This year, my classroom theme is Mary Poppins. It has been my favorite classroom so far in my teaching career. It’s not in your face, but it’s also pleasing to the eye. It is my happy place. One of my absolute favorite aspects of the room is actually outside of my room – our hallway display board! It’s so simple and so vibrant. It’s easy to create and (seriously, the best of all) it can be kept up all year long! I’ve had questions about this board from the second I put it up, so here we go! You will need: black bulletin board paper, bulletin board paper in a bright color of your choice, a fun border, bulletin board letters or white paper to print your letters on. Step 1: Tape a long piece of black bulletin board paper to any type of Smart Board or onto a wall if you have a projector. Step 2: Find a Mary Poppins silhouette image online (by searching “Mary Poppins silhouette” on Google Images) and enlarge it to your entire computer screen by zooming in on the picture. Project this on your Smart Board or wall. If your paper does not fit over the entire image (see Continue Reading
If you teach kindergarten or have been in a kindergarten classroom for a while, you know that centers can be difficult to put into place. Young students come to us with very little independence and are not able to read directions. Hands-on activities are key to a successful kindergarten classroom. I came from teaching high achieving first and third grade, so I was familiar with a fast paced, centers-based, independent, active math block. As I prepped for kindergarten math, I made sure I had many activities and manipulatives ready to go. BUT as I began getting into the groove of teaching math to my scholars, I reflected on what was and wasn’t working with my young students. You can read more about that here. I realized that I needed to simplify and make activities low prep for myself and predictable for my students. Here are a few of the centers that are working WONDERFULLY for our classroom this year… White Boards – The magical oh-so-much-more-wonderful version of paper. At the beginning of the year, students practiced writing numbers 1-30 using a number line. Currently, my students are writing as many addition sentences as they can on their own. I’m not quite Continue Reading
Fluency is such an important part of our lives in the primary grades. Letter fluency, sound fluency, sight word fluency, math fluency…the list goes on and on. Our classroom even has a “Fluency Center” where students practice their very own set of 10 sight words each day. However, there is not enough urgency at that center….and to be honest, I was craving more urgency. I wanted my students to want to see how quickly and consistently they could recite letter sounds and sight words, but I wasn’t quite happy with what I had going on. Then I was introduced to Spot It. By a second grader. …and of course I ordered it the very next day. Yup! That’s the truth! This game transformed my small group warm up in literally one day. All students are on task. They have to be. They game requires that you are constantly observing, constantly reassessing, constantly making connections between different images or words. There are so many versions of this game, which is wonderful for teachers who want to keep those struggling students actively engaged. How to play: The game is extremely simple, but challenges the brain the entire time. Because of this, it is perfect for primary grades. Students feel successful and Continue Reading
When I taught first grade, our math centers rocked. Like seriously, it was awesome. The kids were on task while using manipulatives, journals were getting done on time, each group came to me for small group, and we finished 3-4 rotations per day in about one hour and ten minutes. I used this organization of centers and small group to make our time together as successful as it could be. When I taught third grade, math was even more independent. We had math early finisher projects that the kids LOVED. The kids came to small group, had a computer center, and a math activity center. I pulled them for extra practice often, used lots of manipulatives to practice multiplication, and enjoyed watching them grow into upper elementary math scholars. Teaching kindergarten is a totally different ball game. Independence is a far-fetched idea. I rarely get through more than two groups. I can no longer prep center activities that match our current skill. Centers are completely review. …And for a while, I felt awful. Math was the one time of the day I would get anxiety. I had spent a lot of time this summer prepping and updating my math center Continue Reading
When I taught third grade, my students whined and complained when I asked them to write. They struggled to write when directed and when working independently. They lacked experience in sentence formation and frequently struggled with spelling. It pained me to watch them get frustrated, and it pained to me edit their work and ask them to write it over yet again. I was determined to make my students enjoy writing, and to produce quality writing in the process. We are daily writers in Kindergarten. I strongly believe that if you encourage writing from the get go, students will naturally write. No stress, no frustration, no tears. I intentionally integrate writing all day long. This has developed a love for writing in my kindergarteners. (DISCLAIMER – The first month or so of kindergarten is rough. I get that. Believe me, our first unprompted writing sample was no fun. I had criers and quitters. However, I teach writing in a teacher directed format during the first month or so, and then move toward independence. I differentiate in my classroom and within activities every day. The activities below are just samples. They are not necessarily completed by my entire class.) Each morning, we begin with our morning journal. The Continue Reading
I truly don’t even know where to begin as I reflect back on my two days at The Ron Clark Academy. While I was there, I was in educator heaven. I was amazed, excited, curious, and constantly thinking “How can I work this out in my classroom?” I did not want to leave! I feel as though I am constantly telling someone something or some part of a story from RCA while I’m at school each day. It was definitely THE most life changing Professional Development I have ever attended. The number one most noticeable and most impressive part of the trip was the students. Every single one of them is genuinely interested in you and excited to have you at the school. Before walking in, a young man approached me, called me mam, asked for my name, and gave me a name tag while finding out where our group was from and asking all sorts of questions. It was IMPRESSIVE. After the two days, I decided that some of the students were by far more well spoken conversationalists than I am! What a wonderful way to raise young leaders! As we walked in, music was blaring, students were dancing Continue Reading
When I was in elementary school, my aunt and uncle lived in Boston. We would travel to Plymouth (because I begged each year) to visit the recreated Plymouth Plantation during the summer. Ever since, I have loved learning about the lives of the early colonists. Now that I am teaching, I enjoy focusing on the Pilgrims and Plymouth Plantation during the month of November. We often read three books off and on over the course of the month: Samuel Eaton’s Day, Tapenum’s Day, & Sarah Morton’s Day. These three books are written from the child’s point of view and are highly engaging because of the real photographs. The children in all three books are based off of a real child who lived in Plymouth long ago. Depending on the grade level you teach, these books can be read from cover to cover (they’re quite long) or by simply focusing on specific parts. When teaching first grade and kindergarten, I pick certain pages to read every few days. When teaching third grade, I would read half of one book during our real aloud. My favorite way to use this book to teach about the way pilgrim children dressed. Samuel Eaton’s Day gives a step-by-step process of how Continue Reading
Last year when I was working at a private school, I started The Goop Group! This group of 17 K-2 kiddos met once a week after school for an hour to do nothing more than make goo. I called it STEM “Junior” because we followed all of the scientific method steps on a primary level. We practiced measuring while having fun with many gooey ingredients. We made glitter goo, apple oobleck, sprinkle goo, and pumpkin play dough! It is loud. It is messy. It is full of fun-filled kid memories! This year, I will be making Pumpkin Playdough during our Pumpkin Day centers in October. Take a look below to see this fun activity in action! Head over to The Primary Pack to read more!
(These examples are shown on plastic disposable plates. I just love this affordable option for student white boards! Just use a piece of felt or a tissue to wipe them clean. In class, we often also use white boards and chart paper when showing our examples.) Students always seem to struggle with elapsed time. It’s a hard concept for them to wrap their brains around because it is so abstract. When I taught third grade, I even found some students who have severe deficits in the basics of telling time. These students are just now mastering time to the minute, so I knew they would really struggle with elapsed time. This great way of mapping out elapsed time works like a charm. I wish I had learned it this way in school, because it just seems so obvious! Hop over to The Primary Pack to see the steps in action!