Sunday, February 21, 2016

Lions and Tigers and an Idea...Oh, my! (Problem Solved!)

Aren't these beautiful?

These are First Grader students with our Art Teacher, Jill Ward.  She is amazing and the kids adore her! I love seeing how the kids' projects turn out so differently.  I so wish I had an art teacher like Jill when I was a kid.  My Catholic School didn't have art, music, gym or any other extra teachers. Sigh.  

This is from a Kindergarten student.  So cute!

My idea to share?  In my school, most of the art is kept in the art room until the big show at the end of the year.  Some of it is displayed of course but there's way too much to display every single project, correct?  So why not ask your art teacher to borrow some to display in your classroom?  Can't think of an idea for your outside BB in March?  Problem Solved! Ask her (or him!)  for one of your kids' projects!  I'm grabbing some of these amazing lions for my windows in my classroom.  They sure will brighten up my room, won't they?


Saturday, February 20, 2016

Creating a "Zen Den" at School

One of our School Goals this year is Health and Wellness for students and teachers.  We've increased Brain Breaks, have Yoga at lunch for the kids on rainy days, have quick meetings while walking around the gym, etc. But my favorite move toward achieving this goal for the teachers?  The Zen Den!  It's a very small room (storage!) that's been transformed to a quiet, peaceful, reflective escape.

When you walk through the door, you're greeted by the soft sounds of some "spa" music from an iPod, a few dozen quotes and Power Words on the walls, a lovely Essential Oil Lavender aroma in a soft-lit room (lamps were brought in) and the sound of trickling water.  I had to put my flash on for these pics.  Quiet and peaceful.  A welcome change!


For our kickoff, we had three days of fruit/cucumber infused water, hummus and pita chips, veggies and some other healthy snacks.

Lotions, books, and a file folder full of quotes/words for us to take back to our classrooms... Candles are battery operated and truly added to the peaceful feeling.

I love these coloring pages and can understand why they are so popular at the moment.  I started this one day and someone continued working on it the next..,

We had comfy chairs around our table and off to the side was the massage chair. On Friday, teachers were treated to a visit from a massage therapist!  This was supposed to be a three day event but we are working on making it a permanent fixture in our school.  I visited during lunch all three days and during a few prep periods and truly felt refreshed.  I hope our Zen Den is here to stay!


Monday, February 15, 2016

The Very First Squiggle Writer May Surprise You...(And Free Squiggles!)

I love, love, love Squiggle Writing with my kids!  Honestly, it always amazes me to see how differently each child in my class interprets the same squiggle. Let me introduce you to the very first Squiggle Writer:  Mr. Squiggle!

Yep!  A marionette from Australia!  Love his pencil nose!

My neighbor filled me in on the TV show that ran for FORTY years after she saw one of my daughter's squiggle writing assignments ten years ago.  Who knew?  Read more about it here.   I did see a clip once on YouTube and if you Google it, I bet you could see Mr. Squiggle in action!

Here are some of my students' squiggles:  (Lots of different ability levels and ELL represented!  I snapped pics even before they self-edited.)

I've been making Squiggles for a while now and have used them for Do-Nows, Morning Work, Homework, Fast Finishers, and in Writing Centers.  Kids love them!  I think they often surprise themselves what comes out of their crayons and pencils!  Mr. Squiggle would be proud!  Grab a few freebies by clicking below.


Or if interested in the full product:

I finally collected all of my pages and posted this product on TpT. (Both handwriting lines included!) Grab it if you're looking for a fun way to get you kids' creative juices flowing!  Makes an adorable quick display, too.  (Posters/Optional Book Cover included as well.)

Stay warm....cold and snowy here in NJ!

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

I Heart My Classroom Library!!!

Updated:  You can now see/hear me talk about my library on IGTV.

My library makes my heart happy!  There's no other way to say it!  The collection is current yet has lots of old-time favorites, varied with all types of genres, levels, and publishers, a reflection of the kids' interests in my class THIS year, forever changing, and FUN! 

I so wish I could have all the cute accessories I see online: lamps, seats, benches, bathtubs, tree houses...the list goes on...but I can't.  My room is so small!  Too small.  But I digress!  Although small, it packs a lot of punch and is filled with books that the kids read all throughout the day...and night...and summer!  Yes, I let them check out books nightly (just write title in book with name and return when done!) and DURING THE SUMMER.  The thought of these awesome books just sitting on my covered shelves all summer makes me queasy.  I rather the books go home with eager readers than stay in my room.  Do I lose some?  Yep.  Some get lost, get left behind on planes, are forgotten at "the other house" from time to time when visiting divorced parents.  It happens.  If you really can't live without a book, don't lend it.  (Autographed books!  I have a big collection and lend them during the year but not over the summer.)  

A Book Hospital is a must.  Before I started using one, the books piled up on my desk.  I got these cute signs at Campbells Soup-er Store on TpT for FREE! 

I have some bins up on tops of a cabinet that are just for me to access.  Holidays, books I need for units, and some read-alouds that I want to read before putting back into "general population!  I had holidays mixed in originally but I simply ran out of room and needed the bins for other topics.  What happens when I need another bin spot?  Last year, one of my students realized we had a lot of Grace Lin's books and thought we should gather them up and give her a bin.  So, I added a "2" to each one of her books and placed them in #2 David Shannon bin.  Sometimes I cross off old numbers and write the new number but Nail Polish remover also works fine!

***Why don't I use pictures on bins?  If I had to upkeep pics and add to them, I'd never do it!  And bins are shared so it would be hard to have 2-3 pics on one bin. 

***Those top bins are so sturdy and awesome!  They are DISHPANS from Walmart and Target.  I paid $1.69 for each one.  The ones on the bottom were about $6.  

***Is EVERY book labeled in my classroom?  Yes.  With a number on back.  Quick.  Easy.  Not sure where a book belongs?  Have kids help you decide.  Vote.  When all else fails, I put in FABO FAVORITES.  (I have 4 bins that all have SAME number on it.  This way, the FABO FAVORITE book can go in any one of them.  I also have more than one bin for Chapter Books and HA HA Funny.  

***Most chapter books are in specific bins.  For example, I have Capital Mystery, A-Z Mysteries, and Andrew Lost all is SAME bin.  So all those books have same numbers on them.  When kids return them to the bin, they place with the others in series.  But like I said above, some random chapter books not part of series just go in CHAPTER BOOK bins.

Everyone has a different way of running their library.  I don't have time/patience for pockets and computerized lists but I know of teachers who have those things down to a science.  Kudos to them and kudos to all of us who have rockin' libraries!

Happy reading!