Getting organized!!

Happy Wednesday friends!! I'm linking up with the Blog Hoppin' peeps to share about organization! If you knew me (or saw my bedroom floor right now) you would laugh hysterically at that first sentence. But I have to say that in this, my 5th year of teaching, I am feeling the most organized and put together of any year yet! A huge part of that has to do with my absolute favorite addition to my classroom this year: Table Drawers!!

It all started late this summer when I saw this post from Katie King The Queen of First Grade Jungle.

When I saw this picture I immediately thought it would be a great way to organize and manage some of my materials. Last year when I moved I went from a class of 18 with lots and lots of storage to 29 with a comparatively tiny amount of storage.  I felt like I was constantly passing out and re-shelving materials (and I use the term "re-shelf" VERY was mostly just me throwing baskets of counters and cubes on top of each other all over the place and then wandering around the next day trying to pass them back out to tables).   These table drawers have been a perfect solution. Praise the LORD for my momma (and her crossover) coming to help me set up my classroom because 6 of these puppies were never ever ever going to fit in my teeny Honda on one (or even 2) trips from the store.

In the top drawer I have some math manipulatives that we use almost daily. There are counters, ten frames, linking cubes, base ten blocks and dice. (You'll notice 2 things: 1- I have a slight obsession with dollar store containers, and 2- all the dollar store bins fit PERFECTLY together in the drawer!)

We use a lot of these during whole group practice work but also during math centers. This week I realized that when I have kids at a center at our near a table, they can just go grab whatever counters or dice or materials they need from their drawer and then bring it back when they are done. That is cutting down BIG time on center prep for me

The bottom drawer holds some of our student readers for our reading series. Those things took up a huge amount of shelf space and again, a lot of "come get your books, now come put your books away" time. The middle drawer is sort of a "catch-all" right now. I'm waiting to see as the year goes on what I will want/need to keep in there. It will soon hold some of our journals (reading, math, poetry) and our math warmup cards (more on these soon!)  I also discovered yesterday that it will hold one of these supply caddies if you need it to.

I opted to use the space for other things and keep the marker/glue caddies on another shelf, but it's good to know that they fit in there :)
So if I'm not passing out 6 baskets of counters and cubes and dice all the time how are they getting out of the drawers? Enter the colored dots!

On each table, I gave each student a different colored dot. When I need them to get something out I just say "yellow dots get your dice" and they walk around and get the dice out for everyone. (A tip for those of you who don't have the same number of kids at a table - I have 3 tables of 4 and 3 tables of 5. The 5th color on those 3 tables is orange. When I ask Orange to do a job, they are taking care of their table and another assigned table. So far it's working great.) I just randomly call out colors throughout the day.

 Update: Just today the kids started dictating colors to me "You called red twice today" "you haven't called yellow at ALL" so I made some sticks with colors on them and I randomly pull a stick. Arguements ceased.

I also really love these baskets on top of each drawer stack. I use them in a lot of different ways. Every morning they have their morning work sitting in there so it doesn't get lost in the shuffle of backpacks and homework and daily folders. Sometimes I pass out papers by throwing them in the basket. When we are done with work to be graded, I have them turn in the quizzes or tests into the baskets in number order, and then a colored dot brings the baskets to my table.  I can also throw tracers and construction paper in there for crafts.

The best part about the baskets is they also seem to serve as some sort of invisible force field for my kids. When something is in the basket, it's out of sight out of mind. I can have them pull dice and counters out and put them in the basket, then explain the game and no one is messing with dice or playing with counters until I say "go".  When they are done their whisper phones, but I haven't collected them back yet, if they are in the basket, nobody touches them. It's like they don't exist anymore. Then it's "green dots bring your whisper phones back to my basket on my table", the phones get put away and I'm halfway into the next activity.  Sometimes I'm not ready to collect a certain item from the tables, and I can just leave them in the baskets without them getting in the way of kids desk space.

My other favorite organization tip from this year is what I call my "uh-oh" shelf (clearly it needs a better name!)

 I didn't have a dedicated space for any of this stuff last year and it drove me nuts. Now when the kids have some sort of issue, almost everything can be solved here. I have wipes, plastic bags (we have a lot of make & take/cut out cards with our reading series), "hanitizer", bandaids, tissues and a "lost and found" for center pieces or other various found items. It's a one stop shop.

 Hop back over to Blog Hoppin to see lots of other great organization tips and have a great rest of the week :)

Ceiling RIbbons! (all grades).

I'm really excited to share with you one of my favorite parts of my ceiling ribbons.

I got this idea from my teammate and I absolutely love it! Above each of my tables I have 2-3 ribbons (depending on the size of the table) hanging down to display student work. The ribbon colors correspond to each table color and there are just enough that I can hang 2 kids' work from each ribbon.

I just love how it fills up the space in our room with student work, and the kids really love to be able to easily find their own completed project and also their friends'. It's also really great for parents to find of their child's work as soon as they walk in the room - sometimes that's even a good starting point for conference topics ;)

These are really easy to make. Each section of ribbon is 3 feet (most of the ribbon I have found comes in 3 or 4 yards so you can get 3 or 4 strips from each color - depending on what you need for each table). Roll about half an inch down on both sides and secure with hot glue. On the bottom glue the clothes pin, on the top, string a paperclip in.

On our ceilings, we have these rubber strips between our foam tiles. I just slide the paperclip in rubber strip and it stays great.

There you have it, a really easy, colorful way to liven up your classroom and display student work.

Be sure to check out more a TON of other "Bright Ideas" in the links below!

beat the teacher!

Hey friends!! I am halfway through my first full week with my kiddos and I am TIIIIIRED but wow,  I really love this year's bunch! I am so proud of how well they are doing already. We are going to have a great year!

I wanted to share with you one of my favorite games to play with my firsties. Before I started teaching 1st grade I had never done weekly spelling tests. At the start of last year was looking for a fun way to practice the words every week and I came across the idea for this game. I honestly have no memory of who told me about it or if it was even called "Beat The Teacher". Y'all, my kids were OBSESSED with this game. They begged to play it every morning (and it showed up on more than 1 list of favorite memories in our memory books at the end of the year). It has already become a class favorite this year as well.

The game is really simple. I give them a word and they write it in the middle of their white board. "Ready, set, go" and we all race to write the word in all 4 corners of the board. When you are finished you tap the end of your marker on your white board. If I win, I get the point. If a student wins, the class gets the point. So simple and so much fun! And let me tell you, I don't just LET them win. I am usually racing right along with them (the longer the word the harder the race for some reason)!

We would always play to 10 (we took it to 20 later in the year) and I kept a tally in the corner of our board to see where we were. This year I am using ten frames to track our progress (I'm all about sneak attack subitizing practice haha).  The scoreboard actually was a great opportunity for some real world math talk. They were always discussing how far ahead the leader was, or how many more we each needed to get 10 or 20.

 You can grab the scoreboard labels here.

You could make the prize anything you want, but I always did stickers. For each game last year, I had a container filled with 28 stickers (one for every student). If they won, they each got a sticker, if I won I got all 28 stickers and wore them around all day. They thought that was pretty hilarious. On the match point I'd always say "This is for allllllll the stickers" and you could hear a pin drop in the room. The stakes were HIGH!

There are just 2 rules: You can't start early and your words have to be written neatly enough to be read. The starting early issue gets stopped pretty early because if you get caught cheating, I automatically got the point for the round. The rest of the class does NOT like that! Instant self policing!! It also didn't count if you wrote so fast that you can't read the words. (We usually do these on whiteboards with handwriting lines so that generally helps the neatness factor).

We play on our whiteboards but you could do this on a piece of paper and just write the word 4 times in a row. Recently I've been thinking up ways to use this to practice math facts...more on that in another post.

I'd love to hear how this goes with your class if you decide to try it! :)