Sunday, August 31, 2014

A New Approach to Scheduling

I'm hoping to join DeeDee's Peak at My Week Linky tomorrow so today I wanted to share my schedule with you guys.  I'm don't know about you but each year I feel rushed to squeeze everything in and guilt over not giving some content the time it deserves. In an effort to avoid as much of that as I could this year I came up with the following scheduling method. First I recreated our 8 period schedule onto two pieces of poster board.
I resisted every urge to redo it because of the lines that weren't perfectly straight, I must say I'm super proud of myself here! Next I used washi tape to block off time for our morning prayer service, snack & morning recess, and lunch and lunch recess. Then used the same color stickies and to show when I have specials.  
Next I looked through my program guides for math, phonological awareness, phonics dance, religion and put them down. I also made sure to alott sufficient time for morning meeting. I put math down first because I really want to do more with it this year and due to my distaste for Saxon I normally just shove it in somewhere.  The publisher suggested an hour so I went with an hour in case I stick w traditional Saxon I have PLENTY of time and if I work it into something similar to Cara's presentation I will have enough time. After placing all these down I put time in for Shared Reading and broke up my Daily 5 times. It took a while but in the end I reached this 
I found this to be much easier than doing it on the computer because I'm a very visual and tactile person and needed to see it all together to determine if it would work.  I then put it into my plan book for the next three weeks. 
(Aren't my Alo spray painted legging so cute). I plan to use this schedule until mid-October then reevaluate. I'm hoping it will give me enough time see what tweaks I need to make. 
Today I input all this into PP and created a a template I can work off to make my lesson plans.  

I'll be back tomorrow with my plans for the 2nd week of school.  


Saturday, August 30, 2014

1A is Ready for the 2014-2015 School Year

I'm over a week late but at least I'm sharing. On Monday I welcomed 20 new first graders to 1A. This is the first year we've had Sneak-A-Peek the Monday before classes started and I loved it because it gave me more time to prepare!  
     My students were greated with these goodies on their desks. 
The poem idea came from Cara on Instagram last year and got the Donut freebie from Farley. Let's just say that I had 20 happy, sugared up kiddos leaving my room on Monday. I went big this year because I have a sweetie I was told is completely resistant to school.  My number one goal is to get everyone on board the "First Grade is the Best and the place to be" train as quickly as possible!  So my new teammate and I laid it on thick I'm pretty sure it worked. 

All the kids loved checking out our new classroom. Here's a tour for you: 

This is a the view from the front of the room looking back. You can see our class library in the middle, to the left is our writing center and hidden to the right is my assistants' desk. 
This is the view from from the back. Our white board is divided into 3 parts; calendar area, projection area and Michelle's amazing focus wall along with our brownie pan. The bulletin board to the left is where I will put all our math anchor charts, vocabulary cards and graphs. In the small bookshelf I have my bin of monthly read alouds. Next to it I have my glider and behind that my library of leveled readers. On Wednesday our new rug will be delivered and our meeting area will be complete. 
This is a shot of window side of our classroom. It shows my teacher table. Which is also where all my small group instruction will happen. I got rid of my desk two years ago and haven't looked back. Though this year I'm having trouble storing my supplies. Here you can also see my easel set up for our I Can Statements. 
This is more of the window wall; the bookshelf next my table has all our word work materials. 
  This is the side where the door is. My new interactive word wall is ready to go as soon as you walk in. 
I will be posting words on rings so the children can take the ring they need to their seat or work area and use it. 
The children's book boxes and cubbies are on this side. 
This is a little close up of the station I set up for my amazing two assistants. I made sure to have flowers and one of Michelle's Facebook freebie printables frames for thier first day. When I left Friday it looked like this: 
I love how student work brightens the room even more. 
A close up of my library and of the kids book boxes 
I've since hung the pocket chart seen on the cubby it holds the kids bucket labels for bucket filling.  

I change my classroom a bit each year and this year feel I have it even closer to perfect for me. I used products from these lovely ladies: 

Michelle Oakes Fabulous in First: 
Just Frame It 
Let's Focus (focus wall) & various other printables 

Hope King Elementary Shenanigans:
Brights and Stripes: Owls 
Organize My Supplies Can Labels
Reading Strategies Subway Art 
Desire to Inspire Subway Art 

Cara Carroll The First Grade Parade:
Chevron Classroom Decor Bundle 
Chalk One Up for Being Organized 

Maria Monroe Kinder Craze:
Classroom Library Labels Black
Cheryl Saoud Primary Graffiti 
Bucket Fillers 

The student made projects that are on display are from 

Lyndsey Kuster A Year of Many First:
Beginning of the Year Activities (1st Grade) 

Michelle Oakes Fabulous in First:
Back to School Behavior 


Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Meet the Teacher

Hi Everyone!  My name is Grace and I am a first grade teacher at Catholic school in Maryland.  While I absolutely love what I do and couldn't imagine being anything else first and foremost I am a mom to three sweeties.  

AJ is nine and going into 4th grade.  She's an amazingly kind, caring, intuitive big sister who takes on way to much responsibility with her siblings.  Getting her to come out of her shell, be more confident and not so hard on herself is a big thing for us.  

Ko is six and going into 1st grade this year.  I'm so excited to share the first grade experience with my little man.  He is a charismatic, laid back, funny, charming boy who probably needs to take things more seriously.  What can I say, he's totally my son and boy did the apple not fall far from the tree.  

Ellie is four and finally going to join us at school.  She will be entering my school's all day PreK program.  She's the sweetest, fun loving, intense, little girl.  She's the youngest but man is the bawse of her siblings.   

I'm also lucky to be married to this guy here. 
We started dating when I was 18 and had been best friends for two years leading up. We've been together so I can't remember life without him.  He's confident, funny and really help me focus when I'm struggling to get things done.   

During my down time I like to sleep, read and go to Pure Barre. I'm pretty much a homebody and invest most of my energy into my kids, plotting ways to get more sleep, reading blogs, planning, and stalking Facebook and Instagram.  This will be my 7th year teaching first grade. I love first grade because I love teaching children to read. I love decorating my classroom and getting it just right for my kiddos. It is really my happy place and I want it to be the same for my students.  Each year I am very sad for my class to leave and ask to loop with them.  It has yet to happen but maybe one day.  So now you probably no more about me than you ever wanted to.  Since I am nowhere near done with my room I won't be posting tomorrow but will be back on Wednesday :) 


Sunday, August 17, 2014

What was I thinking?

I've never been one to leave my classroom set up for the last minute. Since I learned early on that teacher week is never really enough time I always start heading in to set up late July early August. Always that is, until this year.  This year I decided to soak up every bit of summer and enjoy every last drop of time with my kids. So I walked in Thursday having only been to school once during the summer to take a few pics for the Blog Hoppin' challenge. It was just as I'd left it, a packed up hot mess. The kids and I spent about 5 hours in my room and left it like this:

To be honest I'm only a little bit concerned I won't finish in time for Sneak a Peek next Monday.  I don't know why but as I sit here typing this I am okay with my decision to enjoy summer and not worry about school until 8 am tomorrow.  Maybe its because I know we have a different set up this year and I will actually have time to set up during teacher week , maybe its because I've learned that I'm never truly done with my classroom and am ALWAYS changing things its not worth the stress, or maybe its because I've throughly enjoyed the summer I've spent with my kiddos but as of right now I'm okay with my decision.  While, I do hope I don't regret it next weekend when its really crunch time my bigger hope is that I have the same thought process next year because there are certain things that can wait and certain things you can't get back.


Monday, August 11, 2014

4 Month Pure Barre Check In

If you follow me on Instagram you undoubtedly know I'm a #PureBarreAddict. I went to my first class on April 11th and since then have attended 70 classes. Thirty more till I can sign the barre. In celebration of my four months I thought I'd write an all about Pure Barre post. 

This is my 2nd class to 4 month comparison pic. I hope my new cousin in law forgives me for cropping her out of my first pic.  She looked amazing then and even more so now.  But really more about me and my PB experience :). 

What is Pure Barre you ask?  If you check out their website you'll read this description:  
In just 55 minutes you will achieve a full-body workout concentrating on the areas women struggle with the most: hips, thighs, seat, abdominals and arms. The Pure Barre technique is low-impact, protecting your joints by avoiding any bouncing or jumping. Each strength section of the workout is followed by a stretching section in order to create long, lean muscles without bulk. The technique works to defy gravity by tapering everything in and lifting it up!

The concentration involved while taking Pure Barre allows you to block "life" out for the hour, creating the mental benefits similarly obtained by the practice of yoga or meditation. A transformed body and a clear head in just one hour—it doesn't get much better than this! 

If you ask my husband, who has now been to two Pure Barre classes, he'll tell you what it's not. He'd tell you it's not yoga ans it's not ballet. He'd tell you it's hard as *#^~ and very humbling.  For me PB is my hour of peace. Focusing on doing the movements correctly allows me to shut everything else out for 60 minutes.  It is the hardest workout I've ever done but in a totally different way. When I do it right and form the mind body connection my teachers keep telling about, it causes every part of my body to shake and burn.  When I don't give it my best I still burn and sweat like a crazy woman. Yes it works every part of my body and yes it's all based on the smallest movements ever. 
What changes have you noticed?
Good question!  I've noticed a ton of changes. The changes in my body are the most noticeable but also the least important to me. I've lost inches all over, my arms are way trimmer, my tummy's tighter, I'm developing a butt and my legs look way more toned. I definitely still have a long way to go but I'm happy with my progress so far. Mentally I'm more confident and happier. I'm more sure of myself and who I am.  I'm stronger!  I tried the monkey bars the other day and was successful. 
Because of Pure Barre I was willing to take the risk and give the bars a chance. It may seem silly but I've been waiting to do the monkey bars for the last 3 years but never made it off the ladder. I was scared of failing and scared of making a fool of myself in front of my students. I don't take myself as seriously as I use to. I like that. I like that a lot. 
What have you learned?  
Becuase of barre I've learned that if you're not 10 minutes early to something your late.  In the world of PB being 10 minutes early makes a big difference; it can mean getting your favorite spot or getting stuck in the middle with no mirrors to check your form.  I've learned that it's true that "Girls compete with each other, woman emprower one another". People always tell me they can't go to PB yet because they aren't fit enough, too fat, look stupid or not the right type. This always makes me laugh and also annoys me because NO ONE is watching you when you're in class. We're all too busy worrying about ourselves. That is of course unless you're lucky enough to get a shout out from a teacher,  then we're all looking at you to see what you're doing so we can mimic it.  Over the last four months I've met some really sweet, caring geneniune women in my pure barre classes. They've become my newest friends I didn't know I needed but man did I ever. When I don't feel like going they're there to keep me accountable, when I'm running late because of one of my lovely 3 kids they set up my spot for me, when I'm waiting for tests results and slightly freaking out they're checking on me.  We all support each other.

My friend Allison wrote a lovely account of how friendships and #barrebesties work at our studio.  Check it out here: 
Can I promise your studio will be the same, no of course not but I can tell you if you don't find your vibe the first time you, try another class time till you do. Most of my friends and I attend evening classes. 

But isn't it really expensive?  
Yes I'll admit it isn't cheap but at my studio they have all types of different packages and offer discounts for teachers, brides to be, moms to be and new moms. Really it's all about priorities and perhaps reallocating other splurges. Just stay away from the merchandise and definitely stay away from the Lily and Laura Bracelets!  No really I'm hooked on them. I've now got 9.  I say your best bet is to sign up for the yearly contract! 
What advice can you give a Pure Barre Newbie?  
First keep the movements SMALL.  The smaller the better. If you think it's easy you're probably doing if wrong, sorry but true. Buy the sticky socks, there's nothing worse than being in a position perfectly and suddenly slipping before the teacher sees it, hey I work for the praise.  You may hate your arms, I'm still working in loving mine, but still try your best to wear tanks the studio lights can be HOT. Actually wear layers because even in winter you'll get hot and being able to take off a layer helps. Don't be afraid to ask for help, just do it after class!  The teachers are really nice and always willing to help. Try different teachers till you find one you feel comfortable asking for help. Don't be afraid to admit you hate the workout during class. Most of us are probably cursing our decision or the teacher.  It's okay because as soon as a teacher gives you props, you complete a set, reach cool down or try on a size you didn't think was possible you'll be hooked. See these pants right below? 

I've gone back to Loft twice to make sure the sizing was right before buying them. See that smile?  The size is right and I'll be buying them on Wednesday. I call that #pureresults. And that my friends is all that matters. 

So we just reached Hershey Park so I have to wrap this up. I'll finish by saying August free friends month at my studio and free friends Friday at most others. Find a Pure Barre Buddy and try it out. I'll tell you more about my progress in 2 months when I reach 6 months. I'll post more pics when I sign the barre in 30 classes. 


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

A Look into My Cart

Hi Everyone! I'm so excited to link up with the  Blog Hoppin' ladies to share what I bought during TPT's back to school sale!  I'm so lucky my husband was in a good mood last night because when I laid my total on him he didn't freak out on me.  I'm so excited about all my new products!  

I'm hopeful Haley's First Days in First Grade will help me put together an amazing first week for my incoming firsties! I had originally bought Holly's Superhero unit for camp but fell in love with it so much I will be using it in class during the 2nd or 3rd weeks of school.  I have done bucket filling with my classes in the past but found it a little hard to get off the ground last year.  I am hoping Cheryl's Bucket Labels, banners and notes will make it easier.  My good friend Meghan sent me Pink Cat Studio's Owl Punch Card and I just had to get it.  I'm not sure yet how I will use them but I can't wait!

Last year Meghan and I decide to do science experiments with our classes on Friday's but I found it hard to keep looking for new experiments that were age appropriate yet engaging.  With Meghan moving to 2nd grade I was worried I wouldn't be able to keep it up, because she was totally more science and math than I am.  Thankfully, Kim's Science Blasters! are just what I need to keep myself excited and stressed free for this year's "Sci-Fries".   

I'm pretty sure I own more than enough reading and writing units but then again can you ever!  First off I must say I am so sad that Lyndsey is taking a teaching hiatus and her products are always on point and save me from several D5 jams.  I had to pick up both her Be a Reading Expert and Be a Writing Expert units.  The pamphlets she provides for parents are great and will definitely make an appearance at my Back to School Night.  This will be my 3rd year using the Phonics Dance in my classroom and because Ginny does such a great job anchoring the vowel teams and other hunks and chunks to picture I knew I wanted to pick up Katie's Blends and Diagraphs Packs to do the same.  I am a big believer in Phonological and use a wonderful year long curriculum but was surprised at the end of last year when one of my best readers wasn't able to think of rhyming words during our poetry unit.  I'm sure it hasn't held him back but when I saw Elizabeth's Dust Bunnies Book Companion Pack I was all about it!  I have all the supplies to make dust bunnies ready to go!  Cara's Year Long Work on Writing bundle was my splurge but I am hopeful it will keep me from being at school for several hours on Sunday afternoon looking for new activities to fill my WoW station of Daily 5. I sold it to  my husband as an investment in our family time!  

I love anything having to do with Campbell's labels.  Maybe it's because my daughter's middle name is Campbell or because the coolest, sweetest nicest girl in my grad program was named Campbell and carried a Campbell's Soup tote to class whatever the reason I love anything Campbell.  So of course I HAD to scoop up Hope's Organize My Supplies Labels, now I just need to start thinking of ways to use up some canned food.  Even though I have my own system for organizing my guided reading materials I still had to get Michelle's Teach and Keep Track forms.  The word work chart is AMAZING and sure to be a huge time saver!  

Last night while at barre the idea of my beginning of the year bulletin board came to me and I had to start picking up things to make it happen.  The Lego clipart and papers.  I am going to use one of min-figs from this freebie by Glitter Meets Glue Designs for each of my students.  I plan to title my bulletin board Everything is Awesome Everything is Cool When You're Part of 1A! Since I am using their freebie I felt I had to support their shop and picked up these great papers!  Finally I picked up some superhero clip art to use at camp and God know what else.
Be sure to link up with Blog Hoppin and share what you bought!


Saturday, August 2, 2014

Vegas Recap: Lessons Learned on Day 1

Please tell me I'm not the only one whose life gets away from them?  I fully intended to write this post 3 weeks ago, but then camp started. Doesn't bode well for my intentions of blogging during the school year does it?  Oh well as my hubby says nothing to it but to do it, so without further ado....

First off I need to own the fact I picked most of my sessions by searching for presentors I follow on Blog Lovin and purchase most from on TPT.  At first this seemed silly but after talking it over with my two girlfriends it was the best strategy. These sessions spoke to me, I already trusted the presenters and believed in their methods. I'm sure it's how I'll pick next year too!  

Session 1:  Turning Your Math Instruction into a Fun-a-Licious Experience for All presented by Cara Carroll.  
I was so pumped for this session!! I seriously heart Cara big time.  Meeting her may have been one of the biggest highlights of the whole trip.

Let me tell you she does not disappoint. I would be honored to have one of my babies in her class! In this session Cara broken down her math instruction and math tubs. She gave tons of ideas and suggestions on how to make it work in other classrooms.  She explained her schedule and how she uses her math time. The two main things that I took away from her presentation were:  
1) It's not necessary to have rotations that include teacher table.  If you "free" yourself of that commitment it allows you to sit back and observe what your students are doing. If you see a student hasn't fully understood a concept or needs more instruction you can pull them during this time. You can pull a small group if you see a few need more attention. You can use this time to do conferences or one on one assessments but, you can also observe and use these observersations to plan more lessons. I loved this idea because it make so much sense yet I have this idea I have to always be teaching but forget that observation is such an important part of planning our teaching.
2) Math Mouth- this is how Cara introduces math vocabulary to her kiddos. I loved the cute catchy phrase and her anchor charts. They are simple but really allow the children to form connections with the terms. 
Cara has blogged about her session a bit and shared a lot of what she presented so be sure to check out her post.  I loved the whole thing and will definitely be applying a lot of her suggestions but the two above have stayed with me a month later. 

Session 2:  Rhythm, Rhyme and Phonological Awareness by Sherri Strating 
I was really looking forward to this session because I had a student this past year who had apraxia and  I was looking for more information on the importance and a deeper understanding of the developmement of phonological awareness.  Sherri was a very sweet presentor and gave tons of lesson ideas.  It reaffirmed what I was doing in my classroom and offered me some more activities I could do during summer tutoring. Sherri shared some books that can help children develop their phonological awareness, they are sitting in my amazon cart right now. She suggested Mother Goose Meets Monster Goose, Mary Had a Little Jam and Hink Pink books. I loved these. 

Session 3:  Squeezing Learning into a Every Second by Jodi Southard 
Let me start by saying Jodi is tiny!  I mean sister is SO stinkin' cute and fit, you can't tell she's pregnant till she turns to the side!! So jealous!  Moving on though, this session was all about how to maximize time and what to do with those annoying random 5-7 minutes between periods or activities. I seriously have two pages of notes on different things we can do during those times.  I loved them all but what I think hope to make a constant in my classroom is what Jodi calls compliment time. Basically you take those 5 minutes and pick one student to sit in the middle, or in a high chair, actually it doesn't matter where they sit or stand the point is you pick a student and each children pay the chosen student a compliment.  How awesome is that?  I recently read Ron Clark's End of Molasses Classes in which he talks about the importance of teaching children to lift each other up, Jodi's idea supports this perfectly! The other idea I love is have a student in the "hot seat" chose a student and have them answer academic review questions their peers ask them. If they get it right they get to stay in the hot seat if they answer correctly but if a friend stumps them they switch out of the hot seat. What a great way to review!  Jodi talked about a lot of different ways to get students writing short pieces during those 5-10 minutes. My favorite was using Story Cubes. I've  already purchased a set and plan to have it in my writing center as an option during Work on Writing. 

Session 4:  Vocabulary Building:  A Challenge & Opportunity by Cara Carroll
Another fabulous session with Cara.  Since she has blogged about her session already I'll just share my favorite takeaways. Her suggestion of using a 10 day cycle for vocabulary words is great!  I think it's great because it gives the kids more time to fully learn the words and also takes some pressure off of not having time to teach vocabulary. When you have ten days you can carve out bits of time throughout the day to get the instruction in. I guess what I'm trying to save is 10 days gives me room to breath.
 My other takeaways from this session, well really from both, was Cara's vocabulary!  I mean I love it. She has the best terms and really shows her fun personality.  During her presentation she referred to her students who were struggling as "sweet and lows". I mean seriously what a kind away to describe our babies who struggle?  You can't call someone a sweet and low and not like them or view them as a challenge.  Then she mentioned those students who are on the bus to struggle street, love it!  Probably my favorite term she used was her response to that one student we have in each lesson who swears they know the answer but really doesn't. Cara's answer of "sweetie that's the right answer to another question" is just perfect! I love it will definitely be using it.  Not to look like a dork but I'm not lying when I tell you I actually made a page in my notebook titles Grace's New Vocabulary and I kept track of all the charming saying Cara threw out.  

Hope you've made it this far and hopefully you've enjoyed the glimpse into these ladies fabulous sessions. Next up will be Day 2 and all I'll promise is I'll get to it before school starts. :)