Monday, December 5, 2016

6 Tips for Holiday Success In Your Classroom

The holidays are in the air. Sure it is a time for kindness, family, and celebrations. However as a classroom teacher you know (and sometimes dread) that last week before a holiday break.  Just face it, the kiddos seem to loose their minds over night.  If you have seen this happen in your classroom, then this post is perfect for you.  Below I will share 6 tried and true tips to help you navigate that last week (and perhaps the weeks leading up) to a holiday break:

Tip 1: Keep your students busy with engaging time on task.  Make sure you have a several no-prep holiday learning games and activities on hand.  With all the excitement blooming around the students outside of school, why not bring it inside the classroom also.  keep in mind that you don't want the activities to just be "fluff".  They should be engaging review lessons (and possible new skills) that the kiddos can complete independently or with a partner.  This can even be done by playing games like Scoot, Quiz Quiz Trade, or Mix Pair Share but changing your normal classroom music to holiday songs.  A super fun activity to do that can reinforce shapes and bigger than/less than is to give each kiddo a piece of large construction paper and create a snowman.  All you need is shaving cream, Elmer glue, and glitter. Kiddos have to draw circles on their paper that are in order from bigger to smaller. Then they paint their circles and create a snowman.

Tip 2: Try to stick to your normal routines and schedules as best as possible.  Even with all the extra excitement going on the littles need their routines to be successful.  Also, upon coming back from a holiday break, you should take the first one to two weeks reviewing all of your classroom procedures and routines before diving right back in.

Tip 3: IF you do a gift exchange with your class, try doing one with books only.  Send a short and sweet letter home to parents asking everyone to bring in a new book that is $5.00 or less in value.  They should bring the book in wrapped with a label.  On the label, instruct the parents to leave the "To:" part blank and to allow their child to write his or her name in the "From:" space.  On one of the last days before break gather all the kiddos around your carpet area and play a little white elephant gift exchange game.  Each kiddo choose a gift (one at a time) and unwraps it. I always do a boy group and a girl group.  We all watch and admire the new books that we each get to take home. Its also a great idea to get your husband, dad, brother-in-law, or someone (that has had all the proper background checks required) to come in and play Santa.  Let Santa read a book to your class and hand out those small candy canes.

Tip 4: Give your class a gift.  I always give my class a book to take home over break.  I purchase them from the scholastic website for about $1-$2 a piece around mid November to ensure that they arrive on time.  Inside the cover of each book I write a sweet personalized note. Then I wrap each book so they each can open a present from me that will encourage them to read over the break.

Tip 5: One of my favorite events is my Polar Express P.J. Day.  I am not going to lie, this takes some prepping so if you are looking for last minute ideas it may/may not work for you.  First, I buy bell necklaces for each child in my class.  I put them inside a small box that is also filled with iridescent packing paper. I use a water bottle to lightly spray each bell with water. Then I wrap the box in brown parchment paper, attach a huge red bow on top, and then write our school address and Santa's North Pole address in the appropriate spots on the box. About 2 weeks before I plan on giving the students the fake package from Santa, I take the box into our cafeteria. I take it to the deep, deep freezer and leave it there. (You may need to get permission from your cafeteria manager to do that part.) Then I prearrange for someone in the office to bring the box from the freezer to my classroom at a certain day and time.  I send a note home for all of the kiddos to wear their P.J.'s to school on the day that I prearranged with the office to deliver our package.  We start the day by making hot chocolate. (Super easy way is to pour a gallon of chocolate milk into a crock pot first thing in the morning. Turn it on high and it will be ready in 2 hours.) I then read them the Polar express and make sure that I finish the story by the prearranged time that I had set with the office.  As soon as the story ends, in walks one of our lovely secretaries holding this FREEZING box from the cafeteria. The students eyes get so big as I make such a huge deal over how cold it is. Then we slowly read the address, predict where it came from and what we think is inside, and then open the package.  Each kiddo then gets a small bell necklace that has frozen crystals on it (from the water I sprayed 2 weeks ago) from Santa. This activity goes miles on getting them to behave and listen! Then of course we enjoy our hot chocolate.

Tip 6: Last but not least, engage your kiddos in a countdown to the holidays. This can be done with daily minute to win it games, creating a chain link count down, using a different random act of kindness a day, or by having them earn a special something each day.  For example, the last week before break I always give each kiddo a book (from above) but I also give them a little goody bag full of treats like a pencil, erasers, tatoos, etc.  Eventually I got smart and thought, why not make them earn the gifts.  Every year I purchase a holiday goodie bag of some sort, whether it be regular themed bags, small red stockings, or even Santa hats. Then I purchase five different class sets of small prizes from the dollar spot at Walmart, Target, or Dollar Tree. Everyday I show the kiddos the treat and tell them that they have to earn it throughout the day by following classroom rules and procedures and being kind to one another. Then at the end of the day I give each student the small trinket that they earned to place in their bag.  By the end of the week they all have a goody bag filled with gifts from me.

Well, I hope you received a few good tips from this post and are able to use them in your class this year.  Happy holidays and Merry Christmas everyone!!!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Treats for Teachers Giveaway

I love October. This month I am participating in a little Treats For Teachers Blog Hop and Giveaway!

With all of the anticipation for Halloween and Trick or treating, it is a great time to talk about characters and character traits. We go through a series of stories (like the ones below) learning about a character's physical traits and about their behavior traits. Then we end by the week of Halloween. The kiddos get to wear a costume based on a favorite story and then they can describe their costume's character traits (using the freebie below).  It is so much fun. The kiddos love actually becoming their characters by taking on the traits they believe they would have.
To begin this unit, I love to introduce character traits using the book Shelia Rae The Brave by Kevin Henkes.
Shelia has so many wonderful traits that are easily spotted in this book. It makes for great book talk and modeling opportunities with the kiddos.

I continue this unit using my ALL TIME FAVORITE Elephant and Piggie books by Mo Williems.
These books are excellent because the kiddos can actually connect to these characters on a personal level. The students can see how Gerald and Piggie have almost the same traits in each book.  These books also make it simple for students to be able to compare characters to each other. I only read about 6 of these books to begin with (even though I own We work through describing the physical and behavior traits together and then comparing Gerald and Piggie to each other. Finally, I read Waiting Is Not Easy by Mo Williems. This book is so very interesting because the characters behaviors actually switch places.  It is so fun to watch my students little light bulbs come on and wonder how that can happen!
If you would like to see more of my Character Trait activites you can click here.
(UGH! That cover is so ugly! One of my first TpT products in need of an update....coming soon!)

By this time we are closer to Halloween.  Students are able to come to school in a Character costume. We spend some time early in the day analyzing and describing their costume's character traits using everything we learned. Then the students must act like their character all day. They actually become their characters. They love, love this part!  You can click here to download this Halloween Character Mapping FREEBIE from my TpT store!

I am joining some Kinder friends in an incredible blog hop where treats are never ending!

At each stop you will be able to enter a giveaway to win FREE stuff for you and/or your classroom! Since the theme of this hop is "Treats For Teachers" I am giving away your CHOICE of any item from my store along with a $20 gift card to TpT. All you have to do is enter to win below!
a Rafflecopter giveaway

To continue on the blog hop, just click here to head on over to my pal Elaine from Kitty Kitty Kindergarten and see what treats she has up her sleeves for you!

Monday, September 12, 2016

Back In The Swing Of Things: Homework Version

So how long have you been in school? We have been in for about 23 days now and things are just now starting to settle down!  My tip for this blog hop is all about Homework.  As a busy mom of 4 I really don't like when teachers pile "it" on.  As a teacher,  I believe it has its advantages when done correctly.....I am not going to go into the battle of to homework vs. no homework right now. For now I am just going to suggest a few tips to help you along your on journey.
1.  Be extremely explanatory to the parents.  Especially as a K/1 teacher. Some of your students may have never been to school or ever had homework so being able to explain what is expected of the students, the parents, and of your self well ahead of time can save you from answering MILLIONS of questions and feeling overwhelmed.  (True story!! Be's tough if your not!)

2.  With the younger kiddos, I strongly believe in keeping it light and fun.  Don't assign 4 different subjects in one night unless each subject takes only about 5 minutes for them to complete. The things you do assign should be things they have already done in class so that they have experience with the task that is at hand.

3. Keep the assignments engaging.  The last thing a busy parent wants is to have a kiddo who pitches a fit EVERY time they have to do their homework. (True story again...and I have 4 of them pitching fits! Can you imagine the talk going on??? "But I don't know how to.." or "Why do I have to do this..." I am sure you have heard a few of those types of statements also. The last thing you want to do is have homework cause grief in the relationships between the parents/guardians and the child.

4. Plan the homework "basics" before school starts.  Make sure you already have in mind: when you will send it home, when it will be due, when/how you will grade it, how much you will give, and relay those plans to parents immediately. (hence #1)

5. Like anything in my class, I like for my homework to be differentiated.  For example, if one of your kiddos is struggling with the Doubles Plus One math strategy, by all means send home an extra practice activity for that PARTICULAR CHILD.  If the others already have that concept down why make them do it again and again???

6.  ALWAYS expect reading to happen.  If nothing else get books in your students hands and have them read to someone or have someone read to them.  To support them at home, you should also send home a handy little "How You Can Help At Home" note that describes the strategies you use in class for decoding and for comprehension.  Parents sometimes have no idea what you mean when you say "Use Chunky Monkey". (hence tip #1) AND it helps extremely if the K/1 kiddos are hearing the same language at home that they hear at school.

If you like where I am going with these tips, you should check out my Homework Resources option pack on TPT.  It has many different homework options, manipulatives, menus, and a new homework game I call the "Homework Roll". You can check it out here:

I hope my little tips encourage you to think about the many sides of homework!
To continue getting in the swing of things, hop on over to my pal Pamela from Pocketful of Centers.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Directed Drawing and a Freebie

I am teaming up with my friends from the I Teach K-2 bloggers for another AWESOME giveaway and Linky.  This month we are talking about Fall and Back to School.

My Back To School "Fall into Fun" tip is really a request for you to take a look at your writing time. I get that their is a time and a place for mini lessons diving into Writing Workshop procedures, grammar, different genres of writing, finger spaces, punctuation, sentences, etc.  However, I am a FIRM believer in letting the kids be kids.  I introduced directed drawings to my class years ago. Then I started getting bogged down with my county saying, "you must teach (this)", rubrics, and data collection. I found that it was becoming more of a "must-do" than a "love to do" scenario. I hated that.  Which brings me to my next point. Let the kids be kids in each aspect of your school day.  I started bringing directed drawing back into my classroom last year and it was SOOOOOO worth it!  The kiddos begin loving to write about their characters and there settings because they were "theirs" in a more realistic sense.  When given the opportunity to draw a really good character through directed drawing, painting, using construction paper, or any other "crafty" way, the student's characters really come to life. The kiddo's eyes just burst with excitement and I can see those lightbulbs for creating more detailed stories flick on brighter than before.  My goal this year is to get back to "fun" and incorporate a directed drawing once a week (or at least once every 2 weeks) this year.  So I offer this to you...........are you willing to step out of the box and have a little fun from your normal everyday Writing Workshop routine?? It's worth it!!

In order to entice you over to the fun side, I am offering a free directed drawing with 4 writing prompt options to help differentiate your classroom needs. This directed drawing is based on Johnny Appleseed and would go great with any Johnny Appleseed unit.

Just click Johnny Appleseed Directed Drawing to get your FREE copy!

Now for some more fun! Enter the Rafflecopter below for your choice to win one of the 2 TpT gift certificates!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thanks for visiting! Now click on over to see what other fun lays ahead!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Pencil Sharpener

Before I get into this topic, I just want to say that I actually sharpen all of the pencils in my class for my kiddos.  It just makes management for transitions, lost pencils, and broken pencils so much easier for me.  By the end of First grade I usually allow them to venture over to my electric sharpener to start taking responsibility of their own pencils. Then I started hearing about this magical sharpener......So of corse I had to try it for myself! I mean sharpening 40 some pencils every Friday afternoon is not really my idea of Happy Hour! As I said before, I have heard wonderful things about this sharpener from Classroom Friendly Supplies from several of my coworkers and I couldn't wait to try it out in my classroom for myself.  I have to say that I am overall impressed with the quality.

There were several "pros" and "cons" that I found in this product.  I will start with the cons......

1.  When I received the sharpener I was SUPER excited, only to open the package to see it was damaged.  Not damaged with its inner workings, just on the exterior of the sharpener.  This really doesn't bother me too much but it may some people.  (I did not contact anyone about getting a replacement. I am sure that if I would have, they would have done something to fix the problem.)

2.  The price......$24.99.....That is a lot for my teacher pockets.
3. The sharpener did not come with any kind of manual or set up guide.  However, I did receive an email with a link for trouble shooting and other information.
4. This sharpener is not easy for little hands to just jump right in and go for it.  I teach in a K/1 classroom and there is no way I could just say go sharpen your pencil using this.  It would require a whole mini lesson at the beginning of the year modeling (several times) before they would be able to do it.  Some of there little hands are just not capable of the pinching, pulling, and turning that this product needs in order to work properly.  However you may always have those 1-2 kiddos you could show one time and they would be good to go! See below:

The "pro's":
1.  It is small and VERY quiet!
2.  It is perfect for 3rd grade and up. They could easily manage this piece of equipment on their own.
3.  It can attach to most surfaces with its little "hook" and if you are looking for a more permanent way of attaching, the company sells brackets that can do just that.

4.  It works very quickly.
5.  The pencils are the sharpest pencils I have every seen in my life.

Well, I believe that does it for my quick review.  Do you have a favorite sharpener? Love to hear about it if you do!!

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Tips of the Trade (Giveaway AND Freebie)

Back to school is always a crazy time of year for everyone.  I have teamed up with a few of my blogging buddies to bring you an AWESOME hop full of freebies and a HUGE giveaway.

My contribution to our back to school hop can help you get through Day 1 successfully. Here are a few Tips of the Trade that I have used over the years:

1. This tip is important all year long.....Hugs in and out of the door.  When I say this I mean you should always greet your kiddos at the door as they are coming in and leaving. It builds a sense of trust and a foundation for a good relationship between you and your kiddos. It doesn't have to be a hug. It could be a high-five, a hand shake, a thumbs up, eye contact as you squat down to say hello or will know your kids best. I often ask them which they would prefer to do. Remember, this may be the only positive interaction some of these kiddos have all day!

2. Don't badger them with all of the rules at once.  I start with only 2 rules in the class for the first 1-2 days. Be kind and raise your hand (mostly because I can't handle everyone yelling at me at once and constant tap, tap, tapping on my side.) I have found in my many years of teaching that focusing on these 2 concepts at the very beginning helps to build a classroom family that truly loves each other.

3. Go NOODLE!!! The first day of school we Go Noodle like 6 times. This process really relaxes the kiddos and gets those nerves out. The funnier you are dancing, the more the kiddos will respond to you in the future. It allows the kiddos to see you at their level, having fun WITH them!

4. Have a classroom scavenger hunt.  Give the kiddos objects to find in the classroom like the pencil sharpener, the bathroom, the glue sticks, the expo markers, the clipboards, etc.  Tel them they can work together or alone. Whatever floats their boat.  This activity will not only allow them to get to know their surroundings better, but it also encourages them to build trust and relationships with their peers.

5.  Tour your school.  By this I do NOT mean walk to each place then say, "Here is the cafeteria".  I mean to actually go to the area and actually explain and model what is expected from them and what they can expect from you or any other adult that might be around.  For example, if you go to the cafeteria, take them through the line and model how to say their name or student number. Introduce them to the cafeteria workers. Then proceed to the actual table they will sit at. At the table model quiet voices and proper manners.  All of this modeling is done through you talking and the kiddos sharing their experiences.  Places that I suggest you tour are: the clinic (they should say hello to the nurses), the office (they should say hello to the secretaries), the cafeteria, the bus loop, the playground, the car rider area, and the walker/biker area. Remember to model clear expectations at each spot. Allow the kiddos to model good examples and non examples.

This would be a non example! :0)

6. HAVE FUN!!!  This is perhaps the most important on the first day. As a teacher you want the kiddos to come to school to learn. As a student you want to come to school to have fun.  Learning can be fun and there is no better time to set the tone for that than the first day of school. Play, dance, sing, and experiment together.  A few of my favorites are leap frog, sight word back writing, magic play dough, jitter juice, and did I mention Go Noodle? ;0)

By putting the effort in at the beginning of the year it will create a learning environment that your students will feel successful, safe, and productive in after just a few weeks into the school year.
Hard a work during Readers Workshop.

My FREEBIE for you tonight is a set of teaching posters and book shopping cards.

If you like the shopping cards, I have a great  emergent reader that explains How To Shop for books using the shopping cards.  You can get it for only 1.50 in my TpT store.  Just click How To Shop In A Classroom Library

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Christmas in July means a HUGE Giveaway!!!

I am so excited to be apart of this SALE and GIVEAWAY.  There are 3 different ways to get great stuff during this event. First, from July 6th-9th my entire store (along with several other stores in this linky) will be 20% off.
Second, we are all linking up to share a FREEBIE. Just click on the picture below to grab my freebie. Then follow the other blog links (at the end of this post) to grab some more!

This freebie has 3 different letters to Santa for you to choose from. The letters focus on learning the difference between a need and a want.

Third, enter the giveaway below for your chance to win BIG!!

There are FIVE fabulous prizes!  We have 3 $50 TpT gift cards, 1 $50 Target gift card, and $100 to Teaching in the Tongass clipart! Her clipart is awesome. If you would like to preview it before entering, just click the link above!

Hurry up and enter!!! Good Luck!!!

a Rafflecopter giveaway
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