Sunday, August 21, 2016

Magic Reading Fingers

During reading groups, have students track print using magic reading fingers.
Tracking print is an important part of learning to read.  It helps children keep their place in the text and helps build fluency.  It's a core print concept in Kindergarten and 1st grade.  By second grade, students are usually able to track text with their eyes.  Your Kindergarten and Firsties can simply track print with their fingers, but I think it is a lot more fun to give them a special tool!  I found these finger puppets in the party section at Target.
Use finger puppets as magic reading fingers during guided reading groups.
 Couldn't believe they were only $2 for a pack of 12!  Get in my cart!
Use finger puppets to help students learn to track print during guided reading groups.
We don't just use these special tools to track print, I use "magic pointers" for various activities in my guided reading groups and even during whole group instruction.  Here are a few ideas...
-Find letters, sight words, spelling words, or vocabulary words on the page you are reading.
-Have students identify specifics in the text...  "Point to the main character..." "Show me a picture that shows the main character is upset."
-Identify parts of the book.  "Point to the title."  "Show me the spine of the book."  "Point to the illustrator's name."
-Use magic reading fingers for rereading text.
-Model how to track print using your very own magic reading finger.  Students will love watching the monster dance along the page.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

My Oriental Trading Classroom Wish List

As a teacher, there is always "stuff" you need for your classroom.  Teachers spend so much of their own money on classroom decorations, supplies, manipulatives, games, stickers, and prizes for their students.  We spend our own money because we want to, but it's always nice when parents help out by donating goodies!
As a parent, I like to give my boys' teachers small gifts throughout the year.  I like to surprise them on a random Monday or at the end of a long week with a little treat.  The problem is I never know what to give them besides a gift card or some caffeine & chocolate.  Now that I'm a parent, I appreciate Teacher Wish Lists more than ever before.  
Traditionally, I've created a "Giving Tree" like this to ask for donations.  
Set up a giving tree at Open House so parents can donate supplies to your classroom.
I would set up my giving tree for Back to School night or during Parent Teacher Conferences.  It's so cute but the problem is it's short lived.  An online teacher wish list, like Oriental Trading's, is ideal because you can make updates, add items, or delete things that you end up purchasing yourself.  Oriental Trading has everything teachers need: bulletin board materials, pocket charts, storage containers, bulk school supplies, treasure boxes & prizes, classroom and holiday decor, stickers, games and learning toys, math manipulatives, puzzles, puppets, art supplies, and so much more!  I've been shopping with Oriental Trading for years, but I didn't realize the assortment of teacher goodies they stocked.
 A few of the items on my Oriental Trading Wish List.  
I like that I can put inexpensive items, as well as BIG TICKET items on my list.  Hey, you never know!  Maybe a parent will buy one of the pricier items as a Christmas or Teacher Appreciation gift.
I'm loving this clipboard storage system.
I've always wanted to do a question of the day during Calendar Time/Morning Meeting.  This graphing pocket chart would make it so easy, and so much math talk would go down!
Food for Thought... How do you let parents know you have an online wish list without seeming greedy!?!?  Here are a few ideas...
1.  Mention it to parents in your monthly classroom newsletter. Don't forget the link!
2.  Post it on your school website or classroom blog.
3. Send home a sweet little flyer in students' take-home folder.
Teacher Wish List: Create an online classroom wish list so parents can donate supplies that you really want and need for your classroom!
Download this FREE editable template here.
I'm so excited about my own Oriental Trading Wish List, and I can't wait to tell my kids' new teachers all about how they can create their own classroom wish lists!

Disclosure: TheHappyTeacher & Oriental Trading partnered for the purpose of this post. I received free samples of Oriental Trading products, but all opinions are my own and 100% honest.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Back to School Photo Booth

Use an extra bulletin board to create a PHOTO BOOTH for Back to School pictures

Back to School and 1st Day of School photos are all the rage.  Facebook, Instagram, & Pinterest are flooded with adorable ideas for photo booths, giant picture frames, and chalkboard pics.  I love them all, but they seem so complicated.  My sweet friend Mary Beth and I created a super easy & functional photo booth in less than 20 minutes.  
First, we covered an extra bulletin board with some super cool paper, Ella Bella Photography Backdrop Paper®.  I love the rustic, vintage wood look! 
Using a bulletin board as a photo backdrop
Cute already, right?  I used an X-Acto knife to cut a rectangle from a heavy duty poster board.  I covered the poster board in duct tape and then glued the letters on.  
This was the easiest photo frame to make.  Use an X-Acto knife to cut a rectangle out of a poster board.  Line the poster board with cute duct tape.  Glue on pre-cut letters and VOILA!  Super cute Back to School/ 1st day of school pictures!
This was the easiest photo frame to make.  Use an X-Acto knife to cut a rectangle out of a poster board.  Line the poster board with cute duct tape.  Glue on pre-cut letters and VOILA!  Super cute Back to School/ 1st day of school pictures!
Use this photo booth to take pictures of your students during the first week of school.  I also love the idea of having a photo booth set up in a common area at school to use during Meet the Teacher night/Open House.  Kiddos can take pictures with their parents, friends, and teacher.  Now that everyone has a camera on their smart phone, it will be easy & fast to get some adorable Back to School photos.  
Use a bulletin board in a common area as a photo booth for Back to School pictures.
Our "photo booth" bulletin board is in a common area at school (see picture above).  After Back to School photos are taken, we will use the board as a scrapbook bulletin board.  We will change out the heading on the board seasonally and post pictures of the students.  For example, the board might say "The best part of my summer was..."  The students will bring in a photograph from home that shows their favorite part of the summer.  It will be a great way to build the school community.  You know how much kids love seeing pictures of themselves.  :)  I'll be sure to post some pictures of the scrapbook bulletin board after B2S craziness is over.  
Did you see my post on my friend Linda's amazing Jungle Safari Animal Themed Classroom?  Be sure to check it out for classroom decor ideas & tips.  You've also got a chance to win an amazing classroom decor prize pack!  Yay for free stuff!  
Cute bulletin board to display student work in the classroom.  "Great Work SPOTTED!"
Love this jungle, animal, safari themed classroom!
Here is one more bulletin board I decorated to go with the Jungle/Animal theme!
God is WILD about us jungle safari themed bulletin board.  Add students' names and photos.  Super cute for jungle classroom decor
"God is WILD about us!" 
I cut 4.5" x 4.5" squares of safari print paper as a background for each student's picture.  I found the adorable jungle animals at Michael's, and I wrote each kiddo's name on one with a Sharpie.  
This bulletin board would be adorable if you are in a private school.  It would also be great for Sunday School or Vacation Bible School.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Classroom Decor Ideas and Tips

Decorating a classroom can be hard work when you are a new teacher, moving to a new classroom, or changing your classroom theme.  Let me save you some headaches with a few simple tips & an awesome giveaway to get you started.
a Rafflecopter giveaway
1.  Pick a theme or color scheme.  
I had the pleasure of helping my dear friend, Linda, set up her classroom for Back to School.  When she told me her theme was zoo animals/jungle/safari, I was ALL IN because who doesn't love a little cheetah & leopard print?  Choosing a theme or color scheme will help make your classroom warm and inviting.  You want a cohesive look without it looking like Pinterest threw up all over your classroom.  Ha!  
Beautiful, bright jungle/safari classroom decor! Love this classroom theme!
2.  Use Fadeless® paper to cover bulletin boards and doors.  
Over the years, I've tried using butcher paper and fabric to cover my bulletin boards, but nothing compares to Fadeless® paper.  Butcher paper wrinkles and fades.  Fabric has to be ironed, and let's be honest, who has time for that?  Look how gorgeous this tropical foliage print looks on the bulletin board and door!  It ties the room together.  
Animal print, safari, jungle themed bulletin board.  Love the bulletin board paper and layered borders!
Let's GROW together in Pre-K!  Love this giraffe & animal print decor!
Let's GROW together in Pre-K!  Adorable jungle, zoo animal classroom theme & decor!
3.  Layer your bulletin board borders.
Layering your borders will make your bulletin board POP!  It adds color and contrast, and it is so easy to do.  Thank you, hot glue! 
Use hot glue to perfectly layer your bulletin board borders.
 How gorgeous is this layered border on the tropical foliage Fadeless® paper?  
Hot glue bulletin board borders together before stapling them to your bulletin board.  Layered borders add contrast & POP off your bulletin board.
You can even just pair a solid Bordette® with a fun print like this...
Layer a solid border with a fun printed border to make your bulletin board pop!
Maria from Kinder Craze has an awesome tutorial and video on perfectly layering your bulletin board borders.  Click on her picture below to find out how it's done...
Tutorial from KinderCraze on perfectly layering your bulletin board borders
4.  Make your own bulletin board letters.  
Create your own bulletin board letters by typing one huge letter on each page.  Print each letter on fun paper and cut out. This will add so much excitement to your bulletin boards.
When you figure out what you want your bulletin board to say, pick one main word and make your own letters.  Pick a big, chunky font, and type one letter on each page.  Increase the font so it fills the entire page.  Now it's time to format your text.  You don't want to waste ink by printing a giant black letter.  Instead, change the letter fill to "no fill."  Print each letter on fun paper.  I used Pacon's super fun safari print paper
How to create your own bulletin board letters. 
I would also suggest changing the Text Line.  To do this, choose Format Text.  Click on Text Line on the lefthand side.  Choose Weights & Arrows from the top.  Increase the weight to 15 pt or so.
How to create your own bulletin board letters
When I first made the "WILD" letters, I forgot to change the Text Line, so I reprinted the letters with a thick line.  See the difference... The "W" and "I" have the thick 15 pt. line and the "L" and "D" have no line.  The thick black line makes the letters stand out against the patterned paper.  
How to create your own bulletin board letters that really POP on classroom bulletin baords
For the rest of the letters & words, I used Pacon's self-adhesive letters.  These letters are the bomb because they are removable and repositionable.  I can never get my letters lined up and centered the first time, so I love that you can peel them off and move them around.
5.  Create ambience!
Make your classroom a warm and inviting environment by painting your walls, adding lamps, creating cozy spots, and incorporating plants & greenery.  If your principal allows you to paint, invest the time & money and paint your walls a soft color.  It will make a huge difference, I promise!  If you can't paint, don't fret.  Find curtains, lamps, rugs, & pillows that will make your classroom as cozy as your living room.  
Create a cozy classroom reading nook with IKEA leaf.  Great Work Spotted bulletin board is perfect for displaying student work.
I love how my friend Linda used this IKEA leaf to create a cozy space.
Create a cozy classroom reading nook with IKEA leaf.
Lately, I've been reading articles that say teachers should have bare walls and little to no decor in their classrooms.  I wholeheartedly disagree.  Think about it... You and your students spend 8+ hours a day in the classroom.  You want it to feel like home.  Don't overdo it, but adding a little ambience & decor goes a long way.  
6.  Keep it simple.
You don't need to fill every wall and bulletin board with "stuff."  Keep areas blank at the beginning of the year so you have space to display student work, anchor charts, and pictures of your kiddos.  Take a step back and ask yourself, "Is there too much clutter?"  If so, take a few things down and simplify.
Great Work Spotted bulletin board is perfect for displaying student work.
 Instead of decorating this entire bulletin board, I put up some light blue Fadeless® paper, some animal print Bordette® and "Great Work SPOTTED."  After the craziness of Back to School wears off, it will be easy to add student work to complete this board.  
Keep bulletin board simple!  Just add Fadeless paper, Bordette, & and a cute title.  Later, add student work to complete the bulletin board.
Are you ready to take a walk on the wild side?  If so, enter the Rafflecopter below to win this amazing prize pack from Pacon!  
a Rafflecopter giveaway
Disclosure: TheHappyTeacher & Pacon partnered for the purpose of this post. I received free samples of Pacon products, but all opinions are my own.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Classroom Management Tip: Using Secret Hand Signals

Today I'm sharing a classroom management strategy that will help EVERY teacher! 
With 22+ students in the classroom, there are a plethora of interruptions throughout the day... "My pencil broke!" "Can I go to the bathroom?"  "I need a band-aid."  "Can I get some water?"  It goes on and on and on...
To reduce the number of unnecessary interruptions, I use secret hand signals with my students.  Check out my video to learn how to use nonverbal communication to improve your classroom management. Some teachers use ASL with their class.  Other teachers create the signals with their students during the first week of school.  These are the signs that I use.  
PS.  This is the 1st video I've ever made so please forgive the rookie videography!  :)  

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Making Students & Parents Feel Welcome

Creating a warm & welcoming classroom environment is an important part of any teacher's job.  Establishing an open line of communication with parents should also be a Back to School priority.
The day I get my class list, I send a handwritten postcard to each student.  I introduce myself as their new teacher and tell them how excited I am to meet them!  Over the years, parents have told me how much this note has meant to their child.  Receiving snail mail is so rare these days, and it really gets the kiddos excited about the new school year.  My first year teaching I had 53 Kindergarteners (26 in the morning and 27 in the afternoon).  My hand hurt after writing so many postcards, but it was worth it!  :)

The only problem with postcards is you don't get a lot of space to write... and my handwriting is chunky.  #teacherproblems  Instead of sending postcards, try sending an All About the Teacher flyer to your students.  You can include pictures of you and your family/pets.  Introduce yourself by sharing what you love about your classroom and what you are most excited about.  Let the students know you can't wait to meet them.  Include a list of "Favorites" so the kiddos can learn a little bit more about their new teacher.
Invite your students to come and meet you at the school's Open House or Meet the Teacher night.  (Hopefully the front office has a handout with details that you can include in the envelope.)

What does your school call the day where families come to meet you before school begins?  Meet the Teacher night?  Open House?  Back to School night?  Porch Party?  Usually they drop off their school supplies, find their classroom, and say hello to the teacher.  Every school calls it something different.  What is it called in your neck of the woods?

Friday, July 22, 2016

The First Day of School: How are your students getting home?

You've been busy preparing for the first day of school all summer long!  The 1st day is going to be amazing, and when the bell rings at the end of the first day, you will be SO EXCITED that you survived it!  :)  Here is something you may or may not have considered...
How will your students get home on the 1st day of school?
You are probably going to have parents drop their kids off to your classroom on the first morning.  As they are waving goodbye, they will holler to you... "Oh ya!  Miss Campbell... I forgot to tell you that Ben's Grandpa will pick him up after school today.  Normally, he will ride Bus #22, but today Grampy will pick him up."  After the third or fourth parent does this, your mind will be spinning, and you won't remember if Ben is supposed to ride Bus #22 or go to parent pick-up!  Trust me... dismissal is CHAOS on the 1st day of school because many parents do something different on the 1st day of school than normal.  Maybe they want to get a picture of their kiddo after school or they are too nervous to let their child ride the bus on the first day.

Here is my advice to you.  When parents come for Meet the Teacher night, keep two lists.  One list will be "Transportation for the 1st Day of School" and the other list will be "Regular Transportation."  You can put these lists at the sign-in table, or keep them on a clipboard and ask each individual parent.  If a child does not show up for Meet the Teacher, CALL THE PARENTS and find out how the child will get home on the first day of school!
Chart, list, graph for 1st day of school transportation
Chart for car riders, bus riders, daycare, walkers
(These forms are part of my Meet the Teacher Night resource on TpT.)
My next piece of advice is write the child's mode of transportation on their name tag.  You are likely going to be giving kiddos name tags all week, so put "Bus #22", "Walker," or "Car Rider" on their name tag.  If they get a little lost at dismissal, somebody can easily help them find their way.  The teacher will have the master list, but if little Ben is lost, his name tag will help another teacher get him to the right place.
Add bus rider, car rider, walker, etc. to student name tags during the first week of school
Back to school name tags
 Putting tags on backpacks is especially helpful for Pre-K and Kinder kiddos.  
You can download these Transportation Tags for FREE in my TpT store.  
If you want something even easier, just buy some Avery labels and print name tags for your students.  You can add car rider, walker, bus #s, etc. to their name tags and change them throughout the week as needed.  This would take less than 5 minutes to do, and you would probably use them throughout the year for subs, field trips, etc.
Hope these tips make dismissal on the 1st day of school go very smoothly!  :)  

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Classroom Organization- Managing the PAPERS!!!

Today I'm going to share with you a tried and true system for classroom organization.  This easy and CHEAP system can work for any teacher.  No matter what grade level you teach, the one thing we have in common as teachers is PAPER!  We are blessed with technology in our schools, but the paper hasn't gone away (and it NEVER will).  Mounds of paperwork on your desk will drive you crazy, so I'm here to give you a quick hack for organizing all of those papers!
Say goodbye to a messy desk and say hello to this beauty!
Classroom Organization- Managing the PAPERS!!!  Say goodbye to a messy desk, and hello to an organized classroom and a happy teacher!
I found this in the Back to School section at Target for $2.99.
Here is what I do, after I prepare my lesson plans and make my copies, I slide all of the worksheets, homework, spelling lists, activities, read-aloud books, and anything special I will need into the file folder for each day of the week.
Classroom Organization- Managing the PAPERS!!!  Say goodbye to a messy desk, and hello to an organized classroom and a happy teacher!
Instead of having papers on my desk, papers on my guided reading table, papers by my computer, etc., I know that all the paperwork I will need for each day is in the folder for that day.  If we don't get to an activity, I take it and shift it to the next day, or save it for the following week.  This system is also amazing because if you unexpectedly need a sub, everything they need will be right in the file folder!  
This is a great idea for classroom organization and organizing all of the PAPERS you have in your classroom.  Put your lesson plans and student work in each of the daily file folders.  This will keep the mess off of your desk, and it will be easily accessible.   (Great for an emergency sub too!)
On Monday, I will need spelling lists, math worksheet for centers, adjective activity, and Chicka Chicka Boom Boom for read-aloud.  I slide all of this into Monday's folder.  It's so simple, but it is an amazing system.  Over the years, I've tried so many ways to organize classroom papers-- mailboxes, trays, file folders on my desk, filing cabinet, file box-- and this is the best system by far!  
This is a great idea for classroom organization and organizing all of the PAPERS you have in your classroom.  Put your lesson plans and student work in each of the daily file folders.  This will keep the mess off of your desk, and it will be easily accessible.   (Great for an emergency sub too!)
You can display it on a bulletin board, or just hang it on the wall behind your desk like I did.  It's cute and colorful, and the best part is that it keeps the mess off your desk!  
This awesome Art Skills organizer came with labels, but I printed some out on Avery address labels instead of hand writing them.  
Managing all of the papers in your classroom can be overwhelming!
E-mail me at if you want me to send them to you so you don't have to make your own.  You could also just use a Sharpie and WRITE them. Haha.  :)  
There are tons of hanging organizers out there, but you can't beat this cheap one at $2.99!
Happy Organizing!
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