Classroom Must Haves

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I have finally stopped fighting my "back to school brain" from kicking into gear. I haven’t actually set foot in my classroom yet, but my brain is buzzing with that familiar hum of ideas and inspiration and motivation and excitement that usually starts coming around for me in the last part of July. Today I'm linking up with Freebielicous to talk about some of my "MUST HAVES" in the classroom. There are, of course, many more than this, but here’s a few of my favorites that truly make my life easier every day. 

I absolutely LOVED having these table drawers last year!!

They were kind of a last minute, right before school, crazy thought that I had and I am SO glad I implemented them. My day was so much more efficient. The storage situation in my room is less than ideal, and I spent WAY less time handing out and putting away materials.



The top drawer was filled with various math manipulatives that we used on a regular basis. The middle drawer housed our clip boards and folders for reading centers and the bottom drawer held our reading series readers and workbooks. 

Even though I didn't use a drawer to hold these supply caddies I thought it was good to know that they fit inside perfectly.

I had colored dots on the desks at each table which made it  easy for me to just call out "Red dots take out the dice."  "Blue dots put the counters away." ect. The kids really took ownership of those little mini jobs and for the most part transitions and material distribution worked like a dream in my room. 

Along with the table drawers another must have for efficiency during the day is my colored table baskets.

We use these baskets for so many things....for turning papers in, for papers or materials I want to distribute but I don't want actually in the students hands just yet, for math maniputlatives during centers or games, and for holding craft pieces.


The baskets work perfectly with the table drawers in the middle of my tables because the materials can be very easily accessible to the students without taking up valuable desk space from anyone. I found a set of 6 colors in the Target dollar spot a few years ago and they have held up great!

Another invaluable supply for me in the last few years have been plastic sheet protectors.  

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Our laminating allowances at school are somewhat strict so we have to get creative when using papers and materials that we want to protect. At the start of the year I grabbed a few big packs of sheet protectors from Sam’s and we used them for all sorts of things. 

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We used Sarah Paul’s AMAZING reading passages. Many times, for morning work, I would give my students these passages to read and respond to. Rather than printing 28 copies, I just printed 5 of each story, threw them in the sheet protectors, and then just rotated the stories through the different table baskets in the morning until it was time for a new set.

We also use them for math mats, games, and centers. Sometimes it’s so easy to just print and throw in the protectors rather than printing on card stock and laminating. 

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As much as I enjoy using sheet protectors for all kinds of things I absolutely LOVE having my own personal laminator set up in my classroom. There are times that I just need a page or two (or five) laminated quickly and it’s so great to be able to just run them through and have the materials right there and ready to go.   I bought this one from amazon a few years ago and it has never failed me.



My last favorite tool(s) to share with you today are these circle punches.  I started collecting them a few years ago and I end up using these ALL the time for different craft projects. The circles make super cute eye balls on crafts but I’ve used them for snowballs, buttons, apples, pumpkins, counters….you get the picture. 
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Click on the pics below to grab them on Amazon.

                                     


Go check out the link up over at Freebielicious to read about more teacher favorites! Have a great day!!




Mystery Number Files

 

I wanted to share a favorite math warmup activity in my room!  My first graders love these "number mysteries".  They can't get enough of them. The concept is simple. I give the students "clues" about the math mystery and they need to fill in the grid to "solve the mystery". 

 


The numbers in each row/column need to add up to the clues on the notebooks at the end of that row/column. Generally I only give them the clues on the outside of the grid, but occasionally I give them a few numbers on the inside as well (as either an added challenge, or as an extra support - it could go either way). After a student has solved a number mystery, they partner up with a friend to check each other. Obviously there was a little bit of fact checking to be done on this one :)





We often share out different solutions whole group as well. After the students get comfortable with one level of mat, we move on to more complex grids, or larger numbers. The possibilities are endless.


After a while of doing these, the students always want to make up their own mysteries to give to their friends. I teach them to fill in the grid first, add up the rows and columns to get the clues on the outside of the grid, and then erase the numbers inside the grid and have a friend solve. They get such a kick out of making the mysteries themselves!!

In the number mysteries pack I have given you 3 levels of mats student and teacher mats, and for each level I started you off with 18 sample mysteries (but you can easily make your own up-- just be sure not to make an addition error and accidentally give your entire class an unsolvable mystery!! Been there, done that!)

You can grab this pack in my store by clicking on the picture below.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Number-Mysteries-Math-Fact-Practice-1909578I

TPT Seller Challenge Week 1: Makeover Maddness!!

Happy Tuesday friends!!

I popping in to take part in the TPT Seller challenge for the week. I have a long list of old products that I have been wanting to "spruce up" with some new clip art and especially with some new covers! This week's "Makeover Maddness" challenge was the perfect motivation to get that ball rolling. First up was one of my oldest (and favorite) products.  I made these Roll & Write pages when I was teaching Kindergarten and needed some quick, engaging ways to practice letter and number formation.  As you can see, the cover was in desperate need of some TLC :)



This product is so simple to use, just print the pages you want and send your kiddos off with some dice.  You can also slide the pages into a sheet protector and use expo markers (I'm ALL about saving some copy "clicks").  Here are a few examples of the pages in this pack:

 

 

I'm going to put this product on sale this week to celebrate the "new look".  Click on the picture below to go find it in my TPT store.

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Roll-Write-Numbers-and-ABCs-312097



Go check out Sparkling in Second's post to see lots of other bloggers who are participating in this week's challenge and find some other products getting a face lift this week :)



Worksheets Don't Grow Dendrites: brainstorming, discussion, and art!

**Note: Please excuse the look of my blog at the moment...I'm trying to figure out where my design went!!**



I'm so so so excited to be diving into this book and go through this book study with so many amazing bloggers! Making learning more engaging and meaningful for my kids is such a huge passion for me. I was really struck by the first strategy "Brainstorm and Discussion". The poem at the very start of the chapter was so true and so telling. "They can't talk in class, they can't talk in the hall, they can't talk in the cafeteria, they can't talk at all!" Yet, as the book says, teachers and talking at every chance they get. But we often have a habit of shushing rather than encouraging discussions between our students.  As I was reading this chapter I was simultaneously thinking of all the ways I already utilize discussion and all and the same time all the opportunities I am missing to bring even more discussion and collaboration into our everyday routine.

As many others have noted, my kids LOVE to talk. They are so so chatty, and of course many times I find myself trying to stifle the "mindless chatter".  I think that my biggest takeaway from the whole chapter is to make it a point to find ways to channel their natural inclination to communicate with each other and turn that into better learning opportunities.

While I know I can improve in this area, we do utilize discussion and collaboration at various times in our day. Anyone who follows me on Instagram knows that I am obsessed with Number Talks in my classroom. Every day we gather together to discuss ways to solve various problems. We talk about different strategies to solve a single problem and as they are talking I am writing down their explanations. We end up with a white board that looks like this.


After we have shared a few strategies with the whole group, I have them turn to an elbow partner (or 2) and discuss how they solved the problem. They get just as excited about finding someone who solved it a different way as they get finding someone who solved it the same way as them.

Number talk time is easily one of my kids' favorite times of day.  Many of them excitedly ask if we are doing one every time we gather to sit on the carpet. After a few months of doing this every day they started doing it on their own during "dessert time" aka early finisher time.  They absolutely love getting to discuss and collaborate to solve problems. I just love this first picture of one of my sweet girls running her own number talk on the carpet.





Another favorite in my room is our I Spy games. I have some of these games for all the phonics patterns that we go through over the course of the year. I give an I Spy Board to teams of 2 students. To start the game,  I give them a "clue" as to what word I am looking for. So I will say "This is something you can eat.." or "This might be in your house.." or "This is a verb.." and the partners discuss the clue, and read together to find the words that might fit the riddle.

After a few rounds, I have the teams work together to come up with a list of "clues". After everyone has their clues they hook up with another team to share clues and solve each others riddles. I love this game because not only is everyone engaged in reading words using the phonics pattern of the week, there is a lot of collaboration and critical thinking involved in coming up with the clues.


I've been really loving using STEM challenges this year in my room also. (There are some great resources out on TPT!) One of my favorites all year was at Thanksgiving when they had to Mayflowers that would float and not let the Pilgrims (marshmallows) drown. I sat at my table with the "ocean" and when teams thought they were ready we tried to float across the ocean. I just loved hearing their discussions and problem solving as their boats sprung leaks, toppled over, or sunk straight to the bottom.




(Find this pack on TPT here)

I'm really inspired to bring collaboration and discussion into more areas of learning.

I really loved strategy 2: Drawing and Artwork. I saw a facebook post today from someone venting her frustration about times when people generalize any crafts in the classroom as "fluff". I wanted to stand up and cheer. There is SO much value in artistic expression for all people especially for little people! One of my favorite things to do in my classroom is to just hand my students construction paper and say "make a pumpkin" or "make a penguin" or "make a Christmas tree". I love to see their brains working as they figure out how to take a sheet of paper and cut it down to make whatever they are making. The first few times I do it they always look at me like "uh, where's my tracer? What the heck am I supposed to do??" but with a little prompting they just start exploring and trying and in the end come up with awesome crafts. Here's a pic of some penguins I had my kids made this way a few years back. No tracers or patterns or examples, just paper and their own imaginations (...and some die cut eyes haha). I just love how they each end up with their own personalities :)



I recently had a classroom experience that related perfectly to this chapter. I will admit that when making a craft with a writing project, while I to like to give them freedom, I almost always have them write first and then do the art part. I'm just gonna be real with yall this is part habit and part manipulation to get my reluctant writers to do some work so they can do the craft when they are done. However, purely by accident, I had an epiphany.

In January we were doing a writing response to the book "Snowmen at Night". My plan was to have them write about what their snowman did at night and how it messed up his/her clothes and pieces, and then make a snowman that showed a hat askew or an arm out of place.  (I'm pretty sure I got this idea from the fabulous Vickie Plant last year). Well, this was one of those Monday mornings where I was printing the paper (yes I have a classroom printer - such a gift!) while I was reading the story. Well, that gift of a printer decided to jam itself up so well that I needed outside assistance, so I decided to let them make the snowmen first and then do the writing after. Yall, I was AMAZED at how much their creativity came out through doing the artwork BEFORE the writing. The stories of their snowmen that they created were so detailed and intricate because they were focused on MAKING the snowmen with the materials rather than having to get through writing the story. When it came time to write, they had some AMAZING stories that they were SO excited to write. I mean some of my most reluctant writers wrote the most amazing things!!

It was in that moment that I realized how much tapping into their artistic side brought out their creativity in a new way. Not only did they come up with more interesting stories, they were REALLY excited to get their stories written down. I really got a new understanding of the importance of artistic expression.  When I read the book In Pictures and In Words a few years ago and it changed my writing workshop world, I really came to understand how allowing students the freedom to get their thoughts out in words can really tap into their creativity and create better writers. But somehow that knowledge never fully transferred over in my head to actual cut and glue crafting. Nothing about that craft was "fluff" and that writing lesson would have been nowhere near as meaningful for many of my kids if we had just done a written response to the book without the art component. It really changed a lot about they way I approach using art in my room.

I also learned that day that every art project doesn't need to be perfect and cookie cutter and uniform. These snowmen were not really "bulletin board worthy" or "Pinterest picture ready" but my kids really owned them as their own and because of that they were awesome to me. (BTW: Don't get me wrong, I love cute crafts just as much as the next teacher!! I'm totally not hating on cute crafts at all!)


This snowman went dancing and her hat slid off...


This guys' face got messed up when he put on a jet pack and flew around the town.



The last thing that really struck me from this project was how much the students loved sharing their snowmen with their friends. I made a note to try to remember to give them more opportunities to share their artwork one on one with their peers. This will let them not only share their point of view but also see how their friends completed the same projects - more collaboration and discussion!!



I'm so inspired by this book already I can't wait to dive into more chapters in the next few weeks!!


"What do teachers learn at teacher school?"

Last week I was out of the room for 2 days to see the fabulous Kim Adsit present!! If you ever get a chance to take a workshop with her go do it!!  I'm still reading through all my notes and riding on the inspiration I got from 2 days with her :)

I generally tell the kids when I know I will be out of the room, and once a year I like to keep my whereabouts a secret and have the kids guess where they think I am as a writing prompt.

This time I decided to tell them I went to "teacher school" and the sub had them write about what they thought I was learning. Their responses and pictures were HILARIOUS. I was cracking up when I got back to school.

Here are a few of my favorites:

"She needs to learn how to draw" (True story)
"She needs to learn not to forget to print things" HA!!
"She should learn Social Studies so she can teach it" (My partner teacher teaches SS)
LOTS of them said I was learning about Number Talks.
"She's learning to count to a million"
"She should give us less sugar"(What?? When do I ever give them sugar??)
"I hope she is learning more math games"
"She needs to learn to give harder spelling tests"

The pictures were so funny!!


My partner teacher at I at our desks :)

Me trying to do math and apparently getting pretty stressed about it!

I really love this one. I mean my nails look awesome!! But I should really work on my pencil grip!



I just really loved getting to see their thoughts and perspective on what they think teachers learn/should learn at school. If you want to grab some writing paper to use the next time you go to "teacher school" you can download it here.