Tuesday, August 30, 2011

It's Time for a Sale!

It's time for the back to school sale at my Teachers Notebook shop! All items in my Teachers Notebook shop will be 10% off from 8/31 - 9/5. If you visit my shop and see something you like, please consider making my shop one of your "favorites".

Today was the first required teacher work day in my district. We had meetings ALL day and I'm exhausted. Open house is tomorrow and the students start on Tuesday.  So much to do, so little time.

I hope you'll stop by my shop!

Monday, August 29, 2011

Birthday Balloons Pinsperation

Ahhh...I'm totally lovin' Pinterest. If you haven't tried it, you should really consider it. It is so helpful to keep all of the things I used to "bookmark" organized.

For the first time this year, my school is not allowing birthday treats (desserts) in the classroom. The idea is to promote healthy eating habits and to recognize kids birthdays in the classroom without the connection to food. The new policy is not bothering me a bit, because the kids in our community tend to have a friend birthday party, a birthday party with extended family and a special celebration with their immediate family. That's probably enough cupcakes for the week...but I'm just the teacher. Some of our parents are not too excited, but I'm sure the kids will adjust to the new policy in no time.

This summer, I started thinking about how to help each child in my room have a "happy" birthday without food. I discovered the inspiration to make birthday balloons for my students at Mrs. Randall's Learning Library. She used fancy straws from Target to make a birthday balloon for her students.  They were so adorable that I pinned them. And for once, my Target actually had one of the treasures that another blogger posted about (the straws).

I used my old Sizzix machine and a balloon die cut to cut out the balloons on fancy paper. Here is how they turned out.  I will probably add  a fancy bow to the jar, but that will have to be on the list for tomorrow.

I made one for each of the gals on my 1st grade team too.  You never know when you might need a fancy straw for a girl's night out.

Sunday, August 28, 2011

A Vacation Full of Happy Memories

I'm back (but thanks to my "scheduled" posts...maybe you didn't notice I was gone). Somehow, I let my husband talk me into a 15 day vacation during the two weeks before I have to go back to school. It's official... he was right (this time).  Plus, it turns out that prices were much less expensive in the month of August.  It was so nice to get away and relax with my family one more time before we all start back to school. I do LOVE back to school time, but it is magnified at our house by the fact that we are both teachers.  Luckily, I was able to get my room "almost" ready before I left for the trip.

We started with a trip to Georgia to visit both of my college roomies. I saw a Sonic there...it made me think of many of you. It also cleared up some confusion. I must confess, I thought it was just drink (not a franchise drive in eatery). I honestly though ya'll were buying those drinks at a gas station or something. Good golly, Miss Molly! Turns out we even have a few here in Michigan. Obviously, not in my area of the state.

After our visit to Georgia, we took our kids to Disney (their first time) for a few days. They were so excited! Those few days were packed full of fun, but my favorite part of the Disney visit was how grateful my kids were to be there. They thanked us several times each day and really seemed to understand that we are lucky to be able to take them there.

Marissa and Donavon with Princess Jasmine

The final part of our trip was a cruise to the Bahamas.  We left the island the day before Irene visited, thank goodness.  We met up with friends from New York on the cruise and our families enjoyed 5 days of sun, fun, relaxation and way too much food.

Marissa - Half Moon Cay, Bahamas
Donavon getting dance lessons from his big sister.
My relaxed and happy family!

Now, it's time to get back to business around here.  My first official teacher day is tomorrow, so I'm off to spend a few hours in my room today. 

I will be having a back to school sale at my Teachers Notebook Shop later this week.  I'll post more details about that very soon...

Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Handy Husband Rocks!

I love my handy husband! I've recently taken lots of pictures of my classroom to share on my blog. There were so many pictures that included things my incredibly handy husband made for my room that I decided he needed a post of his own. He doesn't know I'm posting about him...but then I don't need signed consent to post about him, right?

His name is Jeff. He is a teacher too. And...did I mention that he is incredibly handy?

A few years ago, I fell in love with an easel that I saw in the Lakeshore catalog.  Before I could save enough money to buy it, voila!  I had an even better one... on wheels, with storage underneath and inside!

This is my magnetic white board easel.
back view - a place to display pocket charts and peg board in case I want to hang other things
This is the storage space on the inside - excuse the mess.
my paper storage shelf - with my name/school name carved into the top
a bookshelf for my leveled sets to use during small group reading instruction

He made the paper storage shelf after seeing my leaning pile of paper for the kids to use.  When I moved to 1st grade from kindergarten, I really wanted a shelf for my leveled sets.  So, Jeff measured my biggest leveled book and my smallest leveled book and made a shelf perfectly suited to be the home for my leveled readers.
These are just a few of the things he has made for my classroom.  He also makes lots of things for our own kids.  He even made this American Girl doll bed for a former student of mine who is undergoing chemotherapy.

 Honestly, I just love him!
Mr. Handy and our little ones.  We are truly blessed.
Sometimes the other teachers in my building ask if Jeff takes orders.  His answer is always no.  But, I always pass along their compliments.  I am a lucky girl!

Thank you, Jeff!  Cause I know he's probably a secret follower. Ha!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Number of the Day Freebie

A few days ago, I posted a name of the day freebie. Today, I thought I'd share my number of the day recording sheet. I didn't like the one I used in the past, so I revised it. I haven't used it yet, since we have not started school.  But, I still wanted to share it in case it's helpful to someone.

You can click on the picture below if you'd like to download a copy.

Enjoy your day!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Name of the Day Freebie

I've been inspired by my fellow bloggers in the past few months to redo my calendar time routine. I have to confess... in the past it's my least favorite part of the day. I love to do my morning message with my students, but the whole calendar routine... not so much.

There is a kindergarten teacher across the hall from me who has the best morning meeting/calendar routine I have ever seen. It is truly incredible! She is one of my best friends and I've begged her to let my class just sit in on her morning routine every day. For some reason, she just doesn't really want 25 first graders joining her class every morning. So, I probably need to switch it up and make some improvements.

While I'm workin' on that, I thought I'd share part of my routine that I do like. It's the name of the day, which I only do until each child has had a chance to have their name chosen.

Name of the Day
(The children bring their clipboards and a pencil to our meeting area to do this activity.)
1.  Before the students arrive, I put one child's name on the whiteboard using magnetic letters.  The letters are all scrambled up.
2.  When it's time for name of the day, the students try to guess whose name it could be.
3.  When they figure it out, the name of the day student comes up to unscramble the letters.
4.  We cheer the letters as a group.
6.  On a large chart paper, I write the students name (plus their last name).
7.  At the same time, the students write the child's first/last name on the sheet below.
8.  We talk about the sounds of the name.
9.  We circle or highlight any vowels patterns or chunks that we find.
10.  We clap the syllables in both the first name and the last name.
11.  We write the number of syllables in the child's first/last name on the sheet below.
12.  We add them together to count how many syllables all together.
13.  We add the students name to our "Name Wall of Fame".

Here is the recording sheet we use for name of the day.  You can click on the image if you'd like to download a copy.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Don't Ya Wish Your Favorite Book Had Spiral Binding?

Whenever another teacher comes to my room to ask about my "favorite" books for teaching something specific...it's easy for me to find my favorites on my shelves for 2 reasons.

1. They usually have post-it notes stuck all over the pages.

2. They are always spiral bound!

Earlier this spring, when the UPS guy delivered my Math Work Stations book I quickly yanked the box open.  My first words, "I love her!".  I was referring to Mrs. Debbie (AMAZING) Diller who talked her publisher into spiral binding the book for all of us who hate it when books keep flipping closed every time we get interrupted.

To solve that problem with all of my other favorite teaching books, I just take my precious books to Office Max.  After I give the employee the lecture about how much I LOVE the book, how sad I would be if any of the text/pictures were cut off and how poor I am because I'm a teacher... I hand over my book and for just a few dollars ($2 the last time I went)... VOILA!  It's quick, inexpensive and so worth it... plus it makes MY copy of the book easy to spot when someone wants to borrow it.

Here are a few of my spiral bound treasures.

Enjoy your day!

Friday, August 12, 2011

More Classroom Pictures

Like so many of you...I have been a busy girl! Here are more pictures of my room. We don't start school for a few weeks, so I still have time to clean up the piles that I left on a few tables and straighten up the things that are crooked.  My room is a very strange shape (all of the rooms in our building have strange shapes).  I can't even figure out what shape it would be closest too to describe it and mapping it with my kids is just a big fat nightmare... but it's large and I do love it!  You'll notice that I'm not finished with a few bulletin boards or they are just empty because I am saving space for something specific that I want to add with the kids.
The view from my door.
word wall and small group area
writing center - I leave my bins empty for open house (which is before school starts).
reading loft and small table for centers and work stations  (The door to the right leads to another classroom.  The door on the left is the bathroom.)
my desk and there is a student computer area  to the right
The bins on the file cabinet in front of my desk are for finished work and work that needs to be finished.  I call the finished work bin the "Hooray for You" basket.  The other basket is called the "Need to Finish" basket.  Scrapbook paper makes me happy, so I like to put a laminated piece in the bottom of each basket (and on the front of my file cabinets).  I didn't cover the whole front of the filing cabinet (which looks so much cuter) because I was trying to "use what I had".  It looks better than it did before and I'll just use any excuse I can to use mod podge. 

math work station area
reading corner

 daily schedule pocket chart
CAFE menu
Don't ya just love my curtains?  I was a sewing fool this summer.  I made those curtains for above the windows (to replace old faded ones), recovered all of my pillows and made curtains for under my student computer area.  The funniest part... I had fabric left over from the curtains, so I made a skirt.  I know... DORK.  Even my 5 year old son said, "You're not seriously going to wear a skirt that matches your curtains, are you?" But, I just love the fabric (it's actually light weight corduroy) and I knew it was gonna make a super cute skirt. So, yes I am!

I started the calendar area and math board, but it's not finished yet.  I've been inspired by so many ideas from other bloggers this year that I'm totally changin' up the calendar routine/area.  I'm also working on my student work display (also the result of teaching blog addict inspiration).  For now though...I'm headin' out to the pool, while it's still sunny!

Mrs. Patterson from Pocket Full of Kinders is having a classroom pictures linky party.  Please stop by her blog to see other classroom pictures or link up your own pictures!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Memory Jar

I was recently inspired by an idea that I spotted on Pinterest. The original idea is from Inchmark Squarespace.  The idea posted on that site (by a mom) was to record the funny things her kids said by writing them on little slips of paper and putting them in a special jar.  Whenever she needed a laugh, she pulled the little slips back out to enjoy them.

For the past 13 years, I have been keeping a journal of the funny (or just plain outrageous)  things my students say to me.  I reread the pages of the book whenever I need a laugh.  Believe me... it's quite a collection!  The collection of funny things that the mom kept in the jar reminded me of my journal, but it also inspired me to think about how I could use the jar idea in my classroom.

This year, my class is going to have a memory jar (inspired by the jar mentioned above).  My plan is to end each day by choosing a student to add one memory from the day to our jar.  I will have pre-cut strips of paper and I will probably write the memory on the slip myself (with the students name) to add to our jar.

My Class Memory Jar

I always do a memory book of some sort with my students.  The memory book that I use is available at my Teachers Notebook and Tpt shops.  In addition to the memory book, I plan to compile the "memories" from our jar into a list that can be added to each child's memory book.

Here are the 2 versions of the label that I made.  The first set is blue/green (since those are the colors in my classroom).  I made a second set in black/white for anyone who prefers those.  I included labels for grades K - 4.

Enjoy your day!

Welcoming My Student Teacher

I'm so excited to welcome a student teacher into my room this year! And... I'm even more excited after having the chance to spend the past two days working in my room with her. 

A few weeks ago, when I mentioned that I would be working with a student teacher this year, I received a few emails asking questions about the things I do to welcome student teachers to my room. Here are the things that I did this time around...

1. I made sure that I have a special space for her and her things (a desk area).

2. I asked her to bring a notebook (journal) for us to use to communicate with each other. She can write down questions/comments/wishes in the notebook for me to read. I will write down questions/compliments/comments/feedback in the same book for her to read.

3. I also gave Megan a little welcome package. One of the things in the package was another journal. I wrote a note on the first page inside explaining that the purpose of the notebook was for me to glue or write important quotes/paragraphs/articles that I would like her to read during our time together. I remember that being a student teacher can be overwhelming. Rather than handing her 18 of my favorite professional books to read, I will pull certain parts of things that are specific to what we are working on together to share with her. If she is interested or inspired by something, she can always read more from that source.
The journal that I will add "clippings" to during our time together.
4. I am working on  introducing her to the world of teaching blogs and Pinterest. :) Oh how I wish those 2 things were available when I started teaching... but the internet was just gettin started about then. Yep, I'm that old! Ha!

Since our open house is before school starts, Megan will have the opportunity to meet our students and their families before the first day of school.   I know we are going to have a great experience together!

Megan and I worked super hard in the past two days and the room is lookin' good!  I took a ton of pictures.  I will share those over the next couple days.

Thanks for reading!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Back to School Freebie

In Michigan, we don't start school until the Tuesday after Labor Day. Many of my bloggin' buddies are heading back to school this week or next week. So, I thought this was a good time to share a little something from my Back to School Activity pack.

Click on the image above if you'd like to download the freebie.

If you're looking for additional activities for the first few weeks of school, you can check out the rest of my Back to School Activity Pack by visiting my Teachers Notebook shop or my Tpt shop. 

Have a great week!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Personal Reader Folders

Last month, I did a few posts about helping struggling readers.   You can read those posts by clicking on the links at the bottom of this message.  One of the most effective (in my little old opinion) things that  I use with my students is a personal reader folder.  Each student in my room (who is not already reading above grade level at the beginning of the year) has their own personal reader folder.   I select short stories with simple patterned text (that I write myself) to include in each students folder, depending on their individual needs.  During small group time,  students work with their personal reader folders as part of their guided reading time.  It only takes a few minutes of my time with each student, but I've found that it makes a big difference.   Text selection and repetition are the most important factors (again... in my little old opinion) when helping young students to learn to read.  Repetition, repetition, repetition.... and focused text selection are the reasons that I use personal readers with my students.

This is a picture of one of my personal reader folders.

It's just a simple folder on the outside.  If you are interested in finding out more about what is on the inside, I just posted my Personal Reader Sight Word Stories on Teachers Notebook and Tpt.  The product includes 25 stories that reinforce a variety of basic sight words from the dolch list.  I also included detailed instructions for how I use the folders with my students, a log sheet, parent helper/volunteer instructions and a reference sheet for the focus sight words for each story. 

Here are the links to the post about working with struggling readers.  The last one was a linky party that has lots of ideas from other bloggers as well.

My Top 5 Tips for Working With Struggling Readers

Just Right Books

How Do You Help Your Struggling Readers?

Happy Sunday!