Tuesday, August 28, 2012


I didn't get the post done that I wanted to yesterday. I wanted to post pictures of my room all ready for students, but the fact is that I hardly had time to get the room done, let alone take any pictures. I will post them today, or at least some of them. There were parts of my room that weren't photo ready ;) And, to be honest--there are STILL parts that aren't photo ready! That's why I say I LOVE organization but I'm not always the most organized person. I will also post later this afternoon how our first day went and any tips to share!

*This post is part of my "Back-to-School" series!*

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Sunday, August 26, 2012

The First Few Student Days...

The children are coming....

...on Tuesday. At least for me. And, no matter how many times I do this, no matter how many first days go by, a little panic always arises in me before the kids come...I frantically think: What will we do? Will I have enough to occupy the hours? Will the kids feel comfortable in my classroom? What activities can I do that are fresh and new? And on and on and on....

So, I've been blog stalking...er, hopping...and looking through my own files, and I've come up with a  list to at least get us started with the kids. I hope you'll "comment" at the bottom and leave some of your great ideas. We can always use some freshening!!

Drumroll, please....BRRRRRRRRRRRR.......

-Give each student play-dough on their desk the first day so they have something non intimidating to work on while you, the teacher, are busy greeting other new students and corralling the chaos. (Thanks to Clutter Free Classroom for this brilliance!). Students can create their first initial, their age, a creature, something to signify what they did that summer, etc.

-Give each student a pipe cleaner or two and have them create some of what is mentioned above: their initial, their age, a pet, something they did that summer, etc.

-Take a picture of the back of each student's head and create a "Guess Who?" board for parents at B2SN.

-Have the students each write a description of their summer or a list of their favorites (color, food, teams, etc.) or any other personal narrative and use it to create a "Guess Who?" board for parents at B2SN.

-Play 2 Truths and a Lie (Each student writes 3 statements about him/herself and reads them aloud. Only 2 are true and the rest of the class has to decide which is the lie.)

-Take a picture of each student and have them write something about themselves for a "Meet the Class" class book or bulletin board.

-Create a word search with all students' names.

-Create a time capsule with items and samples from the students. Some things you might include: handwriting sample, picture of each student, list of favorites, writing sample, math facts quiz

-Do a classroom and/or school scavenger hunt for important locations or items in the room/school.

-Do squiggle art. Draw a squiggly line with black Sharpie in the middle of a piece of plain paper. Duplicate. Have each student use their imagination to turn the squiggle into a piece of art. Display.

-Create a Math about Me collage. Have students draw or find numbers in magazines that pertain to them (age, birthdate, address, zip code, number of people in family, sports number, etc.) and use them to create a colorful collage on poster board.

-Create a KWL chart of _____ grade.

-Play Back to School Bingo*

-Do Partner Interviews*

-Have students fill in an Opinion Sheet* (*Get all three of these forms, done and ready to print and duplicate HERE for only $2 on my TpT Store!!!!)

PLEASE leave a comment with your own great ideas. I would love to add to my own arsenal...

Sharing is absolutely the best way to get even better at what we do :o)

P.S. Stay tuned for tomorrow's post: Room Set Up and Organization Tips. I am sorry this is late in coming, but I simply haven't had a chance to finish up my room!! Working over the summer with a 7-month old and mentoring this year have led to a lack of progress :-/ Pictures forthcoming! Check back then! 


*This post is part of my "Back-to-School" series!*

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Saturday, August 25, 2012

Back to School Night

If I'm being honest, Back to School Night is never my favorite event. I, like many other teachers, find myself a lot less comfortable talking to adults than children. Also, this year, I'm not going to be home for bedtime with my baby :-/

But--back to school night is a good time to meet the parents of the students--it gives us some perspective on our kids and lets us see where they come from. It also gives the parents and opportunity talk to us, tell us their concerns and fears, and start to feel more comfortable because they know their children are in caring hands!

Here's how MY B2SN looks:

I set up a sign-in sheet (with my ocean theme of course!) so that I know who was at B2SN. This isn't to pass judgment on those families that couldn't make it, but to know who may need the information I presented because they WEREN'T there.

I place a file folder on each student's desk. Plus, I make a few extras for the students who have two sets of parents who each want the information. If anyone is unable to attend B2SN, I simply send their folder home with them the next day. That way, everyone gets the information they need. AND the parents have a convenient place to store B2SN forms, and can keep the folder for the entire year to house important forms, papers, or completed, graded work. Yay for double duty!

Anyway---my folders! I glue this paper to the front of the folder:

Inside each folder I place the following forms:

-an outline of our curriculum and basic activities, called "Third Grade...A Peek Ahead!" split into subject areas: ELA, math, science, social studies, and technology, and including my management strategies, homework policies, etc. (I am going to do a separate blog post for this one--it's a biggie!! Stay tuned!)

-a "Let's Keep in Touch" form for their email address and communications preferences

-a parent questionnaire for the parents to answer questions like, "what motivates your child?," "what is your homework routine," and "describe your child's strengths." Since parents truly are the first teachers, chances are they have some ideas that may just be helpful in teaching me something... THANK YOU to Lesson Plan SOS for this amazing idea!

-a letter form for the parents to write their child a letter for the next day. I have had students keep these little letters (printed on 1/3 of a sheet of printer paper) all year long. They love seeing mom or dad's (or grandma's, or auntie's, etc. etc. etc.) love the next morning. It's so comforting to them when they're still in an unfamiliar classroom :o)

You can get all of the above (except the "A Peek Ahead" packet...but I will put this into a future blog post) on my TpT store for only $2!! 

After I quickly go over the information in the folder (and I don't really go through the "A Peek Ahead" packet, I just tell them it's there and what's inside), I show my PPT presentation. I really, really don't loved PPT presentations because they're generally B-O-R-I-N-G and outdated, but it is an effective way to convey a lot of information to parents in a fast way, plus, having the slides there in front of me reminds me of what to say if I become nervous and forget........

Here are my slides as jpegs. If you are interested in the complete show in ppt format, please let me know!
 Obviously I begin with a welcome slide!
 I tell the parents a little bit about me as a person.
 My management style and techniques, as well as our school-wide behavior system (PBS)
 Our schedule (This is my schedule from last year. My schedule from this year isn't done yet because we just got it last week and I haven't even had a chance to change my PPT yet!!)
 Our specials schedule, now called "encore" in our district. Is this common? Seems like such a strange name!
 Supply list, in case anyone didn't receive my summer student welcome letter with the same information.
 I use a student binder in my classroom, and it is a pivotal part of teaching my students responsibility and organization. This slide explains to parents WHY I choose to do this, and why I asked them for more supplies than most other teachers!
 QUICK curriculum overview. The packet in the folder goes much more into detail.
 Some unique or interesting parts of what makes our class what it is.
 Homework policy.
 My policy for birthday treats...
 A call for parent volunteers.
 My use of technology, so the parents know that their children will be exposed to a lot (in some cases) new, and (hopefully) exciting things.

 A screen shot of our classroom website so that parents know if they're in the right place when they go there! I also talk about what will be on the site and how they can use it. (Homework updates, links to educational games, important class announcements)
 Expectations of students, so that parents know their children will be held accountable for doing what they need to do at school.
 Expectations I have for myself, so that parents know I am committed to their child's learning, safety, and happiness.
A gimme slide for any things I might have forgotten about (this is a reminder to me to say anything I might have thought about during the other parts of the presentation), an opportunity to ask questions, and a place to talk about the things that just don't fit anywhere else.

I try to finish the PPT in about 10 minutes, so that parents have a chance to talk to me one-on-one about different situations or to ask private questions. I find the parents really treasure and want this time, even more so than the information I present. Since our B2SN is 2x 30 minute sessions, each group that comes through has limited time. I like to make sure we use it wisely :o)

I hope this helps someone. Have a GREAT B2SN if yours hasn't already happened....


*This post is part of my "Back-to-School" series!*

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Sunday, August 19, 2012

The All-Inclusive Teacher Binder

I have an interesting condition: I LOVE organization and the concept of being organized, and I LOVE organizing things, but I am challenged to STAY organized. Can anyone else relate?? I find that I begin school year (or a closet at home lol) on the right foot, and over time I sink back to my bad habits of just shoving papers wherever, grabbing whichever notebook is in reach for a faculty meeting, and even missing meetings because I jotted down the reminder on my other calendar.

So I have started an all inclusive teacher binder this year. I bought myself a large (3") clear-view-cover binder in my favorite color (BLUE!) at Target (love) and 3 packs of tabbed dividers with write-on tabs. I grabbed my Bic Mark It markers and got to work.

I made up a cover sheet with a whale (go figure) that was super easy. I just made a regular page-size paper that says "Mrs. Spence's Classroom Notebook 2012-13" and put a clipart whale in the middle of it, and then made a narrow vertical sheet that and made it say the same thing (this I slid into the spine of the binder--does that make sense?) (Download the customizable file here for free!)

Ok, so next I had to make my dividers. I used my markers and went in rainbow order for the different areas. The dividers I made are:  (and feel free to use the ones you want and change the ones you don't like or can't use)

  • Lesson Plans
  • Monthly Calendars (and I downloaded the entire year's worth of super-cute calendars for FREE from Rowdy in Room 300's TpT store here and plan to use them to record all dates and meetings that I need to remember)
  • Pacing Guides (stay tuned for my own pacing guides)
  • Schedules (for specials, early dismissals, late starts, days with an assembly, etc.)
  • Pennsylvania (or Common Core or your state) Standards
  • Management Information/Substitute Teacher Information 
  • Professional Development (we have to create a professional development project each year OR choose to be observed. My PD plan is to implement Daily 5)
  • Data (with 5 subcategories, all done in the same color!)
    • Progress Monitoring and Intervention (for those of you whose schools are beginning RTI/RTII)
    • STAR Reading and Math (STAR is an online assessment program that we use for benchmarking and progress monitoring)
    • Study Island (we also use SI for benchmarking and progress monitoring/assessment for RTII)
    • SWEBS/PBS (our school-wide behavior model that we collect and turn data in for)

I hope this teacher binder idea can help you out. I plan to take my binder to all faculty meetings and grade-level meetings, as well as data meetings. I hope it works out for me too!


*This post is part of my "Back-to-School" series!*

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Back to Reality!

It's that time again--the time of year when I am super-excited to get back to school and yet sad to see summer go (and so quickly!). I am even more excited to get back than usual because I have been out of school since January! But...that brings me to why I am even sadder than usual (at the same time) to go back...I have been on maternity leave since January 19 <3. And starting tomorrow, I am leaving my seven-months-old-today baby for the first time EVER (for more than a couple of hours).

I started checking out teacher blogs a few years ago and have really fallen in love with it over the last few months. I suppose I wanted to be home with my baby without missing out on school entirely ;). I see teacher blogs probably the same way as probably everyone else who loves blog stalking following as much as me--inspiring, exciting, enlightening, helpful, and just really really smart! I wanted to start my own blog to share what I've learned over the years and to help share the inspiration with others. I don't have many followers yet, but I hope to! I also hope that somewhere in this blog there is a kernel of something that someone can use. I think sharing is invaluable and I know how much I've gained from my colleagues at work and online!

As I said, I am heading back to school tomorrow. The district where I teach doesn't officially start teachers back until Thursday, but this year I am mentoring a new teacher (and I'm very excited about this!)  so I am due back a few days early to help her get situated and to attend a few meetings. I am going to begin a (hopefully) useful series of posts on back-to-school tomorrow.

It's my goal to include the following in my back-to-school series!

Please pass the word along about my blog to anyone you know who is also a teaching blog addict ;) 

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Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Genre Posters!

I know for third grade, genre study is an important part of the Language Arts curriculum. I never wanted to spend a ton of money on the genre posters at teacher stores, and they never had the EXACT genres I wanted. So I created my own. The first six are freebies at my TpT Store and there are ten others that match (but they're landscape orientation) for only $1.99! I hope this will help you as much as it helped me and my students!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Spelling Contract on TpT

I have added a new file to my TpT account! It is a spelling contract tic-tac-toe board :) I have used it in the past for my weekly spelling homework. I assign 4 contract activities for the spelling list and check on Friday, before the spelling test. But this printable could be used in class or for homework, in small groups or in whole group instruction. My hubby added a watermark to the jpeg file, but it's not there on the downloadable version :o) ...And the best part is...It's FREE!!!

TpT Freebie!

Using a binder with my third graders has been an excellent organizational tool. I've used one for the past several years, and it's helped me and the children, and the parents love it too! Here is what I put on my supply list:

 a 1 1/2 inch white binder with clear-view plastic cover
a 3-hole zipper pouch 10 clear sheet protectors
looseleaf paper
3-hole plastic durable poly folder

On one of the first days of school, we build their "STAR Binder" and they get so excited about it! STAR stands for "Students That Are Responsible" and they are eager to show that they're responsible!!

We slide the STAR cover (part of the TpT bundle) into the clear view plastic cover of the binder, and we add in the other components. The zipper pouch is for excuse cards, lunch money, and notes between parents and teacher. It isn't for pencils or other supplies :) In addition to what I have the students supply, our school gives the students 3-hole homework books/agendas. We add those into our STAR binders as well. We also add in our reading logs, where the students keep track of their nightly reading. I use the plastic sheet protectors for their STAR rules (also part of the TpT bundle), a copy of the class list and schedule, a "homework helpers" sleeve, with a copy of the word wall and a multiplication table and 100s chart, the current spelling list and contract, the current monthly book report, and any other key papers that I feel are helpful. The students make one side of the folder say "Keep" and the other side "Return."

The students are required to take their STAR binder home every night and bring it back to school each day, with a parent signature in their agenda books to show that the parents have seen the papers and communications in the binder. The signature also serves as a way to show that the student has completed their homework and nightly reading. I have included the STAR cover, rules sheet, and the contract in my TpT bundle for FREE!! The contract is just an agreement that I have the students sign and then I hold onto in case they ever need reminding of the rules they signed off on!

Monday, August 6, 2012

My first linky party

Amazing Pinterest blog hop/linky party!! Add your website or Pinterest link to the list and then have fun exploring other people's amazing FREE teaching ideas!!! Thanks to Debbie Clement for starting this party!  


Hi! My name is Ashley and I'm a third grade teacher. I am super new to blogging for other teachers, but I am excited to share some of my ideas with other teachers out there. I have been looking at other teacher blogs for a long time and have learned so much--and I want to take the opportunity to share what I can with others.

I have taught third and fourth grades, and I am starting my eighth year teaching in August. I have a 6-month old son, Easton, and a wonderful husband of four years, Ryan. Although I am going to be sad to leave my baby for the first time in August (I've been off on maternity leave since January <3), I am excited to get back to teaching, a job I love!

My blog is called Tales from a Third Grade Splashroom because I love the ocean! I have used an ocean/sea theme in my classroom in the past, and while I still have some ocean-related decor around my classroom, I have definitely changed through the years to get more color-theme-based...and my favorite color?? Blue!! (The color of the sea :)

I am hoping that I catch on to things like Linky Parties, Blog Hops, and all the other blog activities that go on on teacher blogs--because I'm not sure I understand it all yet! In the meantime, I want this blog to be a place to come to find classroom management ideas, lesson ideas, and other great ideas for new and experienced teachers :) Check back often!!

Also--please check out my Teachers pay Teachers account! There's not much posted yet, but I hope to grow my store along with my blog...