Teaching Vocabulary in Social Studies and Science Part 6

Graphic organizer anyone? I love a T-Chart, KWL, Word Diagram, Tree Map, or Bubble Map in the classroom! Graphic organizers are a powerful tool for students to extend and deepen their understanding in the classroom. Graphic organizers allow students to … Continue reading

The Standards have Changed…AGAIN

The Georgia Standards of Excellence are being taught this next school year and that means more changes. Luckily for fifth grade there are not a ton of adjustments to be made. I have updated four products to include these new … Continue reading

Working on my hallway

I am home!

I am back at school (unofficially). 

Today I did my hallway display and I love it!

A spot to post my standards that will match the work we hang in the hallway. 

My display to hang student work. The border above the paper is laminated and I plan on writing th name of the student whose work is hung on the paper on it with expo markers. 

A spot to recognize students who are working hard. 

My welcome banner is scrapbook paper diecut into elephants with letters on top. Super easy to make and runs with my theme.  

My August wreath not only matches my theme, but is one of my FAVS!!!!

I’m excited to see what this school year holds in store and can’t wait to meet my new students next week!!!!!!

Classroom Conversations

One day last week I was doing an activity with the class. The students were freely talking amongst themselves as we were doing this. I heard the kids talking about creation and who created everything. As I was listening I heard several students explaining that God made everything! The stars, planets, giraffes, EVERYTHING! Some of the others were not convinced so then I heard my little missionaries asking questions like Then who made everything?, How do you think we got here?, Don’t you believe in God? It was so encouraging to hear these 8 and 9 year old students share God and the story of creation with their classmates. Thank you parents for raising your children in homes and churches where they learn about the Truth and God!

Which Class is Mine?

Every school has hallways full of doors that look the exact same, but they lead to different classrooms and different teachers. As a student, I can only imagine how scary it feels not knowing if your teacher is behind the door you are about to open. I have my name on the hall next to my door, but I also wanted to make sure students know by looking at the door. All of my door decorations have “Mrs. Ruff” or a “R” on them, but my favorite is to just use a letter as door décor.

I have made two letter decorations for myself (both which you will see throughout the year as I hang them in my classroom and post them here). I have also made some for other teachers in my school as gifts.


Here is how to make your own!

Go to Hobby Lobby or any other craft store (JoAnn’s has a great selection) and purchase a wooden letter. I like the thin pieces of wood, but have found some benefits to having the thicker letters also. If you do not have the paint colors you want at home or ribbon to match purchase this also.

You are going to put at least two coats of paint on your letter. It may take three to cover it completely. I have found that spray paint works wonderfully for this base coat.

After you have a good base coat you can either continue on for polka dots or skip ahead for ribbon attachment.

Polka Dots: I used a quarter as my stencil for the dots. I traced with a pencil and used a small paint brush to fill in with a new color of paint. This normally takes two coats. If you are putting a lighter color on top of a darker color it will take more coats. When the big dots are dry I use the end of the paint brush (not the bristle side) and with a third color of paint make little bitty dots around some of the bigger dots (not all of the bigger dots though) to add some more color.

When all painting is complete and dry you can attach your ribbon. I use thumb tacks to attach the ribbon. On the thinner wooden letters, do not push the thumb tack all the way in, it will puncture the front side of the letter. Then you’re ready to hang your letter.

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(It’s hard to see the little yellow dots on the H and V but they are there)

Now students will know it is your room and you have a beautiful way to welcome them to class!

The Little Finishing Touches

I have shared the larger views of my classroom (minus the last minute posters on the wall), but here are some of the smaller details that I created throughout the summer that pull my room together.

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These are the close up of my bulletin boards. My autistic students love the schedule because they always know what is coming up next. I love the No Names poster because I can hang the papers that are turned in with no names and the students know exactly what to do when they have a grade missing.

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These are two of the better organized teacher stations. I love my “tool box” turned supply organizer. It was a wonderful idea brought to be by my teaching partner and pinterest. My shelf has my subject binders, copies for the week (in the drawers), teaching books and resource material, as well as math fact baskets on the top.

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My bathroom passes and pencil buckets are my permanent fixtures. They just had a face lift this summer. The sucker tree will be for students who receive a 100 on a test.


Each of my students has a Twitter board. These boards can be used doing homeroom to tell me whatever they would like. This prevents students from trying to talk to me while I am getting homework, taking attendance, making sure students are eating breakfast, etc. When I have a moment, I read the boards and then I know all of the great things that have happened in the few hours since I have seen them. This was a life saver last year and prevented a lot of headaches!

I love how decorating even the smallest of things can make a room feel some much brighter. I hope each of you have the same little touches in your classroom so your rooms feel homely and loving for you students.

Oh Bad Sally!

My first year teaching I wanted to come up with a creative way to give bad examples of how to do classroom procedures and good examples of classroom procedures. I developed a character who does both.

I have “Good Sally” and “Bad Sally”.

I typically start with the non example (aka Bad Sally). I go to the farthest extreme that I can. I run, jump, scream, throw items, stomp, pout, you name it, Bad Sally does it. Good Sally always follows Bad Sally by doing exactly what the procedure should look like. We as a class talk about the differences between the two, which one was doing what I wanted them to, and who they should want to be like.

The students always LOVE “Bad Sally”! Who wouldn’t? She is the life of the party and not what students expect their teacher to be like. Bad Sally is AWESOME!!! I was taught in college to be sure to be very specific about what you do want to happen and what you do NOT want to happen, so I have Sally. Sally does it all!

Today, Sally came to school. She showed her good and bad sides and yet again was a total success. Anytime we have a new procedure (like when science experiments come up in a few weeks) Sally will visit. I highly suggest creating your own character to help you teach your students classroom rules and procedures.

I also like to read children’s literature which does the same thing. Today I read The Recess Queen to talk about how we should treat our classmates, behave on the play ground, and welcome new classmates. The students loved the book and Mean Gene is similar to Bad Sally (and yes they made the text to self connection 🙂 ).

Classroom management is the most important part of the start of the school year, so really think about how you want to attack this year and get CREATIVE!!!

Stages of Setting Up Shop

It is almost here…the kids will be back in one week!

I am so ready to be back at work and in a routine, but my classroom is no where near set up. This summer every teacher’s classroom was moved and we arrived back at work to a stack of boxes and furniture. I was able to unpack back in June (before MSP, SPLASH, and CentriFUGE). Then came the task of getting everything where it belongs, posting items to the walls, and making sure all of the technology works (we are still working on that).

When I left for the month of craziness (July) my room looked like this:




Not terrible, but no where near ready for parents, students, or teaching.

I was able to come back to work yesterday and achieved the following:

Alphabet and computers

Number Line

poster wall

Today, was very successful though! I was able to complete both bulletin boards, find another table and six chairs, have a TV and book bag shelf installed, and rearrange my desks. Now my room could be presented to the public if need be (of course there is always more I could do–even when the room looks perfect!). Look at the major accomplishment of today!

front view

Pre-planning begins tomorrow!!! More to do then!

How to Survive in Mrs. Ruff’s Class

I have learned that students want to know what you expect. Some students want to know so that they can NOT do everything you want them to, but some most students want to know your expectations so they can meet them.

I start my school year off with setting the expectations and routines. We talk about them. I model them. We practice them. And practice them…And practice them.

This year I have created a presentation to focus my attention to the procedures I want to establish right away. Things like how to go to the bathroom, where to line up, and what to do about a broken pencil (y’all already know my obsession with pencils).

Procedures Presenation

Students need to know how to survive in my room. After a short time, it won’t feel like surviving, but instead thriving.

Let me walk you through each slide.

Give Me 5

I immediately teach the class my favorite way to gain their attention. “Give me 5!” Most of you, I’m sure, know what it means to give me five, but I simply explain that when I say it they stop, look, and listen. We practice this several times. I ask the students to talk and say it. I may say it softly one of the times we are practicing. I want it to be a fast and sharp end to noise.

Morning Routine

I then go over the morning routine. I have specific tasks that must be done first thing in the morning and students need to know what order to do them in, where to put their back packs and coats, and what I expect of them the next morning. You may want to tweak this page for your own routine, but make sure you specifically tell the students your expectations, show them the location everything should be in, and make them say it back to you. I do not normally practice this one, but can see a need to in the younger grades (remember, I’m a third grade teacher!).


We have breakfast in the classrooms each day, so there are expectations of how that will work. This is the time where I lay them out loud and clear. I do not like a mess and breakfast makes a mess. This is one of the MOST IMPORTANT procedures to me. Just some ideas for you if you also serve breakfast in the classrooms:

  • students eat at tables, not their desks (now the mess is contained)
  • all of the breakfast trash goes in one trash can, and the trash can goes into the hallway as soon as the announcements are over
  • when the announcements begin, breakfast is over so throw your trash away
  • assign a morning cleaner who will wipe down your tables every morning after breakfast
  • if a student spills something simply have them clean it up (there is no need for having breakfast accidents equal discipline consequences)


Each student in my room has a Twitter board (half of a laminated sentence strip) to tell me something on. I got this idea from pinterest and have discovered that it keeps students from wanting to talk my ear off when I am in my morning routine (attendance, lunch money, excuse notes, homework, etc.). I only allow students to update them during homeroom after their morning routine is complete or during in door recess.

We go over bathroom procedures which you can read more about on a previous blog entry.

Pencils can also be found on a previous blog entry.


We discuss homework expectations, rewards, and consequences. I found this great idea of pinterest which was similar to Ron Clark’s idea from The Essential 55. Students can earn letters as a whole class to spell out homework by all turning in the homework. Each letter is one day everyone turned in homework, and the days have to be consecutive. When HOMEWORK is spelled completely the class gets a treat! You can download my letter banners here, or another teacher’s here (they are pretty much the same, just different colors).

Turn In

I talk about where and how to turn in assignments to me.


I also talk about how to treat the drawers in my classroom. Each student has a drawer to keep their notebooks and folders in and they have to be taught how to respectfully treat each item in your classroom. If you set the expectation now you can hold them accountable later.

Groups Line Up

I explain how to line up and the names of my groups to the class. I use the operations for my groups names (sorry I’m a math teacher). When I taught reading and ELA I used the times of punctuation.


I discuss how my line should look and how to walk in the hallways (single file, silent, still, and smiling!).

Individual Reward Class Reward

We talk about getting compliments from other people and how that earns a link (make a chain from the ceiling to the floor and get a class reward). We also talk about how to get individual awards (Terrific Tickets- aka T-Tickets, and Canes Cash-school money system).

And lastly we talk about the class rules. It is simple and easy to use.

Please feel free to download the power point here and edit it to suit your classroom needs.

If you want any more details on practices I use please leave a comment and I will get back to you! I love to share and don’t mind explaining myself (sometimes I don’t communicate clearly