Sunday, June 30, 2013

Currently ~ July & Some Winners!

Hey All,
This will have to be fast - I mean, my hammock is calling my name...

I haven't linked up with Farley over at Oh Boy, Fourth Grade in a here I am and here it is...

I think it pretty much 'splains itself...

The weather here in MI has been think it's going to be a nice day, then those clouds roll in and along with them storms.  I can't tell you how many times this week I climbed into my new hammock, only to have to come in shortly after...

I've mostly been reading "Teach Like a Pirate" {awesome read} but want to find something non-thinking...any ideas?

And as far as tips, tricks or hints. Balance!  That's really the key to life, right?  You can't be everything to everybody and will kill yourself {or at least make yourself miserable} trying.  So, just do what you can and be happy with that.  Along with that, try not to compare your success to others.  I'd say that if your hard work inspires or helps even just one teacher...well, you're doing mighty good!  

Thanks for following me over at Bloglovin'!  

The winners of my Me, Wonderful Me! Pack are....

Hold on...I'm waiting for my 8 year old to choose...

Cute graphics and chevron by the awesome Ashley Hughes - my current favorite frame by Creative Clips!

Congrats! Check your email!

Happy Sunday!!!!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Bloglovin' & A Mini-Groveling Giveaway

I'm such a sheep...I'm just followin' along....HA! So, I've heard {read} through the grapevine that most of us {myself included} have been following blogs using Google Reader or is it Google Friend Connect?!?  Honestly, I don't know the difference - what I do know, is you more than likely pushed this here button... follow my blog; for which I am EVER so thankful for.  If you don't blog, but you read blogs, you might not quite understand the power behind that number.  I used to fixate on it, but not really so much anymore.  What that number represents to me now is how many people I reach, influence, help out and hopefully make smile every now and then.  What I get in return are the world's most awesome "teammates" has really been life changing both personally and professionally for me.

So, you can imagine my dismay when I heard that I could potentially lose that connection with you all.  {Like I said, I don't really know how that works and why that would be - but I'm a sheep, and I also believe everything I read on the internet...}

Soooooo, I really hope you're not seeing this little situation as a clean, phew...I can ditch her now and it'll be a "it's not you, it's Google" kinda thing.  I'd have to drown my sorrows in Washi tape {which, by the way, I bought my first four rolls tonight...oh the possibilities}...If you click this little button... and I can stay friends forever {because that's what you want...right?}

On another note...I'm absolutely ON FIRE {Okay, smoldering} in the creation department.  The end of the year brought on a horrible dry spell for me.  But now that it's summer... I've got my TpT mojo back and have finished up another pack. I hope you'll give it a look.  

Visit my TpT Store {here}

And just because I love you to pieces for hoppin' on the bloglovin train - leave the name you follow me under over at bloglovin and your email address and I'll randomly choose 3 of you to give "Me, Wonderful Me!" to!  

Thanks a bunch!

P.S. I'm pasting this little deal below in order to "claim my blog" just ignore it.  I guess....oh geez...
Follow my blog with Bloglovin

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

An Apple a Day - Whole Group Instruction

Hi All,

I'm linking up again with Leigh over at The Applicious Teacher for her weekly summer linky party.  This week the topic is Whole Group Instruction.

If you want to be successful in a first grade classroom, you have to understand that staying on your toes is the name of the game.  It seems like this is more important today than ever.  I always feel like I'm in competition with the fast paced world of gaming.  Kids are on their iPods, iPads, X-boxes, etc.  The worlds these kids enter into when playing with technology are so fast paced, that I feel like I need to be too.  

Having said that, while I think I need to keep moving to keep my kiddos engaged - I think it's also my job to help exercise their little "patience muscles" - I want to really strengthen their "whole body listening".  

We spend a lot of our whole group instruction here...

I love how this area is surrounded by books, my kids are super close to me and they can all see what they need to see {and aren't too far away from it}easily.  I also like how there aren't pencils, crayons and other desk items to fiddle with down there.  BUT...there are those errant staples that you can bet are found and diligently brought up to me - you know, so that I can use them again! HA!

It is on the carpet that we really practice our whole body listening.  Erica over at Erica Bohrer's First Grade created this freebie that I use "down on the carpet".  It's always hung on my easel...front and center and before I start any sort of whole group teaching I say "eyes, ears and lips" and then my kiddos say "whole body listener".  

Click {here} to pick up this freebie from Erica!
Sometimes we sit in a group {our special spots - I always assign a square on the rug that is our special spot} or sometimes we sit in a "circle"  {our squircle spots - it's not exactly a circle, but it's not quite a square so we call them our squircle spots} it all depends on what kind of instruction I'm doing.  If I'm teaching a game that we'll play during our math workplaces, squircle works best.  If we are doing a shared writing activity then we'll sit in our special spots.  If you weren't a teacher, you'd never know that thought is put into this kinda stuff, would you?!

Of course, you have to mix it up during the day.  If we were just sitting at our desks for independent work time, then I want my WGI to be on the carpet. If we were just working around the classroom, then I like for my kiddos to sit at their desks.  Back and forth, back and forth - that's sort of how I plan my day and my WGI.  

I handle WGI at their desks differently.  I feel like I'm more of a performer on stage when I stand "in the front" of the classroom.  If I've got kids way "in the back" I don't want those hands in their desks fiddling. {Although I do know that some kids just need to fiddle to stay focused...have you seen these?}

My all-time favorite fidget!
I allow these fidgets both at desks and on the carpet during WGI.  I'd rather them hold these discretely in their hands {this takes training} than a shoelace in their mouth.

I find myself donning a whole slew of "costumes" during WGI at our desks.  I keep a whole bin of them in my closet...mad scientist hats and goggles, cowboy hats {My southern teaching accent would make you cringe - I'm a Michigan girl!}, various old Halloween costumes {Mrs. Bee has come out to teach many times}you just gotta do what you gotta do.  

As with anything you do in your classroom - whole group instruction needs to be well organized and thought out.  Expectations need to be established.  But the best advice I can give about whole group instruction in a classroom of 5, 6, 7 or 8 year olds?  Keep it "short".  Once those little patience muscles have been "worked out" you can gradually add more time...but brevity is the name of the game.

For other whole group instruction ideas and tips go visit The Applicious Teacher!

I finally finished up my weather pack - it's a great way to supplement your science curriculum!!!!

Check it out over at TpT!


Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Alternative Seating ~ In Need of Your Thoughts!!

Hi Folks,
Third day of summer vacay and I'm already thinking about what I can do differently next year.  Aren't we blessed that way?  Finish up a year, feel good about it, but then start fresh next school year.  We're so lucky to be able to reinvent ourselves and our classrooms each year.

So, my current thinking is about alternative seating.  I've been tossing this idea around for a few years now and just haven't taken the leap.  I *think* I might be ready to go for it next school year...but I might need a little encouragement {or, "what the heck are you thinking"} from all of you.

Here's my thought process...

The last few years I've been concerned that my kiddos are coming to me with different needs than what they once did.  They just seem more distracted and in need of a faster pace.  I started speculating why this was and I do have my thoughts - but it did strike me the other day, that it's just as much about the kids as it is our teaching.

Classrooms have changed, expectations have grown. I'm pretty sure the difference in my classroom today versus 15 years ago is a combination of high expectations {developmentally appropriate isn't even in our vocabulary anymore} and kids coming in with different needs/ways of learning {thanks video games and overbooked/overcooked families}. What I do know is I'd like to set up the environment in a way that will help my little ones, who have only been on this earth for 6 whole years - yet are expected to infer, use their schema and perform mental math operations that I still have troubles with, succeed.  

I do want to put out there that my students have never sat at their desks 6 hours out of any day - we do move around the room during workplaces, science experiments, reader's workshop,  etc., but I'm thinking about writer's workshop, and other times during the day when they are sitting on those hard, uncomfortable chairs.

So, I'm thinking about bringing alternative seating into my classroom.  Before you give me your thoughts let me share with you how I see this looking and working in my classroom.  {I definitely have a lot of questions and wonderings too}

I'm thinking I want to purchase a couple moon chairs {something like this}...

This one is from Walmart - wonder if I can find them somewhere for even cheaper?
Butter up my awesome custodian and see if he'll lower a table or two so that I can have this...

Miss Hoffman's Class - visit her website for more cool info on alternative seating...
I already have lots of pillows, a mini couch, wiggle seats, a rocking chair and a big chair with pillows for the kids to sit on.  

And our PTA purchased 5 stability balls for me at the end of the school year.

PTA purchased ours using Campbell Soup label points

I figure I'll keep six first grade desks, and get 3 bigger kid desks and have those raised as high as they will go for my "standers"...

Think about how much space I'll have in my room with only 9 desks!

I already have a kidney bean table for guided reading - so kids could work there when I'm not.  I'm hoping that in the future I can purchase some bean bags to add to the collection.  

Oh, and I have these guys from IKEA...

Only $7.99 at IKEA - and they are strong enough to hold me!
I have cute crabby and froggy cushions to go on top.
I also have a classroom set of clipboards and might look into purchasing a few lap desks...

$15 at Walmart - wonder if I can find them cheaper somewhere?

So, here's what's holding me back...


The only investment I have to put into this {so far} are the mushroom chairs {and maybe some lap desks} - everything else I have already.  Since I won't have one set "seat" for the students I have to think of ways to store materials such as:

*Math book, handwriting book
*Pencil boxes

2. Management

*How do I manage who sits where - especially early on.  I can see once my kiddos are solid in rules and routines being able to introduce something like alternative seating, but I'm pretty concerned with how this will look at the beginning of the school year.  I think it's this piece that's REALLY holding me back, more than management of supplies.

I'm still not 100 percent sure if I'm going to take the leap and do this - but I really, really want to.  I think it's what my students need to help them stay engaged with this "rigorous curriculum".  Buuuutttt....if I don't manage it properly and have all my ducks in a row going into it, it could really go south.  {I'm sort of a control freak...sorta, but I'm calming down in the area with age...HA!}

Here are a few websites I've found on the topic to help me {and you if you're wondering about it} wrap my brain around it further...

So, I would REALLY like you to weigh in.  What do you think about desks vs. tables?  Alternative seating vs. traditional seating?  Do you have any ideas for storage if a teacher should opt out of desks?  

My mind is whirling - but I'm excited about this new venture!


Monday, June 17, 2013

Classroom Management - Linky Party

I'm linking up with my bloggy friend, Leigh from Applicious Teacher to talk about my classroom management.

You know, I'm pretty much chef's surprise when it comes to just about anything in my classroom.  I've never found one 'anything' that works for me.  Daily 5?  Gotta tweak it. Centers?  I kinda do those my own way too.  So, it's no surprise that my classroom management is constantly changing, and doesn't hinge on one set's more of a hodge podge.

My school is delving into Conscious Discipline this coming year.  I'm still a wee bit skeptical; but I can give anything a shot.  It's hard not to have the "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" mentality.  I feel like classroom management is one of my strengths...but, there some parts of CD that I really find's brain based  and that part of it just makes sense to me.  So, we'll see...I could be singing a different tune come next year.  But for now, this is how I roll...

I find that at the beginning of the year, it's important to do two things. Build community and establish clear and defined limits. If it's too grey - our students don't know what to do with that.  I'm not of the "don't smile until Christmas" mentality, but I definitely let the kids know what's acceptable and what's not early on.

Along with that, we do something called "Snoopy Dollars".  The kids can earn stickers for various things and after ten stickers on their Snoopy Dollars they can "shop" in our treasure box.

We fill our classroom's bucket...

We fill out "think sheets"...

And, if needed, we have our own little plans that help us along.  Sometimes it's a "private office" {you know, sometimes you need your own space, away from others who might distract you, or you may distract}...or a visual timer...this one is my favorite.

Or it could be a wiggle seat to help contain {but allow} our wigglies...these are my favorites.  The kids also use them for Book Nooks during Daily 5.  

I did get the ClassDojo app last year but didn't use it.  After reading about it over at Hadar's blog I think I may give it a shot this school year.  

Of course there's the "Magic Word" ...

...that I usually pull out of my hat mid-year.  

So, yeah - pretty much chef's surprise.  I've got more under my sleeve...just like I'm sure you do!

More than anything, I think what helps me with classroom management is the connections I make with the kids.  The little stories I tell them about myself and my family.  The moments they share about themselves as people and make connections to one another. The conversations we have about being leaders, respecting others and their learning and of course, respecting ourselves....

Sporting something like this always helps...

You must own a pair of these glasses...wakes your snoozers up!!!!
Isn't that dog the cutest?!?
For other great ideas...go check out Leigh's linky party!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Parent Volunteer Thanks! *Freebie*

Hi Folks!

So, it'd be pretty hard to do what we do without the help from our parents...wouldn't it?  I know some parents find it hard to volunteer in the classroom {I'm one of them...I'm in my own classroom!!!} which means some of us are doing it all on our own...bless you!

I'm a lucky lady.  I have just the right number of parents who like to help out.  No helicopters in the bunch!  I mostly use parents as "station leaders" weekly during Learning Stations {centers}.  Our grade level also has parents come in and help with our Motor Parent program each week. 

It was time to cross that item off my to-do list {which grows by the day at the end of the school year}.  Barb {just search her name on my blog - you'll soon find out she's my "go-to-gal"} sent me the text with the cutest idea...thank goodness for that chicklet because I've been close to tears {or close to diving into the party bag of M&M's I used} for the past two brain. power. left.

Just grab some of these jars from IKEA {or}...
And then grab yourself some of these {and some will power}...

And this...

Am I the only one who has a love affair with raffia?
And these...

Pick yours up by clicking on the picture {google docs}

And finally you'll get something like this...

7 1/2 more days {I'm countin'}...

Oh, and I just got this in the mail today....

...NOW I'm ready!



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