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TpT Cyber Sale

Teachers, it's time for TpT's huge Cyber Sale!  Our sitewide sale starts at midnight EST tonight, (Nov. 27), and ends at midnight EST on Nov. 29. Rainbow City Learning will be offering every resource, including huge already discounted bundles, at a savings of 20%! To save even more, add the code CYBER2016 when you check out!
The resources listed below are some of my most popular, and the ones with the highest number of wishlist saves. Take a look at what other teachers are saying about each of these classroom tested and kid-approved resources, all designed to make your teaching day easier, more relevant and fun, on right on target for meeting the standards! Be sure to enter my giveaway at the end of this post to win a $10.00 TpT gift certificate, just to add to the fun of this major shopping event. Fill your cart now and checkout when the sale begins! 
Happy Shopping!

The most frequently wish listed and all-time best-selling resource in Rainbow City Learning is MATH CLOSE READS. I created this resource to help my own students who were flying through the standardized math tests without paying attention to the story problems. The graphic organizers I designed helped my students to slow down and read the problems more closely. 
With frequent close reading of problems in class and as homework, students will develop the habit of looking for data, questions, and extra information as they are tested on their ability to solve story problems correctly. 
I've also been told that this resource is a great tutoring and differentiation tool! Don't pass up the opportunity to save on this popular resource!
The second most popular wishlist item is my ROCK STAR STUDENTS reward card system. Who doesn't like to hear, "YOU ROCK!"? And what if that statement could be connected  to important behavioral goals such as Responsibility, Ownership of work and behaviors, Cooperation, and more? Easy to use and meaningful for students!The third most wishlisted item is my huge MAKER SPACE bundle! Already discounted, you can save even more by snapping this one up during the sale! If you've been thinking about getting a Maker Space started in your classroom or school, this kit contains all you will need to begin while looking like you've been doing this for years!

I hope you'll drop by Rainbow City Learning today and fill your shopping cart with resources to use throughout the year! Please remember that all comments on this blog are reviewed before they appear here. If you don't see your comment right away, please wait a few hours. You will see it, I promise!

Before you start shopping, enter this rafflecopter to win a $10.00 gift certificate! Shopping tip: buy half of your cart, leave great feedback on the items you purchased, and then use the points to save even more on the rest of your order. Exactly what I'll be doing tomorrow! Happy shopping!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

The Post Election Classroom

It's over. Our country is reeling from the outcome. Many are celebrating and hoping for great things. Many are plunged into the depths of despair and afraid of what is yet to come. We are in a unique group as teachers. We are all in the same boat - the boat we steer every day - the boat we call a classroom. We still need to face groups of children every day, putting our own views and needs on the back burner. For the school day, we are on stage, and our role is perhaps the most important one ever to be played. The children are witness to history that is happening all around them. What we say and do in the upcoming days is crucial. We have power to shape the world view of our students for years to come.

Our current situation as Americans is so much more than whether our candidate or political party won. People are firmly embedded in one camp or the other in ways we've never seen before. Children are absorbing all that is happening around them. And when they arrive in our classrooms, they are interested in our stance and waiting for our words. In my opinion, it has never been more important to put on a neutral face and to try to love the children through it all. 

Something that has always been very therapeutic for me is letter writing. As an under-challenged elementary student, I often finished my work way early and wrote long letters to friends and family about the book I was reading or how I was feeling in a very boring learning situation. I even wrote some to my teachers and never handed them over. Probably should have because I'm sure they were happy with my learning and progress. I was a quiet little thing and never caused them any trouble. 

As an almost grownup, I wrote letters to my sweetheart in the army. I filled them with love and sealed them with sealing wax. As a young newlywed, I wrote a letter to my mother-in-law once on how her bad behavior was hurting her son and me. Probably never should have mailed that one. Sigh.

I wrote letters to my children from the tooth fairy, and long letters when they were away at camp.

I currently write letters to various people and institutions for various reasons. I always find  the writing itself to be a release and a way to get my emotions back on track. Some get sent and many get shredded. To me, the writing is more important than the sending. It's a personal preference. I try to avoid conflict when I can. This not to say that I stay silent on important issues. I sign petitions and join causes that are  meaningful to me. In college, I marched and sat in. I have always stood up and spoken out against injustice.

Yet in my classroom, I have different goals. It's not a political platform; rather a nursery to grow and nurture young minds. Give them a good start and solid knowledge base. Teach them to think critically and to honor their own thoughts and feelings. It's no secret that I've been retired for two years. A week never goes by that does not find me volunteering in some way in a local school or two though. I love staying in touch with former students and with young neighborhood friends. I can clearly see that our young people are looking for a way of making sense of what is happening in our country and are dealing with some complicated feelings. We often have no idea of what they are hearing and facing at home.

As my small contribution to classrooms this week, I have created a free resource to help kids and teachers in dealing with the current unrest. It's letter writing. Letter writing to our outgoing President. Letter writing to the President Elect and also to Secretary Clinton. Letter writing to parents, teachers, or anyone. I offer some template letters and some further topic suggestions. I offer this in color and grayscale to help with printing. Printing isn't even necessary. Project on your  board and let the kids write their own. 

If you do download and use, I ask that you do not use these letters for assessment in any way. Honor your students' feelings by offering class time for this activity. Allow them to send or dispose of the letters in any way they choose. Show that you respect who they are inside and what they need. 

I also would really appreciate some positive feedback left on the product download page to let me and other teachers know how you used this resource and if it has been helpful. What you think is important to me.

Wishing you peace and healing in the days ahead. 

For more November Teacher Talk, be sure to visit these great blogs! 

Stand for Something

The debates are over, and Election Day is around the corner.  On the friendship front, I'm proud to say that I haven't unfriended anyone on Facebook yet because of ridiculous political statements that I may or may not agree with. No family members have been asked to resign as my relatives either. I've heard though that differences in political opinions have caused quite an uproar for many other people. I generally like to  view people as who they are deep inside rather than as a shallow picture of their political viewpoint. If you're my friend, I tend to watch what you do in real life rather than listen so much to what you post on social media. Likewise with the candidates. I've been watching both for years. I know. Whatever they say during the debates is kinda like reality TV for me - entertaining, but not really real.

Here's what concerns me, teachers. Lots of people are talking about the election and about one candidate or the other not in a very kind manner. And count on this: the children are listening. They are like sponges, soaking up everything they hear. Even when you would swear they aren't paying attention. They might miss hearing how to divide fractions, but they will not miss one word of their families' discussions about the candidates. And then...all that information and misinformation shows up in your classroom.

There's a great old country song by Aaron Tippin (1991) that really says it all. If you don't have strong values of your own, others can very easily fill that void inside you with whatever nonsense or harm they're pushing. "You've got to stand for something, or you'll fall for anything." You have a lot of power right now in the lives of your students. Power to help them find what's really important to them, power to show them how they have a choice when issues are presented to them, and power to help them see that their opinions matter. There's a great video on You Tube where Aaron Tippin is singing to his son about the need to stand for something and not to back down, and it later shows the boy making a great decision to back away from "stranger danger". You might want to share it with your students. You've Got to Stand for Something

I can pretty much guarantee that your students' families are discussing the debates now. I'd love to share a couple of ideas with you that I used in my classroom for many election years and in non election years too. It's a kind of fun and easy intro to debating, and I've used it with second through sixth graders. These two activities can also be great prep for persuasive writing.

The first idea is called the "Vote With Your Seat" activity. My kids often called it the "Stand Up Sit Down". First ask everyone to stand. Then announce the topic for debate. For example, "If you think our school lunches are perfect the way they are, sit down." Some might sit down. Keep refining the position statement. "If you think the way vegetables are served in our lunches is ok, sit down." A few more may sit down here. Then "If you think that we should not have a salad bar (we don't), sit down." You could add a couple more refinements, or stop after three. The remaining students could then be asked to briefly meet and then tell the class why they think having a salad bar would improve the lunches in your school.

The second activity is called "Vote With Your Feet". This one is very effective at showing the wide range of thoughts that people actually have about a topic.  Using the same salad bar topic, start with having all students stand together in the middle of the room. Say, "If you think we should have a salad bar in our cafeteria, move to the left. If you think we should not have a salad bar, move to the right. If you're not sure or don't care, stay in the middle." Then ask the first person to the left to state why he/she thinks having a salad bar is a good idea. (Just a sentence or two.) Ask the first person to the right to state why it is not a good idea. Then after each side has spoken, announce "Vote with your feet! Move closer to the side you now agree with or stay where you are." I think you'll be surprised at the movement as you continue this activity with a new speaker from each side. Continue until everyone who would like to speak has had their say. Writing an opinion piece on "Why a Salad Bar Would be Good (Bad) for our Cafeteria" should now be a piece of cake! Or a slice of tomato.

The most important thing to remember is that the topics should be real ones and of importance to your students. Raising or lowering taxes probably isn't of major importance to a ten year old unless family members have already pointed out why, but I'm guessing many of them will care whether or not their soccer field is turned into a salad garden. I've just completed a set of debate task cards to help you get the conversation started with your elementary students, and have added it into my Election 2016 Bundle. If you have already purchased the bundle, just download it again for free! More goodies to be added through January to the bundle as we move through the inauguration and add a new Vice President!

You can learn more about the bundle by clicking on the cover here:

And remember, no matter who you are voting for, you're still my friend!

Journals: From a Kid's Point of View Part Two

The journal book in draft form on my coffee table keeps calling to me. I keep telling myself that I should write another blog post so that you might be inclined to share the thoughts of my Rainbow City kids with your own. Somehow, just getting started on any writing piece has always been the hardest part for me. Once I decide to sit down and just do it, the words just seem to flow. I'm guessing that you might relate to that. It's true in every type of writing for me: my own journalling, lesson planning, responding to emails, and even when I feel like writing just for fun. My Rainbow City kids had it so right when they said: "Just start writing!"

Although this series is meant for chatting in the morning, once the chatting is done, thinking about that morning's discussion just might help your students to get their own brainstorming off the starting block! 

Happy writing!

Journals: From a Kid's Point of View

I believe that sometimes the Universe sends us messages. Yesterday might have been one of those days.
I was interviewing a new cleaning person at 11:00, so 9:00 found me going through yet another box of my school treasures because we all know who is really being interviewed in one of these experiences. To avoid the likelihood of our potential cleaning person running screaming from our house, and me ending up on the next episode of "Hoarders", I thought I'd try once again to tackle the nightmare room where I keep my school stuff. As expected, I unearthed a few treasures that I had completely forgotten about!
Having struck a sweetheart deal with my new household helper - YAY!- I continued on to my grandson's school to pick him up. There I ran into a parent of some former students of mine who excitedly told me of a recent conversation she had with a parent of two of my Rainbow City kids - now adults. The topic of their conversation was all about what a great teacher I was because I had taught her kids how to write, really write, and to love writing. "How do you do it?" she asked. Seriously, in a word: Journaling!

I know I've written about this before, but to me, journaling is the single most important activity that you can ever do with your students. In so many ways, Interactive Notebooking should be making that clear to all of us right now. Done right, Interactive Notebooks are an advancement in the concept of a learning log. And, as the amazing author Janie Lynn Panagopoulos told my students and me so many times, "If you have no journals, no one will remember you a hundred years from now." Journals are our communication tool with the future. Think about it: What do you yourself know about your great-great grandparents? What do you know about their childhood adventures, their thoughts on growing up, how they felt during the awkward and the best of their life experiences? What did they like to snack on? Who were their friends? If they kept journals and you are lucky enough to be in possession of them, you do know. One of the saddest tales I've ever heard was when a friend told me that her mother had burned all of her own grandmother's journals in a major cleaning frenzy. Sometimes cleaning can go way too far.

Because the Universe sent me those two messages yesterday, I feel compelled to share the instructional handbook written by my Rainbow City kids a few years ago, who wanted to leave a Rainbow City Legacy by telling other kids about the magic of journaling. This was the #1 treasure I unearthed. It is now a coffee table book in my home. We will simply clean around it. It's way too valuable to ever get lost again! 

Please consider this a blog series on journaling, as I am going to share it little by little. I hope you'll consider following my blog so that you won't miss an installment! I also hope you'll share these messages from my kids with your students, and that it will make journaling as natural as breathing in your classroom!

And now, from the mouths of my Rainbow City babes....

If you'd like to know what some of our Rainbow City Journal starters were, they are included in this resource, one of the first I ever posted on TpT!

For more October ideas, please check out the posts of these great Teacher Talk bloggers: 

Guest Post on Hojo's Teaching Adventures

So excited to be guest posting on Hojo's Teaching Adventures! If you are thinking about starting a Maker Space in your classroom, or have some questions about STEM/STEAM projects, I hope you'll stop by! Just click on the graphic below!

My Class Won't Stop Talking!

Is it June yet? It's still September. If you are dreading the rest of the year stretched out before you with the chattiest class ever, I hope this post will help.

I've been hearing from teacher friends near and far lately about the chattiest kids they've ever encountered showing up in their classrooms this year.  Each of these teachers has worked long and hard to set the stage for success for every child with great displays, flexible seating, supplies purchased at no small cost from their own pockets, and carefully thought out lesson plans. And now? The kids are talking, talking, talking, and all of the careful preparation appears to have been wasted on them. Can anything be done to reverse this?

I think yes. A few suggestions to tame that talking monster currently rearing its ugly head in your classroom:

Step Back
Have you done all you can to build a strong community feeling and to really get to know each student before plunging into the curriculum?  Might be worth a day or two to go back to square one and try to get that feeling established. Take some time for interest surveys, getting-to-know-you icebreakers, and letters asking parents to tell you a little about their students. These parent letters, if carefully read, can be a gold mine of ideas for you on how to bond with your students. 

Even if you feel as if you are "not teaching anything" and panicking just a little about your curriculum, I promise that the curricular gains you will make down the road will be so worth this front-loaded time spent. People who feel they are a part of a community will be more likely to act in ways that will bring success and joy to that community!

The Conversational Opportunity
I first started to use this term quite a few years ago during a particularly stressful and challenging moment in my own classroom when the talking monster seemed to be dancing in the aisles. I simply stopped whatever I was attempting to teach, waited a few minutes (this part was important because the kids needed to notice that I had stopped talking) and then asked, "Are you in need of a conversational opportunity? Raise your hand if you would like to have a conversational opportunity right now."

Of course, there were many puzzled expressions, a bit of laughter, and a  buzz of resumed talk. Using a new term to describe talking cast a new and refreshing light on the activity. I went on to explain that if they needed to talk so badly, I was going to build that into each and every lesson starting right then. Right  now. I gave them five minutes right then and there to just chat. I said that rule #1 was that they could even move around the room as long as no furniture or people were hurt because of their movements. Five minutes. It will seem like an hour to you the first time you do it. After awhile, though, you and your students will sense when it is needed and the time will seem short and very reasonable. Rule #2 was that all talking stopped when the chimes sounded. (Use whatever signal you like or have handy - clapping, bell, music. Whatever makes sense to you and your students.)

Make Talking Legit 
Is collaboration a part of your lessons? If so, it should include opportunities to talk ideas over with other students. Book clubs, STEM/STEAM challenge groups, Math problem solving groups, Science labs, and more can provide easy ways to build some more legal talking time into your school day. Whenever students collaborate, talking with others in the group should go with the territory. If they know that they will have a chance to share their thoughts soon, students will be more likely to listen carefully to the lesson and directions they will be using as they work.

Change It Up!
Could your written lesson plan be altered to a plan for discussion rather than writing? Discussion topics and thoughts can have a way of showing up organically in writing pieces to come later. Brains hold onto information gathered in a happy mood far longer than information dispensed under stress.

Is there a daily practice in your classroom that would work if switched to discussion mode from written mode? I've always found that my chattiest students walk in the door that way. What I did next had the power to keep that chattiness going all day or to channel it and move on. One idea that worked really well for me was to give my kids something specific to chat about right away. I knew they were going to enter with a need for human interaction, so why not give them a conversation starter that would help them to grow as a thinker, a writer, or just as a human being.

You might like  to explore that idea a little more with this popular post:

I've taken this idea of changing up the morning routine and turned it into two resources that I hope you'll take a look at also:

Wishing you peace and quiet when  you need it, focused worthwhile conversations whenever you can use them, and a wonderful teaching year ahead!

For more September ideas, take a look at these other great blog posts: