Saturday, August 29, 2015

Odds & Even Character Games and Freebie

Can we just all agree that sisters are the most amazing people??? Well, my sister is at least. Even though she only has a few more precious weeks of summer break, my amazing sister spent three days in my classroom with me this week cutting lamination, working with students while I pulled kids for DIBELS assessments (hallelujah they're done!!!), and taking videos of our lessons.

Then on Thursday I had an idea -- would she be willing to help me teach a math lesson -- in character and costume?!?! While I dress up and lose my face all day every day with my students, I was so excited when Crystal agreed to join in on the craziness. Did I mention she's the best?!?!

Friday we began introducing odd and even numbers with Odd Todd and Even Steven. We sang a song about them and then did several fun sorting actives and games to practice the content. We each had a sign for our character and hosted a competition where the students were given number cards that they needed to identify as odd or even numbers to come stick on us. There was laughter and giggles and learning and fun -- the kids had a blast!! This was the way I had always envisioned teaching this lesson, but never had a partner to share in the craziness! If you don't have a co-teacher, you could have two students play the characters for the whole class, or have them be the characters in pairs, use for a center activity, sort on the floor, or even a task-based assessment!! That would just make test-taking so much more fun! 

So that you and your class can enjoy the fun as well, pick up the FREEBIE HERE that includes the Odd Todd and Even Steven sign names, number cards for sorting, and blank cards for students to write their own numbers to sort!!! I hope that you and your kids have just as much fun as we did!

If you'd like to continue the fun, below is a poster along with a character flip activity and a pocket sort activity you can find in my TPT store HERE:

Since Miss Crystal isn't around all year to dress up, we hang these Odd Todd and Even Steven character posters on the wall for reference! 

I have a good friend who has a co-teacher who she loves teaching with, but that was never something I thought I would enjoy. However, I have to say that having another adult to perform with, play off of their energy, have friendly competition with, and much more made the lesson so much more engaging and exciting both for my students and myself. So, here's an open invitation to any of my friends who would like to spend some time joining in on a crazy lesson, my door is always open!! Come experience "Once Upon First Grade" and join us as we learn happily ever after!!


Sunday, August 23, 2015

Meet the Teacher Recap and FREEBIE

The books are ready,
The pencils are too,
The cubbies are labeled,
We have plenty of glue.

The students are coming,
Their teacher to meet,
Who is smiling and waiting,
New students to greet!

So what time is it? It’s Meet the Teacher Day! (Well, it's not technically Meet the Teacher anymore, because school has already started. The first week and a half have been crazy, so I'm behind on the whole blogging front!! However, I'm determined to catch up!!)

Two weeks ago was our school's orientation event which includes Meet the Teacher. Our campus was aglow with the freshly tanned faces of students who had spent their days basking in the summer sun! Sweet hugs from former students and warm greetings from their parents energized me for a new year! We began our time with a school-wide assembly for welcomes, introductions, and some basic information, policy changes, etc. to get us prepared for the year. After our corporate time, we split up by individual classes for students to meet their teachers, organize the school supplies they had brought, and help get classrooms ready for the first day of school! 

My firsties have a a ton of supplies to bring...

While it is beyond wonderful to have parents who provide so many school supplies, the long list of materials make it so difficult to organize!! Years ago my students used to bring all their supplies on the first day of school. Can I just say that organizing supplies on the first day of school with a group of six year olds is perhaps the worst idea in the world (primary teachers, can I get an amen??). Then a few years ago, I began to ask parents to bring supplies to orientation. This allowed me to get organized before school started. However, that meant I was spending hours and hours sorting, labeling every individual folder, spiral notebook, set of dividers, binders, etc! Last year I decided to elicit the help of my students' idea ever!!! I created a scavenger hunt that the students completed with their parents to help sort and organize their supplies. I hid the necessary labels and instructions throughout the room so that the students had the opportunity to find their desk, their cubbies, their mailboxes, etc. It was a way to help them get to know and feel more comfortable in our classroom and helped me have everything ready for the first day of school!! Double win!!!

Here's how it worked. When students came in, the following was projected on the front board:

The students went to our kidney table to pick up their Scavenger Hunt form (step 1), drop off several supplies (step 2), label and turn in a folder (step 3), and grab their work bin to fill (step 4):

Steps 5-9 included finding their desks, cubbies, and mailboxes to get the supplies to label their folders and notebooks, label the dividers in their writing portfolios, and fill their pencil boxes. Once they completed all the tasks, they came to show me their completed scavenger hunt form (step 9) and then claim their prizes (step 10):

 Each student and their parent earned a special "Welcome to 1st Grade" water bottle. I have these for all grades K-6 in my TPT store here if you'd like them.

The students also got a "You're o-FISH-ally a 1st Grader" snack. This K-6th tag is also available in my TPT store here:

I also gave each student their "Sweet Dreams: Night Before K-6th Grade Poem." This is an adorable poem I found on Pinterest (if you wrote it, please let me know so I can give you credit!). I just reformatted it and added some backgrounds. Check out the FREEBIE HERE that you can use for any grades K-6th!! Hope you enjoy!! Here are pictures of the outside and inside:

Once students got all of their prizes, we said our goodbyes, and they left! All of the firsties and their parents did an awesome job organizing all their supplies! As I was watching them, I was so thankful that their parents were helping them and that I would not be trying to manage a handful of students and all their supplies on the first day by myself! 

Being able to meet all of the sweet firsties and spend time with them got me so excited for this year!! It's going to be awesome!!!! Happy back to school!


Sunday, August 2, 2015

Bullseye Bulletin Boards -- Objective Boards that Hit the Mark

This month I'm so excited to be linking up with Ashley from Schroeder Shenanigans in 2nd and Angie from Lucky Little Learners for their #2getherwearebetter Linky Party about bulletin boards!! 

In high school I often dreamed of being a bulletin board designer. I absolutely loved tagging along with all my teacher friends as we scoured the teacher supply store's aisles for a brightly colored background paper, the perfectly coordinated border, and thematic accents to pull it altogether. I enjoyed the craziness of trying balancing on books, which were stacked on a chair, that was dangerously teetering atop a table to wrestle with what seemed like football field size sheets of butcher paper in an effort to staple it above my head. I enjoyed the task of jigsaw puzzling the borders strips together to try to cover the enormous expanse along with perfectly aligning your text letters so they were straight but also centered. But, once it was all said and done, there was nothing like stepping back and admiring the bright and beautiful new bulletin board ready to be filled with learning!!

My objective board with all the "I Can" statements for the day posted and ready to go!!
As a teacher now, I still do love creating bulletin boards -- however, with the exponentially growing To Do List of things needed to prep for a new year, bulletin boards have sometimes become just another item to be checked off the list. While I still love stepping back and looking at the final result, loosing the battle to butcher paper and ending up in a background paper burrito has somewhat lost its charm. 

Even though my dreams of becoming a bulletin board designer have somewhat faded (as now I get to experience all the other joys and loves of teaching I much prefer), I’d still like to share one of my favorite bulletin boards in my classroom. While it’s not my most sparkly or eye-popping, I love it because of how it works for me (and we all need things in our classroom that work for us).

Backstory: My classroom is small. As in super tiny. Granted at my private school our classrooms reflect our small class size, they’re still pretty limiting. I had struggled for years on where to hang our daily objectives or learning targets. I wanted them to be in the front of the room and visible for the students to see, but between my whiteboard, math calendar board, etc. there was no space left at the front. One year I made an effort to write the objectives on my whiteboard before each lesson – this is great in theory and may work for upper grades where students have passing periods – but let’s be honest, what primary teacher has time in between subjects to write out an “I can” statement when manipulatives need to be grabbed, owies need to be tended to, and spilled paint needs to be cleaned? I was never able to do it as seamlessly as I would have liked, and even if I did, if I tried to use the computer to project something during the lesson, the written objective would then be in the way. #thestruggleisreal

Last summer I decided to brainstorm what I wished I could do in my classroom: have all the objectives written for the day clearly posted at the front of the room for the students to see during a lesson. Even though I had no space at the front, I came up with the following solution. For my first grade fairytale-themed classroom, I developed a “And They Learned Happily Ever After” bulletin board to display our daily learning objectives. Here all of the I Can statements for the day are posted. Each statement is written on its own magnetic tag that line up with magnets placed on the bulletin board itself. I simply hot glued a magnet to the back of a laminated tag and one more to my bulletin board. The lamination makes using a whiteboard marker easy to write on and wipe off painlessly for the next day. While the board itself is in the back of the room, for any given lesson, I grab the specific objective and bring it to the front of the room where we are doing our lesson. 

I can put it on my magnetic whiteboard easel when we are at the rug:

I can put it on the main whiteboard if we’re sitting on the front rug:

Or I can place it on my small magnetic whiteboard if I want it take it outside for a science lesson or place it somewhere else in the room. Sometimes we do part of a lesson on the rug and then head back to our desks and it makes moving our objective simple, quick, and still visible for the students no matter where we are:

This has made everything SO easy. I can just grab and go when I need the objectives. At the end of one lesson I put on objective away and grab the next one – even my kids can help me.  They take limited space but are still visible when we need them during a lesson, but we can still refer to all of the daily objectives if we want to (like when we wrap up at the end of the day).

Teachers work so hard. So make sure your classroom d├ęcor, procedures, and lesson are working FOR you! Hope this tip helped!! Can’t wait to hear what all my other linky friends are doing with their bulletin boards! Copy the images and link up on Ashley or Angie's blogs!!!