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Saturday, May 30, 2015

Five For Friday (Saturday Edition)

Let's talk about the end of the year. We still have a solid TWENTY school days left (thanks, snowpocalypse) and I already feel like there's hardly enough time in the day to go to the bathroom, never mind shower, cook a healthy meal, exercise, or (God forbid) relax. Tell me I'm not alone? I'm not sure who coined the idea of a school year 'winding down' but clearly they've never spent five minutes 30 seconds in an elementary classroom in June. So obviously I'm getting through this the only way I know how: obsessive to-do lists, lots of Taylor Swift, and copious amount of wine sarcasm.

As the days are flying by, I'm more thankful than ever to be linking up with the incredible Doodle Bugs Teaching for Five For Friday (Saturday edition) for a little self-reflection on the week. Although it was only four days, this week felt equally as though it lasted 6 months and 6 seconds. My kiddos are more amazing than ever, and the nightmares of having to say goodbye to them are starting to pour in.  Thankfully we are working on some exciting projects to end this year with a bang. June - we're ready for you!

This is always that time of year when a bit of paranoia sets in. "Did we learn ALL the vowel teams?" "Will they really remember what 'Show. Don't tell.' means in writing?" "Am I sure I taught measurement with non-standard units?" And, of course, there's always something I realize we just NEVER taught. For me this year, it was compound words. I woke up in a panic Monday realizing this somehow never made it into my guided reading lesson plans (I'm going to stick with the theme of blaming the snow. We did only have 7 days of school in February...never mind about the other 153 we had between September and now.) So thanks to one of my favorite resources from Cara Carroll at The First Grade Parade, we are now compound word experts. And I'm checking one more thing off my to-do list.

 First graders are truly amazing. These two kiddos above? Started September working on mastering letter sounds. And now? Reading almost almost almost on grade level and LOVING it! At what other point in our lives do we achieve so much growth in such a short amount of time? 

Read to Someone might be one of my favorite parts of our day. Combining equal parts cuteness, excitement, and teamwork it's really just 30 minutes of awesome. I often use this time to run assessments or work with an intervention group, but this week I just had to stand back and take it all in.  Clearly I'm feeling a little sentimental about the end of the year, but man oh man, I love seeing kids that LOVE to read. Future bibliophiles of the world? I can only hope.

Another favorite part of our day? Math journals. This week we focused on one goal: prove it.  We often use math journal prompts that are both vague and open-ended, and encourage kids to find as many solutions as possible. In October, even the idea that a math problem can have more than one right answer can be mind-blowing for a newbie first grader. But now? We are at expert level. So to kick things up a notch, we have been focusing on organizing, sequencing, and aligning our thinking to prove we've found every possible solution.  

Looking for a great set of math journal prompts to use in your own classroom? Go check these out from my good friend, Jillian's TPT store: The Starr Spangled Planner

What kind of teacher would I be without a summer reading list?  As much as I'm dreading saying goodbye to my amazing group of kiddos, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't looking forward to lazy afternoons on the patio with one of these in my hand. My reward for finishing all my end-of-year assessments? Emptying my shopping cart! What book are you most looking forward to reading this summer?

Recently, I've been way into cranberry juice. And I mean real cranberry juice. A little splash over a glass of seltzer with some lime? Can't Get. Enough. And anyone I know will tell you -- this is not my usual relationship with water. So this week, I decided I'd dust off my water bottle and load it up with my new favorite concoction. An excellent idea -- until the WHOLE THING leaked in my school bag. Thankfully my soaking-wet-school-owned laptop made it through (thank you Mac Gods) but my planner? Gonezo. Caput. Done for. So obviously I had no choice but to immediately order this beauty from Plum Paper. Something I may or may not have been eyeing for a casual....six months. I'm going to count this as a glass half-full moment. And, as I write this, I am realizing my new planner and my blog will match.  If that doesn't make my OCD heart happy, I don't know what will. 

Happy weekend everyone!

Monday, May 4, 2015

What Works: Teacher Appreciation Linky and HUGE Giveaway!

Happy Teach Appreciation Week everyone! We all know teachers have it easy. Summers off? Finished with work at 3:00PM? Coloring all day? Wait, this isn't your job? MINE EITHER.

For every day that you: 
- Don't go to the bathroom for 12 hours
- Give your snack/lunch/water bottle/sweatshirt/jacket/socks/first born child to a student in need
- Use your already-too-small paycheck to buy things for your students, classroom, or families
- Come home after working for 12 hours, only to continue working until you pass out on the couch, laptop/laminator in hand (Please tell me I'm not alone with this one)
- Give up time with your loved ones to work even more
- Are told by people that have never set foot in a classroom what's 'wrong' with our education system

We celebrate you. YOU are making a difference. Not in life of one, but in the lives of many. You are changing the world, one juicebox at a time. Are you feeling the love? 

I'm so excited to be linking up with PAWSitively Teaching and Inspired Owl's Corner, along with MANY more of my favorite bloggers to share some of my best secrets in the classroom and an AMAZING giveaway! Keep reading and make sure to check out all the other posts in the loop!
It's the little things, right? That's what my first secret is all about. If you're anything like me, your classroom is held together by a combination of Target dollar bin items, determination, and endless hours of work. Anything that makes my life easier when organizing/decorating/beautifying/transforming my classroom (and given it's been more than five decades since my school was last renovated, we essentially have free creative reign) is a go in my book. Are you ready for it? Here's my first secret:

Is it any surprise that a teacher's best friend is an office supply? I thought not. Truthfully, I would be lost without these incredible magnetic business cards from Staples. Need to hang something up on your easel? Chalk/dry erase board? I use these guys everywhere! Simply cut the card to the size you need, peel, stick, and admire. And at about $25 for a box of 100, it's a budget friendly choice! I've been working through my first 100-pack for almost two years!

 Our class schedule pocket chart - hung up in our meeting area thanks to some amazing magnetic power!

As teachers, we connect with our students in a beautifully unique way. Ultimately, it's this connection that defines each child's experience. Forging a meaningful, trusting, supportive relationship with my students is something I never take lightly. And I'm guessing...you don't either. But when paperwork, state testing, and mandated data collection reign supreme (never mind all that curriculum and those meetings!), it's easy to feel a little overwhelmed by this monumentally important task.  Enter secret number two: Reflection Journals. 

Each week, every student writes to me in their own private reflection journal. And each weekend, I write back to them. I used to request that families send in a composition notebook, or buy them in bulk at Target the last week in August, but after a couple years of carting a giant bag of rocks journals home each weekend, I decided this wasn't going to work out. I couldn't imagine life without reflection journals, so I began using the small composition testing books my school supply closet seems to always have on hand. If a kiddo fills up a journal, I simply replace it!

When I hand the journals out in early October, I explain to students that this journal is our special conversation. They can tell me anything. There are no prompts, no rules. And I don't share them with anyone. (Well, unless they are wildly hilarious, when I've been known to post a photo or two to Instagram. See evidence below. It can be our secret.)

Over the years, students have asked questions, shared concerns, written about all the things they love, hate, are scared of, and hope for. These journals allow more timid students to share the things they would never feel comfortable saying out loud, and more out going kiddos the outlet they need to share well, EVERYTHING. 

Another added bonus? The journals serve as a built-in comprehensive view of student writing over the entire school year. Win-win. And they never fail to make me smile. Just another reminder how amazing these kiddos are!

Ready for a two second survey? Raise your hand if you've: ever struggled with classroom management or had a bad day? (Perhaps even both in the same day? Trust me, I've been there).  That's why I'm sharing my classroom break space as my number one behavior management tool and final secret with you. 

What is a classroom break space? The break space is a quiet, semi-private place in the classroom students can go when they are feeling sad, mad, frustrated, annoyed, energetic, nervous, scared, or when they just need some space. Teachers can send students to the break space, or students can elect to go themselves. Once in the break space, students will find a variety of tools to help them manage behaviors and emotions, such a weighted balls, stuffed animals, glitter jars, stress balls, selected books, and more. 

How does a break space help facilitate classroom management?

- When frustrated or mad, students can easily remove themselves from a group setting to privately process through their feelings. 
- The brake space helps students understand that is OK to have emotional moments, and provides the necessary supports and scaffolding for them to independently process feelings
- If an issue comes up during instructional time, the teacher can simply request the student 'take a break' ending the issue without drawing unnecessary attention to the student or embarrassing them
- Students feel they have a safe place to go within the classroom
- Students can still hear what is going on in the classroom, so no instructional time is missed. 

Want to know more? You can read my full post on how to use a classroom break space here. Think you're interested in putting a break space in your classroom? Head on over to my TPT Store to grab my Pump the Breaks product! Simply click the link above or on either of the photos below. 

Included you will find everything you need to get your own space up and running!

Think we're done here? Not even close....

While we love sharing our secrets with you...that is simply not enough to celebrate all that you do! So keep scrolling to enter our AMAZING giveaway. You DON'T want to miss it. And remember, the more entries you fill out on our Rafflecopter, the better your chance of winning. Because, let's face it, who doesn't want $150 to spend at TPT an Amazon? 

Just take a look at everything you could win...One lucky reader will win this entire prize package!

Prize Bundle #1 Includes
PLUS....$140 Gift Box of Fabulous Teacher Supplies sent to you from Amazon

The fun isn't over yet....take a look at everything a second lucky winner will win!
Prize Bundle #2 Includes
PLUS....$140 Gift Box of Fabulous Teacher Supplies sent to you from Amazon

Be sure to enter both Rafflecopters for a better chance at winning one of these amazing prize bundles!

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #1 Here

Enter to Win Prize Bundle #2 Here

You won't want to miss out on all the other great secrets being shared by successful teachers!  Be sure to check out all the other great posts below.

Thanks for stopping by!