Sunday, September 28, 2014

September Stinks…

There, We Said It! Somebody Had to…

Teachers everywhere are already tired.
Parents everywhere are already tired.
Students everywhere are already tired. 
It's been 1 month since we started school...ONE month. 
But, we’re still going. We don’t give up. We don’t give in. We never, ever sit down. For if we do, we will crash or get sick...or both.
September as a teacher...
It’s like waking up one day and running a month long marathon.
It’s like getting engaged, planning a wedding and getting married all within one month.
Sleep is a long lost friend and Non-Stop Work just handed us the other half of their BFF necklace.

It’s exhausting. Exhausting.

But, you’re not alone. We’re all feeling it. The daily grind. We are jumping through the hoops. We are attending data meetings. We are assessing to drive instruction. We are calling parent conferences before and after school. We are selling the standards. But above all the things that weigh us down, we remain passionate about one thing...The kids. We will go to the ends of the earth to protect them, teach them and instill a love for learning that will set them up to be lifelong learners. We are, for lack of a better term, working our butts off! (No butts were actually worked off through that statement…They are still there…And more out of shape than ever because who has time to exercise right now!?!)

We all want our classrooms to get up and running smoothly. 
Pay now or pay later, we always say. 
This is what good teachers do... 

But, at what cost?

We see teachers in tears, imploding under the pressures of moving mountains without enough time or tools to teach and reach students.

We see parents in tears, imploding under the pressures of new standards, higher accountability for their babies and the dreaded syndrome of too much homework.

We see kids in tears, too young to comprehend the "rigor" and "fidelity" we are being told to bestow upon them when all they want to do is play. 

Is this how we develop a love for learning? 
Is this how we set our students up for lifelong success? 
Our text to world connections tell us no, unfortunately it is not. 
Something has to give...Something has to give...

Our own families stare at us awkwardly on Sundays as we half listen because our minds are wandering to such thoughts as, 
What on earth am I going to teach during guided reading? 
How can I get them to stop picking their noses? 
Maybe if I rearrange my entire classroom, that will help them focus.

We are lucky to stay awake past 9:00pm on a good Friday night. We may get grumpy (our husbands made us add that)…We are tired. Just tired.
We take school work with us wherever we go. 
Waiting 20 minutes for a doctor’s appointment? 
We can grade papers!
Sitting for a relaxing pedicure? 
We can write lesson plans!
Waiting in the car to pick up kids from school? 
We can cut lamination!
Sounds all too familiar…But, this is the reality of  many teachers' lives.

A few years ago, we compared notes and decided it was imperative to our sanity to just embrace the nuttiness that September bestows upon us...For this is the path we have chosen. To teach...

Each year, we place the same sticky note to ourselves on our September calendar at home that reads, 
“September is crazy! You know this, but you child birth. Don’t plan anything…Don’t do more than you can handle because school is nutty!” 
True story…
So if you’ve felt the life being sucked out of you this September, just know you are not alone. We teachers are in this together. 
We can do this! 

Remember why you are doing this...because you love kids. 
They deserve a good teacher, and you have a gift that truly makes a difference in molding and shaping the future through teaching. 
We will make it through. The calendar says so...
So, bring on October! 
It really isn’t as scary as it seems. 
We hope…

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

GoNoodle Giveaway!

Does your class use GoNoodle? It has quickly become our favorite time of day in our classroom. 
We're sharing 3 Genuis Tricks for Using GoNoodle as bait with our students over on the GoNoodle blog today...Yes! They have a blog...And, there's tons of great ideas, freebies and fun! So, be sure to read our post {here}. But before you go, head down to the end of this post for a swag bag from GoNoodle of your own! 
 We're giving away a bag of tricks to one lucky reader. 
Plus, 5 winners will win a class set of GoNoodle Stickers too!
Winners will be announced on Sunday...Good luck!

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Shoe Tying Take Home Freebie

The BEST gift you can give a primary teacher is giving them a class full of students who know how to tie their own shoes. Seriously...The End.

It may not seem like that big of deal. 

                                              But, make this movie in your mind...
A student has their laces undone...
The teacher just bends down and ties them quickly and moves on with their delightful day. 
Only they don't...move on...because for every one untied shoelace, there is another. It's what some refer to in this business as "a pair"...

And for every pair, there are usually 10-20 more pairs patiently waiting behind that not such a big deal little lace that was initially waiting to be tied...
It's what some refer to in this business as "a domino effect"...

And as moms we can confess and call out a few mamas out there in jest who have opted to ignore this little life lesson by investing in what some in the business call "lazy shoes"...AKA velcro. ;)

As Moms, we could drive our soccer mobiles from here to Velcroland a million times a day, but as teachers we have to stop the bus...
One of the first assessments we give our new class is the 
Great Shoe Tying Challenge
We made that up...Sounds important, huh?

If we have a student who needs to give their laces a little love, we send home a Shoe Tying Take Home Kit. We've gathered a few shoe tying books over the years and we stick one along with a parent note and incentive sheet into a zipper pouch bag and give them 1 week to loop those laces so they last!
Most of them get a little help from their families and they're on their way. A few don't and we make sure to spend a little time teaching them this life skill ourselves at recess or in between activities. Why?
And we believe kids deserve to feel proud.
Plus, it is kind of weird for 18 year olds to still be asking their parents to tie their shoes. 
We're just doing our part...

Have a few folks who need to sharpen their shoe tying skills too? You can grab our family note and send them on their way!

Monday, September 1, 2014

Class CHAMPS Classroom Management for Little Champions

About this time 5 days ago, the words, "We're getting our butts kicked by 6 year olds" might have come out of our mouths gone through our heads. 

But fortunately for three day weekends, we did what any teachers who are getting their butts kicked by 6 year olds have a 3-day weekend would do...
We devised a plan!
We've been using CHAMPS behavior management for a few years now. But, since we were getting our butts kicked by 6 year olds started school last week we decided to kick it up a few notches. We needed it to make sense to our little learners, so we gave it our own twist. We spent our weekend laboring away and we are really excited to go back to school to start training our little champions!
We've just added our Class CHAMPS Classroom Management for Little Champions to our TpT Shop...And it's discounted until tomorrow too in case you're getting  your butt kicked by 6 year olds (or 4, or 5, or 12 year olds for that matter) too!

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Bright Ideas for the Classroom ~ Get Your Class Newsletter Read at Home!

You've probably walked down this road school hall before...
You write a class newsletter...
To thoroughly communicate with parents.
You spend hours recapping all of your class events, providing important announcements and keeping all our students' families in the loop.
Then you send it home...
And hope...And possibly pray...
That families will actually READ IT!
But, they don't... 
Instead they show up at your class door and ask you questions to which you really wish you could respond with a polite, 
"Didn't you read our class newsletter?" 
But, you don't say that...Because you kind of can't...
Sound familiar?
We felt exactly the same way until we had a Bright Idea!
Like you, we spend a lot of time each week (usually after school hours), keeping our families in the loop. Our class newsletter is our "lifeline to class" and the way we see it, if we take the time to write it, it's extremely important for parents to read! So, we make a little game out of it. Somewhere "hiding" in our class newsletters, is a secret message. Sometimes they are silly...
Sometimes they are sneaky and reinforce our learning... 
But, bottom line...
They always get the message across that we need parents reading our class news. And, with our secret messages, they do. Why? Because we offer the kids a special treat (AKA sticker) if they bring their secret word back to class anytime during the week. And they do...If not the first day, they see their friends celebrating with stickers and want in on the action, so by Day 2 or 3 the secret messages are flying back into class. Shhh...

And, here's a super duper secret...We teachers actually keep track. Yep, we are those teachers. We mark every single secret message off on our class checklist so we know who's in the know and who's not. Then, parent conference time comes along when we really wish you could do respond with a polite, "Didn't you read our class newsletter?" Best teacher secret ever! Shhh...
For more bright ideas, please browse through the links below!

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Student Dictionaries ~ Phonics Printables

We hit the classroom floor running at the beginning of the school year to help our students master their letter sounds. One of our favorite year long activities (No, that's not a typo...This lasts pretty much the entire school year for our class) for practicing our phonics skills is My Letter Sound Dictionary. We recently pulled it out to prep for the coming school year and noticed it needed a major metamorphosis. We are so excited about what emerged!

This unit got a major overhaul. The biggest change is that we've added mini word walls WITH pictures for all of the consonants and vowels. We love them! 
Our first grade friend Stephanie over at Falling into First has a great tutorial on how to DIY this little anchor chart stand that we made to hold all of the mini word walls in one place. So, the kids will just flip to the one they need and get to work independently. We love the "I" word! 
We make each of our students their own Letter Sound Dictionary and bind the pages together, but we have also had years where book binding combs are not in our budget, and a good old fashioned stapler (heavy duty) works just fine.
At the beginning of the school year, this is a whole group activity so we can teach procedure and expectations. But, as soon as they've got the hang of it, we incorporate this activity into our daily Workshop (centers) time. They use the Letter Sound Dictionary directions card to follow directions independently. 
Our beginning readers need a lot of picture support, so the mini word walls are perfect for them. They choose 5 words to read, draw and write in their own student dictionaries.
For our fluent readers, we give them word rings...Same words as the mini word walls, but without picture support. Differentiation is a must in our classroom, and between the mini word walls and the word rings, we've got all our learners covered. We make 4 word ring sets so there are plenty for each student to use their own. They just flip to the letter they are working on, read the words and chose 5 to draw and write in their books. To extend their sound skills, we have them go back and rainbow write (choose 3 different colors and trace on top of their pencil writing) the targeted sound anywhere they find it on their page. They love this part!
At the bottom of each page, we ask them to choose one of their words from above and write it in a complete sentence. This takes them some time, but in the beginning we work whole group to teach expectations and super sentence writing. For more support, we'd give them a patterned sentence such as, "I see the _____".
This unit went from just under 70 pages to over 100. It's got everything we need for sound success and independence.
If you've already got this one, please be sure to update your download on Teachers Pay Teachers.
Exciting news! Our Cali Pal Hadar over at Miss Kindergarten is hosting an amazing Try it Free Tuesday on her blog all summer long and today's "try it" is us!
You can give this activity a try by heading over to her blog and downloading our Try it Free Tuesday sampler. Enjoy!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Back to School Customer Appreciation Freebie!

We cannot thank you enough for all of your Fluttering Through First Grade purchases & feedback during the Teachers Pay Teachers Back to School sale...THANK YOU!!
In absolute appreciation, we've whipped up a little Back to School Facebook Fan Freebie for you! 

It's our spin on Bingo...Played exactly the same way, but we like to make the kids yell funny things when they win...So, they have to shout 
"Back-to-School O" 
if they get four in a row.  

We've created 6 playing cards, plus 20 cut and play calling cards that will make an easy center, great vocabulary builder and meaningful word reading practice during the first few weeks of school. 

Just click on our "Fan Freebies" tab under Apps on our Facebook page...You have to be a fan (like) our page to access, then download and print. That's it!  
Thank you so much for fluttering with us. Feel free to share this post with your teacher friends so they can grab their copy too. 
The more, the merrier! Have a wonderful school year!
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