Sunday, August 16, 2015

Classroom Design 2015-2016

I'll admit it. One of my favorite things about teaching is setting up my classroom for a new school year.

It's my "home away from home" for 10 months out of the year so it's something I put a lot of time, care and frankly-money into.

This year I needed a bit of change.  I have been using a royal blue and lime green color scheme for a few years and I wanted to change it up a bit. I decided to go with black which is a trending look this season.

We have tables rather than desks in first grade so I arranged the tables into L shapes.  In the center of the L's are these plastic storage bins that I got at Target.  Each table of 4 students has one of these bins.

Although my classroom in a new school (only 3 years old) is large, there is not a lot of counter or storage space.  This has always been my nemesis.  So after finding this idea of using a storage bin for tables on Pinterest, I am giving it a try this year.  So far, I love it and I love how neat and organized it looks. Here's what I have inside the bins:

In the top drawer are our behavior clips and storage pockets. If you are in need of a discreet behavior management system you can check out the post here.

In the second drawer, we keep our magnetic boards and letter tiles that go with our Fundations phonics program.

The third drawer contains our Fundations writing journals.

The last drawer contains these behemoths math journals.

We will store pencil boxes on top of these bins.

Another way I store student supplies is in these bins that my school provided.  The labels are from Ladybug Teacher Files and they are free!

I call these cubbies and in these each student sores their colored pencils and markers.  These are items that we don't use every day but yet they are still accessible when needed.  I also give students a colored folder for each subject area. This is for ongoing work that we are continually working on (red-writing folder, green-science, yellow-social studies, and so on.).

Students also have what I call mailboxes (the green and blue baskets) where they store completed work to be sent home that day, notices, etc. At the end of the school day, students take their backpacks to their table and I call students one at time to get the mail out of their mailboxes. They then put the mail in their take home folders.

I like to decorate my closet doors just because I like the look. Inside the closet, I hang my brag tags on command hooks for easy student access and to avoid tangling.

We are required to post objectives so I used bulletin boarder to make it pretty. The black border is by Trend and the green with white polka dots are magnetic strips that I ordered from Really Good Stuff.

I LOVE this alphabet display above that I found from
Adventures in Kindergarten.This is the same alphabet images that our phonics program, Fundations uses but these images by Adventures in Kindergarten are much more authentic and pretty.  You can find them here.

I loved using ribbon on my word wall this year. I bught 4 rolls to complete this bulletin board at Joann's.  This is actually not a bulletin board, but rather a whiteboard, that I cover with bulletin board paper.  The welcome sign,clock décor, and number posters below are from my Black and White Classroom Décor set that can be found here.

The reading area is my favorite space in the classroom.
I continued to add the green and white polka dot magnetic border on my metal book shelves which added a nice touch.  I also like to add lamps and plants to the classroom and picture frames of previous classes for warm touch.
These library labels are available in my store in black and white here.
I bought these stools on sale at Target for $5 a few years ago and I love them.  I think having the side of the metal bookshelf which is magnetic, will be useful next to my guided reading table. I envision using it with magnetic letters for word blending.
I really went all out with the magnetic polka dot border. And I still have some left over!
I will be using a class Instagram account this year and this bulletin board will be dedicated to our Instagram photos. I will change the photos based on theme, what we are working on, student of the week, etc.
Well folks, that's my classroom. I can't wait to go back and meet my new students. I'm really excited! 
Thanks for stopping by!
I hope you have a great school year!

Monday, August 3, 2015

What Stuck with You Today?

Do you review the day with your students at the end of the day? Do you have a concluding meeting to reflect on the day's learning?

I have seen a few of these "exit" type of charts where students can reflect on something that stuck with them that day, something they learned, a thought or reflection. I love the concept so I'm going to give it a whirl this year.

My "Monday Made it" for this week has turned out to be one of my favorite projects this summer.  Probably because it was quick and easy to make.

I used a black poster board, bright colored cardstock,and library pockets (less than $4 at Lakeshore Learning). The fonts are KG Second Chances Sketch (at 150 font size) and KG Strawberry Limeade (also 150 font size).

I plan on hanging this on the inside of my classroom door. At the end of the day students will get an index card from a basket and write or illustrate something they learned, a thought or reflection from the day, etc. on the index card and stick it in the library pocket. Each student is assigned a number.

I think this gives me a good idea what resonated with the students, what interested them or not, what concepts they may be struggling with, and just another way to assess where they are in their learning process.

Many thanks to 4thgrade frolics for hosting another week of Monday Made It!  Be sure to check out the other fabulous contributions by other bloggers.

Have a great week!

Pinterest Pick 3 for August

August already?!  Woah!  Many are heading back to school.  Not to rub it in but I'm not going back until September. But....I'm getting ready. Actually, I've been getting ready since June 30th but....whatever.  Much of my back to school prep involves stalking Pinterest for great ideas I can't miss.  Here's my picks for August:
click on the picture to go to the original pin
Have you ever heard of this book?

It's called The Dot by Peter Reynolds and it is ah-maz-ing! Here's a brief synopsis:

Art class is over, but Vashti is sitting glued to her chair in front of a blank piece of paper. The words of her teacher are a gentle invitation to express herself. But Vashti can’t draw - she’s no artist. To prove her point, Vashti jabs at a blank sheet of paper to make an unremarkable and angry mark. "There!" she says.

That one little dot marks the beginning of Vashti’s journey of surprise and self-discovery. That special moment is the core of Peter H. Reynolds’s delicate fable about the creative spirit in all of us.
The bulletin board above (that my students would help make) would be a great connection to the book. And I just love how colorful it is! 

While on the subject of books...have you ever seen this book? Laugh out loud funny, I tell ya. Your students will love it and then love you for reading it. Get it. It's that good. I promise.

It makes for a great writing prompt for students to write about what they did over the summer.

click on the picture to go to the original pin.

I have a confession. I just don't cook. Like...hardly ever. I'm horrible at it. But...we all gotta do what we gotta do and sometimes I have to step out of the pasta and chicken nuggets rut and force myself to get creative.
So then...I whip out the crockpot. The crockpot is the holy grail to those of us who struggle with "Cooknophobia" (Cooknophobia: [noun] A term that refers to the person who is afraid to cook. The term can also refer to someone who is horrible at cooking.) And there you have it folks, there's a term for it.
Anyways...back to school means we have less time for me to get my act together in the kitchen so I've been searching for recipes. I like this one. It's different. 

click on the picture to go to the original pin.
If we are still living after my attempt at cooking this, I'll let you know how it goes. :)
Don't forget to check out the other Pinterest picks this month by the others who have linked up. Many thanks to Lisa from Pawsitively Teaching and Marissa from Inspired Owl's Corner for hosting.

You can follow me on Pinterest here. Thanks for stopping by!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Using Instagram in the Classroom

Parent communication. Did you just let out a sigh? 

Doesn't it feel like it's getting harder?  The emails, phone calls, meetings, notes, newsletters, reminder notes, conferences.  Yikes!  No wonder parent communication can stress us out!

This year I am determined to make parent communication a little less painful for both myself and the parent.

Every week I would be up late rushing to get my newsletter all typed up on a Thursday night so I could photocopy it and send it home on Friday. I changed templates and formats more times than I could count to make it easier. And was painful. Really painful.

And you know what? I think it's painful for the parents too.  Because I am one, and I may regret putting this out there but...

when my son comes home with a newsletter from school I hardly ever read it. I may skim it (but that's on a good day) and more often than not- it rotates from the kitchen to dining room table and then ends up in the recycle bin.  There. I said it.

Parents really don't read them. I mean...some of them do but most...don't. 

So I'm going to do a newsletter (because my district requires one). I'm also going to...

Yup. I'm going to Instagram.  I have an account that I created just for my classroom. I will ask parents to follow our account (which will be set to private). Parents will also sign a permission slip if they wish to participate.  At the end of the school year, I will delete the account and start a new account for the following year. If anyone does not want to participate or have their child participate they don't have to. They still have....the newsletter.

How to use Instagram in the classroom.

Parents will get pictures daily, every 2 days or weekly of projects we are working on, candid photos, bulletin boards, "a day in the life of a first grader" and so on.  Since Instagram is so visual it's very nature is fast and easy both for the person adding photos and the person viewing the photos. I think parents are actually going to get more information from the daily photos than my newsletter that I hurried to get done with one eye open at 11 PM on Thursday nights.

You can take photos of notices, reminders, student work, etc and in 45 seconds get it out to a set of 20 parents and it's done. 

There's so much more you can do with Instagram too...

Use Instagram as a permanent bulletin board display.  Take a photo of each student on the first day. Add it to the bulletin board with the hashtag #first day. Send it along to parents on Instagram and now they all have a photo of their little darling on the first day of school.
Have a "Student of the Week" and send via Instagram a fun photo, photo of a sample of work, a photo of a student holding their favorite book, etc.

Let the students take pictures for Instagram to share their favorite classroom memories, activities, and projects. You can add them to your Instagram bulletin board. Students could also draw their pictures as if it were a photo.

Take a close up picture of something in the classroom and send it to parents via Instagram and have them guess what it is. This could even be a fun homework assignment. Kids love to "stump" their parents and assign them "homework."

 Have students use Instagram as a way to write and illustrate their thoughts.  They can take pictures, or use a picture you assign as a writing prompt.

I think Instagram is a great way to enhance your communication with parents. I think it really helps parents to feel included and involved in their child's education when they can actually see it happening. I also think when students are invested and involved with sharing with their parents what they do in school it helps foster a love for learning.

Are you up for giving it try? You can check out my Using Instagram in the Classroom product here. It has all kind of activities and suggestions for using this social media tool in the classroom. A letter to parents is included as well, that explains how Instagram can be used as an additional way to communicate between school and home.

Make sure to check out the other bloggers who have linked up to share their strategies and tips for communicating with parents.