Wednesday, July 31, 2013

a clip chart. a clippy clippy clip chart.

I feel like I'm finally getting some stuff done for school.  Good thing!  I'm going into school later today to meet up with my favorite kindergarten teacher and go shopping at the only teacher store in the area--I'm super excited, and will definitely share my purchases on the blog!

As I mentioned in my last post, I have been working on my new clip chart and getting all of my clips ready for the year.  I took this...

And turned it into this...

Let me tell you--I ADORE my clip chart.  In my class last year, my kiddos were so motivated to make good choices by the idea of having a "Gold Star" day that I very rarely had students need to clip down.  When students did have to clip down...  oh boy.  I usually saw a pretty quick turn around in their behavior.

It's such a simple system.  You can read all about it in the eBook available (for free) here.  I made some changes for our classroom and for my own tastes, but it is still the same basic idea.

My kiddos start out with regular clothes pins for the first clip.  When they make good choices, they clip up; poor choices, they clip down.  If they clip all the way up to gold, they get a gold star sticker on their clip and a (super coveted) Gold Star card to take home.  When they get five gold stars on their regular clip, they get a red clip.  Once there are five gold stars on that, they get an orange clip.  Then a yellow, and a green, blue and a purple.  After getting five gold stars on their purple clip... they get GOLD GLITTER CLIPS!  Those gold glitter clips are a big deal.  I had three of my sixteen first graders achieve this goal last year.  When they get to that point, I also give them a fancy formal invitation to have lunch with me in the classroom and I bring a special dessert.

For the most part, it's super simple with very limited prep that I have to do.  I don't have a treasure chest or other reward system for the gold star days--just gold star stickers and new clips.  Those new clips were the worst part last year.  I tried dying the clips, and they ended up not quite the vivid shades I wanted--they looked (to me) more like Easter eggs.  So I took each clip apart and colored it with the appropriate Sharpie marker as I needed them.  I decided that this summer, I would work ahead and get ALL of my clips ready before school started.  And while sitting on the couch, watching Pittsburgh Pirate games, I have slowly gotten almost all of them ready!

I needed something wonderful to keep those clips organized, so I used the leftover, scrap paper from the clip chart, my Cricut and some small plastic drawers that I used to store writing tools on my desk in my college dorm (and had been unused since) to do just that.  Got to love "free" projects, right?

I am SO excited to put this on my desk at school and make HUGE deals about moving full clips to the Clip Hall of Fame!

I know quite a few people already use the clip chart system, but in case you are new to it or just want to update the look of yours, I saved the file I used to make mine and made it available (for free!) in my TPT shop.  Just click the image below and it will take you there!

Saturday, July 27, 2013

when do you go back!? already?!

It's hard to believe there is less than a week left in July.  Where has the summer gone!?  If you've been reading my blog this past week, you probably noticed that I'm already getting into Back to School mode.  Summer is getting into the crunch zone, and I think we have almost every weekend booked between now and the start of school!

Today, I'm linking up with Literacy Spark for the When Do You Go Back? Linky.  Head over yourself and join us in sharing when you go back--then, we can help each other get super pumped for the upcoming year (as well as commiserate together a bit).

I go back in exactly one month from today.  The teachers at my school go back on August 27, and we have that week for meetings and professional development, and hopefully time to get our rooms ready.  We haven't gotten the "official" schedule quite yet.  Our kiddos, on the other hand, don't go back until September 3!  I'm getting super excited about "meeting" my new kiddos--our school is pretty small, so I already know most of them from when they were in kindergarten.  I have a great group coming in with some really awesome parents who are going to be a huge help this year!

I have been working diligently on some things for the upcoming year--I'm hoping to share with you my new clip chart (I tweaked last year's design and it looks really cute!) and my new clip organization.  I am WAY excited about that!

Thursday, July 25, 2013

my favorite disney souvenir

A while back, I pinned this pin--using Mr. Potato Head as a whole class behavior incentive.  I LOVED this idea and implemented it in my classroom this past school year, with a few changes.

The idea behind Mr. Potato Head is that when students, as a whole class, are making good choices, they can earn a piece of Mr. Potato Head.  I took this a little bit further--I could not award my students with pieces.  They could only earn them when another adult caught the whole class being great AND told me about it.  For example, the art teacher could tell me that the whole class had a spectacular art period and they could earn a piece to Mr. Potato Head, or the principal could walk past our class during a restroom break and compliment the kiddos on how she was impressed with how quietly they were waiting.  Fill up the Potato Head, the whole class gets a surprise.

Last summer while we were in Disney, Mark took me to the the big toy store in Downtown Disney.  I knew I wanted to have a Potato Head in my classroom this past year, and was super excited to see the Disney exclusive Potato Head pieces they had.  However, while we were in Disney...  I wasn't 100% sure where I would be teaching in the fall, or if I even would have my own classroom, so I talked myself out of buying one while we were there.

I met one of my future first grade families while we were waiting for the Magical Express at the end of that trip, ended up with my first grade room and bought a plain old Mr. Potato Head at Target.  My kiddos loved working to fill up Potato Head.  Deep down, though, I was a little heartbroken that I hadn't bought the Disney one.

Last week, I bought one.  For $20, I was able to fill up a box with Potato Head parts.  Mark helped me back it to its fullest and make sure the lid still closed, and since I already had the original Potato Head...  I got pieces.  LOTS of pieces.  I didn't need to take up space with a potato!

With the addition of all those new, exciting pieces, the box I kept them in last year was just not going to cut it.  With a few simple supplies, I fixed that today.  Now, I have a fantastic platform to display the new and improved Potato Head on and keep all those extra pieces in.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

grand summer plans--making a list and checking it twice.

Since I have arrived home from Disney, it has hit me pretty hard that summer is at the halfway point... and my big summer plans have not been accomplished!  At all!  I've been working hard at getting our house organized--and with any organizational project, it all got way worse before it could get any better.  I'm still knee deep in most of those projects, and now I'm realizing that I need to get some stuff started for school!

I'm going through my classroom board on Pinterest, and trying to prioritize what I want to complete before school starts. I'm already getting so excited for the new school year--I have caught myself daydreaming about my classroom set up for this school year a few times since we got home!

Click on any of the pictures to go to the (hopefully) original source.

First, I need to make a new clip chart.  I loooooove using my clip chart in my classroom.  I could write an entire entry about it someday.  It gets beat up pretty bad throughout the year, and at the end of this year, I gave it to one of my kiddos who helped me tear down the room.  Along with my Clip Hall of Fame and making all of the clips (16 kiddos, times 7 different colors of clips...  I have high expectations for my incoming class!), this is a big project that needs to get going ASAP.

Next, I need to make my new birthday bulletin board.  Last year, I had our Brrr-thday Board (check it out in this post), which I adored.  This year, I'm thinking I want something that takes up a little less space and has another math link with a graph set up.

It is so important to me that each of my students has some responsibility each week in our classroom.  After getting four new students throughout the year last year and having to create four new jobs and inserting them into my Busy Bee job chart...  that hive was a hot mess.  I decided that this year, I'm going to take a pocket approach to my job chart, similar to these.  I love that the one keeps the "busy bees" that I've had since I started teaching.


Last year, my Essential Questions board was thrown together the night/morning before the first tour was coming through our school.  It served its purpose--it clearly displayed what our essential questions for the month were.  This year, I would like to have something that shares that function with the fun and color I like to have in my classroom.  I've been pinning various objective boards for inspiration, and I'm looking forward to creating something fantastic for my room.

I'm also hoping to finish putting together my plan book, revamping our first grade portfolios, adding to my morning meeting wall, (finally) finishing organizing the classroom library, and really implementing the Daily 5 in the room.  Whew!  I'm feeling overwhelmed already.  It's still July... it's still July... it's still July...

Saturday, July 20, 2013

it all started with a mouse.

I may have disappeared for a bit there--Mark and I enjoyed a wonderful vacation down in Walt Disney World!  We had a fantastic time--but of course, a Disney vacation isn't much of a relaxing time away.  A Disney trip is more of a grand, fast-paced adventure!  We spent six days in Orlando, arriving around 8:30 a.m. on Thursday and leaving the parks around 4:30 p.m. on Tuesday.

This was our third trip to Disney together (we went there on our honeymoon and then again last summer to celebrate our first wedding anniversary), and we always start our trip by going to the Magic Kingdom.  To me, there is no better way to start your trip than walking down Main Street and catching that first glimpse of Cinderella's castle.

While there has been some "controversy" over Disney's decision to open a Starbucks in the Magic Kingdom, after getting up at three a.m. to make it to the airport for our flight, I was super excited to get a Peppermint Mocha Frappucino there.  I was even more excited after I found out that I could get it as one of my snacks on the meal plan, any size with any extra add-ins I wanted.  We ended up stopping by the bakery a few times over our stay, and only one time did I really splurge and get a venti frap--that was the worst idea ever!  I couldn't even finish it.

When we go to Disney, we also take advantage of the park hopper pass.  I do not like being tied to one park for the day, and we often switch parks after a few hours if we decide it is too crowded.  On Friday, we split our time between Disney's Hollywood Studios and Epcot.  While we were at Hollywood Studios, we met up with a couple of friends from college (who don't live that far away, but we hadn't seen them since our wedding!) and enjoyed a few attractions with them and caught up over lunch.  It was such a blast to see Brad and Emily in Disney--I hope we can do that again (and visit at home, as well).

We then headed over to Epcot for dinner and to enjoy the nighttime show there.  I love Disney's nighttime shows.  I have seen them all at this point at least a couple times, but they are so stinkin' magical every single time you see them.

After Epcot closed, we rushed back to the Magic Kingdom--just to ride Big Thunder Mountain.  We ended up being able to ride that, Splash Mountain and Space Mountain in the forty five minutes we had before the park closed.  It was great!

We also met up with my best friend since kindergarten, Ashley, her husband, Eric, and another good friend since kindergarten, Benjamin, and split our time with them between Animal Kingdom and Magic Kingdom.  Ten years ago, I shared my first Disney trip with Ashley, and it is always wonderful to share another Disney experience with her!  One of Mark's favorite things about our trip was being That Guy at the Monsters, Inc. Laugh Floor.  I will testify that they were not completely joking when the monsters said that he was a little stinky!

On Sunday, we left Disney for the day.  It was a little hard for me, but Mark was really looking forward to spending a day at Universal on this trip, and our dear friend Benjamin is very familiar with the park, so he was able to show us around.  We, of course, went through Seuss Island (where I got a t-shirt that says "Teacher of All Things" with the Cat and Things on it) and Harry Potter World.  Harry Potter World was pretty great--it wasn't exactly as I had imagined it when I read the books, but it did not disappoint.  We tried some butter beer...  not something I will be enjoying on a regular basis, but it was pretty great to try it out!

This vacation was originally meant to celebrate our second wedding anniversary, but when Mark was booking the trip, he realized it was close to his birthday, too.  Disney loves to celebrate things with their guests, so naturally, we ended up celebrating both occasions while we were there.  Mark LOVED showing off all of his buttons during the trip.

The best part of our trip for me had to be going on the Keys to the Kingdom tour in Magic Kingdom.  I was a little worried at first that this may kill some of the magic for me, but it really just added more to it.  Our cast member tour guide took us on a five hour tour of Magic Kingdom, taking us backstage, on a few rides to share more history and information about them and even downstairs to the utilidor.  Very exciting for any Disney nerd.

Now, it's time to settle back into the real world--and start thinking about the new school year!  I go back in about six weeks now (I think--it could be five, but I don't want to check the calendar).  Sadly, I do not think we'll be going back to Disney next summer--Mark said if I want to run the Disney Princess Half Marathon in January 2015, I cannot go back until then!

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

july... already!? where is the summer going!????

Things have been CA-RAZY around here.  During the last weekend in June, Mark, my sister, my gram and I all went to Buffalo to visit my youngest sister, Melinda.  My gram then stayed at our house until the Fourth of July, and we hosted a big cook out with my family and Mark's family and went to an outdoor concert and saw fireworks! My cousin and her little boy stayed at our house then and the three of us spent Friday at the pool.  We visited my grandparents at their house and saw more fireworks over this past weekend...  and I've been recovering ever since!

Have you been to Target lately?  I'm completely torn--the Dollar Spot is starting to have some back to school teacher/classroom supplies.  While I don't want to see those things quite yet (it's still summer!  For a long time!), I am also super excited to get new things for my classroom.  I spent $8 there yesterday--I bought three new mini pocket charts (in a gorgeous light blue color that I didn't have yet!), two packs of desk name plates, an ID holder, and two packs of three anti-bullying posters for the hallway at school.  It was very clear that they did not have everything in yet, so I'm excited to check back later!

I have been trying to get some more stuff done around here, but with all the rain we got last night and this morning, I had a really hard time getting motivated today!  Instead, I continued yesterday's theme of thinking ahead for school and made a new "Nut Free" sign for outside my classroom door.  Last year, I got a new student in December who had a peanut allergy, so I threw one together really fast and I just really didn't like it.  This year, I know I have some allergies coming in from the get go, so I made a sign that I am going to be very happy with outside my door all year.  It almost makes up for the fact I can't eat peanut butter crackers for snack every day.

You can download this sign for free from my TPT shop here.

Here's hoping I can accomplish something a little more productive today.  Happy Wednesday!