Thursday, June 30, 2016

It's a work in progress!

I went into school for a little bit yesterday to try and get some things done. Man it always seems to take forever! And it ALWAYS seems to get worse before it gets better! But here's a peek at what we got done for now:

This picture makes my heart so stinking happy! My book boxes were not on this book case last year but they fit P.E.R.F.E.C.T.L.Y. on it today. I couldn't believe it!

This will be my small group table for this year. I moved it down from where it was last year. I tried out having 2 meeting areas but I really only used 1 over the other. So to make sure that I can actually use my tiny white board this year, I put my table in front of it and will use it during small groups.

I tucked my computer back behind my easel so I can use it when I need it but otherwise it's out of the way. I love my old-school wooden chairs :) I am going to look for a small rug to put on the floor for my students to read on with their book boxes. This is normally one of my literacy centers and it will have it's very own spot this year :)

Near my sink I am going to put a table for small groups. This table was my writing table last year but it really wasn't put to the best use. I'm hoping this will be better this year!

One project I wanted to get done during post planning was to reorganize and label my math manipulatives. I did and it looks fabulous! Of course... it's underneath the red paper at the moment. Look for them during my classroom reveal later in July!

Have you worked in your classroom at all yet?

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Wednesday, June 29, 2016

How do you PLAN and ORGANIZE for your small groups?

Welcome to week 1 of my book study on Debbie Diller's 'Making the Most of Small Groups: Differentiation for All'. I've read through chapters 1 and 2 to be able to share some great information AND (not 1, not 2..) several freebies!

Without further ado, Chapter 1! Debbie began her book talking about what we know is one of the most common hurdles for teachers: TIME. It's definitely a 4 letter word ;)

Some of the most important tid-bits that I got from the brilliant Debbie are these:

** There is no such thing as a perfect schedule**

We all have something about our schedules we might not like. But we always make it work. So, keeping that in mind, think about what you need to fit in AND what does your county require. My county wants me to do a core reading time and a supplemental reading time. On paper, that's what it is. In real life, it's all one big block where my core reading consists of a mini-lesson and literacy stations that turn into the supplemental time. While my students do stations, I pull for groups.

** Consider your kids and then the curriculum**

We are required to teach the curriculum and get it all covered. We always do BUT keep your kids in mind when scheduling. If you know that they can't handle assessments in the afternoon, rearrange and do them in the morning. If they need extra settle-down time before a lesson can begin, build in a review game that's calming or a read aloud.

**Make sure to break it down**

Your lessons should be broken down into: whole group, small group, and one-on-one. It's SUPER important to meet with every student 1:1 at least once a week if not more often. 

To help with thinking about how to do that, here's your first freebie:

Chapter 2: Organizing

**Make sure that everything is within reach! In the picture above I had my guided reading books, pointers, lesson plans, and more all right in reach!

**Slowly introduce small groups. It helps that in Kindergarten we start out the year teaching the letters. Since I do a condensed alphabet bootcamp,  I also introduce a new center each day. 
For example, day 1 half the students do a handwriting/coloring sheet and the other half does play dough letters.
Day 2, 1/3 does handwriting, 1/3 does play dough, 1/3 does letter sort.
Day 3, 1/4 does handwriting, 1/4 does play dough, 1/4 does letter sort, 1/4 meets with me for a letter activity.

We keep up this routine until we have done all the letters. By then we have made sure to instill our expectations about small groups, centers, and how to behave during both.

**Make sure to always have a plan!** 

I have used my planning pages for years now and they help keep track of SO much!

Look! Another freebie! This is one of the most important things you can have at your small group table: a notification to your students that they need to stay back because you have a group going on. In Debbie's book, she had teachers who used a certain stuffed animal that held a sign. I've also had a stop sign that was attached to a standing up pocket chart like this one:

Here's your very own sign for your table top! There are several to choose from:

Don't forget! Next Wednesday I'll share about Chapter 3: Grouping and Chapter 4: Comprehension. Make sure to come back!

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Monday, June 27, 2016

Top 5 Teacher Ideas Ever

After blogging for awhile, I love to go back and look at all the ideas I've collected over the years (10 this year! Eek!) These are the top 5 most amazing blog posts and ideas from my blog. Maybe you could use one this year?

When I taught 5th grade, I made sure to incorporate STEM as much as possible in my science class. This was definitely my student's favorite!

When I went to Kindergarten (my favorite!) I needed a rug... but they don't grow on trees and neither does money. I eventually got one from a project on Donor's Choose. But before that I needed something to help. I found these from a company called Sit Spots. They are fabulous!

Have you heard of Laura Candler? She has amazing resources in her store and on her website. This product was one that I had an amazing time using in my kinder classroom. It helped to really hit the DOK on all levels with my students. She has them for all grade levels!

Once upon a time, I had an amazing guest poster who share the idea about Magic Back to School Playdough.... and my back to school has never been the same since! Seriously, your students will think that you are THE BEST!

A parent favorite is this little gem that I have used for all 4 years that I have taught Kindergarten. The sweet little hand prints are to die for!

So many great ideas are being added all the time on Pinterest that it's hard to keep up. BUT sometimes it's even better to look back and see what you've done before and might have forgotten.

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Sunday, June 26, 2016

Interactive Letter Ipad Center

Last year I found these amazing letters:

They interact with a free ipad app. So you buy the letters and get the app as a bonus. They also have them as numbers now too! 

I had several gift cards from students and finally ordered some off of Amazon earlier this week. They came in the mail yesterday and I opened them right then!

Check these out:

The app took maybe a minute to download and I started playing with it. My 6 year old came over and wanted to know what I was doing... so I let her try it out too!

She loved it! She definitely would have kept playing except that ipad battery died. I haven't charged it this summer and it was on 5% when I started. Oops!  I can't wait to use these this year. I even have a Donor's Choose page set up to hopefully get some more!

For now, they'll hang out in the cute pouch that comes with them!

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Saturday, June 25, 2016


I L.O.V.E. when it's an awesome mail day! Today was one of those days!

I had 2 amazing students give me Amazon gift cards at the end of year and since I stink at buying for myself I used the to buy things for this upcoming year. Check it out:

Paw prints for names in the hallway

Paw prints for names where they hang their backpacks

Velcro to put their name plates on their desks- 
I have found that if I laminate the name plates and then put them on the table with velcro, they last ALL year! I tried it last year and it actually worked!

Play dough is a must so I ordered 2! For some reason green is the cheapest on Amazon but that's fine with me because it's my favorite!

These will be perfect for my back to school treats I give the children at open house. I always put pencils and what not in them. The one consistent item I ALWAYS put in is an 8 pack of crayons. SO many children don't have crayons these days!

Name plates for their tables. We are the Cougars... hence all the paw prints! Plus we also do a phonics program that wants the children to point to letters and such. I'm hoping these will help save time so we don't have to pass out the alphabet strips every time we need them.

This is my favorite purchase! I have a post dedicated to this coming tomorrow. I'll make sure to link to it once it's up. I have been wanting these for a while and finally bit the bullet and did it!

What are your must have purchases?

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Tuesday, June 21, 2016

Top 5 Ways to Be Ready for B2S

While it's only the middle of June, so many of us are already looking towards B2S. We all know that the back to school sales are right around the corner... pretty much as soon as July 4th is over the supplies are out and ready to go. But with over a month before we go back there are a few things that I'm doing to get ready before the rush.

#1- Plan what you can!

I have already purchased my planner for next year already and plugged in the dates that are available on my county's website for next year's calendar. I know there will be tons more to add but with my kid's sports, school, homework, gymnastics, doctor appointments, dentist appointments, and grad school... I need to fill it in as much as I can. Here's what mine looks like as of right now:

I love using the stickers and pretty pens. I might not always take time to do all of that all the time BUT during the summer I do :) !

#2- Start a wish list!

I have my wish list going on Amazon at the moment of the things that I want for my classroom you can add things to your cart or create a wish list that you can share with your parents at Open House.

#3- Set up your Bloomz!

This past year I used Bloomz to keep in touch with parents. It's an amazing resource! I scheduled parent-teacher conferences (parents were able to edit the appointments them selves), put up volunteer opportunities (class parties, craft activities, etc.), and shared pictures of daily activities SAFELY with only the parents. Plus you are in control of who has access to the group. It's super safe, free, and amazing!

#4- Set up your newsletter template!

This is one of those things that I always forget about until I need it THAT day! So this summer, I went ahead and made my template so it's all ready to use for the first time. We send home folders on Tuesdays so all I will have to do is enter in my information and send it out. That's a lot better than playing with my clipart for awhile and then entering all my information. Remember, work smarter- not harder!

#5- Make copies of whatever you can!

I get that the last thing you might want to do is go to school. I actually did this the last day of post planning. I went ahead and pulled out my files from Open House and Back To School. I did the basics  because I knew I needed to refine my classroom handbook and a few other things. But I did print out my information sheet for parents to fill out, Miss. Kindergarten coloring sheet, 'Twas the night before Kindergarten writing page, etc. If you go in during the summer- no lines. It's definitely something to consider. OR if you aren't able to copy, at least pull the folders and make a stack of the originals you want to copy. If you have that done and go first thing during pre-planning, the lines might be shorter!


I know I said 5. But... I couldn't help myself. One of the things I do every year is to make a Pinterest board for the next school year. I pin items all summer long anyways so when I stumble across an item that says, "You must do this next year!" I add it to the board. Check out what I have so far:

The BEST advice I have ever received about Pinterest is to actually PRINT your idea board. So at the beginning of school, I'll print the board and put it into my planner. Once I have done an idea, I will cross it off the print out. But it helps to have the ideas right there at my finger tips.

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Monday, June 6, 2016

Quiet Time Tip

During December, I love to have a mood setter in the classroom. I have found this mood setter on You tube. Yes. You tube :)

I love it and the kids love it! But I had never thought to use other videos like this during other parts of the year. Until I saw this idea on Simply Kinder's Facebook group:

So I started looking and WOW! Look what I found!

They are beautiful. The kids love them. Plus there is relaxing music to go with it. It's fantastic!

It's the perfect way to get outside and see things or experience things your students might never see otherwise. I can't wait to use more of these next year!

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Sunday, June 5, 2016

A Little of This and That: Summer, Fitness for Teachers, etc.

We all know how the end of the school year gets so I had to have a break. But now that summer is here and in full swing, I'm stepping back up to the blogger plate.

One of the most exciting things going on at the moment is actually on Facebook. I've been loving being on the Facebook group for Simply Kinder with Jennifer Kadar. There is SO much information on there from other kindergarten teachers to help you work smarter, not harder and get your kids engaged.

With summer now here, one of my goals is to lose the school year weight from the past 2 years. So I asked on Simply Kinder if there was a fitness group just for teachers. Turns out there wasn't... but there is now!

We just started up a great Facebook group that you can join to get motivation, tips, and help with losing weight and getting fit! Now, none of us are professional trainers BUT we are all teachers who really, really GET how hard our schedules are and how crazy things can get. It helps to be in a group of people who get it!

We started off last week with a simple challenge to drink more water. Part of my downfall this year was drinking coffee in the morning and then switching to Coke in the afternoon. There was no water anywhere. Well, that has certainly changed this summer! I have drank more water this past week than in the past year- no joke.

We are also working on motivating one another with recipes and ideas. There are exercise programs that people are trying out too. Plus if you fitbit, there is a running list of new people to follow and friend!

I just got my fit bit in the mail yesterday! Love it:

Come join us at Fitness for Teachers!

With that being the B-I-G new for summer, I am also enjoying hanging out and relaxing with my kids. They have tons of camps so I get to be just a mom and wife. I love this time of year for just that. I've already started the cleaning out process (LOUD GROAN). I'm up to 13 trash bags of stuff gone out of their rooms so far.

What are your goals for the summer? For once mine are a lot more family and me centered.

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