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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!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Last Tuesday, ClassDojo announced an update to Student Stories: student-led, digital portfolios for the classroom. Student Stories is part of Stories on ClassDojo: an instantly updated stream of pictures, videos and messages from the classroom and school that helps parents stay connected to everything their child is learning.

“Everything I need to make my classroom an amazing place, I can do with ClassDojo,” said Stephanie Smith, a teacher in Tennessee. “Students and parents LOVE Student Stories, seeing their child’s portfolio of learning and growth throughout the year. It makes my classroom the student-centric space I’ve always dreamed of!”

Student Stories replace boxes and binders of students’ work with beautiful, simple digital portfolios that are shared between school and home, sparking meaningful conversations on what students are learning every day.

“I like having my own Story to add my own photos to because then my mom and my dad see it and we can talk about it at home,” said Galen, a third grader in San Francisco.

ClassDojo’s back to school Student Stories update includes:

  • Post with any app: students (and teachers!) can post photos and videos to their Story from other apps directly, or by uploading from the camera roll. “App smashing” becomes a reality!
  • Any device: students can post from any device: iOS, Android, Chromebooks or web
  • Easy and secure access: no need to remember usernames or passwords - students can log in instantly by scanning their secure class QR code
  • Journal entries: the easiest way for students to reflect on their work, they can now create written journal entries
  • Draw and annotate on photos: students can add more context to entries with drawn or typed comments
  • Record and upload videos: students can record and share videos up to eight minutes in length, or upload saved videos from other apps
  • Drawings: when words fall short, students can let their inner artist shine by creating a drawing all their own!
  • Filters, frames, and stickers: students can add a dash of fun to their posts, creating portfolios as unique as they are (coming soon)
  • Voice notes: students too young to type? All they have to do is speak into their device and a recorded message is sent home (coming soon)

“ClassDojo has already made me feel more connected to my daughter’s education than ever before,” said Clarissa Miles, whose daughter, Caraline, is a sixth grader in Tennessee. “Being able to see her Story helps us have even more meaningful conversations at home about what she did at school. Those conversations are the best part of my day, and they’ve brought me, Caraline, and her teacher closer together. For the first time, I feel like we’re part of the same team.”

Students are able to start adding to their own Stories from a shared classroom iPad or Chromebook immediately as part of the ClassDojo app. For more information on Student Stories and ClassDojo, please visit: and

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Classroom Tour 2017 - Video Tour!!

Happy Saturday everyone!  
My summer is thisclose to being officially over - kids come back to school Monday!! 

I wanted to hop over here really quick and share a video tour I did of my classroom yesterday afternoon.  This was an IG Live - so I did answer some questions along the way.  If you have any other questions for me - feel free to comment below!

Have a great weekend y'all!  Stay cool - its SUPER SUPER SUPER HOT here in NC!

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Come one, Come all to the Monster Marketplace!!

Hey y'all!  I'm gearing up for my new kiddos that'll be walking through my door next Monday morning!  Where did my summer go?!?!  It's okay though - in 9 weeks, I'll be tracked out for 2 weeks and the first nine weeks always seems to fly by!
I have been a loyal Class Dojo user for years and love how the creators have improved the program so that it's now so much more than a way to track student behavior.  Now, I can communicate with parents via messenger, share class pictures in a closed and safe environment - i.e. away from social media, and there's more exciting things on the way!
If you have followed me for a while, you maybe have read about my Class Dojo Super Pack that allows you to implement a classroom economy in your classroom and it works perfectly with Class Dojo.  Well, earlier this year, this set got a MAJOR facelift and a new name - Monster Marketplace!  

When I looked at the set, I realized that teachers could use this resource with any type of system - whether you were giving Dojo points, tickets, or coins - so a new name was needed!  The theme of monsters is still included, but I now have this super cute monster kidlette clipart that I had made just for this set!

So, if you have my original Class Dojo set - go download the update - if you haven't seen it already!  The concept of what's included is the same - it just has a new look!

Let me show you all of the new awesomeness that's included!

Let me start with something I use EVERYDAY!  These behavior calendars are the perfect way to communicate the child's daily behavior with parents.  Since I do use Class Dojo, my students record their number of points in the circle.  Parents initial and then when they "cash in" their points for Dojo Dollars, I use the Total line to total up their points (more on that later!).  When I used a clip chart my first year or so, I had something similar to this and my students would record their color in the circle. If you use a clip chart, you could do the same - you don't have to use Class Dojo to use this!

The best part is that the calendars are now editable!!  The circles and text boxes in each day's box are editable so that if you have a school holiday, field trip, etc. you can delete that days items and add in a text box to let parents know what is going on that day!

My old set only included graphing sheets like above.  Now that I use the calendar,  but I know that's not everyone's choice, I have included blank graphs that you can use and add in the dates before printing and copying.

Above I mentioned credit cards and cashing in points for Dojo Dollars.  Instead of having all kinds of printed bills that my students have to keep up with - my students have joined the 21st  Century and have their own credit card!

So how do my kiddos "cash in"?  I have my students assigned to days where they can cash in their points and I take those points and magically turn them into money on their Monster Express Card!  Each point is $1 - so when I total their points, if they have 25 points, they will get $25 on their credit card.

I assign my students a day so that I am not cashing all of them on one day - or having students cash in every day.  They have one day a week where they can cash in their points - if they miss it - they have to wait until next week!

To make adding and subtracting money on the card easy - I laminate the cards and use Sharpie and a Mr. Clean eraser to write and erase off the laminate.

Once students have money on their credit card, it's time to spend it!  I have the Monster Marketplace set up in my classroom using regular sized library pockets with tickets inside.  The covers pictured above are attached to the front of the library pocket and tickets go inside the pocket.  Students go pick out the item(s) they want to buy, bring it to me and I take that amount off their credit card.

There are pre-made reward pocket covers, as pictured above, included in the set with matching tickets.  There is also an editable PowerPoint file with pockets and tickets so that you can make your own rewards to include in your store!

Short term goals are great for students and that is one reason I love the Monster Marketplace store!  They are able to set a small goal for a small item or experience they want to purchase, work towards it, and then buy it.  But long terms goals are also great incentives.  That is where Point Clubs come into play.

You will find classroom circles to display your point clubs (as pictured above), as well as certificates and brag tags if you utilize brag tags in your classroom.  There are LOTS of point club options.  I chose to do my point clubs in increments of 100 - but others requested them to be in increments of 50 because of how they did their points in their classroom - so you have LOTS of options with certificates and brag tags for each one.  Print and use just what you need!

Leader of the Week is another short term goal/reward I like to use in my classroom.  Each Friday afternoon as we are packing up to head home, I check the total number of points for the week in the Reports tab to find my student with the highest total of points for the week.  You could also look at their percentage if you choose to do it that way - however I would have a few every week that had 100% so I just went with total number of points.  That child was the Leader of the Week for the next week and got their name displayed on our Dojo board, as well as receiving a brag tag and certificate to take home.

The Monster Marketplace banner pictured above is a perfect header to put above your store.

The last set of items included in this set are Monster Labels.  If you are using a Monster theme in your classroom - these could be used for a lot of reasons.  But, I used them to display students in the Point Clubs.  Add student names to the black rectangle in each square and then print.  There are 2 sizes - small and large - so choose the size that best fits the space and how you want to use these in your classroom.

Whew!  That was a lot!  Do you use Class Dojo in your classroom?
I'm sure I've not answered everyone's questions in this post - so make sure to click on the Class Dojo label over to the right and find other posts I've done about Class Dojo.  Still can't find the answer to your question - just ask below in the comments!


Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Morning Work - make NO MORE copies!!

Oh, how good it feels to be back to blogging.  I realized a couple weeks ago that I hadn't blogged since mid-May because of all of the end-of-year craziness.  Now I'm about to back in the even crazier beginning of year craziness - AHHH!!

As you are beginning to think about the coming school year and how you want to structure your day, one of the best ways to start your kiddos' day is by setting up some structure and routine for them from the moment they walk in the door.

When my kiddo's come in the door they have a few tasks:
1. Unpack their backpack
2.  Put snack in snack basket and check to see if they need to heat-up their lunch
3.  Check the counter for any papers to put in their COLLEGE notebook
4.  Put COLLEGE notebook on bookshelf
5.  Put everything in their cubby
6.  Morning Work!

Each morning, my students' morning work is projected on my whiteboard for them.  They complete each day's tasks in a marble composition notebook.  We have a few of these notebooks on our supply list - so one of them is used for morning work.

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!

I pre-write the date and how many days we have been in school using my Mimio Pen - just screen capture and write right over top of the PDF.  Don't have a Mimio or Smartboard type program and pen - just use an Expo marker!

Students will then write the sentences in Box #1 at the top of their page.  For Boxes #2-#5 - I just have students write their answers.  They do not have to write the directions for each box as well.

Teacher Reality - I do not go behind my kiddos and check their work.  We check the morning work quickly each morning - takes no more than 5 minutes most days and less as the year goes on - and they check their own work with marker/crayon.  So, as long as they understand where their answers are, I don't stress myself about how they have it organized.

Now, I will say at the beginning of the year, I do use a large wipe-on/off poster that looks like notebook paper to show my students how to set up their morning work.  I usually try to do this for the first week or so.  I tape it to the side of my whiteboard, so they have a visual of how to set it up in their notebook.  

The last box is a fun fact of the day (for 2nd grade).  I do not make my students write these in their notebooks.  Some do because they enjoy keeping up with them - but it is not required - but that is totally up to you if you want to require it or not.

The skills included in the morning work spiral about every 10 days - so about every two weeks your kids will be practicing the same skill.  As the year progresses, the skills gradually get more difficult - more so with math than language arts/grammar.    Some tasks are open-ended so students have the ability to be creative in their responses.

I have used this morning work in my classroom for 2 years and love it!  My kids know what they have to do each morning when they come in and that consistency and expectation is there and makes for smoother mornings.

Now, I will tell you - the first couple weeks of this morning work - just like with learning any new routine - may be a little difficult for your students.  I try to make sure that I don't have many tasks to do during our morning work time so that I am available to help students.  When students don't know what an answer is or how to tackle the problem - I tell them to do their best and give it a try.  Then, when we are going over our morning work, I take more time on those problems to help students understand the process and the answer.  Then, when we get to that topic - let's say arrays in math - my students have been practicing arrays all year and it makes a little easier for them because they've heard that word and know a little something about it.

This summer, I took on the HUGE task of making morning work for BOTH 1st and 3rd grades!!  The set-up is the same as the 2nd grade set.  The only major difference - besides the content and difficulty of content - is that instead of a Fun Fact of the Day, each day there is a Joke of the Day.  The jokes are the same for both 1st and 3rd grade.  Hopefully if you have teachers in your school that are using both grade levels of morning work, students will forget the jokes between 1st and 3rd grade!

Click on each image below to check out the skill set included, test drive the first 5 days, and get a preview of tasks for the entire year (in the downloadable preview).

Timing - my students can begin entering our school building at 7:45 AM and the tardy bell rings at 8:15 AM.  We stop about 8:20 AM to say the pledge, check morning work, and do our morning routine before beginning instruction.  Most of my students are able to complete their morning work - some with time left over!  Those stragglers that come in right at 8:15 do struggle to get morning work done most days.  Because this is a review of skills, I do not stress myself if they are not finished.  They do pay attention when we are going over morning work and try to get the answers written down - so they are processing the information - which is what I want!

When my kiddos finish their morning work, they have a few options of things to do:
1. Finish incomplete work
2.  Read
3.  Morning Choice - mini lego boxes, practice math facts, etc.

For my mini lego boxes, I use 5x7 photo boxes with these mini lego sets.  They are able to grab these boxes and use their imagination and fine motor skills to build whatever their imagination can come up with!  


What kinds of things are you planning for the new school year?!?!


Thursday, July 6, 2017

Contraction-ectomies with 2nd Grade Surgeons!

Hey y'all!  Happy Summer!  My summer is quickly fading as I head back to work on the 17th - ack!  Can't believe it's almost over.  I wanted to share with you a quick and SUPER FUN activity that we did back in April when we studied contractions with our phonics program.

Contraction Surgery!!
Although I like Contractionectomy better because it sounds more official - haha!

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!

To make things a little more realistic for my kiddos, I got them shower caps and masks from Dollar Tree - cost maybe $10.  I picked up band-aids while I was there.  And I did bad math and didn't correctly calculate how many I would need - note to self for next year!

I opted to not do gloves - I knew adult gloves wouldn't fit them and that would make all the cutting and gluing way harder for them.  Saved myself a few bucks and a lot of sanity by opting for no gloves!

We put on a heartbeat monitor sound effect on the board and off into the surgery the kiddos went.  They were SO start with!  They did a great job, they really did, but their excitement got the best of them after a little while and they got a little loud - but they were learning - that's for sure!  

Not to bore you with too much chatter - here are pictures!

I picked up this doctor coat on Amazon - added a little heat transfer vinyl and BAM! I'm the chief surgeon!

And a video of them in action!  We all called each other doctors - so they even got in on calling each other Dr. {last name} - it was so fun!

Now - where did I get my awesome contraction surgery set - well TPT of course!  I didn't make my own because this one was too good not to buy!  Munchkins Inc did an awesome job with making this activity - it was perfect for my 2nds!  Copied into booklets for them and they were set!

Happy Thursday y'all!  What fun things have you got planned for the rest of your summer?