Thursday, July 31, 2014

Getting Ready with a Freebie

I am so excited for the TpT sale coming up in a few days (:  I have been going through my wishlist trying to decide what I am going to buy during the back to school sale and I am having a very hard time narrowing it down!  I am also going to be participating in the sale - yay!!
Everything in my store will be 20% off (:  Also, I will have the phonics packs uploaded and ready!

I have uploaded another phonics freebie to my store, so head on over and check it out!  It is just a couple worksheets for beginning blends.

Only a few more days until the TpT sale!!!!!!

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Finishing Touches

I put all of the finishing touches on my room and I am *think* I am ready for the students!  I thought I would share the final touches with you.

#1 - The closet:
My husband came in and put in the wooden pieces to hold up those pesky shelves that kept falling, so I was able to get that all organized.
I have the shelves organized in a way that works really well for me!
The left side (top to bottom):
The top shelf is the "random" shelf. 
The next shelf is my writing shelf.  Everything in the two tubs is writing related.
Underneath that shelf is my unit shelf.  The bin on the left side holds kits and activities.  The bin on the right side has hanging folders that are organized by standard.  There are corresponding worksheets and books in each folder.
Next is my math shelf.  This is where I keep all of my math kits.
I keep my big books on the next shelf and the bottom shelf holds the blue tubs of my 'teacher books'.

The right side (top to bottom):
The top shelf has extra notebooks and folders.
The next shelf holds my construction paper and handwriting paper.
Underneath that is the shelf that holds two tubs.  The tub on the left has the materials that correspond with the Journeys reading series that we use and the tub on the left has student information.
Next is the shelf that holds my posters and the bottom shelf has the blue tubs of 'teacher books'.

#2 - The word wall:
I couldn't find any alphabet posters that matched my color scheme so I made my own!  The consonants are purple and the vowels are orange. 
I used my clipart that I got earlier this summer from the Pink Cat Studio (:  I had them printed at Kinko's and then laminated at my school.  I just finished hanging them up this morning!
I will put the students' names on the wall before Back to School Night.  Then, we add high frequency words each week.

#3 - Team points:
Last year I kept a tally of 'team points' on the whiteboard.  This encouraged students to work together as a team.  My coworker had a much cuter idea that I borrowed this year (:  I hung a poster above each group.  Instead of earning team points, the students can work together as a team to earn clothespins on their poster.  When a team reaches 10 clothespins, they earn 2 Bear Bucks (the positive reinforcement program that my school uses).  Then, I take the 10 clothespins off and the team starts over.

A few years ago, whichever team had the most points at the end of the week would get 2 Bear Bucks and I would erase all of the points and each team would start over fresh the next week.  I found teams would 'give up' or stop working together.  So now, if a team reaches 10 points, they start back over at 0, but the other teams still continue working towards their 10 points.  It works much better for student motivation!

#4 - My reading area:
This has been my catch all disaster area while I have been putting my room back together.  I finally got it cleaned off and ready!
 #5 - A shelf for my binders:
My husband was supposed to build a shelf for me.  Then he got kidney stones.  He has been miserable for the past few days so I had to come up with a different option.  And I found one!
I bought four crates from Wal-Mart and found that they are made to connect now.  I also used zip-ties to make sure they don't move.  Then, I cut boards to put on the bottom of each crate (that's right - I cut the boards!!).  The binders fit perfectly!
Yay!  I love how everything turned out.  The very last (frivolous) thing that I want to do for my room is to find some orange fabric to  make curtains for my windows.  I'm loving these so far.  I'm headed to Hobby Lobby this weekend to look for some fabric.  Hopefully I can find something!  Flannel Cookie Dots Orange Polka Dot Tonal Tone On Tone Novelty Quilt   Polka Dot Basics Fabric Orange Medium Tone On Tone Dots From Riley    Chevron Tone on Tone Orange M

**Update - I found fabric and made some curtains today.  I love how they turned out! 

How are your rooms coming along?  Leave me a comment with a link to your classroom pictures.  I would love to check them out!

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Welcome to my Classroom

At the end of the school year, we have to take everything off of the walls and stack all of the furniture on the counter.  When it comes to the beginning of the school year, it can make for an overwhelming first week back!  So I have spent this week organizing my classroom and have lots of pictures to share with you!

Remember what my room looked like after I had packed it all up in May?
Phew!  I had a lot of work to do :)

The first thing I did was clean out (and reorganize) my closet.  I got it all organized and then...
The pegs holding up a few of my shelves broke!!  So I had to move things around and try to figure out a plan.  I came up with the idea of drilling wood into the side of the closet and setting the shelf on that!  Voila :)  I'm just waiting for my husband to come in and fix it!

After I got my closet all in order the next step was to tackle the counter that was stacked high with everything under the sun!

I put the furniture where it went and then moved everything else to my reading table.  Yep, I just relocated the mess :)
But - with the counter being cleaned off I was able to set up my classroom library (the book bins underneath the counter) and the bulletin board.  I took the butcher paper down and used fabric this year and I LOVE how it turned out!

The two pocket charts on the left are for the vocabulary words and spelling words each week, the pocket chart in the middle is where I write the daily targets, and the area on the right is the calendar area.

After I finished that, I fixed up the other two bulletin boards using fabric!

The top picture is the bulletin board above my writing center and the bottom picture is the bulletin board as you walk into my classroom.  Not sure what I am going to put on the writing one yet and the bulletin board in the bottom picture is only temporary ("Hoppy" Helpers for Open House Night) - but they look pretty!!  If you look at the bottom picture, you will see my Ikea organizer - I L.O.V.E. this organizer!  It holds the crayons, colored pencils, markers, scissors, glue, paper and rulers for the kids.  They never have to ask me for supplies because it is all right there!

My next step was putting together the groups of desks.  I have 5 desks in each group (but 6 could fit if I need to add more).  I even put their open house papers and welcome bags out!


My husband built me the shelves that are in between the desks a few years ago and they are one of my favorite things!  The kids love them too!

Next, I organized all of my math manipulatives into another Ikea organizer (this was an easy step!)

The last thing I worked on was setting up each area for my centers.  I think I even found a way to organize the materials in these bins!!  Check it out here (:
I still have a few things left to do, but I am very happy with how much I got accomplished!   My to do list for the rest of this week includes:

#1 - Find (and put up) letters for my word wall - the green area that is painted on my wall is for my word wall!

 #2 - Clean off the area of disaster. (It is getting better!)

#3 - Find a shelf for my binders!

I love the beginning of the year and seeing everyone's classroom pictures!!  I feel productive when I look at the before and after pictures of my room!!



I would love to see pictures of your classrooms!!  Leave a comment with a link to your blog (:

Nerd Alert!

I have even more organizational ideas to share with you!  My co-workers make fun of me for how organized I am, but it makes everything run smoothly during the school day so it makes it all worth it!

Organization Idea #1: I think hope that I figured out a way to organize my centers, so I wanted to share (:
At each center I have a tub:

(You can see the tub on the bottom left)
Since I am putting a reading center, math center and writing center at each location, I had to figure out how to store all of the different materials in a way that the students would understand.  My solution?  Sheet protectors!!

Yay!!  Here is what it would look like during center time:

If a student is going to the Chalkboard Center (Center #3), they would walk over and open the bin located at that center.  The student would then pull out the sheet protector that corresponds with the subject we are doing (reading, math or writing).  There are labels on the bottom of the sheet protector to help students find the one they need quickly:
Also, the picture on all of the reading directions is the same, the math picture is the same and the writing picture is the same.

The directions are on the front of the sheet protector:
And the worksheet/materials for the center are located behind the directions (so the students would just flip the sheet protector over).

I am so excited!!  I hope this works well.  I know I will probably have to change out the sheet protectors every so often, but they are very inexpensive!

Organization Idea #2:  I carry a notebook around with me everywhere I go.  But it may not be the same notebook.  I just grab whatever notebook is closest so I have something to write in.  Also, the notes are all jumbled.  So there are many times that I forget to do something because I didn't bring home the right notebook or I overlooked the note I wrote about it.  Not this year!

I went to Wal-Mart and bought a notebook that is specifically for my notes:
Then, I used the Post-It clear tabs and printed on them (similar to what I did for my math journals here).  Now, when I add notes to my notebook, I can put them in the correct area!

My tabs are: To Do, To Make, To Buy, Important Dates & Other.

So when I need to remember what exactly it was I was supposed to buy, I can just turn to that section!  When I buy it, I will just cross it out.  
I am so excited to start using it!  I also bought another notebook that I will use specifically for planning notes -- and they match (:

I hope these tips help you!  I would love to hear about any organizational strategies that help your year run smoothly!

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Back to School

I was able to get back into my classroom this week and I feel like everything has been a blur ever since I got my key!  Before I start posting about my classroom set-up (don't worry, I have LOTS of pictures to share), I wanted to try to get my phonics packs finished up.  So I have good news!  I have finished the beginning letter sound picture sort and it is on sale (for today only!).
Click on the picture to grab it while it is on sale :)

I will post my short vowel phonics pack the first week of August (I just have a few finishing touches left on that one).

 I can't wait to share all of my classroom pictures with you - here is the before and after picture of the counter area in my room:

It's all coming together!  I will post all of the pictures soon :)

Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Math Center Makeover

Last year my math centers were an absolute mess.  So this summer I have been working on revamping them.  Up to this point, that has just included thinking about them.  But this week I actually buckled down, wrote some notes and came up with a pretty good plan (hopefully), so I thought I would share it!

First, let me explain what I did last year (and why it didn't work).
I had two rotation charts, one for my reading centers and one for my math centers.  When the students finished their work they checked the math rotation chart, got that center and found a spot in the room.  Seems all fine and dandy right?  Nope!

One of the main problems was that all of the students wanted to sit on the rug.  Which meant noise, chaos and a big mess.  Another problem was that I got lazy.  Yep, l.a.z.y.  Which meant I hardly ever changed the centers. The third problem was that there were always those one or two students that got confused about which rotation chart they were supposed to be looking at. 

So this summer I wanted to find a way to fix all of those problems and I think that I have finally come up with a solution that will solve all three:
I am going to put a math center at each of my reading centers.
This will fix the issue of all of the kids piling on the rug because  the students will have a designated area for their math center each day.
This will also fix help with the issue of me being lazy.  Since I change the reading centers at the end of each week, I can easily switch out the math centers at the same time!
Finally, it will help those two students who just seem to be in la-la land because I will only have one rotation chart!  During reading block, the students will check the rotation chart, go to their center and complete the reading activity.  During the math block, the students will check the same rotation chart, go to their center (the same one from reading) and complete the math activity.

So here is what my centers will look like:
Center #1 - Computer Center
Reading: The students read a book and take an AR test.
Math: The students complete an activity on Compass Math (a program that my district purchased).

Center #2 - Chalkboard Center
Reading: The students retell the story from the week on the chalkboard.
Math: I am working on making cards that look like this:

These cards will have magnets on the back of them and the blank square in each equation will be cut out.  The students will then put the cards on the chalkboard and use chalk to fill in the missing number.

Center #3 - Writing Center
Reading: The students practice writing sentences using their high frequency words.
Math: This is going to be a fluency center.  The students will use a timer and complete addition speed drills.

Center #4 - Library Center
Reading: The students read a story.
Math: This center will have a math game that reviews skills that we have already learned.

Center #5 - Pocket Chart Center
Reading: The students sort pictures based on their sounds.
Math: The students will complete a sorting activity that reinforces the skill that we are currently working on.

And just because you have stuck around and continued reading this long, click on the picture below to grab the pocket chart center that I made for the first week of school!  (:

 For this center, I would put the numeral across the top of the pocket chart.  The students would then take the other cards and sort them under the corresponding numeral. 

Phew!  I am hoping that this will help make my math centers run smoothly this year (hoping being the key word!)

A few things I am still thinking about:
A) I might get adventurous and even add a writing center to each of these!
B) I am not exactly sure how I am going to organize the materials at each of the centers.  At this point, I bought some tubs from Ikea and am thinking that I might get the zipper pouches for pencils.  I could get one color for math, one for reading and one for writing (if I get crazy!).   Here is what it looks like in my head:
A student goes to center #2 (Chalkboard Center).  There is a clear tub with the #2 on the outside.  The student opens the lid and pulls out the green zipper pouch (for Math) with the word 'Math' also written on it and completes the activity inside.

One issue I am having though, is that some of my centers have papers.  I don't want to fold the papers to fit them into the zipper pouch.  Maybe a ziploc bag?  I'm not sure -- any suggestions??

I'll let you know how it works out!

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Phonics Freebie

As the summer is slowly coming to an end (we start back at school on August 6!) I thought that I would post another freebie from the phonics pages that I have been working on.  I plan on using this activity on one of the first few days of school to assess the students' knowledge of beginning sounds.  It is a fun cut and paste activity that the students can complete independently.  Click on the picture to download the activity!

Friday, July 11, 2014

Computer Desktop Organization

As you have probably figured out already, I love organizing!  One area that always frustrated me was my computer desktop.  I would put things on my desktop so that I would have quick access, but it always seemed to take me forever to find what I was looking for because there was SO.MUCH.STUFF.  So I finally decided to buckle down and figure out a way to organize my desktop.  And I must say I am absolutely loving how it turned out.  Sometimes I open my computer just to look at the desktop.  Yep, I'm that much of a nerd (: 

Here is a screen shot of my desktop:
 See how lovely it is?  I have additional folders under each heading because sometimes the amount of things under a particular heading become a little overwhelming, so I just drop them in the folder.  Then, on the outer right edge I keep the program shortcuts (like my Gradebook in the bottom right corner). 

It is actually very simple to do!  You just create whatever you want your background to look like in PowerPoint.  Then, you save it as a JPG.  After that all you have to do is install it!  You just go in to change your background and select the JPG of the document you just created.  Voila!

Here are a few different colors and headings that I played around with before finally settling on the one that I have now:

Hopefully this post will help you love your desktop too (: