Friday, October 30, 2015

Utilizing School Day Holidays

Cassie here from Texas Forever (Formerly Mrs. Thomas's Class) and today I want to share with you a few tips for how to survive holidays in the classroom. 
By now I am sure most of you have seen this meme floating around social media

Props to you all! This week I am still on maternity leave, so I haven't had to endure this craziness, but I have in the past so I feel your pain. Hopefully it wasn't too bad! 
There is a positive:
I'm excited for this even for my personal self! 

Back to the point.

Halloween is definitely one of those holidays where, if you can celebrate, it's usually crazy and full of sugar. If you can at all costs, avoid the candy, and if you have candy only have it at the end of the day. (First year teacher mistake, candy at like 11 - worst idea ever)

If you can celebrate Halloween, I have always enjoyed having Halloween themed activities. It keeps the students a little wild, but still learning and having fun. I am not in the classroom currently, but during my tutoring sessions I created some activities to do with my tutee. 

The left photo I wrote words with blends on a pumpkin and then I said either the blend or word and had him tell me the blend and then he got to cover it up with those cute felt stickers from the Target dollar spot. 
The photo on the right are blend puzzles. He put them together, told me the word. You can see the witch fingers we have been using those to read during tutoring with the lights, also both from Target Dollar Spot. (Best place ever, right!?) I also found skull erasers I bought for him to put on the end of pencils to point to each word as we read. 
Sadly, I know some of you CAN'T avoid the sweets, and then I know that some of you can't have homemade snacks at school. It's an awful predicament, but I do have some advice. If you HAVE to have sweets - save for the last 30 minutes. It will keep the students somewhat focused (or as focused as they are going to be), and then save your sanity. If you CAN have other food for snacks. By all means, be healthy!!! Here are some of my favorite ideas.


These are for Halloween - but there are so many ideas for every holiday! 

This is a no brainer for those veteran teachers out there who have experienced classroom parties, but I remember as a first year teacher I didn't know this was the MOST IMPORTANT party part. 
Set the tone EARLY. 
If it's like this year and Halloween parties were luckily on a Friday, Monday or the Friday before start explaining your expectations for the party day. Don't let up at all that week, don't give an ounce of leeway or you will lose your students. No matter how much you think you won't, it could be all over by Tuesday and that's a wasted week we all sadly can't afford in the classroom. 
SO important. Send home letters at the first of the year about parties, reminders the month of big parties, and small reminders the week of parties. I have heard too many times too many teachers so upset because a parent walks in their classroom with cupcakes and soda at 11am. There goes your teaching day, we know this, but parents may not understand this. Why does this ruin your teaching day? Imagine a group of 20 5 year olds seeing all of that sugar walk into the classroom - their little eyes get wider, their hearts start pumping, and their desire to do any work for you, GONE. Just make sure you have some sort of routine where you send home reminders constantly. Parents get busy and make honest mistakes of forgetting what was set in place in August. 

and last but not least......


Your students will remember that day forever if you are just as excited and enjoying the time with them as they are with you. :) 

I hope this helps. Sorry it's the day of, but remember, Halloween isn't the only holiday that involves the kids getting crazy!!! 
Save this for Christmas and Valentines Day - FOR SURE! 

Have a great Halloween weekend!!

Thursday, October 29, 2015

I'm thankful for politics, difficult parents, assessments, and more. Find out why!

Every year since I was in high school, I turned crummy things around and made them positive every year when Thanksgiving rolled around.  You know, I'm thankful for the farthest parking spot because it means I'm healthy to walk sort of thing.  

When I started blogging a few years ago at Easy Teaching Tools, I used the same mentality and applied to to teaching here and here.  Sometimes, it's so easy to get caught up in the negative parts of teaching.  You know, the politics, the bullying, all of the assessments, tough parents...the list can go on and on.  

I challenge  you to write down one crummy thing and spin it around into a positive.  I'll choose one lucky teacher winner who will get this thankful turkey craft that you can use in your classroom to teach your students about being thankful.

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Parent Teacher Conference FREEBIE!

Hi everyone! Alisha from Missing Tooth Grins here! If you were to see me right now, you would probably see me sporting some ROYALS gear ALL DAY EVERY DAY. Well, except today and last Monday because of conferences! But, right when I get home... It's back to Royals gear! Because we are all excited about the WORLD SERIES BABY. 

Anyway, enough of that. Like I said, it's conference time and I'm here to bring you some fun freebies and such. In my previous school, our whole school implemented student led conferences. I wrote about how I did student led conferences in my classroom here

Today, I'm sharing a few freebies that I hope will help you with your conference prep. 

At conferences, I use this little checklist to help me keep track of conference times, along with who attended the conference and what I need to do for next steps. For example, if the parent requested that I send home sight word cards or flash cards, I would write that down on this form so that I don't forget to actually do that. Goodbye post-its all over my conference folders and table! Hellllllooooo organization at it's finest. 

We needed to set up a table for parents to take a school survey outside our room. In addition to the survey, I left a big bowl of mints and a notepad for them to leave a sweet little note for their firstie. My kids whose parents had a conference Monday night were oh so excited to come in on Tuesday morning to these sweet notes. 

Click on the pictures below to grab your freebies!

Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy your freebies! Happy conference time, peeps!

Monday, October 26, 2015

Fall Frenzy Recap

Hi friends! It's Gina from Teaching With Heart {formerly Miss Peluso's Kindergarten} here to share with you some of my favorite activities that I've done this Fall season. With school starting, Fall is a whirlwind that tends to go by before you even know it! By the end of it, I can never really wrap my head around all of the fun that we had! That's why I decided to share a few of my favorites here for you all in one place so that you can squeeze some more Fall fun in this year, or save these ideas for next!
We started out Fall going strong and studying Johnny Appleseed. Conveniently for us, our field trip to the apple orchard was planned for the same week as Johnny Appleseed's birthday! We took our trip to the orchard where we learned all about how apples and pumpkins grow, and even got to pick our own!
When we came back, we taste tested and voted on our favorite apple color! Surprisingly, yellow won by a landslide!

After we learned about apples and pumpkins from the farm, we learned who Johnny Appleseed was. We even made our very own Johnny Appleseed "pots" to wear on our heads!
The weather stayed warmer much later this year, so it was a while before we noticed the leaves changing color. Once they started, we made our Fall trees. We used q-tips and some red, yellow, and orange paint to make the leaves on our trees! We'll keep the Winter, Spring, and Summer trees blank until the seasons change again!
In math, we began to talk about numbers 1-10. I always find it hard to teach how numbers are all made up of smaller numbers, so we used some apple pie math to figure it out! This real-world connection helped many of my kinders make the connection in their minds.
Keeping with the Fall theme in math, we needed a little more fun in our whole group math time. I VERY quickly cut out this little pumpkin and wrote numbers on it. One student at a time tossed a bean bag onto the pumpkin. Whatever number it landed on was the number that the rest of the class built on their ten frames. Just a little twist made this lesson so much more engaging!
This past week, it was time to break out the REAL pumpkins! We had a blast doing some pumpkin investigating to see if our pumpkins would sink or float, and to discover how many seeds were inside our pumpkins! This week, we will vote on what face we should carve into our pumpkin, and use our 5 senses a bit more to explore!
Finally, with Halloween coming up this week, it's time to bring out some favorites from last year, Greater Gator and Cauldron Trace! A little Halloween spin makes simple math concepts fun to practice!

What are your favorite Fall or Halloween activities? Post some links in the comments section to share with our readers!

Happy (almost) Halloween! Stop on by my blog to enter a great giveaway hosted by me and Amber from A Smiling Teacher!

Sunday, October 25, 2015

Teaching Partners

Could a teaching partner be the answer to your prayers or your worse nightmare?  The simple answer is that they could be either depending on how much thought and work you put into the process.  My advice to you would be to get a teaching partner.  Education has become too complex for you to do it on your own.  A lot of people wonder if the primary grades can handle teaching partners.  My answer for them is always "Absolutely, just keep the students in mind when making choices".  I have had a few teaching partners over the years and have learned that if you follow a few guidelines your teaching partner may be the answer to your prayers.

First you have to decide which collaboration will work best for your students and teaching situation.  Here are two models for a general education classroom:
Co-Teaching:  Two teachers work together to teach in one classroom.  All academic areas are supported by both teachers simultaneously.
Departmentalize: Two teachers work separately to teach different subjects to the same students.

There are a a lot of variations that could go into either of those models.  Both models can be very beneficial.  Co-Teaching a subject like shared reading could alleviate stress of planning, allow for better grouping of students and allow students to have two different teaching perspectives.  I have worked with another teacher where we brought both of our classes together for shared reading.  We would take turns on being the lead teacher for the lesson.  After the whole group portion of the lesson students would be separated into groups for group work.  This can be a very supportive environment that decreases stress from presenting each lesson.  This is also the best way to find out if you like working with partners.

Departmentalizing could allow each teacher their own space to teach in while focusing on less subjects.  I have departmentalized with students switching out of my classroom and with me switching out of their classrooms.  The choice of who would switch was always based on the needs of that class.  Some classes do not fair well with change while others enjoy a change.  This way of teaching is most beneficial in giving you the autonomy of the classroom that you may desire.  If neither of these models will work for your school environment I encourage you to research other models

Here are some tips for making a partnership work:
1.  Let it go.  If my students are happy and being well educated, I don't dwell on what ever may bother me.  Don't sit and stew over the fact that your partner left her stuff in your area.  Who cares? Just clean it up and go on.
2.  Nurture your relationship.  I like to leave notes for my family and my teaching partner.  Quick little pick me ups reminding them of how much I love them.  It only takes a minute for you to tell someone that they are awesome on a sticky note.
3.  Get over yourself.  It takes billions of teachers to educate our world.  Your way is not better than someone else's way.  Use your partnership as a learning tool and be receptive to new ideas.
4.  Don't waste time on hashing out tasks.  When I come in to my classroom I look at the list of things to do.  I do as many as possible as quickly as possible.  If forms need to be filled out I do it for myself and my partner.  She does the same thing for me.  This divide and conquer of tasks benefits the students and cuts down on work.  Doing the tasks immediately also insures that I don't get behind on work to complete.  (Except for grading,  I haven't conquered that beast yet!!!)
5.  Make sure to look into the future a year or two before you sign on with a partner.  If they are newly married and planning on starting a family, you may not want to sign on there.  However, maybe that is where you are in life and a partner with those dreams would be a perfect fit for you.
6.  Assess your teaching goals and styles with someone before you sign on with them.  If they are OCD and you are a "hippy" go lucky teacher, you don't fit together.  You don't have to be the same, but you don't want someone driving your crazy because you are just too different.
7.  If the partnership goes south don't make the students suffer.  If you sign on to have a partner you have one school year to get through.  You need to make it work perfectly for the students no matter what.  If you want to end the partnership during the summer, so be it.

My hope for you is that you have a teaching partner as wonderful as mine.  My teaching partner is caring and always puts others firsts.  She has a no non-sense attitude that fits perfectly with mine.  I'm very lucky to have her.

Mystery Readers and Skeleton FUN

I LOVE this time of the year! Holidays everywhere!!! Hey friends, it's Kristen from Loving Teaching Inspiring (the blog that really needs some attention...).

I just moved to first grade this year and I'm loving it but, I'm really struggling with fitting in the fun crafts. These 6 year olds (literally only one year above Kindergartners) have a lot on their agenda each day but I know they still need the fun!!! I decided to implement Friday mystery readers which has been a great success!

A couple weeks ago, my high school BFF came to be our mystery reader! She read a class favorite, Skeleton Hiccups. We then made these adorable paper plate skeleton skulls.

This craft was so easy! I simply cut a paper plate in half and gave the kids scrap pieces of white and black paper. I love the way the all look a little different but still equally adorable! I hope this encourages you to do a little craft even if it's as simple as these.

P.S. Isn't that skeleton shirt the cutest?? I can't believe I will have another beautiful baby girl in March!!!