Saturday, August 25, 2012

DIY Instant Pocket Chart

     Two teacher work days in and I'm exhausted!  I'm trying to get back into the routine and I'm having such a tough time.  Because I have such a long commute, I have to get up at 5:00 and I am fighting it with every ounce of my being.  I can't count the number of diet cokes it took to get me through the last two days!  The good news is that my room is coming along nicely and I'll be ready to go for the first day on Tuesday.  Our kindergartners come for a quick Meet & Greet on Monday and I can't wait to meet the kiddos that I'll be spending the next 10 months with!
     Of course, the first thing I tackled in my classroom was decorating it. Nothing thrills me as much as new bulletin board borders and desk tags! One project I worked on this summer was making an "instant" pocket chart for my classroom jobs.  I hung it in my classroom on Friday and and a few colleagues asked me how I made it.  They were surprised at how easy it was and headed off to make their own.  I thought some of you might like this little trick too, so I thought I'd share.  All you need is a box of standard envelopes and a poster or foam board. Here's how you do it...

The index cards with the kids' names on them slip right into the pockets and stay put.  I used this trick for my Job Chart, but you could also use it for Math or Literacy Station Work Boards, a Dismissal Chart, or anything else you use task cards for.

I hope you can use this little trick - I'd love to hear about what you create! Have a great weekend!

Update 9/2/12 - For more info on the clipart I used, check out this post.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Jammies, Daiquiris and a Freebie

     I just noticed that this is my 100th post - that's pretty cool!  Many thanks to everyone who's been along for the ride!  So. . . in addition to the usual back to school shopping extravaganza in the Target Dollar Spot and Dollar Tree, I just bought myself a little, "Tomorrow's my last day of summer vacation" present. I was going to drive half an hour to Lakeshore to get some laminating done this morning when self indulgence struck and I headed to BJ's instead. After years on my wish list, I am finally the proud owner of one of these babies:

     I'm SOOO excited! I plan on spending my last day of vacation tomorrow in my jammies laminating my heart out. I might even treat myself to a strawberry daiquiri or two - heaven! (I know, I know, I'm a dork! but these are the things that make me happy . . .)

     First on the list for some wonderful protective shininess are the labels I made for the Meet and Greet we have the day before school starts. We ask the parents to bring their supplies with them and we have them sort everything into bins for us. The labels will go on the bins (some large and some small) and everything will be tidy and organized when the kids and their parents leave. Sweet!  If you'd like a copy, grab them below the picture.
     Well, I'm off to bed to be well rested for my glorious day of jammies, laminating and daiquiris. I hope you have a day filled with your favorite things, too! G'night.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Para Mis Amigos

     I've been chatting recently with some teachers who either teach in a bilingual classroom or work with ELL students. They've mentioned how hard it is to find materials, and how often they stumble upon something cute and useful only to think, "I wish that were in Spanish!" With all the great things floating around on Teacher Blogs, I can only imagine how frustrating that must be! So, to help out my bilingual bloggy buddies a little, I've updated some of my post popular Back to School freebies to include Spanish versions along with the originals. If you could use them or know someone who could, grab a copy and enjoy.  Many thanks to Daysi and Stephanie for their help with the translations!

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Johnny Appleseed Freebies and a Sale

Hi everyone!
     Things are settling in around here - thank goodness!  My Dad had a slight set back but is now happily home and getting stronger every day. Thanks again so much to everyone who has sent warm wishes or prayers this way, they were so greatly appreciated!
     Now that I have my Back to School Bootcamp ready to go, I'm looking ahead to September and planning for the month. I've been working on a Johnny Appleseed unit and thought I would share some freebies. I love doing a unit on Johnny because after the first few weeks of school that are filled with learning routines, assessing emerging skills and getting to know the students, it's the first real content we teach and the kids get so into it!
   The first freebie is a descriptive writing activity.  I plan to do a giant anchor chart with words that describe Johnny,  Then, I'll have my kids work on the activity down below. Since I'll be using it with my kindergarten kids, I think I'll type up words that we include on the anchor chart and have them just cut and paste them onto the paper.  I think that first and second graders would be more ready to write their own words. You can grab a copy down below the picture.
     We'll be just getting into the routine of math stations in September so I made some basic games for the kids to play. Roll and Color is always a favorite, so I made a Johnny Appleseed version.  I also made a Roll, Add and Color version to differentiate for any advanced learners. Grab a copy if you'd like to give it a try.
     Tomorrow's the big Back to School sale at Teachers Pay Teachers.  With the code BTS12 you can get 10% all purchases, and many sellers are offering an additional 5-20% off on top of that!  Everything in my store will be an additional 20% off, so if you've been eyeing anything, now's the time to pick up a copy! I have about 16 things on my wishlist so I'm going to have to a lot of fun shopping tomorrow!
Have a Great Night!

Monday, August 6, 2012

"Give Me Five" Freebie

     Thanks to everyone who left a comment or sent a note about yesterday's post. My dad is doing great and he's even got enough spunk to subject the cute young nurses to his horrible jokes! Thanks also for the amazing ideas for my name wall. I've gone from having no inspiring ideas to having way too many! I'm heading into school tomorrow for the first time this summer, so I'm going to visualize my options and ponder when I get there. I think I'm leaning towards jeeps or sailboats but I'll keep you posted.
     I'm really psyched to go into school tomorrow.  Each year, a few weeks before school starts, we host a little summer program for the incoming kindergartners.  It's called S.A.I.L. (Summer Adventures in Literacy) and it's an hour a day for three mornings in a row. We do read-alouds and crafts and it's a great way to meet the kids and let them get a little acclimated to their new "big kid" school and make some new friends. It sure makes the first day of school a little less scary for the kids (and the moms). I have my class list handy so I can scope out who I'll be spending the next 10 months with.  I can't wait!
     I have a whole bunch of stuff to bring with me to laminate since the work room should be pretty deserted. One thing that's ready to go is a new set of mini-posters illustrating the age-old "Give Me Five" behavior management trick. When making visual reminders like this, I think that for them to be effective, it's important to have graphics that really show he kids what the expectations are. I couldn't find any clipart that matched the "Give Me Five" actions, so I tried my hand at making my own.  They're not that fancy, but I think they'll get the job done. Whatta ya think? Leave a comment and let me know! You can grab a set if you think you can use them in your classroom this year. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Waiting, Debating and Creating

     It's no secret that every little girl thinks her Dad is the strongest man in the whole world.  I now also believe that most grown-up girls think so, too. My Dad just had his surgery for the Big C (I still can't say the word . . .) and boy is he a trooper! Although the anticipated 5 hour operation turned into a 9 hour ordeal, he came through like a rock star! The doctors got out everything that needed to come out, reconstructed a few vital things, then stitched him back up. He's got a long road ahead, but as long as my Mom doesn't knock him out (he's not the best patient), things are looking up. Thanks to everyone who has sent notes of encouragement, they provided a lot of much needed smiles!
     With 9 hours in the waiting room, my Mom, my sisters and I were trying to distract ourselves from worrying.  We all kind of went to our own "comfort zones." My mom did crossword puzzles, my sister Danni knitted (she's making socks for Dad that say "F$#@ Cancer" - how funny is that?) and my sister Squeebie read her Kindle. I went to my go-to place - thinking about school stuff, of course!
     The first thing that kept me occupied was my annual debate about what to put on my big wall.  I like to do something big with the students' names on them, then after taking first day of school pictures, we add their digital photos to the wall as well.  For example, last year I did big train cars with the kids' names on them, and we added their pictures to look like they were riding in the train. This is a picture of what it looked like before the pics were added.
     So, here's my dilemma - what am I going to do this year?? It needs to be something big enough to fit the names horizontally, and also be something that you could potentially ride in or sit on. I don't want to do something that I've already done (spaceships, roller coaster cars, hot air balloons, and rocketships), but I'm drawing a complete blank! Help! Do any of you genius teachers have an idea for my name wall?  I am not above begging - please, please, please leave a comment if you can help me out!
     When I was at the point where I was ready to pull my hair out, I gave up on the wall debate and pulled out my laptop and starting working on a new back to school project.  Being creative always calms me. I like to do a lot of work with names in the beginning of the year, and I like to make something name related for my bulletin board for Open House. I came up with a pretty cute Detective Craftivity that fits the bill and will also let me observe fine motor skills and how well the kids can follow directions. After following the picture directions to make their little detectives, the kids will cut out magazine letters to spell their names.  Sometimes we like to do matching bulletin boards with our 3rd Grade Reading Buddies, so I made a second version with a writing prompt inside, where the big kids can write their learning goals for the year.
     You can check them out in my TPT store, and I'll also send a freebie to the first three people who leave a comment with an idea for my name wall. Remember, it needs to be something I can incorporate the photos into and also be long enough for names.  Thanks for your help!

Have a great night!

Thursday, August 2, 2012


Just a quick post to share this AMAZING video a friend sent me. It's a poem written by former teacher and poet, Taylor Mali.  As many of us head into our classrooms for a new year, this video is a great reminder of why we do what we do. . . Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Product Swap


     I'm so excited to be a part of "The Magical Product Swap!" I was paired up with Jodi from Fun in First, which is a treat because I've been stalking visiting her a-ma-zing blog for a while and she has the best ideas! I got to pick a product from her TPT store and take it for a spin. Let me tell you - it was really hard to choose because she has so many fantastic things. Because I'm planning on totally revamping the way I manage my Poetry Station this year, I finally decided on Jodi's Alphabet Poetry Pack.
     After looking through this packet, I have a gazillion of great ideas for my Poetry Station!  One of my biggest quandaries was how to best introduce the Poetry Station in the beginning of the year, when so many kindergartners still don't even know their letters yet. Jodi's packet offers the perfect solution to ensuring success for even the most emergent literacy learners.  There is a short poem for each letter of the alphabet, and various versions of each poem are included.
     I love that I can use these to focus on alphabet recognition, letter-sound connections, handwriting and poetry all at the same time. The poems are the perfect length for kindergartners, and they're very cute and catchy, so even beginners can "read" them. There is also a matching alphabet chart in the packet, which is great for the kids to refer to. (To keep things consistent, I'm going to use it during Writers' Workshop also.)
     The first thing I did was to use my handy-dandy binding machine to make a class set of poetry journals.  These will stay in our book boxes for reading during Readers' Workshop or while at the Poetry Station. Then, I printed in booklet format and made a set of small books for the kids to bring home and read with their families.

    Then, on to planning for my new Poetry Station.  My wheels started turning and I have a bunch of tasks ready to go using these poems. I'm going to make some task cards, and then let the kids chose what they work on when they visit the station. Some independent tasks that I think Jodi's poems will be perfect for are:

     If you add "reading from your journal" as a choice, that's six tasks that kindergartners can do independently, even in the beginning of the year. If I introduce one or two poems a week, this packet should get me through Winter Break. Woo-hoo! A big thanks to Jodi for making my Poetry Station revamp so easy!

     Do you have any other ideas for independent work with these poems? I'd love a comment if you can help me add some choices to my Poetry Station.  If you'd like a fun, developmentally appropriate way to kick off your Poetry Station this fall, I'd head to Jodi's store (here) and grab a copy. For more great ideas, be sure to visit her blog!  
Fun in First
If you haven't entered my quick Giveaway, be sure to check it out here.
Have a great night!