Sunday, August 23, 2015

Perfect Partner Pairs

If you spend a day in my classroom, you will see a lot of partner discussions. 
Working in partners allows students to become much more engaged in your lessons.  Even in small groups, it's sometimes easy for a quiet student to "hide" in the crowd.  With partners, each student is much more likely to participate.  For an introverted child, a partnership is also much less intimidating than a whole group or a small group.  I also find that partnerships allow for students to work on their listening skills.  I often have a student report on what their partner told them.
My favorite way to have students get their partners for the day, is to have them find their pairs by matching skill cards.
 Every morning, I place a card on the corner of my student's desks.  Before Morning Meeting, the students walk around the room without talking, and find their partner for the day.
 The skill cards change each day to keep it interesting.
Once my students have their partners for the day, (or week if you want them to keep the same partners for an extended period of time) they have a seat on the carpet, and I collect the cards to use again another time.
My students sit by their partners on the carpet, so they can have directed discussions throughout our learning.  I may have them turn to their partner and tell each other what they did last night, or have them tell their partner the answer to a question before I call on someone.  This keeps everyone involved, and not just those couple of students that always have their hands up ready to answer.
The other day, we were practicing CVC words.  I had partners write the words on each others backs with their fingers before calling on someone to write it on our easel.
The students loved this, and it kept them all engaged during our lesson.
I created this Perfect Partner Pairs packet, which includes 40 sets of partner cards.
{Just click on the picture above to check out this packet.}
I will be printing these on different colors of paper, laminating them, and then placing rubber bands around each set.  Every morning, I can just grab a set, and we can have partners for the day.
How do you use partners in your classroom?

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Reading Excitement with The Book With No Pictures

If you do not own The Book with No Pictures, get it now.  Seriously!  Your students will LOVE it!!!
I read this book to my class on Thursday, and of course, they thought it was so hilarious!  After we read it, we decided that we needed to "play a trick" on our principal, and have her read the book. 
We wrote a letter together as a class.

When I delivered the letter to her, I cannot even begin to tell you how excited my students were.  (I also gave her the book to preview, but my students did not know that.)  She came in today to read the book, and the children could not even contain themselves.
They were laughing SO hard, and giggling at the "trick" they played.  The pure joy of a good book was priceless.
I can pretty much guarantee that this book will be a new classroom favorite!

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Saturday, August 15, 2015

Our First Week of School

We just finished our first week of school.  To say I'm exhausted would be an understatement, but it was, seriously, a GREAT week!  I have the sweetest group of 1st graders! 
I wanted to share some of the things that we worked on this week, but I will warn you that this post may be a little random.  I think my brain is a little fried right now ;)
Here are my girls and I before heading off to school on Tuesday morning. 
I LOVE that I teach in the same school that my own children attend.  It's been really easy having just my oldest with me after school, but having two every afternoon definitely has its challenges.  I'm hoping that they were just really tired this week, and they won't get on each other's nerves so quickly next week.
My middle started Kindergarten this year :(  Time just flies by, and I cannot believe she is old enough for school already!  I use this frame with my 1st graders, but I made a "cover-up" with Kindergarten on it back when my oldest started kindergarten.
I use this to take pictures of each of my students on the first day of school.  I print these off at Walmart, and then send them in the mail to the parents with a personalized letter. 
#1 Teaching Tip: Always make the first contact a positive one!
One the first day, I share a bag with 5 items that tell about me.  Then, I send home a bag with each student for them to share the next day.
This is always a popular activity, and the students love sharing about themselves.
I loved this idea from Sunny Days in Second Grade to give each child a tub of Play Doh.  The students have to make something with the Play Doh to tell about themselves.  Such a simple, but fun idea!
She likes lollipops, and her favorite movie character is Olaf.
The one above loves cinnamon rolls.
Another really fun, and easy icebreaker activity is Name Snowball Fight.  I had each of the students write their own names on a strip of paper.
 Then, they crumbled their paper into a snowball.
 We stood in a circle, and threw our snowballs onto the ground in the middle.  Then, students each grabbed a snowball, opened up the paper, and tried to read the name.  I went around the circle and had the students read the name, and then point to that child.
They LOVED this!!!
We also worked on a craft for our bulletin board in the hallway.  Our school mascot is a lion, so I printed off my students pictures, and cut out their faces.  I glued the faces onto yellow or orange construction paper circles.  I gave each student strips of yellow and orange paper, and had them wrap the strips around a pencil to curl them.
Then, the students glued the strips onto their circles all the way around their faces to make themselves look like lions.
I drew lion noses and whiskers on their pictures with a black marker.  They turned out really cute!
We also completed our Back to School Flip Books and our First Day of School booklets.
 Of course, we also made time for some GoNoodle Brain Breaks!
Like I said...RANDOM POST!  Let's add to the randomness and throw in a Nut Allergy sign.  It seems like I have a student with a tree nut or peanut allergy almost every year, so I always like to post something to let others know that we are a nut free room.  You can download this sign (along with other choices) by clicking on the picture below.
Thanks for sticking with me through that crazy post ;) 
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Friday, August 7, 2015

Tips for New Teachers...and Maybe Even Veteran Teachers

I will begin my 14th year of teaching on Monday.  I can't even believe that I have been teaching for that long...especially since I'm only 29.  Ha!  Don't do that math or you will figure out that maybe I'm not being so truthful about my age ;)
No matter how long I have taught, I still get butterflies in my stomach before the first day.  I don't sleep for weeks prior to school starting, and when I do, the "back to school nightmares" appear.  Do you have those?  (The common themes include: I walk in my room the first day, and realize that I didn't set up my room at all.  My class won't stop talking, and nothing I am doing will get them to listen to me.  I am switched grade levels, and I don't know until the first day.  All of my students walk in, and I have absolutely nothing for them to do on the first day.)
The other night, during one of my restless nights, I was thinking about tips for new teachers. 
But, in all honesty, I really think these are tips for ALL teachers! 
When I started teaching, there weren't any teaching blogs and there was no Pinterest.  Even though I LOVE these resources, I have to say, it can be very overwhelming.  You see all of these ideas, and you think you need to try them all.  You think that you need to implement all of these new teaching ideas, make the best bulletin boards, color coordinate every item in your classroom, and so on.  It is impossible to do it all!  In the words of Cara Carroll, blogs are the "highlight reels." 
This quote by David Allen is one of my favorite reminders.
Do not try to do it all!  You will just stress yourself out.  Definitely try new things, but it is impossible to do everything!  Even after teaching 1st grade for many years, there are things I change, add, or delete every single year. 
This one is super important!  If you are surrounding yourself with people that are complaining about their job every single day, it gets depressing.  We all understand that not every day is going to be great. 
Many days may be far from it.  But, if you are surrounded by positive people, it sure helps to brighten your day.  Negativity sucks the life out of you.  If you don't follow Miss May of Onefab_Teacher on Instagram, you should.  Her positivity is contagious!
Your colleagues have SO much to offer!  If something is not working for you, ask others for ideas!  Maybe you aren't feeling comfortable teaching a particular type of writing, or you are looking for new ways to manage a difficult child.  Every single person in your building is a resource!
This is one that I have to constantly remind myself to do.  Once school starts, I get sucked in.  I can quickly find myself spending every waking minute (and the ones that I should be sleeping) working and thinking about school.  This is not healthy.  The evenings always seem to fly by with running the kids back and forth for extracurricular activities, homework, fixing dinner, putting the kids to bed, and so on.  I try to make it a priority to exercise.  This is my "me" time.  Find time to do something that you enjoy.  I love teaching, and I love creating teaching materials, but I know that I also need time to think about other things.
Try to remember the reasons why you became a teacher.  Teaching is HARD!!  The pay is low.  The responsibility is high.  So many people are leaving the teaching field, or not going into it at all.  It's a challenging time to be in education. 
Teaching is not all unicorns and rainbows.  On those hard days, remember why you became a teacher.  If it was to get your summers off, and work from 8-3, you will realize that this is not the profession for you.  Because we all know....that is the biggest misconception about teachers.  Good teachers work hard, and long hours.  We don't just leave our jobs at the end of the day.  Our work, whether physically or mentally, always comes home with us.
However, if it's your passion, it's worth it! 
I truly hope that you have a wonderful school year!  Love your students, and love your role as an educator.  
Here's to the best school year yet!

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Sunday, August 2, 2015

Welcome Back to School Letters with a Technology Twist

Do you send Welcome Back to School letters to your students before school starts?  The past two years, we have been able to put a letter to our students in the envelope that gets mailed out the week before school starts.  I LOVE taking this opportunity to welcome my students to my classroom!  As a parent, I also love it.  My two girls are anxiously awaiting their letters, which should be in our mailbox tomorrow ;)
This year I wanted to add something special, and give it a technology twist.
I shared this idea in my "Building Classroom Community Right from the Start" session at I Teach 1st this summer, and I wanted to share it here on the blog as well.
Have you heard of QR codes?  I'm sure you have seen them around because they are on almost everything now.  I decided to add a QR code to my Welcome Back letter.  The QR code is linked to a recording of me reading the letter to my new students.
Go ahead...try it out.  If you do not have a QR reader on your phone, you can download a free one in your app store.
So, want to make one for yourself?
1.  Download the AudioBoom app, and create an account.
2. Record yourself.
3.  Go to and login to your account.  You will find your recording.  Click on the "QR Code" tab.
4.  Download the QR code and save it to your computer.
5.  Insert the QR code into your letter.  Done!
 If you would like to download my template from my letter, click HERE.  I have placed text boxes on the pages for you to type into, but you can delete the text boxes, move them around, or add new ones.
I love that this gives my students an opportunity to learn a little more about me as well as hear my voice.  It's all about establishing those relationships with your students right from the start.

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Saturday, August 1, 2015

EDITABLE Homework Menus for the ENTIRE Year

I have a love/hate relationship with homework.  As a teacher, I want the parents to know what we are working on in school.  As a parent, it's a little more complicated.  I want to know what my child is working on in school, and how she is doing.  However, I DO NOT want to spend my entire evening working on homework!  We are busy, as most families are.  We have something going on (gymnastics, dance, soccer, ...) almost every night of the week during the school year.
With this in mind, I wanted to try something new for this coming school year.  I am going to be sending home a weekly homework menu with activities that review what we are working on in class.  These menus will give the students choice as to what activities they would like to complete for the week.  It also gives them the entire week to work on it.  So, if they have basketball practice on Monday and Wednesday, they can plan to do their homework for the week on Tuesday evenings.
This project has been in the works ALL summer, and I am beyond thrilled to have it finished!  I knew that I wanted to make it editable because as much as I like to plan out the year, I have to be flexible.  I may need to change out some of the activities to fit our needs.  I also knew that it was important to make it editable for YOU!  Your curriculum may be different than mine.
I will be placing these in a homework folder along with a notebook.  The students will take these home on Monday, and will not have to return them until Friday.
I also included a monthly homework option, if that is something that would work better for you.
In this packet, you will find a zipped folder with two separate files.  The first one is a secured PDF where I have typed in all of the boxes.  I have monthly calendars, as well as two different weekly calendar options for the entire year.
The second file is an editable file.  You will be able to type into each of the boxes to make this packet work for you.
If you'd like to check this out, click on the image below.

Now, here is even better news!  Did you know that the annual Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School Sale is coming up?
 My entire store will be on sale on Monday and Tuesday, but you can go ahead and start putting things in your cart or on your wish list now.
Happy shopping!

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