Back to School Classroom Decor!

Hi guys! I'm excited to be linking up with Mrs. D's Corner and Miss V's Busy Bees for the Back to School Weekly Linky (Classroom Decor)! Today I am going to share with you what the hallway entrance to my classroom looked like last year because I am workin' on my new one!  
I am a tad bit obsessed with Curious George, so I wanted to do a monkey themed entrance. Here's what it looked like:
What do you think? I loved it! I did want the big monkey to be hanging from a palm tree, but couldn't find one last year. Can you believe that those ADORABLE monkeys are paper plates from the Dollar Tree? I kid you not! No labor required, I just had to tape 'em to the wall! And those bows were super easy, too.  I just traced a basic bow pattern onto pink and blue card stock and wrote my students' names. 
At the end of the year, I gave my students' their bows, but left the rest of the wall up.  I am still not sure if I'm going to reuse it or do something different.  I did go shopping at Lakeshore yesterday and nailed down my theme {jungle = zebra/black with neon colors and monkey accents inside}, so I may re-use this display for one more year unless I can find a cuter jungle theme that I fall in love with. Have you stumbled upon a cute jungle themed door decor?  I'm open to any suggestions! 
Here are the borders I picked up.  I'm planning on using the bright blue with the zebra and the solid black with the pink polka dots/green polka dots.
And lookie here.. I found a palm tree this year! It was a little pricey, but I can't wait to use it! I don't know if I will use it with the monkeys outside of my room or on a bulletin board inside my room.
I also picked up this cute Classroom Rules sign.  I plan on laminating it so that I can reuse it from year to year.
The last thing I snagged was a timer to keep me on track during guided reading and those self adhesive name tag pockets that I blogged about {here}.
Want to know the best part? I had a coupon for a FREE teacher's plan book.  Now, many of you know that I am obsessed with my Erin Condren planner, so no, I will not be using this plan book for school.  However, I WILL be using it to keep track of all things blogging and TPT! Woohoo! Can't wait to get organized!
What are your plans for your back to school decorations?
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$1 Organization Idea!

If you're like me, you LOVE buying things for as cheap as possible! This is exactly why I love The Dollar Tree.  I think it's safe to say that I take a trip there at least every few days.  Well, I drove home to Long Island yesterday, and of course, I just had to see if this Dollar Tree had anything different from mine in CT. I am so happy I did, because I stumbled upon a great organizational tip that is going to help me so much this year {and hopefully you, too!}.

Say hello to 2 for $1 snack tupperware.

I was immediately drawn to them because of their bright color {and the fact that there was a large hot pink one on the same shelf}, but as soon as I saw them, I knew exactly what I was going to use them for! Can you guess?

If you guessed playing cards, you're right! Do you just have organizational anxiety over how those little boxes rip almost instantly when they get into the hands of young students? Or how the students can't exactly seem to fit all of the cards back in the box? Well, I do! These tupperware are a PERFECT fit for playing cards, which I use all the time in my guided math stations. I also love how they have clips on the sides so that the tops won't fall off if the containers fall. The clips are big enough for little hands to easily use, so that's a plus, too! Need one more reason to run out to The Dollar Tree and buy these? Here you go..

They stack!!!! How nice and neat is that little pile? I can literally fit this pile anywhere! I cannot wait to use these in my classroom.  I could even use these to store the math manipulatives that my students need in their guided math stations so that they don't have to roll all over the bottom of the large bins that I use.  Maybe I'll have to go out and get some more! Do you have any cheap organization tips? Leave me a comment!

Happy organizing!

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My Favorite BTS Pinterest Idea!

How do you welcome your students to school? My favorite idea that I found on Pinterest before school started last year was a back to school frame.  I just HAD to make one to take pictures of my new kinders at kindergarten open house! Even if you don't think you're crafty, this is a super easy project and you can have it finished in one day! So, I'm linking up with Monday Made it to share this simple back to school idea with you!
I don't have photos about how I created it, but I'll do my best to give you a run through.  
~wooden frame (Michael's)
~acrylic paint (Michael's)
~bulletin board letters (Lakeshore)
~mod podge or hot glue (Michael's)
~velcro dots (Lakeshore)
First, I painted the frame with two coats of acrylic paint.  Once it was completely dry (only took about an hour!), I positioned my bulletin board letters on the frame.  You can make your frame say whatever you want.  I chose "1st day of kindergarten," but you can have yours say "1st day of school" or "welcome to school"- totally up to you!
I LOVED my sparkly letters, but didn't like how they weren't very defined, so I outlined each letter with a black Sharpie.  This took the longest, but was definitely worth the results.  
Then, I used mod podge to glue all of my letters in place, but I used the velcro dots to secure the "1st." Why? Because I wanted to be able to change "1st" to "last" at the end of the year!
And that's all, folks! How easy?! The one change that I'm going to make this year is adding handles to the back.  My kinders had a tough time figuring out how to hold onto the frame, especially since my letters spilled off the edges a bit. {Except this little kiddo, she was a pro!}
The parents absolutely LOVED these photos.  I uploaded them to our class website, and I got so much positive feedback.  Because of that, I made sure to not forget to take the "last day of kindergarten" photos during the crazy busy last day of school! Okay, I lied, I almost completely forgot! Boy was I glad that all I had to do was remove the velcro letters and velcro on my "last" piece! Phew! Here is how the frame looked on the last day of kindergarten:
I hope I've inspired some of you to tackle this back to school project this year! I'd love to hear about your cute ideas for the first day of school or orientation. Did anyone else brave the frames?

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How Do You Manage Your Listening Center? FREEBIE!

Hey there! I had the great opportunity to guest blog over at Easy Teaching Tools today! Click {here} to check out my post on Kristen's blog. If you're here because you read my post on Easy Teaching Tools, I am thrilled to have you! I hope that you liked what you read and will follow me!
Here is the freebie that I promised just for stopping by & becoming a follower! Click the picture to grab all 12 of my differentiated listening center response sheets for FREE!
I hope you enjoy! I'd love to hear your feedback :)
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What Are My BTS Must Haves?

What are your MUST-HAVES that you cannot start the school year without? I know I have a few! But they're a secret! Shhh!
On Friday, I'll be linking up with Learning Lessons with Mrs. Labrascino and A Classroom Full of Smiles to let you in on my secret must-haves for back to school! Not only will I be sharing my favorite back to school items with some of my blogging friends, but we will be giving away TONS of amazing prizes! You won't want to miss out, so mark your calendar! See you August 3rd!
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Five for Friday! Have You Heard?

Happy Friday, everyone!!! I don't know about you, but it's really hard for me to keep track of what day it is in the summer.  Like, yesterday could have been Friday and I would have had no idea! Anyway, I'm glad I didn't miss Five for Friday with Doodlebugs! Here's what I've been up to this week…

At the beginning of the week, I took a trip with my friend, Melissa, to her new fifth grade classroom! We had so much fun organizing and decorating.  It's so funny because I find it much easier to make decisions for other people than I do for myself.  I told Melissa right away what color letters we should use for her bulletin board, but that decision would have taken me DAYS! Here is our favorite product from the day: a homework board! {I may have to start giving homework just to make one of these!}

I finally got my new Erin Condren teacher planner this week!!!! Seriously, it was like Christmas when I opened my door and saw that beautiful box sitting there.  I actually texted many of my teacher friends to let them know that it arrived.. they are the ones who would appreciate that feeling! 

Let me tell you, it took me SO long to pick a new design for this year.  I had the taffy stripes last year which I LOVED and was so close to getting again.  I just felt like it's a new year, so I should have a new design.  Or maybe that's always my rationale for shopping? I went with the hot pink chevron stripes because I just can't get enough of chevron and hot pink is just… hot pink! What do you think??

I was very into the DIY scene this week! I feel so accomplished when I check things off of my to-do list.  This DIY project was all about making the boyfriend happy.  Last year, I made a hot pink headboard for my bed.  I don't have a tutorial, but I learned from Pinterest.  As you can expect, Niko was not into the whole hot pink headboard idea when he moved in.

So, I decided to change out the fabric and make it my new color obsession- grey! {Seriously, my living room walls are grey, my rug is grey, every accessory that I can find to buy is grey} I was able to finish this project in one day which is like a miracle! When I decide to make my bed {I am so lazy!} I will take a picture of how it looks!

I also hit the jackpot at Walmart this week!! First off, have you heard? Walmart is giving teachers 10% back on back to school purchases! How amazing is that?! Too bad I went to Walmart before I heard this fabulous news. Oh well, you will see that I wouldn't have gotten that much money back anyway!

Last year, I started out the year using table caddies for classroom supplies, but that was short lived.  The other kindergarten teachers had gotten these great little pencil boxes from Walmart during their back to school sale.  Needless to say, I was in Greece when this amazing sale was going on, so I missed out.  Therefore, I had to ask each family to send their child in with a pencil box about halfway through the year to cut down on the chaos that ensued with the table caddies.  This worked fine until everyone started bringing in their own supplies and then it was all "That's my pencil!" "Someone stole my eraser" "Can we use marker for this?" 

So you bet that this year I stalked Walmart until they unveiled their back to school sale!! I actually had to go to two Walmarts just to find what I was looking for!! But, here they are… 20 pencil boxes for $0.47 each!!!!!!!! Think you read that wrong? Nope!!! Less than $10 for pencil boxes for all my kinders! {I wrote numbers on them with permanent marker instead of names so that I can reuse them from year to year!}

My last DIY project of the week was my Brain Break bucket & sticks.  {Man, was I busy this week!?} I wrote a post about them yesterday, so click here to read about it! I think the picture says it all for now.

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We All Need a Little {Brain Break}!

Hey there! I'm super excited to share my latest DIY project with you! It has to do with one of my favorite parts of the day... brain breaks!
We all get to that point during the day when we just need a BREAK! Students, teacher, moms, we all do! This past year, I remembered that I wanted to have brain break sticks one night at midnight, so I quickly grabbed some popsicle sticks, wrote on them with Sharpie, and called it a night.  Needless to say, I HATED how they looked, so they were used a few times, and then I never wanted to use them again! Redoing them has been on my to-do list for a while, and I finally decided to move it to the top of the list.  I stopped at my classroom and brought home my not-so-cute brain break sticks.  Here's what they looked like:
Clearly, I was very tired when I made these! Geez, it hurts my eyes to even look at them!
I was looking through my pins today to try and figure out how I wanted to jazz these up when I stumbled upon Miss Kindergarten's post about her "I'm Done, Now What" station.  She explained how she made her cute popsicle sticks for that, and I decided that's what I wanted to do! So I broke out the neon scrapbook paper, mod podge, scissors, and popsicle sticks, and got to work!
I traced the popsicle sticks and cut out what felt like A MILLION templates.  Then, I mod podged the scrapbook paper on the front and back of each popsicle stick.  I let that dry for a bit while I whipped up some brain break labels on the computer.  I made them using PowerPoint, and they are the perfect size for jumbo craft sticks!  Here's a FREE copy for you! There's even a page of blanks so you can write in your own brain breaks.
I cut all these out, which was a little easier with my handy dandy mini paper cutter, and mod podged them on the front of the popsicle sticks.  Then, I had to let those dry for a while.
Yes, they are drying in the box that my brand new Erin Condren planner came in!!!! (Can you tell I'm in love with E. C.?)
After that, I jazzed up my new favorite ZEBRA bucket (thanks, Theresa!) with some pretty ribbon, and voila!
What do ya think?! I'm in love! I may use my Cricut tomorrow to write "bran breaks" on the front.  I'll post a new picture if I do! How do you organize brain breaks in your classroom?
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The Dreaded Word…Assessment

Hi everyone! Today I am linking up with Miss V's Busy Bees for Week 2 of the Back to School Linky! Head on over there and check out some great discussion of this week's topic… ASSESSMENT! (dun, dun, dun)

As I am sure you all do too, my school district has district-wide assessments that we are required to give.  We also use the DRA for summative reading assessment.  There is one change that will be happening this year- our district will be adopting MAP (Measures of Academic Progress).  I can't really provide you with any ground breaking information yet; we were given the news at our PD in June, and will receive training at our PD in August.  However, what I can tell you is that it is a computer-adaptive assessment given three times a year that will give teachers information on how to best meet the needs of their students.  Now, I know that many assessments out there claim to do this, but I am hopeful that this one will! I will let you know more when I do!

One thing I did want to share today is how I keep track of all of my students' assessments.  My friend and teammate, Barb, created a great assessment summary sheet for both ELA and Math.  I want to share a rough draft of her new one for this year with you.

This is the ELA assessment summary sheet.  As you can see, all of the literacy assessments that we give throughout the year are listed here on ONE sheet of paper! There is room for a baseline score as well as a score for each report card (fall, winter, spring).  There is even a box to check off when the student has reached mastery! On the ELA assessment summary sheet, the "mastery" score is only listed for one item "write sight words," because that is the only assessment that students' scores do not need to be perfect to achieve mastery.  On the math assessment summary sheet, those benchmark scores are listed for each item.

So, you may be wondering, what do I do if I am informally assessing more than 4 times? Where do I keep those scores? Great question! Barb also created individual assessment sheets for each assessment that we give.  They have lots of columns for us to date and assess.  The only numbers that are recorded on that summary sheet are the final scores for the report cards.  Here is an example of a math assessment sheet.

This math one is a bit different because there are 3 assessments listed here.  I don't have an example of a literacy one to show you (sorry!), but as you can imagine, it would take up a full page because there are lots of letters and sight words!

Each student gets one of each individual assessment sheet, one math summary sheet, and one ELA summary sheet.  I keep all of these in a Student Data binder, separated by student. When I need to do report cards, have a PPT, or need to change my instruction, all I have to do is grab one binder!

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Two for Tuesday!

Hi there! I already blogged today, but I want to link up with The Teaching Tribune to offer you two of my favorite products on sale for 20% off!! Here we go!
First up is my Nonfiction Reading Response Journal.  This is a brand new product that I just finished last night!! I am very excited to use this in my classroom this year! 
There are 3 different recording sheet options: The first requires students to identify the topic and 2 key details.  The second requires students to identify the topic, 1 key detail, and 1 question they still have.  I use both of these recording sheets for my students who are on grade level or above.  The third option requires students to identify the topic and use a combination of drawing or writing to identify 1 key detail.  I use this recording sheet for my students who need support.  They will usually draw the picture and I will record a dictated sentence for them.
The other awesome thing about this product is that it is editable! When I use these recording sheets with my students, I like to add an image of the book cover.  This helps my students identify which page they should be using.
This product is on sale for $1.20 TODAY ONLY! Click {here} to check it out!
Next up is my Rainbow Writing bundle.  I used this product all the time this past year, and my students loved it!!
Here is an example of what a rainbow writing page looks like.  Each page is good for 2 students.
Starting at the dot, students will use each color of the rainbow to write the letter.  They will be begging you to rainbow write EVERYTHING after they use these practice pages! This unit is also on sale for $1.60 TODAY ONLY! Click {here} to check it out!
I hope you enjoy these products! I'd love to hear your feedback!
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Back to School Tips and Tricks {Part 2}

Happy Tuesday! I am back today with the second chapter of The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete.  Yesterday, I outlined and posted my views about chapter one (week one). If you missed it, check it out {here}! I don't practice everything suggested in this book, but I definitely take things and tweak them to work for me!

Chapter Two- Week 2

This chapter begins with some changes to Morning Meeting. Starting this week, the morning message will evolve.  Last week, our morning message read something like this: "Dear Friends, Good Morning! Today is Monday.  We will learn names today."  Now, I add another piece of information about the day; I usually add the special that we have.  Paula & Roxann suggest also naming a student who is "first" in line, and a door holder.  However, I use classroom jobs (that change bi-weekly) so I don't do that.  It would be boring to read the same two names every day for 10 days! Just my thought, though!

The other fun part about morning meeting is that sharing is introduced.  After modeling the components of a good share and having students identify what makes a good share, I have 2 students share each day.  Once they have shared, they can take 3 questions or comments.  Of course, we also have to talk about what a thoughtful question or comment consists of.  {Love those kiddos who turn their "comment" into their own share!} I keep track of who has shared on a checklist so that all students have a chance to share and the same 2 people aren't sharing each day.  Once I get down to the last few students, I will ask the remaining students if they would like to share instead of taking volunteers.  If they don't want to {which is perfectly fine}, then the other students can have a second turn.

The remainer of this chapter outlines how to establish classroom rules.  Paula & Roxann suggest compiling a list of written classroom rules on Day 6.  Last year, I did this on Day 3 (which was a Friday, because we started on a Wednesday).  It's just my opinion, but I kind of freak out at the thought of going an entire week with no classroom rules. Who knows, maybe I will be brave this year! If you've waited this long to establish classroom rules, let me know how that worked for ya! I'd love to hear some inspiration.

Anyway, Paula & Roxann suggest working on the rules for a few days.  On the first day, you can take suggestions for rules and then turn them into positive statements like "Use your words" instead of "Don't hit."  On the second day, you will categorize the rules.  They usually fall into 3 main categories: care for ourselves, care for others, and care for our environment.  You can use general categories that work for you.  My rules this past year were: Be kind, Be responsible, Be ready to learn.

The next part is something that I did not do this year, but I am planning to do next year: have students illustrate children following one of the rules.  I think this is a great idea, especially for kindergarten, because these pictures can be posted near the classroom rules as a visual reminder.  I also have the students sign the rules after I recopy them onto a final poster.  This is their promise to me that they will follow the rules!

I hope you've gotten a few tips out of this chapter! I will write about Chapter 3 later in the week!
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Back to School Tips and Tricks! {FREEBIE}

Hey there! I hope you all had a fabulous weekend.  I was a busy bee! I had my good friend, Jess', wedding Saturday night, and my cousin's baby shower Sunday morning! Phew, am I tired! Nevertheless, I am here today with some important information! As a first year teacher last year, I used The First Six Weeks of School by Paula Denton and Roxann Kriete as my bible.  It helped me through the crazy, unexpected first few weeks of school, and I am here to share what I learned with you {with a few of my own comments!}.  I'll start today with Chapter 1, and be back in a few days with Chapter 2.  I hope you enjoy! 
First of all, I just have to say that one of the great things about this book is that it divides each week into  different sections: primary grades, middle grades, and upper grades.  This makes me very happy because one of my pet peeves is reading a professional development book and being left at the end thinking, "Well, that was great, but how am I going to use that in kindergarten {or another grade}." Don't you agree?!
For these blog posts I'm going to focus on the primary grades because I teach kindergarten, but if you teach middle grades or upper grades, feel free to ask questions! Many things are similar with slight alterations.
Chapter 1: Week One

This chapter begins with one of my favorite suggestions for when primary grade students enter school on that first day: having fifth or sixth grade students introduce themselves and escort the k-2 students (and most likely a parent) to the proper classroom.  I think this is a fabulous way to make the students feel comfortable in an unfamiliar place, as well as helping provide a bridge for the children to separate from their parents. Bonus points! My school is on a campus; one building is k-2 and the other is 3-6.  I think it would be even great to have the 2nd greeters help with the k and 1 students.  They definitely know their way around the school by 2nd grade! Or, we can use our newly created program {student ambassadors} to find 5th and 6th graders who are willing to help!

Next, Paula and Roxann suggest a super activity for students to do while they are trickling in the classroom and you are speaking with parents/helping to comfort students… decorate name tags! This past year, I had a bin of books on each table for students to look through while other student were trickling in for the first few days of school. It worked fine, but it was hard to teach proper book handling behavior after they had so much freedom with books already. So, this year, I'm going to take Paula and Roxann's advice and have pre-written name tags for my students to decorate.
Next comes Morning Meeting, one of my absolute favorite parts of the day! For the first day of school, I suggest that you assign morning meeting spots by placing index cards with names on them around the circle.  I followed the book on this one, and it worked wonderfully.  I had to help a few of my kinders who could not recognize their name yet, but most could! I loved seeing them so excited to find their name on the carpet! 

On the first day of school, we go in the circle and say our names, and the rest of the circle waves and says "Hi [name]!".  I make sure to emphasize that they do not have to speak if they don't want to! It helps to establish a safe community in the classroom. Next, we sing a simple song instead of sharing.  On the first day, sharing our names is enough pressure! Singing a song as a group helps to bring a fun vibe without having everyone stare at you! Then comes the introduction of the morning message easel (or chart, or white board, etc.). Just like the book suggests, I read through the message once, and then ask the students to read along with me as I read it again.  Don't forget to point to the words! {Look at that- one to one correspondence on the first day of school!} I then have each child say his or her name as I write it on the chart.  Our first morning message is laminated and displayed in the room for the whole year- it is the first artifact that we created together!

Let's keep on trekking along here.. recess on the first day! I love how Paula and Roxann frame recess on the first day of school.  They suggest to ask the students "What can we do outdoors that we can't do in our classroom?" Once students brainstorm a bunch of ideas, we need to explain that yes, all of those things are so much fun, but there are a few things we need to know so that we can make sure that outside is safe for everyone! Now, we can model and practice lining up for recess. In my school, we are introducing recess this year kind of like a carnival- each paraprofessional that has kindergarten recess duty is going to stay at a different location (swings, playscape, blacktop, etc.), and our classes will rotate through as they explain and model the rules and expectations of the playground.  Paula and Roxann suggest playing "snake" or "follow the leader" as you walk around the playground and model/explain expectations if you are doing all of the teaching yourself! For us, having the kindergarten  paraprofessionals do the explaining at this time will give us a chance to introduce our students to those who may not work in our classroom, and establish them as the authority outside.

Now, we all know that one extremely important thing to introduce on the first day of school is a quiet signal. Every teacher has a quiet signal that they like to use, and this book doesn't really delve into what kinds of quiet signals you should use. The point I really liked from this section was to do your quiet signal in the same spot in the room each time so that your students know exactly where to look when they hear it.  Now, there will be times when you need to get your students' attention quickly and will most likely not be in this spot, but I have two quiet signals.  When I want my students to FREEZE, I ring my bell.  My bell is always on the shelf behind my desk, always, so my students know that I will be there if they hear it.  On the other hand, I play We're Going to Be Friends by Jack Johnson when I want my students to clean up. For this, my goal is to have my students clean up, not freeze and look at me, so it really doesn't matter where I am when this song starts playing.  

We made it to the end of the chapter! Woohoo! The very last thing that Paula and Roxann suggest to do on the first day of school is discuss and illustrate your "hopes and dreams" for the school year.  I begin this by sharing something that I'm excited about for the year, and then model how I will illustrate my thought.  {I always point out how I do not think that I'm a good drawer, but I am trying my best anyway!} Then, we brainstorm a list, and I release the students to draw their picture.  When they are finished, I post them in my room with captions underneath! Do you like this idea? Grab your Hopes and Dreams FREEBIE below!
I hope you'll come back tomorrow for Chapter 2!
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