Friday, August 31, 2012

Operation Clean Room - Day 3

So let me start by saying - I am much calmer... ok not completely but at least I am calmer. I got a lot done today with the help of my mom AND my grandma!!

All but one of my boards are covered... what a HUGE project that was and I think they look amazing. Of course I forgot to take pictures today, sorry, I promise to have lots of updated pictures tomorrow. My mom and I used liquid starch and fabric to cover my boards and I LOVE them... well, there is one board that I have a funny feeling I will be re-doing tomorrow. Unfortunately I think my peg board didn't take the fabric very well, the brown color from the peg board actually came through the fabric and changed the color of it. I used purple fabric and LOVE it, but I might just go get a nice brown, or black or dark blue fabric and try again! I'm going to see what it looks like tomorrow and then decide.

My grandma was awesome today and helped go through lots of bins in my large walk in closet... apparently I didn't purchase enough $1 shoebox bins from my local Dollar Tree (even though I did buy ALL of them!) So another trip to the Dollar Tree is in order ASAP!!! Right now all my bins still have post-it notes on them, but one day I'll make pretty labels for everything. I actually found really cute labels from Print Candee called Playful Polka Dots Labels (click the title to see them) that I think I'm going to use! I just LOVE these!!

You know its really funny, I planned on having a red, blue, green and yellow room --- but what did I do? I purchased a really nice purple fabric for my front boards and a pretty shade of green for my side boards! Umm, yeah, so I guess my color scheme is out the window!! Which is a problem because now I don't know what I'm going to do about decorating and the kiddies come Thursday.

Anyways, my closets are looking great - my big closet is about 1/3 of the way done. My furniture is finally where it belongs, but I think I want to purchase some shelf/contact paper to cover the tops of some of my shelves. They are looking a bit run down and since painting is not an option (and wont hide the chipped/splintering wood) I think if I can find some pretty contact paper to cover the older bookshelves it would make things look a bit more inviting!

My mom is very crafty so I'm trying to convince her to transform my "teacher" chair (which is really just a big kid chair) into a work of art - ok not really a work of art. I would love for her to make a slip cover for my chair and add a cushion to it... although if I make it too comfy I may never want to get out of it! But how cute would that look vs. a boring old "old school" "big kid" chair?!?!

Ok it's late and I should really be asleep since I have one last day to get my room ready - although my posters and charts aren't laminated yet, but hey that's what Tuesday and Wednesday are for right? Going in extra early, sitting through PD and working through lunch and a few hours after school! back to the old routine!

Stop by tomorrow to see the pictures of my almost finished room!
Don't forget to click HERE to visit my giveaway and win a fun clipboard!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Operation Clean Room - Day 2

As the hours and days are passing quickly my high hopes of a successful start to the year are becoming filled with high anxiety. I've never had to do so much work in my room before, I guess that's because I had been in my pervious room for 5 years and had plenty of time to make it my own... now I know what I want my room to look like so I want it done before school starts!

If you read my post yesterday you saw that my friend and I dumped neatly emptied three large closets in my room and started to put everything back inside. Today we went and continued to work on the piles of items all over the room. We did get a lot accomplished, but there is just so much left to still do!

This is what my closets look like now... the whole left closet is full of books! LOTS of extra books that don't fit into my library. I put the books into plastic bags and labeled them by theme/topic. Then I placed them into baskets by themes. Each basket has a large index card on the front listing what types of books are in each basket. I'm going to bring my label maker in tomorrow or Friday and make small labels for the front edge of each shelf to list what books are on each shelf. The baskets are two deep so it's hard to see whats in the back baskets - by adding the labels right onto the shelves everyone (that is any teacher that comes in to borrow books) will know where to look AND where to put things back! The very bottom shelf (currently blocked by one of my small kiddie chairs) has some of our assessment tools as well as our phonics program. The very top shelf is designated for my friends stuff... it kind of got a little messy today but I'll fix that up another time to make it look neat.

I'm not sure what I want to do with the middle closet just yet... right now it has some randomly placed games, puzzles, and phonics activities. I'm thinking I might place items for centers in this cabinet... but I'm really not sure what I want to do.

The cabinet on the far right is my "teaching" cabinet. The very bottom is construction paper, I have to add another shelf above that which will house printer paper and some supplies. Then I have my "office" shelf which has extra folders, labels, sheet protectors, card stock, paper clips, notebooks, etc. Above that are most of my binders and books, and above that are extra pencils, index cards and other supplies. I'm hoping to store all the extra supplies from the kids on the top two shelves so they can be closed away!

As you can see we got A LOT done... but there is still so much to do. I will be working on my walk in closet tomorrow. I will also be attempting to use liquid starch to attach fabric to all of boards - fingers crossed - I've NEVER done this but I've read a few posts and everyone says it works like magic so I hope it works well. I really hope tomorrow with the help of my mom and possibly my friend and grandma we can get the large closet re-organized and my boards covered. It would also be nice to be able to move the furniture around and set that up... right now I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed because I feel like my to-do list is just growing and growing and it's never going to end...

Since I can't work on my room any longer today I'm off to get some fun crafting projects done instead! :) That should cheer me up!!

Don't forget to click HERE to visit my giveaway and win a fun clipboard!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Operation Clean Room - Day 1

OH MY!!! That's all I can say... so I went in to my room at around 12 today and was kicked out left at 4pm. As some of you may know I switched classrooms this year. Thankfully I moved into my good friends room (she moved up to another grade) and before the year was over she gave me a "tour" of her closets and supplies and left me a TON of wonderful Kindergarten goodies, the only problem - I had no idea where everything was!!!

Todays mission: empty out the three large double door closets and throw out re-organize all of the hidden treasures that were in them. With the help of my friend and my little princess we managed to empty all three closets...

Aren't these closets pretty? I'm really excited, they are HUGE and have lots of room.... As you can see in this picture I started to put some stuff back in. The very top left shelf holds my friends book club books. I'm planning on using that entire closet for all my extra books that don't fit in my library. I can rotate them in and out easily. I'm not exactly sure how I'm going to store them in this closet so they stay neat but that's my plan.

I have no clue what I'm going to do with the middle closet yet... the far right closet will be my teaching supplies closet. I forgot to take a picture of what I already put in it, but so far I have bins for pencils, expo markers, as well as stacking trays for all different kinds of labels and sheet protectors. Then I made a whole shelf with my binders (minus my teaching binder I want to try out this year) and all of my teaching idea books, ok almost all of them. Oh and see that little pink post it on the door? My friend who's room it used to be left me all kinds of happy notes all over the place! Every time I turn around I find another note. She is so sweet!

So here's my dilema, after 4 hours of working our behinds off emptying and cleaning these closets I didn't make much progress in the area of organizing and putting away. At 4pm when I was asked to leave my room I had to leave all this behind:

WHAT am I going to do with all this stuff?? Oh and see that door in the picture above, the one right next to the pretty yellow board? That is another huge walk in closet with TONS of stuff!!! Can we say overwhelmed?!?!?!? I can't even begin to think about decorating my room and making it look cute until I get all these closets organized and everything away. 

Since I can't think about decorating my room maybe some of you can help me! All the bins in my room are red, yellow, green and blue (see the bins on table in the picture above.) I have two boards (one bulletin board and one chalk board) next to the door to my classroom. Then I have three boards across the front of the room (you can see them in the first two pictures of all my tables covered with stuff) - there is a large chalk board, then a peg board and then a bulletin board. This year I was thinking of trying to use fabric dipped in liquid starch instead of bulletin board paper. Since I can't staple on to the two chalk boards and the peg board but I cannot decide on what color(s) to do them in. I don't know if I want to do one color up front and a different color by the door... any thoughts? The large chalk board in the front of the room is my word wall. The peg board is going to be part of my math wall - I'm not sure what the bulletin board in the front will be... probably part of my Math board but maybe so class rules or something. I was thinking of using the boards by the door to display student work. I'd love to hear your thoughts on what color(s) I should use on my boards!!

Oh and before I go... don't forget to enter into my Back To School giveaway to win a personalized clipboard!!! (Click the green words to go right to my giveaway!)

Thanks for visiting me today... check back tomorrow for more updates on how operation clean room is going!


Monday, August 27, 2012

Second Day of School Plans AND Monday Made It

It's Monday now and I have one week left of my summer break, sort of! I'll be heading in all of this week to be working on getting my classroom decorated and organized before all my kiddies come in. We officially start back on Tuesday after Labor Day with 2 days of PD and then the kids come Thursday for their first day!

I've been a busy little bee FINALLY trying to get everything cut out, laminated, hot glued, and decorated for my new room (and I am NO WHERE near ready!!) I just have to keep reminding myself to breathe -- in through the nose and out through the mouth, slow and steady... I always manage to get it all done so why would this year be any different. A few days of long hours in my room and I know it'll look perfect. I promise I'll get lots of before and after pictures to share with you.

One of the things I have accomplished so far is to make tentative first day plans. I realized I have some wonderful resources from all these great teacher bloggers out there I better start thinking about how I can plan to use their goodies in my classroom, and why not start right away?!?! So without further adue here are my plans for the second day of school. They are pretty tentative since I'm not 100% sure when my lunch will be or my preps so I planned my second day assuming my lunch was the same time as last year and that I have no preps (which I really hope is not the case! But better to be over planned than under planned!)

** Note, anything in green is a link that will take you to either a product or blogpost!**

Day 1: What I Do on the First Day of School head there to see what I plan on doing the first day of school!

Day 2: So assuming my day has no preps (fingers crossed this doesn't really happen!) My day will be broken into 2 chunks - the morning is from 8:45-10:30 (That is, assuming lunch is the same time this year as it was the last 2 years)... then we have the afternoon which is 11:25-3:05, it is a HUGE chunk of time, 4 periods and with kinders not having a prep during this time can make them really restless!

I don't have my schedule so I don't know when I should technicially be doing reading, writing, social studies, etc., but I'm hoping that the second day I can follow the plans I already made for myself without any trouble!

*All times listed are approximates and in hopes that all activities go smoothly and all the kiddies are happy!

8:45 - Pick kids up
9:00 - Line up outside of classroom and do a quick greeting
9:05 - Go to seats and introduce unpacking routine (where does everything go). Call kids a few at a
          time to unpack slowly.
9:30 - Go to carpet
     - Do pledge
     - Review 'Magic 5'
     - Morning Message
     - Review the daily schedule and the flow of the day
     - Introduce clip chart behavior plan (that is if I can get it made in time for the beginning of the year!)
     - Read a book ~ any suggestions?? I'm reading "Miss. Bindergarten" on the first day and all the
          "Chester" books the second week.... I'd love some ideas!
     - Introduce circle talk and do a circle talk about the book
10:00 - Do Cafeteria Expectations Craftivity from Roudy in Room 300
     * I'm really excited about this craftivity!! I recently found it (it's free which makes it even better!)
          and I really think my kids will enjoy doing it.
10:20 - Review line-up procedures and get ready for lunch
10:35-11:25 Lunch
11:25 - Pick kids up and review walking in the halls
11:35 - Sit at desk and review how to put away lunch items
11:45 - Go to carpet and introduce 'Brain Breaks' (I've found a lot of different ones from many different
          authors, I'm compiling the ones I think will work best with my kiddies and will share as well as
          tell where I found them once I'm done. I thought this would be a good time to introduce 'Brain
          Breaks because the kinders don't usually get to run around the first few days they have lunch, so
         they are full of energy and need to let some of it out.
12:00 - Introduce the 'Glue License' Activity, another great FREEBIE I found, this one is from
          Mrs. Miner's Monkey Business. I've never tried this one yet with my kiddies, but I think they will
          love it and I think it will be a great way to teach them how to use glue! (Incase you were
          wondering I plan to do the morning craftivity with glue sticks.)
          - I'm also going to have the 'Backpack vs. Lunch Box' cut and paste activity for the kids to do
          once they get their license! Good practice to "prove" they really are allowed to use the glue! This
          one came from First Grade a la Carte and is another FREEBIE!
12:30 - Self-Portrait
     - Introduce what a self-portrait is and show examples.
     - I am using a 'Yearbook' this year which I purchased from Katie Mense on TpT, so I am going to
     have the kids do their self-portraits on the first page and write their names. (I will not be putting their
     books together before school starts, there just isn't enough time to get everything copied, I will put it
     together piece by piece.) I'm in love with this packet and with Katie! (Ok that might have come out
     wrong... tee hee, what I mean is that I needed some things altered to meet my schools calendar and
     diversity and she did it for me! SHE IS AWESOME!)
1:00 - Math Time
     - I will introduce our Math routines and my brand new weather tracker (my Monday Made it!! Scroll
     down to see it!) We will also do the first lesson in our book.
2:00 - School Tour
     - I figure by now the kids are probably ready to get up and move!!! So we will go on a tour of the
     school, I might do a game/activity with it but haven't decided on that yet.
2:30 - Snack
     - While the kids eat their snack I will read one of our 'Star' books. (I will post more about that
     another time, this post is getting WAY too long!)
2:50 - Clean up the room and introduce pack-up routine and dismissal routines
3:05 - Say goodbye to my little kiddies!

So that is a VERY detailed explanation of what I hope I can accomplish on the 2nd day of school, it will be exciting and fun to see what I actually get done! :)

NOW on to my Monday Made It!! I'm super excited about this and have to say that I am in LOVE!!! I cannot believe that I made this... ok my husband helped a ton and so did the nice people at the home improvement store, but still I love my Monday Made It!

I downloaded Primary Inspired Weather poster (another great FREEBIE!!!) and made my very own weather chart.

Don't you just love this?!?! We went to the local hardware store and purchased a small piece of very thin wood (similar to plywood). I had the store cut it to 9" x 11.5"unfortunately when they cut the wood because it was so thin it splintered a lot. While trying to decide what to do about this dilema I saw this BRIGHT yellow tape and ding ding ding I knew exactly how to cover up the rough edges. When we got home I printed the poster and laminated it. My husband painted the wood white for me (the board was a half inch bigger than the paper all around so I thought it would look nice with a white boarder. However, once we spray glued the weather chart down and added the fun yellow tape you couldn't see the white boarder - oh well. I then cut some purple ribbon and hot glued it onto the back a poof I had a great hanging weather chart! I still need to make the clothes pin clips for around the chart but I'm in love with the way it looks and so is my little princess. She has been running around the house with it all day reviewing the weather with anyone who will listen! Guess we will be making another one for our house!

So that my friends is my MONDAY MADE IT!
I know this was a SUPER long post - thanks for hanging in there and reading it! If you're still with me don't forget to check out my Back To School Giveaway!

Rainbow Conferences

When I first started teaching Kindergarten I had a wonderful mentor teacher, Mrs. S. She taught me so much that first year and I'm fortunate enough that she is willing to continue to mentor and guide me whenever I need some help. One of the things we talked about was the importance of scheduling reading and writing conferences.

You see when I first started Reading/Writing Workshop I found that I was constantly conferencing with the same children over and over again, which unfortunately meant certain children weren't getting enough conference time with me. Mrs. S. suggested that I figure out a system of keeping track of which children I conferenced with each day. I loved this idea and I sat down to figure out a way to keep track of my conferences.

My first year I created a simple calendar grid that I used to track my conferences, but over the years I developed it to become what I now call my "Rainbow Conferences." So what is "Rainbow Conferences"? It's a two system method of keeping track of whom you conference with and when.

The first part is a monthly calendar.

I make one monthly calendar for reading AND another one for writing. I think it is very important to maintain two separate calendars. The calendars are color coded to help you keep track of which days during the week you are supposed to conference with each children. For example - if Samantha's name is in row 1, then I know I conference with her on Mondays so any box that is red means it is a day I am supposed to conference with Samantha. It looks more complicated than it really is, I promise! The bright colors help draw my eye to the correct boxes to help me keep track of my conferences. 

For reading and writing I use similar keys to help mark my conferences. I always mark a capital 'C' if I had a regular conference with a student. I mark a 'G' or write the word 'Group' across any boxes I may have held a group conference with. I also keep track of any assessments I do with the students as well as if a student is either out of the classroom or absent for the day. I find that by keeping these calendars all together I can quickly glance and see when I did an assessment with a student last and if I need to do another one. I keep these in my teacher binder. Below is an example of how I would mark my reading conferences:

The second part of my conferences is a poster I created that is also color coded. I print and laminate these posters and hang them on my wall. I fill in all of my student's names on the correct day of the week so I can clearly see who I am supposed to conference with. 

I really love this system for keeping track of my conferences, they have helped me over the years make sure I get to all of the children in my class as much as possible. 

Now I'm sure you are wondering, "How do you decide which children to conference with each day?" Well that one was actually very simple for me. Since I teach Kindergarten I don't have a good judge of what levels they are on so for the beginning of the year I set up my calendars in alphabetical and reverse alphabetical order. For example if my reading conferences are alphabetical than my writing conferences would be reverse alphabetical. I may swap around a few names if I have too - I ALWAYS make sure that I am not conferencing with one person for reading and writing on the same day! That is very important to me!!! 

As the year progresses I group my students (whether it be formally or informally) and use these groupings to help organize my conference days. In reading I organize my students by their reading levels. We use colors and letters for our reading levels - so I schedule all my "red dot/level A" readers for the same day, if there are more than 5 students on the same level then I schedule the remainder of the students on the next consecutive day. Some months I just line my kids up on my calendar from beginner readers all the way to advanced readers. Other months I make my groups based on their reading levels and than randomly assign a day of the week for each group. 

For writing, again, in the beginning of kindergarten I don't have a good judge on their level so they are just simply scheduled alphabetically. But as the year progresses, similar to reading, I schedule them in groups based on their ability. 

The reason I group my students and then add them to my calendar is to help make my conferences run more smoothly. If I know I'm meeting with all beginner writers on Monday I have the option of 1) pulling them as a group and working on a skill they all need to improve on or 2) have my "bag of tricks" ready with activities and lessons for beginner writers and meet with them one-on-one. I find it a lot easier to be thinking and focusing on one level of writing (or reading) rather than meeting with a beginning writer, followed by an advanced writer, and then some average writers thrown in too. The skills they all need are so different and having to change gears so often during conferences is not very easy. 

So that my friends is what I like to call my "Rainbow Conferences!" I hope you enjoyed a glimpse into what they are all about! If you are in love and want to learn more about them, including some tips and tricks, plus get an entire set of 2012-2013 school calendars for both reading and writing already mapped out for you then head on over to my Teachers Notebook Store or my Teachers Pay Teacher Store and pick up your copy today! I'd love to hear your thoughts on this system or how you organize scheduling your conferences!!! 

Thanks for stopping by today :)


Thursday, August 23, 2012

Back to School Giveaway!

I can't believe the summer is coming to an end... many of you have already went back to school and some of you, like me, will be starting soon. It's hard to say goodbye to summer... BUT there is something exciting about the beginning of the year. Decorating my classroom, new school supplies (yes I love new school supplies), and meeting my new group of kindergarten kiddies! As sad as I am to see summer come to a close I'm excited for this new adventure... 

This is a big year for me, after 5 years in my classroom watching it go from a small room to being fully rebuilt to a very large full sized room I am moving next door to a new classroom. I am taking over my good friends room since she is switching grades. This "new" classroom has so much potential in it and I  can't wait to get started with organizing and decorating it!!! I'm still teaching Kindergarten so I'm super excited about that. My little princess is also starting school for the first time this year, I know she is going to love it and although I'm a little sad to see her growing up so fast I'm so happy and excited. She asks every day to go to school and she loves doing "homework" (a.k.a. workbooks). I know she is going to love it and that makes it all the better. 

To celebrate the beginning of the school year I thought I would give away one of my clipboards. (Please be patient with me, this is my very first giveaway and I am sure there will be some hiccups along the way..) I made them last year for all the teachers on my grade and they LOVED them!!! You can choose from one of the designs I already have or request a color/theme and I can do my best to accommodate (I don't have a Silhouette Cameo or other cutting machine, although they are on my must have wish list! So keep that in mind if you are a winner, everything has to be either hand cut OR I have to find awesome scrapbook paper!)

Here are the clipboards I made last year:


Now here is the best part... I currently have 16 followers! If I hit 25 followers by the end of this giveaway I will give 1 clipboard away, if I hit 50 followers I will give 2 clipboards away, if I hit 75 followers I will give 3 clipboards away, and so on!! So the more you share my giveaway and the more people who follow my blog the more clipboards I will give away! The possibilities are endless, and so is the amount of clipboards I will give away!!

After you enter don't forget to leave a comment on my blog with your email address!! I need a way to contact you incase you are the lucky winner :)a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Made It - Look What I Made

My first Monday Made It!!! :)

So if you've had a chance to check out my Pinterest account you will see I have one board dedicated just to projects I have seen that I must absolutely cannot live without dream about making for the upcoming school year. I really really want to make everything on this board but let's be honest with each other, there are two weeks left until school officially starts and I want to enjoy as much of these last two weeks with my little princess before we both start back at school!

One of the items on my list was the picture frame post-it note holder that I've seen all over Pinterest. I was at my parents house and I raided my moms art closet and found the clear picture frame I needed to make my post-it holder so I just HAD to make it tonight! I have to say this is one of those projects that took me minutes to make! The hardest part for me was deciding what papers/embellishments I wanted to use! I finally decided to make one that matched one of the clipboards I made for one of my friends... now you know I have to make the matching clipboard for myself - just another project to add to my to-do list!! (But at least I can say I completed one of my Pinterest to-do list items off!!)

Check out my post-it note holder:
I am in love with this! I think it's going to look super cute on my desk, not to mention I will ALWAYS know where a post-it note is (and so will everyone else who walks into my room!!!!) The only thing I did learn is that you have to put about 1/4 of a stack of post-its onto your holder. The post-its I had handy at home just wouldn't stay on. I stuck the whole stack on and plop within minutes they fell right off... so then I took about 1/4 of the stack and they have been stuck on for quite a while now. I do know they make those "super" sticky post-its, I haven't tried them with this yet, BUT a whole stack of those might stick really nice!

What's on your to-do list for the beginning of the year?? Have you been able to cross anything off of it?

PS - If your new to my blog don't forget to follow me along on my adventure as the school year begins!

Friday, August 17, 2012

Product Review and a Freebie!

So I am super excited because not to long ago I WON, yes lil' old me who never seems to win at anything, actually won giveaway! I won Flap Jack Educational Resources's giveaway... I got to choose which of her "Classroom Packs" I wanted for my very own! You know what hard? Deciding which one I wanted!!! She has so many great choices: (click each item to see them in Tabitha's TpT store, she also has a Teachers Notebook store) Owl Theme, Beach Theme, Jungle Theme, Monster Theme, and Rainbow Theme. It really was hard for me to decide - I teach kindergarten so I narrowed it down to beach, jungle and rainbow (but honestly I love them all)... after much thinking and debating, and I mean serious thinking and pondering and thinking some more I finally decided on the Rainbow packet!! My classroom is very colorful - each table is assigned a color: red, blue, yellow or green. All of my buckets, baskets and bins are coordinated to match these colors. Now call it laziness or what have you but I decided that the rainbow theme would be easily incorporated right into my room without having to redo everything. Truth be told there are so many projects I have pinned this year that I wanted to focus on getting some of those fun projects done rather than try and reinvent my entire classroom theme!

Anyways, so I finally emailed my wonderful friend Tabitha over at Flap Jack Educational Resources and told her my final decision... boy was I in for a surprise 2 emails later I received 162 wonderful pages of rainbow themed items for my classroom. So what was in the packet?? Umm, everything I can think of and then some, no really, Tabitha went above and beyond with this packet and I can say I have a lot to learn about making resources for my classroom - but with people like Tabitha out there I can focus on making other items and continue to purchase her wonderful packets! (I've included links for any items that are sold individually... go check them out for yourself!)

How could you not fall in love with these bookmarks?
  1. Alphabet Posters - 26 large alphabet cards each with an image as well as the upper case and lower case letter. We are mandated to hang the alphabet that matches our phonics program BUT I love the idea of hanging this alphabet above the one we have to hang, or just hang it somewhere else in the room - the corresponding images ('key words' as we call them) are different than the ones we use so it'll be good exposure for my kids. I'm also thinking I can print these on a smaller scale and make a matching game with them or just have them on a small binder ring and use for drill sound practice! Oh the possibilites are endless...
  2. Stickers/Labels - Tabitha goes so far as to tell you exactly which labels as well as the dimensions of the labels so you make sure you purchase and use the correct ones (so thoughtful!)! I LOVE IT! There is one sheet of pre-designed labels and one with labels you can edit and write on yourself. Love them!
  3. Bookmarks - there are two different bookmarks with this set and the sayings on them are too cute! I'm thinking of using these either as incentives OR as the kids move on to 'Just Right Books' they can earn a bookmark.
  4. Calendar Set - Ok this set is awesome. It includes months of the year, days of the week, as well as three different sets of numbers which various images to practice patterns AND cards that say: 'Today is,' 'Tomorrow will be,' 'Yesterday was." I've been looking to spruce up my calendar area and I can't wait to use these new pieces!!! Cut, laminate add velcro or magnets and poof brand new calendar center!
  5. Birthday Display - This has a poster to list all the birthdays on one page - how cute it would be if you print it out and bring it to a copy center to enlarge and laminate OR print and put in a picture frame so you can use it over and over again (you know what I'm talking about - those wipe off picture frames that are ALL over pinterest lately... check my boards if you don't know!) If you want a more personal approach you can use the individual pieces to make a month by month display... I'm thinking of using the individual pieces to make toppers for birthday straws or pencils!
  6. Class Helpers - with 26 different jobs and four blank cards your job board is all set! I actually purchased a 'handy helper' large bulletin board display BUT I would have to hand write all the jobs onto the chart and that's sooooo not going to happen, so now I can pick the jobs I want and just tack them on! LOVE IT! Plus as I was looking over the jobs I saw 'table captain' and inspiration hit! Each month I change the seats in my room. When I change seats I also need to change table monitors - how cute would it be to make a chart of some kind using the table monitor label from this packet and just rotate the names in and out!! 
  7. Coupons - I don't use coupons in my class, but I have to say after seeing this set of 10 different coupons I can see how they would be great incentives!!! I may have to find a way to incorporate these into my room this year.
  8. Groups - I love these labels and already have plans for them! I plan on printing them larger and then using them as the center of my tables... I also think I will be using these to label some of my colored bins! Oh I can't wait... 
  9. Templates - how awesome is this!! Ten whole pages of different templates - nothing on them just beautiful templates that you can do as you please... and the best part... later in the packet Tabitha explains how you can import these items into PowerPoint and add text boxes to personalize them for your own classroom! How thoughtful and wonderful is she?!?!
  10. Mini-Notes - I can see printing these on labels and putting them on my students homework packets when they are complete or even letting them wear them at the end of the day! 
  11. Name Tags - 7 different kinds... WOW! My personal favorite is the first set! I love the colors and I LOVE the hands that are labeled left and right... so helpful! I also love that since these are on the computer as the kids destroy them year goes on and they need to be replaced I don't have to worry about trying to buy more, instead I can just hit print and poof I have new name tags!

  12. Newsletters - These pages are super cute and come in both full color and black and white - I LOVE the colored ones but am super excited for the black and white ones as printing 25 or more full colored newsletters will use quite a lot of ink!! I also love that again, Tabitha suggests putting these right into PowerPoint so you can type on them and make them look all pretty.
  13. Numbers 0-20 - Not only are these numbers large and bright and cheerful they also have really cute hands on them to help the kids count! First off these are getting printed and laminated FULL sized to hang somewhere in my room, that goes without speaking... but I can also see printing these smaller in multiple sets and making matching games as well as quick images with them!
  14. Postcards - 4 postcards on a page and 6 different sayings/styles Tabitha thought of everything. I'm thinking the very first ones "Are you reading for an exciting new year?" or the "Welcome" one would be great to print out and write/type a little note on the back and send it home with the kids maybe around their necks as a necklace OR just in their folders... you know, come to think of it if I make them into small necklaces I can write a note about something they might need to remember for the next day... how cute would that be?!?!
  15. Student Binder Covers - We don't use binders in Kindergarten BUT these are way to cute to skip them so I am going to have to figure out HOW I can include these in my room this year!!
  16. Teacher Materials - WOW!! This part is stuffed with wonderful items: Classroom Management binder cover, Planning binder cover, outstanding student award, forgot homework note (LOVE THIS and I KNOW I will be using this one this year!!), bathroom, hall and nurse passes (hmm, laminate and add magnets so they hang on the board I think I like that idea!),  questions/goals/objects/procedures/standard/schedule posters, a generic blank calendar (so cute), and finally a class list both in color and black and white! I have been seeing all the wonderful blogging teachers out there talking about teacher binders and decided I would make one this year... I can't wait to add these items into it!
  17. Word Wall Labels - I love this wonderful colorful word wall... it comes with the title: "Word Wall" and then all the letters of the alphabet! 

  18. Be sure to check out this super cute bulletin board set that I just found at Tabitha's TpT store for only $1.00!! It matches everything and would look really cute around the word wall!

    FREEBIE ALERT: Don't forget to pick up the Short Vowel Sorting Mat Activity that also matches the rainbow theme.

    To go with this set I am working on some sort of pennant to hang up either in my room OR in the hallway! I know, I know, everyone is doing it... and yes I am going to join them in this and make a pennant! It's just too cute to pass up the idea of doing it. Now I don't go back to school for another two weeks so I can't show you any pictures of how my room looks since I'm not there... BUT once I do get in and have all these wonderful things printed, cut and laminated (I'm thinking a trip to get card stock, LOTS of ink, and some laminating sheets are in order) I will show you lots of pictures! 

    FlapJack Educational ResourcesDon't forget to leave some love for my friend Tabitha either here or at her site:  Flap Jack Educational Resources telling her which product is your favorite or if you have new or inventive way of using one of her products we'd love to hear about it! 


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Pinterest - What I've Learned and What I LOVE!

Only recently have I gotten on board with Pinterest... when I first heard about it my initial reaction was, what do I need a virtual pin board for? I would never use that, it sounds so silly! BOY WAS I WRONG!! I am loving Pinterest! I have learned that it can be a great tool (as well as a great distraction from doing anything else.) There are some important things I've learned to help keep my boards in tip top shape:

  1. Make different boards/categories - At first I was pinning things under very general categories, but the more I pinned the more I found themes and started making separate boards. I love this because now if I am looking for an anchor chart for reading I just have to look in my reading board. I still keep a general board for teaching, because sometimes I just love ideas and don't know where to put them... BUT every so often I go back in and see if I can categorize any of my new pins, even if that means adding a new board!
  2. Make sure your links work!!! It drives me crazy when I pin something I love (or find someone else's pin) and I go back to see the original post about it and the link doesn't work, OR the link takes me to the general page for the site. So what did I learn? I am very careful (from now on that is) when I pin things. Let's say I'm on the main page for my blog and I want to pin something. I click on the heading to take me to the page that ONLY has the post I want to pin about. (Does this make any sense?) What I mean is if on my main page you can see ALL my posts for the past month, but I want to pin an image that was included in a post from the very beginning of the month, then I click on that specific post and pin the image from there. By doing this as long as the image or post is not removed then the pin should always work.
  3. Use your pins to help you stay organized! I find great lessons or activities I want to try with my kids. I pin them so I don't forget! There are so many great teacher blogs out there and I've found so many great ideas it's hard to remember them all - this is where I am finding Pinterest to be the most useful and helpful! I'm pinning all the lessons, anchor charts, games, activities, centers, craftivities, and projects that I want to remember and try to use in my classroom.

Pinterest not only helps me save ideas that I like but I'm enjoying following teachers/mothers/companies and seeing what they like. It's inspiring to see others ideas, it's like being able to jump into their mind and see exactly what they like. I have found so many great ideas from looking at other people's boards. It's also helped relight my creative side... it's been a long time since I created new things and seeing how all those pinners out there are taking every day items and turning them into useful teaching tools is so inspiring!

I keep reading "rules" for having a good pin board to please your followers but truth be told, I have a pinterest account to keep ME organized (sorry if that's selfish!!) Granted I love how many followers I have and how people are repinning my ideas, but I've set up my boards in a way that helps me stay organized and I recently started a new board to help with this: "To Do List for September". You see I keep pinning SO many great ideas that I started to feel overwhelmed and wondered how I would ever manage to make ALL of the things I've been pinning, SO I created a pinnable to-do list.... now I have just a few projects that I would LIKE to get done before school starts, hopefully I can accomplish this task! So what's on your to do list for the beginning of the year? Did you make all of the things you wanted to or are you still trying to finish your list?

Thanks for stopping by... leave a link to your pinterest boards I'd love to see what you are pinning!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Advice For The First Day!

There are many things that teachers need to do during the first few days of school... but over the years I've learned the important things that work for me and the things I have to remember to do each and every year to have a successful year!

I remember my first year teaching... it was so challenging and so hard. Apparently there was a whole lot more to teaching than what they taught me in college and I felt overwhelmed and not prepared at all! Don't get me wrong, my classroom was inviting and all set up, I had all my lessons for the first week printed and planned, my planbook was neat and organized, my supplies were ready to go... and then I got my class and brought them into my room. I was so excited to have all these little faces staring at me and then it hit me... WOW! These kids are looking to me for guidance and support and to be a leader! It took me an entire year to learn behavior management skills that worked for me - those cookie cutter ideas they taught in college were a good starting point but they didn't tell the whole story! I had to find rules that worked for me and a teaching model that worked for me. I look back and to this day my first class was probably one of my favorite classes and there was a lot of learning going on in my room - the kids were learning from me and boy was I learning from them! I was learning how to be the best teacher I could be.

So what are some of the things I learned and the mistakes I made?

Mistake #1: Being a friend
My first year I was so excited to have my own classroom that I wanted my class to like me and I wanted it to be a fun year. The first few days I didn't set up rules or establish routines, we played get to know you games and had fun... it was great, the kids and I really enjoyed it... that is until I had to start my mini-lessons and I found that when I tried to establish my class rules and establish routines there was quite a lot of resistance.

The Fix:
NOW I establish routines and rules right away. On the first day of school I introduce some of our rules/routines - sitting Magic 5 on the carpet, tiptoeing/not running when you move from your chair to the carpet and back to your chair, lining up in two quiet lines and walking in the halls quietly. I have found that introducing these basic rules the first day really work for me. I introduce them randomly throughout the first day and practice them throughout that whole day (and every day after that!)

On the second day of school I formally introduce the rules of our class, they are very basic: keep your hands and feet to yourself, walk nicely, work quietly, raise your hand, respect each other. We read books about the rules, draw pictures of the rules and act out the rules to help reinforce them. We read our rules poster every morning (and afternoon) for at least the first few weeks - then only when they need a reminder. Usually on the second or third day I give them assigned seats at their tables and introduce all our table procedures - noticing which table they are at (red, blue, yellow, or green) and learning to put their supplies away (homework folders, crayons, pencils, glue, scissors) in the correct places. On the second day I also introduce where our backpacks, lunches, snacks and coats go.

I know it sounds like a lot but the kids are great and by setting up these routines and rules immediately and practicing them constantly I have found that the kids know what to expect from the get go and they are more receptive! Sometimes this means doing a little less fun the first few days and more rules/routines practice but once these are well established we have lots more time to have lots of fun!

Mistake #2: No clear signals
When I first started teaching I had NO IDEA how I wanted to transition my students from one thing to another. It was a mess - sometimes they'd pay attention, other times they wouldn't and I often found myself raising my voice which I DO NOT like to do at all! I actually hate when I hear myself raise my voice.

The Fix:
I picked on thing and stuck with it! It took a lot of thinking and trial and error before I figured out what worked for me... at first I tried to do what other teachers on my grade were doing, but then I found that it just didn't work for me! So what do I do now?

Mini-Lessons: I start my mini-lessons by always saying this little phrase: "I am the teacher, my job is to ____" The kids yell out: "TEACH", then I say "You are the students, your job is to____" and the kids yell out: "Listen and Learn!" They then sit magic 5 with their eyes and ears on me ready to learn. It takes LOTS of practice to establish this but I like it because they know I mean business when we say this! I don't use this for anything but my mini-lessons so they know what to expect when I say this and I don't want to over use it!

Math & Literacy Centers: I use a bell system for my center time and I really like it, again this is what I found works for me so it might not work for you but feel free to give it a try! When I ring my bell 1 time they students have to clean up - sometimes this means just putting the supplies in the middle of the table and other times it means packing everything up and putting it back on the shelves. If I want them to put their stuff back on the shelves, as I ring the bell 1 time I inform them centers are over put everything away! Once the tables are cleaned up the kids push their chairs in and stand behind them and WAIT! When I ring the bell 2 times in a row the kids switch centers and get right to work... Some of my friends have used various instruments instead of a bell, I may try using instruments this year - for example using a bell for math and a tamborine for literacy...

Lining Up: I use songs to help line up and remind them about the rules in the hall. The kids like the songs and it makes lining up fun. Some years I have given line spots to my kids other years I let me kids just line up wherever they want - this really depends on how the kids are each year. I give them a few weeks before I decide whether or not they will have line spots. I usually have a girls line and a boys line, for me it's the easiest... but a cute idea my friends use is to have favorite character lines. They use their two class mascots, mouse and corduroy, as the "line leaders" and each kid is assigned a line - either the mouse line or the corduroy line. They make a chart that hangs by the front door to remind the kids (and themselves). They have used this system because without fail they have had a lot more boys than girls in their room and they needed a system to line them up.

Getting Their Attention: I used to use a ton of different methods to get my kids attention and it just didn't work. Consistancy is key... most of our school uses a clapping pattern to get the kids attention - you clap a pattern and then they clap back. Since they often use this in the cafeteria to get the kids attention I have adapted this and use this method.

I am sure there are many more things that I have learned over the years but these are the important ones that stand out to me and the ones that I think every new teacher should be aware of!! What are some things you have learned over the years?

Saturday, August 4, 2012

What I Do On The First Day Of School

I know many of you wonderful teachers are busy getting ready for the first days of school... some of you may even be starting soon! I still have a few more weeks left with my little munchkin at home before I head back but I thought I'd share how my first day of Kindergarten has gone over the past few years... and some updates I am thinking of trying this year!

 For the past few years (actually for as long as I know) the Kindergarten classes in my district have started the year with 2 half days (the teachers typically spend those two after noons putting away supplies as well as planning for the remainder of the month). This year there is talk that the Kindergarten students will have one half day and the second day will be a full day... this means rethinking and changing a whole lot of things!

Many of you have posted about your first days, the activities and lessons you do. You've also posted about having a meet the teacher day BEFORE the first day of school. What a wonderful treat that is, in my school we don't meet our children until that very first day of school and the parents are not invited to join them in the classroom, we pick them up from either the cafeteria or the school yard (depending on where our designated pick up area is that day). This means it's not only their first time in our rather large school but they don't have a chance to meet me or our classroom with the support of their parents - I try to plan activities and lessons that will help ease this transition for them.


Before the kids come in on that first day there are a few things I always prep:

  1. I make a sign with my name and room number on it, usually the size of a piece of paper which I put on my clip board and hold up when I go and get my kids on that very first day. 
  2. LABELS!!! I print out ALL of my labels before the first day so I can start labeling the students notebooks and folders immediately. I also have their labels printed for the closet (one label for their coat, one for their backpack and depending on the closet one for their lunchbox). 
  3. Large index cards with each child's name clearly written in black - I always keep extra on hand incase a new student shows up or a name is spelled wrong (I use these for an activity). I also punch two holes in the top of the card and attach string so the students can hang them around their neck. 
  4. Camera! I always bring my camera those first few days to make sure I capture their first experiences in Kindergarten. 
  5. The basics - I make sure the typical basics are also done (calendar is up, attendance sign in board is made, tables and bins are all clearly labeled, etc.)


I always go pick my kids up a little early on the first day. I usually show up at the designated spot and take a moment to say hi to the kids and give them time to see me. I take it slow and we don't rush to go upstairs. Once I feel they kids are ready to move up to our room I explain to them where we are going and that they must keep their eyes on me at all times. Then off we go... when we get to our room I have the kids line up outside the door and again introduce myself (it's a lot less noisy right outside our door). I tell them that they can pick any chair they want to sit down. Once all of the children have found a seat I introduce them to our classroom and explain to them a little about what they will do while in school, the special's they will go to and all the fun they will have. Then I have them pay attention to what table they are sitting at and talk about how we tippy-toe from the table to the carpet and back again. We practice this a few times, over and over again, of course giving lots of praise for the students who tippy-toe perfectly.

Once on the carpet I show the students the attendance chart and explain how it works, the students can't actually use it at this point because I always add their pictures to the chart after the first day of school. Next it's time for our first getting to know you game. I take out a small stuffed animal or ball and we go around the room sharing one thing about ourselves - usually a favorite color or a favorite game. After the game it's back to business. I introduce the "Flow of the Day" and explain explicitly what they will be doing for the day, mapping it out so there are no surprises.

Next we go on a tour of the classroom - usually I just walk around and show the kids around the room. I'm thinking that on the second day of school (especially if it's a full day) I might try a classroom scavenger hunt, I've been seeing a lot of them on the teaching blogs and taking lots of good notes! At this point the kids are ready to be moving and want to explore more. I go over the procedures of how to line up and practice a few times. Then we take a walk to see where the bathrooms are. This gives the children a chance to get out of the room for a little while and they learn where the bathrooms are which is very important.

After our bathroom break it's time for our first mini-lesson... right away I introduce the term 'mini-lesson' and explain that my job is to teach and their job is to listen and learn. I usually repeat this mantra often throughout the year before my mini-lessons, it seems to help the students realize it's time for business! Our first mini-lesson for the year: MAGIC 5! I make a great poster using pictures of a former student and the kids love it! We talk about what it means to "sit with magic" and why it's important. We practice it, sometimes I take out a magic wand and sprinkle magic dust on them to help them! Now that they know how to sit quietly I can introduce our next activity.

Before I go on let me just add, at this point ALL of the children's belongings are still scattered around the room, on the floor and at the desks. Don't panic, I'm getting to putting them away, I promise!

It's time for our name tag coloring activity. Each child gets their large name tag and they are going to color and draw pictures of things they love. (I have old crayons already set up in bins for each table to use). I had seen on another blog (I'm so sorry I forgot which one I saw it on.... if this idea is yours please let me know so I can link up and give you credit!) about making name headbands using sentence strips. I might try this as it is something different and could be a lot of fun.... BUT I usually keep the name tags for the first few weeks so the kids can wear them to specials so I'm going to have to really think about how I want to do a name tag activity this year! Anyways, I have baskets of books and extra drawing paper also sitting on the tables so if a student finishes early they can keep themselves entertained while I FINALLY do my supply check.

I used to actually sit down and check off EVERY supply for each child - that was WAY to time consuming. Now I make a simple sheet to just check off who brought in the important things: folders and notebooks. Everything else I don't worry about any longer... this makes putting away the supplies so much easier. While the kids are working on their name tags I call the students up one or two at a time to help me put their supplies away. I have lots of bins and boxes in the front of the room labeled and I challenge the children to sort their supplies. As they do this I monitor that they are sorting correctly - I also work on trying to put all some of the larger supplies away where they will stay for the remainder of the year, such as: paper towels, tissues, and baggies. Crayons, glue and scissors go into larger boxes that I then split into smaller community bins. I try my best to get most of the supplies into bins and boxes that are manageable for me.

I try to get through ALL of the students supplies while the children work at their desks. I do not keep them at their tables for longer than 20 minutes and I constantly look to see what they are doing. If they seem to be getting antsy before 20 minutes is up then we clean up and move on to the next activity. Anyone whose supplies I do not get to I just pile in the corner and pretend I don't see them.

Now that supplies have been collected and name tags are decorated we play the name tag game! The kids bring their name tags to the carpet and we play 'I spy' and 'We both like'... the kids look around and find someone who drew the same thing as them, at times I will call out 'I spy' clues for the kids to find certain students in the room based on whats on their name tag. This game helps the kids realize that they have things in common as their peers and really helps them warm up even more.

It's time to read a book! I review 'Magic 5' and remind students to leave their name tags alone (or collect them). I usually start the year with a Miss. Bindergarten book, I LOVE all the 'Kissing Hand' books BUT I like to read them back to back so I wait until we are in school for a full week so we can do a mini/informal character study. After the book I introduce the students to our circle talk procedures and we discuss how they might make friends in our room!

We do A LOT of work in our school using famous artists and looking at artwork. I introduce this component to our day and we look at Norman Rockwell's painting Coming and Going, 1947. We talk about the painting and where the family might be going... I use the painting to lead into a discussion about our favorite summer memories. After discussing our favorite memories on the carpet I let the students draw pictures of their memories. This is a good way to see who can write their names, who might attempt to write a sentence or add labels to their drawings, and I can see who can follow directions.

Next we move on to Math - I introduce the children to the Math area of classroom. I show them our Math bulletin board and go over the calendar routine. I then take out some of our Math manipulatives and let them have some free exploration. IF I have a lot of supplies left to go through I take this time to do it... otherwise I walk around and sit at the various tables and chat with the children about both the supplies and how their first day is going. (Of course as any good kindergarten teacher would do I always review the rules of how to use the manipulatives BEFORE the kiddies go back to their seats and start playing working.)

To end the day I introduce a STAR book and read it. Our star books are 'favorite' books that we read for an entire week to help the children build the confidence to be able to 'read' the book on their own. I try to pick a favorite fairy tale that many of the kids already know.

At the conclusion of the book I tell the kids how proud I am of them and how much fun I had meeting all of them. I also tell them that tomorrow is going to be a GREAT day! I go over the schedule for the next day and give them some fun things they can look forward to! I've seen a lot of posts about Jitter Juice and I think I'm going to have some for the second day of school - I can tell the kids about a special treat I'll be bringing in the next day and that might help keep them excited to come back!

Before the kids leave we review how to line up and our dismissal policy. For the first few weeks of school I explain that NO ONE can leave my line without receiving a sticker. I usually purchase smelly stickers or really shiny ones that the kids will love!

Well my friends, that is a glimpse into the first day of school for my kiddies! I'm exhausted just typing it all out! I'm sorry I don't have any pictures but I will try to get some this year and add them.

So what do I want to add/change this year?

  • First day pictures - I saw some great pins about taking first day pictures with kids holding picture frames or chalk boards. I think I am going to get a small chalk board and decorate it. Then I will have each kid write their name on the board to the best of their ability and I will take a picture of the kids holding the boards. I will do this again during the last month of school, what a great keepsake it will make! I will still take a picture of the each kid without anything in their hands so I can use the pictures to label the attendance chart and other things.
  • First day name tags - I usually do the index cards but maybe I'll do headbands - anyone have any other fun ideas for this?
  • Craftivity - It might be fun to introduce a craftivity on the first day, although all the supplies wont be organized so this might be a good idea for the second day of the school. Does anyone have a cute craftivity to try?
Well I hope you enjoyed this glimpse into my first day of Kindergarten.... I'd love to hear your ideas and insight!!