Saturday, July 23, 2016

Blogging Craziness

So, now that I've posted several posts about my Vegas trip, I feel like I need to fill my followers in on the last few months.  I'm hopefully going to find some time in the next week to go back and fill in some gaps from September to now.  We did so much in my room this year, but when it comes to priorities, blogging always seems to take the backseat.

Anyway, along with trying to fill you in on my blogging, I also want to fill you in on a huge change.  I'm getting ready to move to third grade!  A few months ago, my principal and I were joking about me moving to third grade.  Well, we got to the last week of school and that little joke became reality.

We were into our last week of school - you know where you have Awards Day, summer buckets, endless song practices, lots of parents, and you are trying to keep teaching to maintain some normalcy?  It was pure craziness!  I was working on getting my summer buckets done and my principal came down to talk to me.  In all seriousness, I thought I was in trouble.  No idea why, but I have that constant guilty conscience thing.... you know where you always think you did something when you weren't even in the same state?  Well, she ended up asking me to go to third grade and I said, "Absolutely!  I'm there!"  It was almost scary how fast I went for it, but that's the plan.  I'm going to teach third grade next year.


Now, what does that mean for my blog?  Right now, nothing.  I taught first grade for fourteen years, so I'm not planning to pretend that those fourteen years do not exist.  My plan is to keep blogging and creating what I know - sometimes it may be first grade stuff and sometimes it will be third grade stuff.  If it is third grade stuff, I'll be sure to share, but I'll also try to share how you could adapt it for lower grades or how it may fit with your higher students.  If it's first grade stuff, I'll explain how I'm going to try to adapt it to third grade.  So, that's the plan.

Anyway, thanks for hanging in there with me and for continuing to follow :)  I'm looking forward to blogging about the last few months and all the fun things we did.

Hope y'all are all officially out for summer!

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Differentiating in a One Teacher Classroom

In my post yesterday I mentioned that I presented at the I Teach 1st! Conference in Vegas.  One of the things I presented on was how to differentiate in your classroom, specifically how to differentiate in a one teacher classroom.

I picked this topic because I think regardless of how many years we teach this is something that we all typically need a little help with.  The main thing I tried to show were ways to make it easier to work differentiation into your day.  I definitely haven't perfected it, but at the same time I don't stress over it like I did when I first started teaching.

If you are reading this and you are just getting started, the main thing to remember is it is okay to not do it all at once.  Start with just one subject.  Personally, I think it is easiest to differentiate using technology and writing.  The point is get started and remember to do what works for you - that means be flexible and                                           willing to make changes to your plans so that it's                                  easier for you.

All of the photos are linked to different items that I use to help me differentiate in my classroom.  Some of them are linked to packets I've bought and others are linked to free items.  If you were at my presentation on Monday and there is something you would like to find, please email me and I'll do what I can to help you find it.

Also, if you are looking for a few amazing apps/websites to use, I would start with Headsprout, Kids A-Z, and IXL.  Yes, they cost money, so one thing I'd like to suggest is get a trial subscription and see what you think.  Many companies will give you several weeks to a month for free so you can see if it is what you are needing.  All three of these are programs I use on a daily basis with my entire class and I doubt I could live without them.

Hope some of these items help.

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Organizing Your Classroom

So, this week I’m hanging in Vegas and presenting at the I Teach 1st! Conference.  It’s still a little surreal sometimes.  Vegas is just enormous when it comes to everything, so getting to go and spend a day talking about something that I love is just crazy, right?

Anyway, one of the things I presented on is how to organize yourself because I’m sure we all need a little help with that.  I know I do.  I think as teachers it’s never all done no matter how hard we try.  So, I decided to present on what works for me.  I also promised everyone that came that I would share links to some of the things I mentioned to try to help everyone out a little.


I started with cleaning out the junk.  Friends, this is what I was dealing with.  For the first time ever I am changing classrooms.  When you’ve been in the same room for fourteen years, you definitely accumulate a ton of junk.  I have a new respect for people that change classrooms often.  Um… it is insane how much you have to pack and move and clean and unpack.  That doesn’t even include all the furniture you have to organize and reorganize fifty times before you feel it’s exactly right.

Here are a few pictures of my finally organized classroom.  I decided to go with tables over desks.  I’m a little nervous about the change, but I’m hoping it will make it easier to manage when it comes technology and small groups.  I know flexible classroom seating is the big thing right now.  This is my version of that.  I needed something I was comfortable with while giving my students a little more freedom. 

Here are also a few photos about how and where I store all of the extras – glue sticks, paint, centers, etc.  I think most teachers would agree that we can never have enough storage.  Since I mentioned centers, feel free to grab my month labels that I use for my black cubes and for my tubs.  

You can also click on my colored carts photo to grab the labels I made for them.  Hopefully those items will help you get your classroom set up a little easier.

Now, I’m sure paperwork is the other big thing most people struggle with.  I have to tell y’all I can get my files all organized and within days they seem like a mess again.  Here are a few photos of how I attempt to keep my paperwork straight.  Instead of a filing cabinet, I use a binder system.  Mine aren’t overly pretty right now, but I understand it and it’s usually easy for me to find what I need.  With moving to third now, I’m having to start a lot of my binders over, but it’s nice to know I already have a plan.
As for keeping my students organized, I use several pages from my Beginning of the Year Teacher Packets.  If you click on the photo below, you can get several of my most used items for free. 

For computer organization, below is my go to sheet.  I keep it in a safe place so I don’t have to remember the bajillion passwords and screen names it feels like I have.  Feel free to grab it too. 
Alright, that’s all for now.  If you are in Vegas, I hope y’all have had a great time at I Teach 1st!  If you aren’t there, hopefully this post will let you experience it a little.

Have a great night!

Monday, September 7, 2015

Phonics Books for the Classroom


 Every class is different and this year, I have a group of kids that LOVE reading, but many of them do not have books.  My team gives kids a reading log with their homework, so after I received a few notes from parents, I needed to come up with a solution.

I started thinking about how to solve this problem.  I LOVE Reading A to Z, but I use many of those books for my small groups, so I wanted to save those for my classroom.

I looked at several sites online, but many of the books were too hard, too short, or didn't have a rhyme or reason to them.  The more I looked, the more I felt like what I wanted didn't exist.  So, that's when I decided to start a new adventure and start writing my own books.

Since it's the beginning of first grade, I decided to start with short vowel mini books.  Each set of books has word lists at the beginning.  One of the lists has all of the short vowel words.  For example, if the book is a short a book, then all of the short a words that were used is listed.  The next word list has sight words.  Many of these words will be found on Fry lists, Dolch lists, etc.  This allows your students or child to not only practice a specific short vowel sound, but to also work on sight words.
After the word lists, there are five page stories.  These stories have black and white pictures so that your students can color the books or you can reuse them over and over.  On the back of the book, there are four questions about that book.  These are meant to be asked orally.  This page allows your parents to check comprehension.

For my own kids, I really wanted to come up with something that they could keep and that would allow them to practice the skills that we are practicing at school daily.  All of the books also have the grade equivalency, DRA levels, and Guided Reading levels.  I am aligning the books to our phonics skill of the week so that I can make sure that not only are my kids getting plenty of practice at school, but they are also getting practice at home.  I'm hoping this will help some of my students that may struggle a little with reading build their confidence and their reading fluency.  While my kids are using them with their homework, they would also be great to use with small groups.
Also, I know that time management really matters.  I tried to make sure that these books require very little work to assemble.  There are two versions - a classroom version and a homeschool version.  The classroom version is set up so that when you print the book, you immediately get two copies of that specific book.  The homeschool version is set up so that when you print, you get two copies of different books.  Once you've printed the books front and back all that's left is stapling and cutting them down the middle.
In case you still aren't sure this is what you need, here is a free book below.  Just click on the image to download it.  This was created out of a need I had, so I want you to have the opportunity to make sure this also fits your needs.

Hope you enjoy!

Sunday, September 6, 2015

Teddy Graham Graphing



Last week, we read a story called "Jack and Rick".  It's a cute little story that is great for covering story elements.  Since the story was about a rabbit and a bear, I wanted to find a way to tie the characters into our Fun Friday.

Fun Friday is where my teammates and I take the last 30 minutes of Friday to do a fun activity with our students that have followed the rules all week.

For some reason, Teddy Grahams seemed like the perfect activity.  There are TONS, maybe not tons, but multiple types of Teddy Grahams.  I decided that this would allow us to do the perfect graphing activity.  What is better than having fun and teaching a skill at the same time?

I sent a note to parents and got an abundance of Teddy Grahams.  Honestly, the kids that forgot their snacks may be eating them until Christmas.  I think I have eight left over boxes.

So, on Friday afternoon, I passed out paper towels and gave each student some chocolate, chocolate chip, and honey Teddy Grahams.  After we ate the Teddy Grahams, everyone was given a sheet to vote for their favorite type.  I collected the votes and then gave each kid a graph.  We worked on the graph until the end of the day.

The kids LOVED the activity and overall it went well.  The one thing I forgot was I am working with beginning of the year first graders.  We don't work quite as fast as we do later in the year, so while we got one graph done, we ran out of time to do the tally graph and we didn't have time to answer the graphing questions.  Next time, I'd probably have the Teddy Grahams separated into baggies ahead of time to save some time.

Anyway, if you are needing a quick activity for graphing, feel free to grab my Teddy Graham graphing freebie.

Also, while you are here, don't forget to enter my GoNoodle Blogger Giveaway.  GoNoodle has graciously given bloggers across the country lots of swag to give to our fans.  To see all the bloggers participating click on the GoNoodle image.

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Have a restful Sunday!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

GoNoodle Blogger Blitz

It's hard to believe that I've been in school for a month.  While it still feels extremely hot outside, you can tell the weather is starting to change.  The leaves are changing colors, it's getting dark earlier, and football is starting.  The best part of fall is that I finally seem to have found a routine.

I am so excited to be part of the GoNoodle Back to School Blogger Blitz!  I have LOVED adding GoNoodle to my daily routine.  Honestly, when I first heard about GoNoodle I was a little skeptical.  I couldn't understand how there was going to be a site with better videos than I was already using, especially free videos.  It took me a year, but rainy day after rainy day convinced me that it might be a good idea to give GoNoodle a shot and I'm so glad I did.

Here's what I discovered.  GoNoodle tracks your minutes.  For me, that was an instant like.  In my district, we have to make up so many hours of physical education in our classroom.  GoNoodle made it easy for me to make sure that I met our district requirements.

GoNoodle has crazy, fun characters.  As an adult you might be thinking that isn't a big deal, but my six year old kids go wild watching the characters grow and morph into a bigger version of the character.  The characters have names like McPufferson, Flappy Tuckler, and Freckles Sinclair.  The best part is once the character maxes out, your class can pick a new character.

In my class, we use GoNoodle for indoor recess, brain breaks, rewards, etc.  My kids LOVE all the Zumba videos, plus a few of their other favorites are the Indoor Recess videos, Pop-See-Ko, Get Loose, and Roller Coaster.


Oh, and did I mention that you GoNoodle is FREE?


Now, that I've told you about GoNoodle, I have some exciting news.  First, GoNoodle has a discount code for their store right now.  Use BTSwithGoNoodle to get 15% off of everything.  Second, GoNoodle has given me 25 HEADBANDS to give away for them.  To enter, see the Rafflecopter below.
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Make sure you click the GoNoodle image below to go sign up.

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!