Getting It Started Saturday: 1st Days of School

What better topic this time of year than to talk about the first two days of school for this week's Getting It Started Saturday!

We started school on Thursday this year, so the first two days were full of movement, fun, and getting-to-know each other activities.

With a class of 2/3 boys this year, I wanted the first two days to include a lot of getting up and about! No long seat time, especially with the temps in the 90s!

First up, Deana from Primary Punch's School Sleuth QR Code Scavenger Hunt! I *lovelovelove* this activity, and so did my kiddos!

Click the pic to get this great activity from TpT!
I wish I would have snapped a pic of my kids as we were completing this activity, but we were all having too much fun :) I split this activity in half so we could do it in the morning and then in the late afternoon. I hung the QR Code Posters all over the school and printed the clues on a cheat sheet for me (just in case I goofed with hanging them that morning!).

I brought the clues with me on a clipboard and a class iPad and we were off! It was a great activity because:

  • We could practice hallway behavior- lots of lining up, quiet walking in the halls, all that jazz
  • I could ask for volunteers to read (quick, informal reading check!) and there were *tons* since this was such a fun activity
  • I could explain expectations and review procedures in rooms like the cafeteria, bus lot, computer lab, and more
  • My new kids learned about the entire school in a fun and engaging way that kept them included with our class and not feeling so "new"-ish
I could go on and on, but this was one of my favorite activities these past two days!

After the first half of the school-wide scavenger hunt, we hung out in our classroom for a while completing a FREE A-Z Scavenger Hunt from Kari for items in our room:

Click the pic to be taken to Kari's TpT Store to grab this freebie!
This was a great way for them to get to know the room on their own terms and really look for things closer than my old pre-made list. Plus, their answers and what they found were much more in-depth!

*Teacher Tip* When it came time to share on Day 2, I called out a letter and the kids walked and stood next to the item that they wrote for that letter-- it was great! I didn't call all 26 letters, but I called most and even had kids call out a few-- it was a fantastic way to keep them moving and sharing and checking out all of the different areas in our class.

Last year, we used color Sharpies to decorate our Book Bins and that was definitely an activity worth repeating:

These magazine files from Ikea (Flyt- 5 for $1.99!!) held up all year long, even with extensive abuse from some of my kiddos and they were a fun souvenir to send home with them on the last day of school. Plus, the price is right, so I was a-ok restocking this year and if one ever did rip, it won't be the end of the world ;)

After they finished decorating, they were free to start looking through our class library and filling them up (no more than 3 books at any time), so this was a very laid-back way for me to see what books they naturally gravitated towards and who struggled to find any at all, even with zero parameters... loads of informal data-gathering these first two days :) :)

Next up, some writing, cleverly disguised in a fun packet from Anna at Simply Skilled in Second's Flip-Flap Book for First Day & Last Day:

Click the pic to find this in Anna's TpT Store
I made a packet of the materials for each student so they could keep it as organized as possible. I let them decide if they wanted to write first, then color, or vice versa, or mix it up as they went through-- totally up to them, and then I could wander around and see where they were with simple written responses.

I also made a demo version for them since these are so new and original-- they are always blown away when they see what these look like :) I love Anna's store and all of her Flip-Flap books because of this reason!

Click the pic to get this resource :)
We have Back to School Night with the parents on Tuesday evening, so my plan is to have each child leave their completed Flip-Flap Book at their table spots so parents have something to read, enjoy, and take home with them about their kiddo's first few days.

I hope this gave you some fun ideas to use during your first few days back with kids! I am so thankful for TpT and these great resources that have kept the first two days the most *fun* back-to-school time in my nine years of teaching!

This next week, we will be launching Math Rotations, Writer's Workshop, and Daily 5, and I can't wait to share how they look this year!

Happy Back to School and enjoy your weekend!

Getting Ready for Open House.... Sort Of.....

We have our Open House tomorrow morning to meet our new little thirdsters and their parents. Today was definitely crunch time-- a full day to work in our classrooms after three days of inservice, so my list was loooooong!

Of course, I alternated between throwing things in random closets organizing purposefully and small crafts to keep me happy and relax a bit. I'm most excited to share the small crafts part with you!

First up, an idea that's all over Pinterest, but I cannot find the original source at all!! (Please leave a comment if you know because I want to give creative credit where its due!) It's super-creative and I am so excited to use it in our class.... Pom-Pom Eraser Dry Erase Markers!

I used the following:

  • 24-pack of black pom-poms from Hobby Lobby (the size was just right-- not too much fluff but enough to cover the lid, and I chose black because any lighter color would show dirt through the year)
  • Dry erase markers from Office Depot (not only were they much cheaper than Expo, their lid was flat, so I could still attach the lid to the marker when using it and the eraser was usable-- not so with Expo's nubby lid-- does that even make sense?!)
  • Glue gun (I only had the mini at school today, but it was a-ok!)
This whole project took 2 1/2 seconds and now I am excited that kids will have erasers on the backs of their markers when we're using white boards in class.

And, speaking of white boards, I was *beyond* inspired by my super-genius friend, Kristen of Ladybug's Teacher Files when she shared her recent summertime project: White Board/Clipboard Combo!

Here's how mine went:

I used:

  • Plastic clipboards from Office Depot
  • Dry erase sheets (30-pack from Amazon found HERE)
  • Corner cutter from Hobby Lobby
I lugged this project back and forth from home and school because I was under the very false impression it would take time and patience-- which I have none of....

Good news! It takes neither!! Woo hoo!!

The sheets are very heavy-duty and when I messed up and got a bit off-center, I could just peel it up and start over. I *highly* recommend following Kristen's tutorial, since she covers tips & tricks that helped along the way, but wow-- I think this took less than the markers!

Last, but not least, I set up the tabletops for Open House. Last year, I used Lucky Charms, but we're less food-focused as a school this year, so I wanted to share something fun with the kids that was consistent with these policies.

Enter Alisha at The Bubbly Blonde's great freebie for glow stick bracelets! A pack of seven was only $1 at the Dollar Store, so I couldn't go wrong!

Since we are launching 7 Habits for Happy Kids as a Leader in Me School this year, I am also including these wonderful bookmarks from Little Lovely Leaders-- she is one of my 7 Habits go-to gals and her resources never disappoint!

The other forms include a welcome back letter, a class list, class schedule, and a questionnaire for parents that I used last year from Farley-- it worked out great so I'm using it again this year!

Parents and kids arrive to meet me at 9am, so I am off to get some sleep to try and tackle the rest of the mess before they arrive. First day is Thursday and I can't wait!!!

Happy Back to School Week!

Building Student Responsibility: Classroom Jobs

This week has been full of meetings and I am absolutely wiped out! There is still a lot to be done in my classroom, but I am anxious to share my newest addition: Classroom Jobs (in chevron, of course!):

I am in love with these guys! This year, I am really looking forward to having each student have a job and stay responsible for it for around two weeks.

In the past, I would switch jobs every week and I felt that was a bit too fast for my students. With two weeks, there is plenty of time for them to develop the responsibility and ownership of the job and become a bit of an "expert" at it before we switch again. It was also easier for me to keep track-- with kids switching every week, I could never remember who was supposed to be doing what. I ended up calling up last week's Line Leader or even the week before's-- it was a mess ;)

In the past, I have also only had a few jobs and only a few kids helping each week. While that was easier for me to remember (can you sense I have a memory problem during the craziness of the school year!?), I really want to focus this year on including and involving all kiddos. Pairing this with the longer job time will hopefully be the perfect combination to help build leaders and further develop our 7 Habits work in class. Plus, we're becoming a Leader in Me School this year, so the more I can incorporate leadership and proactivity, the better!

Here's the finished board on the side whiteboard in my class:

You can see number magnets to represent my students. I do that every year and kids use that number on everything-- makes paperwork and fire drills, plus lining up and now classroom jobs that much easier! I picked these up from Etsy, but my friend Elizabeth in Fun in Room 4B has an easy-peasy tutorial to make your own HERE.

Now, every two weeks, I can switch magnets to their new jobs-- there are 32 possible jobs, but I am only going to be using 22, so there will be a few kids "On Vacation" each week.

Here is the list of the jobs, as well as the three choices of headers:

To see this more clearly, click the image and download the "Preview" from my TpT Store.

I am very excited about this system, which brings me to how each student will choose a job. Because we will be talking about developing leadership habits and responsibility all year long, I want them to choose a job they want, will remember to do, and I want them to mix it up throughout the year-- I don't want the same kiddo to be Technology Support all year, for example.

So, that leads me to a challenge for this year. I envision a few ways that I will have kids choose new jobs every two weeks:
  • filling out a form
  • speaking aloud to tell the class why he/she will be a good fit for the job
  • writing a persuasive piece
  • and ???
I am excited to see the different forms this will take and how it will play out-- I will certainly share along the way what worked and what didn't, especially with the leadership focus and the emphasis on everyone helping out the classroom in some way. Exciting!

If you're interested in these jobs, they are available in my TpT Store HERE or by clicking the picture below. They match the rest of my chevron decor, of course, and there's even an editable (text-only) card for you to add your own in case it's not already listed.

Thanks and happy week ahead!

Fixing My Community Supplies Area!

I cannot tell you how excited I am about this Before and After! My Community Supplies Area has been such a lifesaver with tables, but *wow*, was it ever a mess if every student needed the same color of marker-- duck and cover!

I am excited to share with you how I quickly (and cheaply!) solved that problem this afternoon:

With the help of Tracy from Creekside Teacher Tales, I was able to make this adorable marker station for around $20!

Here's what you'll need:
  • Sterlite Mini 3-drawers (x3)-- I got mine at Walmart (they had black and white) and they were around $7 a piece
  • Tracy's freebie HERE
  • Markers (leftover from last year)
  • Clear tape
I printed out her freebie and made one extra drawer of "white, black, brown" to make nine labels total. I'll just be telling the kids the "white" means "gray"... no biggie :)

I taped these to the inside of the drawer, then sorted my messy tubs of markers into these nine, color-coded drawers.

The results make me grin from ear to ear!

Don't be jealous of my drab-fab 1970's era countertop ;) ;)
Inside each drawer, you will find:

My heart sings :)

In the teal bins on either side that hold up the shelf, I have filled the drawers with extras of:
  • glue sticks
  • scissors
  • erasers
  • color pencils
  • sticky notes
  • hand pencil sharpeners

That way, if a glue stick from their Table Supply Bins is dried out, they can quickly get a new one from these drawers without too much interruption. Same goes for erasers and markers.

I also restrict the use of Table Bins so they can stay nice for when we need them for a class project, so this area does get a bit of traffic during Friday Free Choice Time if kiddos want to color, or during Ketchup & Pickle Time if a student needs to finish an assignment.

The top board is just a shelf from the hardware store that I spray painted and on top, we store tape dispensers, lined paper, and white paper.

To the left, you can see my Sharp & Dull Pencil Bins (a freebie you can find HERE) and my ruler holder (tutorial HERE).

I hope this gives you some good ideas for your own Community Supplies Area and be sure to head to Creekside Teacher Tales to pick up this adorably cute freebie!!

PS- Congratulations to Karin S.-- check your email because you are the winner of my Writing the Playbook Giveaway!! Be sure to check back next month for September's book :)

A Look Inside My Table Supply Bins

I love having community supplies for our markers, color pencils, glue, and scissors. It makes it so easy to have my Supplies Manager pass out table bins to each spot and everything the kids need is in easy access.

I made my bins for this year today and wanted to give you a peek into how I did it.

Here are the materials I used:
  • Small Sterilite Bins: I bought these last year from the Target Dollar Bin and they held up wonderfully through a year of abuse-- I *love* not having to rebuy these each year!!)
  • Scotch Book Tape: I have blogged about this tape before HERE and *love* it! Definitely more expensive than the regular packing tape, but worth it! (Only a teacher would get this excited over clear tape, right?!)
  • Small Plastic Cups: These were 8 for $1 at the Dollar Store and they held up relatively well through the year for the cost (I think I only replaced 3 all year!)
  • Medium Plastic Baskets: These are from Hobby Lobby last year, too and held up VERY well-- didn't have to replace any of them :)
  • Hand Sharpeners: I put two in each bin for color pencils and put a small amount of teal duct tape so kids know these are "table supply" sharpeners
  • Scissors: One for each kid and again, I used a small piece of teal duct tape to show it belonged to the table supply bins and not our community supply area
  • Glue Sticks: One for each student and when one dries up/gets used up, the kids can replace it from our community supplies area
  • Markers & Color Pencils: I use three sets per table (only two are shown in these pics, sorry!) and if kids need more, they can grab them from the community supplies area
  • Supply Labels: I use these labels from my set found HERE.

Tip: Before I knew what baskets I would be using on the inside, I brought my Sterilite tub to the various stores that sold baskets (Target, Walmart, Hobby Lobby, Dollar Store, etc.) and tried them out one by one. I liked the final product since these are so durable and/or replaceable on the cheap :)

The Book Tape is a wonderful thing, since it sticks like crazy, but leaves a smooth finish and leaves little residue when you peel it off at the end of the year-- can't beat that!

Here's what it looks like on the cup with just the plain sheet underneath (no need to laminate or anything else):

I store these bins on a shelf in my classroom and will let our Supplies Manager (more on class jobs soon!) know when it's time to pass them out to everyone. Because I only have five tables, it takes very little time and limits the craziness in the classroom of everyone getting up to get what they need. I also use the Bin Fairy to leave little sticker supplies to the cleanest bins so kids are encouraged to keep them nice and tidy when they are finished.

I will be back soon with a picture of my community supplies area so you can see the full picture of the rest of this system, but here's a view from the top so you can see how it all fits in the bigger bin:

Do you use table supplies in your class? How do you organize them?

Getting It Started Saturday: Math Rotations {FAQ}

Thanks for all of your great questions with the first part of starting Math Rotations! If you missed Part 1 or 2, be sure to read them first by clicking HERE. I'm calling this mini-series Getting It Started Saturday!

Math Rotations {FAQ}

I am beyond in love with Math Rotations, but it took me a while to take the first step and actually start them up in my class. Starting Daily 5 gave me some confidence, but what worried me the most was the management, grouping, and time crunch that math presents each day (we have a 60-minute math block). 

If you haven't read my Math Rotations posts, I recommend reading them to get some general background knowledge about each of the pieces and parts. The four parts are:
Every student goes through each of the first three centers every day and, if they are early finishers on Lesson Work, they have the opportunity to do Fact Practice.

Each day begins with kids going straight to their first rotation. I begin with Teacher Time with my lowest group, then switch after ~18 minutes to meet with my medium group, then after ~18 minutes, meet with my high group. After leaving Teacher Time, the kids then go to Lesson Work and then Math Centers. I typically do these rotations Monday-Thursday

On Friday, my high kids come in and start with Lesson Work (from the day before's Teacher Time), my middle kids work on Math Centers, and my low kids, who usually meet with me first for Teacher Time, will often do Fact Practice while I work on reteaching some of my strugglers. After ~18 minutes, we stop and use the last ~40 minutes of class to do a game like Monster Math, Scoot, Bingo, etc. Fun times on Friday :)

On Monday, when my high kids come into do Lesson Work during first rotation, I will give them an extension activity (usually provided by our math program) to complete. This allows me to challenge their higher-level thinking skills and make sure they are doing purposeful work during that time. Sometimes, I will also have them do ScootPad on the iPad or computer, since that is CCSS-aligned and self-differentiating for their level. 

Getting It Started:
Math Rotations Frequently Asked Questions

I have read each and every one of your comments and questions and thought it would be best to compile them in an easy-to-find FAQ post! 

If you're new to Math Rotations, I definitely recommend reading through the other posts in this series as well as the rest found in the Math Rotations tab HERE and at the top of my blog. 

How long is your math block? 

60 minutes, which is why my rotations and up being about 18 minutes, give or take.... it's quick!

If you had 15+ extra minutes, how would you use them? 

I loved this question!! If I had 15 extra minutes, I would do a whole-class warm-up, Math Talk, or even read some math literature. We get to do these things on Fridays, but doing them all week long would make me very happy :)

How do you fit in literature? 

I *adore* math literature, but it gets tight with our current schedule. If I do want to read a book, I will try to share it on Friday. I have also not done Math Rotations that day and done a read aloud with some whole-class activities. 

What does my High group do on Mondays during Lesson Work when they first come in?

I went into this quite a bit during Part 2's video, but the short version is that they do enrichment work like math riddles/puzzles, task cards, higher-level thinking problems, all of that good stuff that is so hard to get to in our regular day.

How often do you do Math Rotations?

I typically do them Monday-Thursday and one rotation on Friday (see the top of this post for more detail). I started by only doing them a few times a week, but my kids loved them and begged for them, so how could I argue with that?! I think the small groups and shorter times help keep them excited and engaged, too :)

Do you teach the same lesson three times a day?

Crazy, right?! But, I do :) I find that I teach it differently each time, and that my groups really determine the focus even though the lesson in the "same"-- I find I am reaching them better in this way and that I can target my teaching much better.

What do your kids do for Lesson Work?

Definitely check my Lesson Work post HERE-- I have kids work in their student workbooks (from our district math program) and then if they finish early, they can work on Fact Practice (find more info on that HERE). 

I'm nervous to get started... any advice?

I know it sounds overwhelming and I was completely in your shoes last year. I finally felt the confidence to start after finding that I was a better teacher in small groups and my kids learned more in that format, too. Daily 5 gave me the management confidence and reading as much as I could helped me wrap my mind around the pieces and parts much better. I hope my posts have helped you in that way! I also prepped *to death* the Fact Practice and Math Centers so there was no way that kids would run out of purposeful things to do (management nightmare!) and could deepen their math knowledge even after finishing the worksheet for the day. Last, I recommend just jumping in and trusting the process. It does involve some growing pains, but soon, you will feel the payoff and so will your kids!

I will be back next Saturday with a new topic in my Getting It Started series! Thanks so much for your support and enjoy your weekend :)