Sunday, August 27, 2017

How to Get Organized and Leave School On Time!

Are you someone who needs some simple teacher organization tips? Do you find yourself staying late at school every day?  Are you missing soccer games and taking home a lot of fast food dinners?  Girl....I hear you!  This was such a problem for me for so long!

I decided I need to get organized and stop living at school! So how did I do it?

1. Use a checklist.

I used to have scraps of paper and post it notes everywhere!  Jumping from one thing to the next and never really feeling very organized at all.  One day I decided to create a checklist of the things I did every week ~ you know, those tasks that we have to do all the time (write lesson plans, grade papers, run copies, etc). When you have a checklist you can do a quick glance at your tasks for the day and stick to it. Keep your checklist at the front of your plan book or on a clipboard for easy access.

2. Use your planning time wisely.

It's really easy to let your precious planning time slip by as you chat with a friend or linger a little too long in the teachers lounge.  Try to use your planning time wisely.  I like to be prepared with my copies that I need to make and take them with me as I drop my kiddos off for their special class, lunch or recess.  I head straight to the teacher work room and get to work!

Try to figure out a time when there won't be a line for the copier....Is before school a better time to make copies? What about when everybody else is at lunch? Can you squeeze a few minutes in then while everyone else is busy doing something else?

3. Assign a day to specific tasks.

This is KEY to staying organized and getting things done AT SCHOOL DURING THE SCHOOL DAY.  Make a list of all the tasks that you have to do each week.  Now decide which days you will work on each task.

Think about how that looks....when do you want to write your weekly newsletter? Do you send it home on Monday or Friday? Pick the day that works best for that.  Do you send homework folders? What day do you want to work on those?

I have specific tasks that I do each day of the week.  I know what they are and so it makes it so much easier for me to complete things in a timely manner.  Here's how I use my planning time each week:

MONDAY - Grade Spelling Pretests, Run off homework copies and stuff homework folders

TUESDAY - Write my guided reading plans for the week and organize materials.

WEDNESDAY - Write my plans for the next week, Grade papers and enter grades in grade book.

THURSDAY - Run all my copies for the next week, Prep craft materials and pull books for next week.

FRIDAY - Write weekly newsletter, Grade weekly assessments, Change my "I Can" statements on bulletin board for next week.

Super simple!  I hope these tips help you get out the door and home on time!

Click here to grab a copy of my Weekly Checklists to help you with your planning! 

Sunday, August 20, 2017

Crayon Theme - Classroom Reveal 2017

As promised ~ Here's my Classroom Reveal 2017!  This year's theme ~ Crayons!

Check out my new door decal!  Loving the quote....I think we might just say this quote together at our morning meeting every day!

First thing each day, my Firsties do their morning chores!

My classroom from the front of the room ......

Our library..... I have my books leveled from A-M on the wall under the windows.  The other shelf has books separated by author and genre. 

Our Spelling Center ~ This is the SIMPLEST center to maintain!  All I do is change the words in the pocket chart each week.  I usually start with 2 activities for the kids to choose from - Write 3 Ways and Rainbow Write.  Eventually I add other activities like "Sandy Spelling" (write words in a sand tray), Keyboard Spelling (type words on a keyboard), Fancy Spelling, Write a Spelling Sentence , etc.  All of these activities are in my Spelling Center Bundle on TPT.  You can grab a copy here. 

My Writing Center is back to back with our Big Book Center.  I keep it very simple in the beginning. Just some different sizes and colors of paper, crayons, pencils, a word book and some mini word walls. As they year goes on I will continue to add many things to this center.  By the end of the year students will be writing personal narratives, reports and opinion pieces!  That's the best thing about First Grade....seeing the progress they make by the time May rolls around! 

My HUGE back bulletin board.  I never know what to put here.  It has a big shelf and computers in front of it, so it's impossible to make it interactive.  This year it will be a display board for the kids creations.  

We do Flexible Seating in our room.  At the start of the year, I ask my Firsties to choose a different seat each day until they have tried every place in the room. The kids choose a seat each morning and put their picture in the pocket chart next to their choice.   

At the end of the day, we meet and talk about how that seat worked for the kids.  Did they like it?  Were they able to do their best work at that seat? Who did they sit near?  Was that a good choice?  

 I absolutely love flexible's one of the best decision I have made in all my years of teaching.  If you're interested in trying it in your room you can read more about it here and you can take a closer look at this product here. 

Our Big Book / Retelling  Center ~ my Fab Firsties love to come to this center and use the pointers to read the books with large print.  As the year goes on, I add things like flannel board pieces, puppets, cool pointers, etc. 

Our Book boxes ~ We read silently to ourselves every day.  We start the year building our stamina to be able to sit for long periods of time, reading.  We begin with 1-2 minutes of quiet reading.  We continue to add to the time minute by minute, every day, until we are able to read quietly for 20-30 minutes every day.  

The kids really love this quiet time. They enjoy choosing books for their boxes and get excited to read something new.  I will often hear kids say things like "I can't wait to read this book.  I say Billy reading it last week and it looked so good" or "I'm going to read this book today.  I love dinosaurs so that's why I chose it".  

It's a great feeling watching kids go from virtual non readers, to laying in a bean bag chair totally enjoying a good book that they picked from our library.  We keep our book boxes on top of the cubbies in the hallway. 

My Welcome Packs and little gift for my Firsties is all ready to go!  I like to give my parents a welcome pack of all the information they need to know about our classroom ~ our schedule, procedures for lunch, recess, bus, drop off, pick up, etc ....pretty much all the info in one neat packet!

I use a clip chart for classroom management.  I find that at the beginning of the year it is an extremely useful tool as children are testing their limits and learning the rules.  As time goes on, it becomes less important as students simply understand and follow the rules on their own.  But in the beginning, its a great help.  

I love that I can reinforce positive behaviors on the clip chart.  Whenever a student clips all the way to the top in one day, they get a little "diamond" jewel sticker on their clip.  The LOVE earning a "diamond"!  When someone has earned 5 diamonds on their clip, their clip is retired and moved to the "Clip Hall of Fame"and they get a brand new clip.  My Fab Firsties are super proud to earn a diamond and even PROUDER when they go to the Clip Hall of Fame! 

This is our Math Board.  It's at the front of the room and we use it daily during our Math lessons. We add new vocabulary to the Math Words chart and refer to our Strategies for Addition and Subtraction daily.  

Our Art Center looks pretty boring right now....but as the year goes on it will be full of creativity and wonderful creations made by the kids!  The wooden drawers are filled with things the kids can use to create ~ play dough, bingo daubers, stamp pads and stamps, chalk, paint, yarn, ribbon, name it, we have it! 

This is our Big Big Goals board and one of the most important places in our room.  It is at the front of the classroom, right next to our carpet area and we talk about this board EVERY DAY.  It is a requirement for us, as it is for so many of you too, to post our standards.  I wanted this to be a really simple area that the KIDS COULD UNDERSTAND.  

I think it is ridiculous to post a bunch of standards that children do not understand or care about.  YEP I SAID THAT.  So I made this.....we have 3 BIG BIG GOALS that we are trying to reach by the end of the year.  And we talk about that, every day.  Then, we have little goals each week that will help us reach our BIG BIG GOALS.  That's where I write my very simple weekly standards like " I can read my sight words" or "I can add numbers up to 10".  Stuff like that.  

Each day, during our morning meeting we discuss our big big goals and what we are going to do that day to help us reach that goal.  And it works.  The kids understand why we do what we do.  We know we have jobs to do to reach our goals and we work toward them every day.  I love our Big Big Goals Board. ❤️

This isn't the greatest picture, but it's our word wall.  I hung 3 small magnetic white boards below my big board. Each week I add new words to the word wall.  We use this regularly in our room too.  We take words and build sentences together during morning meeting, we find words with endings, blends, etc.  It's interactive, as every word wall should be.  

Morning Tubs & Mini Dry Erase Boards - The kids use these tubs when they first come in each day.  It's free easy start to the day.  I made new labels for the tubs, which I still have to add. 

My big bulletin board in the hallway that will greet my kiddos~! 

Finally, one of the most important areas of the room.  Our guided reading spot.  I keep everything I need (leveled books, word cards, magnetic letters, vocabulary cards, games, etc)  on the open shelves behind the table and in my toolbox on top of the table.  

Well friends.....that's the big reveal for this year.  It's so nice and clean and perfect right now.  Sigh......I'll post pictures of "reality" in a few weeks after the kids have been there for a while.  LOL 

If you love the Crayon Theme, as much as I do, I've made it super easy for you!  Here's the Back to School Crayon Theme MEGA BUNDLE

This huge set includes:

1. Welcome Packet for Parents
2. Clip Chart
3. Morning Chores Board
3. Toppers for your Buyers and Packers Board
4. Labels for your Daily Folder and Homework Folder Baskets

Student Numbers for:

1. Floor Numbers for Lining Up
2. Cubby Numbers / Book Box Numbers
3. Mailbox Numbers
4. Sign In Numbers / Take Home Folder Numbers
5. Name Tags with Numbers
6. Clip Chart Numbers

Have a GREAT year everyone!  And be sure to stop by often.  I will have lots of ideas to help you as you move through the months and seasons.....Plus.....there's always something fun happening in....

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

7 Tips To Rock Meet The Teacher

Are you starting to stress about your Open House or Meet the Teacher night? Do you get those jitters and wonder "What am I going to say to the parents?" ....""Do I have to talk in front of all those people?"....."How will I keep the students occupied?"

I hear ya sista! It can seem like an overwhelming evening and you want it to go perfectly.  So how do you do that?  Well I have a few tips that just might help you out.

1. Make sure your room is prepared

If you follow my blog, you may have already read my post about how to get your classroom ready.  In a nutshell, you definitely want your classroom set up and ready to go before you get ready to greet parents and your new students! That DOES NOT mean that you have to go out and buy a bunch of new furniture and bulletin board displays!  But you should make your room neat and tidy.  Make sure things are clean and shining.  Have your centers set up, bulletin boards covered with fresh paper and border.  You want your room to be an inviting place for your new students.

2. Label, label, label

It's a good idea to have everything labeled with your students names before Open House.  When your new kiddos come to meet you, they also want to take a look around the room and find their special places.  Where is my cubby?  Where is my mailbox?  Where is my seat?  By the time you finish labeling everything you will have all your kids first and last names memorized!

3. Sign Up Sheets

Will you want parent helpers this year?  NOW is the time to get those names!  I put sign up sheets for parties, field trips, etc on a table with some pencils.  During my presentation, I encourage parents to sign up to help before they leave.

4. Prepare an Open House Packet

I think its a good idea to give parents a packet of information about your classroom.  Parents will have lots of questions at the beginning of the year and I'm sure you will try to answer many of those questions during your Open House.  But people forget things.  If you have a nice packet all typed up, your parents can refer to it throughout the year whenever they have a question about something in your room.

Some of the things that you may want to include in your welcome packet are:

1. Daily Schedule
2. Transportation Procedures (Car, Bus, etc)
3. Breakfast and Lunch Procedures and Cost
4. Parent / Teacher Communication Procedures (email, phone, notes from home, newsletters, etc)
5. Snack Procedures
6. Dress Code
7. Discipline / Behavior Expectations
8. Parent Volunteers
9. Grading Procedures


5. Send a welcome letter to your new students

About a week before the Open House, it's nice idea to send a letter to your students welcoming them to your classroom.  I like to tell them a little about our classroom and what to expect during our Open House.  I also ask parents to bring all of their child's school supplies to Open House.  Include the date and time of Open House and also your room number so that they can find you!  Do you need a letter to send your students? Grab your welcome letter here.

6. Collect school supplies

I always collect my school supplies in labeled boxes from the kids BEFORE school starts, if possible.  Have your students bring their supplies to your Open House and let the parents divide them into labeled boxes.  It will save you so much time and you will be ready for the first day of school!

I stack the labeled boxes in the hallway on top of the kids cubbies and parents/ kids can put the supplies right into the boxes.  At the end of the night, all you have to do is put the boxes into your cupboard and you are done!

Collecting school supplies early will make your first day of school run so much smoother!

7. Have a plan for the evening of the Open House

Be sure to have a plan for how you want your evening to go. Think about what you want the students to be doing.  Do you want them to do a scavenger hunt with their parents?  Maybe they can look for their cubby, their mailbox, their seat, the pencil sharpener, etc.  Do you want to do a presentation for the parents?  What will the students do during that time? Read more about my Meet The Teacher presentation here. 

Now...are you am I going to get all this put together before my Open House?  No worries!  I have you covered.  Everything you need is in my Back To School Forms and Powerpoint MEGA BUDLE.  Included in this bundle are all of the Back to School forms you need including Helper Sign Up Sheets, Bus Lists, Birthday Lists, Emergency Contact Info and so much more!  Also included is a Back To School Editable Powerpoint.  All you need to do is customize it with your own information.  Also included is an adorable Back To School Welcome Pack ~ also customizable for your own needs.


Sunday, August 6, 2017

Why I Give My Students A Number

Do you give your students a number? I think it's a great Classroom Management technique....and I'll tell you why! 

1. Lining up is a breeze!

For many years I went the route of "Line Leaders" and a "Caboose".  Every day I would pull two names out of a jar and those were the "chosen" kiddos of the day. One was the line leader and one was the caboose.  The rest of the kids just got in line wherever they ended up.  BIG MISTAKE.  Every single day, without fail, somebody complained that "he cut me" or "she's in my spot".  Or even worse, once in a while somebody got in front of the LINE LEADER.  What???? And then the whole class was tattling at once!! 

Finally one day, when I was at my wits end, I said "From now on I'm giving you all a spot in line and that's your spot for the rest of the year.  Period.  No more line leaders or cabooses.  This is your spot."

And you know what happened?  They all got in their spot.  Every day.  And nobody complained about "cutting in line" or had to remind me 100 times who was the line leader.  It was like miracle happened.  And that's when I figured out that this could work for other things too!

2. Collecting papers is easy peasy!

When you give your students a number, it makes collecting papers so easy.  I usually give my kids numbers according to their place in alphabetical order. When your students write their name on their paper, instruct them to ALWAYS write their number in the corner of their paper too.

When I want them to turn in a paper, I simply call them by number.  I used to have to dig around for my alphabetical list of kids every time (because I couldn't remember their order no matter how much I tried).  Now, I just call them by number 1-2-3, etc.  So simple!!  Which leads me to my next reason that I love giving my firsties a number......

3. Entering grades is a snap!

Ok let's face it.....entering grades is time consuming.  And who has time for that?  If you're like me, you just want to get this job done and move on to other more important things during your planning time.  When your kids have a number, and you collect your papers in numbered makes it so easy to enter your grades.  Your papers will already be in alphabetical order.  No need to shuffle papers or flip back and forth in your grade book.  Just enter the grades in the order that you collected the papers. I even have time to go to the bathroom on my break!

4. Returning papers to kids is so easy anyone can do it....even a kindergartener! 

Do you spend 15 minutes at the end of every day passing back papers?  Calling their names and then they walk over to you (taking their good old time....) and take the paper from you? Not me...not any more.  In fact, I don't spend ANY time passing back papers.  My students do it for me.  And THEY LOVE IT.  Start by giving each of your students a mailbox with a number.

Now, when you want papers passed back, its so easy, any child that can read a number can do it.  AND what makes it even easier is they are already in numerical order (see #3 above) so it's very simple to slide them into the mailboxes by number.

5. It makes Back to School set up so much easier!

When your students have a number, you will no longer have to wait for your class list to get your classroom ready.  In fact, it will already be ready from last year for many things! I use numbers on everything ~  mailboxes, cubbies, sign in board, book boxes, take home folders, clip chart ~ you name it, it has a number.

Once your students know their number, they will know exactly what belongs to them in the room.  The one exception I make is their name tag for their table and signing in.  But I also include their number on that as well.

So there you have it.  Numbered order.  It's a good thing.

So now that you know all the reasons numbered order is a good thing,  I've made it easy on you to get started.  I use these numbers in my room and they are super cute.  This set has numbers for everything ~ 

1. Floor Numbers for Lining Up
2. Cubby Numbers / Book Box Numbers
3. Mailbox Numbers
4. Sign In Numbers / Take Home folders
5. Name Tags with Numbers
6. Clip Chart Numbers