Sunday, July 30, 2017

6 Tips for a Great School Year

A great start to the school year.....that's what we all want,  right?  But it sounds easier than it is.

So how do I keep things organized, the kids from going crazy and make sure I'm well prepared? Here's my top tips on keeping that first week on point!

Tip #1 Start out slow

Your school year should be thought of as a marathon, not a race.  I know, we all have so many standards to cover during the year and sometimes it's hard to take it slowly.  But that's exactly what you need to do.  

Try not to rush into too many heavy things that first week.   The kids have to build their stamina for being back in the classroom for 7-8 hours.  The first week of school should be a time to get to know each other, establish rules, discover the classroom, the playground and the rest of the school.   

Give the kids a break....literally.  Do a 30 minute activity....then take a 15 minute break.  Maybe put on some Go Noodle ~ have you seen this website?  It's perfect for little breaks in the day and....FREE. You can check it out here.   Now, do another 30 minute activity.....then take another break.  Maybe take the kids out to the playground for 15 minutes.  Rinse and repeat.  

When you begin slowly, you not only give the kids the opportunity to build up their also get a chance to get to know the kids and they get to know you.  They start to warm up to you.  You learn their little quirks.  They learn yours. It's a dance.  And it's ok.....nobody is going to fail the BIG END OF THE YEAR TEST just because you let them have a little downtime on the first week of school.

Tip #2  Be prepared

Just like every good Boy Scout knows, being prepared is a good thing. Make sure you have your plans written out and your materials ready.  Write down everything that you plan to do that first week, get your papers copied and your supplies ready.  

Are you planning on reading some books to the kids? (I hope so!!) Make sure you have those books pulled from the shelf and ready to go.  Are there papers that you are planning on doing with your kiddos?  (Probably!) Make sure those papers are copied and ready.  

How about art projects?  I always like to do at least one or two crafts with my Firsties that first week of school. (It's just sort of fun for them and it gives me cute stuff to put on my bulletin boards!) Make sure you have your construction paper cut, your paint you need paint cups? How about glue or glitter or whatever?  Get it out and have it ready!

Tip #3  Be organized 

I am a big believer in planning ahead.  I like to do my lesson plans for the next week and have everything ready to go before I walk out the door to start my weekend.  

I have some baskets behind my desk on a shelf labeled Monday - Friday.  I put all my materials for the week in those baskets.  I also have a table in front of my desk where I put my supplies for the day.   Every night, before I leave school, I lay my papers, art supplies, books etc on the table in front of my the order that I am going to use it during the day.  OCD? Maybe....don't judge......LOL... it works for me.  

Do you have a place to put your materials for the week?  I always make sure my plans are done, copies for the week are made and in my baskets before I leave on Friday night.  That way, I know that I am well prepared for the following week. If you do this, your classroom management will be better and you never have to worry if you have to call off sick or get called from the classroom.  

Where can you put your daily baskets?  Do you have a shelf?  Maybe you want to put your stuff in hanging files to save room? Think about how you can organize your materials so that you are ready every day. 

Tip # 4 Establish Rules

During that first week, your students will test you.  They want to know the boundaries.  Give them boundaries. Start establishing rules on the very first day of school.  

I think that you should make your rules with your students.  That being said, these rules have to work for you!

Create an anchor chart for your rules and post it in your classroom.  I like to make this a shared experience and so I have my student actually write the rules on the chart.  

One of the first books we read is "No David" and after discussing the behavior of David in the book, we make a chart called "Our Class No No's".  The kids write the chart themselves using interactive writing. (Interactive writing is where the student and teacher share the pen.  We sound the word out together as a class and I write parts of the word and I call on students to write parts of the word or sentence)

It's not super pretty....but it's made by the students and they came up with the "no no's".  I usually also make another rules chart that has more "general rules" like "Treat each other with kindness and respect", "Keep your hands and feet to yourself", etc.

#5 Teach your classroom procedures

One thing I learned a long time ago....never assume the children know what you expect.  I think it's a good idea to think about all the classroom procedures you have and make a list.  Plan to touch on all of these within the first week or two of class.  When children know what is expected of them, they generally try to meet those expectations.  So.....what kind of things should you talk about?  Here's a sample list of things that I will want to go over with my Firsties right away:

1. How to line up
2. How to push your chair in
3. How to hang your coat in your cubby
4. Where to keep supplies
5. Pencil sharpening procedures
6. Bathroom procedures
7. Lunch procedures
8. Recess rules
9. Routine when you enter the classroom
10. Homework expectations
11. Where to put their daily folder
12. How to sit at the carpet

There is probably more than that....but you get the picture.  Teach the students what you expect for EVERY LITTLE THING.  If you need to, add things to your rules chart. Make it a working document.

#6 Establish routines

Contrary to popular belief by some, kids love routines.  They really do.  It makes them feel safe and secure.  They know what is expected of them and they try to meet those expectations.  But they are kids....and so things will not always be perfect.  But they try.  So think about how you want your day to go.  What do you want your kids to do when they first enter the room?

My Firsties have their "Morning Chores".  I have a photo "list" posted by the classroom door.  I show the kids this list on the very first morning and explain it to them.  On our list we have to:

1. Sign In (they put their name tag in a pocket chart for either buying or packing lunch)
2. Put their Daily Folder in the red basket (I keep a basket for their daily folders near my desk)
3. Wash their hands (they must go to the restroom first thing and go to the bathroom / wash their hands)
4. Choose a seat for the day

My kids always have something to work on at their tables.  We start with play dough or tubs. Sometimes it's a coloring sheet.  As the year goes on we do morning journals or other work. But they always know there will be something for them to do at their seat.

So there you have it.  If you follow these tips, I think you will have a GREAT start to your first week of school!  And don't forget to get yourself a tall cup of coffee or tea.  That first week (or maybe month.....) is EXHAUSTING and you will need it!  Be sure to check back next week...I'll have more tips to help you with your first week planning and schedule!

Friday, July 28, 2017

Get Ready for Back to School in 5 Days Flat!

Hey girl hey!  Guess what time it is.........yep it's Back to School time!

I know, I know.....we have to face it.  We are about to turn that calendar page to August so we might as well start thinking about ways to get ourselves organized and ready! I like to think of myself as a fairly organized teacher.  I mean, my room is not Pinterest Perfection by any means but I'd say in the organization department, I get about an A-.  

So, what's the first thing you should do before walking into your classroom to get ready for a new school year? 

Day #1 ~ Get a tall glass of your beverage of choice! 

Seriously...I fill my YETI to the  brim with an ice cold tea because I know once I get in that room, I will be there for hours.

   And ~ Arrange your  furniture 

Now I'm pretty lucky because our custodians are ROCKSTARS and they basically put all of my furniture back in my room just the way I want it.  At the end of each school year, I take photos of how I want the furniture placed and hang them on my board.  When the custodians are finished cleaning, they put all the furniture back just like the photos.  But, sometimes I make changes in my head over the summer (shocker!) and so I rearrange a little.  Here's a few photos of my classroom BEFORE pics.  Some of last year's bulletin board were still up....I'm not sure yet how much I will change this year. I'm trying to get motivated to have a new theme!

If you aren't quite as lucky with rock star custodians, enlist the help of a friend or one of your kids (gotta love being a teacher's kid!) and have them help you on this first day if possible.  The last thing you want to do is drag your furniture across freshly waxed floors and mess them up!  If you can't find help, another way to move your furniture without ruining your floors is to put little squares of carpet or towel under the legs so you can drag stuff and it will slide.  

Sometimes I like to make a diagram on paper before I start moving furniture.  Find a place for your guided reading's probably going to stay there all year so you better like it! How about your desk? Do you have centers? Where will they go? Figure out where you want everything.....BEFORE, you start moving it around.

Day # 2 ~ Decorate your bulletin boards, etc

When I say "decorate' I use that term loosely.  I'm a huge believer that your classroom should reflect the students and that most of the "stuff" you put on your walls should be made by the kids or with the kids.  I often start out with empty bulletin boards and I'm just fine with that.  They quickly become filled with anchor charts that I make with the students and other work by my firsties.  

I think its a good idea to cover you boards with fresh paper each year...maybe change up the theme with new border or a few items that I hang from the ceiling. Last year my theme was "First Grade is a Picnic".  I had a really cute watermelon umbrella that hung above my library, a cute little bulletin board in the back of the room and my big welcome back bulletin board in the hallway.  

Plan out your bulletin boards just like you plan out furniture placement.  Think about where you want to post your "I Can" statements.  Do you have a classroom management routine? Where do you want to hang that?  Where will you hang your anchor charts?  How about a calendar? 

All of these things will need a "home" for the year.  Some boards will stay the same all year ~ while others will change with the months or seasons. 

One of the first things I always put up are my "Big, Big Goals", which are my "I Can" statements.  I like having my standards posted because it reminds me to talk about these goals every day with the students.  I will write more about how I use my Big Big Goals in a few weeks. Check back for that post! 

Day # 3  ~ Set up your centers

I LOVE centers.  I have always used centers in my classroom.  I think students need to have a chance to move around the room, try new activities and work with friends.  Centers give them the opportunity to do that every day.  I have an entire post on how I use centers in my room that you can read about here. 

I like to have my centers set up right from the start because we begin using them on the first day of school.  My firsties are always anxious to try things out.  We start off slowly with only a couple of centers open at first and as they are introduced to the rules and get a chance to practice, I slowly add more and more.  Usually by the end of the second week of school, all of our centers are open for business. 

Think about your centers ~ will you have your centers at different places and tables around your classroom?  Do you have space for that?  If not, maybe your centers will be in tubs that you place on a shelf.  How will you manage your centers? One of my FAVORITE  books to help you with centers is by Debbie Diller called "Spaces and Places". She is the guru of centers. You can take a look at her books here. 

Day # 4 ~  Plan for the first week of school

I am a planner.  I NEED to have my lesson plans prepared and my materials ready.  I am not really a "fly by the seat of your pants" kind of girl.  Now, that's not to say that I haven't been known to scrap everything and go with the "teachable moment".  But basically, I like to be organized (#seefirstparagraph) and prepared.  ESPECIALLY the first week of school.  

The last thing any of us needs is a classroom full of chaos because you didn't think to run off that paper or you forgot to get a book from the library! I usually pull out my lesson plans from the year before as a reminder of things I did.  Then I tweak them with new ideas that I have found over the summer.  

Next week I will be writing specifics about planning for that first week.  Be sure to check back because I will gots more ideas on how to make that first week be smooth sailing!

Day # 5 ~  Prep for your Open House / Meet The Teacher

Do you have an Open House or Meet the Teacher night before school begins? It's a great time to meet your littles before that first day of school and hopefully put any fears they may have at ease.  It's also the perfect time to collect supplies and talk to parents about important information that they will need during the school year.  

Have a plan of how you want your open house to go ~ will you have a scavenger hunt?  Will you show a powerpoint? What will the kids be doing to keep themselves dough, a coloring sheet, tubs?  The last thing you want is kids running around all over the room.  Remember, the parents will take your lead.  So have a plan in place of how you want your evening to run so everything goes smoothly.  

I usually have my Firsties play with tubs at the table while I show parents my powerpoint presentation.  There's so much important information to tell parents and this is the one time in the year when I have a captive audience.  I go over things like bus procedures, lunch, dress code, homework policies, etc.  It's about a 15 minute presentation and it gives the parents all the information they need to help their child have a successful year in first grade.  

I also give parents a packet of important forms to fill out.   I like to buy two pocket folders when they are on sale.  I put all the forms that parents need to fill out in the folder and I give it to them at our Meet The Teacher night. I usually encourage them to complete them at home and return them on the first day of school with their child.  

I created a BACK TO SCHOOL BUNDLE, in three different themes, with all the forms you need for the year. It is fully editable so you can put in your own information.  It might be something helpful to you in putting your open house evening together. The bundle includes: 

1. Meet the Teacher Letter
2. Birthday Calendar
3. Bus List
4. Parent Helper Lists and Room Helpers
5. Field Trip Sign Up Sheets
6. Party Helper Sign Up Sheets 
7. In a Million Word or Less Tell Me What I Will Love About Your Child
8. Emergency Contact Information
9. Class Roster
10. Parent Contact List
11. Passwords At A Glance List

The MATCHING POWERPOINT  has editable slides for the following topics:

1. Welcome Slide
2. Meet The Teacher
3. What's Our Daily Schedule?
4. How Do Students Get To School?
5. What Are The Classroom Rules?
6. Will My Child Need Supplies?
7. What About Breakfast and Lunch?
8. What Are The Special Classes?
9. Do You Have Snack During The Day?
10. What Will My Child Be Learning?
11. Will My Child Have Homework?
12. How Will I Know My Child's Grades?
13. How Will The Teacher Handle Discipline?
14. How Should My Child Dress For School?
15. Can Parents Volunteer?
16. Thanks For Visiting
17. 3 Blank Slides to Customize Yourself

These bundles comes in 3 different themes.    You can take a peek at all of them here: 

Well friend....that's all for today.  I hope some of these tips helped you in your back to school planning.  I know I'll be busy getting ready for Back to School soon and I'm sure you will too! Be sure to stop back next week.....I've got some great tips on how to have a successful first week of school!  See you soon, because you know.....there's always something fun happening in

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Top Ten Back To School Pinterest Boards

Top 10 Back To School Boards on Pinterest...Can you feel it? That Back To School excitement is in the air!  I went to Staples last week, to buy a calendar, and school supplies were everywhere! So, of course, when I got home I had to do a little surfing on Pinterest for new classroom ideas!

If you're a Pinterest fanatic like I am, you are always looking for new and innovative ideas! But girl.....surfing around that sight can eat up a lot of time!  Sometimes I sit down on a Saturday morning with a cup of tea and my computer and the next thing I know my kids are asking me "What's for lunch?"  So I thought I would save you some time (and help keep your family from and make a list of my Top 10 Back To School Boards on Pinterest! Here goes!


Yep, that's me!  I've been pinning for a long time and the first place I always stop are my own boards for inspiration! I have over 8K pins with boards that would be great for all K-3 teachers. If you are looking for ideas for Back to School or Classroom Management you can check them out here. Do you  see all those boards right down below?  Those are all from Firstieland and FILLED TO THE BRIM with great teaching ideas! You can follow me right here to keep up with all my latest pins!  

Fluttering Through First

This dynamic duo has it all together when it comes to Pinterest!  Their Back to School board has tons of ideas for classroom management and getting the year started on a great foot.  If you are a new teacher and need ideas on where to begin check out their pin "Ten Steps To Setting Up Your Classroom For The New Year".  Lots of great tips!

First Grade Fun Times

Alisa, from First Grade Fun Times has over 250 pins that will get you rockin and rollin for September.  She has a cute pin on shoe tying strategies (now YOU KNOW we all need to see that one!)  Every year I have a "Shoe Tying Club" in my classroom. I found some cute cardboard shoes with real laces at the Dollar Tree.  I give one to each of my students and have them practice at home. When they can bring their shoe back to school and show me that they can tie their laces, they became a member of the shoe tying club and their name goes on our bulletin board.! Check out all of Alisa's September pins here. 

First Grade First

First Grade First has a great September board if you are looking for some cute "Apple Theme" ideas!  She has found the best of the best apple ideas and pinned them all to this board! From videos to books, crafts and experiments...this is the board to view if you are looking for Apple ideas! 

A Day In First

A Day In First has a nice little board called "Back To School - Setting Up Your Classroom"  that I like a lot.  There are lots of great photos of other classrooms to give you inspiration and ideas for setting up centers in your room. One of my favorites is this "nature table"....tell me what kids wouldn't want to explore here? So cool! 

Mrs. Magee's First Grade Brain

Are you looking for bulletin board ideas?  Mrs. Magee over at First Grade Brain has a board called "Bulletin Board Brain"  with plenty of ideas to take you all through the year!  She has pins for back to school, holidays, insects, name it, she has pinned it for you! My personal favorite is the Santa door....totes cute! 

First Grade Frame Of Mind

Do you use anchor charts in your classroom?  Need some ideas?   No need to look any further.  First Grade Frame Of Mind has a GREAT board with over 150 different anchor chart ideas! This board will take you from September to May.  Check it out here. 

Proud To Be Primary

Back to school means back to Guided Reading! If you are a newbie to guided reading or an old pro that needs some fresh ideas, Proud To Be Primary has a fantastic board with 240 pins of great Guided Reading resources and ideas! You will find ideas for starting your guided reading groups, phonics activities for small groups, how to make guided reading books and more!

Clutter Free Classroom

Are you thinking about a classroom theme this year? Oh baby!  I have found the mother load of all classroom themes on Clutter Free Classroom! Jodi has boards for just about every theme you can imagine: beachbeescampingpolka dots.....if you can think of the theme, she probably has a board for it! Go crazy checking out all these fun boards! 

Kreative in Kinder

Finally, just for you need some new teacher T shirts?  Who doesn't need something cute to start the year right?  Maybe you and your team want to be matchy matchy with an adorable T that's sure to make the rest of the staff and students smile.  Well, Kreative in Kinder has exactly  499 different T shirts for you to pick from! You go girl....get your teach on!

So there you have it! My Top Ten Back To School Boards!  Now go on.....get yourself a glass of ice cold lemonade (or your beverage of choice!), a comfy chair and get your Pinspiration on! if you find something that the rest of us will love....please post it in the comments below!  And be sure to stop back soon because you know, there's always something fun happening in...