Thursday, July 31, 2014

Back to School and Classroom Management

Classroom management is at the top of the list when it comes to planning for a new school year. It's a time to reflect on what has worked in the past and the things I want to change.

Each class of students is different. Each year, I change my management procedures to meet the needs of individual students and the class as a whole. Even so, I do have some classroom management ideas that I use year after year, because they're effective.

I thought I'd share some of these with you.

The ideas come from a Rick Morris workshop I attended a few years ago. One of my first grade teammates had attended one and wanted to go again. She invited me to go along. I'm so glad I did!

It's one of those workshops where you'll find yourself totally engaged and excited about all the ideas. He models his workshops to reflect effective management techniques in the classroom. I hope to get at least a few new ideas when I attend a workshop, but this was a day filled with classroom management ideas/techniques that I could readily apply in the classroom.

You can click on the picture to visit his site.

The first idea is the use of a random picker. I like to have a variety of ways to choose students randomly in the classroom (answering questions, helpers, messenger, etc.), and this is one of the kids' favorites.

This is how it works. I number all the students in the class and place those numbered tokens in the container.

I shake the container and turn it upside down. More than one number is face up, so it gives me choices. I just pick one of those numbers. The kids love it, because they think of it as a game or winning a drawing. It's fun, simple, and effective. It's called Pick-A-Number and you can find it here.

Here's another tool I use.

It looks like one of my dog's toys, and that's what it is - a Dog Squeak Toy

I love this one. It's so simple, yet so effective. When I squeeze the toy, the students know to stop what they're doing and look at me, ready to listen. I have the students practice a lot at the beginning of the school year. All it takes is one squeak. It's loud and works. I keep it on the ledge of the white board that's at the front of my room, so it's readily accessible.

A tip: When I introduce it, I pass it around the room and have each student squeeze it a few times. After that, they know they're not to squeeze or play with it. I explain that it's a way for me to get everyone's attention. The children understand and are respectful of it.

The third one is one of my favorite management tools. It's versatile and another simple idea. They're called Magnetic Tiles.

One way I use them is when I want the students to work in groups or with a partner.

The number tiles are magnetic and can be placed on butcher paper against a magnetic board or on a magnetic white board. I can form the groups ahead of time, and it's a reference for me and the children, too.

The number magnets can be placed by the word work chart or centers chart area. When students finish their word work activities, they move their magnets to the activity they choose to do next. I can tell at a glance how many students have completed their word work and what students are doing when they're finished. It prevents students from interrupting small group instruction and saying, "What do I do? I'm finished."

Rick Morris's New Management site has many more ideas for using the Magnetic Tiles. He has lots of other classroom management tips and resources on the site, as well. If you have an opportunity to attend one of his workshops, I would highly recommend it.

You can download some of the center cards I use with the Magnetic Tiles by clicking below.

I would love to hear about your classroom management ideas. Any new ones you will be using this year?

Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Close Reading Summer Read

As soon as the school year is over, I start thinking about the next school year - new group of students, reconfiguring the classroom, how I will make changes in my daily schedule, new centers, cleaning out files, etc. It's quite a long list, and part of the planning for next year is summer reading.

I'm especially interested in learning more about using close reading with first graders. I thought a great way to do this would be to follow along with the Close Reading Book Study with Lyndsey at A Year of Many Firsts and Tara at Little Minds at Work.

The book is Close Reading in Elementary School  by Diana Sisson and Betsy Sisson.

Chapter 3 is an overview of close reading strategies. The authors suggest that the best way to learn about and get started with close reading instruction is to learn the framework for conducting a lesson. They give ten steps to creating a close reading lesson. 

A framework is just what I needed to get started. As I read, I was particularly focused on how to do close reading with younger children. Here are a few key points that I especially found helpful:

Since most of my first graders are just beginning to read and are at different levels of reading ability, I wondered how they would all be able to access the text. The authors talk about using a progression of read alouds, shared reading, and then transitioning to small groups with primary students.

They also talk about ways to scaffold the text - start with video productions, next oral text {read aloud or audio tape}, and then move to picture books {which we use all the time in first grade}. 

Close reading can also be scaffolded with hands-on strategies. These strategies can be used as intermediate steps. One suggestion is to mark up the text. We use Wikki Stix all the time in our classroom, so the suggestion to use Wikki Stix to "circle" important words, main events, etc. caught my eye. I always mark up text as I read. It really is helpful when I go back to reread. I can see how this would be helpful for children. 

Another suggestion is to have children annotate - write down thoughts, questions, understandings, etc. in the margins. Jennifer at First Grade Blue Skies has a great idea for doing this. She places articles in plastic sleeves so students can mark on text - an idea I plan on using. 

I'm organizing as I'm learning and gathering information about close reading. 

In need of a binder cover? I created a few before deciding on this one. Click on the picture to get a Close Reading binder cover. 

If you are just beginning to learn about close reading or have even been instructing close reading lessons, I definitely recommend Close Reading in Elementary School. Read the book and join the book study here.

Hope you're enjoying your summer reading.

Monday, February 24, 2014

Are you ready for a sale?

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin for the Three Million Strong TPT two day SALE!

It's a huge celebration sale!

All the products in my store will be 20% off. Use the promo code TPT3 to get additional savings at checkout.

This is a great time to stock up on products for the rest of the school year. I already have my wish list ready!

I have two new St. Patrick's Day products you'll want to check out.

St. Patrick's Day Activities is a packet of activities to learn about and celebrate St. Patrick's Day.

It has non-fiction and fiction writing activities, posters, booklets, and a craftivity.

I created some fun St. Patrick's Day literacy and math activities for the week of the holiday. {Of course, your students will be practicing lots of skills as they work thru the activities.}

You'll find games, writing activities, measurement, graphing, addition, subtraction, St. Patrick's Day notes, incentives, and more!

Your students will create their very own unique St. Patrick's Day monster. These make a fun bulletin board display for St. Patrick's Day writing activities.

Happy shopping!

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Sunday Funday: March School Stuff

Are you getting ready for March? I am! I just returned from a trip to Target with some special new "school stuff."

I went there to buy a Yoga mat (decided to take a Yoga class), which I bought. But, I also ended up with some extra school things. Does that ever happen to you?

It was so much fun finding such great finds for my March collection of activities. I read that Molly at Lucky to Be in First and Deirdre at A Burst of First are premiering Sunday Funday. So, I'm linking today to share some of my "Sunday Funday" finds.
One of the first things I do when I enter Target is head straight for the dollar bins. I always tell myself that I'm going to walk thru just in case I see something (never intending to purchase anything), but it never fails . . . I just can't resist all the school stuff I "absolutely" need. Ideas start to filter through my head and resisting the purchase is a lost cause.

So here's what I bought:

We'll be celebrating Read Across America Day. I bought some boxes that I decorated with reading graphics. They make great surprise boxes for the students - boxes of brand new erasers and pencils. 

I  hand out new pencils {The children LOVE new erasers, too.} at the beginning of the month. It's such a great motivator for getting down to business with assignments. The books above are small hard-covered notebooks with blank writing pages. 

Had to get this book bag for extra copies of the children's favorite Dr. Seuss books.

Love these bags! 

I have them pinned on the walls throughout the classroom. I'll use the bags for St. Patrick's Day and March activities. 

I put the weekly job name cards in one bag. I'll use another one for review vocabulary and sight words. Each Monday we raffle off the prior week's morning messages. We'll use one of those bags for the student names. The children earn Be tickets for positive behavior. The Be tickets are drawn from a bag for special prizes. I plan on putting some surprise gold coins and St. Patrick's Day stickers in the surprise box.

Thanks to JC Sweetpea Designs KPM Doodles, and Melonheadz Illustrating for the graphics.

I'm looking forward to some fun March activities. How about you?

Check out Lucky to Be in First and Burst of First for more Sunday Funday activities.

Happy fun Sunday,

Friday, January 31, 2014

January's Snowmen

January's last day. The bulletin board will be changing to valentines, groundhogs, and presidents.

I just had to share these delightful snowmen, before they're taken down to make way for February.

Start with white paint and blue paper. Let the paint dry.

Cut around the snowmen and leave a border. Glue to a large colored piece of construction paper.

Cut out shapes. Glue to the snowman. {This is where the fun begins.}

I'm always amazed at how different they become. 

Happy snowmen, aren't they?

Some so simple and others fully adorned. 

I love walking into my classroom to see children's artwork on the walls. The children do, too.

I sometimes have students write in connection to an art activity or a craftivity. 

I created some snowman writing printables that can be used with snowman art or the winter season.

Now, on to February. 

Monday, January 27, 2014

A Whole Lotta Love Giveaway

It's the last week of January {already?!?!}. It's the time of year that marks the 100th day of school, and February is just around the corner.

Have you entered the Whole Lotta Love Giveaway?

If you haven't, you'll surely want to visit Deirdre at A Burst of First. Enter the giveaway to win some amazing products - from one hundredth day of school activities to President's Day to Valentine's Day (and more) - over 20 products in the giveaway. Click on the picture to enter - it ends on January 28th.

And how about a Valentine's Day freebie?

Your students will have fun with the assortment of valentine themed notes. Copy the notes on bright colored paper, and watch the writing begin. Your students can write notes to family, friends, and classmates. Perfect for a Valentine's Day thematic writing center!


Friday, January 3, 2014

Snow and Snowmen

Snow and snowmen are topics for January in the classroom. Even if it doesn't snow where they live, children still love learning about snow and snowmen.

Do your January plans include these topics?

If you're in the midst of planning, as I am, here are some snow and snowman books you may want to use.

Snowman books are a must if you're talking about snow.

We'll be talking about all the fun activities you can do in the snow. Of course, throwing snowballs is one of the first ones that the children mention.

The children love to tell and write about their adventures in the snow. Here's a "What Can You Do in the Snow? Booklet you can download for free.

Hope you've had some fun in the snow this winter. I'm still dreaming of a white winter.