Tuesday, August 30, 2011

First Day Activities

One of my favorite activities for the first day of school is to read The Kissing Hand by Audrey Penn. I found a cute Chester Raccoon printable. I've adapted her puppet as I was inspired by ideas on pinterest.

My plan is to copy the the raccoon printable on gray construction paper. Have students cut the head out and glue it to the top of the 1/2 sheet of text, and glue the tail off to the side. So the "body" of the raccoon is the paper that says ___ went to school and felt ____.

This is just one of the activities I have planned for my Kinders. I'll post more as they become ready.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Last Weekend of Freedom

Oh boy! It's getting closer to the big day - back to work. I guess that means I should enjoy sleeping in until 7am everyday with my baby boy and napping whenever I want, going to spray parks instead of school, and wearing flip flops every day. At least my best friend is back in town and I get to see her and her 2 kiddos and take my son to his friend's birthday party. Anyhow, after another full day of work in the classroom I have more pics of my room. I rearranged a bit *again* as I'm seriously NEVER completely happy with the flow of my room.

I just hope my 29+ Kindergarten students are happy to call this little room their home away from home. I still have another week to work in my room before kis, so I'll finish clearing off a couple of tables, file some books away that another Kindergarten teacher gave me, hang up table signs, and put name tags on the desks, and label cubbies. 

This is the view standing at the door. You see my 2 big tables (10 students each), the round (4 students) and to the right by the white board there's another rectangle table (6 students). Do you see the little white dots on the floor? Those are my line up spots. They have numbers 1-31 and that's where my little ones will line up. With the tables as is it's quite the funny line. 

At the front door looking to the left are my cubbies and storage shelf. Ignore the big green camping pop up tent that I trapped my crawling baby in on a few work-days. What an eye sore. I'm thinking of running a black fabric curtain to cover it. Oh, time and $....
I don't want to show this pic because it's really ugly, but immediately to the right in my class is my sink, counter with homework trays (filled to the brim with folders, homework bags), mini-fridge, microwave, copy box, and coffee pot. Then there's my Title One aid's reading group table aka my art table, assistant's "desk". I have two black crates on my short filing cabinet that hold abc books all copied and ready to go.    I'm making progress...much of the clutter was trashed before I went home.

 Here is my Kelso the frog problem solving wheel. This is my main classroom management - teach students to handle their small problems themselves using Kelso's tips. Notice I changed the green background to purple. The green was just way too dark. The weird line in the paper is because the top half is a bulletin board, the bottom half is a weird chalkboard with a metal divider. I've got my bag of "Lucky Charms" to send home with my "I'm lucky to have you in class" toppers - thanks 1825 for the inspiration. The ones I'm using someone altered slightly from the link and are so cute. 

This is my Daily 5/CAFE board. I've got the 5 choices up that I'll introduce. Thanks to KindersTastic for the darling signs. My CAFE signs for Kindergarten are freebies here.

Next to the CAFE wall is my Number Corner for Math. I've got my calendar, 100's grid, coins, shapes, positional words, clock, and birthdays up. The blank spot is for my missing pocket chart. Hopefully my district can find it before I have kids. I might go back soon and repaper this wall. The green is just too dark for my liking. Ew!

I moved my desk to the corner of my room here so I can just use my rolly chair for my desk and calendar (eliminating extra furniture is a plus - no need for another chair. I moved my guided reading table in front of my desk. It has a mess to put away...sorry. That's my big treasure box on the window and a tub of big books that I don't know where else to put. Oh, I labeled the floor in front of the calendar with number spots ... nobody gets to crawl under the table for their spot.

If you make your way to the right of my reading table you'll find our daily meeting spot. My student mailboxes on the counter, chart pads, easel, and part of the class library that needs to be labeled.

Finally, my library as it is today. I added the pouches on the white board using Command hooks and put more books there so they are facing out and interesting. 

I always end up done on time and pretty happy with my results, but it takes a while. I'll have a lot of little bodies to squeeze into the room, so hopefully we'll make it work. 

I guess I'm ready to get some curriculum books out and start planning! Yikes...it's that time!

Thursday, August 25, 2011


Oh my word...I have to go back to work soon. Can I be both happy and sad at the same time? I really don't want summer to end, but I want to meet my new group.

Well, today is three-for-Thursday...join the linky party at Blog Hoppin'.

I have 2 favorite fonts that you can download free here

My favorite blog is this one - there are tons of awesome free printables.

My favorite online resource is this one I just found: Sparklebox

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Lil' Teacher Talk Tuesday

You teachers are AMAZING out there in blog land - I think I went through almost a whole cartridge of ink last night printing all the awesome freebies and purchases I've made for my class this summer. Thanks!

Now on to Teacher Talk/Advice. If you want to participate head over to Blog Hoppin' to join the linky party.

Tip #1
Assign each student a special number spot (I do it abc order by first name). I use number spots on everything: cubbies, folders, student files, and line up spots. When we line up to leave the room to go to PE, music, library, assemblies, recess or any place that is not determined by choice (like going home/lunch choice), students line up in their number spots. My little friend Abdi was #1 last year, Alina was #2...and so on. At first this was kind of difficult for students to learn to remember where to stand to line up, but I had a list and helped them and soon students remember who is in front/behind them. I could quickly spot missing students who forgot to line up at recess because I'd scan my line and see a "hole" if a child didn't line up. I can sort through my folders quickly or spot missing homework. It really helps during fire drills or any time you need to account for the whole class. And there is a drastic reduction in racing in from recess (pushing and shoving) to line up first or last. When we each have assigned number spots everybody has their own place to go.

Tip #2 
Anything the children can do to help you - let them! I have students count and take the lunch choices down, they file their own papers, self-check assignments, take out homework from their folders and turn it in, ... I admit to babying my students, but when they cut our assistant hours down to roughly 20 minutes per teacher per day!!! I had to figure out how to get all that done without doing it myself. Kids love to help and with training they can do a great job.

Tip #3
Document everything. I mean everything. I've come out on top several times because of this - whether I had a newsletter that explained the day books are due, a homework policy, phone calls, or a behavior tracking log. It's very important to record as close to verbatim things a child may have said, actions, or whatever it is. This makes giving specific feedback so easy whether you're bringing a child up for special ed services, or communicating expectations to parents. Document it!

Tip # 4
I'm on board with the other teachers who use a new-student bin. I use a Rubbermaid Bin sort of like this one. In it I have filled school supply boxes, popsicle sticks for my name jar, folders with welcome to school notes, extra folders for all areas, extra name tags, and anything else that everyone else has. Each year I get several new students so this makes their entry quick and easy.

I can't wait to read everyone's Teacher Talk Tuesday advice. Now jump over to Blog Hoppin' and join in the fun. 

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Meet the Teacher Monday

I'm joining in all the fun for Teacher Week 2011. I'm new to the blogging world so this will be fun. If you want to join in jump to: Blog Hoppin' and check it out.

Tell us a little something about you...

I'm Laura and I'm a new mommy. I live in the beautiful Pacific Northwest and live just south of Portland, OR. I have a baby boy  who has swept me off my feet and a husband who I couldn't live without. My sister is my best friend and she's also a teacher. We spend hours talking shop and comparing the way things go down at our neighboring schools that are in the same school district. It's funny how we can bring such insight to one another. I am extremely close to my mom and we talk at least once or twice a day. My family is awesome and loving. I have the best little brother ever who has a heart of gold. He'll deliver a load of bark dust, let me grow veggies in his huge garden, and so much more. I have definitely been blessed in my life.

How long have you been teaching?

This is my 10th year teaching.  I started out in rural Nevada, in a town called Yerington. I applied at the Portland job fair and was hired over the phone. I dropped everything in Portland, the town I called home and moved there for a teaching job. It was the best experience I could get. The town had a population of 3,500 and it was a slow-paced life - the perfect place for me to get some roots. I taught there for 2 years, then got engaged and moved back to Portland where I've been teaching at a high poverty, high ESL school for the past 7 going on 8 years. I love  the challenges that I have and embrace them with open arms. Not a lot of teachers can have over 8 or 9 languages represented in one class. My kids keep me on my toes.

You might not know...

Hmm... I was inspired to teach by the awesome teachers in and around my life. I moved in next door to my third grade teacher the year I moved to a new school. My teacher Mrs. Loos was so kind and beautiful and I felt so lucky to live right next door to her. It's pretty neat to have such neat memories of my teachers. Now I'm lucky to be doing the job of my dreams and perhaps I can inspire some students to go to college and get a career too.

What are you looking most forward to this school year?

I'm looking forward to focusing my teaching to align with the national common core standards. I don't find it daunting, but rather encouraging. I'm excited to once again teach Kindergarten (I've been teaching 1st the past 4 years). I am excited to meet my students and deepen the relationships I have with some parents of siblings.  

What do you need to improve?

I would like to become more efficient in the time-management category. Last year when I returned to work from my maternity leave I was pumping 4 times a day to keep up with my son's demands and I barely had time to catch my breath between preps. I felt like I was drowning in my data/planning, etc. This year  I hope to use my time wisely so I can get ahead and still be out of the door when teacher-time ends so I can have my sacred family time.

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?

My biggest love is my Elmo Projector /document camera. It's great for all of our group work, interactive games, and stuff.

My next love has go to be my giant roll of packing tape. I use it for everything in my room - attaching name tags, hanging posters, fixing torn books. I use it daily.

Lastly, I love my mini-fridge - it's there when I need a snack, it holds my water bottles and keeps them nice and fresh so I stay hydrated. I also have coffee creamer in there so I don't break the bank going to Starbucks too much. And I get to visit with my co-workers when they want to put something in there.

* * * * *

Classroom Tour Part 2

I got into the classroom today (Sunday) which never happens. Our building is alarmed and locked on weekends, but today the principal came in to do some business and let crazy staff members come join. He loves free labor! I loved having my hubby home to watch our baby so I could go in and get some serious cleaning and organizing going on. I accomplished a ton today in about 4 hours. My first task was to put together my IKEA expedit 5 compartment bookcase. I also prepared pencil boxes, organized my library and tossed a bunch of junk away! I'll tell you what's in the pictures below.

 My school charges a $25 supply fee so teachers go out and buy the supplies they want. Students bring in $$ and then they get their handy-dandy school box. This year I included 2 Ticonderoga pre-sharpened pencils, 24 count Crayola crayons, a pink eraser, glue stick, a fun food shaped eraser from Raymond Geddes, and an "eraser spacer." My Ks will use these to help space between words. They're from Raymond Geddes too and are erasers inside of what looks like a pencil and they have a tiny broom on the other end. One way to get paid for the school supplies (or reimbursed) is to NOT give the pencil boxes out until your students pay. The cool goodies inside make them prized by students so kids nudge their parents to pay that fee. That's way better than being hundreds of dollars out of pocket because kids think they come to school and get free supplies.
 This is the right side of my white board. I rearranged and put my "words we know by heart" word wall here. The other clipart pics are for giving step by step directions. They have sticky putty on the back and I'll move them and use my dry erase pen to label steps.
 Ta-da! Here is my new bookcase! I have stored extra stuff in the boxes. The purple one is my GLAD plants unit. The blue one has extra books, green is Christmas books, yellow is my handwriting books/packets, orange is extra theme books/holidays. On top of that are my book baskets. I've yet to add labels to them. On floor are Dr. Seuss hardbacks and easy leveled readers.
 This corner of my classroom is more of my library. The big bookcase houses 6 compartments of hardback books. There are 2 compartments of oversized soft backed books. I have my phone, lamp, cd player, scentsy and more baskets of books in this corner. I left this bulletin board blank besides my name. I'll post our reading letter of the week, etc. here. I have drawers on the shelf behind this for behavior slips, M-F copies, and there are my curriculum materials.
 Here is a wider shot of this same corner. The green baskets on the bookcase hold books although right now they're empty since I reorganized my library. I love my little red stool.
 My carpet area is bordered by my rolling pocket chart, writing drawers, whiteboards, elmo projector, and my desk.
 Here is my supply area. I have students turn in dull pencils to the school house. I sharpen them and have two cups of pencils ready to use. On the second shelf I have snack food and extra supplies. The bottom shelf (not pictured) holds two bins of toys for indoor recess.
 This tall wooden structure holds my indoor recess toys. In Oregon it rains A LOT, so duty people watch my class in my room and it's up to me to provide toys for them. There are dinosaurs, transformers, a farm and animals, puppets, Barbies, felt boards, babies, and cradle.
 This picture didn't turn out that well, but this shelving unit next to my closet holds my bins of extra manipulatives that come with my math curriculum. The top shelf has supplies like watercolors, yarn, scissors, cupcake papers, markers, etc. The middle shelf has pattern blocks, sea creatures, polydrons, play money, etc. The bottom shelf holds my DRA2 testing kit, reading center binders, and labels. My makeup bag is shoved in the corner for those little touch ups.
 Here is my new (from my sister) set of bins. I have unifix cubes, 3D shapes, baggies of ABC letters, community crayons, and some other goodies here.
 This is my CAFE board just waiting for strategies to post below. My pencil boxes are waiting for my eager little bodies here too.
 I have framed my inspirational art. I don't remember where I got it - someone pinned it on pinterest and I fell in love!
 This is my weird 2 clock wall. Somebody joked that the bottom clock is on bar time. LOL! Really, the main clocks have a hard time resetting with daylight savings time and never catch up, so the small clock is the "backup" clock. This is where I post a picture of the Student of the month. There's a clear sleeve to slide his/her picture in on the laminated paper. The yellow board is where I'm planning to post my teaching objectives or something else...not really sure yet.
 These are my new doggie bins from the Container Store $2.99 on clearance. I've got homework pouches hanging out here for a while, but soon they will be in manila envelopes and there will be folders in the tubs. I'm still not sure how I'm going to organized this better.
This cabinet holds all of my small loose stuff. Qtips, popsicle sticks, velcro, business cards, etc. The baskets of glue will come down soon. I have a superman piggy bank for when we work with coins and they get left out...kids can put them in the bank so they don't get lost.

Ok, that's my room as it is so far. I haven't gotten all the tables cleared off yet, but hey - I'm not officially on the clock yet. Thanks for stopping by!

Shape Name Recognition Cards

I made some shape cards to hang around my calendar. Click here to download the free printable. I wanted ones that were black and white as our school often is out of color ink. The shapes included are: circle, square, rectangle, triangle, hexagon, rhombus, cylinder, cone, cube, and sphere. According to the math common core curriculum standards (besides rhombus) these are the shapes Kindergarteners have to learn.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Did a Bomb Go Off In Here?

The other side of my room has my meeting area/library, word wall, and CAFE board. Above the hearts I put up the sign language alphabet. My new shelf will fit perfectly under the white board.

View of my classroom before I started working. Oh my gosh! Where to start?!!

Today I went into my classroom alone! That means I paid my babysitter to unglue my 10 month old from my knee so I could get some serious work done. As you can see my starting point was a serious mess. I had a ton of curriculum to unpack and sort through since I'm changing grades (from 1st to K) and it was sent from another school. What a zoo to pick through. I'm happy to say that I got all of my math and reading materials put away.

Notice, my bulletin boards above the windows - they're up and ready to go. I have the big ABCs in the middle, colors on the right, and shapes on the left. Those can stay up all year since that bulletin board is so hard to reach - last year it only had the ABC handwriting strip up there.

Now the mess is mostly my personal classroom library. I'm ok with that because I have storage - now that I got my new IKEA shelf. I plan on turning it on it's side and putting my science unit/handwriting book boxes in it. Then I'll put baskets of books on top of it. I'm super excited about it. Then my other IKEA shelf on it's side will hold my classroom library books. I have a vision - you just can't see it quite yet. 

I am proud to say, though after 6 hours in my class I made a huge dent. I inventoried all of the missing pieces of my curriculum and sent a note off to the principal so he can get it for me. I cleaned up my guided reading area, I cleared off my desk, I organized a ton of manipulatives, and I am seriously thinking that I might be ready for school in time. I have 2 more weeks off and start Aug. 29 without kids. So, I have a while to go until I need to be ready. 

Here is what I finished today - notice the lollipop tree on my desk? I had to snag one to keep me going today!

My desk: notice my IKEA sticker sorter (attached with velcro) & my lollipop tree.
This is my Number Corner - it's incomplete, since I'm missing my calendar! Sheesh...minor detail. But I have my supplies ready to go in my IKEA pouch and notice my new blue student mailboxes.
Here is my guided reading table with new seat cushions from IKEA. They mark these chairs as belonging to the reading table - students love to try to snag these for their own and it's not allowed. Now they're clearly marked!

Sunday, August 14, 2011

My Lolllipop Tree for my Sweeties

So I've been blog stalking a bunch of my favorite teachers and when I saw the lollipop tree on Fabulous in First's website I knew I had to make one myself. She explains how it works here. I ran out to get my materials to make my own. I followed the directions from this great tutorial.

Materials needed:
DumDum lollipops (bag of 250) $6.24 at Walmart
Tree base (I upcycled a vase from an edible arrangement)
Red spray paint (I had this from another project)
8" Styrofoam ball (or a substitution as I used...)

I was a little shocked at the sticker price of the materials needed and almost quit this project before I started.  At Joann's craft store styrofoam balls were $14.99 - too much even with my 40% off coupon and teacher discount card, at Michael's they were a dollar less, Walmart had them for $10, but alas that was still too much for me. So I headed off to my local Goodwill. I found a styrofoam wig-model head for $1.99 and was so flipping excited!

Once home, I cleaned the styrofoam and cut the neck off the head and rounded it with a little hacksaw. I forgot to mention that earlier in the day I did a couple of coats or red spray paint on my tree base. So it was nice and dry by the time I got home. Finally I got to work sticking the lollipops in the styrofoam. I found that the foam was so dense that the lollipops I was using started to bend under pressure of me stabbing them in. So, I pulled out a small screwdriver and made the holes with that and then put the lollipops in. This was so much easier. Eventually it was done. I think it looks pretty good. ;-) I plan on going back and putting marker stripes or something on the stems of some of the lollipops so that when they're drawn students get an extra prize out of my treasure box.

Don't you just love how we can borrow ideas from each other and the kids are the ones who benefit? I think it's amazing! Thank you teachers for being such inspirations to me!

My starting materials: Dum Dums, base, styrofoam "ball"

Drilling holes with my screwdriver. I felt a little psycho doing this to the "head," but oh well.

Eventually I made a SWEET mohawk - Sorry, I couldn't resist!

Then I started filling in the blank spots with more candy.

This is the back after  I was done. You can see I ran out of lollipops, boo!!!  It needs about 10 more.

This is the other side - DONE, It has a weird head-shape, but I don't think the kids will care, do you? 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Poem a Week

Well, I'm trying to plan ahead to do a shared reading poem/song each week. I found this awesome site Kindergarten.com that had this huge packet of free printable songs and poems. I take NO credit in being original. I used her poems, some of mine from my poetry book, and updated the graphics. Here is what I have so far. I have stopped around Jan/Feb. I need more time to finish these.My Song Book

Sight Word / Word Work Worksheets

I've been busy gal this evening creating a bunch of sight word worksheets to give my Kindergarten students during Daily 5 word work.

I made a simple template. In the top corner there is a heart that has our sight word that we'll "know by heart." Then there is tracing, writing in letter boxes, and then a cut and paste/unscramble the word section.

These sight words match the Houghton Mifflin Kindergarten list. I added in one or two extra words that I want them to learn. Feel free to share this with anyone who is interested. I'm only posting a few on my blog but you can head to Scribd to download them all for free. There are about 20 posted on my site; and while you're there follow me on Scribd. All my documents are free because I believe that teachers should help teachers.


Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Printable Substitute Report

I have to admit that one of my pet peeves is hearing every detail of what went on (especially with my not-so angelic students) when I am out on a sub day. If I'm out I have already spent a lot of time prepping sub plans and materials, or I'm stressing because I had to call in sick (which I rarely do). So, to make it easy for me to get a quick and dirty run-down of what went on the day I was out - I ask my subs to fill out the Substitute Report at the end of the day and to make notes in the margins of my sub plans. It makes for an easy transition back to work and I am always pleasantly surprised when students are listed as especially helpful. I love being able to give them an extra little reward (sticker or praise) for rising to the top while I was away. I usually print them on fun colored paper and keep them in the back of my lesson plan binder so they're always handy. I attach one to the stapled sub plans I leave. I made this one generic, so you can program in your school/name/grade before you make copies.
Substitute Report

Monday, August 1, 2011

Say Hello to Homework!

This year I'm going to try using a new-to-me homework method for my Kindergarten students. I would like to use homework to help reinforce both reading and math skills. I get tons of requests for homework from parents so I like to meet their needs without sending something home that will become a battle of wills between the child and parent. I wanted something easy for me to pull from instead of scrambling to send a worksheet home. I purchased 4 Drops in the Bucket workbooks. Each was about $15, but I've heard they're really good. They have skills that are practiced every week but with different numbers. I purchased the K/1 levels because I wanted to have challenging work for students - just in case I have some high-fliers who can blow through the Kindergarten work. (I'm not paid to plug them FYI - just got a really good recommendation from my sister to try using them). Also, there are 60 lessons per book so I can do one a week in class, and send one home - that way students will know exactly what to do). Each lesson gets progressively harder. 

Here is a sample of the math: It has pictures to cross out or circle. This is good beginning counting/number recognition. Then the next section is patterning. After that it's number sequences - (it's not always the last number either). Then there are pictures to count and match to the number. There are addition and subtraction problems. At the end of each Kindergarten lesson there are 5 sequencing pictures to cut and paste. 

The image below is a sample of the reading homework. The sections are: differences, rhymes, beginning sound, capitals, and trace/copy shape.                                                                        

I plan on sending my students home with a little homework pouch like these that have a glue stick, pencil and pair of scissors in it. That way they'll be able to complete the work with no-excuses. My students are very diverse - so keeping the same format each week for homework will help lower confusion with the language barrier. I might have to play with the copier to shrink down the reading page so I can have it copied back to back with the math page (but I don't want the cut and paste section to cut off any of the reading. I'll see what I can do. I'm thinking of running the math on the back of our school's reading log.

Normally I send home homework Monday and have it returned on Friday, but I might try what my sister does in her third grade class: send homework home Friday and have it returned the following Friday allowing a whole week.