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Thursday, May 17, 2018

End of Year Classroom Transformations

Long time, no blog friends!  I promise I haven't forgotten about you!  I've been a little pre-occupied with this guy...

Yep...I'm getting married!!  Is it September yet?!?!

Anywho...I wanted to share with you a couple room transformations that I have done the past couple years and never blogged about! 🙈🙈🙈

Throughout the post, you may find Amazon Affiliate links, which means Amazon tosses a few nickels my way if you purchase something through that link, at no extra cost to you, that help keep my corner of cyber-space running!

My first end of year room transformation was two years ago and we had Beach Day! I transformed our room to The Crystal Coast complete with beach sound effects on YouTube, a "sandy" beach, and a perfectly blue ocean!  Most of the materials I used for this room transformation came from Dollar Tree and Party City - so I didn't break the bank!

Sandy Beach Canvas was from Amazon

Blue Tablecloth from Party City made our ocean

Inflatables all came from Dollar Tree.

This year, I already had the Adirondack chairs as part of my flexible seating classroom - the fit Beach Day perfectly! The kids had a blast complete Beach Day centers all the while lounging around on the beach.

I collected lots of summer and beach themed books from Scholastic so they had plenty to read when they finished an activity.  Kids love to read books that are on the teacher shelf or that they never get to read! They are like gold!

Some of the centers had students sorting cards - like Fact vs. Opinion - so I got these sand shovels from Dollar Tree so students could sort them in their group.

Reading and working on arrays!

I covered our cubbies with this scene setter from Amazon! Binder clips on top and then it covered all our stuff and brought the beach to another corner of our classroom!!

It wouldn't be complete without a special snack! We had fruit cups, water bottles, and goldfish! Again, all of the cups/plates came from Dollar Tree! Make a stop before all their beach stuff gets gone!

Working on sentences by the seashore - literally! hehe

Here's a preview of the activities my kiddos were working on!

Last year, I went a totally different direction and we went CAMPING!!  The year before many of the first graders had had a beach day in 1st grade - so I had to come up with something different!  

We "CAMP" wait for Summer!  This blog post was done last year leading up to Camp Day - lots of ideas and extra resources posted there including nature sound effects on YouTube, Snack Mix, and Camping Books!

We pitched a tent on what had been my beach last year! And made a fire using sticks, rocks and tissue paper! But I didn't dare get close to it and breathe wrong - or it would have collapsed! I'm not an outdoorsy person so...not the best fire builder!

This was the reading tent! We did rotations around the classroom and each group had a round where they got to read some of the camping themed books I had found - they LOVED it! I brought a huge bear from home to stick in the tent as well as a sleeping bag to lay in the floor and make it comfy.

Each center activity had a directions card (pictured upside down in the picture above) - students could read the directions to complete the activity and then, scan the QR code to be able to access the answers to the activity! Win-Win for me! Less papers to check!

The Camp Read-A-Lot Reading tent in action!

But it wasn't all just fun...they did work too!  After they completed each activity, they earned a camp badge - like a Brag Tag! You could also print these on full sheet label papers and make them into camp badge stickers!

Do you do any fun activities or room transformations for the end of the year?!?


Thursday, October 19, 2017

Transitions: Minute to Win It Style!

Hey everyone!

I feel like I've neglected my's been just over 2 months since my last post - what what?!?!  Well, life happened!  School got settled down, but my personal life went on a roller coaster so no ideas were flowing and my little ole' blog just got ignored!

But, I'm popping over really quick today to share an idea for classroom transitions that may just help you if your kids take FOREVER to transition.

Back in August, my kiddos would take anywhere from 5 to 9 minutes on most days to clean up from Reader's Workshop and it was eating into our lunch time (pun not intended!).  So, I started timing them and they couldn't see or hear the clock, so that didn't work.

Then, I had the issue of transitioning during Reader's Workshop taking forever too - they'd walk around getting their mess together for 3-4 minutes and they were losing time and distracting the entire classroom in the process.

Then, pops up this wonderful idea on Instagram - and I can't for the life of me remember who posted it to give credit for this marvelous idea!

But - it worked!  The beat of the music and the thrill of trying to beat the timer has made transitions so much faster and smoother.  They aren't perfect and always in their seat when the timer goes off...but it is A LOT better and most are ready when the timer is done!

All I do is play this timer!

The beat and intensity of the pace in the music gets my kids up and moving and actually on a mission.  Before they had no sense of urgency - not anymore!  They hear "the game begins in 3...2...1" and they are off to the next thing.
During Reader's Workshop, I play it for the one minute.  I was hesitant to use it during Reader's Workshop because I wanted a quiet and smooth transition - but I'll take the 60 seconds of somewhat chaos over the 3-4 minutes of talking and lingering around wondering what to do.

When we are cleaning up, I play it twice so they have 2 minutes to clean up their things from Reader's Workshop, get their lunch, and get to their seat.  I do the same thing at the end of Math Workshop.
I actually have this video bookmarked on my computer so I can easily pull it up and keep it up for the day whenever I need it.
Try it for yourself and I hope it'll work for you and your kiddos!
Happy Friday Eve!


Friday, August 18, 2017

Please don't throw arrows...

Hi friends!  It's been a couple weeks and I've now completed 4 weeks with my new 2nd grade friends - we are almost halfway through the first nine weeks!  A lot has happened in the past 4 weeks - both in my classroom and my school - but I made a big change this week...I went back to traditional seating in my classroom.

Now, please don't throw the arrows and rotten tomatoes at me!  Let me explain!

Back in January 2016, the flexible seating trend starting sweeping the education world.  It seemed like everyone was doing it.  Many at my school threw out the tables and chairs and brought in couches, wobble stools, and included.  I believed all the research that said this was better for kids and I, like any teacher, want to do whats best for my kids - so I followed suit.

I didn't get rid of all of my tables - but I did have different height tables, 3 Hokki stools, some barstools I brought from home, and this past spring I even got 2 yoga ball chairs.

Now, I have to admit, I am a person that runs on structure and so as much of a step out of my comfort zone as this was, the kids did okay with it.  They knew how to sit on the seats appropriately and we did pretty well with it.  I also have to admit, that I never saw that it affected my kids attention and helped those that struggled to focus.  I wanted to see that it worked, and I told others that I did - but in my heart of hearts - I just didn't see it.

But, I forged forward and this year I had lots of seating options for my students and I was going to keep going with it.  If anything, I didn't have to stack and unstack their chairs each afternoon and every morning - there were far fewer seats and they were easier to handle - haha!

After meeting my new group of kiddos, I knew I had to do something different.  Every group of kiddos is different, and my group this year needed structure.  I could sense it day in and day out.  The yoga ball chairs were being bounced on constantly.  The paint bucket seats were being rolled around on all the time.  I had kids spinning circles on the Hokki stools - and those that weren't sitting on the Hokki stools were finding them unoccupied and spinning them like they were spin toys.  I felt like I had no control in my classroom.

So, over the past two weeks, I have gradually phased out all the "fun" seats and brought in chairs and even swapped tables with an awesome teacher friend so I could have normal tables for all my children to sit at.

Now - I say all of this to say...flexible seating is not for everyone and please don't feel bad when you don't want to do it in your classroom!

It's okay to not want to do the latest education trends - because like most trends - it may come and go.  I'm sure some are fuming steam right now reading this and please let's just agree to disagree.  I enjoyed flexible seating while I used it, but it was just not working for me and my group of kiddos.  I wholeheartedly agree that not everyone works best sitting in a hard chair at a table - but I also know at some point, they are going to have to learn to do that very thing.

It might be that you, like me, run on structure and organization - so you yourself can't handle flexible seating.  Please don't let someone make you feel bad because of it you are doing something because of you rather than "because it what's best for kids".  What is best for kids is having a happy, less-stressed teacher that has control of her classroom - that is what is best for them.  

It might be, that also, like me, your group of kiddos can't handle the flexibility.  Even though my kiddos have assigned seats and I moved the special sets around the room so they could have the opportunity to sit on different seating options, it was just too much choice and opportunity to make a poor choice for them to handle, at least at this point in the year.  

Do I allow my kids to sit on the floor while working?  Yes!  They don't sit in their chair all day.  My kids get to move around during Reading and Math Workshop and have some choice - I have done this since I started teaching in 2011.  That is also a version of flexible seating!

Did I keep most of my flexible seating options or have a teacher friend that will give them back if I ask for them - yes!!  My Hokki Stools are stored in our (unused) classroom bathroom turned closet.  I wasn't letting those bad boys get out of my classroom - they were from Donor's Choose!  But other things I have let other teachers have and I know they'll let me have them back if I ever ask for them.

Flexible seating is not a bad thing.  That is NOT what I'm trying to say and it can look different in many different classrooms.  I have just seen, in many different Facebook groups this summer, teachers that are feeling pressured to do flexible seating.  Everyone is running to find scoop rockers and yoga balls for their classrooms.  It's okay if you don't want to do it, or are even starting out and don't have the funds to purchase or make these options available to your students.

So, please don't beat yourself up if you don't want to jump on the flexible seating bandwagon, you've fallen (or jumped) off like me, or you never understood it to start with.  If you are comfortable in your classroom, then your kiddos will be comfortable as well - they will feed of your energy.  Do what YOU think is best  for YOU and YOUR classroom full of students.
Have a wonderful weekend friends!

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Organizing Math Centers

Hey everyone!  Whew - I'm about to finish up my 2nd week of school and my kiddos have loved starting math centers this week!  This past summer I spent a few days updating my math centers and giving them a totally new look.  

With that, meant I had to update how I organize my math centers - just a little bit!  So I wanted to hop on here with a quick post about how to storage your math centers - making it easy for you and your kiddos!

I store all of my task cards in plastic ziplock bags.  The entire month of task cards goes into a gallon sized bag.  I love plastic ziplock bags because in the rare event we have a spill - everything can wipe clean.  I know many love the small plastic boxes and photo cases - but I just don't have that much storage space or money to spend on all the boxes - so ziplock bags it is!

Each set of task cards is stored in a quart sized bag.  Sandwich size would work, but quart sized - even just regular storage bags - will hold up longer than sandwich bags.

New this year, I have decided to print my directions page and put on the front of the bag.  When printing my centers, I selected only the directions pages (on a Mac use Command and then select each page; on a Windows use Control and then select each page).  After selecting the pages, I use the Multiple print option and select 4 to a page.  This will print just the pages I selected and will print them smaller because there will be 4 to a page - save ink and paper!

I do laminate these pages and then just tape to the bag.  In the past, I just had labels with the names of the centers on the front and my kids relied more on the look of the center cards to remember what each center was.  This will help them if they have to go back at a later time to finish a center because they will have the "image" to more easily find the center they need.

I have revised all the directions pages so that the directions are written "to the kids" rather than to the teacher.  I have tried to make them easy to understand for the kids.  So if my kiddos don't listen...and you know that never happens...ha right...they can read the directions to complete the center.
This is also great because if you have adult helpers, or even if your admin walks in, they can see what your kids are up to just by reading the front of the bag.  The directions have been taken off of the recording sheets and put on the bag instead.

I store all of my answer keys and master to copy in a 3-ring binder.  I have 2 sheet protectors for each month - one with the answer keys and one with the masters to copy.  When I'm ready to copy, I pull out the masters, copy them, and then return them when I'm done - easy peasy!

I staple all of my answer keys with the cover page on the front so that I can easily pull my answer keys when I'm checking math centers.  

Below are links to my updated math centers - August through December!  I'll be updating January through May in the coming months!