Monday, September 1, 2014

Tips for the First Day of School

I started two weeks ago and I know so many start this week, so I thought I'd share a few tips that may help you! :)

Study the Yearbook 

If you don't know all of your students in your new class get your hands on last year's yearbook. What a nice welcome to those who enter your room if you call them by name! They will think you have secret powers or know magic! LOL

Labeled Tubs

When students enter your room they can take out their supplies and place them in labeled bins. I also have two trays for paperwork that was passed out at Meet the Teacher to be returned. This system needs little direction and all of your supplies will already be organized for you!
*If you don't have tubs, use cardboard boxes or label areas on the table.

Have Everything Ready to Go!

Everything has to be at your fingertips that first week, especially that first day of school! (You can't turn your back on them!) On my table I have materials, important paperwork, read alouds, and manipulatives ready to go. When they are finished putting away their school supplies, they can start on their It's All About Me Poster. This poster will be a great getting to know you activity and make for a great hallway display. This will be the "thing" they do if they have any free time for the next couple of days.

Class Procedures

I can't stress the importance of having classroom procedures. This is your chance to set up the routines you want for your classroom. You can grab a copy of my Class Procedures (written in a positive format) in my TPT store for FREE. :)
Things to discuss/think about: signals for bathroom, water, broken pencil. What do students do if they complete an assignment early (early finishers)? What materials are they able to use in your classroom? How many books should they have at their desk? Where do they turn in papers (classwork, homework, tests)?

Attention Signal

What are you going to use to get your students' attention? Have a poster/sign or something ready so there's no confusion or forgetting. Some teachers clap and students copy, "give me five", class/class, yes/yes, cute phrases students finish, a bell, chimes...everyone has a favorite, just tell them what it is when you discuss procedures.

Read Alouds


Have those read alouds ready for the first day. I always have a few picture books for lessons and a chapter book in case I have an extra five minutes or need a filler. We can't have any downtime, it must be very structured until we train them! I was so excited to finally compile so many of my reading and writing activities for back to school a few weeks ago. I have used so many of these tried and true activities since my first year teaching! This resource will build community in your classroom starting on day one!! It sparks great discussion and offers wonderful teachable moments. Even if you don't own all of the books for this product, I've included a video link for every book! The meaningful activities are print and go and will make lasting memories! Click here to read more about this pack.

Notice That Great Behavior!


Do you have a reward system in place? Whether it be points, fuzzy poofers, stickers, tickets, marbles, or even a compliment, have something ready to notice ALL THE GREAT things you want to see continued all year with your students. For example, students sharing with each other, complimenting each other, following procedures, participating, waiting their turn, volunteering to help, etc. This is the "honeymoon period" so we need to take advantage of this time so others will copy the behavior you're rewarding.

How Do They Get Home?

Find out IMMEDIATELY how your students get home if you don't already know. If you don't do it right away, you may forget with the craziness of the first day! This will also give you time to call home during your lunch or planning if your students don't know how they are going home. Use your class list to write their mode of transportation next to their name if you don't have a form. The first day of school is when most students end up at the wrong location for after school dismissal.
I hope you can use at least one of these tips, sometimes it's hard to remember everything that first day! Even as teachers we get nervous! Good luck if you haven't started school!
Here's to a GREAT school year!

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Saturday, August 30, 2014

Spark Student Motivation: Marshmallow Challenge

Happy Three Day Weekend!!!
The Marshmallow Challenge is an exercise to promote collaboration and creativity created by Tom Wujec among business people. 

 (This video is for the facilitator, not the participants.)
Businesses aren't the only people we want to learn team building skills! What a great activity for your classroom to promote creativity, collaboration, and cooperation!
Students have to work as a group to build the tallest free standing tower in 18 minutes. Each group receives 20 sticks of spaghetti, a yard of masking tape, (they call for a yard of string, but I didn't use it), and one large marshmallow. They can tear the tape and break the spaghetti, but the marshmallow has to be on the top of their structure. More directions here.
Before we started our challenge, we discussed ways to work together in our groups. It's important to pose questions and possible solutions to situations that may occur with your students before they get started.
What if you don't like someone's idea?
What if one of your group members is bossing everyone around?
What do you do when someone isn't participating?
What is the plan if two members of your group aren't getting along?
After discussing positive group talk and actions, groups brainstormed ideas of how to build their tower. I overheard a lot of great plans for their design. 
Of the five groups, three had a free standing tower. They quickly realized how difficult this task was because of the weight of the marshmallow.
I made sure groups knew this was for fun and not for a prize, so they wouldn't be stressed. We've been studying the scientific process, so this activity was perfect for "testing" ideas.
 This group had the tallest tower. I happened to catch a shot of one of their members explaining they should have a triangle as the base. (She was right, it was a great support for the foundation.)
After time was up and students were able to look around at other groups' structures, we came back for a discussion. Just as important to discuss possible problems that could occur, is the importance of what worked or went well with their groups. This spreads ideas and positivity throughout my classroom. Some things that were shared:

Our group wanted to have fun and we weren't upset when our tower fell.
We each helped each other.
We listened to every person's ideas.
Everyone worked together, no one was the "boss".
They reflected on their learning and cooperation skills, this will set the tone for future group work in our classroom. I love when they give credit to each other. "It was ___'s idea to try this."  "____ made us feel better when our tower collapsed."

If you have an extra 25-30 minutes in your week, this is a great activity to motivate your students to collaborate, be creative, and work as a team! So, for a of couple dollars you and your students will learn so much about each other and the importance of working as a team!


I hope you had a wonderful week! Please link up any lessons, ideas, tips, tricks, incentives, ANYTHING you do get your students motivated or excited!
Don't forget to grab my button and link back to this post!
Check out all the wonderful ideas from my friends who link up and don't forget to leave some love by commenting....we LOVE comments!
***Please include the topic in the link up with your blog name.

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Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Why'd I Buy It? Things For the Teacher and Editable Name Tags

One of my BBBs AMC started a new linky party Why'd I Buy It and I think it will be very beneficial for teachers to find out about some great resources from reliable reviewers who use these items in our classrooms!

First up is the phone charger-I bought this when I went to Vegas since I knew I wouldn't be able to charge my phone during the day. I purchased it on Amazon and it received mostly good reviews, but I knew I needed something fast before I left, so I ordered it with my Prime membership hoping I'd be happy with this purchase. Well...I was very happy with it! It's a very small charger (lipstick-size) that fits in your purse, it's only $20, and it's pink! :) My phone drained so quickly when I was in Vegas, but I always was able to use my back up charger right in my purse! I definitely recommend this purchase!

Next up was just for fun...aren't these bright nail polishes so fun?
Guess what? They're even more fun because they're highlighters!!! I can't wait to bring one of these to a faculty meeting! Everyone will think I'm going to paint my nails-LOL!
Last is my favorite...if you follow my blog, you know I love black & white with bright colors. I love using pocket charts, but that blue just doesn't match my d├ęcor. A couple of years ago I tried to dye one of my blue pocket charts, that was an epic fail. Then last year, I decorated it with some black and white chevron ribbon to give it a little decorative touch. Now, finally, Scholastic got smart and read blogs and Pinterest posts everywhere of how teachers have tried to change the color of their pocket charts and they now sell BLACK POCKET CHARTS!!!
Can you hear me squealing in Florida?
My friend Amber told me right away since she knew I'd been wanting one! They're regularly $19.99, but they're on sale for $13.99-I got two for my classroom. It's the small things that make us happy! :)
Thanks Scholastic for hearing us!
I made some name tags for my classroom to match my theme. I had several inquiries about the pictures on my blog since you can see the name tags in the background, so I decided to list them in my TPT Store. I've offered several versions (editable, color, black & white). Click here if you're interested. I like how clean and crisp they look and my students have referred to them several times already during math! A win-win!
Hope you're having a super week! Two more days and then a long weekend!
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Spark Student Motivation: Share the Light!

I finished my FIRST week of school! My students are awesome, but I forget every year how exhausting that first week is! I think it's because we're still so tired from setting up the week before!

My post today will cover two aspects of motivation (for my students to learn about giving and others to get excited about reading). 
You know I'm ALL ABOUT Flashlight Friday! I've posted it about it here and here!
 Well, I wanted to share the light with some other members of our reading community!
 We walked in and surprised these students! My students showed them how to use their new reading tools!
 This little guy couldn't wait to hang that sign outside his classroom door!
 One of my students leaves for the reading block and I wanted him to experience Flashlight Friday each week too, so we brought it to his class! They couldn't wait to grab a book off the shelf! One boy said, "So we turn off the lights and shine the light on the words?" Then he raced to grab a book and said, "YES!!!!" He whipped that book open so fast! (I kind of felt like Santa Claus!) :)
 I love how excited some students who probably hate reading were just because of a little flashlight!
We spread so much more than light today!

At the end of the day we received this email:
 I'm so glad this teacher and his students liked it so much! Warms my heart!

It's never too early to start community service and doing good deeds! There were so many happy faces today! I hope these faces and lights shine all year while reading!

I hope you had a wonderful week! Please link up any lessons, ideas, tips, tricks, incentives, ANYTHING you do get your students motivated or excited!
Don't forget to grab my button and link back to this post!
Check out all the wonderful ideas from my friends who link up and don't forget to leave some love by commenting....we LOVE comments!
***Please include the topic in the link up with your blog name.

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Saturday, August 16, 2014

Spark Student Motivation: Meet the Teacher

Well, it's official! We've met our new students and school starts Monday!
Even on my 18th year I still get so excited and nervous!
 I like to make Meet the Teacher an exciting event for my new students and teachers. It's their first impression and I know their nervous about coming to their new classroom.
I had a great turnout, 20/21 students came to meet their new teacher!
The first thing I do is set up a welcome board outside my classroom to make them excited and feel welcomed! 
 Yes, those are twinkling lights! :) (They're battery-operated poster lights). I glued large rhinestones to make push pins for my board and glued rhinestones on their names too. The corner accent pieces (LOVE) are actually candle rings from the wedding section of Hobby Lobby...aren't they fantastic??!!
I had a little Welcome Back display when they entered the room to make everyone who entered excited about our new school year next to the sign in table.
 The favorites were definitely the waxed paper wrapped erasers and welcome back water bottles!
I'll save the pencil cake and other glassware to use each year. I think it would make a perfect display for open house too!
 Each desk had a scan to win ticket too! Have to get them excited before we start! (Each scan to win ticket was the same, a homework pass). I like to give them a "get out of jail free card" before we start in case they forget their homework. I know it takes time to get back in the routine.
I give parents my business card with contact information. I want there to be open lines of communication all year long. It takes everyone to make a successful year!
I also have parents complete a student information sheet with everything I need to know at my fingertips!  (Email, allergies, work place, siblings, etc.) Grab it here free!
I also have my parents fill out a simple parent questionnaire about their child: what would you like me to know about your child, how does your child spend their free time, and what are your goals/expectations for your child this year. This form is invaluable, it gives me so much information about my new students and parents.
 My nametags aren't taped down to the desk, after I meet everyone I'll make my final decision. I've blogged before about my sticky note seating arrangement. I write all my students' name on post-its (pink and blue for a quick visual) one time and I can use this template all year! I don't have to rewrite them each time I want to change desks. I like not taping my nametags down to the desks until after meeting my new students because I learn a lot in that few minutes: if they wear glasses, if they're shy, if they're talkative, strengths, weaknesses, etc. I try to group my students so we can have a successful start! (I may have to change them again after day one, we'll see how Monday goes!)

 I hope you can use some of these tips to get your students and parents motivated for back to school! 

I hope you had a wonderful week! Please link up any lessons, ideas, tips, tricks, incentives, ANYTHING you do get your students motivated or excited!
Don't forget to grab my button and link back to this post!
Check out all the wonderful ideas from my friends who link up and don't forget to leave some love by commenting....we LOVE comments!
***Please include the topic in the link up with your blog name.

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Monday, August 11, 2014

Monday Made It: Back to School Gifts, Reading Cart, New Product

It's Monday Made It with my friend Tara! (I'm back to school today, students return next Monday).
I made some goodies for my teammates to get them excited about being back to school!
I got this adorable idea from Around the Kampfire. Now, let me just's not that easy finding Chevron composition books! After scouring all the office supply stores, I found them at Walgreen's (well, I had to go to three different ones to get enough!).
 I think our meetings will be more fun with these notebooks! :) I only have 4 teammates, but I have to make them for my children's teachers and a few close friends!
I also made them these teacher goodie bags! These bags included pens, whiteout, highlighters, pencils, post-its, and post-it labels. I like to spoil my teammates and friends and get them excited about their summer ending!
We have an AMAZING office staff at our school. I made these personalized hand sanitizer bottles.
This is just a transparency placed inside the bottle! Print whatever you'd like on a transparency (laser printer), cut it out, roll it and place in the bottle. I used an orangewood stick to position it.
Tie a cute ribbon around it. Voila!

Are you ready to see the ultimate guided reading cart??!! I can't even tell you how excited I am about this project!! As soon as I saw this cart I fell in love with it! Let me tell you about this beauty! It's on wheels, the drawers are white plastic, so it can hide clutter if it's not organized, the drawers come out of both side so you can use it a tub, AND the bottom drawer can hold hanging file folders!!!
Do you have goose bumps, are you salivating, are you already in your car driving to go get one?? LOL!
I used full size labels to decorate the front of my cart.
The second drawer holds our Reading Response Menus.
And the bottom drawer will be used to hold my Guided Reading With Post-Its Binder, lesson plans, graphic organizers, Scholastic News, and incomplete group work.

This cart is going to be such a wonderful addition to my classroom! It will keep me organized and all my materials at my fingertips! It's made by Hefty and I bought it at Target (not sure if other retailers carry it or not).
My last Made It is my most recent product: Back to School Reading & Writing: Activities to Build Community in Your Classroom. This summer I finally compiled all the activities and mentor texts I use with my class at the beginning of every school year. This is one of my favorite times of the year when we get to bond and form our class family. I love the discussions these books bring to our classroom. These texts and activities will be remembered all year! I've selected popular books that can be found in most media centers or local libraries, but I've also included SafeShare video links to all of the books to listen/watch online! I'd like to give at least one away!
Pin either image of my product, copy & paste the URL in the comments, and include your email address so I can send you the prize!
I will giveaway one pack for every ten comments made! Winner will be notified Wednesday.
Be sure to check out all the other fabulous ideas linked up to Fourth Grade Frolics!

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