Monday, June 18, 2018

Morning Calendar Routine

What is your morning calendar routine? Can I just say how much I LOVE ours?  It really starts our day off right and I look forward to it as much as the students do!

Are you looking for an easy morning calendar routine for kindergarten or first grade? Teachers will love this smart board calendar that is perfect for your morning circle time and linked to the common core standards.#calendar #morningroutine #circletime #firstgrade #teachers #classroom


After my students do their morning chores, we meet at the carpet for our Calendar Time.  I can honestly say that I have done calendar with my kiddos every day for my entire career and I would never give it up.  I really feel like I get a lot of "bang for my buck" out of this little 15 minutes of time.

I used to have my calendar on my bulletin board and it looked like this:


Although it was a great routine, it took up a lot of space in my room and when I moved classrooms a few years ago I no longer had this much space to devote to my calendar.  What was I going to do?  I LOVED my calendar time and I didn't want to give it up! But the only bulletin board I had available was about 3ft X 3ft.  That wasn't going to cut it.

HOWEVER......in my new classroom I had an interactive board......woah!! We have entered the 21st Century!!! So I decided I needed to do my morning math routine in a more updated way......so I created my Calendar Math Editable Powerpoint.  


So, how does the calendar work?  The first slide is the actual calendar.  It's completely interactive so the students can move things around, which they LOVE ❤️. Your students can move the date into place and move the days to show Yesterday, Today and Tomorrow.  Choose a child to use an expo marker to actually write the date - both the long version and the digital date. This gives them good practice in writing the date, which is actually one of our writing standards.  We also sing our "Good Morning Song", which is such a positive happy way to start our day.  There's a link to the you tube video and it's embedded right into our calendar.  How cool is that????

The next slide is counting how many days we have been in school.  Students can make the days with tens and ones and also make it in tallies.



On the third slide students practice telling time and making graphs. The teacher chooses a question, for the "Graph of the Day" and the students drag their answer into the graph.




The fourth slide is about the "Shape of the Week".  Teachers can choose one "shape" to study for the week.  I usually begin with the 2 dimensional shapes like triangle, circle square, etc.  We learn how many vertices and faces the shape has, as well as if it is an open or closed shape.  These are all part of our Math standards.  Eventually, you can move on to the three dimensional shapes like cube, cylinder, cone and sphere.



The last slide has addition, subtraction and number bonds.




Wow.....that's a ton of stuff!!! You're probably wondering how you can all that in 15 minutes. I don't suggest doing every page, every day.  We always do the first two pages - calendar and counting how many days in school.  The rest of the pages we do occasionally.

If you'd like your students to follow along, there are even backline maters of the calendar that you can make into a book for your kids to work in!



In the beginning of the year , you can start off with just a page or two.... add more as the year goes on.  We never do all 5 pages in one day...that would take too much time and I try to limit our calendar time to 15 minutes a day.


My students and I really do love our new calendar routine.....it's streamlined, 21st century and doesn't take up any valuable bulletin board space.  If you'd like to take a closer look, I made a little video of the calendar which you can watch here. 


So, are you ready to go digital with your morning calendar?  Your students will love it and so will  you! If you're ready to make the change you can grab your own Calendar Math Editable Powerpoint here.

Calendar Math - Owl Theme            




                                                     


What do you do for your morning calendar math routine?  Please share your ideas below....I'd love to hear them!!


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Classroom Library Organization

Do you need some ideas for your classroom library organization? Here are 5 tips to help you set up a system that will be easy for you to manage and the students will enjoy!



1. Books, Books, Books - Where do I get them?

Scholastic Book Club

First things first....you need books for your classroom library.  And you need lots of them! So where do you start?

One of the best things you can do is send home monthly Scholastic Book Orders with your students.  It's a great way for kids to get books of their own that are high quality and inexpensive.  Parents love to buy books for their kids, especially for holidays, and when you send these order forms home you make it convenient for them to shop.

But the best part for you? When students order books, you earn bonus points that can be used to get free books for your classroom.  I have a classroom library with hundreds of books and most of them were earned with Scholastic Bonus points! It's totally free for teachers to sign up, so get on over there and make an account!



Garage Sales and Thrift Stores

Garage sales and thrift stores are another great place to buy bargain books for a fraction of the original cost.  Summer is a great time to get out and hunt for these bargains.  You can often find great books for your library for only .25 each!

Donations

Don't underestimate the power of asking for donations.  Send a letter home to parents or even make a Facebook post.  Often times, people have children's books laying around that are no longer being used after kids grow up.  They would love to donate them to your classroom and know that they are being put to good use!

2. How do I store all of these books?

Ok, you've got your books....now what do you do with all of them?  You will definitely need some bookshelves and plastic bins to store your books.  While you're out there hunting for books at garage sales...keep your eye out for some old books shelves.  Remember, a can of spray paint can make even the oldest, dingiest shelf look clean and refreshed!

The best place I've found for plastic storage bins is your local Dollar Tree or every teachers favorite store, Target! Dollar stores have the perfect size plastic tubs in bright colors that are great for your library storage and the best part? They are only $1 each! Which is great, because you are going to need a lot of them once you get that library built up!


3. How do I arrange the books in my library?

Now you have your books and the boxes.....but how should you arrange them? There are lots of ways that you can do this. Some of the more popular ways to sort books in an elementary classroom are by genre, level, author and holiday.  And the good news is...you can do all four if you want to! 

I really feel that the classroom library should be a focal point of any classroom. This is the place where children will go to relax and read with a friend or by themselves.  This is where they will look for a book when they are doing research for a report.  This is also where they will get books to fill their own personal book boxes as well.  They may even check books out of your library to read at home.

For this reason, you will need to give your library some space in your classroom.  I have two large bookshelves in my classroom that sit in an L shape and my books are sorted in several ways.  I have one section that is sorted by our favorite authors.  Another area is sorted by genre and a large portion of my library is devoted to books that are sorted by level.  I keep my holiday books in a file cabinet and bring those out each month in a special basket, which we'll talk about in a few paragraphs.  




4. How do I keep my library organized?

Label Your Books

You may be thinking, that's a lot of books! How can I make sure that the students keep them organized? 

The best thing I have found is to label every book in your library.  Now that may seem like a daunting task, but once you have them all sorted by genre, author, level, etc and in their separate book boxes, it's pretty easy to flip through the books and label them.  

I have seen people label their books in different ways.  Some people will simply write with marker on the cover of the book.  Others will use some colored sticker dots on the covers.  This is what I did when I first started my library.  But I soon had too many books and not enough colors of dots to suit my needs! 

The best thing that I have found is to use address size labels with all of the various holidays, genres, authors, etc preprinted on the label.  I simply print out a sheet of these labels and stick them on the top front corner of each book.  I like to put my labels on the front of my books so that when students are flipping through the bins they can easily see if a book is in the correct box, and replace it if needed.  

You can grab your book labels here.  This HUGE FREEBIE  includes over 70 pages of labels.....pretty much everything I could think of for an elementary classroom library!



Create Library Rules

One of the first centers I like to open at the beginning of the year is our classroom library.  But in order to do that, we need to establish some ground rules.  The last thing you want are your books destroyed or so mixed up that you can't find anything!

Some of our library rules are:

1. Only take one book out at a time.
2. Keep all the books facing forward in the box.
3. All books must go back where you got it from.
4. Handle books with care.
5. If you find a damaged book, put it in the Book Hospital. (the Book Hospital is a special basket that sits at the library and it is devoted to damaged books.  Once a week or so, I will check the Book Hospital to see if I need to repair any books and then put them back in circulation)

Create A Check Out System

Are you planning on letting students take books home? If so, you may want to consider creating a check out system.  One way of doing this is the old fashioned (but still works great) library pocket in the back of the book.  You can buy self adhesive library pockets to put in each book. Simply write the name of the book on an index card and put it in the pocket in the back of the book. 



Create a bulletin board with another pocket for each student.  When students want to check out a book, they simply take the card out of the back of their book and put it in their own pocket on the bulletin board. This way, you know exactly who has each of your books.  It's a simple system and one that is easy to maintain.  

5. How do I encourage students to use our library?

You've put all this work into your library, the last thing you want is it to sit idle with nobody using it! So how do you keep the kids coming back to the library all year? 

Make It Inviting

Make your library a cozy place where kids will want to visit.  Add some comfy chairs or cushions and maybe even some stuffed animals.  We call these our reading buddies and kids can read a story to a stuffed animal.  How about adding some soft lighting with a cute lamp? I found all of these items at a garage sale one summer for just a few dollars!


Rotate Your Books

Some of the books in your library will stay there all year, such as your leveled books.  But others can be rotated in and out of your library to add interest.  I like to bring my holiday books out at the beginning of each month.  We put them in a special box to make it interesting. In October, I put my Halloween books in a cauldron and add some witches fingers as pointers.  The kids love that! 

Another idea is to have an author showcase.  Each month you can showcase a different author.  Maybe have a special bulletin board with the author's picture and some of his/her books.  You could even read a book to the class each day to spark interest in this author. 

Add Fun Stuff

Another way to keep your classroom library fresh and inviting is to add fun stuff to your library.  Fun pointers and crazy glasses or hats are a fun addition to any library and make the students want to spend time there!



So now you have lots of ideas to get your classroom library up and running! You can take a look at how I run all of my other centers here. If you have other tips that teachers might like, please leave them in the comments below.  





Monday, June 11, 2018

7 Tips for Managing Learning Centers

Do you need ideas for how to organize and manage your elementary learning centers? Here are seven great tips to help you get started with learning centers in your classroom.




 I know, for many of us, getting centers ready can seem like a never ending chore.  But it's SO WORTH IT....the students are so engaged and happy when they use centers.

I try to make it easy on myself.  Not every center has to be a cutesy TPT product.  You probably have loads of stuff in your closets and drawers in your classroom that you never thought about making into a learning center.  I think there are a couple of key elements to making centers work in your classroom:

1. MODEL, MODEL, MODEL

Yep, I said it.  The most important thing you can do to make those centers work in your room is to take the time to model what you expect at the center.  It's important to take several weeks at the beginning of the year to show your students all the centers, how to use the materials, the behaviors you expect, etc.  This really sets the tone for how your year will go during center time.


2. LIMIT THE AMOUNT OF KIDDOS

Ok, this one took me a while to figure out.  Way back in the day, I allowed 4 students at a center at a time.  This just didn't work for me.  I found that there was way too much arguing or tattling.  Somebody was always unhappy with something.  They didn't get the first turn, somebody was cheating....I know you know what I'm talking about

So, I decided I would cut it in half and have two students at a center. I felt like they had to have somebody there to work with.  Ok, that worked better.  But there were ALWAYS those few kids who couldn't learn to whisper or talk in a quiet voice.

No matter how many times I reminded them, it was always the same. And I like it QUIET during guided reading (which is when my kids use centers).  And so one day I had an epiphany..........I made a decision to allow one student at a time at a center.

And oh my goodness......IT CHANGED MY LIFE.  Suddenly, the kids were on task, doing the work correctly,  not fighting and it was quiet. It was the best decision I have made in my classroom and I never looked back.

Now, for those of you that are asking "Well what if I put a game at my center? Who are they going to play with?".....I occasionally allow the students have partners at centers.  We sometimes have extra center time in the afternoon....especially on Friday.  That's when they get the chance to play those partner games.  But for the most part, I try to put things in my centers that they kids can work on by themselves.

            



3. CHANGE OUT THE MATERIALS

This is really important.  I know we all get busy and next thing you know it's December and the kids are still looking at the same ratty Halloween books, there's no paper at the writing station, the markers are all dried up at the Art center and the kids are going crazy cause there's nothing good to do!

We've all been there (don't pretend you haven't...LOL).  But seriously, keeping the materials fresh and engaging is so important if you want your students to be on task and really learning. I have a big plastic  storage box for each month and that is where I store my center materials.

I like to set up my centers so they have the monthly holiday theme (Halloween, Christmas, etc) and over the years I have made many activities.  I shop at the dollar store and pick up cute seasonal items to use for counters, containers, pencils, etc. You would be surprised at how excited students get when they see some new pencils or markers at a center! BUT, that being said, it takes time to get to that point.  It doesn't happen overnight.

So take a look in your teacher cupboard and closets.  Do you have games or activities in there that you never pull out?  How about those magnetic letters? Or word tiles? What about your math manipulatives?  All of those things can be used at centers.

NOT EVERY CENTER HAS TO BE A CUTESY TPT PRODUCT or PINTEREST IDEA.  I know many of you are feeling overwhelmed and think if you aren't making everything "Pinterest worthy" than you aren't cutting it as a teacher.  Please don't feel that way.  There are many great activities collecting dust in your file cabinets and closets that you can use at your centers.  Get in there and look around! 😊




4. CENTERS SHOULD BE PRACTICE

I think this is really important to remember.  Never put something at a center that you haven't already taught your students. Centers are not the place to introduce a new skill.  This is when trouble starts.  When students don't know how to use the materials correctly, they get off task and start to just play around with them instead of really diving into the skill.

A good idea is to introduce games and activities during your whole group time before they go into a center.  For instance, a couple of days a week we will play math games during our whole group time.  I often have several copies of games and kids will work in groups of 2 or 3 to play the games.

I monitor this time to make sure they are playing the game correctly.  After I'm sure that they know how to play the games or use the materials......then I put them at the Math center.  I try to do that with all of my centers.  Occasionally it's ok to  put something new at a center that students have never seen before....but always make sure that it is a skill that they have been taught and make sure to show the kids exactly how to use the materials before it goes in a center.



5. KEEP YOUR STUDENTS ACCOUNTABLE

There are lots of ways you can keep the kids accountable at centers.  I think it's important to figure out what works for you.  Some people use a "work board" and move students names each day to determine which center they will attend. This is a really popular method and it may work for you. For me....that was too much work.  I am all about making it easy on me and the my students.
I didn't want to take valuable lesson time or my precious planning time to change out a work board every day.

My students use a learning center log  They are given a log at the beginning of the week and it lasts about two weeks.  Each day they can visit any center on the log BUT at the end of center time they have to check off that center on their log.

They cannot go back to that center again until their log is filled up and they get a new one.  This ensures that kids are not going to the same center over and over......(you know you have that one kid that will go to computers EVERY DAY if they can get away with it!) This is the log my students use.










6. CHECK THEIR WORK

Now I know you are thinking "What??? Check their work??? When do I have time to do that?".  Remember my motto..... KEEP IT SIMPLE!  At the end of guided reading/center time have your students go back to their seats and lay out everything that they did that day - their daily seat work, their log and any work they completed at centers. 

Quickly walk around and give a quick glance at what they did.  Make sure that they all checked off their log (so they can't sneak back there again tomorrow - LOL) and look to see if they are actually doing the activities correctly at the  centers.  Don't expect everything to be perfect. You simply want to know that when they go to the center they are on task and trying.  That's it.  I don't think it's necessary to grade their work.  If you're satisfied that they are doing what they are supposed to, they can put their work their mailbox or book bag and you are done for the day.  

If you have a student that is continuously off task or not using the materials correctly, have them sit out the next day during their center time. They can use this time to watch the other children and see what center time should look like. 

7. LAST THING.....TRY TO DIFFERENTIATE

I know that differentiation can seem like a lot of work, but it doesn't have to be.  It's important to put several activities at your centers so that children of all levels can participate, learn and enjoy themselves.  

I've been working on making monthly activities for each center that are differentiated into three levels - Students who are STRUGGLING, Students who are ON LEVEL and Students who are ABOVE LEVEL. I have them coded with either a circle, triangle or square and the students know which level works best for them.  

Here are a few of my products that I have created for different centers.  Each pack contains multiple activities that are all differentiated to meet the needs of all your students.  Click on the center title to take a closer look: 

         Spelling Centers               October Centers

     


    November Centers            October Math Centers

      
       


           March Centers            December Centers



         Math Centers



So there you have it.....my center routine.  It really works for me and I hope you picked up a few good tips that will help you too!

Ten Things You Should Know About Flexible Seating

 Hey Friends!

I have been seeing a lot of questions on social media asking how to implement FLEXIBLE SEATING! Have you been wondering whether to jump on the bandwagon and give it a try in your classroom?  Well I'm here to tell you that I tried it last year and I liked it!  But I did learn a few things along the way, so here are ...

               

1. What is flexible seating?

Flexible seating is an alternative approach to seating in the traditional classroom.  It basically means that your students have different options when it comes to seating.  No more conventional rows of desks or even tables.  Flexible seating gives students the opportunity to station themselves in a place where they work the best.  Maybe that's sitting with a group of people....maybe it's sitting alone.  Maybe it's sitting at a traditional desk....maybe it's sitting on the floor or a wobble stool.  That's the thing about flexible seating - sometimes referred to as alternative seating - it's ever changing.



2. Is it expensive?  

Not at all!  You don't have to go out and spend a ton of money buying all new seating and tables for your classroom!  I implemented flexible seating for the first time this year and I spent very little money to do it.  Sure....you can buy wobble stools and make crate chairs and buy yoga balls if you want to, but you would be surprised how many things you already have in your classroom and home that you can use for flexible seating.  I made the decision this year that I wanted to try this, but I didn't feel like breaking the bank to do it.  So I did what every other teacher does....I started looking through my stash.  (You know you have one too.....we are teachers.....we never throw anything away!) I discovered two little red stools, an old red table that could seat two, I dragged  a couple of desks out of the storage room and hit up garage sales.  My friend Michelle ❤️gave me an adorable purple table...I cut down the legs and voila, I had a perfect table for floor seating. In total, I probably spent about $40 (2 yoga balls from Five Below, 4 cushions, a chair and tiny table from a garage sale).


3. How do I introduce Flexible Seating?

I decided that my firsties needed a "home base" on the first day of school.  I wanted to explain how flexible seating worked and not have chaos from day one! I made name tags and laid them around on different tables in the classroom for the first day.  That was the only day my kids had assigned seats the rest of the year.  After everyone had arrived, we met at the carpet and I set my expectations for flexible seating right away.  I explained to them that they would be able to choose a different seat each day and that every one would get a chance to sit at the cool yoga balls, stools and tiny tables.  I explained to them that if they didn't get the seat they wanted, it was ok because they would have another chance.  

 Normally, I make all my anchor charts WITH my students....but this time I decided that I would make the rules for flexible seating.  I wanted them to know that, although they had choices every day, I was ultimately the one in control.  They knew that if they made poor choices~ Ms. Schwab had the right to move anyone at any time for any reason.


We also had a pocket chart with all the flexible seating options in the chart.  In the morning, each student would place their name next to the seating option that they chose for the day.  At the end of the day we met together at the carpet to discuss where each child sat.  I asked questions like "Did you like your seat today?  Why?  Why not?  Did you feel like it was a good place for you to learn?  Did it help you pay better attention or not?" Each day the kids would choose a new place to sit, until they had tried out all the seats.  After that, we stopped meeting and discussing it.  They just simply came in and chose a seat for the day.  



4. Did the students fight over where to sit?

Nope....they really didn't.  I told them that they must choose a new seat every day until they had tried out all the different options.  They could not go back to the yoga balls day after day. (You KNOW they were going to try to do that!) Some days they would sit with several friends, some days they would sit with one friend and some days they would be sitting alone. As the year progressed, kids sat with different people every day.  They made friends with EVERYONE  in the classroom.  Sitting with different kids each day really kept the "cliques" from forming and for the most part, everyone got along very well.  


5. Some kids sat alone? Didn't they feel punished or isolated?

I wanted to offer lots of different options when I decided to go with flexible seating.  I wanted my firsties to have the option to sit in a group, with a friend or alone.  I wondered how kids would feel about sitting alone.  Would they feel sad or isolated?  In the past, usually only kids who had misbehaved had to sit alone, so would they feel punished sitting by themselves?  On the contrary!  I soon found out that many children preferred to sit by themselves! My students trickle into the classroom, in the morning, for about 30 minutes. They don't all walk in at the same time.  I was surprised to see students actually choosing to sit at one of the tables by themselves when they walked in.  Not all students.....but many.  They just picked different spots every day.  Often the yoga balls or cool stools would be available....and yet students would choose a desk or table alone.  I guess we all need our space now and then, right?


6. What kind of seating did you have?

My idea of flexible seating wasn't only "wobble stools, yoga balls, crate seats, carpet squares, etc".  In my mind, I wanted the kids to have OPTIONS of where they would sit. I wanted them to all have some kind of base everyday that had a table of some sort.  I really didn't want them sprawled out all over the floor......I knew my control issues wouldn't be happy with that (although there were many times that they did do projects on the floor).  I got rid of three tables (4 seaters) from my room and a bunch of chairs.  In replace of that I had several single desks with normal chairs, two tables of four with both chairs and stools, a low table for sitting on the floor, a couple of tables for two with yoga balls and regular chairs, a small table for one on it's own carpet for sitting on the floor.  So, everyone had a spot every day with a table.  BUT...they also had the option of moving to the carpet and using a clip board, sitting in lots of other spots (bean bags, mini couch and comfy chairs) for independent reading and other work. 



7. Where did they keep their "stuff"?

This was a dilemma for me at first.  I was used to my firsties having seat sacks on the back of their chairs to hold all their books, etc.  I also used to have totes on the top of the tables with their scissors, glue, crayons, etc.  None of that was going to work with flexible seating.  So I changed it up! (I had to learn to be flexible too!) I used a small shelf to hold all of their books, notebooks, interactive notebooks, etc. I had the kids use plastic supply boxes to store their personal supplies like crayons, pencils, scissors, etc.  Every night we stacked the supply boxes on my guided reading table and they would pick them up when they came in the next morning and take it to their new seat for the day.  It worked great for us! You can sort of see the shelf behind these two firsties....books stacked neatly.  



8. What did the parents think?

I honestly never had one parent complain or say much of anything.  We have "Meet The Teacher" night before school begins and so everyone had a chance to see the room and I explained to them how flexible seating would work in our classroom.  I also put a letter to the parents explaining every thing to them in the children's back to school folder. Everyone seemed to think it was pretty cool....and that was the end of it.  If you don't have some kind of meet and greet before school, I would suggest sending home a letter to parents explaining what you will be doing, the rules, etc.  Here is a copy of the letter that I gave to the parents:




9. What did your administration think...what about the other teachers?  

They all thought I was CRAZY!!  LOL.....  Well, sort of. I was the only teacher in my building who had implemented flexible seating, so it was new to everyone.  I had a lot of teachers coming to my room at the beginning of the year to check out the set up and seriously thought I had lost my mind.  BUT....they were also intrigued.  They basically said "You be the guinea pig and let us know how it works out...then maybe I'll try it."  As the year progressed, I had nothing but good things to say about it and some others added some wobble stools and yoga balls to their classrooms.  I'm not sure if anyone will go "full force" flexible seating besides me next year.....can't wait till September to find out!


10. I'm still not sure....convince me!

Believe me when I tell you, this was not an easy decision for me!  First of all, taking those tables out of my room and putting them in storage gave me heart palpitations!  I put big signs on them that said "Property of Room 12 ~ DO  NOT  TAKE!" If your school is anything like mine....once it leaves your room, you KNOW somebody is going to snatch it up.  I thought "Oh my gosh...what if I hate this and my tables are gone???" But I took a leap of faith and went for it.  And I'm so glad it did.  

My kiddos that needed to move around (you know the ones that you are always telling to sit down and stop wiggling???) picked the perfect spot for them.  A place where they could move and not be a distraction to the class.  My quiet students who liked to have some alone time were able to find that in our classroom this year.  My firsties made LOTS of friends....not just the few who sat beside them at the same table every day.  We learned how to wait our turn and be cooperative with each other.  We learned that it was ok if we had to wait another day for the yoga ball chairs....because another friend was waiting for them at a table for two.  We learned how to be responsible for our own materials. How to put things away on the correct shelf so we could find it the next day.  In all, it was a great experience.  I'm excited to hit up the garage sales again this summer to see what other great seating options I may find!  So why not give it a chance? What do you have to lose....other than maybe a table or two??




So are you ready to get started with flexible seating yourself?  Here's the perfect start up set to help you out!  This huge FLEXIBLE SEATING BUNDLE includes a Choice Board (pictured above)  to help your students pick their seat for the day, a Parent Letter to explain the exciting news about flexible seating to families, a Rules Chart, and a Student Log to keep track of their choices at the beginning of the year.  You can take a better look at this set here. 







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