Friday, July 20, 2018

When Things Come Together

Hello Friends!

After a week of summer school with kindergarten friends, I was ready for a break. But after some days in my classroom with kids, I had an idea for a project and just couldn't wait to get started. I don't have a classroom library, per say. Instead I have 16 huge baskets of leveled books spread out on 4 different shelves in my classroom. My students have a book bin they keep in their cubby. They choose books on their level and keep them in their book bin for a week and then we change them out. I've done this for a few years now and for me, it works really well. I have my reading stations set up so that students do a tub activity and then get their books for independent reading. After some stamina is built, tub activities take less time and then there is more time for reading to self. One thing I decided I need to tweak was how books are changed out. For a student on level B, I have 2 huge baskets of B level books. I would only pull one out, but kids took FOREVER to find their 5 books because there were so many to choose from.

I decided to get the small book bins from Wal-Mart and have a bin for each level, as needed. This would give the students less books to look through at a time and then I could change out my bins every so often to give them new books and hopefully create some excitement. Hubs had a shelf in the shed that worked perfectly (even though it was grudgingly given, lol).

This is how it looks now. It's a start. All of the white space above my wooden shelf says DECORATE ME! I'm still thinking about what to do there. The wooden shelf will house word work folders once school gets started. I didn't have a whole lot of time to do more with my wild man running around my room.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Let's Talk About Morning Messages

Hey friends! Today, I wanted to talk to you about morning messages. Now, I have a easel/whiteboard that I LOVE and spend big bucks on. I envisioned writing wonderful morning messages on it before students arrived with pretty handwriting, maybe even some pictures drawn on there. I think we all know how long that lasted. I wanted meaningful morning messages that were centered around what we were learning. I spent one summer creating morning messages centered around themes of study. I ended up with over 50 weeks worth of messages.

Here we are FIVE years later! Using those morning messages has saved me so much time! Every morning, all I have to do is open the PDF for the theme I'm on(it's usually still open from the day before) and scroll to the message I want. Easy peasy. This is a time that we talk about days of the week, read the message together, target and find specific sight words and then (my favorite part) discuss the message. Depending on the message, I may have my students partner talk, each have a turn in front of the whole class, we may create a thinking/bubble map, create a graph or write about it. It involves absolutely NO prep. This gives your kids a chance to communicate with each other, have interesting conversations and help with your classroom family atmosphere.

I still use these messages every day. 

Here are some pictures of what it looks like in my classroom.
Here, I read the message with help, asked students to find specific sight words and circled them and then let them talk with their designated partner to answer the question. After some think and talk time we created a bubble map together.

Below is an example of how to tie the morning message in with your unit of study for the week. This gives students a chance to talk about what they are learning and connect it to other things.

 With this message students had the chance to talk to a partner and then write their response in their journal. 

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Let's Talk About Brag Tags

Hello friends! Let's talk about brag tags
So, this was my day: 

 That was a little over 700 brag tags. And I'm sure I've already prepped that and more before today. And...I'm probably not done. But I'm excited about these, so that's ok, right? (Asking for a friend.) 

I wanted to share some things I've learned about using brag tags and hopefully give you what you need to take that leap, if you haven't already. 

Yes, they need to be laminated. But, it doesn't matter if it's that thin stuff on the big roll at your school or the good stuff from your home laminator. I print mine on regular paper. Typically, I laminate them at home because it's easier for me. The ones I did at school with the flimsy laminate held up just fine.

Hole Punch
The 3 whole punch is your FRIEND! My hand would not be able to hand the single hole punch for this many. Using the 3 hole punch, you get 3 done at once and move faster (without killing your hands). It really doesn't matter if the hole isn't exactly in the center. The kids won't notice (or so I tell myself). 

Being totally honest, last year was the first year I used brag tags. I didn't have a fancy storage system. I used rubber bands to band like ones together and threw them all in a gallon size zippy bag. And guess what? It worked. 
This year, I'm getting fancy. I couldn't help it. I searched all over for one of these puppies. I found a ton online, but I needed to SEE it, for real, in person. I finally found this one at Northern. Home Depot and Lowes have them online. And some more honestly, if I couldn't find what I wanted, hubs would have lost the ones he has in the garage for nuts and bolts. 

I would recommend getting one with wide and narrow drawers. Pictured above is a wide drawer. The narrow ones will hold about 3 pages of brag tags cut up and the wide ones will hold about 18 pages of brag tags cut up (yes, I stuffed mine to the limit). 

Student Storage
My students have a necklace. No, they can't open the silver beaded necklaces and put the tag on their self. Yes, it can be a pain, especially if several students have a tag at once. But, I made it work. I've seen that another option is to give the students a notebook and let them glue the tag in it. Then they have a brag book. (and that would eliminate laminating and hole punching, hooray!)
I hung small command hooks in their cubbies to put their necklace on. They all held up the entire year and are ready for another year. 

Here are some up close pictures of some of my brag tags. Yes, I have a lot. Yes, I'm still adding more. Yes, I may have a little problem. I figure if I see that I'm not giving them out like I really want to, I can choose one behavior tag and focus on it for the week. I give the academic tags out as each student reaches that goal. If I don't do it right then, I know I will absolutely forget. The kids really get excited about these. Especially on the days I let them wear their necklace to lunch and they can show what they've earned. Last year, I really felt like this had a positive impact on my classroom. I'm excited to see how it goes this year. If you have any questions, let me know!