and everything I could think of to keep filed away.

I've had the bins set up like this for a couple of months now and everything is just where it should be. Now I can find my files very quickly, even at those really hectic times (which is all the time during our day, right??)

In case you would like to try this kind of system out, I do have the labels above to share, just click on the image below to download:

I hope there are some who can use this out there! And I hope you have the happiest of holidays...thanks so much for stopping by :)

Color-Coding Google Docs Folders

I swear, I have always loved color-coding. But this year?

I have gotten totally carried away with it!

I have all of my subjects sorted by color...from the signs, to the labels, to my students' notebooks, and yes...the madness even stretches to my Google Docs for school.

My district signed us all up for district Google accounts this year and it has been wonderful...but a little hard to organize first.

That is, until our lovely Health teacher told me about color-coding the folders! (thank you--even if you don't ever read this!!)

So here's how you color-code the case you didn't know (like I didn't, until semi-recently).

Click on the Create button and choose a New Folder:
Select the sad, gray little folder:
Then click Change Color from the More menu:
And that's it!

And, because I'm completely type-A (but you knew this long ago!) I had to number my folders when naming them, so they would be in order of my schedule for the day. :)

It's a little thing, but it really helps when you are on the fly during the school day and need to find things fast! I hope this helps, if you didn't know it already!!

Will be back tomorrow to share some new, reusable anchor charts my students and I are using this year...wait 'til you see how UN-type-A I had to be about these charts!! :/

Do you use Google Docs for your classroom documents?

What's the Word? (and incredible online dictionaries!)

Hello, my dear friends! I am taking a break from lesson-planning this afternoon to share a few resources I have made for my students for their homework assignments, along with some wonderful online dictionaries we love to use in class.

First up...What's the Word?

So. As part of our Daily/Weekly Homework Assignments, my students must complete the usual spelling sentences and definitions. I feel it is extremely important to know the meanings of our weekly spelling words...but, if I am to be completely honest, the basic sentence/definition format is feeling a bit stale.

As part of our morning work in class each day, my students complete a word analysis sheet, analyzing one of the words from our Morphology Dictionary in depth (definitions, part of speech, synonyms, antonyms, and more). They really enjoy analyzing the words in this way and we have wonderful discussions about their meanings and related words during morning meeting.

So I decided to use this kind of format for our homework as well. My students will be given a What's the Word? sheet for each night.

Here's an example of how it will be filled out:
The "prefix, suffix, root" and "make the connection" part will be completed with our Morphology Dictionaries...this is an important way for my students to understand the meaning of these words, as well as make connections to other words with the same affix or root.

If you would like to use this file for your class, I have it available in Google Docs, just below. I also included a different version, with a place for an illustration instead of the affix/root connection, in case this works better for you.

Please click on the image below to download this file:
Next up...some incredible online dictionaries!

I have long been a fan of's this online dictionary that has different reading levels to choose from when looking up words:
I have this dictionary linked up on our Classroom Website and my students use it every day during our word analysis in the morning--it is such a great resource!

So, needless to say, I was ecstatic to learn that Wordsmyth was offering a new dictionary edition as with visual and audio!

The Wordsmyth Kids Dictionary is perfect for my newcomer English Language Learners!
It offers a ton of words, along with audio and images for many of the words:
I just love how I can differentiate the definitions for all of my students, so they can access the meanings at their particular levels :)

I really hope this was of some help! Do you have some favorite word resources to share with us?

Thanks for visiting!

Clipart by Miss Tiinna at

Meaningful Word Study...thanks to Morphology!

One of my absolute FAVORITE things to teach each week is Word Study. Words have always fascinated me...their origins, their meanings, their power when used in speaking and writing. And, I've found over the years, it's really easy to get 5th graders excited about the power of words as well!

Which is why our Morphology Dictionary is the heart of spelling and vocabulary learning in our class.

My students use this dictionary with each new set of words we study. They just love to find common affixes and roots, as well as learning their meanings. I love how I am able to create high-level, meaningful, and differentiated word lists for my students each week.

And it's really easy to do!

I start each new unit by looking over the content we will be covering for the week...especially in Science, Social Studies, and Math.

I find all of the key vocabulary we will encounter during the week:
and find affixes and roots to support these words from the Teacher Word List resource that comes with the student Morphology Dictionary:
(there are over 7,500 words to choose from in here, so I can usually find some words to connect to our learning for the week!)

I check off the words I'd like to use and create a list for my upper-level group first (this is usually a 25 or 30 word list). This word list will be used for a spelling test on Friday, as well as a vocabulary test every couple of weeks.

After creating the first list, I eliminate some of the more complex words and create subsequent lists for my 20 Word and 10 Word groups:
I work with a very diverse population of 5th graders and we always, always say how everyone learns the material they need. But what I love the most is that we all learn the same thing, just differentiated for our needs.

So, each Monday, students receive their new list, pull out their Morphology Dictionaries, and start identify common affixes and roots they see within their lists. 

We share out our findings on the document camera and highlight those affixes and roots:
Next, we record them in our Morphology Dictionaries:
On our word list sheets (which the students take home to study) we record any prefixes, suffixes, and roots we've identified:
as well as their meanings, as found in our dictionaries:
This is my second year of using our Morphology Dictionary and it has truly transformed the way my students approach words. They think deeply about their meanings and make connections throughout the week...nothing warms my heart more than to hear "hey, this word has the root 'pop' like population!". It is the best :)

If you are interested in the spelling sheet we use, you can download it and customize it here (it's in a Powerpoint format):
If you would like to read more about the Morphology Dictionary, you can see it in store (at a discounted price) by clicking the image below:
Thank you so much for visiting! Up next, classroom tour!

Decimals on the Diamond...a World Series file to share!

Well, living in New England certainly is exciting these days...especially if you are a fifth grader cheering on the Red Sox in the World Series!

Me? I'm more of a football girl (Go Pats!) but I did want to do something small to capitalize on all that World Series mania going on with my students. And it really worked out perfectly because we are currently studying decimals (comparing and rounding decimals, 5.NBT.3 and 5.NBT.4, to be exact!)

So I made a little activity that we are going to use in math tomorrow along with the stats for the Cardinals and Red Sox on this page:
 (click on the image above to hop over to the MLB site)

This activity features three pages of questions asking students to compare decimal averages of various players, as well as rounding these averages to the tenths and hundredths. I really hope that it will be of help if you happen to be studying decimals as well!

Please click on the preview below to download the file...
Are you and your students watching the World Series? Who are you rooting for?

I ❤ Homework This Year!! (Our Daily/Weekly Planner)

I will be completely honest with you my dear friends (who I have missed talking to SO much during this whirlwind of a year!)...

I used to loathe assigning homework.

Trying to find the perfect assignments to support the learning that had taken place during the day. Collecting it each morning after. Unfinished assignments spilling into the next night. Worrying that I was assigning too much for my active students (who sometimes have busier schedules than I do!). Scrambling at the last second when I hadn't pulled homework for the day and was busy at a meeting. The list goes on and on.

I knew I needed a change for this school year.

So I thought and thought about what to do over the summer. I asked blogging friends for advice. I chatted about it with readers on my Facebook page (thank you for all of your help!!). I thought long and hard about my goals. What did I want the homework to achieve, aside from building upon/reviewing our learning? 

Then it hit me. 

Above all, more than anything, I really wanted my students to learn the important skill of balancing their lives. I wanted to get them ready for middle school and beyond. I wanted them to a have some power in managing their assignments.

So this year, we are using a Weekly Planner to schedule a mix of daily and weekly assignments...and it has worked like a charm!

I introduced the planners during the first week of school by sharing how I balance my work schedule around my home life. I shared how some nights were busier, so I had less time for work and accordingly scheduled my work on other nights. Then we tackled the planning sheet.

Here's the setup:
Each Monday, during Morning Meeting, we start with a blank sheet that is set up for the month. We highlight the current week...
and label the dates:
Then we fill out the Daily Assignments:
I use Stephanie's (from the incredible Teaching in Room 6) Spiral Math Homework for our daily assignments. Students must complete a page each weeknight and bring it back the next morning, as we correct it during Math each day (it is such a wonderful resource and the students respond so well to the consistency and spiral).

After recording our Spiral Math assignments, we write our weekly assignments:
Then we get to the planning! Students fill in any known times for sports, activities, or times with friends...
...and start planning out which assignments they will complete on certain days of the week:
There is also an area for reflection, for the students to jot down their thoughts on how they balanced their schedule that week (just to get them really cognizant of their scheduling choices):
I can't begin to tell you how much I love this system...and so do my students! I love having all of my weekly assignments prepped and ready to more scrambling to get homework ready each night. And, more importantly, I am already seeing my students act so responsibly in balancing their schedules for the week.

I know each class is so different when it comes to homework, but if you are interested in these planning sheets, you can download them by clicking on the image below (they are all set up for the 2013/2014 school year):
How do you set up homework in your classroom?

Thanks so much for stopping by!

My Favorite Organizational Systems (Photos)

Hello everyone!! I've missed being on here and talking with you so much! I think I am getting into a groove now and should be able to come back more often to share happenings and organization from our class.

And I thought I would share some of my favorite organizational systems for this new school year today!

We've been back to school for a couple of weeks now and I've been anxious to see how those summer projects have panned know how sometimes the seemingly best ideas from the summer don't always work out how you imagined? How quickly things can get ruined or misplaced, despite all of your careful planning?? I can't even tell you how many times that has happened to me! 

Well, I'm happy to say, here are a few systems that have worked well in our room:

Student Toolboxes
I know I shared a lot about these toolboxes over summer and I just have to tell you...


And, more importantly, so do my students! These toolboxes have kept our tables completely clean and organized-looking, all throughout the day...
 (labels for the Student Toolboxes can be found in my store here)

Right before school started, my sister Melissa had the fantastic idea of adding some old pencil baskets I had from Really Good Stuff to the tops of each of my student toolboxes (of course, they color-coordinate with the table signs):
Now my students truly have everything they need for the day, right at the fingertips. I haven't had to pass out a single crayon, marker, highlighter, or anything during the day--sheer joy!!

The folders on the back have been helpful as well. I will admit I am not quite to the point where the work is always available in the folder throughout the day BUT I do always have the morning work all set to go the night before (which is the lovely Stephanie's Calendar Math!):
Color-Coded Subjects
I have a lot more to share on this one, so there will be a separate blog post on it very soon. 

Early in the summer, I decided I would color-code everything this year. I've always had a colorful room, but I wanted the colors to be more purposeful this year, as well as a visual tool for my newcomer English Language Learners.

So our room is entirely color-coded according to the five brights:

Reader's Workshop
Writer's Workshop
Social Studies

We have a bin for each subject area, to turn in notebooks if I'm checking them, or just our papers:

And the notebooks for each subject (from Walmart) were the luckiest find of my summer, since they match perfectly!

As much as I love making labels, I was relieved to not have the need to do so for these notebooks...the color really is the perfect visual reminder for both organizing and locating the right notebook!

Weekly Papers
This is an idea I learned about from a very dear friend...Kim over at Finding Joy in 6th Grade. Sweet Kim has a wonderfully organized method of managing papers to be sent home: My First Monday Made It!

Our weekly papers are sent home in Wednesday Folders, so I set up this crate:
Again, I was lucky to find some coordinating folders at Walmart...because you know how important that is!
I used to have one of those large shoebox organizer things, but I really prefer this because it takes up less space and it is portable.

Ready to Go Dry Erase Boards
Like so many bloggers out there, I decided to try some dry erase boards right on my tables this year. I first read about this wonderful idea from Kinder Keri's brilliant post on Dry Erase Circles. And my sister decorated her tables with them last year and loved them: Built in Whiteboards.

They've worked like a dream! My students use them for math work, spelling practice, drafting ideas before many ways I didn't even think about originally!

My other project from the summer was the 2-in-1 Clipboard and Whiteboard:
Thanks to these dual-purpose tools, I have been able to donate my old, clunky whiteboards and clipboards and open up some more space in our room. My students love to use these while working in groups on the carpet or sofa (oooooh...did I tell you about that yet??? More to come soon!).

Ok, I hope I didn't tire you out with too many photos...and I hope your school year has been going very well!! Take care and I will be back soon! :)
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