Showing posts with label back to school. Show all posts
Showing posts with label back to school. Show all posts

The first two weeks of back to school are a unique experience. :)  We are excited, nervous, and spewing rules and procedures in every other sentence.  It's mentally exhausting.  And I sometimes I don't have the head space to plan out fancy activities.  So, I go to what works.  

And my first two weeks look basically the same every year until we can get rules and procedures established.  Ain't nobody got time to reinvent the wheel those first 10 days.  Am I right?  

So, if your head is spinning too, here are my 5 tried and true back to school activities for first grade that I ALWAYS include during the first two weeks!

Counting Collections

Counting Collections is a routine that I use throughout the entire year.  And we start it early.  I introduce it during the first 10 days and give kids time to count collections.  

Why do I love it?  Because it's backed by loads of math research and is a solid math activity that we will continue throughout the year.  And the sooner I start it, the sooner they will become independent so I can pull math intervention groups! So, I'm happy to put in a little extra effort on this up front.

So why start it during the first 10 days?  If you've taught first grade long, you know that independent work is hard to come by during those first few weeks.  But this simple routine for counting collections is something kids can do independently almost immediately... and all first grade teachers said, "Amen!"

You can read more about our routines and procedures for counting collections here.

And grab the resource here! (Struggling with math at the beginning of the year?  I've got all my detailed plans for the first 10 days for FREE here!)

Time Capsules

First grade is such a fun year for me because the kids grow by leaps and bounds!  It is so amazing to watch how far they come.

That's exactly why we do time capsules!  I have themed ours with Olaf and Frozen.  So we have a cold tub that "Olaf" puts our papers in to keep them, "Frozen in Time."  

At the end of the year, Olaf delivers our time capsules and we remeasure our handprints and height and our writing skills!  It's the best day because the kids are always surprised at how far they've come during the year!!

School, School, What Do You See?

One of the the must-dos for the beginning of the year is finding your way around the school.... learning where to go, who you'll see there, and what is expected. 

We use the book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, to do this.  We make a similarly patterned book called, School, School, What Do You See?  I have it in a digital version that we read together.  

Each day, we talk about a new helper in our school and what their job is.  We write about their job and then talk about how we can help!  

Then, the kids make their own paper booklet as we write and have their own book by the end.

How We Go Home Graphs

This is a first day of school MUST!  One of my biggest fears is not getting one of my firsties home the right way on day one.

Of course, I always have parents write down how they will get home at Meet the Teacher night and on the first day of school (looking at you Moms who change your mind 20 times about how your child will go home)! :)

But I like to go over this with the kids on day 1.  And day 2, and literally for the first two weeks.  We make a giant pictorial graph using car, bus, feet, and bike diecuts.  And then, if we do this independent graph as well!

Graphs are an amazing beginning of school math activity.  Here's a set of all my "get to know you" back to school graphs!

Read Alouds

Books.  Books.  Books.  Just read more books.

I always have a stack of back to school books to read during the first two weeks.  There always seems to be an awkward 10 minutes left here and there during those first few days and weeks as we all figure out our new schedule and before all the normal routines start.

I fill that space with books.  Most of our read alouds at the beginning of the year go with our citizenship unit and are all about building classroom community and good character traits.

You can read more about all of my favorite back to school read alouds in this post!

I love looking for fresh classroom decor ideas!  And a new back to school bulletin board is one of the easiest ways to make my classroom look new and fresh without a whole lot of effort.

Here are 3 of my favorite bulletin boards for back to school or any time of the school year!

Lego Bulletin Board

When my oldest was in 2nd grade, we homeschooled because....Covid.  And he was (and still is) obsessed with legos.  

So it only made sense to do a lego themed classroom and bulletin board.  This lego bulletin board was quick and easy to make and made a huge visual impact in our space!

I covered the bulletin board in black fabric.  Then I used Mega blocks and hot glued them around the edge of the bulletin.

After that, I used our board to attach all of our anchor charts as we made them.  It made the perfect learning board!  You can read more details about how I created our homeschool space here.

This bulletin board also worked great for adding some inspirational quotes as well!  Grab this set to make your own here.

Paintbrush Bulletin Board

Another one of my favorite back to school bulletin boards is this paintbrush bulletin board.  I made this bulletin for my preschool Sunday School class and it stayed up for several years because it looked so stinkin cute!  

I started with a black fabric background again because....easy! :)

Then, I got paint swatches for the border.  This was back when teachers were using paint swatches for all the things because they were free and super cute.  I think most paint stores figured out what was happening and don't offer them like this anymore.  But I have this border that I've also used that has the same effect!

Then, I made the paintbrush and added the lettering.  You can find detailed directions on how I made the paintbrush here.  I love how gigantic it is, but don't be scared.  It's really pretty easy and can be done in about 30 minutes or so.

I used this for my Christian education space, but this set of bulletin board letters comes with general education wording as well so it can be used in so many places!

Good Fruits Bulletin Board

This last bulletin board is another colorful and eye catching one!  It's another great back to school bulletin board and interactive too!

I love using this one as a Fruit of the Spirit bulletin board for Sunday School to encourage those traits. But it also works well in public school for character education because it comes with apples to add to the tree as kids are showing that good character trait or fruit.

You can find the set of bulletin board letters with 26 character traits included here.

You can get more details on how to make and use this bulletin board interactively in your classroom in this post.

Looking for an entire year of bulletin boards?  Check out this money saving bundle of bulletin boards for each month.  All 3 of the boards featured in this blog are included!

Welcome to 2020.  The year of the pandemic.

And the year we decided to temporarily homeschool our 7 year old.  Homeschool was the right decision right now for us because it came down to the LRE--the least restrictive environment.  It's a term we use in public school for our special needs children.  And it was the idea that we kept coming back to as parents.  Which environment--in person, all virtual, or homeschool--will give Cooper the least restrictive environment.  And the answer every time was homeschool.

Since my 7 year old boy LOVES legos, our homeschool classroom theme became obvious!  And I think it turned out adorably.  Take a look at our lego classroom space!
{This post contains affiliate links which go to support my chocolate and Dr. Pepper addiction! :)}

Our upstairs playroom has the perfectly sized window jut-out area.  It has great natural light and is just the perfect size for a homeschool classroom.  

2nd Grade Lego Sign

The first thing we did is make our "2nd" grade sign for the window sill.  I grabbed these paper mache letters online since I wasn't going in stores, spray painted them black and hot glued random, extra legos to it.  The 2 is a 12" letter and the N & D are 8" letters.

The rest of the window holds our books we are reading that week.  Clearly, this week, we will be enjoying some Frog and Toad!

Lego Head Painted Jars

I ordered rainbow drawers to keep our supplies organized, but I also wanted a few supply jars out.  These lego jars were perfect!

I found a few extra small mason jars.  These are the 8 ounce sized jars.  First, I decided to use craft paint.

You can see that clearly didn't work well.  The paint peeled, and the more coats I tried to add, the worse it got...

So I bought some spray paint and problem solved.  It was so easy and soooo much faster.  I wish I would've done this earlier!

Then, my handy husband cut a 4" cube for me from a left over post scrap he had in his shop.  I did use craft paints to paint this blue and it worked great!!  It took 2-3 coats to get the coloring right.  I wanted it to look like one of the lego heads had a blue shirt lego block and I think it works well!

Aren't the adorable?  I had fun painting the faces and letting my 7 year old paint too! :)

Lego Drawer Pull

In the middle of a work-from-home, school-from-home pandemic, desks are a hot commodity!!

After 2 desk ordering fails, I finally found this desk and this chair at Walmart for under $50.  It's simple and basic, but that's what we needed for this kid space anyway!  (Rainbow drawers are from Amazon.)

I decided to add a drawer pull to it to tie it in to our theme.  

Cooper built a lego droid drawer pull (can you tell his other love is Star Wars??).  We used hot glue to attach it to the drawer, but that didn't last long.  Right now, it's stuck with Gorilla Super Glue.  Fingers crossed this lasts longer!

Lego Bulletin Board

If you have followed my blog for any amount of time, you know I LOVE a good anchor chart.  So having a place to post our learning this year was crucial!  I ordered this cork bulletin board and covered it in black fabric.  Then, I hot glued mega blocks around the border.  I bought this set of mega blocks and I had less than 10 left over so it worked perfectly with this size board.

I drew and cut out the light bulb, and made and printed the text for our big idea.  This is our big idea for the first nine weeks.  I've planned out 4 big ideas for the year!  If you have any of my integrated units, you know I'm a believer in a big idea to connect across all subject areas.  Homeschooling will be no different!

I love how this board turned out!  Soon it will be full of anchor charts and learning.  Follow me on facebook or instagram to see the progress! 

If you love this bulletin board, you can find templates, for 3 lego themed inspirational quotes in this bulletin board set.

I really love our little space and hope it makes for a successful year of 2nd grade!

Language is so basic and organic that sometimes I think we forget about how important it really is...

Anybody remember that there are actually 5 language standards with 23 sub points in our Common Core Standards.'s not just reading and writing, people.  Oh yeah, and there's a whole 'nother strand on speaking too. {How 'bout that Arkansaseese for ya?}  So, yeah...language is *kinda* important!

So let's get back to the basics with a few of my most tried and true language tools.

I'm linking up with my friend, #TeacherMom, again for some Back-To-School language tools!

From a teacher who taught for 9 years in a high poverty, high ELL school {and still teaches in a diverse school this year}, here are my tried and true language tools for building good language with our ELL babies! And {*psssst!*} works for everyone else too!

1. Ranch Hands
Since my room is western themed and all, it's only fitting that my star student/weekly helper/whatever you wanna call it kid is called our "Ranch Hand."  You may be thinking, what does a class helper have to do with language?

Wait for it.  Just wait.

Each year I handle ranch hands differently...some years I've done too much and felt stretched too thin, and other years I've not done enough and felt too guilty.  But so far, this's feeling just right.  It is of course, just two weeks into school, so we'll see how I feel in May.

Anyhoo.... I'm a big believer it making kids feel wanted and important.  I think kids gain confidence when they feel this way.  And confident kids become confident speakers. #language 

Also, when students are asked to be leaders and share with us about their family, who they are, what they like, and answer questions, they feel loved, appreciated, and included.  AND, they have to practice language skills.  #language

Here's a look at how I'm handling my ranch hands each week....
I never really had a good spot for my ranch hands to sit in my old classroom, so I was super excited that I was able to find a spot this year in my new room.... {it helps that I left my big ole' easel in my old room too!}  

This red desk has been with me since my first year.  My dad found it on the side of the road for free and I painted it red and glazed it.  In my old classroom, it sat out in the hallway, but this year I had a spot to bring it inside and use it for my ranch hand's desk!  My ranch hand gets to move in here for their special week....and, of course, wear the cowboy hat!

I stole the banners from one of my teammates from last year.  I loved how she personalized the alliteration for each kiddo so I decided to carry that on this year!  The chalkboard banners are from amazon and I laminated each pennant so I could reuse them each week.

Each day, we do something special to introduce our ranch hand.  I send parents a note on Monday telling them their child is the ranch hand this week.  It gives them a list of things to bring each day and what our schedule looks like for the week.

Monday: Meet the ranch hand....we introduce our new ranch hand and interview them with these questions to fill out their wanted poster.  Pretty much covering Common Core Speaking & Listening {SL} 1, 2, 3, and 6 right here. #language

Then, we hang the wanted ad for everyone to see {names marked out for privacy!}  At the end of the week, I add my own special note at the bottom to our ranch hand and send it home with them.

On Tuesdays, our ranch hand brings in 3 photos to share with us about their family.  They must say at least one complete sentence about each picture...building language skills again right here and covering those same ol' S&L standards!  Plus, you should see the grins on their faces when they get to share pictures.  They love it!!  The pictures get taped and added to our wall as well...and sent home on Friday.

Wednesdays we make a wordle describing our ranch hand.  Each student must think of one adjective to describe our friend.  And they must speak in a complete sentence.  We use sentence frames to help them...."Whitney is _____." or "Whitney has _______." etc.  I type it in to and make the wordle right there with the kiddos, print it out and hang it on the wall too!  I've done this one other year, but I quit for a few years in between because I was trying to print them in color and it was just too much.  So this year I decided to bring back the wordles with black and white only!  And I still think they look great!  All kinds of language skills wrapped up with this activity.  We get to talk about adjectives once a week so it's always on their brain, they have to speak in complete sentences {and later in the year, they have to write their sentence on a sticky note for our ranch just takes way too long at the beginning of the year}, and our ranch hand just beams the whole time.  I can't think of a happier way to practice basic language skills than building each other up.

Thursdays: Show & Tell.  The ranch hand tells about ONE thing they bring to share and must answer 3 questions from the audience about their item.

Friday: On the last Friday of each month, I eat lunch with all of my ranch hands from that month for some good ol' friendly conversations.

So, yeah, it's an oldie, but a goodie...featuring kids and letting them talk in front of the class about what they want to talk about and making them ask and answer questions is just the most old fashioned, but most organic way, to develop language!

2. Verb Tenses
Here's another language tool from my store...

Year after year, I use this chart and sort from my TPT store.  Yeah, it's a little bit a lot-a-bit old and needs to be updated {like from my pre-cute-cover days}, but it's got some good meat inside of it!
I blogged about this one in detail back in the spring.  Check it out here!

3. Productive Group Work
When kids work by themselves, they don't have to talk.   When kids work in groups, they are supposed to talk.  When kids work in productive groups and have to "share the pen," they HAVE to talk. #language

Here are just a few blog posts are productive group work in literacy and math...
>>>Main Idea {FREEBIE}

>>>Non-Fiction Feature Scavenger Hunt

>>>Math Fact Fluency Partner Work

It seems so basic, but language is just that...basic.

Now I KNOW I'm crazy!  It's 9:00 on the night before the first day of school and I've decided to go ahead and link up with my friend, #TeacherMom, for her's every Monday during the month of August and I was going to just skip out on this one, but...well...I caved.

Here are my must have teacher tools for a "successful school" year....

Teacher Tool #1: A Schedule

Anyone who knows me knows that I am a schedule and routine driven person.  I'm lost without a plan, people.  Seriously.  It's like angelic choruses go off when I finally get my schedule posted in my room! AHHHHHHH! {sung at the very top of my lungs :)}  You can grab my schedule cards here...and now they are updated with an adorable new look!
The colorful I can objective cards can be found here.  They are included in my Common Core Units if you already have those or you can get them all separately.

Teacher Tool #2: Whole Brain Teaching
I just love love love the whole brain teaching philosophy.  This is one of my favorites {above}.  Whole class rewards through smilies and frownies.  What I love is the echo they give back because it just gets their attention so quickly.  And it makes a negative seem a little more tolerable when we all get to act out our "oh no" sad faces and voices!  You can grab all of my whole brain classroom management "stuff" here.

Teacher Tool #3: Silhouette 
Ya'll!!! My mother-in-law has one of those Silhouette machine thingies and they are pretty awesome! They can cut out just about anything.  And, honestly, I didn't really care too much about it until I started setting up my room.  Finding die cuts that are in western theme can be difficult.  I have never been able to find horse shoe die cuts that are the right size...or sheriff badges.  So this machine made this a ton easier!

My sweet mother-in-law cut out these horse shoes to decorate my hallway.

I love how they turned out!  She cut them on self-adhesive vinyl so they stick perfectly!

I forgot to get a closeup of these, but she also made boots and hats out of vinyl too!  Love the flexibility with this machine and so thankful for a mother-in-law willing to help! :)

Teacher Tool #4: Chalk Markers
I'm really not sure how I survived without chalk pens.  They are just the greatest.  I love that I can write on pretty much anything with them labels, plant pots {a Fruit of the Spirit is on the front and back of each pot}....

And decorative chalkboards!  I had so much fun doodling one of my favorite Bible verses on this one for above my desk!
 which leads into my final Teacher Tool....

Teacher Tool #5: A positive attitude!
It's going to be a *great* year for me because I've decided it's going to be a great year.  And I'm choosing each day to see the good and admirable things in my students, my teaching and the people around me.

Check out more pics from my classroom on my Classroom Tour 2015 Blog!

And link up with your teacher tools for Back To School!

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