Friday, December 30, 2011

Freebie Friday!

When teaching my kinders to write lowercase letters I teach them Tall, Fall, and Small. Tall like a giraffe, because the neck reaches the top line (or the tree top). Fall like a cat, because the tail falls below the line. Small like a mouse, because the mouse fits under the middle line. I created this page to for the kids to practice which letters are tall, fall, or small. They cut out the letter and glue it in the correct column. Hope you like it.

I have not gotten real fancy with my stuff yet, so all my clip art is from Microsoft, but today I am thankful for that because I know a lot of you are having to change your freebies and items on your TpT because of TOU changes! Yikes!!!

Thursday, December 29, 2011

Pinterest Thursday

Pinning has become such an addiction for me while off on leave, I am really worried that I might suffer withdrawals when I return to work next Wednesday! As long as I am looking for school stuff it should be okay to pin while I am taking my pumping breaks, right?!
Anyway here are this weeks pins!!! YAY!!

This one is for school! I love Debbie Diller. I use her ideas in reading and plan to use them in math soon (again with the plan to change my math and didn't get to it!). Also I get to see her this summer, and I am so excited!!

This one is a favorite of mine. I used to live in Cookeville TN and there was a restaurant there called Thomas Andrews and they had this amazing appetizer that is so much like this salad. As soon as I found this I went out and bought the stuff for lunch!!!

And my last one is for my babies, but it comes with a question:

So is it bad to dress my little girl up as a football for a picture!?!?!?!?

Happy Pinning!!

Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Christmas is over!

I love Christmas, but this year took a lot out of me!! It just seemed like it would never end! I have totally neglected my blog because we have had something everyday since last Friday. Last night was my last one, and it was a good way to end. It was Christmas with my coworkers, adults only (of course my 7 week old came, but she doesn't say much so it was okay!!). I know most of you out there are thinking, man my break is almost over, I don't want to go back (that was what I heard lots of last night!), but not me. I am so ready to be back at work and be on a normal schedule. My son has developed a really bad habit of keeping the babies schedule. He is staying up until almost midnight and then taking these incredibly long, ill timed naps during the day. I am hoping that going back to work will put us all back on track.

Today's post is supposed to be about math, I had grand plans of completely redoing my math while I was off but that hasn't happened yet! Maybe next week when the babysitter comes back to work. Until then I thought I would share with you the great math poems I found from Debbie Diller and while I am at it brag a little that I get to see her this summer at the ETSU Early Childhood Summer Institute!!! YAY!!!

Good news is I have Pins planned for tomorrow and a freebie for Friday so I should be good for the rest of the week!!

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Pinterest Thursday!

I have to start with some BIG NEWS!! I had my first Donors Choose project funded!! I am getting 2 Leapster Explorers and a game to add to my Leap Frog Center!! Yay! The kids will be so excited. It is one of their favorite centers already!

I have to say I kinda love blogging on Thursday because it is all about me and what I am obsessing over on Pinterest. It's my me time. Which I got released from the doctor today so I can start really exercising again, not just walking in circles around the mall. Although I will totally keep doing that because it is a great way to spend time with my babies and exercise, plus that double stroller is kinda a workout to push!

So my first pin is for me and anyone else out there who just had a baby and wants their body back

My next pin is something I want to have made for Jan. 10. I am hoping I can share them with my friends to celebrate the new National Champs. I am a Alabama Freak. I just bought my 6 week old daughter a dress just to wear for the game, and I am looking for my son something to wear too!

This last one is for Christmas. We started a family tradition last year of exchanging pj's on Christmas Eve to wear that night. This year with our new edition we decided to let boys buy for girls and girls buy for boys! I love this idea to get Christmas sacs and use them every year to wrap

Sorry no school posts this week, but I have thought about school so much on my leave I thought I would take a holiday break! No worries though I am still working on a Friday Freebie!

Happy Pinning!

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Holiday Break!

I thought today I would talk about my one and only day at school before break, try not to hate me to much! I promised the kids I would come in for their Christmas party, which was today (the half day before break). It was great, I slept until 7 took my time getting ready and didn't leave the house until 8:30, why can't everyday be like that?! Anyway I got there just in time to see the chorus perform, then it was off to party! It was at 10:15 in the morning, lots of classes did breakfast foods, my class did cupcakes and cookies!? What? at 10:15. Oh well, I wasn't going to have to keep them all day, and really I could leave any time I wanted, and again I why can't every day be like this?! Moving on, after the party I went to a faculty meeting! At this faculty meeting our Principal gave us a little holiday cheer before sending us on our way. So that is what I am giving to you. I was fortunate not to have to experience the holiday craziness this year, but for those of you who were not as lucky as me enjoy this!!!!!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Reading Tuesday

When we go back to school in January we will be on the story Bunny Day in the Scott Forsman reading series. Each day for my whole group time we complete part of a Power Point. These Power Points were originally created by a team of teachers in my county. I have taken them and completely changed them to fit the way my whole group runs. I thought I would share with you. On pages where there are music notes I link to songs that go with our reading series (songs about the amazing words and building background). Also on the pages about the letters I have a letter in the corner. That links to the Frog Street song for that letter. My kiddos love the letter songs. All day long while we work I hear the hum of what ever letter song we are doing that week!

Bunny Day

Monday, December 19, 2011

Management Monday

Well wouldn't it be great if this week I did some great tool for classroom management, one that would really change your teaching world forever?! Sorry, I have been on leave since before Thanksgiving and now most of you are off too, so enough with school for now (don't worry I am back to school topics tomorrow!). Today I thought I would link up to the Currently Party over at Oh Boy 4th Grade for the first time! Yay!
I just love Kristin over at A Teeny Tiny Teacher, she makes me smile every time I read a post!

A Teeny Tiny Teacher

SOOOO, you should head over and link up yourself!

Friday, December 16, 2011

Pinterest Thursday and Freebie Friday

Yesterday I felt awful. So I did not get around to posting my favorite things for the week from Pinterest. I will include it today with the Friday Freebie!

Some of my favorite things this week are:

For school I would love to try this out

My little boy is in love with Elmo (in fact one of his Christmas gifts is tickets to see Sesame Street Live with passes to meet the characters before the show!!), he also LOVES fruit. He will spit cake out for a piece of fruit. So this is so perfect for him!

And my last pin for the week is one for me. We have this really long hallway and I have been looking for something to put in it. I think having our Nanny/Photographer/Web Designer (you remember the one who made my button!) take "photo booth" pictures of us all and doing this in our hallway!

Now moving on to Freebie Friday!!!! This week I am giving you an activity I did with my kids using egg cartons. It is working with numbers that are more than and less than. Enjoy!! and let me know what you think!!!

Click to download!
 Have a great weekend!!!!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Math Wednesday

First of all my super amazing Nanny/Photographer/Web Designer, Hillary created a button for me today. I am super excited!

A Teacher and a Blog

Moving onto today's post. When I go back to work in January I really want to start doing Guided Math. It has taken me a few years but I feel like I finally have Guided Reading down and running smoothly, so I am hoping this step will go easily. This is kinda where I am now for a schedule. If any of you out there in blog land are using Guided Math (especially with the Envision math series), let me know if this is the flow you go with.

Start math as usual with whole group lesson, video tutorial (included with our series and my kiddos LOVE them!!!) Do a small whole group activity. This whole process should take maybe 15 to 20 minutes. Then break into groups.

That is as far as I have gotten for now. I am still not sure how I want my group rotation to go. I like the way I have it in reading but I am not sure from a time standpoint that would work. So I am looking for ideas on how to do a Guided Math small group rotation. Let the commenting begin...

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Reading Tuesday

Okay so being off work I have no idea what story we are on! I know, I know I wrote the lesson plans and it's the same stories in the same order as last year, but my brain is mush. In fact I have to check my phone before I write to see what day it is. Next week I plan on working on things for when I go back to work so then I will have kindergarten reading stuff for you. This week though I am going to talk about, more like ask about my son.
Carter is my little man. He is 20 months old. He has mad reasoning skills, but still isn't talking. Now I am not worrying about it because I know boys talk later, first children talk later, ect., ect. He will talk when he is ready. That doesn't stop me from wanting him to know his alphabet and numbers. Here come my two questions! Are you ready?!

First, how should I decorate the walls of his playroom, because I have seriously considered decorating it a little like my classroom! Does that make me a crazy teacher mom? (Okay so maybe that was two questions!)

Second, I came across I pin on pinterest (and if I weren't on my iPad I would link it for you, maybe an edit will come later!) from a former teacher turned stay at home mom that has created units for her toddler to do. It is all really fun stuff, they focus on a letter for a week or so at a time, plus have a theme they work on. It is all games and such. I am considering creating my own or borrowing hers and asking our nanny to do them with him. I just feel like she could do more with him if she had a topic to focus on. So my second question is the same as my first just for a different reason, does this make me a crazy teacher mom?

I am the child of a crazy teacher mom and look how I turned out!

Management Monday

Wow, what a day! Baby girl was up almost all night! Of course it would have to bee the night before hubby's off day. We also make plans for his off day. Today's plan was to finish cleaning out our office to make a playroom for Little Man. We got a lot done but it still isn't finished!

Obviously being on leave my biggest concern for school lately has been not being there. With that in mind I thought I would share my normal substitute binder. The cover and dividers I found on a blog awhile back. After searching today I can't find where they came from. If you know please let me know so I can link and give proper credit.

This is the binder cover. Nice and bright so it quickly gets noticed on my desk.

The first  section in my binder is classroom basics. This section includes a class list and a seating chart, shown above.

The next section is the daily schedule. Here I have a copy of my class schedule, as well as, my assistants schedule.

The next section is Lesson Plans. In this section I have 3 things. The first is a sub plan (middle picture). This is the overview of the day. The second is the calendar (left picture). This shows every slide in my calendar and what to click for the songs. The third is our reading powerpoint for the week (right picture). This shows how the reading should flow for each day. I change this out each week when we change stories.

The next section is the procedure section. This has a lot of information in it. It has daily classroom procedures, center procedures, school procedures. This section also has information on the playground rules. Emergency procedures are also found in this section.

The last section of information is an overview of my behavior management system. I don't expect a sub to do things exactly the way I do, but I would like for them do follow the same idea. I like for them to understand the apple colors and to give purples rather than take away greens. See a full explanation of my behavior management system here.

The final section of the binder is not informational. It is extra work. This is for those kids that always finish everything fast. If they can't just sit quietly (and what kindergartener can?), then the sub can pull from here. It has sight word activities and other review things, such as color words and counting to 10. One of my favorites in this section is a Write 100 words you find in the room! This keeps them busy for awhile, plus they get up and burn some energy. It also keeps them quite because they don't want anyone else to get their words!!

This goes in the front of the binder in a pocket labeled please complete and leave for me. This also came from the person who created the lovely cover and divider pages I use. Please let me know if this is your work or if you know who it is I would love to credit them!

Have a great week!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Freebie Friday

This is my first Freebie Friday. I am giving away an item I made for student assessment. I glue them in file folders and let the kids color their own during our conferences. This what I send home as progress reports. I make a few changes second semester (don't worry I will post that later!). Click below for your copy!

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Pinterest Thursday

Before I get to what I am pinning today I want to mention a new blogger and the give away she is having. Molly over at Classroom Confetti is having a Holiday give away for a $20 Amazon card or a $10 TpT card!! Hop over and check her out!

Classroom Confetti

Okay on to my Pinterest addiction. I am off on maternity leave right now and it seems all I want to do is organize, or plan ways to organize. These are some of the great organization tools I have found. They are not all school related but don't we all love to organize everywhere!!!

Source: via Markeeta on Pinterest

Happy Pinning!

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

A New Beginning

So I started this blog hoping it would make me more creative in my teaching and connect me to other teachers. Thus far I have complete neglected it. My posts have been sporadic and random. I have no focus and have not been consistent in my posting. I think it was because of several reasons: new school, new baby on the way, already having a 17 month old (when I started, he is 20 months now!). Well baby number 2 has arrived and I have been at my new school for 1/2 a year now, so no more excuses. I will blog more, create more, and share more. I will work on my TpT store and do what I set out to do in the first place, become a better teacher!

I am a complete blog stalker and have found so many I love and aspire to be like. One of my faves is Kinder Kraziness by Laura Starnes. She has preplanned a theme for each day to keep her focused and posting regularly. I am borrowing that idea! Here is my plan for posting:
Management Monday (this is a very popular thing to post about on Mondays, we teachers love alliteration!)
Reading Tuesday (I teach Scott Forsman, so most my posts will relate to that series)
Math Wednesday (We use Envision, which the jury is still out on, plus I am wanting to try my hand a Guided Math and Math Stations, so expect lots of posts and questions on that!)
Pinterest Thursday (I am so addicted to Pinterest so I will post at least one thing I find each week, I may go overboard with this one! and it may not always be school related!)
Freebie Friday (This will be a tough one for me, but it is a goal. I will create one item to give away each week.)

So that's the plan! Let's hope it works!

Saturday and Sunday belong to my family so I won't post much on those days

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Teachers Pay Teachers

So I haven't posted in a while, but my life is a little crazy right now. We are waiting on baby (who could arrive any minute!) and they still haven't gotten someone to take my leave. I am screaming inside, but I will keep it in since a scream from my classroom gets about 60 people running through my door. You would think I was having a baby or something! Anyway a friend of mine convinced me I should start putting up some of my stuff on TpT. It isn't super fancy with over the top clip art (which I love to buy!), but it tends to be effective and serve its purpose. I am excited and have two items so far. I can't wait to work on some more, right now most my stuff I am working on is to supplement our math, Envision. I like the idea of Envision but it needs some support! Any way, let me know what you think and I promise I will work on getting better at posting.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Funny Moment

This past week we were learning our numbers 0-5. I was talking the kids through writing a number 5. I told them to draw a line from the top to middle, give it a belly from middle to bottom then put a hat on him. One of my little boys looked down at his 5 and back up at me several times. Then he said Mrs. Gillenwater is the 5 pregnant cause it kinda looks like you if you had on a hat! It was so funny, but after he said that and we talked about how the five looked like me all of my kids could write the number 5. I told my assistant that I would have to get one of those pregnancy pillows from the Motherhood Maternity dressing room to teach writing the number five every year!

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Maternity Leave

Wow it has been forever since I have posted! Guess this year has been busier than I noticed! Today is my baby shower and I am super excited, we have my little boy a Big Bro shirt to wear and it is to cute!!! So what have I been doing this past month since I haven't posted? I have been preparing for maternity leave. This time is very different for me. With my son I was leaving at Spring Break and only coming back for 4 days at the end of the year, plus I knew we were moving and that classroom was most likely going to be my interims the next year. So I gave her complete control and let her do and change whatever she wanted! This time is different. I will only be out 23 school days, that's right I said only 23! I am due the week before our Thanksgiving Break which is only 3 1/2 weeks before Christmas Break! I am going back in January. With new evaluation system here in TN 15% of my evaluation comes from my students tested growth. So to recap a little I feel the need to be very controlling this time because 1) I am only going to be gone 23 days! 2) I plan to return to this school and classroom and hope to stay there a long time! 3) My evaluation score is partially determined by their growth!

So now the real question is how controlling did I become? Well let's see I have written the lesson plans for while I am gone. I understand that even writing my plans a week ahead is hard since things pop up, and things need to be retaught, but the skeleton is there. I have created the Power Points, activites, and centers for all the reading stories we do this first semester. I have created a detailed explanation of how center time works and how groups are determined (because I do realize my reading groups will change a little while I am gone!). Also, I have created everything for calendar time and have printed DETAILED instructions. We have worked so hard up to this point and they have got the routine down, plus they are starting to really act like Kindergarteners and are starting to read, I just don't want to lose all that. Is that wrong? Am I crazy (don't answer that!)?

That explains where this month has gone, preparing my regular days plus spending every free moment preparing for while I am gone! I have lots of things I want to post about and maybe now I will have time to now that my classroom is setup to run without me through December!

Here is a question for you now! What did you or would you do if taking a maternity leave? How controlling are you?

I just realized how much taking a leave shows your personality type. Hello my name is Type A!

Saturday, September 10, 2011


This last week was a 3 day week so I thought it would be a good week to start centers (that and it took me that long to teach each center and it just so happened to fall this way!).  I am doing my centers differently this year and it seems like it is really going to work. I have 5 center groups, three to four students in each. Every day they have a "Must Do" center, which comes from our reading series and usually takes about 15 minutes, there are four of those tubs. Then one group meets with me for about 15 minutes. After they complete the "Must Do" center they can go to one of their two "Choose To" centers. I have 10 of those 2 for each group. They include reading, writing, art, listening, Smart Board, Hot Dots, Leap Frog, pattern blocks, word work and computers. I have most of them pictured below. We were missing Leap Frog because no one was using it while I was taking pictures!

Reading Center
(you can see a part of the Listening Center on the left)

Computer Center (using their portaportal folders)

Hot Dots Center

Pattern Blocks Center

SMART Board Center

Word Work Center

Writing Center

Art Center
 I wish I had a picture of the center chart, but I keep forgetting to take one. On one side I have center group signs, these have a number in the middle with their names and pictures surrounding it. On the other side I have the actual chart. It is three columns Groups, Must Do, and Choose To. They read straight across from their group number to see what color tub they do and then to see what Choose To centers they have. The biggest problem we have had is reading the chart, but on day 2 that got better and even better on day 3. I like to meet with more than one group a day, but for now I am only pulling the one group that gets me as a Must Do, and then I am monitoring the Choose To groups. I just make sure they have gone to one of their two choices and not somewhere else and make sure they understand the center. Once I am sure they completely understand the center I will pull students during choice time. I have my groups put together based on reading level and so we work on reading strategies and high frequency words. When I pull during choice time I pull for other things, such as to work on specific skills, or more focused phonics lessons. The students in these groups may come from several center groups, or it may even be an individual conferences. I am fortunate to have a full time assistant (which are disappearing and will soon be nothing more than a back when story!) and so she walks the room during Must Do time and helps them when they don't understand the buckets, then she helps get the Choose To centers setup and running. On Friday she was pulled to do sign in for our Grandparents Day program, so the kids had to function without her. I was scared!!! but they did great. It really shows that taking two weeks to teach the centers really payed off. The way we did that was splitting the class in half. I took half for 15 minutes and taught one choice center and my assistant took the other half and taught another center. Essentially we taught two centers a day for five days. We had one day in the beginning talking about basic center rules, such as stay with your center group- no aimless wondering!, use quiet voices in the center, rules for going into and out of the loft, and cleaning up after yourself. We basically repeated that lesson after teaching all the centers, so we had two days of basic center rules total. Then we took three days of doing nothing but choice centers, their were no Must Do tubs and no small groups. My assistant and I did nothing more than help them understand the chart and make sure all the centers were functioning properly. My assistant calls it organized chaos. The teacher she was previously with had 4 "centers". One with her, one with the assistant (completing a worksheet), and two completing reading series centers like my Must Do tubs. The kids never left their seats. They rotated through all four centers each day.  I guess I just like having one stable group each day, but then having the flexibility to do other groups as needed. To each their own! I think my assistant really likes the changes I made, she is doing a lot more fun things with the kids than a worksheet. 
I hoped to link my center chart signs and my center lesson plan I use during the two week introduction for each center, but google docs is not functioning correctly ARRGGG!!! If you want to see them I will be happy to try again in a later post.

How do you do centers?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Using Portaportal

I was frequently being asked by parents what are some good games my kids could play at home on the computer or what game did  they play in the computer center today, it's all they talked about. I thought social bookmarking has to help me with this in some way. So last year I started a portaportal account. I created 20 folders and numbered them 1-20. This is important because each child in my class has a number. After our beginning of the year screening I placed games in each folder based on what the child needed to work on. Some of the different types of games included things on letters, numbers, colors, and shapes. Some of the kids had 1 game and some had 4 or 5 at that time. Then each week after our assessment I would add games as needed (I never removed games, because they loved the games in their folder and would continue to play them even after a skill was mastered). I also made my portaportal account my homepage on my center computers and the students knew to play games in their folder during center time! I have been working to get my portaportal account up and running this year and I thought I would share with blogland. We did not screen our students at the beginning this year, so it has taken me a little longer. I had to wait on our baseline test in reading and placement test in math. I just got started this weekend so the folders are still a little empty but I think you can see how it works. I gave everyone a link to a color game and starfall letters. I am working on deciding who needs what in math and will put those games into folders later. So that I don't lose games I keep a word document of all the games I find organized by topic. I didn't do this last year and when I cleaned out my folders I lost a lot of games, lesson learned! Below you will find a link to my portaportal account the way the students access it, and a link to my website document, which as I said is a work in progress.


Website Document

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Tree of Choice

This one goes along with my behavior management plan. This is the tree of choice we use beside it (out of the picture) is a basket with the purple apples they can earn and where they put their other apples when they make a bad choice. So far letting them earn back apples is going well. I have a couple that don't really try to earn them back but we just did treasure box for the first time on Thursday and they realized that because they had a yellow apple that they didn't work to earn back they didn't get to do treasure box. I am going to have to work on my treasure box though. The teacher before me left four boxes  full of stuff, but when we got into it on Thursday we quickly realized it is mostly boy toys. When I was in Kindergarten I would have loved it, but in a class of 11 girls most of which are very "girly" I need some more girl things!

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Classroom Updates

Okay so when I started doing this blog a few weeks ago I didn't realize how difficult it would be to blog after going back to work with a 16 month old and being 6 months pregnant. Boy am I tired! Last week was our first week back, teachers only no kids. Last night was our open house/tailgate party. Only Kindergarten knew who their teacher was so we work hard to keep it a secret until the party. It was like nothing I have ever experienced before at a school, but it was so much fun!

Anyway I think the room is about ready for Wednesday (that's when Kindergarten starts). I have a little bit more to do Monday and Tuesday between conferences. We meet with each parent for around 30 minutes to go over what Kindergarten is. I have a few pictures to share this weekend, but plan to take a lot more Monday and will try to post then.

The above picture is the shelf before. A piece of plywood was added to give it a back. Then I recruited some help from my dad and he painted the plywood with magnetic primer, then covered it with a blue paint.

And the result was a magnetic back on a bookshelf. This will be great for using magnetic letters to spell word wall words. This area is where my word work center will meet (I plan to post about my centers later this week). My word wall is just to the left of this area and on the right is another bookshelf where my magnetic letters are stored. If you use the magnetic primer I have a few recommendations.
1. Have them check it where ever you buy it. It is not a popular item and tends to sit on the shelf for a while and it can go bad! I had to return my first can and get a second.
2. Make sure where you get it at shakes the can really really well, again ask them to check it before you leave. The metal flakes in it sink to the bottom making it difficult to use.
3. It stinks, so it at all possible use it outside. At the very least in a well ventilated room.

It only took us one day because the primer dries in 30 minutes. So we did 3 coats of primer and then one really thick coat of blue paint. Let it dry outside for about an hour and then brought it into the hallway where it dried for a day in half (we did it on Saturday and came back on Monday). Monday morning it was ready to go back in my room and worked great!

More to come this week.....
I have pictures of my new "tree of choice" and plan to write up my new center management plan, with some pictures of the chart.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Behavior Management

The Lesson Plan Diva is having a Linky Party on Behavior Management! So I thought I would share mine. I am doing the same sort of thing this year as last but with a few changes. Last year I did apple bites. The students started the day with a whole apple and could lose bites for behavior problems. I did allow them to earn the bites back during the day for making better choices (this was dependent on why they lost the bite). This year I have a tree in my room so I made whole apples in 4 colors. Every student will start the day on green. They can lose the green and  go to a yellow, then to red. Similar to the stop light system. I would rather focus on the positive then the negative so I have a fourth color, purple. Students don't start the day with purple, but they can earn it. This way if I see a student starting to go the wrong way I can find someone doing a great job and ask them to get a purple apple. Hopefully this will encourage the others to do the right thing. I have a sheet I send home each day with a face marked on it, either happy, straight, or sad. This year if a student has a purple apple I will give them a sticker in this space instead of a stamp. I also have a place for comments on why they received that face, and a place for parents to sign so I know they see them.

Here is a link to the Behavior Sheet I use:
Behavior Sheet

Be sure to find other great ideas at the Linky Party

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Just a moment I had to share!

I had to take my son with me to work in my room yesterday. I snapped this picture of him "helping". Who says there is no napping in Kindergarten!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Paint Sticks

While exploring the internet a few weeks ago I came across an idea on Kelly's Kindergarten for using paint sticks to make name plates for the children. I had planned on using this idea when another one came to me. I sort my classroom books by themes for reading stories, math topics, holidays, and so forth. I was using pieces of long thin pieces of paper. I made a list of my all my themes, counted them and headed down to Home Depot. They were kind enough to give me 75 paint sticks for free (without any paint). I wrote each theme on the front and back of the sticks and slid them between my books instead of those papers. My thinking behind this is that the wooden sticks will last longs and stick out from between books better than paper. In the pictures you will see a few of my sticks written on front and back, and the sticks in use on the top shelf with my old paper dividers on the lower shelf. I still have several paint sticks left so I am considering the name plate idea, but if any one can think of another use for them I would love to hear it.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

ETSU Early Childhood Conference

I just spent 3 days at the ETSU 51st Annual Early Childhood Conference. It was an incredible conference. Thursday was the Pre-Conference, there were three choices. Since I had never attended a Dr. Jean conference before I was so excited to find out she was coming. It was a day full of singing and dancing, with lots of learning crammed in. I came away with so many new transition ideas, it will take me a while to sit down and create a list of what I want to use. She also provided so many great ideas for teaching letters and letter sounds. I think the best thing was for every idea she shared she altered it to work for Pre-K, Kindergarten, and 1st grades. She also shared that she is posting a daily blog of ideas that she gets from people she meets at conferences, it can be reached from her website

Friday and Saturday were filled with mini sessions. I started Friday at the Foldables session from the Dinah Zike Academy. It was incredible. We were a little worried it would be a sales pitch for a product, but it wasn't. The presenter taught us how to make all the Foldables, and gave us the pack to make samples. She also provided a great presentation with so many examples of how teachers had used these. Again another session where I walked away with so many ideas. I was also able to see Jack Hartman, another incredible presenter. By the end of the conference I had bought two of his cds. I was disappointed however, the last session on Friday I could choose between another Jack Hartman or a behavior management session. Since I had seen Jack Hartman once, and would see him again on Saturday I decided to pick the behavior managment session. That was a mistake, it was a hour long sales pitch to have this company come to my school and do a full day inservice. The presenter would give a hint at an idea and then say and if this were a full day inservice I would give more examples. It was very frustrating.

Saturday was filled with even more great sessions. I started the day at a session on using pattern blocks. I was able to come up with some great center activities from this one. Then I saw the always impressive Dr. Pam Evanshen, discussing classroom environment. I had her in college and attend her sessions every chance I get. These come in especially helpful since I have had to set up so many classroom environments! Then there was another exciting singing and dancing session with Jack Hartman! The last mini session I attended was the author Denise Fleming. She writes and illustrates wonderful childrens books and then provides lesson plan ideas on her website for free.

The only complaints I have about the conference would be the following: First, the sessions get "stalked", people leave their last session early just to be waiting outside the door. Then when those of us who stayed for our entire session get to the next one they are out of seats. I was kicked out of a session I really wanted to see because there weren't any seats and I was standing along with about 20 others. This session was not a repeated session either (just so you know the sales pitch I attended Friday was repeated!). This should tell the Advisory board something. If you have a large group of people you are kicking out because they are willing to stand for 75 minutes, you should have a repeat session. Second, the vendors ran out of so much! Of course that is not a problem for them, just for me who wanted to buy things! I do have to say that the vendor who were out of what I wanted offered me free shipping if I mentioned the conference when I ordered so that was nice! Last don't book people who are just there to sale their product as presenters. Let them be vendors, but don't let them trick me into wasting my time. I went to two sessions where they had a product to sale but you would have never known from the presentation. I also went to the one session this year and one  session two years ago that was nothing then a sales pitch. I felt like I should come away with a free dinner like the time share people  give you!

Great conference again this year ETSU! I can't wait for next year!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Reading Loft: Before and After

My reading loft is almost finished. I have just a few things left to do, such as place books of the month on the little shelf, put my listening books and  tapes up, and decide how to decorate the walls. That I am looking for help with. I would love suggestions for what to put on the walls. I want something that won't be to distracting or overstimulating, since this should be  a quiet center. Here are some before and after pictures, let me know what you think!
These are the before pictures. As you can see the loft was a storage area.

This is the bean bag I have added for independent reading, plus you can see the corner of my little bookshelf. I plan to use this for the Author of the Month books.

This is look from the top of the steps straight ahead. In this picture you can see the big book holder, and another bookshelf of choice books. There is also a table. I have 1 chair at this table already, but I bought 2 chairs at a garage sale for $1 and my husband spray painted them for me, so they will be at  this table for buddy reading. Beside the bookshelf is a little rocking chair for independent reading.

In this picture you see the table for the listening center with 3 chairs. In the corner I have a basket of the PVC pipes for the kids to read into. I also have a shelf with puzzles (both floor puzzles and small puzzles). This will be used as a indoor recess center when needed. I thought puzzles would be a good quiet center so that the loft is ALWAYS a quiet area even during recess.

I am very excited about the loft and I am looking forward to using it. I am a little nervous about the management of it since I have never had one before. If anyone has suggestions for me please leave a comment. I would love to hear what others think!