Sunday, August 28, 2011

Back to School: The Pledge Sash

As we get back toschool, teaching proper way to say the Pledge of Allegiance is a major task. We created this pledge sash for kids to wear to help them determine which hand to raise.  The sash has a heart die cut with a hand die cut on top (hand over your heart).  We placed the words to the pledge below the hand & heart. Since deaf students are in my classroom too, we learned to say the pledge in sign language as well.

Here is a picture of the Pledge sash:
And the sash in use:

Hope this helps.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Back to School: Who Am I?

Well, we are back in school and I am so excited about the activities that we are doing this year.  First off, we worked on a project called "Who Am I?"  This was a two day project that is cute when completed.

First day: We created our faces.  I die cut the head using the back of a earth shaped die cut book.  It is great because it makes it look like the head has a neck.  I also die cut hands.  They glued these on to 18x24 construction paper. Then they glued on google eyes, a button nose, and gift wrap shreds for hair (yes I let them have blue hair).  They colored in a mouth and painted their nails.

Second day: We worked on the "Who Am I?" sentence frame. We worked through the sentences filling in the blanks together.  Then we glued it to the paper.  Then we cut around the person and riddle.  Here are some examples below.

Hope you like it.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Classroom Theme-Robot/Outer Space: Hallway Display - We Rock-It!

This year my theme is Robots & Outer Space.  I set up the hallway wall at the beginning of the year and leave it up all year.  It doesn't change.  Only the work. This year I bought this bulletin board set by Carson Dellosa.

Underneath I hang the kids' display boards which stay up all year.  They are made with blue 18x24 construction paper (that I cut in half to create 9x12 paper),  attached stars from the bb kit, and laminate.  Their name & pictures will go in the stars.  A sticky clip holds papers in place and  Presto! A display board that last all year.  The work is easy to change out. 

Here is the final product!

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Classroom Management: Rules

I have 5 simple classroom rules.

1. Follow directions quickly. 
2. Listen with your eyes and ears.
3. Work quietly without disturbing others.
4. Use kind words and actions.
5. Work and play safely.

I introduce these the first day with hand motions.  For example:
Follow directions quickly - I use a wave motion with my hands. 
Listen with your eyes and ears - I cup my ear and point to my eyes.
Work quietly - I put my finger in front of my lips like I am shushing someone.
Use kind words and actions - I trace a heart on my chest.
Work and play safely - I place my hand out like stop and then over my eyebrows like look (I actually say stop, look, think).

The good thing about hand motion is I can silently redirect a student with the hand motions.

Make sure to repeat several times a day in the first few weeks.  Then review after longer breaks or whenever kiddos are getting lax.

What are your rules? How do you teach them?

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Technology Tips: Easy Website

Recently, a friend introduced me to Wix (  I spent one night and got my new classroom website done.  Check out my website here.  There is even an embed code on the website to link to whatever program your district uses.  I highly recommend you hop on over to Wix and give it a try.  Hope this helps!

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Classroom Management: Visual Think Sheet

Working with first graders, I have had my share of students who need to think about their behavior but can't read many of the time out sheets out there or they can't generate ideas.  One year the behavior specialist in our district shared this think sheet with me and I have used it ever since.  Whenever a child acts out and loses control, they go to a cool off area.  After they have regained control and can talk, we complete the sheet together and discuss alternatives.  It is good to document your student conferences for RTI and parent conferences. Hope it helps!

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Back To School: Parent Letter to the Teacher (FREEBIES)

Every year, I have parents write a letter to me telling me about their child.  I get a lot of information from their file and previous teacher but parent letters are very revealing.  They tell me how they view their child, what I can expect from the parent regarding their child, how involved they are (letters that don't come back-very telling), and of course all about the child.  I pull these out before parent conferences and during RTI meetings.  So much information and it takes so little time on my part.  I have attached a copy of the letter below. Print it out on nice stationary, sign it, and reap the information rewards.  Hope it helps!

Friday, August 5, 2011

Classroom Management: Rewards (FREEBIES)

In years past, I created a leveled rewards system where children earned tickets or money and spent it each Friday for rewards.  My rewards were leveled to prevent boredom - first 10 tickets eraser, second 10 tickets (20) pencil, etc.  This took a long time for each child to bring their money, me to count it, and then having to track what level they were on.  Also, stealing tickets or trading tickets (bullying to get others tickets- give me 2 tickets to play with you at recess!) became a problem more recently.

Well, First Grader...At Last! posted this entry titled best beehavior catalog and that got me rethinking my reward system.  This year, I wanted to go with free rewards children would like but that didn't cost me anything in time or money and a way to earn rewards that couldn't be easily transferred to others who didn't deserve it. I incorporated several of the rewards I used to have plus some new ones Mrs. Cooley suggested.

Each child will get an Earn and Return punch card ( you can order from Really Good Stuff, but I am using one I found on someone's blog and now I can't figure out whose.)    Children will earn punches for compliments received, staying on green, moving up the behavior chart, random acts of kindness, anything you want to reward. I am using an old punch from my scrapbooking days (I don't have the patience- I prefer shutterfly).

When they have filled up their cards, then they choose what they want.  I have attached envelopes to the posters with matching coupons inside.  I take out a coupon staple to their earn and return card and put in their take home folder - so parents know what reward they have earned the next day.  Give the child a new earn and return card and your done.

Here is a picture of the rewards door.

That's all!  So much easier than spending all that time and money on rewards.

Here are the posters that I created.  You could put these in a folder for kids to peruse but I think having them up inside a closet door to access when you need it allows for more children to see what they want, hence get done faster. 

Here are the matching coupons.

Other reward ideas that I decided not use this year - Spelling Test Vacation (no spelling test that week), Homework Vacation (no homework that week). I had 2 parents complain about these so I decided not to offer it.  Also requires less tracking for me - on why didn't they turn in homework or document why they didn't take a spelling test.  Remember my motto - Keep it Simple!

Hope this helps!

The Organized Teacher: Regular Routines (FREEBIES)

I have spent my early mornings, afternoons, and many a nights working on the never ending to do list.  To often I found myself, on Friday night, still at work at 6pm.  A few years ago, I came across the Flylady website on managing a household and decided to apply some of those principles to school.  My Regular Routines is what I came up with. I have this typed up by day on 1 sheet of paper, laminated and taped to the front pocket of my to do list holder. I use a Vis-a-Vis to cross off the weekly and monthly areas.  It can be removed with wipes easily but doesn't rub off during normal wear on a daily basis.

Establish Daily Routines.  For me, this meant what I need to do in the morning after eating my breakfast taco at my desk before the bell rings and students walk in the door and what I need to wrap up at the end of the day.
  • Morning Routine
    • Check mailbox
    • Login to computer
    • Eat Breakfast Taco - how many times has my taco gotten cold because I got caught up in something the minute I walked in the door
    • Turn on TV for morning announcements
    • Look at lesson plans and to do list (while I eat my taco)
    • Check e-mail/voice mail and add to to do list
    • Turn on music, read affirmations, smile, open door (sometimes you need to remind yourself why you teach and how valuable you really are)
  • Conference Routine
    • Go to Bathroom - Don't laugh! If it isn't written down, I will not go.
    • Refill water bottle.
    • Check mailbox
    • Work on weekly routine stuff - see below
    • Work on to do list
  • Wrap Up Routine: after kids are dismissed
    • Check mailbox- trash, read, or write on to do list
    • Change date, schedule cards, center boards
    • Write morning assignment on board
    • Clean up hot spot
    • Arrange any papers to be graded - Grade
    • Work on remaining weekly routine stuff - see below
    • Work on monthly routine stuff - see below
    • Review to do list
    • Leave no later than 1 hour after the school bell rings - for me that is 4:00, on Friday leave no later than 3:15 - Your family deserves your time too!
A hot spot is any place that tends be your clutter area that needs frequent cleaning.  For me that is the top of the mailboxes.  They are right as I walk in the door and I tend to put everything down there and walk away.

Establish Weekly Routines. Things that are important and need to be done regularly but that you can spread out to do on a specific day each week.
  • Monday
    • Plan Reading Language Arts next week. add materials to prepare to loading dock - a space for me to place everything needing to be copied or cut or whatever. 
    • After School Meeting Day- Faculty meetings, planning meetings, committee meetings, etc.
  • Tuesday
    • Plan math for next week. Add materials to loading dock.
    • Team Meeting Day - During conference
  • Wednesday
    • Plan Science/Social Studies for next week Add materials to loading dock.
    • Attendance Review - add to attendance roster, file excuse notes-tardy slips, send home missing note letters, etc.
  • Thursday
    • Plan/Prep centers for next week. Add materials to loading dock.
    • Curriculum Meeting Day-during conference
    • Work on team leader/committee stuff
  • Friday
    • Work on loading dock - Now to be honest - we have parent volunteers who will prepare a lot of this for us on Friday while I work
    • File curriculum back in binders
    • Update RTI files - any data on interventions being provided (usually only takes me 5-10 minutes)
    • update hallway work display
    • students organize their desk
Establish Monthly Routines. - Spend 15 minutes max working on these areas. Fly lady says set a timer.
  • Week 1: Clean/Organize Desk Area -
  • Week 2: Clean/Organize Small Group table
  • Week 3: Plan upcoming seasonal activities - nothing worse than being the teacher who forgotten to do cutesy for Christmas or Valentine's Day.
  • Week 4: Clean/Organize Center areas
  • Week 5: Clean/Organize Large group teaching area
Here is my 1 page copy.

I hope this helps!

The Organized Teacher: My Binder ( FREEBIES)

In the past, I  have used calendars plus separate binders for lesson plans, parent contact info, etc. etc.  After seeing a few posts on binders/organizers, I created my own. This binder will go to all meetings with me. In a 2 inch pink binder, I placed: 
  • Zipper Pocket to hold pen, highlighter, pencil, post-it, lip gloss ( a girl has to look good!), hand sanitizer (a girl has to be careful, too!), tissue (to drop at the feet of a handsome stranger, or wrangle a runny nose)
  • To Do List
  • 8 tab dividers  for these sections:
    • Section 1: Weekly Lesson Plans
    • Section 2: Yearly Calendar - I bought a blank teacher lesson plan book from the $1 section at Target, cut out the pages, entered in the weekly dates, hole punched and viola cheap calendar with LOTS of room to write.
    • Section 3: Year Long Pacing Guide, Reading/Writing Planning Guide and TEKS (Texas Standards)
    • Section 4: Student Assessment & Data - I will keep TPRI class summary sheets, IRI class summary sheets, RTI data here
    • Section 5: Contact Information - Parent Contact information, School Telephone Log, Parent Conference Logs
    • Section 6: Meeting Records - Agendas & Notes for Team meetings, Team leader meetings, faculty meetings, committee meetings
    • Section 7: Emergency Information - Fire Drill, Tornado Drill, Lockdown Drill, Evacuation procedures. We are required to have these in our teacher binder at all times.
    • Section 8: Blank Paper
Here is the binder labels.

I debated over having student procedures and classroom routines included but I know these.  In the end, I decided to keep this in the substitute binder instead.

I bought this desktop organizer at lakeshore.  The binder fits perfectly in the bottom portion. On top is 5 stand up file holders. I label the pockets Monday-Friday and place materials for each day here. Bulky items have a separate box. It is $39.95 but right now, my lakeshore had it 20% off.

Math Centers

For my math centers, I use B.R.I.T.E. Spots as a management tool.

B centers focus on basic facts - addition, subtraction (multiplication, division in upper grades)
R centers focus on reviewing vocabulary - games like concentration where you match terms to their definitions or words to numerals.
I stands for Individualized Instruction. This is the meet the teacher time or guided math group
T centers focus on technology and tools- like using computer games, listening center math games, calculators, abacus, pattern blocks, etc.
E centers focus on Estimation and Problem Solving. games like focusing on key actions of problems or estimating what is in a jar, using manipulatives to solve word problems, etc.

I have 3 tubs for each letter B,R,T,E (B1, B2, B3, R1, R2, R3, T1,T2,T3, E1,E2,E3) for a total of 12 tubs.  I load these with games and activities. Center groups have 2 children in them.  We have a rotation chart with matching labels next to the center group names.  Since each group goes to only 1 center for the day, the games only have to be changed once every three weeks or more. 

Here are pictures of the BRITE Buckets.