My First "Back to School" Purchases for My New First Graders!

About Me

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Welcome! I hope to use this blog to share some of the amazing things my class and school does to make learning fun! I have been teaching for 15 years already! I started teaching 3rd grade in a Parochial School, then I was hired to teach 1st grade for three years, was moved to 5th grade for 2 years, and then came back to 1st grade in the district where I attended school. I love that I'm able to give back the the school district that guided me to become the teacher I am today! I have a Bachelor of Science in Elementary Education, certified 1-8; a Master's Degree in Curriculum and Instruction; and my Administrator License Pre-K-12.

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Saturday, August 31, 2013

Open House...Departmentalization Style!

Hello Friends!

Anyone else thankful for this 3-day weekend like me?  This was our first week...first FULL week, as in 5 full days of school!  It was hot, humid, and sticky...and therefore, a little long, but we made it!

In case you didn't know, there are three of us who departmentalize in first grade at our building.  I am responsible for English Language Arts, another teacher is responsible for Math, and another is responsible for the Science and Social Studies standards.  In one of my past posts, I shared that our district was on the ballot to pass a levy and if it didn't pass, our building would lose art, music, and gym instruction for our children.  The levy failed, I accepted that I would be teaching art, music and gym...and then those specials appeared on our schedules.  So our children now receive art, music, and gym instruction but it made the schedule a bit of a nightmare on our end because we weren't sure if we were going to be able departmentalize.  Thankfully, our teacher who is responsible for math saw through the schedule and she figured out a way where we can still switch for 80 minute blocks throughout the day.

So...I thought I'd share how we structured our Open House today!

We sent home a summer letter welcoming our students and families to first grade and included our supply lists so that they could take advantage of those back-to-school sales.  We also enclosed an invitation to our Open House.
Click here to see it up close and personal.
Our grade level has their Open House at 4:45 but because we wanted the opportunity to meet all of our children and their families, we chose to schedule ours so that all three teachers would present to each group.  It was great, because we did get to meet everyone and it wasn't congested with 65 or so children and their families all at once.  We also have a family with twins in first grade, so they were able to attend one Open House at the regular first grade time, and then they attended one of our sessions.  There was a little bit of confusion amongst some of our families.  They thought they had to come for 3 full hours of Open House and were grateful once we clarified that they only were being asked to come for one hour.  Next year we'll be even more explicit!  :)

During each session, we did a little powerpoint presentation all about how we departmentalize and shared a few of the fun things we have planned for the near future.  Here's a few of our handouts...

We send home a Classroom Directory/Non-Custodial Parent note as well as a Technology Note.  We use our Classroom Directory note as a courtesy for our families.  If they would like to have their name and home addresses or email included in a directory to schedule play-dates or to send birthday invites throughout the year, we put a little directory together for them.  It's completely optional and only shared with those who share their information.  At the bottom of this note is a small section where the families can give me names and addresses of non-custodial parents who want to keep informed of their child's progress in first grade.  We could probably hunt through the school records for this information, but it's so much easier to just ask our families for the information.  We also send home a Tech Note asking permission to take pictures of the children and publish them on our websites and blogs.  The district has a section on the back of our Emergecy Medical Authorization form requesting this type of permission, but we want something in addition to that, just to cover ourselves!  I've linked both of these handouts so that you can view them and/or tweak them for yourselves.

Classroom Directory/Non-Custodial Parent
Tech Note

We also are going to send home a quarterly newsletter called, "The Proud Pirate" that gives our families information on what we're working on in the classroom.  We provide them with the actual standards that we'll be covering during that quarter.  Although sharing the exact standards with the families might be a little overwhelming for them, we felt the need to do so since there's such a push for these standards and First Grade is SO different from Kindergarten.  We also explained to our families that a lot of these standards will be built upon as the year continues...and no one can say that they don't know what their child is learning in first grade!
Click here to see our First Edition!

In our summer welcome letters, we asked the children to write us a letter about their summer, but at Open House, we gave our parents a homework assignment.  We asked them to write a note about their child!  Here's the handout we provided...
Parent Homework Assignment
We also decided that we needed to reach out to our families a little more. Actually, I feel that our district as a whole needs to do a better job of inviting our families into our buildings so that they can see what our children have been learning.  I think the junior high and high school are filled families for their athletic events, but I often feel that the primary buildings are neglected a bit in showing off their efforts....and let's be honest...there's some pretty amazing things happening in our buildings too!  Our building does an amazing job of displaying student can't help but smile as you walk through our building!  I feel that our community should be invited to visit and see what our little friends are learning.  Due to this, we decided to start "After Hours Social Hour" this year.  Each month our families will be invited into our classrooms to see what we've been doing.  Our first event will have a "Superhero" theme.  We're tying in community helpers with super heroes.  I've been searching Pinterest, Teachers Pay Teachers, and blogs to get my ideas flowing.  I also purchased a few books and will be reading them this weekend and creating some fun to go along with them!  Here's the Save the Date we sent home at our Open House:
I'll be sharing more about our Superhero night and what we're planning as they develop!  :)

We also tied balloons onto our classroom doors so that our families would know which three rooms their children would be traveling to and from throughout the day.  
After our presentation, we invited our families to visit all three classrooms and meet us personally if they chose to do so!

I think that covers everything we did during Open House!  OH SHOOT!  One more the beginning of every session, we called all of our new Firsties to the carpet and read this book to them:
It's a cute story...about how a child wonders if his teacher will be an alligator, a kangaroo, a boa constrictor, etc.  In the end his teacher is a real live person!  We packaged animal crackers as our welcome back treat for our students.  Starting our sessions with a story for our kiddos was the perfect way to settle everyone down so that they would listen to our presentation too!  :) I think I've shared everything!  Sorry about the long post!
Hope everyone is off to a great start with their year!

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Ready for Open House! be honest...our Open House was almost a week ago surprise, things have been crazy!  We're actually starting Day 3 today, but I wanted to post some pictures of our it looked just before our Open House.

Why, yes....that IS a real live plant by the window that
 I'm going to try not to kill this year.  :)

So...there's a peek at my new home for the next 9 months or so!  I still think it's unfinished because there's no student work hanging up but we'll get there!  
Take care!

Monday, August 19, 2013

Baby Echo Gets a Home

Hello Friends!

If you've been following me, you know that I'll be starting Fundations with my kiddos this year.  There's a small owl finger puppet that I'm supposed to use during the lessons.  When we went to observe Fundations in an area district last spring, some of the teachers attached the owl to a stick and would use it that way.  A plain old stick wasn't going to work for me so I jazzed it up a bit.  
Here's what I came up with...

Off to fill my cart with some Back to School goodies at the big Teachers Pay Teachers sale!

Have a great day!

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Fundations Freebie

Hi Friends!

Just a quick post today to share a Fundations Freebie!  

I went ahead and created some Smart Board slides to use when I'm teaching the lessons in Fundations.  You can download them for free in my TPT shop if you need them!

Click here to visit my TPT shop!

Take care!

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Challenges Ahead...

I usually try to keep my posts on this blog about what's happening in my classroom....the good and the challenging but this post is going to be about my school district.  This week was a week full of hope, anxiety, discouragement and reality.  Yep.  Let me explain...

My school district was on the ballot this past week for a 10 year, 6.73 mil emergency operating levy that would generate about $2.8 million annually for our district.  It would stabilize our deficit budget and restore $2 million in cuts that took place earlier this summer.  Lots of committees were formed and we've been working all summer to gain the support of our community.  As with any community, there are those who support their schools because they know that good schools make good communities, bring new families and commerce to our area and is just a good investment in the future.  There are those who believe that they can't afford a tax increase (even though this is the "cheapest" it's going to be).  And then we have those who are just unhappy with the decisions the district has made or feel that because they don't have children in the district they should not feel the need to support the district.  I can understand those who believe that they can't afford a tax increase but I have a hard time with those who are just 100% against anything the district does but does nothing to be a part of the solution.

So...Tuesday finally came and went...and our levy failed by about 340 votes.  I knew it would be a close vote, but I was really hoping it would be a close vote in the other direction.

The cuts in our building pre-levy included loosing our computer teacher (who bumped back into first grade...yeah for me...she's my best friend...but sad for her because she loved being the technology teacher in our building and was qualified...and sad for our kiddos because in a district that has a 1:1 Laptop Initiative in grades 6-12, our kids will be a little behind once they get to 6th grade).  We also lost one of our pre-kindergarten teachers...and the threat of other possible cuts were "out there".

Since the levy failed, our children now do not have an actual art, music, or gym class.  Reality is...we're responsible for teaching computer, music, art and gym on top of the curriculum for English Language Arts, Math, Science, and Social Studies.  And who knows...there could be additional cuts.  There were some pretty deep cuts in the other buildings too...even a pay to play fee of $730 per sport or activity at the high school if you're in band, on the swim team, and run track you'll have to pay an additional $2,190.00 this year.  It would have been cheaper to vote yes.  

So now we're waiting...waiting to see if more cuts are eminent, waiting to see what our building schedule will look like, waiting to see if parents choose to pull their children from our district and send them to an area district...waiting for all of the cards to fall so that we, as a staff, can pick them up, put them in order and move ahead the best that we can.

Chat soon!

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Shopping for Crayons!

Thanks to Amy at Teaching is Sweet!

Click here to check her out!
I was in search of bulk crayons and was having a hard time finding the colors I needed to refill my crayon organizer...

She advised me to check out and search for "custom boxes".  From there, I was able to select the colors I needed and built some custom boxes. 

Visit Crayola's website by clicking here.
Each custom box was $10.99 and I ended up creating 3 boxes.  Then, on a whim, I was like, "I wonder if there are any promotional codes out there for Crayola products," and I found one!  If you enter crayola20 at checkout, you receive a 20% discount!  Problem solved!

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Organizing Fundations and a Freebie!

First of all, I have to say how grateful I am to these two teachers!

The Tutu Teacher      
Both of them were kind enough to give me some encouragement on this whole Fundations journey I'll be on this year.  I'm so excited that they reached out and made me feel comfortable in contacting them throughout the year when I need it!  I've been stalking their blogs this weekend...and if you're not following them yet, you should jump on over and check them out!  (You can click on their buttons above to visit their site.)

In my last post about Fundations, I showed you all of the materials we received.  Click here if you want to see them again.

So here's how I organized all of the student materials...I numbered everything.  The teachers we observed at an area district suggested that we do this so that if a piece ever came up missing, we could just flip it over and see the number and match it with the student.  The first thing I did was pull out all of the magnetic pieces, flip them over and write the same number on each piece with a silver Sharpie.  I then labeled the fabric envelope, letter board and both sides of the dry erase boards with the same number.

I was a little worried about all of these magnetic pieces so I only put the ones we will need to start the year on the letter board and I sorted the rest.

There are about 30 "extra" pieces that we won't be using during the first few weeks of school and since I need to keep it simple for my Firsties and myself, I purchased a bead organizer at Walmart to store the additional pieces in.

So now, when we need a specific tile, I can just pull them out and pass them out to the kiddos.
Hoping this works!  :)

I also had a few requests to share the letters I created as an extension of my newest favorite book, The Day the Crayons Quit
You can download them by clicking here.
Have a great day!

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Time to Get Busy and a Crayon Question

Here's a few pictures of what I walked into a week or so ago...

Not too overwhelming but still a lot of work ahead of me.

I decided to tackle my classroom library first and moved it to the wall near my's a tight squeeze, but I think it will be okay.  While I was sorting my books again, I realized that I need to update my labels for my books so that was added to my list of things to do...which is growing by the minute.

Last year, I made this crayon organizer and it worked great!
But now I need to fill some of the drawers and I'm looking to purchase boxes of individual colors.  Someone shared a site with me last year and I can't seem to find it.  If you know of a site that sells all 24 individual Crayola Crayons, please let me know!  I'm in need of a few colors!