Thursday, August 30, 2012

Centers - This Changed My Life!!!

It's almost here...a THREE DAY WEEKEND!!!  Woo hoo!!
I can't tell you how excited I am about it. I think the kids (and I) need that extra day. We have been in school for four weeks, and there's nothing like a little break to refresh.  My kiddies are doing GREAT & I absolutely LOVE this group.  They are so sweet, and the cutest things you have ever seen :)

This week, we started centers and they are doing so well with them. I love teaching small group & always look forward to when we finally get our rules & procedures downpat and it all becomes second nature. Ahhhhhh!!

Anyway, I just HAVE to share with you how I do centers.  Seriously, folks, this absolutely changed my life!!!

For years, I had my four groups of learners and they moved around in centers from place-to-place. . . in big huge loud, groups.  Then, I met an angel.  I don't remember her name, but it was in passing during a district learning workshop and she was telling me how she did centers.  And a lightbulb went off . . and my teaching life and classroom changed forever.  I wish I could thank her . . . with flowers and a parade!

Warning - this sounds SO confusing at first, but the kids get it faster than you will & it's great.

First of all, my kids are divided into four groups - red group, blue group, green group, and yellow group. This is what my Center Board looks like.  (Excuse the "handmade"-ness of it. I haven't gotten around to cutesy-ing it up yet)

If you look closely, you will see dots along the top - green, blue, yellow, and red. These dots represent my groups.  The kids in each group are below that dot.  

 Where it is circled, that is the green group.  Five children straight down from the green dot . . . that's the green group (they made their own name tags as of now).

Each child's name is UNDER the dot that represents their group.  Make sense so far?

Okay, as you can see, there are CENTERS and there are STATIONS . . . and there's a wheel. Here's how this works.

We turn the wheel, and every color on it represents the group.  That group goes to THAT station.

The green group comes to me!  This is Guided Reading or Read to Someone when I am testing.  The kids in the green group come to my table.

The red group goes to SEATWORK.  They each go to their own desks to work on seatwork . . .  a worksheet, craft, or any other assignment.  They work quietly and independently.  Independently = quiet focused work!

The yellow group goes to SPELLING STOP or Work with Words (I'm trying to implement Daily 5). This is the ONLY group that works together, so they are the only ones that make any noise because . . .

The blue group goes to CENTERS.  Centers are different from stations & they are represented by the frogs on the pocket chart.  I have five centers in my room:

And there's a yellow frog/center but I can't find the picture. It's my skills center.

Anyway, think back to the wheel.  Right now, the BLUE group is going to centers . . . everyone else is at Stations (guided reading, seatwork, or Work with Words).

The only people going to actual centers are the blue group members.

They look at the pocket chart to determine where they go.
So, because the kids are listed down the pocket chart under their group, each of their names lines up with a colored center frog that matches those around the room.

Have I lost you yet???

Okay, basically it should look like this:
 This means that only one child is at each center.

Working quietly.

Working independently.

It's awesome!!

PLUS, you only have to make 5 centers for the whole week!
Or, my colleague only meets with 2 groups a day so there are only 2 rotations, making centers last for 2 whole weeks! Fabulous :)

And, it works. The kids know exactly where to go & they actually work hard. It cuts down on management issues and children get the opportunity to work alone and work in a group.  If you rotate 4 times (for each group) like I do, every child will go to EVERY center EVERY week.

When people walk in, it's fairly quiet (I like productive talking, not playing during centers & stations) and everyone is working. It's a dream!

Okay, I hope I haven't confused you, but it's one of the best things I have ever done in my classroom.  Centers with 6 years old is finally easy to maintain & productive.  The kids learn and it's organized, which I love!

Hope you like it. If you have any questions, feel free to ask or email me at

Update: I just posted on how to do this for Guided Math. You can see that post HERE.

Have a great Labor Day Weekend ! :)



Sunday, August 26, 2012

Football Time in the South & a Freebie

I have been a bad blogger, and can't believe it's been almost a week since I've posted.  I always forget how exhausting the first few weeks of school can be and then WHAM! it hits me square in the face every August. Three weeks in and sometimes it feels like a thousand years . . .

This year has been even tougher. One of my favorite people & fellow first grade teacher was transferred to another school just two weeks after school started.  She spent all summer getting her room ready and last Friday, she was told our numbers were too low and she had to move to another school and be ready to teach . . . wait for it . . . on Tuesday.  In 2nd grade.  At another school.  That gave her one full day to pack up, move a gazillion loads, set up a room, learn the new standards & be bright-eyed and bushy-tailed for her new bunch of kiddies.  Wow.  I can't tell you how much it hurt me to see her go through it, or how much I wish I could change it.  She's doing ok, but like she said, she feels like she's just barely above water. I'm sure she'll be great, but it's been a rough week losing her.

So. .. because of that, we had to split her kids & we each got some newbies.  Which means going BACK over all the routines & procedures we had pretty much mastered and all that good stuff. Needless to say, I'm pooped ! But, I ended up with some really sweet kids and am happy they are now part of my little first grade family :)  I really hope that I don't sound like a big ole complainer, because I truly LOVE my job, but sometimes I get overwhelmed...don't we all?!
I just love little cartoons. They make me happy!

Anyway, on to the GOOD STUFF !  It's almost Football Time in the South (and everywhere I assume), but I am just so excited about it, I could pop. Seriously..  I look forward to this every year, and have even had a countdown going.  I . Love . It !  I grew up watching every SEC game with my dad & have always been a huge football fan.  My family are all Tennessee fans, even though I have lived in either Alabama or Georgia since I was 6.  Not easy being a Tennessee fan in those two states, but I've survived, and learned to take a lot of ribbing for it.  So, in honor of my Vols and the upcoming season (which I pray is even a little bit better than last year), I made this for my door !
It's not perfect, but not too bad for my first try. I have learned some new tips today (which would have been super helpful yesterday, but I digress...) and can't wait to make some more for my Alabama & Georgia fan friends. See?  I'm a good sport  !! :)

Anyway, all my kiddos are already talking about football as it is a HUGE deal around here.  This week, my school is already celebrating the "Wear your Team Colors" day on Friday, and even at 6, my little ones know & love their teams.

I decided to make a short vowel game for our pocket chart & centers to go with our love of football.  We are also reading a couple books about sportsmanship which is a character word we study.  Thought I would share the sort with you!

You can go to my TPT store HERE & download it for free.  It has 2 pages of each vowel and a sheet for headings a, e, i, o, and u.  Hope you like it !!

Also, Miss Nelson over at Run! Miss Nelson's Got the Camera is having this awesome giveaway for a gameday scarf.
They are so cute!!  Hop over there & enter to win :) 

I'm linking up again with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made It, too!  I love this every week :)
So, that's it for me. For those who have asked about my Teacher Handbook, I am working on trying to come up with a way to send you a template.  Right now, it's all DJ Inkers & in a format I can't send out.  Plus, it's all very school specific. I PROMISE I am working on it & will get with all of you via email ASAP so you can use it if you want :)

As always, thanks for stopping by !


Monday, August 20, 2012

Monday Made It Backpacks & Must Have Monday

Ahhh Monday . . . you come along way too quickly! I was barely getting settled into the weekend & there you are. Ugh.

So, being Monday, it's time to link up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made it !!  Yay... Thank you Tara for making Monday a little easier to handle. 

So I have seen this idea around for making little mini backpacks out of paper bags & thought I could take that idea & use it for my SuperStar Student backpacks. I just used big grocery store bags instead of the little lunch bags.

UPDATE: Click HERE to grab the template at my TPT store. Right now, it's FREE! :)
I choose a SuperStar Student on Fridays & send home this backpack with a parent note asking that the child choose FIVE items that either mean something to them or represent them. They then bring this back to school the next week (hopefully Monday) and share with the class. They also get an "All About Me" poster that gets displayed in the hallway outside my classroom.   This is my first year trying this, but my first SuperStar was SOOO excited about her backpack (which they get to keep!) & her grandmother loved the idea, too.  We don't have a lot of time to focus on Students of the Week or anything, so this works perfectly for that. :)

I'm going to try and get the templates for the front & back uploaded to TPT for free so you can download.If you are interested, please leave me a comment & let me know. I"ll update ASAP with the link but I'll also email those of you that comment with a direct link. :)

Also . . .  .
I made this!
I saw this original idea on Pinterest.  You see that link here but it does not link me to the original source. If you know of where this came from, PLEASE let me know so I can give credit :)

Anyway, I needed something for positive reinforcement & this is awesome! During the day, when a child is "caught being good", they get to go to the chart and write their name on ANY square of their choice. At the end of the day, I pull a letter & a number (coordinate point) and the child whose name is in the square gets to go to the Treasure Box.  If that "chosen" square is empty, the drawing rolls over to the next day.  If a child is chosen, the board gets erased and we start over the next day :)

I love this because it sets a purpose for the Treasure Box instead of just randomly choosing who goes,or just letting a bunch of kids go on Friday.  I'm really excited about it !! :)

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' for her Teacher Week Blog Hop/Linky.  Today is Must Have Monday,so you have to list your teacher must haves. Pretty easy, huh?!
1)  Caffeine...preferably Diet Coke.  When the alarm goes off at 5:30, caffeine is my only solace. . . and I'm only SLIGHTLY addicted to Diet Coke !
2) Laminator. I know I've posted about this before, but he's worth mentioning again.  Yes, he.  I keep seeing other people naming their laminators & seeing as I have spent more time with him than MB, family or friends, I agree he deserves a name. So, I'll make it official.  I love Tate. .Tate the LamiNATE-or :)
3)  Lists, Notepads& Post Its
I make a gazillion lists a day week & just couldn't live without cute pads & post-it's to help me out. The best are STICKY to-do lists. Ahh. . . a Type A OCD teacher's dream!
4)  Flair Pens
Who doesn't just LOVE these??  They are great for color coding my To Do Lists & my calendar . . . great for marking papers.. . and they honestly just make me happy!
5) Cute Teacher Bag
I'm in the market for a new one as I think I have officially worn mine OUT & have been using one of those reusable bags.  I'm in  LOVE with this one right now :)
You can find it on Etsy here.  So cute !!

So, that's it for me & my Monday !! I keep reading that everyone is going back to school so here's to a great first week & an even better year :)



Friday, August 17, 2012

Missing Summer Linky

"Summer dreams....ripped at the seams..."
I can't seem to think of summer without hearing the music from Grease in my head. It could be because I have probably watched the movie 40 gazillion times, but it's more likely because I miss summer.  

Now, I am definitely not one of those teachers (and sadly, there are some . . . ) that went into this profession for the "summers off", and I hate when other people make comments thinking that's why we teach . . . But, I will admit to absolutely loving it.  Which brings me to this ~ I have linked up with Nancy at Joy of Kindergarten to reflect on the 5 Things I Miss About Summer. It's only  been three weeks, and I really miss my friend.  Her name is Summer.  She is the best.
1)  Late mornings and even later nights ~
    If you've ever read my blog, I'm sure you've picked up on how much I hate mornings.  The only thing that gets me up early without a fight are beach trips. I'll jump  out of bed at 4 a.m. to drive until the map turns blue.  But, work?? Nope, it's a fight . . . a fight with time...and a fight with myself.   Does anyone else lay in bed and rationalize how you can avoid getting up?  "I'll just wear pants instead of a skirt today so I don't have to shave my legs?  I'll eat a school lunch so I don't have to pack one?"  Yep, that's me.  And I loathe hairy legs, so that says a lot for how much I love my bed !   And I miss the late nights.   My parents and MB think that I don't even really wake up until midnight, which is when I am at my best !!

2)  Flip Flops & Yoga Pants
We are not allowed to wear flip flops to work.  I'll admit that we kinda try to get around it by wearing "fancy" flip flops & swearing they are sandals.  I keep some under my desk when it gets really bad, but wow, I miss my Yellow Box. They are the most comfortable thing in the world!  My feet are in the process of staging a coux.  It doesn't look good people.  I swear I can hear them saying, "You're a better teacher when we don't hurt!"  Too bad I'm the only one listening to their plea.

And yoga pants?  They just make me happy.  They make me fatter, yes, but they also make me very happy. 

3)  A Clean House
  My house looks awesome all summer . . . and, then school starts.  Uhh...yeah, not so awesome anymore. My kitchen (which is where I spend the majority of my time cutting, laminating at the table, etc...) looks like a BOMB went off.  Add to that the piles of mail and other stuff that I've laid in the "later" pile, and it's almost embarrassing.  Oh, and the bedroom??  I won't even go there.  My mother raised me to make the bed every morning.  Unfortunately, that didn't stick.  I wish I could make myself do that, but if you see above about my detest for mornings, you can imagine "bed making time" doesn't make it on the morning agenda. This pretty much sums it up for me:
4)  Lunch
Oh, come on - you remember lunch?  That meal where you get to sit down for more than 17 minutes and eat your food at a leisurely pace, often pausing to sip your drink? Ahh... the memories!  Oh, and then there's those real special days where you get to go OUT to lunch.  Yep, I miss lunch.  Now, it's a total for 30 minutes to get the kiddies into the lunchroom . . . through the line of choices (there are a million choices, I swear!). . .back to the table . . . then to eat my lunch in the remaining seconds before having to run back to the cafeteria and herd them back to the classroom. I really think teachers could qualify for speed eating contests!   And as for lunch out - aren't you envious of friends & family who talk about the restaurants they have tried or hanging out over lunch and catching up.  So jealous.

5)  Time
I miss time . . . having time.  Time to do the laundry.  Time to go run errands.  Time to watch really bad reality TV.  Time to  return phone calls.   Time to read all the blogs I want to read.   Time to nap.  Yeah, I miss time. 

 So that's about it for me !  Head over & link up - what are you already missing about summer??


Thursday, August 16, 2012


Congratulations to Lindsey for winning the $25 TPT Gift Certificate !!! Woo hoo!! School's about to start so I have to keep this short. :) Thanks to all who entered ! :) a Rafflecopter giveaway Photobucket

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Classroom Management

9/17/12 ~ Update: I am linking up with Rachelle & Natalie at What the Teacher Wants for their Behavior Management Linky. I'm so excited to see the great ideas out there :)

I keep seeing everyone's classroom management plans & there are just so many great ideas out there!  I've had some questions about mine,so I thought I would share.  At my school, we have to follow our school-wide discipline plan, so everything has to follow a green - yellow - orange - red plan.  I've been using this for years, and my kids really respond to it.

As you have probably figured out, my classroom is overflowing filled with frogs.  I guess once you start something, it can sometimes get out of control.  Anyway, to stay with the theme of frogs & dots, I do this:

Each child has a frog with his or her name on it . Naturally, they're green, so everyone starts on green. :)
I tell the kids a story on the first day about Ferdinand the Frog.  Ferdinand is a very sweet, but mischievous frog. On the first day of school, his teacher tells him all the rules, but Ferdinand isn't really listening. He hears something about "freckles" but he is too busy playing with his new shoes to really listen.  He does hear Miss Hop say "Now, remember, little frogs that don't follow the rules will get freckles.  Freckles are beautiful for little boys & girls, but not on froggies!".

That morning, during story time, Ferdinand is rolling around on the floor and trying to talk to his friends while they are listening. The teacher warns him and asks him to stop but he just keeps playing.  The next thing he knows... POP.!!!  He looks down and there's a GIANT yellow freckle on his arm!

This is where I explain to the children that on their first offense, they must put a yellow freckle on their frog, which equals 5 minutes out of recess.
(Please don't look at the cutting skills here... I had my kids cut them out for me last year, so they're kinda jagged...or authentic.. yes, authentic.)

Anyway, the story goes on to tell about Ferdinand pushing, running, and breaking other school & classroom rules.  Each time, he hears a POP! and gets another freckle.

Second offense is orange & equals a time out in the classroom and 10 minutes out of recess.

 Next is red, which equals a time out in another classroom, a phone call home & NO recess.
The last . . . and most dreaded freckle is blue. That means NO recess & an office referral.
Unfortunately, Ferdinand's facial expression never changes, but you get the point :)  The kids really respond to this & really  hate having to "move their freckle".

For management, every child has a behavior calendar in their homework folder.  I use the ones from Anything But Perfect.She has the cutest FREE calendars,like this one!
I use the sticker dots to put on the calendar should a child move a freckle. If it is blank, it means a GREAT DAY!!  This saves me time because I only have to put stickers/freckles in folders for children who need them.Those who have had a great day just take  it home.
I write a number on the "freckle" to tell parents why their child got in trouble. I put a key in the folder or on a label on the calendar for easy reference.  For example:
1 - Not following directions
2-  Talking out of turn
3- Not using kind words
4- Not using kind actions
etc.... You get the point :)

The parents initial each night & if there is a problem that needs further explanation, I use the notebook paper in my homework folders for correspondence.

Anyway, that's it!!  It sounds or looks complicated, but it's super easy to manage, so I stick with it!

Oh and don't forget to enter my giveaway for a $25 TPT Gift Certificate. It ends tomorrow night & can be found here.  Good luck !!! :)


Monday, August 13, 2012

Monday Made It

Well,  I made it through the 1st week of school, and I'm still so worn out !! In the past,we have started on a Thursday, which was great. The kids had two days to get used to routines a little, then they had a weekend to rest and recoup and then on to a full week. Did I say kids? I meant teachers!! This year, we started with one full week & it was a killer ! Add to the already stressful time of "back to school",  we were asked to give our first graders tests on Wednesday. Thursday, & Friday.   And, when I say tests, I mean TESTS. The math one had 77 questions, the ELA had 50 & the Reading 40. My little ones were in tears!  It's supposed to provide us with baseline data for the year, but I keep thinking "there has to be a better way!!".   Please share with me how your district or school does it!

Anyway, now that that is over, we started this week off fresh & new & ready to learn !  I have the sweetest little group & am so thankful !  Since I was already planning on linking up with Tara at 4th Grade Frolics for Monday Made-It, I thought I'd share something THEY made, first.  We read Chrysanthemum (which I adore) and the kids made flower pots with chrysanthemums identifying the beginning, middle & end of the story. I thought they did great for their first 1st grade assignment (that wasn't a test ~ errghhh!).

I thought they turned out so cute !!  The chrysanthemum template is from & I just made circles and the pot for them to make the whole thing :)

For MY Monday Made-It, I attempted the ever-popular banner.  Ok, so mine doesn't look as good as so many as I have seen AND I ran out of cute ribbon so I had to improvise. Hey, I'm from the South and duck tape (even CUTE duck tape) is a well-known go-to! I went ahead and put it up so I could have a header & take a picture, but I plan on fixing it ASAP. :)

And the wall looks really bare there out in the hallway, so I think I'm going to put some paper & border up to make it look cuter. Any suggestions???

Here's my kiddies work & mine together
Lastly, I made these to put above my calendar board to liven it up a little

April & May still need some ribbon, but fortunately, I have time :)

Okay, so that's about it for me. THANK YOU to everyone who has entered my giveaway for a $25 TPT gift certificate. I can't wait to announce the winner on Thursday ! If you haven't already done it, go back to my previous post & enter!!  It is HERE :)

Have a great week !