Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Creating a Classroom Library

I can't believe its August already! As the summer is beginning to come to an end, teachers are starting to set up their classrooms. Setting up the classroom library can prove to be especially challenging for new teachers. How do you create a classroom library that is both organized and works for your specific readers? I did so using a combination of labeling books by topic and level. I have a classroom of 6 students that have a variety of different needs. So using just one organizational method wasn't going to work for my kids. Heres how I did it: 

First separate your leveled readers out from your other books. I entered into a new classroom so I had some leveled readers that I brought with me and some were left from the old classroom. Once you have all your leveled readers ready, develop a labeling system that is quick and easy. Mine was colored smiley face sticker system: 

Red: Beginning Readers
Yellow: Beginner- Low Middle
Green: Middle – High
Blue: High (independent reading) 

Once you are done labeling your leveled readers, place them into a bin starting with reds in the front then yellows, greens, ect. Label the front of your bin with the label above so teachers and assistants have easy access to levels. Once you know your students abilities, create and laminate a cheat sheet of each child's current level so assistants (and students if you wish) know which books meet each child's individualized needs. 

Now after the leveled readers have been placed into a colored bin. Sort the rest of your books by topic. 

I sorted them based on the books I had in my classroom so you will have to do the same. If you want some ideas for topics to sort into here is a list of mine: 

  • Leveled Readers
  • Letters/Numbers/Colors/Shapes
  • Storytime Books
  • Lesson Plans (books used to teach lessons) 
  • Scholastic Readers
  • Nickelodeon/Nick Jr. 
  • Disney Books
  • Dr. Seuss
  • Trains/Trucks
  • Pair it Books (Instructor reads 1 page/child reads 1 page)
  • Seasonal/Holiday Books
  • Animals
  • Feelings/Life Skills 
  • Chapter Books
  • Workbooks/Coloring Books 

You can download my labels HERE! Enjoy :D

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Before you throw those old magazines away....

...think of how you can use them in your classroom! Because the workload is so intense for teachers during the school year, summer is a great time to work on independent activities for students like file folders, centers, and crafts. But those months off mean tight budgets so spending money on these types of activities is not really an option. I've been working on some classroom activities that are made from old magazines. Magazines are a great tool to use to show students real life images and promote generalization (a skill thats so important to students with special needs) So before you throw them away check for the following:

  • Clothing Pieces: Flip through the pages to see if you can find full pieces of clothing. Pages like this you can find in some magazines. Also check out any clothing catalogues you get sent in the mail. Those are great for clothing pieces!
  • Food Pictures: Flip through the pages to see if you can find ANY sort of foods. You'll be able to find all sorts of different food pictures to use for a variety of different activities. I love creating different food file folders. 
  • Cool Wording: Cut out any cool words or letters you may see in a magazine. You can cut out individual letters from words to mix and match to spell your own words. 
Once you have collected all you need. You can use the pictures to makes some cool classroom activities. You can have students make "all about me" picture collages, center activities like a non-identical clothing file folder or healthy vs. unhealthy food sort, or a classroom wreath from the scraps! Check them out below! 

I love making activities like this! You can get so creative with it plus its all FREE! I'd love to see what you can come up with! Share/comment below! 

Monday, July 14, 2014

Classroom Organization: Labels, Labels, and more Labels.

So I was really starting to relax and enjoy my summer when I got a call from my principal that the furniture in my room was ready to be moved in. I met with two lovely and very handy men who helped me move all my furniture. Once everything was in place, instead of feeling accomplished I felt overwhelmed. I am an organizational freak and my classroom was/still is far from organized in its current state. My first step was to come up with some labels and decide where everything was going to go. When I ventured onto pinterest to look up some classroom organizational tips I found so many great classroom labels! Unfortunately once I clicked on them I was taken to their Teachers Pay Teachers page for $7.00 or more. Listen I'm all about labels but I'm really more about FREE labels. So I designed my own: check them out below (Shoutout to my amazing boyfriend Zach Tweddell for the template!)

You can download my entire set which includes labels with and without pictures, rewards, and daily schedules for FREE by clicking here

Sunday, July 6, 2014

Sight Word Fun!

Teachers are very familiar with the term "sight words" but if not heres a little breakdown:

A sight word is a high frequency (commonly used in the english language) word that a child learns to automatically recognize without having to phonetically sound out. It is important for students to learn sight words to develop fluency. "Accurate and automatic recognition of these high frequency words enables a child to read more smoothly and at a faster pace." (Scholastic, 2014) This not only helps the child read fluently, but also allows the focus to be on what the child is reading rather than sounding out the words leading to an increase in comprehension skills. There are 220 Dolch Sight Words in the english language. They are the most commonly used words. I purchased Dolch Sight Word cards level A, B, and C from amazon. But if you would like to make your own you can print them out for free by clicking here.

Personally, sight words are one of my FAVORITE things to teach. I am working on creating fun sight word activities this summer because I know I'll have no time during the school year with everything else going on. Here is a list of my favorite activities for sight word practice. Some of these you may have heard of already, but there are some good/new ones in here as well!

  • Playdough: There are SO many amazing uses for playdough in the classroom. Sight words is one of these ways! The two ways I use playdough for sight words is by having the students mold the playdough into the letters of the word and then practice reading them. The other way is by laying the playdough flat and writing the words in the playdough using either your finger or a toothpick. My kids LOVE working with playdough. Especially my students with sensory needs so its a great tool! Definitely one of my favorites (Pictured below)
  • Sight Word Songs by Have Fun Teaching: It can sometimes be difficult to appeal to those auditory learners when trying to come up with sight word activities. Have Fun Teaching solved that problem! They have a TON of songs for different sight words including: is, go, are, after, and about. They come out with new songs all the time as well! If you have access to youtube at your school this is definitely a resource you DON'T want to miss: click for their youtube channel
  • Rainbow Words: This is probably one you have heard of. I know we've used it in every classroom that I have worked in. Have the students write the sight word(s) in pencil on lined paper. Then have the students chose their favorite color crayon/marker and trace over the word in their favorite color saying the letters out loud and then reading the word. Have the students repeat this step using two more different colored crayons/markers. Extra practice reading and writing sight words. They end up looking pretty cool in the end! 
  • Sight Word Leap Frog: This is one of my kids favorite games! I created a pdf of all 220 sight words on lily pads. Laminated them, and cut them out for multiple levels and uses. Lay out the target sight words on the floor. Call out a specific word and have the students leap/hop/jump like frogs. They love to be silly and jump around like crazy frogs.  You can get my set for FREE by clicking here.  
  • Snowball fight: This is another one of my favorite sight word activities! Have each student write one of the sight words on a piece of plain white paper. You can write them if you want to target certain words. Give each student one sheet and have them crumple it up. Have half the class stand on one side of the room. Have the other half stand on the other side and have the students have an indoor snowball fight. on the count of 3 everyone throws it and then picks up a new word. They must read the new world correctly or their out! 
  • Rotten Apples: I use this activity specifically to focus on challenging sight words. Each student is given an apple with a sight word written on it facing down. They pass the cards around the circle to the tune “1, 2, 3, 4, rotten apples on the floor.” The students then flip the card over one at a time and read the high frequency word that is written on their flashcard. If the student reads the word correctly, they put it back into the pile. If the student does not read the word correctly, then he or she must keep the flashcard and it becomes a “rotten apple.” The teacher will then correct the student and go over the word, its spelling, and its meaning. The student may get rid of the rotten apple if they pick up the match (same word) and read both cards correctly. The student with the least rotten apples in the end wins! For a free apple template click the link. Print on red and green paper and laminate :). 
  • Sight word Twister: I have yet to try this in my classroom but I saw it on Pinterest and can't WAIT to try it. Put a sight word on each of the colored circles and have the children use the different parts of their body to touch the correct sight word.
for more info click here

  • Shaving/Whipped Cream: Give each student a paper plate and spray a small amount of shaving or whipped cream. Have students practice writing their sight words in the cream with their finger. Warning, comes with a mess! 
  • Sight Word Fishing: I purchased Pressman's "Lets Go Fishing" from target ($10) as a board game to have in my classroom where students can practice play/social interactions with peers. Turns out this game can be used as a reading tool by adding one simple component! Write sight words on the bottom of the fish. Have the students use their poles to attract fish. When caught the student picks up the fish and must correctly read the sight word. If they do, they can keep it. If they read it incorrectly they must put it back and fish again. The student with the most fish in the end wins! If you don't have/want to purchase this game, you can make your own fish by cut laminate and magnets. Put a string and a paperclip to use as a fishing pole! :) 
  • Sight word name game: Give each student a name tag with a sight word written on it. Once the student receives a name tag he/she is instructed to introduce him/herself to another student using this script. "Hi my name is _______(sight word name). I start with a ______ and I'm spelled like this___________(spells sight word)" Once both students have introduced themselves, they switch name tags and find another student and repeat procedure with a new sight word. Introduce different voices, and silly characteristics to make this game fun! You can download my template here.
  • Dolch Sight Word Bingo (SMARTBoard/Computer Game): This game is a great technological enhancement to sight word Bingo. This website has words from pre-primer all the way up to 3rd grade! Visit the link here: ABCya Sight Word Bingo .

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

A Teacher's Prayer

Congratulations teachers! You successfully completed this year of teaching. Whether this was your first year teaching, like myself, or it was your twenty fifth, every single one of us has something to be proud of! As the year is coming to an end and I packed up and now trying to organize all my teacher nonsense, I found this little slice of inspiration and wanted to share it with you. I received it upon my college graduation two years ago and honestly, I forgot about it till now. But since discovering it is has had a profound impact on my view of teacher. It reminded me of why I became a teacher and why this job is so important :).

I have laminated my copy and will place it on my light switch in my classroom so its the first thing I see when I enter into the room to turn on my lights and its the last thing I see when I leave to turn them off. Hopefully it will keep me calm an grounded during those challenging moments that all teachers face during the school year and keep me encouraged and positive as well. (PS, this "prayer" can be used as nothing more than a daily reminder so its not just for those of us who are religious!) Thank you again and I hope it brings inspiration to you all!

If you would like a copy to download you can download it for free by clicking here