Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Roller Coaster Named Irene

     Well, it's four days after the storm and Connecticut is slowly getting back to normal.  Many of my co-workers and neighbors are still without power and/or water and the clean-up is taking its toll on everyone's spirits a little.  We've certainly seen worse storms, but this one was just so widespread that its just going to take time to get everything up and running.  That apparently includes the start of school.  Teachers were supposed to return to work this past Monday, and the first day of school was scheduled for tomorrow.  We had a slightly extended summer vacation when they canceled our work day on Monday but we went in yesterday for meetings and today to set up our classrooms. (Don't you love how they think we can really get it all done in one day?)  After a flurry of activity today trying to get everything ready for tomorrow, our principal announced that there were still too many downed power lines and road closures for the children to safely make it to school tomorrow so they have decided to push back the first day to next Wednesday.  Yikes!  I certainly could use some more time to get the room ready, but now we're starting the year with 3 "snow" days under our belts.  What can you do?
     I feel like I'm already joining the party late because so many of you have already posted pictures of your beautiful classrooms and mine is still not finished.  Since you've let me peek into your world, I thought I would post a few pics of what I've done so far so you can take a look at my home away from home.
The door to my classroom.

This is what you see when you first walk in.  Our school was completely remodeled a year and a half ago - how great are the cubbies?

The famous Pinterest clock wall with foam clocks from Target.  I LOVE this idea.  What a great visual way to remind the kids when things are going to happen while also supporting their emerging time-telling skills.

The front of my classroom with my BFF the Smartboard.  How did I ever teach without one?

My reading corner.  I still need to add some pillows (and perhaps a couple of Pina Coladas...)

 My new Word Wall inspired by all of the great circle graphics Kristen uses at Ladybug's Teacher Files.

My favorite summer "makeover" project - my guided reading table.  My sister helped make the table skirt (and when I say helped I really mean came to my house and sewed it while I held the fabric) and I got the ottomans on sale at Target.  I'm very into teal and lime right now so I'm lovin' it!

I'll post some more pics when I'm finished.  I hope your school year is off to a less bumpy start than mine.  Have a great night!

Sunday, August 28, 2011

An "After the Storm" Freebie

     I hope everyone who was in Irene's path is safe and sound tonight.  We fared better than expected here in Connecticut.  I live in a shoreline town and we had a good bit of rain and some pretty strong winds.  I have some major yard clean up to take care of (including the tree that split in half and fell into my neighbor's yard - oops!) and some water in my basement to bail out, but my family and friends are all safe so that's all that really matters.
     The good news is that today was supposed to be the last day of my summer vacation and oh how I mourn the end of summer vacation.  I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE my job but I'm a summer girl at heart and not getting up at 5:30 am every day just thrills me . . .  Anyway, we don't have to report for our teacher work day tomorrow - woohoo!  One more day of summer vacation!  So, I'd thought I'd spread the love with a little freebie.  This Chicka Chicka Boom Boom game is going to be one of the first literacy centers I introduce and I thought you might like it. The kids spin their spinner, read the letter they land on, then find and color the matching coconut on their recording sheet.  (For those of you who picked up my TPT unit, this is great to use for differentiating with the lowercase version in the packet.)
     Again, I hope you and your loved ones are all safe.  Have a great night!
     Click Here to Download

Thursday, August 25, 2011

A Little Back-to-School Goodie

     Once again I find myself working on cute, little, totally unnecessary things instead of tackling something more important.  Our first day of school is a week from today, so I realize that I need to get to work on the essentials, but for tonight my inability to prioritize led to a cute little project that I thought I would share.
     If your school is anything like mine, backpack tags are all the rage.  The kids come in with so many baubles attached to their bags that they actually jingle.  You know what they say, "If you can't fight 'em, join 'em!"  So, I made some kindergarten backpack tags for my incoming kids to decorate their new backpacks with.  I'm just going to cut them out, laminate them, punch a whole in the top and add a binder ring.  (You could also add yarn to make them into necklaces instead.)  If you'd like a set, click below the picture.  Now I promise I'll move on to more productive projects. Really. I will...

Sunday, August 21, 2011

First Day of School Activities

     As I sit here planning for the first day, I'm remembering that I ALWAYS seem to over-plan.  Between wanting to make sure that I have every minute covered and forgetting just how long everything seems take in the beginning, I usually only get to half of what I have planned.  I thought I would share a couple of old favorites that I try to get in on the first day.
     The first is something that a lot of you probably do, too.  I have the kids draw self portraits of themselves on the first day of school.  It's a great way to assess their fine motor skills, name writing and attention to detail and it's something that all the kids can be successful at, regardless of their ability level.  I tuck away the finished portraits then we do a companion portrait on the last day of kindergarten.  I mount them on a large piece of construction paper, laminate them and send them home as a keepsake.  (Grab a copy below.)
     The second activity is a parent favorite.  I found a post on proteacher a few years ago about making a magnet to hang work on the fridge.  I made a little graphic with the poem and some clipart.  I photocopy onto cardstock and then have the kids each decorate one.  (They draw a little picture of whatever they want in the little paper - coloring pencils work best - and then color the rest however they choose.)  Then, I laminate the circles and hot glue a clothespin with a magnet onto the back.  Voila! Now you have a refrigerator magnet with a built in clip to hang papers.  If you want to give it a try, just click below the picture!
Have great night!

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

A Little Doh for a Little Dough

     Like many of you, I do a "Meet & Greet" before the first day of school. It's a great chance to meet the families, ease some anxieties and stir up some excitement for the year to come. I like to give the kids a little goody to take with them and I usually do the "Lucky Charms" goody bags because they're so cute (and inexpensive).  Because of the severe food allergies of a couple of students, I needed to come up with a new idea.  Aiming again for cute and inexpensive, I headed to - anyone care to venture a guess here- yup, the Dollar Tree and picked up a few 8-packs of Wonder Dough (Dollar Tree's version of Play-Doh.)
I came up with a little quote, created some cute clipart and printed up some "kindergarten-y" labels and voila!  Goodies for the whole class for the grand total of $3.00.  Can't beat that!
The tubs were not quite the right size to use standard self-stick labels with, so I just printed the labels on paper and glued them on.  If you'd like to make your own, click below the picture to grab a copy of the labels.  Enjoy!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Kissing Hand Freebie and Some Help Please

     With the first day of school right around the corner, I've been trying to get the first few weeks planned so I'll have one less thing to worry about when the frenzy begins.  Of course, we all know that the earlier you plan the more time you have to change your mind 87 times, but hey, I like to live on the edge.  I just finished my Kissing Hand Unit (phew!) so I have some good ideas ready to go.  For those of you brave enough to whip out the paint on the first day - nuts, right? - here's a project you might like.  The kids paint a handprint next to a Kissing Hand poem and stick a foam heart or sticker in the middle. Then they fold their paper into a booklet and color the cover and glue in on the front.  It's a cute little keepsake for them to bring home on the first day.  Let me know what you think!
     Next, I have a request for some help from my awesome followers.  I've been working on this unit for quite awhile and I've been looking at it for so long that I'm worried that I might be missing some typos or formatting issues. I would love to have a few more sets of eyes take a look at it for me before I post it on TPT.  So, if 2 or 3 people would be willing to proofread it for me, I'll send you the whole 90 page unit for free.  I'd really like to post it in the morning, so please only volunteer if you have a little time to look at it tonight and send me any edits or suggestions right away. (Don't be scared off by the 90 pages, most are games, picture cards and emergent readers that don't have much text.)  It has some cute stuff that you could use to kick off your school year, so I think it will be time well spent and I would be really grateful!  Just leave your email in your comment and I'll send it out to the first 2 or 3 people who can help.  Thanks so much - you guys rock!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Making Good Choices (Update)

     Thanks so much for all of the comments and emails about the Making Good Choices book that I posted last week. (Click here for the original post.)  It's great to hear that so many of you think you can use it (or are already using it) to kick off the new school year.  I had a couple of special requests that were quick and easy to do, so I'm posting a couple of new, slightly changed versions below that might be useful for some of you.   A couple of people wrote that they use the phrase "smart" choices instead of "good" choices. (Which, btw, I really like!)  So, I made a new version with the switch and you can download the "smart" version by clicking here.  The other request was from a few first grade teachers who were hoping that the "Kindergarten" sign over the door could be changed to "First Grade."  Easy-peasy! You can grab that here.
Wishing you all a year full of both "good" and "smart" choices!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Take Away My Glue Gun, Please!

     Like most of you, I have mountains of things to do before school starts in a few short weeks.  Lessons to plan, curriculum to revise, book bins to organize.  But what do I find myself doing?  Shopping for materials and creating cute, crafty, completely non-essential projects that just make me happy.  So, someone needs to hide the car keys and take away my glue gun - please!
     I hit the Dollar Tree (again) and found the greatest thing!  I'm sure you've seen these cute little hand pointers in some of the teacher supply catalogs.
    They usually sell for about $15.00 for three, and they're always one of the things that get cut from our wishlist when my team and I sit down to order each year.  Well, they have them at Dollar Tree! (Run over quickly - they just came in on the truck this morning!)  For a dollar each, who could resist?  So I bought some for my whole team and the idea for a little Back-to-School gift was hatched right there in the craft aisle at Dollar Tree.  I picked up a few cheesy vases, some ribbon and some greenery and came home and wrote a little poem.  I now have a cute (yet thrifty) gift to say, "I'm glad I'm working with you this year."  I hope my team (the best team in the world, btw) likes their "handy bouquets!"
     Feel free to use the poem if you're giving a back to school gift to a colleague (you could take off the last verse and it would work for anything...)
Have a great night,

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Equal Opportunity Blog Stalking

     When I first started "blog hopping," I would often stumble upon a blog written by a 3rd or 4th grade teacher and think, "Nothing for me to see here" and move on to a K-1 blog.  Somewhere along the way, I stopped and poked around one and realized the errors of my ways.  Good teaching is good teaching is good teaching.  Ideas, activities and cute lessons can really fit (or be adapted to) many different grade levels and I have found some great ones on some Upper Elementary blogs.  So I am now an equal opportunity blog stalker (and I have the late nights and tired eyes to prove it!) A couple of my favorites are Oh Boy! Fourth Grade (Farley does amazing things with graphics and has a very witty "voice" that makes me chuckle) and Create*Teach*Share (Rebecca is very crafty and has great ideas for all grade levels) - check them out!
     Today's crafty inspiration came from Rebecca at Create*Teach*Share. She made the cutest storage unit with tons of little drawers to organize paperclips, rubber bands, etc.  and when I saw it I knew that I absolutely had to make one for my desk area.  (The OCD in me was doing backflips of joy!) So I headed to Lowes, picked up one of the Stack-On organizers, got out my glue gun and got to work.  A big thank you to Rebecca because my new, adorned organizer is now my favorite teacher toy.  Ever.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Getting Crafty

     I've discovered so many new things this summer since I started blogging - Linky Parties, Thermal Laminators and everyone's favorite - Pinterest!  Who knew?  After spending weeks pinning amazing ideas that had me talking out loud to my computer, "OMG, how cute is that?  I need one of those!" I decided that it was time to make some of my inspirations come to life.  So, I headed out early this morning and hit Joann's, Michael's, Walmart and Lowes.  Five hours and too many dollars later, I arrived back home armed with ribbon, fabric, containers, organizers and a bunch of other stuff that I'm not even sure what I'm going to do with yet.
     The first project I tackled was a really cute one.  Marlana over at Lil' Country Kindergarten made a set of really adorable pencil buckets for her sharpened and unsharpened pencils.   I knew when I saw them that I absolutely had to have some too.  I found these great little buckets that actually have pencils on them - how perfect is that? (I found them at Walmart in the celebrations section with all of the party supplies and they were only 97 cents!)
     I made some cutsie labels with picture clues, printed them on cardstock and voila - Project #1 done! I love the way they came out!  If you'd like a copy of the labels just click below the picture.  I wonder which project I'll have fun with tomorrow?

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Chicka Chicka Facelift for my Classroom

     As I mentioned a few days ago, I'm starting the year (like 8257 other kindergarten teachers) with a Chicka Chicka Boom Boom theme.  I know that it's been done to death, but it's just so perfect for so many reasons so I'm going to do it anyway.  Since the theme itself is kind of uninspired, I've been trying to come up ways to make it a little more inspired.  So, where do you go for affordable inspiration?  Ikea!  The result?  My reading corner is getting a facelift!  I picked up two of these cute leaf canopies and two child-sized wicker chairs.
     I'll add some coconuts and ABCs to the leaves and we'll be reading under the coconut tree.  I'm pretty excited to see what it looks like when it's all set up!  (It really doesn't take much to make me giddy...)
To share the Chicka Chicka joy that I'm feeling, here's a quick little alphabet sort that you can use with the book.
Click Here to Download