Sunday, February 26, 2012


I wanted to remedy two concerns I had in my classroom.

#1 Children were eager to talk to me as they entered the classroom each day.


The bell would ring; I'd walk the students to the class and open the door. And then . . . I would proceed to QUICKLY and EFFICIENTLY answer questions, collect notes, nod to parents, and gather everyone on the carpet to begin our day! You know the routine. Of course, that didn't allow time for those enthusiastic little voices who wanted to be heard. Hmmm.

#2 Parents also tried to get my attention.


As I opened the door for the children to enter the classroom, some parents would apologize for taking up my time, and others would try to tell me what they needed to say, as QUICKLY and EFFICIENTLY as possible. That concerned me. I wanted to give them my time, but class was starting. Another hmmm.


We all know that we never have enough time to complete all we need to do before class starts. No matter how prepared we are for the day, we always have those last minute details that we want to finish before class begins.


I now open up the classroom 20 to 30 minutes before class starts. I love that time of the day! The children know that I'm still getting ready for the day. Some help to get the classroom ready. We talk as we work. They love to do that! So do I! It's a visiting time. Others come in and use the computers, while others are on the carpet reading. They know that class rules apply, and I haven't had any behavior issues. And, yes, some children have no desire to enter the classroom early. Understandably, as much play time as possible is what they prefer.

This has made it possible for me to talk to so many more parents. Parents know that I will usually be available at that time. They can come in early to talk to me if needed. Sometimes we just chit chat. I get to know the parents better, and it helps me know what's going on in their children's lives. Parents drop in to visit the classroom and see what new things are happening. Some come in to read books with their children on our carpet. I guess you could call it a mini "Open House".

I'm still accomplishing what I need to do, the children have extra reading and computer time, and communication with the children and parents is better.

I just thought I'd pass this idea your way. I'd love to hear about some of your ideas that have helped with communication.

By the way, I wanted you to see these plants in bloom.

I saw them as I was walking this morning, and thought, "Spring's around the corner." Can't wait!

Enjoy your Monday!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Maps A Plenty, Maps Galore

Something about maps definitely engages children. I can still remember, as a child, loving the idea of filling out a United States map outline with the names of the states and capital cities. The best part came when we completed the entire map and colored the individual states with colored pencils. Such an accomplishment!

I can't help but giggle a bit as I hear the oohs and aaahs of the children when a map is shown to the class. Such fun teaching first grade!

So, I'm always on the lookout for map books and activities that first graders can grasp and appreciate. Each year we read Me on the Map  by Joan Sweeney. It's a story in our Houghton Mifflin reading program.

The story introduces mapping concepts. This year we used a great project to illustrate it. The activity helped the children understand their place (our school) in relationship to the world. Jenn posted the idea on her blog. You can view it at Finally in First. We also read Mapping Penny's World  by Loreen Leedy.

Maps are explained in story form thru the eyes of a child in each of these books. Kids get into the stories. Who could resist the antics of the dog, Penny?

I used to borrow My Map Book  by Sara Fanelli for many years from a teacher friend (Thank you, Ann!). But, it's so exceptional, I had to purchase my very own hardcover copy.

I just love this book! If you haven't read it, you'll have to get a copy. It's one of those books you end up reading over and over again to your class. It shows a child's creativity at its best. It's a book about all the maps a girl has drawn, including a map of her tummy (the kids' favorite) and a map of her heart (my favorite). Of course, the kids ask to make their own maps after reading this book. Here are some the children completed.

I made word and arrow labels for most of the maps in the book, along with blank ones for those children who have ideas for different kinds of maps. And they will!

What a fun way to show that there are different kinds of maps, and that maps are used for different purposes. It's an opportunity to integrate geography and art and see those creative minds at work.

Happy mapping!

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Welcome to First Grade Schoolhouse

My first blog post . . . initially (like I'm sure so many of you) I just started visiting other teachers' blogs and realized that there's an entire world of inspiration and creative ideas in this blogging world.

I love the whole process of creating, teaching, reflecting, revising, and sharing stories about teaching . . .
not-so successes,
and the ins and outs of teaching.
Basically, I love "talking shop".

So, I decided to try it. And before I knew it . . . Here I am!

Thank you to Kristen at KPM Doodles for designing the graphics for my blog. I'm a HUGE fan of hers! In fact, she just designed some "Seussy" graphics. So FUN! I immediately used them on a set of March Reading Logs. You can download the set for free here.

Follow me on this journey. Get a glimpse of my teaching life, have some laughs, and get inspired, too!