Monday, July 31, 2017

Teaching Students to Color?

Back to School Activities for Kindergarten and 1st Grade
Do you teach your elementary students to color? I know that sounds like a funny question, but I'm serious! During the first week of school, one of the most important things I "teach" is how to color! My objective is for students to take ownership of their work. I want them to do their very best on everything. My other goal is to teach my expectations for taking care of their school supplies.
Do you teach your students "how to color?" It sounds silly, but it really is important to model your expectations!
When I saw these in the Target Dollar Spot, I knew they would be perfect! liked these cute rainbows because they were the perfect size... just enough coloring but not TOO much coloring where it would take all day. :) 
When I teach my kiddos to color, I MODEL, MODEL, MODEL. 
I demonstrate how you can outline with markers. I show the difference between pressing hard to make the color dark and pressing lightly. I show the students how I can color realistically or creatively. I demonstrate how to add details and use a variety of colors. As I'm coloring, we talk through using different colors and different supplies. I ask my students questions along the way. "Would it look better to color the entire rainbow blue or should I use several colors?" I show the kiddos how I can color in the same direction and then how I can color all crazy. I ask them "which looks better?" :)
First week of school activity- teaching students to color
This sounds so basic, but you can't assume your littles really know how you want them to color. More importantly, I want my students to take pride in their work. This is true not just for coloring but for EVERYTHING they will do in school.
This isn't a long lesson. It's a mini lesson we work on all week. We keep adding to the anchor chart that will be displayed in the room all year.
Then I want the students to have the opportunity to show me their VERY BEST WORK! Next, I give them TIME. I don't want them to rush through it. In reality, they are probably going to take a little TOO long coloring today, but that's OK. I want to set the precedent that I expect their best. I don't want them to rush to just finish. 
I also like to have coloring contests throughout the year. This works great the week before a holiday or vacation. You can find tons of free coloring pages on Pinterest for every theme and holiday imaginable. I give it to the kids at the beginning of the week and whenever they have a few extra minutes they can work on their coloring contest page. At the end of the week, I have a judge decide on a few winners, and they get a prize from the treasure box. Holiday weeks can be so crazy, so a coloring contest is a great activity to do during potential downtime. 
Back to School Fun and Easy Ideas

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Meet the Teacher Tips

Love these simple and easy ideas for Meet the Teacher night
Last week, I posted a video with 5 Tips for Meet the Teacher. If you missed it, you can catch it here.
After I posted the video, I thought of several other VERY IMPORTANT tips I should have mentioned. If you are a new teacher, please read these!
1. EAT SOMETHING before Meet the Teacher. If you are like me, you get to school super early, work through lunch, and try and get as much done as you can on teacher work days. Sometimes that means you forget to eat real food. Just be sure to eat something before Meet the Teacher or you won't have energy to meet all those kids and all those parents! :)
2. Don't drink too much coffee. LOL. Seriously, my first three years of teaching I think I kept Starbucks in business. Meet the Teacher is not the day to have a venti or you will be bouncing off the walls and then crash...or maybe that was just me!
3. Wear comfy shoes and comfy clothes, but you already know that because you are a teacher!
4. Try a classroom scavenger hunt. On your whiteboard or SmartBoard, you can have a scavenger hunt of things you want students/parents to do in the classroom. For example,
-Find your new desk.
-Find your cubby.
-Find our class pet. Write down a suggestion for what you think we should name him on the clipboard.
-Find one new friend and introduce yourself.
-Give your new teacher a big hug before you leave!
5. Have a folder for parents' to turn in their completed VIP papers. (See video above for details on VIP papers.)
You can grab this Meet the Teacher editable flyer in my TpT store. It's part of my Meet the Teacher Essentials which has everything you need to make Meet the Teacher a breeze! 
Editable flyer and template for Meet the Teacher night

Sunday, July 23, 2017

My Best Advice for New Teachers...

New teacher tips for Back to School
Effective classroom management is key. We all know you can't teach if you don't have your classroom under control. If you are a new teacher, and you found your way to my blog, I am so happy you are here. I have a classroom management solution that is SO EASY to implement, and it's a game changer. You can start using it in your classroom on Day 1. Drum roll please...
Back to School Tips and Ideas for new teachers
Classroom hand signals are a set of non verbal cues or signs that your students use to show you, the teacher, what they want or need. The teacher is able to respond with a nonverbal answer (nodding head YES or shaking head NO). Let's dig a little deeper.
You are teaching a lesson on double digit subtraction with regrouping. The students are about to have that LIGHTBULB moment when it clicks and they GET IT. All of a sudden, a sweet student raises his hand with a question. Unfortunately, this little darling doesn't have a question about double digit subtraction with regrouping. He wants to know if he can get a sip of water because he's thirsty. His untimely question interrupts the lesson and distracts the class. 
There are times during the day when students are going to raise their hand to ask for a new pencil.
They are going to ask to go to the restroom.
They will ask for water.
They will need to get up for a tissue.
They will need have a question or need help.
They will need to visit the nurse. 
Constant interruptions multiplied by 20+ students can make for a lot of lost instructional time.
Editable, printable classroom hand signals
My best advice for new teachers is to have a set of hand signals to reduce and eliminate these unnecessary distractions. If you are teaching and you see a child raising his hand with THREE fingers in the air, you know he wants to get up for a sip of water. If it's not a good time for water (like during the double digit subtraction lesson), I would shake my head NO. In the same situation, a child may have broken his only pencil, and I can see he's raising ONE finger in the air. I know he needs a new pencil to continue working on the lesson. I can nod my head YES, and he can go get a new pencil, and the lesson is never interrupted. 
You can download these printable signs/posters in my TpT store. The text is editable so you can make them work for your classroom. Hoping this classroom management tip will be beneficial for you!
Back to School tips and tricks!

Friday, July 21, 2017

First Day of School "Getting to Know You" Printable

Free Back to School printable for the first day of school
My sweet friend, Linda, who teaches PreK, asked me to create a printable that she could use with her littles on the first day of school. I thought this would be a resource that a lot of preschool, Kindergarten, and primary teachers might want to use as well so I've posted it as a FREEBIE in my TpT store
Free Getting to Know You Printable for Kindergarten and Preschool
The teacher will definitely need to do the writing on the 1st day of school, but it would be fun to see the students' self portraits and how they write their name. It will surely evolve quite a bit throughout the year. 
What to do with these?
-Make a Back to School Bulletin Board to display at Open House
-Add to students' memory books
-Give to parents at Back to School Night or Fall Conferences
-Add to students' end of year portfolios
Free activity for the first day of school Kindergarten, Preschool, First grade, second grade
Be sure to share this blog post or a link to download the FREEBIE with a fellow preschool, Kindergarten, 1st grade, or 2nd grade teacher who might want to check it out before school starts!

Friday, July 14, 2017

Meet the Teacher Gift Idea

Treat for students at Back to School Night
Meet the Teacher is one of the most important events of the entire year. Students are on pins and needles waiting to meet their new teacher. I know I've always been just as excited to meet my new group of kiddos as well. I always like to give students a little treat when I meet them. I know some schools don't allow candy, but POP ROCKS are awesome, and I'm a grown up!
What a fun Back to School treat for students from the teacher!
It's important to hug each and every single one of my students and tell them how happy I am to have them in my class. With that being said, I think they will appreciate the note and candy too!
Where to buy Pop Rocks!?! I actually looked at Walgreens, Dollar Tree, and 7-11 before the lightbulb went off in my head, and I ordered them on Amazon. They arrived the next day. Thank goodness for Amazon Prime! Ha! If you have a CostCo or Sam's card, I bet they would be super cheap there! I've seen them in bulk packs at Target and WalMart as well. The Dollar Tree lady told me that they always sell out around the 4th of July. :)
I've added this EDITABLE Pop Rocks gift tag to my Meet the Teacher Essentials on TpT. You can download the gift tag and a plethora of important forms to handout to parents, as well as activities to keep students engaged while their parents fill out paperwork. 
Meet the Teacher Idea: Give students a little treat and tell them how happy you are to have them in your class.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Phonics & Magnet Fun!

Easy activity for prek or kindergarten centers
My little is getting ready for PreK-4. He LOVES the alphabet and word work activities so we've been doing some fun things at home while little brother naps during the afternoon. Texas summers are HOT, HOT, HOT so we are staying inside and having some fun. Check it out.
Alphabet magnets
We've got tons of assorted magnets around the house (letters, animals, vehicles), but I saw these magnets in the Target Dollar Spot and had to have them. Of course, I needed the bright green, wooden caddy, too!
Classroom organization and supplies
I store our magnets in these Sterilite stackable tubs. The green caddy is the perfect addition. Easy access for the new magnets.
Word work activity
I set up our magnet board with seven "headers" for our magnet sort: A, B, C, D, E, F, G
My son is 4, but if you've got older kiddos, challenge them with a different sort, or let them create their own.
Perfect for centers and work stations in Pre-K and Kindergarten
 He got right to work! He wanted to count which letter had the most to see "who was winning." So competitive! :)
Phonics activity
Stepping back...Thinking hard...
Preschool and Kindergarten word work activity
That face though!  :) 
Here is a short video of my guy in action. It's so cool to watch the wheels turning in his head as he figures out where each magnet goes.
Skills addressed: Letter recognition, letter sound correspondence, matching uppercase and lowercase letters, sorting, initial sounds...
Extension: Have kiddos practice writing uppercase and lowercase letters on the easel or dry erase board. Students could also draw additional pictures in their journals or on the easel for each letter.
Easy preschool word work activity
Need a fresh idea for practice sight words? Check out these GLITTER sight word books.

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Take Home Folders: Part 2

Labeling and organizing student homework folders
This is Part 2 in my series on Take Home Folders/ Homework Folders. If you missed Part 1, I talked about how to set up, label, and organize your folders. Check it out here.
Today's blog post will discuss how to actually manage the folders and the gazillions of papers that go back and forth from school to home. We live in a digital world, but papers are very much still a part of elementary schools. Having an efficient system in place will save you so many headaches. If you are a brand new teacher or new to the primary grades, I think these tips will be especially beneficial!
Step 1 Take Home Folders
This sounds like common sense, I know. First, choose the basket/bin/container the students will put their folders in. Also, decide WHERE in the classroom your basket will live. After you greet your kiddos in the morning, have them hang up their belongings and immediately take their folder to the designated spot.
Have students put Take Home Folders in designated spot in classroom.
If you are like me, you have 100,000,000 cute containers in your classroom, house, and car but you still feel the need to buy more. I just found this adorable wire basket on Amazon. I'm pretty sure it's made for your kitchen or pantry, but I love it, nonetheless. It's a great size and will match any classroom door without clashing. Here is a picture of the basket in my office/playroom at home. So cute, right? I got the large, industrial gray on Amazon.
Organizing Take Home Folders
I just typed up a little sign, glued it to card stock, and tied it to the wire basket with some twine. 
Get organized for Back to School: Take Home Folders and Homework Folders
Step 2 Take Home Folders
By 8:15 every morning, I personally check every single folder. I check for homework, reading log,  notes from mom/dad, lunch money, permission slips, signed papers, etc. I do NOT want kids handing me things individually. I want everything in the folder. You are probably wondering... what in the world are the kids doing while you check all those folders?!?! Great question! Kiddos are doing their morning work/bell ringer, reading an AR book, and listening to the morning announcements. Realistically, it only takes me a few minutes to flip through all of the folders so I only need them busy independently for a few minutes. It's important to get folders checked early in the morning so I make it a priority. 
Organizing and managing folders

I like to separate this from Step 2 because sometimes I don't have time to do it all at the same time so it's best to check ALL the folders first, and then stuff them all. One thing at a time. :)
The only thing I'm stuffing in the folder is a homework sheet or very important paper that needs to be returned to school- something like a permission slip, a test that needs to be signed, an envelope from the office, etc. My biggest advice here is to do this at the same time every day. Do not wait until the end of the day. It is way too crazy to be doing this at dismissal. Choose a consistent time when you can stuff folders every day- whether it be first thing in the morning, during your lunch break, or during your conference period. 
Back to school organization
I've always used a traditional mailbox system, but whatever you have in your classroom will work (file folders, hanging file system, etc). Find a place to file the kiddos graded work, handouts, and classwork into a "mailbox" system. At the end of the day when it's time to get packed up, kiddos get their mail. At this time, I pass out the Take Home Folders that have already been stuffed with homework in the Return to School side of the folder. When kiddos get their mail, all of the mail goes in the KEEP AT HOME side of the folder. This includes graded work, classwork, papers from the school, art projects, book fair paperwork, PTA info, etc. These are the papers that you want to go home and never come back. :) 
Behavior Log for Take Home Folders to communicate with parents
I could write a novel on the behavior log. This is how I look at it. The child is spending 7 hours of the day at school. The parent should get some kind of information about how their day went (behavior wise). Realistically, teachers do not have time to write a personalized note in each child's folder every single day so you have to be selective. If a student had a really SPECIAL day, jot the parents a quick note about it. "Wow! Kacie was such a leader today. So proud of her!" On the other hand, small reminders can be a way for parents to start a conversation with their child at home. "Don't forget to raise your hand before speaking out." 
The teacher should walk around the room and complete behavior logs while the kiddos are getting their mail and packing up. I LOVE to pass out stickers for students to put on their behavior charts. If they've earned a sticker, it's an easy way to show parents they had a great day at school. If you use a color chart, you can have students use a crayon to color in their color on the corresponding day.
Communicate with parents through printable Take Home Folder Behavior Chart
Simple note. Follow up with a phone call or e-mail. 
Behavior chart for take home folders
Take Home Folders are an important part of the primary classroom. It's an integral way to communicate from school to home. It also gives students responsibility and accountability. Realistically, almost all correspondence could be done via e-mail/online but I think it's important for the children to be "in charge" of their behavior, backpack, folder, and homework, etc. #oldschool
Setting up, organizing, and managing Take Home Folders Video
Check out my video to hear more about organizing and managing Take Home Folders. Download the forms and labels in my TpT store.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

Take Home Folders: Part 1

Take Home Folders/Homework Folders... Let's talk about how to set up, label, organize, and manage Take Home Folders
Tips and Tricks for getting your Take Home Folders set up, labeled, organized, and prepared for Back to School
Getting my folders set up is always a huge priority during summer break. I NEVER wait for students to bring their supplies to school on Meet the Teacher night because I want to have my folders set up and ready to go for the first week of school. 
I also want all students to have THE SAME FOLDER. I always choose green for my Take Home Folders because green means go.  These are the only folders that go home.  All the other folders stay at school. 
If you start shopping the Back to School sales in July, you can get a class set of folders for a couple bucks. In fact, do yourself a favor, and buy about 10-15 extra folders because undoubtedly you will get a few new students during the year or some folders will be lost or damaged. 
Some years I've bought the cheap folders (without the prongs) and laminated them.  I used an X-Acto knife to slice open the pocket openings. This worked fine, but I would usually replace the entire class set around Christmas. Other years, I've found awesome deals on the poly/plastic/vinyl thick, sturdy folders. Those really hold up a lot better in my opinion. Maybe your principal will even splurge and buy a class set of nice folders for you?!?! ::Fingers crossed::
Once you've found a class set of awesome folders, it's time to get them labeled. I put the kiddos name (and number) on the front of the folder. If you don't have your class list yet, just skip this step.
Behavior log for students' take home folder
On the inside of the folder, I put two sticker labels. The left side says “Keep at Home” and the right pocket says “Return to School.” Print these on 2x4 inch standard shipping labels.
Label student folders with Keep at Home and Return to School stickers to manage papers going from school to home!
Keep at Home Labels and Return to School labels for Take Home Folders
On the back of the folder, I have a label with my name and room number on it incase another teacher or student finds it in the hallway or on the bus. I also put my e-mail or phone number. This part is totally optional, but I figure it doesn’t hurt to have it on there. 
Label Weekly Folders
As I mentioned before, some years I've bought the folders with the prongs so I could use a sheet protector to hold the students' reading log and behavior chart. Other years, I didn't buy the pronged folders and just slid these papers inside.  :)  
Use a sheet protector inside of students' Take Home Folders to keep behavior log and reading log from getting lost in the shuffle
Insert behavior chart and reading log inside the sheet protector so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle.
Weekly behavior log for student folder. Great way to communicate with parents.
Here is an example of the reading log and behavior log to communicate with parents. 
Printable daily reading log to use in students' take home folders
Printable behavior chart for students' take home folders
Even if you don't use a color chart in your classroom, this behavior log could still work for you. Simply jot down a quick note about the child's day:
"Great effort today!" 
"Don't forget to raise your hand before talking out."
"Had some trouble in the cafeteria but otherwise AWESOME day."
"Thanks for being a leader today!"
Realistically, a teacher doesn't have time to write a personalized note to 25 students every day. That's when STICKERS come to the rescue. I can pass out a sticker to every student who earned one in less than 60 seconds. I don't want anything super time consuming, but I do like a way to keep in touch with parents. I think it also holds kiddos accountable for their day. #oldschool With that being said, if there has been a bigger issue at school, I would definitely call or e-mail the parents to touch base.
To learn more about the 5-Step System I use for Take Home Folders, check out Part 2 of this series. Please also check out my Take Home Folder VIDEO to get more ideas and details on setting up, organizing, and managing folders in the primary classroom. 
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