Where it all goes down Wednesday!

Welcome to my first grade classroom! I am in a room that connects to one other classroom in an older building without storage or windows, so I've had to be a little creative with my space! As you can see, pretty much every surface is used!

This is the view from my front door.  To the left is the word wall and our Working With Words board.  
These are our Rainbow Names, which are the fantastic creation of Mrs. Deanna Jump! Loved that activity!
This is a view across our room from the entrance. Computers are in the back corner near the library. Mathstations are along the back wall, and I've used clothespins to hang my song and anchor charts.

Just a closer view of our Nonfiction Library near the carpet.
Math Work Stations...yay!
Our Calendar Area...could use a little work!

Guided Reading Table and FACE board.  I love the way this turned out!

Every day is a story...our Writing Center. This was an idea found on Pinterest. Just noticed the open drawer...oops!

Thanks for visiting! If you'd like to see close-ups of my Classroom Library, click here! And don't forget to join the fun at Blog Hoppin'.

Math Tree Maps and Cooperative Groups in First Grade? You Bet!

    Today was the thirteenth day of first grade, and unbelievably, it was also the day of my first official observation of the year! Talk about jumping into things full blast! Our new teacher evaluation rubric talks a lot about cooperative group activities, so I decided to give it a go even though I was a bit hesitant to try doing this so early in the year. 
     To make things more manageable, and for my own sanity, I made my students some Cooperative Group Role Necklaces to wear--this was the perfect use for my freebie nametag necklaces earned from Highlights Magazine orders.  I printed sets of role cards for 5 groups (each set on a different color cardstock), and the roles include jobs such as Group Leader, Writer, Cutting Expert, Glue Helper, Materials Manager, and more.  For this particular activity, I put my students in four groups of five, and tailored the jobs to the task the students were performing.  Overall, it went pretty well, so I thought I'd share! If you would like to download my free Group Role cards to make your own necklaces (or, you could put them in id badge clips) click here!

     To practice working in cooperative groups and to teach some beginning number concepts, my students created a Numbers Tree Map that turned out really well, so I thought I'd share it as well! (Just a warning--I have not taught the Tree Map as a part of our Thinking Map curriculum yet, so this Tree Map is not an "official" thinking map with all of the verbs and frame of reference--I simply wanted to use it to help my students learn to sort and to practice groupwork). 
     I came up with idea after Fran at Kindergarten Crayons shared her wonderful Number Circle Maps during the Math Workstations book study.  To extend the Circle Mapping activity, I decided to challenge my students' thinking by asking them to sort the number cards into a Tree Map. 
     To make the Tree Map, I first put the students into cooperative groups and assigned them roles using the necklaces described above.  Then, I gave each group a baggie with two sets of Fran's spectacular number cards (I gave one group the cards for 3 and 7, another the cards for 2 and 9, and so on).  I also gave each group two pieces of construction paper with their numbers labeled at the top. 
     The students sorted each number picture onto the correct piece of construction paper to make a mini tree map.  After the groups sorted their numbers onto their mini-tree map, we gathered as a class.  Each group shared their thinking regarding their sort, and then they separated their mini tree map to put the numbers in the correct sequence on our large class tree map.  Here is how it turned out! (Sorry about the lamination glare).

Meet the Teacher Monday!

I'm linking up at Blog Hoppin' for Meet the Teacher Monday! Head on over to check it out!

Blog Hoppin

Tell us a little something about you...
My name is Brooke. I've been married to my wonderful husband and best friend for four years, but we've been together for ten--He was my high school sweetheart and my very first date. We have a sweet baby girl named Elliotte who was born this past February, and we've also got two furbabies, Sampson and Sophie. 

How long have you been teaching?
This is my fifth year teaching--I've been in first grade from the start, and I love it!

You might not know...
I was a cheerleader and a golfer in high school and a bowling state champ in elementary school.  I only played softball one year (in 3rd grade) and have very (I mean VERY) little athletic ability, but I recieved a local softball organization scholarship my senior year.  My family and friends still like to tease me about that.

What are you most looking forward to this school year?
I was out on maternity leave for twelve weeks last year, so this year I'm excited to have a full year of teaching ahead of me! This will be my first full year using the Daily Five and Reading and Writing Workshops, and I cannot wait to see how they all impact my students' learning when used every single day (I used each of them last year and for part of the year before, but not consistently). I also love building community with my new students and teaching them to read. I love the excitement as that lightbulb turns on and they start to really grow as readers!

What do you need to improve?
This year, I am looking to improve in a couple of areas. First, I would like to include more small group instruction and differentiation in my teaching.  This is why I'm really looking forward to starting math workstations! Also, I am hoping to improve my time management this year-- I have a new baby to spend time with (and my dh, too!), so I'd love to find a better balance between school time and family time.

What teaching supplies can you not live without?
Mavalus Tape - I have all cinder block walls--I have used six rolls since summer started!
3M Hooks and stickies - I use these to hang all of my pocket charts and my clothesline that goes around the classroom!
Post-it Notes - Love them for workshop time!
My Personal Laminator - It is so much more durable than the school's laminating.
Avery Labels- I love to organize, and labels are definitely my friend!
Books, Books, and More Books! I love them and am so thankful my sweetie lets me have a book allowance each month!

Back to School with The Kissing Hand

I'm finishing up my first week of school, and boy, has it been busy with meetings almost daily and lots of changes among our team and faculty! Hopefully, when things calm down, I'll have more time for blogging! Anyway, I have a pretty good class of twenty firsties this year, and we had a lot of fun getting to know each other this week! We did some Kissing Hand activities the first day, and lots of Deanna Jump's wonderful activities including her Rainbow Names, All About Me people, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom Name Trees, and more! It was a blast! Here are some pics of our Kissing Hand activities...we made a hand/heart shaped circle map of our First Day Feelings. Then, we did a predictable chart telling how we felt on the first day. We also made some handprint art to send home with the parents this week at Parent Night.

Back to School Sale!

Have you heard? There is going to be a wonderful Back to School Sale on Teachers Pay Teachers August 1st - 4th! I am offering a 20% discount off of every single item in my store, and you can use the code B1T1S to save an additional 10% for a total of 30% off! What a great opportunity to cross items off of your wishlist! Click here to visit my store, and happy shopping!

If you'd prefer to earn points by shopping at my Teacher's Notebook store, you will find my items on sale there as well! Just click here to visit my store!

Here are some of the items you'll find on sale:

Mystery Readers Kit - A great (and easy) way to get parents and family members involved in your classroom!

 Daily Five Pocket Chart Set - A simple way to manage your daily five workstations!

Thinking Maps for Writing: Circle Maps and Tree Maps for the School Year

The CAFE Pensieve - Everything you need to set up your Reading Conference Notebook!

Classroom Management - Freebies

*Updated February 2016* If you would like to read my new Three Part Series on Classroom Management for updated tips and FREEBIES, please click the photo below. Otherwise, scroll on down for this original post. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Teaching!

The Lesson Plan Diva is hosting a Behavior Plans and Classroom Management Linky Party...Click HERE to check it out!

I've only been teaching for four years, but in this short period of time, my classroom management style has changed drastically.  My first year, I used a card pulling system, and my second year I used some counting techniques in addition to that.  Half way through my second year, I stumbled upon some information about responsive classroom techniques and positive discipline on Proteacher.  After trying out some new ideas, I have finally found my management style, and I love it!

Nowadays, my classroom management is centered around daily classroom meetings and problem-solving.  My students learn to monitor and change their own behavior through role-playing, responding to literature, and lots of student-centered conversation about the way we want our classroom to be.  We no longer use cards, clips, rewards, or punishments, and the result has been much less stress for me:).

At the beginning of the year, my students and I first talk about our hopes and dreams for the school year.  We talk about the kind of classroom we want to have, and then we discuss a plan for creating that environment.  We make our class rules through a series of discussions and brainstorming sessions.  First, I have my students list all of the rules they think we might want to have in our room.  Then, we go back and categorize the rules.  Most of our rules fit under the same broad categories, so my rules are pretty similar from year to year.  After giving each category of rules a title, we phrase the rules into "Our Class Promise," which is hung as an anchor chart and signed by everyone in the class (including me).  The picture above is of our class promise from a few years ago--I wasn't as specific with it then.

Every day during our class meeting time, we read our rules together (this year, I'm hoping to add actions to the rules so they will be more easily remembered by my kinesthetic learners).  Here is an example of my classroom's promise: We promise...to be safe and careful, to be kind and respectful in our words and actions, to do our best first grade work, and to make ourselves proud by doing the right thing!  Notice how that last rule encompasses lots of possibilities:)

When we have problems in the classroom, I try to address them as respectfully as possible, and this can occur in a number of ways.  Sometimes, I'll simply ask the child to remember our promise, and this will provide immediate correction.  Sometimes, I'll ask a child to cool-down for a minute to reflect on his or her actions.  This cool-down is not a punishment, but just a time to rethink, and the students are welcome to rejoin the class when they feel ready.  Students sometimes go to cool-down without my asking--this works well for those who need a quiet time to reflect or avoid frustration.  In solving behavior problems, I'll also sometimes ask a student if he or she wants the class to help him or her solve the problem, and we'll address it as a class during our daily meeting.  The students practice "helping, not hurting," so this is the focus, rather than making the child feel bad.  I also use logical consequences such as going back and walking when a student does something like running in the hall.

During class meetings, we usually read our promise, share compliments and appreciations, solve any problems the kiddos are having, and do a team-building exercise.  We might also read a story focusing on character education, or have a mini-lesson.  The students learn things such as how to tell the difference between tattling and reporting, how to make I-statements, how to help friends solve problems, and how to use "The Wheel of Choice" to solve a problem.
If a student has severe issues that cannot be solved during class meetings, I create a modified behavior plan for that child.  This is a plan that involves the teacher, the student, and his or her parents.  It takes some effort to stick with it, but I have found it really effective in helping students make positive changes. 

Here is what you do...talk to the parents and child about three small goals that you would like him or her to focus on.  Also discuss a logical consequence that will occur if the child does not exhibit the particular behavior.  Furthermore, discuss three rewards the child might like to earn if he or she reaches the goal.  Record these items on the behavior chart.  During class, monitor the child's behavior in regards to the goals and give him or her a smiley/sad face for every 30 minutes during the school day (I set a timer on the child's desk).  In the first two weeks of using the plan, I ask the child to try for 50% achievement. If he or she is consistent in getting 50% smilies, we increase the goal to 75% for a few weeks, and then 95% for another couple of weeks.  Each day the child reaches his or her goal, allow him or her to choose one of his or her rewards.  I like to use free activities as rewards such as lunch with a friend, computer time, or extra centers time.  The behavior plan is sent home each day and returned with a parent signature and comments as necessary.

Because this plan involves teacher effort in monitoring and recording the student behavior, I usually only use this plan with one or two children at a time for about a 2 month period, as needed.  I try to remember that the goal is improvement and not perfection, and that it takes time for the students to learn new behaviors.

I know that was a ton of info at once, and really just a big overview, so if you want to learn more about classroom meetings, positive discipline, or responsive classroom techniques, see these wonderful resources, or feel free to ask specific questions and I'll do my best to answer!  Also, if you'd like to use any of my documents, you are welcome to click on the pictures above to download them from google docs.

Favorite Responsive Classroom and Positive Discipline Resources:


Writer's Notebooks and Idea Starters (Freebie)

Last year, I used binders for my students' writer's notebooks, and I liked them sooo much better than the composition notebooks and pocket folders I used in years past!  Here are some reasons why...First, binders are easy for the students to personalize since they can easily decorate papers to insert into the front and back covers of their binder. Binders are also great because they keep papers more permanently than folders, so they can show growth over the entire school year.  In addition, they can hold many types of paper including lined and unlined papers for writing in different genres as well as stapled books in the inside pockets. 

One thing I like to do is add some idea starters to my students' writer's notebooks so if my students ever have writer's block, they can easily find a topic to write about.  When I give the students their writer's notebooks at the beginning of the year, they will find some idea starters printed on colored cardstock behind the beginning of the year writing paper.  Over the first few weeks of school, we fill out the idea starters before our independent writing time starts.  These are the idea starters we use:
  • Heart Map - Write down (or sketch) all of the people, places and things you love.  Add to this map throughout the year as you might have new ideas later on.
  • Hand Map - Write down things that you like to do.
  • Foot Map - Write the names of places you have been or where you would like to go.
  • Neighborhood Map - Draw your neighborhood map.  Include your house, friend's houses, areas where you play, and places you like to go frequently.  Put stars on places that would be great writing topics.  Later, extend this by drawing a map of the different rooms of your house.
  • Family Portrait - Draw and label the members of your family. Write some words describing them or things you like to do with your family.
  • All About Me - Answer the questions with words and pictures. 
When your writers get stuck, simply help them refer to their idea starters to choose a topic that is meaningful to them!

If you would like to download my Idea Starters, click HERE. Enjoy!

Favorite Back to School Activity Linky Party - Freebie

Fun in First is having a Back to School Activity Linky Party!
I love back to school time because there are so many excellent books to read and great ideas for welcoming the boys and girls into your classroom! I like to use Kevin Henkes' Chrysanthemum to spur on lots of name activities, including this next one.  I got this idea from Shari Sloan of kidscount1234.com . If you haven't seen her site or heard her speak, you have to check her out--she's wonderful! Anyways, back to the activity...it is a class book and song called, "This Friend on the Bus."  It is sung to the tune of "The Wheels on the Bus." The students practice writing their name within the song lyrics, then they draw a picture of their face, or you can glue a photo of their face in the school bus.  Then, the class gathers in a circle and everyone introduces him or herself.  After each introduction, the class sings the song that is written on that child's book page.  It is really fun and a great way to start learning everyone's name! Plus, you can bind it into a class book that the kids will love to read and reread! Here is the book cover and student page if you'd like it!

Peanut, Peanut Butter...and Jelly! Classroom Management Ideas and Freebie

In getting ready for this school year, I found this video (see bottom of post) of wonderful classroom management in action.  It is from the Whole Brain Teaching website, which is full of great ideas.  I love so many of the things the teacher does in this video, but there are a couple ideas in particular that I can see myself using in my own classroom.  One thing I really like is how she has her students walk across the room on syllables.  This could totally prevent the racing to line-up issue that I always have (even though I use assigned spots in line and dismiss in small groups).  You could even extend this to other ideas and have students walk while skip counting or reciting phonograms. Love it!

But, my favorite idea from this clip is for Peanut Butter and Jelly Partners--what a neat way to manage partnerships! My students do a lot of partner sharing particularly during workshop time, and it would be so easy to say something like "Peanut butter goes first, Jelly shares second."  To help manage partnerships, I made a simple pocket chart set for assigning my partners.  I will just put two student's numbers together to indicate who will work together, and then put the peanut butter and jelly header cards above the columns to indicate which partner will be which.  This should make it easy to keep track of partnerships and even to change them every once in a while.  If you want to download my pocket chart set, just click on each image:).

Blog Giveaway!

Ladybug Teacher Files is celebrating 1000 followers!! Congrats!! In honor of this special achievement you (or I) could win some wonderful prizes!  Click on over to check it out!

100th Day of School Linky Party

Happy 100th Day, TBA!

The 100th day of School is one of my favorite celebrations every year! We start the day off right with a 100 Kiss Scavenger Hunt. I write the numbers 1-100 on Hershey's Kisses and "hide" them all over the room. The students find all of the kisses (in a sneaky, silent scavenger hunt that is always full of giggling and trying not to make a peep) and put them on the correct location on a class-sized 100's chart. I only allow the students to have one kiss in their hand at a time, so they must place their's on the chart before going to get another. This also prevents racing to get the kisses or fighting over kisses.

 We also read the book 100th Day Worries and share our collections of 100 items. 

Students and teachers dress like they are 100 years old, and we do self portraits of our 100 year old selves. 

Another of my favorite activities is a shared writing where we make a list of "100 Things We've Learned in 100 Days of First Grade."

Parent Involvement Linky Party

Mrs. Bee's KinderGarden is hosting a linky party all about getting parents involved in your classroom!  I do several things to get parents involved and keep them informed.  I send home a newsletter, reading log, and homework agenda in the students' take home folders each night.  My newsletter looks like this...
I also have a classroom website that I try to update each week with parent information and student work.

The most success I have had getting parents involved in my classroom is through our weekly Mystery Readers program.  It is easy to manage (much easier than I thought it would be), and the students and guest readers absolutely love it!  We have had parents, older siblings, grandparents, aunts and uncles, and even famous country music stars come read to our class, and it truly is an experience that the students and I look forward to.  If you're on the fence about starting a Mystery Reader program, I would highly recommend it. I posted a freebie on my blog from my Mystery Readers Kit a few weeks ago, so here it is again for those of you who may want to use it.  Enjoy and don't forget to link up to the party!

Classroom Library Linky Party and Freebies for You!

This is a long post...if you stick around, there are freebies at the bottom:).

I am still in the process of setting up my classroom for this school year, but I've been doing some major "renovations" in my library.  I'm very excited! My books are organized by genre and level, so I have actually have six library areas in my classroom, which really helps with the traffic jams that used to happen when I had all of my books in one area.  The six library areas include the following types of books: Fiction, Nonfiction, Browsing Books, Early Readers, Fun Favorites, and mixed Leveled Texts.  Some day, I dream of getting the colored baskets from Really Good Stuff.  Since I'm not ready to invest in those beauties yet, I painted my fiction and nonfiction baskets (from Dollar General) with Krylon Fusion spray paint for plastics.  They aren't perfect, but they do the job.  Since I haven't painted my other baskets, the labels have the color-coding around the label.  Here are some photos...
Fiction (Blue).
Nonfiction(Green) and Fun Favorites(white baskets with red border on labels)
along with student book boxes.
Mixed Leveled Fiction 
Early Reading

Most of my books have three labels on them (I need to buy stock in Avery). The front lower right corner has my name, and the front top corner has a color-coded Guided Reading Level Label (unless the book isn't leveled). The back top right corner has a label that matches the label on the front of the book bin so the students can easily figure out where each book goes.  Here is a close-up of my books (this one doesn't have a guided reading level sticker on the front).

My students check out one book at a time at the beginning of the year and we work up to checking out more books as the year goes on.  Last year, I had my students use clothespins with their class number on them to check out books.  They simply put their clothespin on the front label of the basket their book was checked out of.  When they did not have a book checked out, their clothespin would be clipped to their book box.  This worked well, but now that I have the labels on the backs of the books that match the basket label, I'm hoping my kiddos won't need clothespins to remember where their books go.  

Okay, here are some freebies for you...just click the pics to download from google docs.

Genre Signs:
Book Bin Labels with color-coding for genre.
Book Bin Labels for Leveled Texts...Just put a matching color and letter label on the front corner of your books.
 This is the leveling chart I use to keep track of my students' guided reading levels. If they have trouble finding a just right book on their own, I can easily remind them to just get a book out of their leveled book basket. 

Phew! That was a lot! Thanks for visiting my class library! Looking forward to seeing all of yours at the linky party!

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