Friday, August 31, 2012

Goodbye Dog Hair on Stairs

We have two Humane Society Specials, but sometimes it feels like we have more. They drop fur so much that I sometimes wonder if they snuck another dog in here! We have to vacuum every day but one place that ALWAYS seems to need extra attention is the stairs. I saw this idea on Pinterest and thought before I 'pin' it anywhere, I better make sure it works.
All you need:
Animals who drop fur
A squeegee

The reason I hate the stairs is because simply vacuuming them is not enough.  I need to get my fingers in the grooves to really get the hair that gets tucked back there (and I often wonder why it always seems to go back there). I took the squeegee and it was AMAZING! It took me no time to clean the stairs and my fingers weren't aching when I was done.
Bonus! I showed the Bigs how to do it so I can add it to the "Oh No" can!

The Adventures of a Tooth (Free PDF)

One occupational hazard of being a first grade teacher is watching kids twist and turn their teeth,  finding bloodied Kleenex in your trash and having someone shout, "IT CAME OUT!" in the middle of a great lesson! But, one of the joys of being a first grade teacher is seeing the excitement that comes from a child when they lose a tooth!  Last year I graphed the teeth that were lost in my classroom by recording the child's name and day they lost a tooth and putting it up on my window. This year I'm taking it a step further by stealing an idea from my childrens' first grade teachers.

 Last year after my daughter lost her first tooth, she came home with "The Tooth Bag" that had a book (or two?) for us to read together and a composition notebook where Ali Jane wrote (with a lot of detail I might add) about the circumstances of her losing her first tooth.  She also illustrated it and it was adorable!  We went through the book looking at entries from students who lost teeth before her and she loved it and truth be told, so did I.
By now you may have noticed that I often tweak things a bit and so this is what I'm doing. I'm totally stealing the bag and book idea but instead of a composition book, I am sending home a little binder.
 On the first page is a "Congratulations" on losing your tooth note with directions.  If you want to see how I worded my letter you can click on any picture to enlarge it, or email me and I will send you this file in publisher (you will obviously need to change your name). The student who lost a tooth will take a blank journal page from the left, illustrate and write the story of their lost tooth and put it in a plastic page protector. The reason I am going this route and not the composition book route is two fold.  1. I am anal about how things 'look' and whenever I put a paper in a protective sleeve it tends to look better and 2. (and most importantly) By putting each entry in a sleeve, I can remove the entry and send it home with the students at the end of the year so they can look back and remember what happened to that baby tooth they lost back in first grade.

You can click HERE for what I sent home (though I took out my name).  Have fun!
What do you do when a child loses a tooth?  Share, so I can steal it! ;-)

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

For Quick Group Work

This is a great idea that I learned in my class this summer from my wonderful instructor Jeanne D.  I haven't used it yet, but am excited to try it out.  All you need is some flyswatters and some flies (see my bottom picture)! If you are wondering what I am using to hold my flyswatters (which by the way were 2 for a dollar at the Dollar Store), it is a Pringles can covered in contact paper.

The fly swatters actually work as "buzzers" to signal when students are done with an activity that they need to do quickly. Because of this, you could use it in any grade level or any subject.  In first grade for example, maybe I will give the students a target number (7) and they have to pass along a white board and everyone in the group has to show another way to get to 7 (for example: 7 tally marks, 6+1, a nickel plus two pennies... etc). Once they have 5 correct ways to get to seven (and they must do this in absolute silence) someone gets to signal they are done by hitting the fly swatter on their table. I should add that they should all work together to make sure that all the answers are correct and if someone's is not, it should be crossed out by someone at the table (again with no talking).

This could be used also in a quick review on any topic.  I may use it to practice spelling high frequency words or brainstorming a certain topic where I give them a certain number of ideas to write down quickly. I love the idea!

And don't worry... they have to hit a target (and it's not the student sitting next to them)!
And bonus... no loss of life!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Homemade White Board & Eraser Kits

Kids LOVE writing on white boards and teachers love them too.  They are great for taking quick assessments and "show what you know" activities.  They are also wonderful for practicing everyday skills you work on in the classroom.  I have found a few problems with traditional white boards.

1. They are expensive (and teacher's pay keeps going down).
2. They are big and to pass them out and then the markers and then the erasers takes time. Quick smooth transitions are the key to any lower elementary classroom (and a great thing in upper ele too).

Here's the solution.  
You will need:
White (or light colored) card stock
Large envelope
Expo Marker
Large dark T-shirt (I found mine at the Dollar Store)

Put a number on each piece of cardstock and then laminate it.  Put a number on each envelope.  Cut the T-shirt into small rectangles (yup that's your eraser). Put the card, marker and eraser into the envelope.

You now have an easy system where each child has their own white board, marker and eraser in one easy place.  Passing them out is quick and because you have coordinating numbers the students can put them back on their own.
Brilliant and takes no time.

*Get a dark T-shirt because they won't look as bad when they get dirty! This was a buck and I got more than 30 erasers out of it (I stopped at 30).

Monday, August 27, 2012

Classroom (BRILLIANT) Bathroom Passes

There are not many things that are more disgusting in life than an elementary school bathroom pass. It doesn't matter if you put it on a string and hope they'll keep it around their neck, at the end of the school year you need to toss it in fear of WHAT may be living on it...

SO~ My friend that I work with (Lisa H.) came up with this GREAT idea.  I totally stole it last year and it worked out great! Because this still is elementary school and things usually break, I had to make another set this year~ but it's pretty inexpensive.  

Here is what you need:
*cones or cups
*something to label your cones or cups
(This could be as easy as a sharpie marker or clip art from your computer.) 

 This year I used foam letters from the dollar store.  Last year I got foam letters that were sparkly. I would have gone with the sparkle again this year, but they didn't have them (Boo).  The cones also aren't as cute as the cones I had last year, but when you're shopping at the dollar store, beggars can't be choosers.

The way to make them is pretty self explanatory (see picture below).

This is how you use them...
When a child needs to use the bathroom (emergency) they don't ask you, they can just go.  They just need to take the bathroom cone and put it at their seat!  When they come back, they put it back wherever you keep the passes.  It's that simple!!  I love it because if I am looking for someone to conference with and I don't see them right away, I just look at the tables and I know exactly who had to run to the bathroom!  This is great because when you gotta go, you gotta go and when I am working with a child or a small group, the last thing I need is someone holding themselves begging to go to the bathroom.

Great stolen idea!  Steal away!

And bonus... these cones/ megaphones came with pompoms... Great decorations for the classroom!

Classroom Library & Book Shopping

One of the most time consuming things about setting up your classroom can be organizing your classroom library.  This is how I manage it in my classroom. My handy mom and I (OK, she was the one who really did most of the work) built the shelves pictured above.  I have quite a few of them (on wheels!) and they have been perfect for my classroom.  I use plastic bins to house my books and have created labels for each bin to help keep things organized.   This being my 15th year teaching, I have acquired A LOT of books over my career (and I'm sure Amazon and Scholastic are thrilled that I keep adding to that number).
 In first grade, it is really important that students practice reading in "Just Right" books.  The top of my bookshelves are categorized by DRA level. The bottom shelves all have blue labels on them (that I made in Publisher) and are organized by category. The top shelf books all have a number written on the front cover (upper right corner) for easy re-shelving and for the books on the bottom shelves, I made stickers that have the same name as a bin they belong in (those stickers go on the back of the books at the bottom).
At the beginning of the year, I give each student their own white book box.  Ikea sells the best kind (5 for $1.99!!). You will need to reinforce the bottom with packing tape. I like the white because they can decorate them.  They use the box every day for Reader's Workshop and take the box home with them at the end of the year.

Once a week my students go "Book Shopping" so I make them a "Shopping List" laminated with their name.  Each week, I write the number of the (yellow) bin that I want them to shop from and they get to choose 3 books from the blue bins (they can read the pictures in these books, retell the story... etc). The laminating not only keeps these Shopping Lists (that double as bookmarks) nice all year, you can also write on them each week (I prefer using Vis a-Vis markers. They erase better than Expo on lamination).
Leveling your library will take a loooong time! I still have books I need to shelf but haven't had the time... I use Scholastic Book Wizard to help me level the books.  It is easy to use.  You just type in the book title (cross your fingers), hit 'search' and if they have the title, it will give you the level.  If you'd like to check it out, HERE is a direct link.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Sheet Sanity!

 As I have mentioned before I have four kids at home.  Our house isn't giant and our linen closet is tiny! No matter what we do and how many times I reorganize it, I feel like it is always getting out of control. Recently on Pinterest, I saw a great idea of folding sheets and keeping them together in the pillowcase for that set.  I thought that was GENIUS! I was telling my brother about it when he said, "Laura, why don't you just get those under-bed storage containers and put the sheets that belong to each bed under them." BRILLIANT!
So I did!

I even got one for us (not pictured) and discovered that we have have too many sheets.  I don't think more than two sets is necessary so I'll be donating the other set to Salvation Army.
~Now all I need to do is keep my towels organized in my (now) much bigger linen closet... Wish me luck!

Everyday Folders for the Classroom

When I taught third grade, we had "Assignment Notebooks" that went home every day communicating with parents what we did each day.  There was also a place for parents to sign and write any notes they wanted us to see. I loved it but when I moved to first grade, there was no way a 6 year old could fill out an Assignment Notebook. 

So, I came up with a folder that would go home and come back every day and called it... "The Everyday Folder" (creative, I know).  I stole this from my kids' school where the PTA buys each student a plastic folder that goes home each day. Well those folders are pricey (especially when I add it to all the other things I buy for my students), so I made my own at a fraction of the cost.
 I made a cute picture (shown above) for the front of each folder and on the back (not shown) I put all my contact information (along with my school blog address) to make it easy for the first grade families to contact me. On the inside of the folder I wrote "Please return to school" on one side and "Please keep at home" on the other.
Then I ran every folder through the laminator.  First graders don't always take the best care of their things, so this helps them stay functional for the entire year. After you laminate them you will need to take scissors (or a Cricut tool which is what I'm using in the picture) and run it along the pocket and VOILA!
These folders go home every night and I check them every morning for notes and lunch money.  It is a great solution for those of us who can't afford to buy those plastic folders (maybe I should start playing the lottery)!
Steal it, tweak it and make it your own (I did)!

Friday, August 24, 2012

A Rainbow of Fruit

Here's another idea I stole from Pinterest! No tweaking necessary on this project but so easy and yummy, I had to share! My daughter made these and it was a great lesson in ROY-G-BIV.

I have the World's Messiest Kids!

I am the first to admit that cleaning often goes on the back burner in my house. I do have to go to bed with a clean kitchen, but other than that... well... If we aren't going out of town you will certainly find things out of place.
I have recently joined the wonderful world of Pinterest and found this wonderful idea there.  The person I stole this idea from had a bin and this saying with "Mom", but... since I have to admit my husband is a wonderful partner in the battle war of keeping our place clean, I changed the "Mom" to "WE", added a cute font and some clip art and here it is!

Instead of a bin, I chose a trash can because... well... I have a lot of kids and they have a lot of stuff! I also like that it has a lid on it to hopefully keep all that kid junk hidden!

The fun part was coming up with different chores for them to do.  Because my kids are fairly young (8 and under), I kept things simple, vacuum stairs, clean baseboards (you choose the room), things like that.  I did include laundry on the chore list but because we have recently taught all our children how to do their own laundry (except for the 2 year old). They can wash towels or sheets (whichever is due to be cleaned first) and of course fold and put them away. I'll admit I'm a little nervous to see what our linen closet will look like but then again, that has a door to hide it!  

I did this all after everyone had gone to bed (I work best at night) and it took no time.  I fastened everything on the trash can with clear contact paper and I used an envelope to hold the chores.  I think the contact paper is a great choice because it repositions easily.  I may put the chores on Popsicle sticks to help them last longer but I haven't gotten that far yet (though I did get far enough to find some things that got to go into the trash!).

So again, for this I used:
A trash can
My computer and printer
An Envelope
& clear Contact Paper

Steal it!
Tweak it!
Make it your own!
(I did.)
Let me know how it goes!

*** 8-27-12 This is still going great.  I did fix all my 'chores' on to big Popsicle sticks with Mod Podge and they are holding up a lot better!

If you would like the PDF files that I made for this project you can click HERE and HERE.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hide Your Stuff!

As a teacher, I have always wished that I had more space to put my stuff... or rather hide it.  When I clean up my bookshelves and recess games at the end of the school year, I will always find that lost crayon, random ruler and growing dust bunny (among other things).  I have always wanted to cover up those book shelves I'd like my students to KEEP OUT of, but hadn't come up with the way to do it.
I don't sew.
But... I do talk... and my friend (and coworker) Dawn mentioned that another teacher on our staff (Lisa E.) covered her bookshelves with cloth (or perhaps a table cloth??) and hemmed it with Duck Tape!
So I grabbed my favorite helper (my mom) and took her to my second home (Room 119) and we made my bookshelves go from THIS:


And it was easy!
This is what you'll need:
Shower liners (the cheaper the better)
Duck Tape (sold everywhere now in cute patterns)
A meter/yard stick
Sticky sided Velcro
(and to make it easier an extra set of hands)

The first thing to do is measure your bookshelves (obviously) and then cut the desired amount out of your liner.  I will warn you that it isn't easy to snip the liner (if you want a straight line anyway).  We did discover though (through trial and error) that you can use a meter stick to mark the line you want to cut and just run an open scissor along it.  You don't need to press hard.  After you run your scissors, it will tear easily.

The next step is to put your duct tape along the edge of your shower curtain (creating a cute border and a more finished look).  I would definitely use two people to do this part.  Have one person put the Duck Tape down on one end while the other person pulls both the tape and the shower curtain taut.  The person who (first) put the Duck Tape down, can then press the remaining tape to the curtain.  By using two people you will eliminate bubbles and lines in your tape.

The next step is to add double stick Velcro to the top of your book shelf.  I found that you won't need it at the bottom because the shower curtain and Duck Tape lay nicely without needing reinforcement.  I did use a large strip of Velcro because when I used smaller pieces you could see holes in the top and it gaped.
Once you remove the sticky side from the Velcro, you just need to press your shower curtain to it and VOILA! Instant 'door' for your bookshelves (this may also be a good fix for toys in the basement)!

A bonus is by using a shower curtain, you can tape anchor charts and other posters to it creating more precious wall space in your classroom.
I haven't made any anchor charts yet since school hasn't started, but this poster has stayed up with just tape!

After covering bookshelves, my mom and I looked at my cart/table that holds my document camera, projector and laptop and all their unsightly cords and we knew just what to do.  We turned it from THIS:


It helps to have a wonderful anal-retentive mother who can cut little windows (for cord placement) and frame those holes with Duck Tape.
Steal it!
Tweak it!
Make it your own!
(I did.)
Let me know how it goes!