Saturday, August 3, 2013

Inspired by Marcy's post on Searching for Teacher Balance I decided to join up with 2 linky parties with this post and share about 5 back-to-school Tech Tips.

Five Back-to-School Tech Tips  These are a bunch of ideas for taking care of all of the usual back-to-school parent communication without all of the paper!

1.  Post a parent welcome letter on your class website.   I usually send out both an e-mail and a paper letter invitation at the beginning of the year so to make sure that they know how to get there.  I let them know that newsletters will be published on our class website and that lots of general information they may be curious about can also be found there.

2.  Post a welcome letter to students on the class website.   I used to send welcome postcards to students, but now I post a letter to them on our class website.  Last year I also recorded a message with VOKI so that students can watch and listen to a cartoon version of their teacher welcoming them to school.  I also post pictures of the classroom, so that they get a chance to get familiar with and feel less anxiety about their new school.

3.  Put curriculum night information on the class website and use that night to show parents how to navigate the website.  I like this idea better than printing out all of the documents, which both requires a lot of paper and which many parents will often lose and ask me about later.  If it's on the website, they can access the information any time they want.  This requires a good working class projector, however, which I hope to have by the time school starts!!!

4. Use Googledocs for Conference and Volunteer Sign Ups.  I used to always print out paper versions of sign ups for both parent-teacher conferences and volunteering in the classroom.  Last year I tried sign-up genius, which is a good online option, but requires lots of time to enter all the e-mail addresses and such.  Google docs seems to be a more simple solution.  I'm even thinking of having google docs sign ups open on the classroom computer on curriculum night and then keeping a link to them on the class website for parents who need to sign up later.  Here are some screen shots...though the bottom part is cut off...

5.  Use Survey Monkey at the beginning of the year to ask questions of parents and find out more information before the first day of school!  It's a good alternative to the paper versions that I used to pass out on Curriculum Night.  I usually ask about hopes/dreams, strengths, concerns, transportation information, nicknames, allergy information, etc...  It's nice to have a chance to hear back from families before the first day of school!

Thursday, August 1, 2013

I heart washi tape!

I heart washi tape!  There's a Washi Tape Wednesday post on Kindergarten Crayons that inspired me to share ideas for using washi tape in the classroom.  Because it's sticky and removable, there are so many great uses for it and now that more stores are carrying it, it's so much easier to find.

List of ways that I have used washi tape in the classroom:

  • Students used washi tape to tape their body shape stencils to the inside of their science journals, so that every time we learned about a new body system, they could trace the shape of a human body and draw what they learned.  
  • Students taped their "foot" cut out for measuring to the inside of their math journals, so they wouldn't get lost.
  • I created a laminated class book that lists the class rules on each page and I taped photos of current students following those rules in the book.  I can remove the photos and reuse the book with new photos next year.  
  • One of our calendar activities was to add a penny to the board each day (and trade them for a dime after 10 days and a dollar bill after 100 days.)  I used the washi tape on the white board to divide up the 1s, 10s, 100s place both for the money and for the spot where students wrote the numbers.
  • I'm using washi tape for my word wall this year to divide up spaces on the white board.
  • You can use it to mark where the students should stand in line.  I've used painter's tape for this for years, but washi tape comes in so many more fun colors!
  • You can tape things to the white board if you run out of magnets and you can remove it and reuse it easily.
  • I used it to tape checklist into notebooks.  For example, I have a notebook that I use for keeping conferring notes during writer's workshop that I use throughout the year.  I change up the checklist each month though so that I can keep track of who I visited and it removes nicely when taped in with washi tape.  Much better than gluing and ripping!
Now that washi tape is becoming easier to find, I'm excited to see how other people are using it!!!!

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Classroom Cubbies

One crafty classroom project that I worked on over the summer break was fixing up my classroom cubbies! I have a cubby shelf that I use in the classroom where I pass out papers that need to go home with students. I was putting sticker labels on the bottom of each cubby space so that kids would know which one was theirs. One problem with this is that some of the labels would fall off, while others would leave a residue if I took them off. The other problem was that you couldn't see the labels once there were papers in the cubbies. I saw this great idea on pinterest that solved both problems (photo links back to pinterest so you can see who created it!)...

And here's what I ended up making... I covered up the yucky edges with duct tape and then collage-pauged numbers onto binder clips for the labels.  I only put up to 20 so far (wishful thinking!) but may add more once I find out how many students I'll have this year.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Guided Reading Book Study--Chapter Two

Chapter Two of the Guided Reading book is all about assessment and grouping.  For Kindergarten, she recommends doing Letter ID and Name writing for all students at the beginning of the year, which I already do.  For the students who do really well,  she then recommends doing a word list assessment and running records (which I do) and dictated sentences (haven't done, great idea) and writing samples (which I do for writing workshop).  This at least inspires me to get my assessment binder organized and prepared for back to school!

She also talks about how to analyze running record errors, which I know how to do, but do not tend to do regularly.  I'd like to do more of this this school year AND use that information to support what I work on in reading groups.

She suggest that the running record info can guide the focus of reading groups and could address any of the following:  risk taking, self-monitoring, decoding, fluency, oral retell, and comprehension.  Helpful!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Guided Reading Book Study CHAPTER ONE

    This summer I decided to join in on a book study of the book Guided Reading that is being hosted by teacher bloggers from freebielicious!  I am already behind, but still want to enjoy the book study!  

    I currently teach Kindergarten and love the way that I run centers.  I allow students to choose which centers they go to, but always have at least one required center per day which is usually the phonics center.   They can head on over to the snack center when they get hungry, which eliminates the need for me to schedule this in  later.  I also require students to come to the guided reading center when invited.   I'm hoping to get ideas to help this time run more smoothly and to strengthen what I do during guided reading time!  

     I just finished reading chapter one, which is all about preparing for guided reading, and here are some of my thoughts:
  • She suggests a method for teaching centers that involves working with one group of students at a time.  Though I like this idea of teaching in small group, many of my centers only have space for 3 students, which would mean that I'd have to teach it anywhere from 6-8 times, so I'll have to think about how to make that work....
  • Love the idea of having a signal to show kids that they many not interrupt guided reading (maybe a stop sign) and to share about that at a class meeting.  Maybe I will make a list of what types of things would constitute emergencies and post that as well.  Good advice to not acknowledge students who decide to interrupt--just keep on teaching!  (I'm not good at that!)  And I like her suggestion to take notes and analyze the reasons behind interruptions that do occur.  
  • I already do many of the center ideas that she lists, but I love the idea of the word wall center where students can practice spelling words with different materials.  
  • I like the idea of allowing kids to keep class library books, in addition to guided reading books, in their little book bags.
  • I already mark the clock so that I'll know when center time is ending, but may also use her idea of using a timer to keep me on track when working with guided reading groups.
  • I like the idea of using bins to organize guided reading group materials and I plan to use this new organizer from Lakeshore for that: 
  • I like how she mentions the importance of teaching kids to use a whisper voice during centers and the idea of having one student be the whisper monitor!  I'll have to talk to parent volunteers and support staff about doing the same.  Only exception would be using a soft voice when addressing a small group.  
  • Last of all, I like her "observation chairs" idea for students who are disruptive during guided reading time.  I did something like this last year, but like the idea of planning ahead for it and maybe even teaching kids ahead of time how to handle it if they get invited there.  
Lots of good ideas!  Now I'll check out ideas from other teachers before reading the next chapter!  

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

10 Pin Linky Party: Favorite Class Decor Pins

Here are some of my favorite classroom decor pins!  All photos link back to pinterest where credit is given for the source of the photo!  

1.  I love these cubbies with both the names and the photos!  I also love the number line on the wall that looks like it was created with kid art! 

2.  I love how organized this classroom wall is and how the teacher made use of all the extra space.  

3.  I love this writing center bulletin board!  I've been wanting more ideas for what to do with the bulletin board where my writing center is. 

4.  I love how this teacher transformed some ugly metal furniture into something colorful and fun.  Follow the link back to her website for lots more classroom eye candy!  Her classroom is really amazing!  

5.  I'm loving this word wall!  I like the pictures for each letter and like how kid names have photos next to them.  I also like how there's plenty of space for more words and words are big enough to see across the room!

6.  I love how this teacher posted reading groups with kid photos on scrapbook paper.  Looks like the photos might be inside a scrapbook page and easy to move around/re-arrange as needed.

7.  Another great way to display guided (in this case math) groups of kids!  I like how the velcro makes it easy to regroup and I like all the colorful paper! 

8.  I love the bright happy colors and bold letter labels.  Simple things like this can make classrooms bright and happy looking!

9.  I love this class collage!  It would be a great thing to hang up in the hallway in the beginning of the school year to celebrate all of our friends!  

10.  Last of all, I love this creative use of space.  Something like this could also be done on the backs of metal shelves that are so common in our classrooms!  

Click on the photo to the left to see who started this linky party and to see other teacher's favorite pins! 

Monday, February 25, 2013

Clutter-Free Classroom Week #5

I am so inspired by the Clutter-Free Classroom blog and challenges!  Probably because de-cluttering and organizing is like a hobby to me.  I have noticed that it's hard to keep up with it during the work week.  I wonder if that's a special problem for Kindergarten teachers because we have so many hands-on activities.  Anyways, I decided to go in on the weekend to have a good amount of time to clean things up in my teacher office area.

Even though it wasn't a huge mess, I cleaned up and simplified my teacher desk.  I decided to only keep teacher references on my desk that I use every day or week.  I also decided to get rid of the box used for collecting stuff that needs to be put away (and just put that stuff away every day instead of letting it pile up).  That box is now used as a place to store materials for substitute teachers so that it will always be on my desk.
I also worked on organized my miscellaneous desk drawer.  What a mess!  I can now actually find things and know where things belong!  It's so nice to open it up during the day and only spend a second getting what I need.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Hall Pass Linky Party

Reagan at Tunstall's Teaching Tidbits is hosting a Linky Party!  PASS=favorite Product, Area, Signal, and (source of) Sanity.  Here are my thoughts.....

PRODUCT  I haven't made a whole bunch of my own teaching products, but am currently loving the "Writing through the Year" curriculum from Dee Dee Wills and Deanna Jump.  I'm excited to launch the "How To" unit on Monday!


 AREA  My favorite area in my classroom is currently my super tiny listening center, because I feel proud of myself for getting creative with limited space in my classroom, love the idea of hanging the headphones on the magnet clips to keep them from getting tangled around each other and students, and loving storing the cube chairs there when not being used for large group time.  (I also just found this tiny green table at the Re-use center and plan to use it for another center space.)

SIGNAL We have a hallway chant that we sing before heading into the hallway:
     My hands are by my pockets
     I'm standing straight and tall
     I'm looking right ahead of my
     I'm ready for the hall
Recently, we decided to start rapping it instead of singing it, complete with a few hip hop moves, and the class is SOOOOO excited to do it.  It's quite funny (but a bit embarrassing if I have to try to rap in front of a grown-up visitor!)

SANITY  Honestly, I need to get better at actually keeping my sanity so that I can come home and NOT spend my nights recovering from work.....but some of my "tools" include my yoga mat that I roll out during my lunch break, lavender room spray, Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, and Kit's Organic Chocolate, Almond, Coconut Bars (my healthy brownies!)  Also, I LOVE this book and want to spend more time re-reading it for ideas for managing teacher-related stress:

And I also notice that I enjoy my days more (and feel less stressed!) when I can remember to laugh with the kids and notice the humor (which is can be found every day if looking for it!)

100th Day Ideas to Remember

We celebrated our 100th day of Kindergarten last week and had lots of special activities to celebrate the event.  This year I want to keep a list of the ideas that I liked best so that I can remember it the following year!  
*My fabulous teacher friend shared 100s day crowns and a parent donated 100s day stickers!
*During center time in the morning, kids worked on making symmetrical 100s day glasses.  Other center choices included:  making the number 100 with snacks, filling up a 100s chart  by rolling a die and then coloring the matching number of boxes, putting together 100 chart puzzles, putting together mini-books where kids can practice writing 100 in different languages, a 100 coloring page and dot-to-dot page.  
*During Writing time, kids worked on writing a list of 100 THINGS I LIKE.  There were 100 boxes for them to number, draw a picture, and write the words.  Sent it home for kids to keep working on over the break as homework!
*During afternoon centers, kids got to play RACE to 100, where they roll a die to get pennies, then exchange 10 pennies for a dime, then 10 dimes for a (fake) dollar bill that they can keep forever.  
*We had plans to do more large group 100 day activities (different things to do in 100 seconds) but ran out of time.  Maybe next year...

Monday, January 28, 2013

New Teacher Planner

So today we had a surprise snow day!  With extra time on my hands, I got motivated to finish up re-organizing my teacher binder.  Here's what my old one looked like:

While I LOVE this calendar lay out, writing out my schedule by hand is not so easy this year (now that Kindergarten has changed to full day!)  So I wanted to simplify and I was also really inspired by some techy lesson plan templates that I saw on some blogs like these from Erica Bohrer and Dee Dee Wills

I had a hard time figuring out how to make these work for my classroom, since my schedule is different each day of the week and I do like to have the option to write things in and change them throughout the week as needed (like when we have a snow day and I need to change my plans)!  So I ended up creating a digital template of my weekly schedule with space to write in specific lesson plans for those activities that require them.  

I had fun decorating my new binder with some collages (repurposed from last planner), adding my schedule, and adding monthly calendar pages (from Goddess Leonie!).  I have a pocket in front for any papers that are coming or going, a pencil pouch to store both pens and smaller materials that I've created, space in the binder for my year-long plan, and also room at the back for my teacher journal.

This Calendar page is from Goddess Leonie!

I feel more organized now that I have all of my "stuff" (other than curriculum) in one compact planner.  Yay, I guess this counts as an organization project for the Clutter-Free Classroom Project!