Monday, October 3, 2016

Be Passionate...about many things!

I'm working on a Word Work activity post, but still need to get some good pictures of my kiddos in action.  So, since I had a fantastic time at the Route 91 Harvest Festival this weekend, it got me to thinking about some of the things I'm passionate about in my life, besides teaching 1st grade.

I say it all the time....if your ONLY passion/obsession is teaching and you don't have any fun/exciting/relaxing things to do outside of teaching, chances are you will be grouchy, burnt out, and not much fun to be around!  That's not good for you, your students, or anyone else! 

As far as for being at home and relaxing, I'm all about my family and my pets.  But I have other interests that I make time for, too!!
Daddy and Betty at obedience school graduation!
Spencer and Princess Leia letting me know they are out of food!
My biggest passion is my Oregon Duck football team...even though we are currently having some trying times, I love to get together with family and watch them every weekend, travel to games when we can, and go on some big trips to our bowl games.  Going to two National Championship games, multiple Rose Bowls, and other road trips have been some of the most fun times and greatest memories of my life.  I am so glad I didn't let things like, "I can't spend the money" or "I can't miss a day of school" hold me back from these amazing adventures...trips like these make me a better teacher because I'm refreshed, happy, and can share my passion for things with my students
when I get back!
Cheering on our Ducks at the 2015 Rose Bowl  
Sisters at the 2011 BCS National Championship Game

This weekend, I attended my second Route 91 Harvest Festival here in Las Vegas.  Last year, we got to see Keith Urban, Florida Georgia Line, and more...immediately after, I started making my plans for this year and hoping/praying/wishing Luke Bryan would be there...and then, a few months later, he was announced as the Sunday night headliner!!!  So excited!!!  He played all of my favorite songs and I got to jump around and sing my heart out.  No voice today!  This year, in addition to Luke, we saw Toby Keith, Brad Paisley, Dustin Lynch, Little Big Town, and more!  If you love country music, I highly recommend coming out for this one.  It's in a huge lot, right on the fabulous Las Vegas Strip.  Three days and nights of great music (of course), lots of carnival/fair type food, drinks, vendors, and 25,000 country music lovers!
2016 Route 91 Harvest Festival
Luke Bryan!!!!!!
 So, here's to teaching, pets, family, football, great country music, and being passionate about life!  

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Teacher Emergency Baskets!

We've started a "Welcoming New Teachers" Group at my school for both brand new teachers and teachers who are new to our school.  You can read more about the start of that group here:  Welcoming New Teachers  And, I'm always open for more ideas for our meetings if you have a great mentoring program in place at your school!
For our first meeting a few weeks ago, I made each teacher a "Teacher Emergency Basket" Starter Kit.  This basket included deodorant, hairspray, Advil, thank you cards, lotion, hand sanitizer, toothbrush and toothpaste, q-tips, dental floss, Kleenex, and cough drops.  I thought it would be a great start and they can add to it as needed to fit personal needs.

My own basket is pretty full, and not photo-ready, but it's very useful!  It has a bit of everything in it, but these are the items that I use most often!  Here is a (partial) list of its contents:

What are some more good things to add to my stash?!  Let me know your must-haves!!

Saturday, September 10, 2016

My first Blog Hoppin' Teacher Week!

So, I participated in #bhteacherweek16!  Look at me!!!!!  Two blog posts in two days!  It's a record!!! I kept up every day and it was fun to see all of the different posts!
This was the layout for the week. 

Here are my posts from the week:
Meet Me Monday...I shared a picture of me and the new hubby, Jabar!  Love this pic!  Need to go through all of my wedding pictures and get them ordered!  I'm also a 1st grade teacher in Nevada, I LOVE my Oregon Ducks, and I'm a huge animal lover!  I think college football is the greatest thing on the planet.  Ducks coming up tonight...GOOOOO DUCKS!   I have 2 awesome cats, Spencer and Princess Leia, and a crazy dog named Betty.  They're on Insta quite a bit if you follow me!
I've become much more of an introvert in my old age, although I've always kept to myself pretty much.  Not much is more exciting to me than just having a nice, peaceful weekend at home working on whatever I please!

Teaching Tuesday...I haven't taken a ton of pics yet this year.  We just finished our second week of school.  I shared a pic from the past of kids during our Magnet Science Unit, which is one of my faves to teach!  I wrote a grant many years ago and was able to buy a ton of different types of magnets and activities for my classroom.  Kiddos always have such a great time with magnets and science in general!  So much fun and good for my students, too!

Where I Work Wednesday...I work in the great state of Nevada, in Henderson, which is like a suburb of Las Vegas, I guess. I love this place!  I love sun and we have 300+ sunny days every year.  Being a native Oregonian, I was sick of the rain and I'm so glad I made the move here in 2006!  Now, I LOVE rain, because it's rare and beautiful in the desert.  The flash floods are another thing....  We love to get to Oregon a few times a year to see my parents and I do appreciate the green and trees more now than when I was growing up!  I enjoy my school here as well, have a good-sized classroom, and started flexible seating this year, which I am loving!
Threads Thursday...So, I'm not a clothes shopper.  I hate trying things on and going to stores....
However, I had to post this adorable shirt worn by one of my first graders this week.  I'm fluent in cat as well!

Friends Friday...A picture of my First Grade Team (along with a twin of one), my Principal, and my husband at our wedding.  That night was fun, but went by so fast!!  I had three tables of teacher friends there from my current school and my old school here.  Lots of family, too.  Such a great day and night!
This was a fun week and I'm pretty proud of myself for being able to keep up and figure out the fancy apps that I'd never tried before!

Friday, September 9, 2016

Flexible Seating...On a (very tight) Budget!

After seeing all the cool posts and pics about Flexible Seating, I decided I wanted to change my room up a bit as well.  I've always been pretty "flexible" on seating.  I don't use desks...For years, I'd had five long rectangle tables with community supplies (pencils, crayons, scissors, etc.) in the center.  Each table had a bookcase at the end for Data Notebooks, book boxes, dry erase boards and supplies, and folders.  Kids were able to stand and work, work on the floor with clipboards, sit on a pillow for reading, etc., but they still had a home base seat with a name tag.  I liked this set up, but all the shelving at the end of each table took up a bit too much space for me.  I wanted to downsize my furniture a bit.

I was ready to start something new this year after seeing lots of great setups in other elementary classrooms.  I wrote a Donors Choose funding request, but it wasn't funded. :(  I was still set on trying this out...However, I could not go spend a bunch of money on all the fancy things because I was getting married and taking a honeymoon this summer.  That's where ALL of my extra money went this year!
I sat down and listed what I wanted, how it would work/look, and worked with my awesome neighbor teacher (who has always done "working areas", long before "flexible seating" became so popular) on arrangement ideas and logistics for things like backpacks, supply storage, and such.
I bought a few inexpensive items and used other items of mine from past years or that we already had at school.
Our "kneeling" table and Ikea pillows
The kneeling table is the most popular area in our classroom and my personal favorite as well!  This was one of my long rectangle tables from last year, with the lower half of the legs unscrewed and taken off, so that was free!  I bought three different types of pillows at Ikea (six pillows total).  They were $3.99 each!  Students kneel or sit on the pillows.  This table can fit 6 kids easily and more, depending on what they are working on.
Total spent on this area:  $24.00  If you already have suitable pillows, then this would be FREE for you!

Tall/Standing Table with Ikea stools
The "standing" table is a rectangle table, but shorter length than my old ones.  This was something we already had at school and I had the custodian raise it a bit.  It's a great place for kids to stand when writing or playing a game.  Some of the taller first graders bring stools over and sit at this table as well.  This is a great place for about 4-5 kids at a time.
Total spent on this area:  $0  (stool prices coming later)
Good ol' desks with school-issue chairs.

A few of my kids love having their own private work space, so these desks work well for that.  The little table in the middle is something I used to have at home.  It works well for setting a supply tub in between the desks for two friends to share.
Total spent on this area:  $0 (and I used a piece of my furniture from years ago that I just didn't want to get rid of!)
Rectangle table with Ikea stools and school-issue chairs.
I kept two of my long rectangle tables from years past. (Three, if you count the kneeling table)  They both have a combination of Ikea stools and school-issue chairs.  Students can move seating around as needed.  This table regularly has 5-6 people working at it.  My other rectangle table has room for 3-4, because I have bookcases on one of the short ends and one of the long ends.
Total spent on this area:  Six Ikea (Marius) stools (throughout the room)-$30.00
Orange tiger and purple cow camp chairs
I stumbled upon these beauties at the grocery store last spring and HAD to have them!  I bought two tigers and two cows.  Kids sit in these to read or if they need to write, they grab a clipboard for a hard writing surface.  Always be on the lookout for cute seating choices that you can use in your classroom!  Easy-to-move seating choices for 4 kids.
Total spent on this area:  Four camp chairs-$28.00
Two Ikea rugs for floor work
I put two square rugs together in our Classroom Library area.  Super soft and cozy for kids who want to work on the floor.  Another great place for 3-4 kids to work.
Total spent on this area:  Two Ikea rugs-$20.00
Hooks for backpacks and coats
I almost forgot about this part when I was setting up!!!  Luckily, my neighbor reminded me that they wouldn't have an actual "seat" to hang backpacks and coats on, so I bought these Command Hooks at Walmart.  (I don't have a coat rack or anything like that...)  Then, I wrote a number on each hook, so they always use the same hook each day.  Each student has a number which is on their book box, data notebook, etc.  This has worked wonderfully!  They take their lunch boxes out in the morning and put them in a big tub, so the backpacks aren't too heavy.  These hooks are made to hold up to 5 pounds and we've had no problems so far!
Total spent on this area for me:  $28.00, but FREE for you if you already have a coat/backpack rack!

$78.00 if you already have pillows and a backpack area
$102.00  with cute Ikea pillows
$130.00 if command hooks are needed
And, that's it!  I'm so happy with my room.  I feel like I have so much more open space after getting rid of two big rectangle tables and moving my bookcases around.  The kids are champs at choosing and using their working spaces appropriately.  I may add other types of seating in the future, but this is working wonderfully well and the kids are happy and busy!  I'd love to hear about other budget-friendly options that you are using with your students, too!  I'd also love to answer any questions that you may have if you're ready to try this!

Saturday, September 3, 2016

Welcoming New Teachers

The first week is finished and I'm soaking up football, sleeping in, and a three-day weekend!  I'm going to be adding pictures of my classroom to my blog finally, but I really wanted to talk about something I'm excited to start this informal mentoring group for new teachers at my school!
When I started at my current school in 2012, I'd been teaching for 10 years in several different settings and didn't need help in the classroom as much as I just needed to be notified and informed of school-based traditions, expectations, etc.  I work at a small school where most teachers had worked there, and only there, for 10-20 years, without many new people coming on board.  They're fantastic, friendly, and nice people, but I think they assumed many of their school traditions and such were commonplace.  So, often, the first few months, I'd be rushing to pick a student for this or that, invite a parent to something, or hastily getting prepared for something nobody had told me about ahead of time!  If you know me, you would know this did not make me all. 
We've steadily added one or two new people each year and we've tried to be sure they feel welcomed and informed.  Most of them were experienced teachers and it (mostly) went pretty smoothly.  Last year and this year, however, we've hired about ten new people and several of them were brand new, first-year teachers.  I know they have a lot on their plate...learning classroom management, figuring out curriculum, and many are currently taking college courses as well.  I didn't want to pile on, but I spoke to my principal about doing informal mentoring meetings, since we do not have anything formal in place at this point.  She thought it sounded great and I was so happy that the teachers were thankful and relieved rather than feeling like it was one more meeting they had to attend.  My goal will be to inform them of and explain lots of "the little things", so those little extras do not pile up and become a huge frustration.  Some of the things we will be covering at the first meeting will be Leader of the Week story and snack, Leader of the Month (Awards, Family Breakfast, and Activity), World Series of Reading, Monthly Habits and Kindness Lessons, Data Notebooks, Leadership Teams, and anything else they have questions about right now!!
We will be meeting every other week after school.  My plan is to make a list of upcoming activities and deadlines to talk about and the teachers will bring lists of questions or concerns that they would like to chat about as well.  And, I'll provide goodies.  :)  Any teacher will be welcome to attend, so I'm hoping to have teachers from across the grade levels to help answer questions. I'm very excited to get this started and I truly hope they will find it beneficial as they start this wonderful (and sometimes crazy) career!!
What are some programs you  have in place at your school for new or new-to-the-building teachers?  I'd love to get some more ideas!  Thanks in advance!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

The Creative Homework Project/Genius Hour Homework

I'd been reading about Genius Hour all over the place and decided I wanted to implement it in my first grade classroom.  As with most things I try in my classroom, I read a bit here and there and then make it my own and run with it!
What I decided to do was "Genius Hour Homework", which I've since changed to The Creative Homework Project (which better fits what my youngsters are doing here), in place of our normal weekly packet for a three week period.  I'd like to get rid of homework altogether, but that's another post for another time...
My hope for this project was to give kids time to explore something they're passionate about or interested in.  I absolutely LOVED the end result!  It was really fantastic...two of my colleagues tried it after me and loved it as well. 
Here's how it worked:  First, we brainstormed things we were passionate about and things we were interested in learning more about.
Then, students had one week to make a plan and two more weeks to work on the project.  Here is the handout that was sent home that first day to explain the directions to families.

Then, students presented to the class.  I broke it up into four presentation times so students would not have to sit for too long at one time.  Students received a homework "grade" for completing the assignment and a Speaking and Listening grade for their presentation and participation.
We had baked goods (a delicious cake AND some scrumptious cupcakes), an Empire State Building 3-D puzzle, a how-to draw dinosaurs chart, glitter bracelets (one given to each student!) a Hawaiian lei, gymnastics (a model of a gym AND multiple cartwheels across the classroom!!), a model airplane, a handmade pillow, World Trade Center models made of popsicle sticks, singing (via Power Point and LIVE!), a toy car racetrack, Lego structures, and a chart about how to build a skateboard...OH MY!!!

It was even better than I expected!  I know that homework can sometimes become a tedious job at home, even though I try to make mine a quick and fun review.  The best thing about this project was that families were spending time together, reading, having fun, learning, and exploring..."stuff" that sometimes gets lost in the shuffle.
I received a lot of positive feedback from parents who had a great time.  If you're able, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND trying this.  It was definitely one of my favorite days of the school year.  You really get to see your kids in a different light and it lets the kids know that learning can be achieved in so many ways!!  Click here to try The Creative Homework Project in your classroom!!

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Friday Free Book Drawings!

I decided to give my Free Book Drawing Box a makeover this summer, to match my new room decor, and I thought it would be a great time to blog about my Friday Free Book Drawings!
For YEARS, I was buying cheap, useless trinkets to put in my Treasure Chest because that's what I'd always seen in Treasure Chests.  When I came to Las Vegas, however, I taught at a very at-risk school and decided that those kids needed BOOKS more than anything else!  So, I started using my bonus points when I had them and also shopping for $1 books through Scholastic.  I loaded up my Treasure Chest with awesome and popular books.  The kids love it, the parents love it, and it makes me feel like they are getting something useful and long-lasting from their Treasure Chest choice!

So, how do kids get to go to the Treasure Chest?  Well, this can really be achieved anyway you prefer, but I do a weekly Friday Free Book Drawing.  Kids can earn free book tickets to enter into the drawing throughout the week.  I distribute tickets for good behavior, turning in homework, class participation, winning a game, or whatever.
Free Book Tickets-Apple (click to get them FREE)
The kids fill in their name and put the ticket in our awesome "furry rainbow box"...previously, it was a "furry blue box", but I changed it up this year...I have WAY too much fun making these things!
Then, on Friday, I have kids come up and draw 2-3 (or sometimes more) winners.  I list the winners and the titles of the books they chose in our weekly newsletter.  I LOVE keeping the Treasure Chest stocked's not a chore like it used to be when I was always having to run to the store and buy cheap toys!
Definitely worth trying in your classroom if you're tired of stocking up on toys or candy and looking for something more meaningful for your Treasure Chest.  You can use raffle tickets or tickets of your own design.  I have several sets of tickets for the free book drawings in my store for you, too!  They're FREE and themes available include:  apple, pencil, superhero, safari, sports, owl, star, and monster!!  I print mine on different colors of copy paper, cut, and store in a baggie so they're ready to hand out when I need them.  Enjoy and give this a try in your classroom!

Friday, February 26, 2016

"Some of Us are Reading Chapter Books"

First grade in the spring...a magical time!!  So many of my students are making such fabulous growth in reading right now.  It’s just so exciting!  Two of my boys have both started trying out chapter books and have become crazy voracious readers!  They are trucking through the Magic Tree House series.  I feel like every time we talk about reading or books or homework or…anything really, one of them pipes up with, “Some of us are reading chapter books.”  I think I’ve heard it 20 times in the last few weeks!  And, I love it! It sounds something like this:    Me:  Remember, during Read to Self, you should be at a zero voice level or a whisper.  Him:  And some of us are reading chapter books.  Later, Me:  During Read to Someone, be sure you are sitting EEKK and using a level 1 voice.  Him:  Yes, and can we read our chapter book to our friend?  Next round, Me:  Check our list of activities that you can work on during Word Work.  Him: But, if we are reading chapter books, can we just read those instead?  ALL DAY!  :)
This fabulous picture just about sums it up.  Every Friday, we have Friday Choice Time for the last 20 minutes of the day.  Students who have earned Choice Time can play games, such as Connect Four or CandyLand, do a puzzle, share their Sharing Time items with friends, or complete a directed drawing or craft of some kind.  Instead, for the last two Fridays, this little guy chose to read his chapter books!  I asked if he wanted to go out into the hall for a quieter area, but he said he was fine and kept right on going with Jack and Annie’s latest adventure.
Anyway, I just thought I’d share this fun snippet from my classroom since I haven’t blogged in a few weeks!  I’ve been a little preoccupied with another piece of exciting news...During our trip to Disneyland over Valentine’s Day/Presidents Day weekend, we became engaged!!  Woohoo!

Sunday, January 31, 2016

30 Questions for Parents and Children

First of all, I was SO excited that my 30 Questions Freebie was selected as one of the ten free downloads on Teachers Pay Teachers last week!!  I posted some more freebies to celebrate new followers and I loved getting feedback that showed that people really appreciated my product.   Years ago, I used to put a question, conversation starter, or quote of some kind in my weekly newsletter to generate meaningful academic conversations between parents and students.  Then, I made this product and started using it.  I send it out at our beginning of the year Meet and Greet and discuss it at our Curriculum/Open House night.  I read through all the comments about the product this week, but this one really touched me!

While I know that parents have meaningful conversations with their children all the time, sometimes kids do so much at school, they just don’t have the capacity to remember some of the specific things that happen each day! We want them to share all of the wonderful stuff that is going on in our classrooms every day, so these prompts are written from the teacher side to help jog students’ memories of what happened at school all day!  I’m working on some additional versions right now that will give parents more conversation starter ideas for the primary kiddos, but also planning on some questions geared toward the intermediate grades.
Click on the image to get my 30 Questions product freebie and be on the lookout for more versions in the future!