Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Welcome Pinners! Calendar Sets and 1st Day In My Classroom

So in the past few days, I've notice a huge increase of traffic to my blog thanks to Pinterest!  I'm absolutely obsessed with the site and I'm glad some pinners have found their way here. Welcome!!!!!

Here's something I worked on last week and completely forgot about.  Themed Calendar Sets!!  I made one with a space theme and one with zoo theme.  With each set you get three full sets of calendar cards so you can switch up your pattern every month, today is, yesterday was, tomorrow will be signs, days of the week cards in two sizes, and months of the year cards to use as a chart and/or as calendar headers.   These were really fun to make, any suggestions of other themes you might need for your classroom?  Here's a quick preview of the two set currently available in my teachers pay teachers store.

Click Here to get them for just 2 dollars each!!

I set aside this morning to go into my classroom and really just get a feel for what needed to be done in the next couple of weeks.  Safe to say, I got more than a little carried away.  This is what my classroom looked like when I arrived (minus the conference table that was being moved out as I got there).

It was looking bare and everything got piled up on one side of the room when the carpets were cleaned.  I promised myself I wouldn't stay more than an hour because of the heat (while they put A/C units in my classroom this summer, because of wiring issues they can't be turned on) and yet THREE hours later I had moved all of the furniture to the new arrangement I had in mind and put up most of the "bulletin board" paper and borders.  I use quotes because I only have one actual bulletin board in my classroom and absolutely zero wall space.  Because chalkboards take up two walls, and lockers and windows take up the other two, I cover the chalkboards with paper so that I have more space to work with.

While I have been saying since about February that I wanted to do a jungle theme this year, I decided to just choose a few colors I liked and decorate that way.  I really like how the bright neon colors look accented with black!!

There's still a lot of work to do before the room is ready for the Pre-K Round Up in mid-August! Now that I have a visual to work with, I will be definitely be putting my cricut and laminator to good use later this week!  I'm seeing labels, and headings, and signs, Oh MY!

Here's what the room looked like after the work I did today.  
 Pretty neon colored display areas.  Number lines, word wall, class rules, center charts, author spotlight, art gallery, birthday board, and calendar center will all find their home somewhere.  As well as the half of my Alphabet line that was not yet laminated and ready for hanging.

The black shelf near the pink board is full of toys and puzzles that have yet to be unpacked.

 Here's the whole group meeting area.  Still need to finish the border and hang up our calendar/morning meeting stuff, uncover the blocks, and pull out my big books.

This half of the room still needs some major decorating!! Small group table, tabletop easel, housekeeping and construction dramatic play areas, and our science, prayer, and sensory tables at the back by the lockers.  As I start pulling out supplies and organizing (instead of just throwing bags and boxes in the general vicinity they need to be in) I'll take better pictures of my centers. 

Have you gotten into your classroom yet?  What do you still need to get ready for the start of school? 

Monday, July 23, 2012

My Teacher Story

We all come to the classroom with a story. Some are similar to others while some are very distinctive. What's YOUR teacher story? How did you get to the classroom? Has it always been a lifelong dream or did you come after being in another profession?

Join the linky party HERE

My mom was called in for a parent/teacher conference by my kindergarten teacher.  From what I've heard of that meeting, it was to discuss the fact that I didn't quite understand that I was not the teacher.  Apparently, I had many ideas on how to improve the classroom and had no problem with frequently making my suggestions known.  So I guess, in a way I've always known I would be a teacher.

Throughout middle school and high school, I looked for every opportunity to work with children.  I frequently babysat for several different families, I taught dance classes to 3-5 year olds, I became a summer camp counselor at the camp I attended as a child, and I ran an after school volunteer program through my high school that provided a weekly after school program for teens with disabilities.

When it came time for college, I was ready to get out on my own and chose the University of Central Florida (partly because I liked their Teaching Academy, Curriculum Development Center, and other resources for teachers on campus and partly because who wouldn't want to live in Florida for awhile).  I think I may have been the only one of my friends who went into college with my major - Early Childhood Education - decided and graduated without ever changing it.

Freshman year of college, I started volunteering in a 4 year old class at the Creative School for Children, the pre-school on campus.  I pretty much decided at that point that I wanted to teach pre-k.  Through different opportunities through my classes and teachers, I was given the opportunity to experience many different preschool classrooms.  From the art based 3 year old classroom, to working one on one with a student in the very early stages of English language acquisition, and I even spent many hours in a Varying Exceptionalities Pre-K classroom.

Then when it came time for student teaching, I was placed in second grade classroom.  While hesitant at first, I absolutely loved teaching second grade.  They were so independent! I loved teaching guided reading and writing workshop!  My second student teaching placement, was a 1st and 2nd grade combination classroom at an inner city school.  It was a completely different experience, but truly cemented my love for teaching 2nd grade.

After graduating, I moved back home to Chicago and quickly found out that finding a job wasn't going to be as easy as I anticipated.  When the surrounding school districts all began school at the end of August as I was still unemployed, I interviewed to teach a Junior Kindergarten class at a private pre-school/day care.  After a month, I was uprooted from the class where I had gotten to know the children and established a routine and placed into a 3 year old classroom when their teacher left.   I loved all of the children and their families (and still frequently run into them as the school is just a few blocks from where I live) but my co-workers and administration made it a very unpleasant place to work.  Children were constantly being moved between classroom and I was often pulled out of my classroom to sub in other classes or help the director with office work.  I was miserable and dreading the job search again!

Luckily, at the beginning of July I was called for two interviews in very different Pre-K classrooms.  I was hesitant to be teaching Pre-K again, after being so miserable to year before but I went into each interview with a positive attitude.  In the end, I was offered both jobs.  While the job I did not take is only a 5 minute drive from my house, I would have been teaching 3 half-day programs effectively teaching 60 children and that just seemed overwhelming to me!

Instead, I accepted the teaching position at a school in a predominantly Hispanic neighborhood about 40 minutes away.  Last year was the first in many many years the school had a preschool program and I was really excited to be a part of designing the curriculum.  I was given a lot of freedom (and Oh My! was it fun spending the school's money to furnish and stock the classroom). About half of my class came in at the beginning of the year speaking absolutely no English, and about half of the others knew only very little.  It was very rewarding to see the whole class, learn, play, and speak to each other in English at the end of the year!  Overall, I felt very successful and I look forward to making the pre-k program even better for the children returning to my class and the new families who will join our school community.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

DIY Dry Erase Boards

I really wanted a set of dry erase boards for my class to use on their laps while we are sitting on the floor near my teaching easel.  The more that they can be writing while I am writing, can save time and attention spans when it came to practicing a writing skill.  The only problem was that I wasn't thrilled at the price it would cost.  While out shopping the other day it hit me...I could just make them!

All I needed was some sturdy cardboard (I cut apart a tri-fold presentation board)

My initial thought was to use page protectors, but I didn't have any on hand.  So I used laminating sheets that I already had.  They were already 5x7 so I didn't need to cut them at all after running them through the machine.  Since the cardboard I was using was already white I ran them through the machine empty, but if the cardboard you're using is brown just laminate a piece of plain computer paper.

My laminator is still one of my favorite things I bought as a teacher!

Scissors and duct tape.

 Just place the plastic sheet over the cardboard and tape around the edges.  Simple as that and you're done.  I was able to get 20 done in just over an hour sitting and watching TV.   I love how cute they turned out and they are easy to write on/wipe clean. Plus between the presentation board and two rolls of duct tape it cost just over 50 cents each.  They are going to be perfect in my class!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Monday Made It!

I have been meaning to join this linky party for weeks but never got around to ever making anything in time. There are plenty of things to still get done before the end of summer, but I'm happen to finally cross some projects off my list.

For School: 

Lesson Plan Book

I quickly found last year that pre-made lesson plan books didn't allow the space I needed to plan out all of the different centers. As I try I've to vary what is available for the children to choose from every week or two this was very difficult to keep track of so I ended up creating a lesson plan book midway through last year. I found it worked much better, so with some tweaking, I think I've finally perfected my lesson planning process. Plus, look at how cute it is!

Alphabet Line

I've seen so many adorable alphabet lines recently, when I saw KPM Doodles' Alphapics set, I knew I wanted to create my own.  They were a quick project and are available in my MY TpT STORE if you are interested.  It's on sale for only $ 2.25 and includes 8.5 x 11 Alphabet Cards, Alphabet Flash Cards that can be used in center games or extra practice, and Alphabet Line Name Tags. I can't wait to use them in my classroom! Here's a quick preview of the first 6 cards.

For Home:

Homemade Hand Scrub 

One of my best friends birthdays just past and I found the perfect gift for her on pinterest: Homemade Hand Scrub! With just two ingredients (sugar and Olay/Dawn pink dish soap) it was super easy to make, leaves your hands feeling silky smooth, and smells delicious!


I'm a huge fan of pinterest, like I'm sure a lot of you are too! And I'm always trying to complete projects just as quickly as I'm pinning more.  This is one of the projects I've wanted to do for weeks but never got around to buying the buttons, like the original pinner used.  Once I realized I could use my cricut to cut out different sized circles in whatever color I needed, I got this done in a evening watching TV.  I love how it turned out!

Also...this Banana Bread just came out of the oven.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

4 on the 4th!

This past school year was my first year with a class of my very own and throughout the year I discovered many things that I knew I wanted to try/do differently next year, so Ms. M's linky party 4 on the 4th is perfect for me to get some of this ideas together!  Join in the fun at

1.  Backwards Design - A representative from our school visited the last day of school to present some changes that will go into effect this coming school year.  While we've always been required to turn in weekly lesson plans, we will now be required to use the backwards design model when doing so.  What I recall of backwards design lessons in college, were single lessons that were pages and pages long.  I know this would not be an efficient way to plan weekly for my class, so I am looking forward to seeing exactly how this may work.

2.  Math and Science Notebooks - Every time we had a great science or math lesson, I wished the kids had somewhere they could share their thinking/record their data.  Loose papers that were easily crumpled, lost, or thrown away did not really show them how important their thinking is.  So instead, I have begun compiling some prompts/data recording sheets that I will photocopy and bind for each student so they have a special place to organize their thinking and record what they have learned from hands on experiences.

3. Author Study - Read alouds are an integral part of my classroom (with several happening throughout each day) and while we frequently talk about the author and their job in creating the book, I'd like to do monthly Author Studies.  The children loved our Dr. Suess study in March and continued throughout the year to point out similarities between Dr. Suess stories they were familiar with, some of his other works, and books by other authors.

4. Portfolios - I think that children should be able to keep track of their own learning (they are so proud of themselves once they realize how far they've come) but it's a difficult task to let small children assess themselves.  So this year, instead of keeping work samples in my filing cabinet, I will use a half inch binder as a portfolio for each child.  By keeping the portfolios somewhere where they are accessible to the children, they will have the chance to see what they have accomplished so far and what they can work on mastering next.  I think this can be a great motivator for them! I can just see a couple of my little ones that will be returning to me as 4 year olds this year eager to fill up their portfolio pages!

I could go on and on about new things I want to do, but I'll stop there as it's already not the 4th here anymore :)

Sunday, July 1, 2012

July Currently

Join the Linky Party at....

I took a break from school stuff today to paint my living/dining room.  It probably took me nearly an hour to decide the color I wanted and as soon as I got to the store I changed my mind.  In the end, I got "Silver Fox" a gray color from Benjamin Moore and I'm absolutely in LOVE!  As of today, it's been exactly a month since I closed on my condo and I am so happy it is starting to come together and look more like a home!

Now, I think I'm going to get one of those delicious snow cones!