Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Why I Let Go of My Book Baskets

When setting up my classroom library I've tried it all!  I have labeled by genre, labeled by favorite author and series, labeled by level, put the books in baskets, and had the books stacked out of name it, I've done it!  Over the years I have found that keeping things simple is best for me.  I guess simple is relative but in my room this means the students can easily access books they need, they understand the system, and I don't have to do a lot of management.

After moving to first I quickly realized the organizational system I used in third was not going to work well for my firsties.  We use the Accelerated Reading program at our school and when they looked for books they looked for their color dot.  So, I totally revamped my library.

First, I decided to take away the baskets.  This just confused the students when trying to put books back into their proper place.

Next, I color coded my books with the sticker dots used in our main library to find students "just right" level text.  I also added a small sticker to the back and wrote the exact level of the book on it.  I placed labels on the shelf to show the reading range stored in each "cubbie" and then stacked my books on the shelf under the correct range.

This looks exactly the way the shelves in our main library look and has taken so much confusion away from the kiddos! One system, both places. Simple.

I pull seasonal books and books that pertain to things we are learning and put them on this shelf each month.  Students can borrow books here also.  This makes it a little easier when they want to locate books they may be interested in because of things we are studying.

Our library also has a comfy couch and some stackable rockers students can sit in when they read or listen to books.

There you have it! No more baskets. No more labels. I've decided that a simple leveled library works best for us!

Until next time...

Saturday, August 20, 2016

Keeping Open House Simple

Our "meet the teacher" night is held a couple of days before school begins. We call it open house. We are usually given our class rolls that morning.   Class lists are posted on a bulletin board in the school foyer and that is where parents stop to find out who will be their child's teacher.

Many parents bring their students school supplies on this night.  This makes things so much easier for me because I then will have a couple of days to put things away before school begins.  This makes the first day go so much more smoothly because I'm not distracted by unpacking supplies and can focus on talking to my students and parents as they come in that morning. I don't ask parents to unpack the supplies, they just put the supplies in the child's desk.  I like to unpack them myself so I can make a quick list of anything children are missing and pick up things they need before school begins.

I have a folder on student's desk that contains all of the paper work that they need to fill out.  I have used the same folders for years.  Parents return the folder with all of the paper work within the first week of school and I keep that folder to reuse the next year.

Inside the folder, I have a "Keep at Home" and "Return to School" section.  I put a letter introducing myself  and a classroom information sheet in the "Keep at Home" section.  All paperwork that must be filled out is put in the "Return to School" section.

I also have a small gift on each students desk.  For the past few years I have given out bubbles.  You can find the tags I use for them here.

Our open house is a come and go type event that lasts for two hours. Because of this I don't plan any type of presentation.   I just answer questions as parents come in. Students usually walk around and explore the room or look at books I've put on a table.

Over the years I have learned that the best thing for me is to keep this night simple.  Students are nervous and need my full attention so I can reassure them that school is going to be full of fun learning and it's my first chance to invest in them so they can begin to see how much I care for them.  Parents need that same reassurance.  This is usually they share their concerns and hopes and I want to listen and let them know I will do everything I can for their baby.

This year our open house was on a Friday and we didn't start school until the following Wednesday.  This gave me the opportunity to mail a note to each student telling them how much I enjoyed meeting them and looked forward to seeing them on the first day.  I firmly believe in having as much positive contact with students and parents as possible to a strong relationship between school and home.

We just finished our first full week back and things are FANTASTIC!  I do have a room of talkers (thats not always a bad thing) and could tell that this week was tough on them because THEY LOOKED SO VERY TIRED!  Truth is, I was just as tired as them!  I could tell from the first day that this year was going to be a ton of fun and I am really looking forward to it!

Have a great weekend!

Sunday, August 14, 2016

Using Student Numbers

Hi everyone! I just finished by first week back at school! Two days of PD and then three with my precious first graders! We are off to a great start and I have to say I these kiddos are awesome! I'm sure we are going to have a fabulous year!

This summer I've seen a lot of questions posed by teachers asking how to use student numbers in the elementary classroom. I have used them in both third and first grade.  In third, I required students to write their numbers on their paper and I used them to quickly organize papers into sorting trays. When I moved to first I found that using numbers would still be greatly beneficial because supplies tend to walk away and then arguments erupt  because everyone thinks their "mine"!   So, here are the ways I use numbers for organization in my first grade classroom...

I label the cubbies with numbers instead of student names. This way I don't have to scrape name stickers out of them at the end of the year. Been there, done that! This is the second year I've had these numbers in the cubbies and they still look great! I do not laminate them. I just put clear packing tape over them and that does the trick!

I help students remember their number by writing it on their name plate.  (By the way, have you seen the new plastic adhesive name plates from Really Good Stuff? AWESOME!!! They last ALL YEAR!!!!) I then label their block eraser, white board eraser, white board, and clip board.  When I find them on the floor or in another desk, I just look at the number and return it to the correct student. No disruptions!

I use my Cricut to number square tiles on the floor for lining up.  The first one is labeled line leader and then the numbers start from 1 and count up.  We walk and line up in this order everywhere we go!! No more skipping, she's in my spot, etc.  I really think the students appreciate it. They know where they are supposed to be and they get there because its their spot.

I make the circles by cutting 4 inch circles from permanent black adhesive paper.  Then I cut out each number in a 3 inch font from permanent white adhesive paper.  I put down the black circle first and follow with the white number.  The paper will come up. Last year I pealed off the plastic then sprayed the residue with windex and scraped it off. It came up rather easily. It was well worth the extra clean up effort!

Last, I labeled my drawer cart with the same numbers I use in the cubbies.  This is where students keep their morning work binders and writing folders.

If you've never tried organizing with numbers give it a try!  It has helped me tremendously with management!  Click here for some free numbers to get you started!  Thanks for stopping by!

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Building A Classroom Community ~ Week Two

We spend a lot of time at the beginning of the year building relationships and practicing procedures in our classroom. The first two weeks we focus on our classroom community then we transition into learning about citizenship and the community we live in. This is part two of how we spend our first two weeks. You can read about week one here. We continue into week two using five more great books and more FREE resources! 

We begin the week by reading Mean Jean Recess Queen.  This book is a great gateway into discussing bullying and how to respond to it. 

We will create a chart similar to the one below and talk about behaviors Jean has that are wrong and then we talk about how we should treat someone like Jean.

Tuesday we read Tattle Tongue.  This is a book we probably will revisit at some point during the school year because tattling is always a big deal in first grade. This book begins a great discussion about right and wrong and the difference between tattling and reporting.

Rachelle at What the Teacher Wants has a great sort we use to discuss emergencies or tattles. You can find it here.
Primary Polka Dots has this great poster in her shop that we post on our wall to remind us when we should report.
Wednesday we continue with our theme of friendship and how we use our words with Stand Tall Molly Lou Melon.

We talk about how important it is to be yourself! We will complete a sort as a class and talk about words that help and words that hurt using another great resource from Rachelle you can find here. We will  also create a chart that we can use to help us apologize when we say or do something that hurts our friends feelings.

Thursday we use this fun book to discuss what a good listener looks like! We will talk about when it is appropriate to talk and when its important to listen. We will create a class chart and a following directions craft similar to the one in the picture below from The First Grade Parade.

We end our week with Decibella and discuss voice levels that are appropriate for our classroom. We will practice whisper voices, partner voices, group voices, etc.  This lesson comes at the perfect time because we will begin station rotations when students return on Monday! 

I use Regan Tunstalls voice level charts that can be downloaded here for free!

So...that's what we will be doing during our first two weeks in first grade! What are your favorite books and resources for building community in your classroom?

Monday, August 1, 2016

Building a Classroom Community ~ Week One

  Building relationships within a classroom is essential in creating a positive learning environment. We focus on our classroom community for the first two weeks of school and then branch out into learning about our community where we live and citizenship. I have put together a list of my favorite books that I use as well as the FREE resources I have found while planning my lessons!

The first book I use is The Kissing Hand.


After reading the book we complete this activity and the students take it home the first day.

The poem I use can be found here.  You can find my "First Day Portrait/ Handprint" activity we do the first day to place in our memory books here.

I use the free template from Wild About Firsties to create these headbands.

On day two we talk about kindness and being dippers or fillers with Have You Filled a Bucket Today?

The Learning Station has a great song that goes with this lesson.

You can find the free printable for creating this chart at Scholastic.

We create this craft and students write how they will be a bucket filler. You can find the free writing paper here from Teacher Bits and Bobs.

On day three we talk about school rules with David Goes to School.

We create a chart similar to this one.

Angie has a great FREE David craft and writing activity here.

Kara has some great activities for teaching about being peacemakers or peace breakers here.

We always have difficulty with lunch room manners so on day four we learn all about how to behave in the lunch room!

Kindergarten, Kindergarten has a great cafeteria expectations craft you can download for free here.

I purchased a book from Class of Kinders that I print as a mini book for students to color and take home to read with their parents. You can purchase it here.

On day five we learn about how to make friends and how to be a friend.

We discuss how to be a friend and respecting one another. This year we are going to try this fun art activity to create a friendship mural.

You can read about how Simplicity for Learning uses this activity here.

Stop back by on Wednesday to read part two and find five more free activities to use while building relationships in your classroom!

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

My Top Ten School Supplies

It's that time of year again! July brings thoughts of getting back into the classroom and the reminders that it's coming soon are everywhere! Many new teachers who are preparing for their first classroom are looking for those "must haves" so I thought I would share a few of my favorite, most used supplies.

My Scotch Laminator and Amazon Laminating Film

I use these every week when making things for my reading and math workstations.  Our school has a laminator but these are so much thicker and hold up longer.

Crayons...I can never have enough. They break and walk away often!

We list four glue sticks on our supply list but they don't last long!  When my kiddos run out I purchase glue by the box from Amazon. 

I use Astrobrights paper every week. I print my weekly newsletters on it. I've found that if I change up the color weekly parents are more likely to read it. I also print my spelling and vocabulary words on it as well as many of my station activities.

My students use their personal whiteboards daily. I found these magnetic erasers on Amazon last year and LOVE them!

We use highlighters when reading passages to find sight words, words that fit the pattern we are studying, vocabulary words, and to prove where we find answers in a text we are reading.  

Post its...used for EVERYTHING!!

LOVE! Flair pens to not bleed through paper and are so bright and cheerful! I have an Elmo in my classroom and can't write with a pencil because my students can't see it.  I use these pens daily!

My students use clip boards during stations, at the rug, and when playing games like Scoot!

This was a HUGE purchase for me last year! I thought all summer about it and finally bought it right before school started.  My cart I had used for years was broke.  I spent a year without one and missed it! I use this every day. I don't have much whiteboard space, plus I would much rather teach with students on the rug in front of me.

I hope this list helps you when looking for your back to school purchases! What are your must haves?