Sunday, November 23, 2014

My Classroom Must-Haves Day 2


Hi again!  
So yesterday I shared 3 of my organizational must-haves in my classroom.  Today I am just sharing some things that aren't necessarily for organization, but they do help me in my day-to-day teaching so I thought I would share.  

First up is what I use as my only real homework for my students.  I won't go into my feelings on homework (I'll save that for another post).  But I do think that especially first graders need as much time reading as possible.  Time to practice.  Time to develop a love of literature.  Time to spend with family members (hopefully).  

I hope you have at least heard of Reading A-Z.  If not, feel free to leave and go check them out because their resources are endless!  My school district has provided us with Reading A-Z accounts for about the last 10 years.  I don't use everything and probably don't even know half of what they offer, but I do love their printable leveled books.  They have both fiction and nonfiction texts - at least 25 per level (at this point there are probably way more than that).  So every Monday I send home 5 leveled books for my students to read throughout the week.  I choose books at their independent level and I tell the parents to try to read each book twice to work on fluency.  Each week I switch out the books.  The teacher who retired before me had these all numbered, which was genius, so I just grab the next 5 books in the bin.  It is a little time consuming, but I've gotten pretty quick at it.  I would rather spend some time doing this than time grading homework papers.  Maybe that's just me!  The other great thing is these books are just paper so if they don't come back or get ripped you can just print out a new one.  

My next classroom must-have are my book boxes.  These are just cardboard magazine holders that I spray painted black.  I tried to pretty them up with colored duct tape but it didn't stick enough on the glossy spray paint so I decided it wasn't worth it.  
Each student in my room has a book box.  Every couple weeks we make time to switch books in the boxes.  These books are also leveled, but I do allow them a few "off level" books to put in there for fun (usually library books or seasonal books that I have out on display are hot additions).  My goal is to keep them loving reading by giving them opportunities for choice, and finding books that interest them makes a huge difference.  I also don't really love having students go back and forth to my library area over and over again and thus not putting books back where they go.  Usually when this was an option the kids wouldn't actually spend time reading because they were too distracted.  Now my students will sit for a long time with a bunch of different books to read and not get bored.

No my final must-have may sound a little silly to some, but Mr. Clean and I have a bit of a love affair!  His Magic Erasers are truly magical and are a dry erase dream come true!!!

I use dry erase markers on most things that I have laminated: centers, charts, center board, birthday chart, etc.  So I use these babies... all.  the.  time!  And did you know that Magic Erasers will even erase things like Sharpie (not so permanent, eh?)!  Once I had a substitute teacher use Sharpie on my white board and thankfully Mr. Clean came to my rescue.  

So that wraps up this month's Weekend Warriors.  Thanks for joining me!  Maybe you found a new must-have for your classroom.  Feel free to tell me about your classroom must-haves in the comment section below.  

Thanks for stopping by!




Saturday, November 22, 2014

My Classroom Must-Haves Day 1


Weekend Warriors is here again - and this time with some of our classroom necessities.  I'm going to keep it simple today and stick with 3 of my absolute must-haves.  I am positive that I am not the only one who finds teaching without them nearly impossible.  So let's get right to it!


Oh, Post-Its...how I love you so!  I love the colors.  I love the different sizes.  Post-its and I go way back!  In the picture above you can see some of the ways I use them in my classroom.  I use them during guided reading with the students to go along with various lessons: finding sight words, monitoring comprehension, etc.  I use them to keep track of my student's reading levels in a file folder.  This is so easy to just open up and see my whole class at a glance.  I use them for anchor charts and I also use them in my planbook to remind me of meetings, assemblies, things to do, etc.  

I even use post-its on myself :)  Actually, the kids used them to label me when we were learning about labels in nonfiction texts.  


I am not the only who loves post-its.  This beautiful wall was at the Teachers Pay Teachers office in NYC with notes from the Las Vegas conference.  I'm pointing to the one I wrote.  

I think I should start buying stock in some of these things.  Ziploc bags - Yup, I have boxes and boxes! I organize all of my centers into Ziploc bags.  I use the small ones for smaller pieces and then I put that bag and the rest of the center materials into the gallon size bags including recording sheets and directions.  I ask parents for donations of Ziploc bags in the beginning of the year since we go through so many of them.  The other thing I love about storing centers this way is they easily fit into these plastic bins and I can see right away what I have in them.  Such a time saver and helps the kids stay organized too.  

And speaking of plastic bins or tubs or whatever you want to call them - that's my #3 must have for today.  This picture doesn't even do justice to the number of plastic organizing totes I have in my classroom.  

Every year I buy a few more.  I just wish it didn't cost so much money to be organized.  But it definitely is worth it.

Now check out my friends and what they find necessary to their day-to-day teaching.  You know you want to ;)



Saturday, November 1, 2014

I Love New York!

I do!  I really do!  I <3 NEW YORK!!
Granted, I am from the state of New York and I do love the beauty of New York State; however, last weekend I fell in love with New York City!  I think it happened somewhere around the corner of 46th and Broadway (really, I have no idea where I was at any point during my stay so I just threw out those streets because I know I saw them).  

Why did I go to NYC you ask?  Well, there are multiple reasons, but the main reasons were to meet some amazing teacher bloggers and to visit the Teachers Pay Teachers office.  Eeek!  I'm still a little giddy about it all!!  After my amazing trip to Las Vegas there was a group of people who decided that we NEEDED to go to NYC to see the TpT office and have another meet-up.  I was so excited to jump in.  So the wonderful Angela Watson organized the weekend for all of us.  Not an easy undertaking but she did an amazing job!!

The first night started with just a small group of us meeting.  I met my roomie CaseyJane Cooper from Wiggling Scholars and then we went out to meet Amanda Richardson from Mrs. Richardson's Class, her husband, and their suuuuuuuper adorable little boy.  We met up in Times Square and walked around a bit. We went into the M&M store and spent way too much time in there.  


I stepped into the "Discover your Color M&M" Machine to check my mood.  It was highly technical, but as you can see I was a red.  It says, "You have a fiery personality, but right now you're feeling a little nutty.  Do you crave roasted peanuts?"  Haha!  Too funny!  I guess I can be a little fiery and you'll see when you scroll down that I also got a little nutty.  Amazing how it could know all that! 


We later met up with some other FAB ladies: Tamara Russell from Mrs. Russell's Room, Leigh Langton from Applicious Teacher, and Tammy Wathen from The Resourceful Apple for dinner.  I loved these ladies and had so much fun hanging with them for the evening (oh and Amanda's hubby and son too).  =)


After dinner, CaseyJane and I headed off to a Broadway show because THAT is what you do in NYC, folks!  We went to see Kinky Boots and it was great!  The music was written by Cindy Lauper so you know it's good.  (*this is where the night got a little nutty like my M&M machine predicted).  Sorry for all the blurry pictures - darn iPhone!  


After the show we strolled around and found a cute Irish pub to hang at for a bit, but not before we took the opportunity to get a picture in a telephone booth.  Who knew these were still around?  I of course channeled my inner Superman and figured that is what you do in a telephone booth.  


Day 2 began with an amazing trip the Brain POP! office.  That's right - BRAIN POP!!!!  I mean, come on people, it just keeps getting better.  


We may have roamed around the office and taken a few pics.  Look at all the pictures of Moby on the wall that kids have sent into the offices.  How fun!  And speaking of Moby, he was not in the building while we were there so I found this little one on someone's desk and had to get a picture.  


Here is the whole group of us.  It was so great to meet all of them and get a private look into the future of Brain Pop.  Surely you use Brain Pop! in your classrooms, right?  If not, get moving!


After that we took a little walk around the city.  Actually it was a VERY looooooong walk around the city --- ALL around the city!  I loved it, but it was definitely exhausting.  


We made some typical tourist stops like Radio City, Rockefeller Plaza, Bryant Park, and of course Central Park. 




After a couple hours of walking around the city, one has to use the facilities - am I right?  So we thought we would find a coffee shop to sit down, grab a cup, and ahem - go potty.  I really wanted to go to Serendipity so we walked what seemed like 25 blocks to get there and it was packed (duh, of course it was!).  So instead of waiting, we went around the corner to a Starbucks, but I still had to get a picture because it's so darn cute.


And after our stroll around Central Park I saw a real life NYC rat.  Can you see him trying to get away from the Paparrazi (aka ME)?



We ended the day again with a fun dinner organized by the fabulous Brenda Tejeda.  Some more friends joined us but you can't really see them all.  The only new ones that you might be able to see are Reagan from Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits and Sally from Elementary Matters, who were actually with us earlier in the day but just not for the full 100 mile walk.


The final day was our day to visit the Teachers Pay Teachers office.  This little message was scrolling across the TVs in the office.  How sweet!


And although I met many of these fabulous people in Las Vegas, I was just so happy to meet them all again and some others too.  I cannot say enough about how warm and welcoming they all were - including Adam, the CEO, who Skyped in to chat with all of us.  


Do you see the Post-It wall in the background above.  Well these are Post-Its from Las Vegas after the TpT Conference and LOOK . . . 


I found mine!!!  I think I must have been too excited to write neatly at the time, but who cares, I'm ON THE WALL!


And of course, one last group picture to end the trip!


 I really had the best conversations ALL weekend long and especially here at the TpT office.  Everyone was genuinely interested in our experience, our input, and just us!  What a great feeling!  I wish I could sit and chat with them every Monday morning over bagels and coffee.  =)

So thanks to everyone for an awesome weekend!  Let's do it again next year!!! 



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