First Full Week With Some ELA Fun!

The first full week is complete and I am SHOT!! Don’t get me wrong, it was a great week but man I am exhausted with this new sleep/work routine.

I love my class! I knew that last week was great but that was only 2 days. I got to have a full week of “normality” with them and was able to see their real personalities. I have a few chatty kiddos but after my overly emotional class last year with multiple chatty kids, this feels like nothing! They are also super sweet and thoughtful! I had one of my amazing kids bring me a little pick me up this morning. (His mom is a teacher so that was a major part of it but still, it made my whole day!)

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This week we started our first official reading unit/lesson. The main focus of this week was to talk about story structure/elements. Because these are 4th graders, most of them are pretty familiar with characters, setting, and plot. (Last year, even at the end of the year, some of my kids didn’t know what a setting was???) I didn’t want this week to be too dull and boring for them. I obviously love projects and doing something other than boring worksheets whenever I can so I had to look into my giant reading resources binder.

**Side note: My first year at my old school, we didn’t have the best reading curriculum (in my opinion of course.) The main idea of the curriculum was that there was one main target taught for 3 full weeks in a roll. Meaning that if the unit was on main idea, we taught main idea for 3 weeks. The down side to that, the curriculum gave us NOTHING to use for those 3 weeks. I spent many hours searching TPT and Pinterest that first year finding hundreds of activities, projects, and graphic organizers for each unit. It was a lot of work that year but I have so many great resources to use now!**

One thing that I found in the binder was a graphic organizer that I actually got from my mom (who has been teaching for 23 years.) She copied it from one of her reading resource books she bought from some teacher store (life before TPT and Pinterest.) The organizer was in the shape of a quilt square. I’m not exactly sure what it was originally made for but my mom used it to share books and certain chapters students would read. I used it as a way to share story elements from different books they have read to practice our week’s topic strategy.

They took the organizer and put the title, author, and rating (that they gave out of 5 stars) in the middle. I then had them share the setting, characters, and plot from the book. Finally, they wrote about their favorite part. Once they were finished they got to color and decorate there squares. I did this last year and took all of their quilt squares to make a giant quilt on the wall. I have yet to post their squares this year but most of them finished and did an AMAZING job. (Again, incredible kids!)

This week was a little crazy trying to get back into the groove of things but these kids made it so fun and easy. I am so excited to get back and see them on Monday!! I just have all of my fingers crossed that they stay this sweet and awesome!

Happy Friday friends!!

 

Because the summer is over and we are officially back, I am now back to posting as much as I can on my school’s instagram page! Go follow me at @lifeoftherookieteacher to see all of my day to day stories and pictures of my awesome class and our adventures!!

First 2 Days!!

Happy Friday everyone (and happy back to school week for those who started like me)!!! Oh my goodness, I love my new class! The past 2 days with kids has been crazy and chaotic but just because of the housekeeping that had to be done. My class was amazing with listening, and following directions on what needed to be done. It’s only been my 3rd official first day but this was by far the most well behaved my classes have been with the crazy.

The first day was filled with a few get to know you activities and A LOT of organizing and housekeeping. Our school does this fun thing right away where the entire building meets in our gym before anyone goes to any classrooms. We get to see all of the kiddos, all staff introduces themselves, and then the principal gives everyone a welcome back message! I’ve really enjoyed the kick off.

When we came back to our room, before we got anything out and organized, we sat in our morning meeting circle and I did one of my favorite get to know you activities. I found this on Pinterest a few years ago and have used it ever since. I show the students a roll of toilet paper. (Cue the laughter!) I don’t tell them what they need it for but I do tell them they are going to take off 1, 2, or 3 squares from the roll and then will pass it on to the next student. Most class clowns will pick the 3 (one year I let them choose 1-5 and most of my crazy clowns picked 5) because they think it’s funny. I then tell them that the number of squares they have will represent the number of things they will share with the class about themselves. Super fun and a big hit!

Of course I had to read 1st Day Jitters by Jane Danneberg because what teacher doesn’t read that fun book the first day back? We then did a silly activity where they worked together to draw a silly face. It was a perfect team building activity to break the ice and a way for us to talk about how everyone is different.

The rest of the day was mainly full of getting things put where they were supposed to go and explanations given on all of the little things around my room, like jobs and lunch, and how I do them. Overall, it was an easy first day.

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Classic first day of school pic!

Today was still crazy but we got to do a lot more fun stuff. I always have a morning message on the board explaining morning jobs that need to be completed. I tested them this morning by just seeing if they could follow the directions without me prompting them. (Just so I can see who can and cannot follow those directions.) Most of my kids knew what to do! It was amazing!!

Our morning meeting game was a get to know you Bingo. We also used this as a way to talk about how it’s okay if you don’t win, it’s just fun to learn about your new classmates. Again, they did awesome.

I then read a fun new book by Karen Kilpatrick and Luis O. Ramos Jr. called, When Pencil met Eraser. The main purpose of the book was to focus on friendship and team work. That lead into a discussion on what we look for in a friend. They each got a sheet that had them brainstorm what they want in a friend and what friendship looks like, sounds like, and feels like. We talked about it together and then they started our first writing activity of the year.

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I wanted them to write a letter/wanted ad to explain what they were looking for in a friend. I gave them strict directions on writing the letter/ad, where to put it when they were done, and to read to self when they were finished all in silence. I honestly said this one time and they did it! Without me having to ask more than once or redirecting anyone. Seriously, my jaw is dropping just thinking about it now. They displayed their ads on our awesome work wall so everyone in the class could read them.

We then took some time to talk about rules and consequences. I’m big on having them come up with their own rules and their own consequences for the classroom. That way they have ownership in how our room runs and ownership in the consequences for not following their own rules.

We spent some time brainstorming rules and consequences they have had in the past and decided on 6 main rules and 6 main consequences for our class. I created 2 posters and then had them sign both saying they agree to the consequences and rules they created. (If you saw on of my original posts, you’ll know that I also do this when we come back from Christmas break to kickstart the second part of the year.)

Finally, the last activity we did today was a fun time capsule activity. Each student got a packet full of different things they write about now and will see if they changed by the year. The packet had some fun things like, your hand size and foot size that they loved!! It was so fun watching them. I also had them take an empty map of the US and fill in as many states as they could (in 4th grade they learn all the states and capitals) so they can compare it to what they know the last day of school. They then wrote a letter to their last day of 4th grade self that they get to read when they get their time capsules back.

Overall, it was a fun couple of days. Don’t get me wrong I am EXHAUSTED but it was fun! I am so excited for the year. These are great kids and I know great things will happen! The first 2 days are done! Year 3, here we go!!
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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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Teacher Hack – Pencil Popsicle Sticks

It’s that time of the summer, the school itch is starting to crawl into my mind. I’m starting to look at Pinterest more and more trying to find new tips and hacks for this upcoming school year. I love finding new ways to make class organization easier in the summer. (And anything that is a DIY project is an added bonus!)

This year I’m going to be teaching reading 4 times throughout the day to 4 different leveled groups. I’ll have my own homeroom but for most of the day I’ll be working with 100 different kiddos. I’m used to having one class for the whole day but trying to organize 4 different classes with 25 students in each is going to be tricky.

A fun hack (and project) I found on a Teacher Hacks Facebook page and on Pinterest is a ways to organize popsicle sticks to know who you’ve picked on so far and who you haven’t. I mainly use popsicle sticks to pick partners to read with or to pick players in certain games. I found this awesome hack of turning the popsicle sticks into pencils.

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This was super easy! I painted a pink eraser on one end, yellow in the middle, and then drew the pencil tip with a black sharpie on the other end.

The fun hack is you put the popsicle sticks inĀ  whatever you are picking from (I use the metal baskets found in the party section at Target) eraser side up. When you pick a name you put it back in the basket pencil tip up so you know you’ve already picked that stick. It’s so simple and yet so useful!

To help me organize 100+ different sticks I purchased 4 different white metal buckets from Target. Each of our 4 classes are given a color to identify their group (another organization tip.) This year we will be having a red group, green group, blue group, and a purple group. I bought colored washi tape for each bucket, the colors being the 4 color names of our groups. I taped the top part of each basket with a certain color so I’ll know what bucket holds which classes sticks.

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I’m super excited for this new adventure in teaching but I’m also really nervous. I love reading but I’m not sure how I’ll feel about doing the same lesson 4 times a day. I’m also not sure how I’m going to keep this whole thing organized. For the next month I’m going to be doing a lot of research on how to teach multiple classes. If anyone has any tricks, tips, or hacks that they use let me know! I would love to hear how you manage multiple classes while keeping your sanity and organization!