New Classroom, New Grade, New Challenge!

Uff-dah (yes that is the Minnesotan in me but that is how I feel!) It has been one insane week with some BIG changes!!

Last Friday I posted about finally finishing my classroom but then was hit with the bombshell, someone in our grade level would have to move from 3rd to 4th grade. Well fast forward to Monday and that bombshell hit me especially hard. Because I am the rookie on my team, I drew the short stick and was told by our new principal and superintendent that I would have to be the one to move.

This was a lot to take in! They were both super nice about it when they came to talk/comfort me. They told me that they were going to make this change as easy as possible for me. I told them that I had just finishing moving into my new room (in the 3rd grade wing) 3 days prior so they told me I could stay in that room if I wanted to. Honestly, that day was all a haze. I had originally thought I was going to move over to the empty 4th grade classroom but as the day progressed instead of worrying about the new curriculum and my new students, all I could think about was moving into a new room. I realized my priorities were not in the right spot so I shouldn’t move.

I talked to my 4th grade team about that decision and they told me they would have made the same choice and there was no reason for me to add that stress! Of course other staff in the building didn’t agree with that choice so I was bombarded with non stop opinions for 2 days. I kept hearing from other staff members that parents will be upset and students won’t like “sharing bathrooms and locker areas with 3rd graders.” I get that some families might not be thrilled about the location of the classroom but at the end of the day it’s what happens in the classroom that matters the most. Finally, I told another team mate about the constant “advice” I was receiving and she stopped it in its tracks. She literally saved my sanity!

After all of the drama dust subsided I finally got to meet with some of my new teammates and spent many hours replanning my first few weeks of school. I definitely spent more time at school this week than I had planned (especially considering it was workshop week so I knew I would be there everyday anyways) but I left today feeling like I can do this. I taught 4th grade 2 years ago, so I know what to expect. It’s just sad that I don’t get to work with the same awesome people again. I was also excited to know what I was teaching for once but I guess I’m made for the challenge.

Anyways… after all of that fun stuff I wanted to share my new classroom that was prepped for 3rd grade but was transformed for 4th grade!

First things first, it might look plain but I love to use tables instead of desks. I HATE clutter. Tables don’t completely solve the problem but nothing gets buried inside. They are also a great way to promote groups and collaboration between students throughout the day. I also added little buckets on each table filled with a mix of markers, crayons, colored pencils, and pens. I found these adorable buckets (confetti themed) at Target for only $1.00 a piece. I have 7 tables so I have 7 buckets, each with a sticker number on them so I can have numbered groups.

The front of my room is not the most exciting but I centered it around our reading curriculum. When I thought I would be teaching 3rd grade, I was only going to be teaching reading. I found many word work, spelling, and writing activities on TPT over the summer to go with the curriculum, so I didn’t want them to go to waste. I LOVE the Teacher Resources confetti theme! I used it last year so I built off of it this year. I found those cute confetti circles with positive affirmations. I am BIG on positive mindset in my classroom so they were perfect!

Next is my new reading corner. I don’t have all of the space I would like for this area but I made the most of it! Our school does AR to encourage reading. The school gives away prizes for students when they earn a certain amount of points but to encourage taking AR tests more and having point goals, I have my own point/incentive program. Last year, AR was new to me so I didn’t have much set up. This year I wanted to have a bright and fun display of the points each student has next to a sign of the incentives for each goal. When a student gets 50 points they will get to take a clothes pin (they are all numbered so students find their class number) and clip it to the sign. As they get more points, they get to keep moving their pin. I found these amazing confetti/neon labels for $3.00 on TPT from Cherry Workshop‘s store. I used the signs in this file for many labels around my room.

I bought these mini confetti labels from amazon for $6.99. They come in a pack of 30 and I love them for my lunch count/attendance taker. I used them last year as well. It’s a quick and easy way for me to see what the lunch count is and if anyone is absent. Last year I struggled with organizing papers for each subject that was handed in throughout the day. This year I decided to buy these drawers from Target for $9.99 each (not the cheapest but worth it) and label them for each subject. This way when my students hand things in, they will already be sorted by subject for me. I also wanted to spruce up my dull walls (I like to put fabric in the background to brighten things up but the walls are so high in this new room that I can’t reach the top) so I put up these 3 positive mindset posters from the teacher store Lakeshore Learning. I love their messages but I also find them super cute!

The back of my room is my favorite. Again, most of these are all from the confetti themed section found at Teacher Resources (also their store on Amazon.) My schedule was made using the neon labels I bought on TPT that also had the signs I used for my AR display. I love the teacher hack of using a push pin wall to display student work in a quick and easy way. I hot glued a push pin to the back of a clothes pin and a number tag to the front of the clothes pin to make the mounts. That is all the work I have to do there. Now as the year goes on when we have a project, I won’t have to waste time stapling or taping up their work because they can easily do it! Growing up with a teacher mom, I would usually be the one to put up and display her students’ work. I hated it and it easily became my biggest pet peeve. So seriously, this is my favorite time saver!

 

Oh man it has definitely been a week and the kids aren’t even here yet. I’m just hoping it’s all is up hill from here. To help take care of with my newly added stress, I got a sweet little surprise today. I have one student this year that I also had in my class last year. Luckily, she was one of my all time favorites! Today I got a sweet little gift and card from her saying she was excited to have me again. It’s those little things that make all the difference! I seriously started to cry when it showed up at school today! Now to enjoy the last official weekend before the year begins.

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SCHOOL’S OUT FOR SUMMER

I am pumped! Today has been an emotional day for sure. I was so excited for this day to come but when I was sitting in my room with my kiddos the last 5 minutes of the day, I realized I didn’t want them to leave. It has been such a great and amazing year.

We started the day off by moving all of our tables into one giant table. I wanted us to be together as a group for our last day instead of separated by 5 different tables. They came in and it was very chaotic (just as expected.) I had a mini word search for them to work on as something to do but most of them didn’t find that to be as exciting as laughing and talking with the rest of their friends, which is understandable. By the time they settled down we came to make a circle at the front of the classroom for our last morning meeting together.

During the meeting we did an activity that we did on the first day of school. The activity is one of my favorites that involves toilet paper (which they find to be hilarious!) I pass around rolls of toilet paper and they are told to take 1-3 pieces. (Some versions of this activity say to have them take as many as they want without telling them what it’s for but I found with 3rd graders, that was too much to handle.) On the first day of school they had to then tell myself and the class that many things about themselves, today they had to share that many memories/favorite things about 3rd grade. It was super sweet. Most of them took it pretty seriously and had some really good answers. We had some funny moments that came back up as well. It was nice for me to get a flashback of the year to remember what all happened.

I then had them go back to their spots and take out something to write with. I gave them each a blank piece of printer paper and told them to write their name in the middle and circle it. We then spent the next 15 minutes passing each sheet around the table so each student could write something nice on everyone’s piece of paper. It could be something they liked about that person, a nice memory, or a kind word. Again, most of them took this seriously and loved it. (Yes a few tried to be “funny” or “too cool” for the activity but the nice thing was that the rest of the class didn’t feed into any of that.)

Once we finished I read the great book Last Day Blues by Julia Danneberg and then we went to play outside. They went straight to specials and I took out their end of the year gifts to put at their spots. I found a pack of 24 “80’s style” sunglasses on amazon for $16.47 (prime) and  24 jump ropes for $39.75 (prime) and put together a little message to go with it. Props to Pinterest’s help on this one. I wrote each of them their own personalized card and put in the message “you shined so bright this year, now it’s time to jump into summer” into each one. (Hence the sunglasses and the jump ropes….not original, I know but easy!) Because they are sweet 8 and 9 year olds, they LOVED it!

To end the day I had put together a slideshow/video of our year together. I love taking pictures of everything we do throughout the year because I love looking back at the memories and how much they’ve grown. I also love putting it together into one movie to share with all of the families. We watched our slideshow and then took some final end of the year class pictures.

I am going to miss my class so much! We’ve had our struggles, oh yes, but they were all sweet and kindhearted and that is something I will truly miss. They have been such an incredible group of kids who cared so much about everyone else. My one goal when the year starts is to make them all love to be at school and today I got to see that I accomplished that. One of my boys who has never been afraid to tell me he hates school told me today he was very sad that school was over and that he would really miss me. He followed that up with a hug and I almost started to cry. It was everything I had worked so hard for. It’s those moments that make it all worth it.

That being said, I am very happy it is summer! I am EXHAUSTED and ready to sleep, read, swim, eat, and do whatever else I want to do when I want to do it. Tonight I plan on binging on pizza and having a nice cold one as my reward for making it through! Happy summer to my fellow teachers who are on their breaks and to all of my friends still in school, keep plugging through, you are AMAZING!!

As for me, peace out to year 2! I am so excited for year 3!!

BINGO, Kickball, and Officially Published

Happy Friday friends!!! More like FINALLY FRIDAY!! Holy cow this last month of school is a marathon and we’re ALL feeling it.

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Today we had an early release for students so we could have a professional development afternoon. Because of that, we all tried to make today a fun day. We started the day with school wide BINGO. We’ve had a school wide goal since the beginning of the school year to read 25,000 books by the end of the year. We reached that back in February so we bumped the goal to 50,000. We have benchmark prizes throughout and BINGO was the prize for reaching 44,000. [[Super fun right!? Well it was at first….

Every Friday we have some “Friday free choice” time right away in the morning for about 20ish minutes to start the day. Because BINGO started right at the start of the day, we didn’t get time to do our free choice time. My kids were upset about this and didn’t understand why they couldn’t have both. Really?

When we started to play BINGO my class was the first 3rd grade class to get a BINGO so we won a class prize from the principals. Sometime in the next few weeks they’ll be taking my class outside to play some kickball. When my students found out this was the prize, half of my class threw a fit because they don’t like kickball. Who doesn’t want to get out of class on a nice spring day to play kickball!? Honestly it blew my mind. I was livid with how they were reacting. Oh my goodness, seriously.

After BINGO we finished a math test and then we watched Because of Winn-Dixie because we finished the book. A few of my highly emotional students (who work with our school social workers multiple times a day) were crying because they didn’t feel like watching a movie today. Ummmmmmmm what!? What 8 year old doesn’t want to watch a movie in school!? Oh my goodness I almost lost it.

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Majority of my class was super awesome during BINGO and during the movie but it’s those handful of 3-4 that ruin my mood because there has to be a problem with everything. I can’t win with them.

A super positive side about today though was that we finally got our published books in the mail. A few weeks ago my class created our own book. A friend of mine told me about this awesome company called Student Treasures. What the company does is it sends a teacher a book making kit for their class. In the kit there is a full list of instructions and order forms to send home. You come up with an idea on what you want to write about and go from there. One teacher I know made a class cookbook and another made their own “I survived” story. The site also has a ton of ideas and examples of different class books that have been made. Once the whole process is completed on the teachers end, the whole kit gets sent back and the company does all of the publishing! A few weeks later the books arrive and they are amazing!

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My class recently read the Wayside School series by Louis Sacher. We decided to base our book off of that series by making our own wacky and crazy stories. Each student wrote a chapter about themselves. They got to come up with a silly story about what they might do in our class and illustrate a picture to go with it. Today the books came!

The title of our book was Upside Down Stories From Becker Intermediate School. They turned out so cute and the kiddos were so excited. The book comes with a dedication page and a “meet the authors” page. My kids were adorable on their dedication. We talked together as a class and came up with two different dedications. The first was they wanted to dedicate our book to another 3rd grade teacher, the one who originally gave me the idea because she did it with her class. The second dedication was “to all of the sick.” They wanted to bring some cheer to anyone who isn’t feeling that great. They want anyone out there to have a good laugh because that makes everyone feel better. I was so proud when they decided on their two dedications. I had nothing to do with what they wanted.

 

At the beginning of our book I wrote a little introduction with the chapters for each student but the rest is all them! I am including examples from the different chapters in our book because I find them super cute and innocent.

 

It was a super fun process to build our class relationship. We decided on commonalities for our fake class like a common class discipline system and the name of the school principal. A lot of them decided to include other classmates in their stories (I told them as long as it was appropriate and they got permission from the other student, they could include whatever they wanted.) Overall, it was such a fun process. I HIGHLY recommend looking into Student Treasures next school year. It’s probably a little too late at this point of the year because it takes some time for the books to get back to you, but I think it is something every class should participate in.

Oh man, the end of the year cannot come soon enough. I love my class but MY GOODNESS they are losing their minds! Here’s to all of you teachers out there who understand the May feels.

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For more day to day activities and projects, go follow my class instagram page @lifeoftherookieteacher!