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5 Easy Peasy Ideas to bring Fall into your Primary Classroom

Let's bring a bit of fall into our K-1 classrooms with these 5 Easy Peasy Ideas. I know you will absolutely LOVE all these ideas...especially #1!

For those who experience the true colors of all four seasons, it is hard not to agree that fall is the most colorful if not the most beautiful season of all.  Each season brings a different climate and colors...but fall...well is simply fall...vibrant colors all around...red, yellow, orange and brown leaves gently spin and fall to the ground, the air is cooler and there is an urge to be a child once again and jump head first into a pile of leaves.

With fall comes many teaching opportunities...so...I have decided to round-up 5 absolutely, positively great developmentally appropriate fall activities to support Kinders and Firsties .

So let's get started and "fall" right into these colorful ideas!

1.  Leaves: Leaves are everywhere during this season so let's rake them into some great lessons.
What can you do with a Pile of Leaves has so many great ideas from graphing leaves and creating leaf creatures to creative writing!

These ideas can be found right here... What Can you Do with a Pile of Leaves?

2.  A Fall Maze:  Enjoy this fun Autumn Maze activity while your kids practice their critical thinking skills as well as fine motor and visual tracking skills.  I remember how much I loved the challenge of completing a maze when  was a child.  Try this and other Kindergarten activities from Education.com.

3.  Seasonal Writing: Get your kinders writing about all the seasons with this fun and FREE resource. It is a great differentiated writing activity in that it includes pictures and ideas for each season that reluctant writers as well as any writer can use to motivate and support their ideas!

4.  Fall Crafts are always a great idea whether you are a homeschooler or teach in a classroom.  Let's not forget how important creating crafts can be for fine motor skills and to spark and inspire creativity in a child.  Remember it was Albert Einstein who said,"Creativity is the intelligence having fun!" 

5.  25 Great Books about Fall:  These books include some of my all time favorites. Red Leaf Yellow Leaf by Lois Ehlert is a beautifully illustrated book that describes the birth of a Maple tree. You do not want to miss out on reading this story with your kinders or first graders. Take a look at some of the other great fall books mentioned. YOu will be running to the library to grab more than a few of these titles.

There you have it 5 easy peasy ideas to bring fall into your classroom this year!  What ideas do you have for fall. Please comment and let us know...we would LOVE to hear from you!

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3 Tips to have a Back to School Night that will ROCK!

Make your Back to School Night Rock with these 3 tips that are sure to get your parents feeling at ease and ready for the school year!

Parents can't wait to meet their child's teacher on Back to School Night. They want to see the classroom and observe first hand where their child will be spending 6 hours everyday, actually, in some cases, more time than their children see their parents, if you figure each child sleeps about 8 hours at night.

And teachers...well....teachers may be a bit nervous because let's face it...it is a bit hard to stand in front of an audience of parents who only want the best for their child and you are it...you are their teacher!

I know with myself, I was always a bit nervous even after doing this presentation for over 30 years!

I always had some butterflies in the pit of my stomach and some jitters because I did not want to mess up and I wanted to present my best self no matter what...pressure on myself...absolutely.

Through the years I have come up with some easy tricks which helped me "get through it" and shine, shine, shine!

PS I am sorry if this is late and you have already had your Back to School Night, but just save this post for next year or I will post it again!!

1. I was a Responsive Classroom Teacher and being a teacher who used the  Responsive Classroom approach, we always started our day with a Morning Meeting, which included a greeting, sharing activity and  morning message.  That being said, I always had a message on my chart board or smart board as the parents walked in for the evening.

It said something like this, "Good Evening, I am so glad you were able to come in this evening to take a peek at your child's classroom. 

  • Please stroll around the room and take a look at some of the work you child's has completed in this short time we have been together.
  • Find your child's seat and read the letter that was written especially for you!
  • Please write a note to your child and we will start our evening after the announcements! Welcome!

Easy peasy and it gives you a bit of time to walk around and chat informally with the parents for a few minutes....breathe....ahhhhhhhhhh!

2.  Before we actually got started, I explained briefly how we were a Responsive Classroom and had a Morning Meeting every morning and that We were going to have a brief meeting tonight to show parents how this approach worked.

  • I would then ask parents to talk to the other adults at their table. 
  • Say "hi" and introduce yourself and share something about your self.
  • After a few minutes, I would ring my chime, which is the "attention getter" I used in the classroom and they were to stop chatting and look at me.
  • Sometimes I would set up that when I rang the chime, they were to move to a different partner and chat with them...but that is up to you and how you feel your parents might respond.
This was always an ice breaker and the parents always began to chat and laugh and have a good ole' time.  Sometimes I made a funny comment like, "Ahhh...now I understand why I have so many chatty students in my class this year!"  They would all get a chuckle out of this!

I would then ask them to share something that they learned about one of the adults at their table or about someone with whom they chatted.  Usually a few would share and if not, I would start and share! 

3.  Now we were ready to really get started and all of the parents were relaxed and ready to hear what Room U-1 was all about!! 

I would always start by saying, "YOU (the parents) are the most important person in your child's life and you know them better than anyone so it is important that WE work together as a team and make sure there is an open communication between home and school to ensure your child receives the BEST education possible!    

I would also make sure to have all the important information in a hard copy in a folder with their child's name...My classroom Brochure with all the important info was right on top along with district information and a few house keeping details.

Then I had a Power Point which had everything and anything that I felt was important for parents to understand and know about their child's classroom and teaching philosophies.  

Having a Power Point was fabulous because everything was written on it with cute pictures etc.  It helped me stay on topic and impressed the parents. I had visuals set up to support the slides and everyone was laughing and totally felt at ease.

Granted...some years were better than others, but these 3 tips will make your Back to School night Rock and maybe add a little sparkle to your night!

Have a Sparkling Year!!!

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5 Organizational tips to Keep your Classroom Running Smoothly Throughout the Year

Flash Back....it's late August...actually to be exact, August 28th...I just found out, I will be teaching first grade!  That was the BEST and maybe the worst day of my life...I may be exaggerating a bit, but...School was starting in a few days, new teachers had 3 days of orientation and I had a classroom that looked pretty much like this:

So...what did I do?  I sat down and cried and thought,"How am I ever going to turn this into the classroom of my dreams?" Then off I went to my first new teacher orientation.  

I came back to my bare classroom and noticed a handwritten note on my desk, which read,"From confusion comes wisdom!" (Confucius) Well...that did not really help much because I felt confused and overwhelmed the whole entire year.  Instead I  thought, "Confucius has never been a first grade teacher so what does he know???" 

But actually he did know something...in fact...he was absolutely correct from my confusion and lack of having time to organize correctly, I learned a ton and I was never, ever disorganized again during my entire teaching career. 

So, I would like to share with you a few important organizational "take aways" from my first year that stuck with me my entire career...with a few tweaks here and there!

1.  Always make a list of what you want to do or change, what worked, what didn't work and what you need to get together before school starts. My first year I was not able to do this and I felt like I was playing catch up the entire year! 

  • It really doesn't matter if you have to change things up a bit during the school year.  If you find that something is not working for your class, change it. That is OK! 
  • Remember each class is different and as teachers we have to adapt to the needs of our students. One year I changed my desk location about 6 times before the first trimester ended.  The kids had so much fun trying to guess where my desk was going to show up the next time they walked through the classroom doors.  It was like a scavenger hunt!

2.  Make sure your classroom supplies are organized before your kiddos come bouncing through the door that first day.

  • I am not saying that everything has to be in an obsessive order nor does your room have to look like a Pinterest promotion., but let's make sure that it does not look chaotic and cluttered. 
  • You need to leave some things for you and your class to do together so they feel welcome and take ownership of the classroom. 
  • I am talking about supply and material organization. Where do the pencils, erasers, paperclips and markers go?  These need to be ready and available without rooting through the piles of "stuff" in various places. 

For this reason, I always labeled EVERYTHING!

I put all these items in shoeboxes or baskets with labels and categorized accordingly. 

There was a space or place for everything:  games, supplies of all shapes and sizes, Guided Reading materials...you get the idea. I always added a label with a picture and word, which is two-fold; first, you can easily see where the supply is located and second, the room is labeled for emergent readers to read the room!

3.  How about those closets, shelves, math supplies, Phonics' games and all the "things" you need to get to quickly for a lesson or even when an idea pops into your head and you need a manipulative quickly as well as when your colleague sends a child with a note that says,"Do you have the Telling Time Bingo Game? Can you send it with Johnny?" These need to be ready and available without rooting through piles of "stuff" in various places or thinking, "I just saw that somewhere...now where was it?"

Organize the games according to categories 
on shelves or in a closet.      

These are math baskets before the labels were added!

Then cover the shelves with these colorful tablecloths.  The tablecloths are simply hung from a tension rod and tacked so you can lift them up and grab what you need and doesn't it look a bit clean and organized?  I think I heard...YES!!!

4.  Next up...organize your reading books or classroom library "nook."
Over the years, I have used different spaces for a reading area, but there is one common thread.  All of the books are in bins or baskets and organized into specific categories that meet the needs of MY STUDENTS.  The way you categorize your books can be completed in many different ways or you can use a few different ideas, but it is important that it works for your class.

Here are few ideas that I have used over the years:
This reading area looks extremely inviting and the kids love to read and work in it.  

To the left and right of the tables on the white shelves were the classroom library books, which were arranged and labeled in this way; ABC's, numbers, colors, easy readers, chapter books, specific popular authors, general nonfiction, animals, space, biographies, Dr. Seuss, insects, weather, seasons as well as popular book characters like Arthur, Clifford and other popular book characters. 

This worked best for my first graders because they had favorite topics and authors they enjoyed reading about over and over gain.   

FYI: The designated classroom "Helpers" cleaned this area up at the end of the day and this is a product of their great independent organizational skills.

The Shelves behind the table under our"reading buddies," housed our NightlyReading Books that the students took home each night to read.

5.  Room organization is one thing, but thinking about communicating with parents can also be classified as something important that you need to have organized and ready to use the first day of school. 

If a problem arrises, who wants to be shuffling through papers and looking for parent contact information...NOT ME...It is better to be proactive and ready!

It is also important to think about how you want to communicate with parents and keep an open positive line of communication between home and school.  There are plenty of apps out there created for parent communication, but not all schools are ready to use apps.

  • To keep this at bay, it is important to have a Parent Communication Log that houses all important information about each child and their caretakers.  This one binder can be a life saver as you talk and chat with parents, you can print out e-mails, 3 hole punch them and keep all of these for future reference.  It can also be a place to jot down notes and reminders about conversations and dates these took place.
  • Newsletters are also a way to stay organized and keep the lines of communication open. These weekly or monthly newsletters will keep you organized as you think back on the week or next steps in your lesson planning. Parents LOVE hearing about what is happening or going to happen in their child's classroom.  These can be completed in a digital or written format.

Getting these ideas organized at the beginning of the school year will help you stay focussed and be present in your daily teaching life.

Here are three resources that support parent communication and will keep you calm and ready to go!

    you get organized for the Back to School Frenzy, I don't know what will.  Classroom Organization Binder TN

3.  Editable Newsletters to Make Parent Communication Easy  These will make your life so much easier and organized! TN

I know I have only given you about 5 organizational ideas to start the school year off on the right foot and there are so many more, but as long as you have these 5 ideas and organizational strategies in place, you will be less stressed and have the best school year yet!

BTW: Did you notice a common thread throughout?  Labels, binders, checklists, containers and baskets...you can never have enough!

Have a great year and don't forget to ORGANIZE!!!

PS: Here is a link to some other resources you might like!  

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Tuesday Tips: Tips and Ideas to become your Best Self and the Best Teacher you can be!! Week 2

Well...It's another week and another set of tips and ideas to help you get ready for school whether you are back or still have a few weeks left...(lucky you...enjoy it to the fullest). Here are some ideas to keep you connected to your parents and continue to work together for the success of each student you teach!! I think you will LOVE #3!

Well...It's another week and another set of tips and ideas to help you get ready for back to school...whether you are back or still have a few weeks left...(lucky you...enjoy it to the fullest)...here are some ideas to keep you connected to your parents and continue to work together for the success of each student you teach!! These are all ideas that I have used throughout my teaching career with a few tweaks here and there.

1.  Back to School Informational Brochure

No matter how you present this information to your parents, it is BEST to have it in writing.  I always used a brochure which included all of my classroom policies.                                                                                                       The brochure was an easy way to keep all information in one place and it can be placed right on the refrigerator or a cork board for quick reference.                                                                                          I have seen these done in many ways...flipbooks, minibooks, folders...and so on...but, over the years, I have found a brochure to be quick and easy and it is sure to be a hit with your parents!!!                                                                                                One quick tip: If you download this and use it cut the margins on side left and right using a paper cutter so it folds easier into the trifold!

2.  Newsletters or News and Notes

I know many teachers write newsletters for the month or News and Notes more frequently. These quick informational letters can give parents and idea of what will be taught or what was taught through the week or month.  

It is important when you write these to include ideas for parents or caregivers to chat about with their child.  You might include  something like; This week we learned how to count by 5's to 50. Have your child count to 50 by 5"s...the class loves to show what they know!! 

Parents LOVE getting tips because...let's face it, when kids are asked what they did in school...their standard answer is,"NOTHING!"                                                                                                                                                                                       Here is a link to these Editable Newsletter Frames and News and Notes

3.  Kids News and Weekend News

Kids News is a great way to integrate reading and writing.  On Mondays we would brainstorm ideas about what we did over the weekend.  I would then write them on the smart board for reference or sometimes depending on the level of each student I would write them on sticky note if copying from the board was too difficult.

My first grade students would create a sentence or 2 about their weekend and write it on their paper. In September one to three sentences is really an accomplishment from some kiddos.

After writing and editing an adult volunteer would type these writing pieces into a Newsletter format. When the "Kids News" was returned to the classroom, students would partner up and "read" their news to their buddy. Hit the chime and the kiddos would find a new partner.

The first graders LOVED sharing and reading their news not to mention those at home who happen to read our news!!!  parents and children alike were so proud and happy with this great integrated activity!

Weekend News is similar to "Kids News"  except parents are asked to read the "news" and write a comment back to their child in the journal.

This starts out with a frame like the green one in this image.  So in the beginning the class is simply writing about the week and a few happenings.  Anyone he students wishes to write to is perfectly fine...in fact parents loved when their child wrote to grand-mom, aunt, uncle or an older sibling!

It gives the parent important information about their child's social, emotional and academic growth in that they find out what their child likes to do and how they feel about school and so on.

As time goes on you would add another frame from which to choose. Students can choose either one and then you can add another more detailed frame until eventually the class can choose a frame or write their own piece.  

By this time you should be touching on and teaching topic sentence, details and conclusion.

So something like I played on the playground with Jim. We had fun... will hopefully transform into...I played with Jim on the play ground. We quickly ran around on the blacktop and noticed a beautiful yellow and black butterfly perched on the fence.  We watched it flutter across the yard and it quietly landed on the tippy top of the sliding board. The we heard the clang of the bell and jogged into line. I guess we will look for it tomorrow!

Does this seem impossible?  Well...guess what? It is not impossible ...even from first graders. It is all in how you teach it and your expectations!!!

Oops...I almost forgot 2 extremely important steps.  Each time Weekend News came home, someone was expected to write back in response to what their child wrote.

The following Friday before we wrote our news, the children would partner up. ( I would use my partner sticks to choose buddies.)

They would then choose to read the current news they wrote or the response from their parent or whoever answered their news.

This choice was given so those whose parents could not write back from some reason could still share writing.

Again...reading and writing integrated and so much easier for YOU!!! The students are letting their parents know what is going on in the classroom and you have an informal assessment of their writing and can see what they need and what to teach small groups for differentiating instruction!!

It's a WIN WIN Situation!!

PS.  Here are some Frames that you may want to use to get started, but there is much more included in this Parent Teacher Conference Home & School Communication Forms & More resource.

Hope to see you next Tuesday, August 15th!!!

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