*Must Have* Class Roster!

Yes, every teacher has to have a handy roster.  We use them constantly- for attendance, for keeping track of forms, for assessment and grading, for email addresses, whatever!  I seriously go through dozens of these each year.  One handy download, and you’re set.  And better yet, you’ll look like you actually put some time and thought into making a cute roster, rather than the basic, computer generated ones given to you by the office.  Enjoy this quick download to make your back-to-school week easier!  🙂

 

-Laura

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Meet the Teacher Introduction Note!

“Who’s your teacher?”

“Have you found out who your kid has for a teacher?”

“What class is she in?”

 

It’s that time of year!  Kids are getting their letters, revealing who their teachers are for the upcoming year.  They want to know as much as they can about their teacher before the first day of school. Who is this mysterious person who will be in charge of my life at school for the next nine months?

Here is a simple printable for teachers and subs alike to introduce themselves to students and their families.  You can send it with their letter telling who their teacher will be, or you can give it at Meet the Teacher night.

I made it in a simple word doc so you can edit the pictures and info.  Enjoy!  Pass it on to your teacher friends!

-Laura

 

 

Back to School: Curriculum Overload!

It’s back to school time!

Bulletin boards!  Meet the Teacher Night!  Class Lists!  Labelling!  Laminating!

And on top of it all, they throw a few new curricula at you!  Yikes!

I have been there.  I have been teaching for eight years and not a single year has gone by without at least one new curriculum or program added.  That is a lot to handle, especially when you oftentimes get handed the books just days before you’re supposed to teach them.

To help us handle the overload of different curricula that we needed to teach, my team developed this Scope and Sequence Planning Chart.  It’s a basic excel document, but it will save you so much trouble!

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Why you need it:

-With big teams of teachers (mine was five teachers per grade!), it is imperative that we all stay on the same page, teaching the same units at the same time.

-With several curriculum per unit of study (two language arts, two math, one social studies, etc), it can get very easy to get behind.

-Starting with a laid out plan will save you from getting to May and realizing you haven’t taught a unit yet!  Yikes!

-With a plan in mind, you can work the units around the quarters (or trimesters), school breaks, testing windows, and school events.

-It will make you look super organized to both administrators and parents of students.

 

Here’s what you do:

-Download this planning chart for your team.

-Set a planning meeting with your whole team.  This will take at least an hour.

-Set the basic parameters of the planning chart, editing in Excel.  Add in your notes, trimesters or quarter breaks, and your curriculum titles at the top.

-With your team, physically collect and lay out all the curriculum you will be expected to teach this year.

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-Decide as a team what units you will aim to complete each week, month, and quarter.

-Print and save!  Stay on track all year!

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Check out this and many other useful resources at my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Miz Riz Kindergarten Resources! 

-Laura

 

First Day Folders!

Hello, teacher friends!

It’s that time, when teachers  get antsy  for school to begin.  Don’t get me wrong- we LOVE summer.  But we love teaching too.  And it is the natural rhythm to begin thinking of our back to school to-do list at this point in the year!

So I am sharing a must-have for back to school:  The First Day Folder Packet.  This is a packet filled with information about your school and classroom. I have revised, developed, and edited every year since I started teaching.  I feel like I have a solid product to offer now!  Screen Shot 2016-07-18 at 10.07.23 AM

This is a packet that is meant to send home on the first day of school, to answer as many questions that parents may have at one time.  You could also send it at open house or “Meet the Teacher” too.

It WILL need to be edited, of course, for your information.  You may need to delete or add sections.  But I hope having this template to use will make the process easier for you.

It covers these topics:
-Communication: Email, folders, directory, website
-Drop off/Pick Up routines
-Lunch/Snack options
-Birthday routines
-Volunteering
-Specialist schedule
-Homework
-School forms
-Rest/Nap time (specific to Kindergarten, may need to be deleted for other grades!)

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The format is easy to read, with bold headings and short paragraphs.  At the end, I also include a daily schedule and a form for parents to fill out so they can receive my emails and photo sharing posts.

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I hope you enjoy this product and find it easy to use!  Now, get back to your summer and enjoy those last few weeks!

 

-Laura

 

Keep those kids writing! {HUGE bundle of writing prompts!}

Writing is so much fun in the early grades!  I seriously hold my breath to see what the kids will write some days.  You never know what will come out of their little pencils!  They make me laugh, they create such fun stories, and sometimes they reveal personal pieces of their life and family.

I believe writing is so vital to the literacy block, something that deserves as much attention and focus as teaching children to read.  I have worked hard to incorporate writing into my literacy block in a fun way.

Let me share some things I do to keep kids writing!

Use RUBRICS to show them how to be successful at their level.

Early writing can be discouraging to kids, because they are still getting a handle on their sounds and fine motor skills of writing letters.  It can seem daunting to a five-year-old to get their thoughts on paper.  To show them exactly how to be successful, I use a writers workshop rubric.

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Start with such a basic rubric (especially in kindergarten), showing the expectation is that they simply draw a picture and attempt to write words that match.  This may be as simple as drawing a dog, and writing one letter.  As their skills increase, the rubric increases in expectation!

Connect writing to what you’re reading.

I love it when the literacy block can be integrated.  For example, we read books by one author.  We write in response to what we’re reading.  We study words in the books.  We look for connections between the books.  We watch how the character change and interact.    We do crafts and projects about that author’s books.  It’s so fun, real, memorable, and full of deep learning.  It’s a great way to avoid the “mile wide and an inch deep” issue, where we cover so many topics, but don’t go deeper into any of them.  This is deep, rich learning.

To accomplish this, we do author studies during our literacy block.  I have created several products to help this process!  See my store for resources to support author studies on Eric Carle, Mo Willems, Kevin Henkes, Jeff Brumbeau, and Nancy Carlson.

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Write about everything- Use writing prompts!

I love to let kids just free-write, and see what happens.  I often would see stories about dinosaurs and princesses!  And, I love having kids write about what they are reading, as I mentioned above.  But sometimes, I love to guide their writing on a certain topic.

I use writing prompts around holidays, seasons, and big events.  I want them to capture the moment in their writing, or think more deeply about the topic.  I use these simple, one-page printables.  Sometimes I keep them for portfolios or conferences, to show their amazing growth in their writing throughout the year.  I assembled all my writing prompts into one huge bundle, so you can have them all in one place.

 

However you do it, keep those kids writing!  Maybe summer is the perfect time to reevaluate how you use writing in class, and plan some fun new ways to write with your students!

-Laura

Back to School Writing Prompts: Making your first few weeks easier!

Hi teacher friends!

One of my summer resolutions was to add some new quality products to my store!  I was thinking today about what I could create that would make back to school a little easier for us all.  I thought about how stressful those first few weeks are, and how it is nice to have some short, filler lessons and activities.  Sometimes these activities can be last-minute and are not very valuable, so I wanted to create something worthwhile.

I think any kind of writing time is valuable.  I love printable writing prompts, because they are handy to use when you are teaching a specific skill.  I use them to work on writing conventions: punctuation, capitalization, spaces between words, complete sentences, and so on! They also are great to save for conferences or portfolios, so show growth in their writing over the months, without having to pull out a big writing binder or notebook.

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I did the hard work for you and correlated this to Common Core Standards for grades K through 3.  I hope that helps!  I know the stress of finding a standard to go with your lessons.

Also, a quick shout-out to Namely Original Clip Art!  I love her trendy style.  Check out her store.

So enjoy this quick and easy download!  And stay tuned: I have more writing prompts in the making!

Enjoy your summer!

-Laura

Guided Reading- You can DO THIS!

Guided Reading.  It’s the most wonderful time of the day!

I do love the time of meeting together with small groups of kids to teach them how to read.  Kids learn reading through many avenues, but guided reading is one of the best strategies to methodically, purposefully, intentionally teach kids how to read.

Also, in most schools, it is a required part of the literacy block.  So let’s do this.

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My class is cheering you on as you begin GUIDED READING!  🙂

Here are some strategies for beginning and maintaining guided reading.  I did the leg work with my kindergarten team.  Now you can benefit and run with it!

  1. Assess: Get a solid handle on their skill level- not just their reading level.

Use whatever assessment system works for you- we always used Fountas and Pinnell Reading Level Assessment- and get a formal reading level for every kid, as soon as you can.  Don’t delay!  But don’t forget to keep in mind other kinds of assessments that may come in handy.  For example, you may have a student who has a really high reading level for the age group, but is missing some foundational skills (rhyming, alliteration, letter sounds).  Consider all those assessments when making groups.  I always did between 5 to 7 groups, depending on my class size.  I never wanted more than six in my group.

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2. Schedule: Make a timeline of when you will meet with each group and stick to it.

I know it is hard and things come up, but you have to think of Guided Reading as priority number one in literacy block.  Don’t skimp on it.  Don’t let it get frittered away.  You have to pick a system that works for you.  I decided on doing one group per day, and giving it a solid twenty minutes.  That meant that I would meet with every group one time per week, plus one on one conferences throughout the week.  I also pulled my lower groups occasionally to focus in on them more.  If you want a sample daily schedule (FREEBIE!), check out my Teachers Pay Teachers store, Miz Riz Kindergarten Resources!

act now 3. Gather resources: Books, books, books.

You need books.  Texts. Articles. Poems. Big books.  This may be the most daunting task.  But you will be glad you put in the work on the front end to have a good text in front of your group.  First, this is the time to think through your objectives, because that will drive your book selection.  Yes, teaching kids how to read is the main objective, but what specific skills are  you going to focus on for this specific group on this specific week?  To help with this process, my team and I created a set of Guided Reading Recording Sheets for Reading Levels A through N (approximately kindergarten through 3rd grade level).   These check off sheets keep you focused on what skills correlate well with each level, and they build upon each other so you don’t miss any skills!  Here’s a preview!

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4. Follow through: Don’t let guided reading get stolen from you!

Here comes the fun part- actually teaching the lessons you planned!  Gather your group, plan for what the other kids will be doing, and get to business teaching them the skill you’re focusing on that day!

Also, follow through by letting kids bring home the books you read or similar books in book bags, so they can read them to their families!  Use this book baggie letter to explain the process to parents!

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5. Assess as you go: Checklists are a lifesaver.

Don’t just teach it, assess it.  Formatively assessing means adjusting as you go.  If a student is totally not getting what you’re teaching, jot a note right away on the above Recording Forms.  Or if a student is flying through a level and you think it may be time to reassess their level, write yourself a note!  You think you will remember, but you won’t!  Write everything down as you go, so that you can revisit your notes in the next step!

6.  Regroup:  Both literally and figuratively.

Literally, don’t keep the same groups all year.  Regroup based on skills you find lacking or growing, or based on group dynamics, or based on kids needing fresh faces in their groups.  Figuratively, regroup as well.  Every few weeks, take a mental step back and really think about how your groups are going.  Are some not making the progress you’d like to see?  Are some strategies challenging and need to be retaught?  It will help a lot if you can take a moment and refocus your energies.

 

Guided reading is a big task, but it is so worth the time investment.  I hope these tips make it a little more enjoyable for you!

-Laura

Have the BEST classroom open house this fall!

You report back to school on your first teacher work day and immediately are faced with the biggest to-do list. You have to get your classroom in working order after being packed up for the summer. You have to get new curriculum prepped and ready. You have to get a handle on your class list and anticipate any special needs. And perhaps the biggest, most imminent task to accomplish: the dreaded Open House!

 

This event goes by different names. Open House. Meet the Teacher. Kindergarten Round-up. Back to School Bash.

 

Whatever you call it, the stress level is the same. You have one opportunity to make a first impression, and this is it. You are presenting yourself, your teaching style, and your classroom.

 

Here are some tips and resources to make your open house more manageable, so you can breeze into the new school year! Enjoy!

 

  1. Keep it simple.

Yes, simple. You do not have to have everything pinterest-perfect. You do not have to have every poster on the wall or every book on the right shelf. Focus on the basics, the essentials, and leave the cute stuff for later.

 

The essentials to me were:

-nametags on cubbies/lockers and tables

-forms that needed to be filled out prepared and set out

-scavenger hunt ready to go (see below for more info)

-small gift in student cubbies/lockers (see below for more info)

-boxes and bins generally put away

 

That’s it. No need to put your whole philosophy of education into a formal letter. No need to coordinate themed posters and name tags. No need to clean out every shelf. Keep it simple.

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Keep it simple- name tags ready!
  1. Have something for students and parents to accomplish.

Sometimes an open house gets a little too… open. Do you know what I mean? Parents and students wander around, wondering what to do, hoping for their questions to be answered. To keep some focus, I always prepare a scavenger hunt for families to complete together. You can access my scavenger hunt on my Teachers Pay Teacher store and edit it to your specific needs.

 

Some of the items they will be asked to check off include:

-finding their desk and cubby

-filling out the necessary forms

-finding the important places in the building- bathrooms, office, nurse, etc.

 

How I use this is so helpful. I stand by the door and greet families, introducing myself. Then I hand each family a scavenger hunt and say this is what I hope they accomplish tonight, and that I am available for any questions. Then, off they go, scavenger hunt in hand, to do all their tasks. I see them about 20 minutes later, and get a chance to connect, answer questions, and say goodbye.

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  1. Forms, forms, forms

Yes, I know this seems to go against my “Keep It Simple” step, but unfortunately it is usually a necessary evil. I have always counted on open house time to get a jump on the forms. Each school has their own specific forms they need to fill out. But there are two general ones I always like to have parents fill out, so I can know some information before the first day.

 

– Bussing. There is nothing more stressful to me than not knowing where a student is going at the end of the day. We had a lot of students who had alternating schedules (Monday and Wednesday they go to Spanish, Tuesday and Thursday they go to the afterschool program, Friday they are picked up.) I always had to have a clear way of knowing where everyone was going. I used this bussing schedule and the parents could fill it out before school started.

 

-Birthdays. There is always a kid with a birthday either the first week or the second week of school. I need a heads up for this or it might get lost in the business of the first few weeks! I have parents fill out these little birthday cake cards to help me. They are handy because they fit perfectly into a regular calendar pocket chart, so you can save them and use them for the child’s birthday month.

 

  1. Prepare for their questions.

There is a lot of anxiety around starting a new school year for both kids and parents. One way you can alleviate the stress is by preemptively answering their most pressing questions.

 

– “What is our specialist schedule?” So glad you asked! Here is a handy schedule you can keep on your fridge!

– “What does a typical day look like?” How did I know you were going to ask that? Here’s an hour-by-hour break down of a typical day!

-“ What about lunch?” I know that’s going to be the most exciting time of the day! So here’s your lunch number and a handy keypad handout so you can practice punching it in at home!

 

Now, don’t you look like such a prepared teacher?!

 

  1. Give a gift

It is fun to send the students off with a little gift so they can remember you and get excited about being in your class. I have done many different gifts over the years. One year my team felt ambitious and melted old crayons into new number-shaped crayons and gave each kid their room number in crayons. Tons of work, but a super cute gift!

 

Another year, we simply gave each student bubbles and a note saying something like “I’m going to pop with excitement to have you in my class!”

 

This is another fun gift. I print this out and attach it to a small gift bag filled with a pencil, eraser, Band-Aid, sticker, and Smartie candy. The note has a cute saying for each item. For example, with the eraser, it says “We will make mistakes, but we will try again!”.

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You could make personalized pencils or treat bags. Anything to get the year off to a great start!

 

Here you go! You’re ready! I hope this helps you enjoy, and not stress, about your open house!

 

-Laura

Back to School: 5 Tips to Beginning the Year with the End in Mind.

BEGIN with the END in mind.  I have taken that thought to heart, so I’m writing down some of my thoughts from the end of the school year in hopes that it will impact the beginning of next year.  The end of each school year brings a moment of reflection for me.  What went well?  What didn’t go well?  What was a mess?  What was wonderful?  If you teach, I think that moment of reflection is absolutely necessary.  That alone will help you grow as a teacher more than hours and hours of professional development or staff meetings.

Get to know at least one personal thing about each kid as early as possible.

I got this advice from The Well-Balanced Teacher by Mike Anderson (here on Amazon), an audio book I listened to a while back.  He suggests listing your students from memory, in the order that they come to mind.  This shows you who your “under the radar” kids are, because they will probably be the last on your list.  Then he suggests to list next to each one a personal connection with the kid.  Maybe it’s their favorite show, toy, song, or sport.  Maybe it’s something you have in common.  Then, when you have a moment throughout the day, you have something to build on, to begin a relationships with them beyond the lessons of a normal day.  For example, I realized Eliana loved music.  Then, we talked about her favorite singers.  Then she told me she wants to be a pop star when she grows up (oh man…).  Then, I suggested we do a Kids Bop video during choice time.  And it goes on and on, building a friendship and memories together.  I don’t have to tell you how that impacts the education of a student!  Those connections are critical!

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Start each day by telling the students the schedule for the day.  

This became even more important this year because I had a few students with autism who clung to that schedule like their lives depended on it.  But every kid, especially a five year old, likes to know what’s coming.  They like surprises too, however.  So I would start every morning meeting with something like, “We have a normal day today- circle, reading, choice time, lunch and recess, math, snack, gym, science, and dismissal.  But, I’m NOT going to tell you what we’re doing in math today because you’re going to be SO surprised.”  That little unknown mystery can keep them excited for hours.  I love that little trick.  It adds a lot of joy to the day!

I used this flip chart during our morning meeting and this editable specialist schedule to keep organized in this area!

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Listen to what your students are saying. 

Not what you think they’re implying or what you expect them to say.  It is always faster, more efficient, and more compassionate to just take the time on the front end to listen to them.  This is especially true in social situations.  Aren’t we all guilty of the shrug off at times?

“Ben said I was mean!” cries a child to you during choice time.

Don’t Say: “Okay, I’ll talk to him.”  Or “Tell him to be nice.”

Do Say: “Let’s go figure it out together.”

In the end, it would be so much more useful to bite the bullet, take the time, and go and really help the kids solve the problem.

Do not pick up after them. 

Yes, you want a clean classroom.  And yes, you share a room with 25 crumby, crafty, glittery, sticky little five-year-olds.  But you CAN have a clean room.  You just have to insist on it and set your standard high.  I am learning this from my coworker, Sharon.  Her room is spotless, so that you’d think she didn’t have a class in there day after day.  But I know for a fact that she’s doing all the same cutting, gluing, glittering, painting, and coloring that I am in my room!  So she taught me something so valuable this year.  She teaches the kids to clean and makes it a game.  It’s a high expectation.  We don’t move on until it’s clean.

I also started using the phrase, “Your ticket to the [insert playground, lining up, circle rug, wherever you’re going next] is 10 things off the floor!”  Then they show me their ten scraps like they’re giving me their movie stub.  It worked wonders and the kids became so good at it.  Your engineers or janitors will thank you!

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My class on a quite clean day!

If a behavior bothers you, address it early.

I am guilty of putting behaviors on the back burner until “it gets to be a real problem.”  If it’s bothering you and changing how you think of a child, then address it.  Sometimes a simple conversation with the child is all it will take.  Address it early and often, and then move on.  If a conversation doesn’t fix the problem, I usually use this behavior chart as a first line of defense.  And a parent phone call or email works wonders too!

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Those are my thoughts after another great year with my students.  What are some “take away” thoughts or advice that you learned this year, teachers?

Laura