Sunday, August 23, 2015

Simplifying Homework

School has officially started and like most teachers, we have hit the ground running in my classroom. Knowing how much we work every day makes me hate giving my kids homework, but at the same time I know that little bit of extra time practicing with their parents can really help.

If you are a parent, I do get it.  Your kiddo gets home and now it's your turn to hit the ground running.  Your little guy or girl needs a quick snack, time to knock out homework, eat dinner, get to gymnastics, dance, baseball, football, or whatever activity is planned for that night, and then time to get home, get a bath, read a little, get ready for the next day - all between the hours of 3:30 and 8:00.  That's a lot to cover!
So, that leads me into simplifying homework.  My teammates and I always do the same homework and we try our best to make sure it doesn't take longer than fifteen to twenty minutes.  We also send home the homework for the whole week on Fridays or Mondays.  This way our parents can adjust it to fit their schedules.

Here's how we have made it work for us.

Each night, students are expected to read for ten minutes.  We include a reading log so that the kids can record what they have read.  Our students also practice their spelling words, their story of the week, and their Fry words throughout the week.  This may sound like a lot, but in my classroom I  allow a good bit of flexibility with my homework, so if my students are already doing well with spelling or their story, they may only practice it once.

My team also includes a reading comprehension sheet, a language arts sheet, and a math sheet.  For the last few years, we've been using my printables, but I've always thought that I would love to create a layout similar to the morning work our students do.  So many of our students don't have support at home, so I felt like if our students had something similar to what they do at school, then that would allow them to practice even if they were alone.  Not only will that hopefully build their independence and confidence, but it should help homework fall into the time frame we want.

Now, I'm sure some of you are going to look at my new homework packet and think, "Faith, a lot of it is repeated and it's easy."  It is definitely repeated and it does start off easy, but there is a reason.  It is our job to teach our kids new skills.  I wanted the first few weeks to be very easy so that teachers would have an opportunity to teach new skills.  I think it's very important for homework to be a review of what students already know.  Every three weeks, skills will slightly change and each nine weeks will get a little tougher.

Our students are going to have homework the rest of their lives.  If we want parents to support us and help us, then I feel like our students need to feel successful and not overwhelmed.

If you are still curious about my new homework packet, feel free to click the image below.  It will allow you to download the first week of homework so you can see the layout.  Right now, I have the first nine weeks done, but I am hoping to have the second nine weeks ready in the next few weeks and the remainder of the year done by Christmas.

Have a great week and let me know if you have any questions :)

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Wordless Wednesday - Fun Books to Read

I just got some new books for my classroom.  Outside of Mercy Watson, I've never heard of any of these books, but I loved the covers and the fact I could picture myself reading them to boys or girls.

What are some of your favorite books to read to your first grade class?

Monday, August 3, 2015

Back to School Bandana Gifts

For the first day of school, I always like to have a little treat for my kids.  Usually, I order little boxes from Oriental Trading, but this year I wanted to try something new.
I found a cute bandana idea on The Shopping Mama and had to make them for my classroom.

Below are the supplies you need and the steps for how I did my bandanas.  I also included several pictures so that you can see the final product.

 I'm also linking up with Monday Made It, so feel free to click the link below to go find other fun ideas.
Also, if you haven't hit up TPT yet for the sale, click the image below to go shop.  Don't forget to use the code when checking out.
Have a great Monday!

Sunday, August 2, 2015

Back to School Sale

Are you ready to go back to school?  I'm not quite ready either and my first day back is TOMORROW!  I love my teammates and I love teaching, but I'm not an early morning girl, so I'm going to slightly miss my summer schedule or is it my non-schedule summer?

So, I have some awesome news for you that may get you closer to ready for summer.  TPT is throwing a sale on August 3 and 4.  That's Monday and Tuesday!
If you are like me, you may have a few gaps you want to fill in for the coming year.  Here are some of my favorite packets that are in my store and some of my favorites that I've bought from other sellers.  ALL of these are packets that I use in my classroom and a lot of them I use daily.

I've linked all of the packets, so it will be easier for you to grab them.

This is one of the packets I use in my own classroom every day.  When I created it, I made sure that it constantly reviews and repeats skills for language arts and math.  The bundle contains 360 pages.  If you aren't quite sure you want the bundle, you buy the individual 9 weeks packets.

Last year, my kids were struggling with their reading comprehension.  I decided to create passages that would be on their level with questions that were based off the passages.  The beginning passages use lots of short vowel words and Fry words while other sets were created to challenge your better readers.  While this is a bundle, you can also get each set individually.

My calendar math is not the same as the traditional calendar math.  It was created to work with Activboards and other interactive whiteboards.  It includes slides for each month and for many of the standards that are taught in first grade.  Personally, I love it because it frees up my bulletin board space in my classroom and my kids buy in more because first graders love using anything that is interactive.

I have multiple designs of this packet, so you can pick one that fits your personality.  This packet includes all the things that you need from forms, lesson plan templates, calendars, and labels.  It is also editable, so you can type on it if that's what you prefer.

This bundle includes printables for every season and many of the holidays.  All of the printables are based off of first grade standards, so they are perfect for assessments, practice, and homework.  If you aren't sure that you need a whole bundle, then feel free to start with getting one of my individual packets.  I included examples of some of my fall packets below.

This packet is by Fluttering through First Grade.  My whole team uses it, especially at the beginning of the year.  It is aligned to standards and it is perfect for helping your students develop listening skills.  Oh, and they have them in individual sets if you want to try just one packet.

This packet is by First Grade Blue Skies.  Jennifer started making these awesome freebies on her blog last year that I think ALL first grade teachers realized were just incredible.  Since they were such a hit, she developed an entire packet.  I bought it the second it was available.  These pair up perfectly with writing activities and are so much fun.  Even though the drawings are directed, you definitely see your kids' individual personalities.

This packet is by Hello Literacy.  It's a tiny little packet, but it is one of those things you will use every day when working with your reading groups.  I printed these on card stock and laminated them.  The colors are vibrant and they instantly grab your attention.

This packet is by The Moffatt Girls.  This is another packet that my whole team uses.  They are great for your beginning readers and are perfect for allowing your students to practice sight words in sentences.

I hope you find one or two packets out of these that you can use.
Have fun shopping!

Thursday, July 16, 2015

A Roadmap to Leadership

A long time ago before I became a blogger, I thought it would be pretty awesome to go into leadership.  I had always loved big projects, the adrenaline that kicks in when I am playing sports or in charge of attempting to move a mountain, and the idea of changing the world.  Isn't that every teacher's dream?  To make a difference.  Fortunately, I've had the opportunity to work with some amazing leaders.  I've had the opportunities to do all of those things I dreamed of doing and learned how to take charge and use my leadership skills.  Fast forward to now and I still feel the same way about leadership, but I have a slightly different thought process now.  I don't have to move into leadership to be a leader.  I can be a leader from my classroom.

That leads me to this post.  If I'm like that, then I'm thinking that some of you are the same way.  So, I decided to make a post full of freebies I found online and books that I've read that have changed how I think and teach in my classroom.

I'm not a principal, but I spotted these freebies on TPT.  Obviously, this is a new seller, but definitely worth checking out.  I emailed her to ask her if she's going to be adding more items and she said she's getting ready to add a Back to School Scavenger Hunt.  Who doesn't want to have that at their meeting?  Definitely worth checking out and sharing with your principal. Oh, and she even made the first two downloads editable.  Don't forget to leave her awesome feedback and tell her I sent  you her way :)

Have you seen this leader yet?  Her blog is amazing!  She has tons of tips and tricks that you can use for your whole school, not just your classroom.  Here's a freebie I spotted on her site.  If you click on it, it will take you to her page where you can download it.

Now that I've introduced you to two new leaders, I created something else on Pinterest.  I made a Leadership Pinterest board.  I loaded it up with some of the neat ideas I saw, books to read, etc.  If you are like me, it is summer, so you may not quite be ready to think about school.  Click the image below and you can go follow the board.  I'll be sure to pin these items there and anything else I may find.

Here's the last thing I have to recommend.  Have you heard of Ron Clark?  Well, he's the co-founder of RCA in Atlanta.  I haven't been to visit his school, but it's on my professional bucket list.  Anyway, his new book came out around a week ago.  It's called "Move Your Bus".  I haven't finished reading it yet, but it is such a little powerhouse book.  It definitely helps you understand the people that are around you in your school building better.  Best of all, it's a quick read and I personally love how he always tells stories through his writing.  The picture below links to Amazon so you can grab it.

Have a great day!

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Wordless Wednesday

I'm linking into Miss DeCarbo's Wordless Wednesday.  Oh, and just so y'all know - Miss DeCarbo is the real deal!  She answered hundreds of questions for me leading up to my SDE presentation and even came to my session to support me.  I went to one of her sessions on Thursday and friends, I have to tell you, if you live near her - go!!!!  I could listen to her all day.  Her heart might be made of gold. She's just that awesome!!!!

Oops!!!  That's a lot of words.  Alright, let me shorten this up.  I picked this picture because people always ask me about my keyboard.  I got the stickers from STICKERDOODLEJ on ETSY.  I've had this specific set for over a year and they are still in perfect shape.

What is something that you've bought that makes you smile?

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Vegas on My Mind

Well, if you follow my Facebook page, Instagram, are related to me, or happened to come see me present last week, then you know that I've been in Vegas.

Seriously, sorry for the lapse in blogging, but losing three hours of sleep does not help a blogger create awesome blog posts.  Every night, I went to bed at midnight Vegas time (3:00 a.m. Georgia time) and woke up before 8:00 Georgia time.  Yep, you guessed it - that's 5:00 Vegas time.

Anyway, enough about my sleep deprivation and utter exhaustion.  After several days, I seem to be adjusting back to summer life although I swear I still hear ringing in my ears from the slot machines and the all night chaos that you experience in Vegas.

Before I tell you about my experience, I have to tell y'all my Georgia friends are simply the best.  If I learned anything over the last few weeks it's that they won't let me fail.  They let me practice on them, helped me put stuff together, sent me tons of encouraging text messages, gave me cards, and I even got flowers from one of my friends within thirty minutes of being in Vegas.  Sometimes I have no idea why I'm well loved, but I hope it's because I love them well because they deserve it.  I know it takes a village to raise kids, but I have a feeling it took a village to get me to Vegas, too.  Actually, I know it did.
Now, if you were there Thank you SO much for coming!!!!  I so enjoyed showing y'all some of my favorite ideas and how I pull off centers in my classroom.  Y'all were such a sweet group of listeners and made it so easy to make eye contact.  I loved seeing your eyes light up, your smiles, and you taking photos of everything.  It meant the world to me.  Now, I'm going to admit something a little funny.  I was slightly nervous at the beginning as in I went through the first three slides in less than two minutes.  Oops!  Well, when I mentioned my dog, I said her name was Paisley.  Funny enough, I did the same thing in my practice round.  Um... hate to tell you, but my dog is actually Bella.  Paisley is my dog that died a few years ago.  I didn't think it was the right time to try to explain that, so I kept rolling.  My friend and I were talking a few nights later and she said, "Do you realize that you called Bella, Paisley?"  Yep!  I did.

Once I got past the first couple of minutes, I think I found myself.  I have to say, presenting was a total adrenaline rush for me.  I loved every second of it.  I also really enjoyed putting together the presentation.  It really got me excited about going back to school.

I promised the awesome teachers in my session that I would load some of the things I mentioned on here as freebies, so here you go.  Just click on the images below to grab them.  If you were in my session and there is something missing, let me know and I'll pop it on here.

My presentation was on Wednesday morning.  I spent the rest of Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday popping in and out of sessions, meet ups with my blogging pals most of whom I had been dying to meet for several years, more sessions, and in typical Faith fashion decided to disappear for a few hours and go exploring.

Friends, if you ever visit Vegas, then you have to go exploring, so definitely plan an extra day just for that.  I didn't, so I ended up choosing exploring over a class or two.  May not have been the best choice, but no regrets.  We ended up going to Fremont Street, the Pawn Stars (television show) store, the Stratosphere, the Bellagio Gardens and fountain show, the mini Eiffel Tower, the mini New York, and tons of other places.  The views were incredible.  Oh, and we definitely LOVED our hotel.  We
stayed at The Venetian and it was gorgeous.  Make sure if you go that you take lots of $1 and $5 bills.  You tip everywhere.  I think we even tipped at times when maybe you didn't have to tip.

It definitely was an incredible trip and although at times overwhelming and exhausting, I already can't wait to go back next year.  I actually think round two will be even better because I'll know what to expect and I'll get to see so many of my blogging pals again.

Have an incredible week!