5 THINGS KIDS SHOULD KNOW BEFORE STARTING KINDERGARTEN

Y'all, I HAVE A KINDERGARTNER!!!

So you have a kindergartener! The first day of Kindergarten is exciting, scary, and everything in between.These are my top five skills that kids should know prior to entering kindergarten! Help your son or daughter feel more confidentin the transition to traditional school by practicing these skills prior to the first day of school. #Kindergarten #BackToSchool #BuildingBrilliance

My oldest is going into Kindergarten in just a few short weeks, and I'm simultaneously excited and devastated about it. I thought as a teacher, I'd be prepared for this milestone, but I'm just not! Watching him grow is the greatest gift, but it's also sad leaving the previous stage behind.

My first five years teaching were spent in kindergarten. It is an exciting and fun grade, but it is also the first "school" experience for a lot of kids, which can leave parents feeling stressed about how to prepare. The one thing that parents always asked me over the summer was "What should my child know going into kindergarten?"  

So here are my top 5 skill recommendations for kids to practice prior to starting kindergarten. These are purely my opinion of what will help kids feel confident and will make the transition easier. There are absolutely more skills to work on, and even skills that might be more important, but when I think about those first few weeks of school, these are what come to mind.

1. Use the Bathroom Independently. 
Y'all, while preschool teachers might be able to go into bathrooms with kids, kinder teachers are not supposed to. Kinder babies need to be able to use the bathroom independently, including buttoning their pants, wiping themselves, and washing their hands after. We also recognize that accidents happen. Just pack a spare change of clothes in their bag and the world will move on.

2. Practice Basic Cooperation Skills.  
Social skills are a huge part of kindergarten. Kids work on cooperation, kindness, sharing, interdependence, and so much more. On the first day of school, it is easy to tell which kids have had opportunities to practice these skills prior to kindergarten. These will obviously take a lifetime of practice to develop, but the more opportunities that your child can have to practice taking turns, sharing, waiting in line, listening, etc the quicker they will adapt to school social expectations, which translates into them being happier in school.

3. How to Take Care of Supplies. 
This is one that will benefit you at home too! Practice how to handle books, use scissors, putting lids back on markers and glue sticks, putting items back where they belong, and keeping a tidy area. Teachers will go over these things the first week of school as well, but having a basic understanding of how to take care of supplies is a skill that is helpful in life. Kids who struggle with disorganization in kindergarten often continue to struggle with it in older grades by losing assignments, forgetting their name, etc. It also causes disagreements with other students when a kids backpack or desk supplies spill over into others areas, or if not everyone helps clean up things like Legos when center time is done. Instilling these skills early is a great skill and will help students with independence and  relationships with peers (plus, it may help your own home feel more organized!)

4. Recite the Alphabet. 
You will find an array of "kindergarten readiness lists" that include knowing all the letters of the alphabet, including their sounds, and starting to put them into words, and I disagree. The alphabet, letter sounds, and putting them together to make words is a huge part of what is learned in kindergarten. Obviously, the more letters and sounds that kids know going into kindergarten are beneficial, but in my opinion, being able to recite the alphabet and knowing some letters is enough. At minimum, kids should know the letters of their name! If your child doesn't know every letter, don't stress, this does not mean they are behind!

5. How to Write Their Name. 
This is probably my number one "academic" skill suggestion for kids entering kindergarten. They should know how to write their name, using proper sentence case. In a class of 30 kids, this skill will make a world of difference! It will take a huge burden off your child's teacher, and will instill confidence in your son/daughter, if they can recognize and write their name prior to starting kindergarten. I have a great freebie to help kids practice writing their name, which can be found HERE.

Also, this isn't a "skill" but save your kid's teacher some sanity, and send your kid with velcro shoes for PE days! Nothing takes longer than tying 30 sets of shoes! ;) And only send them lunches and snacks that they can open independently. They often don't have much time for snack/lunch, and if they have to wait for help to open their food, it may take the majority of their time.

That's it. Y'all, kids will learn a ton in kindergarten. Arguably, it's the grade where the most is learned. If they don't know everything starting off, it's ok. You will be blown away by how much they learn in 9 months!

PIN FOR LATER:
So you have a kindergartener! The first day of Kindergarten is exciting, scary, and everything in between.These are my top five skills that kids should know prior to entering kindergarten! Help your son or daughter feel more confidentin the transition to traditional school by practicing these skills prior to the first day of school. #Kindergarten #BackToSchool #BuildingBrilliance


Grab this First and Last Day of School Sign FREEBIE by clicking HERE (or click the photo below).
First and Last Day of School Sign FREEBIE







We're Going on a Field Trip... Ideas to help you plan, organize, and survive field trips!

Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization
*This post may contain affiliate links. All recommendations are 100% my own opinions. For more information about these, please see my disclosure statement.*

So, you're planning a field trip...

Field trip days are both the best and most exhausting days of the year, amIright?

They take an incredible amount of planning, organization, and energy to successfully pull off,  but the excitement is unparalleled! After a few years of just kind of throwing permission forms, money, chaperone lists, whatever other paper work I get into a manila file folder, I decided that I wanted to be more organized. So...I started working on a Field Trip Binder to help me keep all the things together, and save me time and energy! It's one of those things that I've had sitting on my computer, done enough for me to use, but not quite done enough to share with others, until recently, and I'm SO EXCITED to share it with you now! I genuinely hope that it helps make planning, organizing, and actually going on field trips easier for you! Of course, all of these ideas can be utilized without purchasing my binder, but if you want to save yourself some time and energy, you can find my binder by clicking HERE or the photo below (just click somewhere besides the "pin it" button).

THE FOLLOWING INCLUDES IDEAS OF THINGS TO THINK ABOUT WHILE GETTING READY FOR YOUR TRIP 
(Don't want to reinvent the wheel? My Field Trip Binder on TpT (found HERE or by clicking outside the "pin it" button on any of the photos) includes forms for all of these and will save you TIME! I've included sample pictures of them throughout this blog post as ideas, but you could obviously make your own versions (For personal use. Don't copy mine and try to sell them. That is a violation of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act, my intellectual property, plus it's just mean!) 
Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

1. PERMISSION FORMS
Save yourself time and energy by creating a template. Just change the specific details for your trip, but leave the majority of it as a standard form.
I organize mine with details including:
   -Date of trip and due date for forms/money to be returned
   -Departure and return times
   -Location and address
   -Lunch options and info
   -Special accommodations (such as clothing, shoes, meals, etc)
   -Cost
   -Chaperone info
   -Permission form for parents to sign

I keep a template that I make minor tweaks to information to, but keep the majority of the info for parents the same.

Honestly, I'm a sucker for cute. I want everything that I send home to be adorable, and I cringe when I see generic forms in Times New Romans. I get it, not everyone is like me, but I'm hoping that these little cuties make it easier for you to add a little cuteness to your forms. In my binder, I included (editable) forms to send home. There are over 30 permission forms with related graphics, and several options for generic forms as well. They all follow the pattern shown in the picture below. These are an editable PDF, so you can literally edit any of the text on these forms (but not the graphics) without having to resize, insert fonts, or change colors, etc. Super easy peasy, lemon squeezy!

Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

2. ORGANIZATION FORMS AND CHECKLISTS
Checklists are beautiful things and they make it easy to quickly see what has been done, and what still needs to be done. A few things that you may need to do to prepare for a trip
-Contact the location and set a date
-Contact your busing department and confirm a bus
-Create a schedule for the field trip day
-Create a checklist to mark off which student has returned paperwork
-Note any IEP's or accomodations that will be relevant for the trip to easily inform your field trip location and chaperones
Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

3. CHAPERONE TOOLS
Often tools for chaperones need to be made on a trip by trip basis, because your chaperones will change, but there are a few things you can do at the beginning of the year to help you be prepared all year.
-Keep a running list of parents who have background checks completed
-Keep contact info handy for parents who regularly volunteer
-Print name tags for students and have them ready
I also keep a spreadsheet of students who may require extra assistance (allergies, inhalers, etc) ready so that I don't forget to tell the parent in charge of the group the day of the field trip.

Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

For name tags, use string, gimp, or grab something a little more durable like these:
 

4. REFLECTION FORMS
I love having my kids sit and write a quick reflection of their field trip when we returned. I even had my kinder babies write about their day! It was simply an easy, but meaningful, way for us to reflect on our trip and for me to see kid true feelings about it. If they hated it, let's try to find a new one for next year. If they loved it, let's make it an annual trip! Who cares if I go on the trip 30 times, it's their first time. Plus, reading their highlights usually made my heart burst and made all the time and effort feel worth it! I added in a bunch of quick and easy reflection sheets.

Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

Grab some Astrobrights paper, print your reflection forms in September, and be ready for all the field trips for the year! Amazon always has the best deals! You can grab some here:

   or these 

IDEAS OF WHERE TO GO ON FIELD TRIPS:

Looking for a way to save your sanity on field trips? Check out this blog post! Filled with ideas to plan, organize, and stay sane on field trips with elementary students. Includes a list of field trip ideas, organizational tips, and more! #FieldTrip #TeachersPayTeachers #ClassroomOrganization

Good luck on your next field trip!  











Did you appreciate the information in this post? I'd love for you to re-pin this post using one of the images below!
PIN FOR LATER:

DIY Laundry Detergent


A few years ago, I was pregnant with our first child. I was swimming in school debt, making pennies working at a private school, and looking for ways to save money wherever possible.

When I read about DIY laundry detergent and how it not only was cheap and easy to make, but also made your clothes smell super fresh, I decided it was something that I wanted to try. I found a recipe on Pinterest and haven't looked back since! I honestly love my soap. It usually takes only about 10 minutes to make, once batch lasts my family of 4 a year, and our clothes smell amazing.

I recently posted about making my own soap on Instagram, and had a ton of you asking for my recipe. I scoured my DIY board on Pinterest trying to find my original recipe and couldn't find it anywhere, so here it is. If this is your recipe, please let me know, so I can link to your blog! 

It costs about $30-$35 for all of the ingredients. Some of them, if you are a couponer, you can definitely find coupons to get them cheaper!

DIY Laundry Detergent
I have found all of the ingredients in the laundry isle at Walmart. Some of the exact quantities may be a few ounces different than what I have listed, so grab whatever is in the laundry isle. If you prefer to order off Amazon, see the links at the end of this post go grab everything there!
4  lb box of Pure Baking Soda
4 lb box of Borax
4 lb box of Arm & Hammer Super Washing Soda
3 lb box of Oxi Clean
2 bottles of Purex Crystals
2 bars Zote soap

The only hard part is that you have to grate (as in use a cheese grater) the bars of Zote soap. Then,
I literally just mix them all together in a bucket. My kids even like helping me out with it! 

 

That's it. When you use it, you just need a little bit with each load. Only about 2 TBSP, which means this stuff lasts forever!

I have a glass jar that I bought at TJ Maxx a few years ago that I keep on top of my wash machine, and I store the rest in the Oxi Clean containers until my class jar runs out, but you could keep it in your big bucket too. However you want to store it. 

I tried to be fancy with my jar and actually di-cut the word "laundry" and put it on the jar, but it's lost a few letters over the years, so it just looks like "dry" now. Ha! Maybe eventually I'll fix it, but #tiredmom. If I ever get around to fixing it, then I'll share a photo! ;) 

There you go! If you try making your own soap and you love it, let me know!












Grab all the ingredients off Amazon!

Engaging (and not so scary) Halloween Read Alouds

Get students laughing with these engaging Halloween read alouds! Each book has it's own unique and hilarious story that are sure the keep your students engaged all October long! #Halloween #PictureBooks #GoodReads
I know I'm not alone when I say that picture books are my jam! I think one of my favorite parts of teaching and parenting small children is reading aloud. Books are magic! 

In this post, I've compiled about 10 of my favorite Halloween read alouds, and a short reason why each are must reads! These are in no particular order!

You can click to purchase any of the books on Amazon by clicking the photo on each (just click outside of the "Pin It" button in the middle. 😀
1. Bonaparte Falls Apart
https://amzn.to/2slIR8y
My son wanted to read this book on repeat this last Halloween. I'm not kidding. He thought it was absolutely the funniest thing he had ever heard. It also has the cutest story line about friendship and celebrating your individuality. It is a perfect book to include in your classroom if you have students with disabilities, as Little Bonaparte ends up with a service dog in the end to help him keep himself together!
Grab Bonaparte Falls Apart on Amazon by clicking HERE!

2. Room on the Broom
https://amzn.to/2M4zQJZ
There is always room for others on the broom. I love this sweet story about friendship, and bravery, and sticking by each other. The witch is happy to share her broom with others, and when she gets in trouble, they come to her rescue. In the end, they each contribute a piece to make a beautiful new broom. It's the perfect story for friendship, compassion, and teamwork! Follow up activities could be building brooms using recycled materials or Legos, or a writing project about where they would travel to and who they would travel with, if they had a broom.
Grab Room on the Broom on Amazon by clicking HERE!

3. Creepy Pair of Underwear
(and Creepy Carrots)
https://amzn.to/2Cj6bZnhttps://amzn.to/2M83TjX
We all know kids love underwear. Just saying the word "underwear" around littles will make them laugh hysterically. So this story has the right ingredients to be a hilarious read aloud. Kids also get a kick out of how a little rabbit is scared of his underpants. He goes through great lengths to get rid of them, and they just keep coming back. Jasper is funny. Just funny.
Grab Creepy Pair of Underwear on Amazon by clicking HERE!
Grab Creepy Carrots on Amazon by clicking HERE!

4. The Ugly Pumpkin
https://amzn.to/2M3XdDJ
This is a cute little story about a "pumpkin" who doesn't get chosen at Halloween and thinks there is something wrong with him, only to find out that he isn't a pumpkin after all! A great book for classifying fruits and vegetables!
Grab The Ugly Pumpkin on Amazon by clicking HERE!
5. It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
This book is full of nostalgia, and that alone makes me excited to read it every year! When you are excited, your kids are excited! Plus, there are some books that are just timeless!
Grab It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown on Amazon by clicking HERE! 

6. Pete the Cat Five Little Pumpkins
https://amzn.to/2RqKC3e
I don't know what it is about this Groovy Cat, but my kids are obsessed! As long as a book includes a little blue cat and rhyming, my kids are hooked. That makes this a great read aloud to hold their attention! It's a Groovy spin on the classic 5 Pumpkins Sitting on a Gate poem, and is perfect story to lead into a Jack-O-Lantern Craft!
Grab Pete the Cat Five Little Pumpkins on Amazon by clicking HERE!

7. Little Boo
This is an adorable story about being patient, waiting for what you want, and working hard to get there. As the little seed keeps trying to scare other objects, but nothing is scared. Over time, he grows and becomes a Jack O'Lantern. This book is also great for a introducing the life cycle of a pumpkin!  
Grab Little Boo on Amazon by clicking HERE!

8. There's a Monster in your Book
https://amzn.to/2RFq9ap
This book is fun because it allows kids to engage with the story. Each page has a different "task" for them to do to get the monster out of the book. A fun story to read again and again and again!
Grab There's a Monster in your Book on Amazon by clicking HERE!
9. The Hallo-Wiener
https://amzn.to/2H6FXP6
My Sister in Law bought my son this book a few years ago and it's been a favorite in our house ever since! Dav Pilkey writes a ton of funny stories (including one of our favorite, Dog Breath!) and we just can't get enough of his style. It's a sweet story about a poor wiener dog that just doesn't feel like he fits in, but low and behold (pun intended) he becomes the hero of the story and learns that he is perfect the way that he is.
Grab The Hallo-Wiener on Amazon by clicking HERE!
10. How to Catch a Monster
Okay, I miiiiiight be obsessed with this whole series! (to see all of them, click here), but it's just a cute story that shows how we can have misconceptions of others and we should never judge them by rumors or stereotypes. Plus, it's fuuuuunny! (It does have some farting in it though, so if you have kids that just can't handle that, maybe don't grab this book. ;) If you're looking for a follow up activity, have students create their own monsters and write about their characteristics.
 Grab How to Catch a Monster on Amazon by clicking HERE!

As always, I would love for you to help me spread the word about these amazing books by re-pinning the image below. 😀
Get students laughing with these engaging Halloween read alouds! Each book has it's own unique and hilarious story that are sure the keep your students engaged all October long! #Halloween #PictureBooks #GoodReads

Back to School MUST READ Books!

I know I'm not alone when I say that picture books are my jam! I think one of my favorite parts of teaching is reading aloud to kids. I can get the craziest of groups to hang on my every word when I read a good book aloud.

If I need my class to calm down... Pull out a book.
If I need to fill a few minute before lunch with out them jumping out the window... Pull out a book.  
If I need my kids to understand a character trait...Pull out a book. 
If I need to get my kids thinking creatively...Pull out a book.
If I just need to entertain them...PULL. OUT. A BOOK.
Books are literally like magic wands at your fingertips! 
USE THEM!
My biggest fear when making the jump from Kinder to 4th was that they wouldn't love picture books anymore, and boy was I wrong! My fourth graders loved pictures books! And perk, they had the stamina to also tackle chapter books. #WINNING! Maybe they are so magical because kids are constantly bombarded with so much technology that slowing down and hearing rich literature is something their brains desperately crave. I don't know...Something to research more, for sure! But, y'all, it.is.a.beautiful.thing!

So without further ado, here is my list of encouraging read alouds that every elementary classroom could benefit from during the first week of school (or any time really, because they are beautiful pieces of literature!) and why I love them. These are in no particular order!

You can click to purchase any of the books on Amazon by clicking the photo on each (just click outside of the "Pin It" button in the middle. 😀

1. Have you Filled a Bucket Today? by Carol McCloud
Have You FIlled a Bucket Today? 
There is a significant possibility that this will be my first day of school read aloud from now until eternity! Love isn't even a strong enough word for how I feel about this book. I am obsessed! It is a beautifully written story about how we all walk around carrying emotional buckets. The actions that we make impact not just how full others buckets are, but also how full our own become. I love this book for several reasons.
     →One, it places ownership on each student individually. 
     →Two, the explanations in the book are so easy for kids to connect to. It really matches their schema and my kids always buy into it. 
     →Three, it sets the tone for my kids to be spreaders of kindness. 

This is my number one must have book for every elementary classroom. Period!

Grab Have you Filled a Bucket Today on Amazon by clicking HERE!

2. Teal by Renee Galvin
Teal 

Ok, truth moment...I was first drawn to Teal, because it is my favorite color, and let's be real, we all judge books by their covers! ;) But y'all, this book did not disappoint! It is about a sweet little teal crayon who feels like he doesn't quite fit in; he's not blue, he's not green... As the story progresses, we learn the invaluable lesson that we are all unique; we all have different strengths; we all are special. When we combine our own unique and individual strengths, we can make something truly beautiful together. I love this story for the first week of school, because its sweet story connects with any student who feels like he or she might not fit in. It's the perfect story for celebrating diversity, for teaching kids that we all belong and when we work together (collaboration!), we can make something truly beautiful!
Grab Teal on Amazon by clicking HERE!


3. The Dot by Peter H. Reynolds
The Dot on Amazon 
I remember almost crying the first time I read this book. It's beautiful. Little Vashti doesn't think that she can be an artist. Her teacher urges her to start with a simple dot. With a little praise from her teacher, Vashti quickly grows in confidence as she tries new things and continually improves. My favorite part of this story is how at the end, it comes full circle as she gives another little girl encouragement and praise and  you can just picture the story cycling again. So, so heartwarming. Not only is this book perfect to teach kids to just get started, it's also a beautiful reminder to us, as teachers, that our compliments and interactions with kids have the ability to make or break them. I always have my kids make "Dot Art" after this. We talk about how, if they can be so creative with a dot, imagine what they can create!

Grab The Dot on Amazon by clicking HERE!

4.  The Name Jar by Yangsook Choi
The Name Jar on Amazon 

Confession: I once called a kindergarten girl the wrong name for half of a year and she never corrected me! When her mom walked behind her and said "You need to tell your teacher..." and she proceeded to tell my "My name is said Joanna, not Joanna." I wanted to cry for her. The poor girl had an entire class calling her the wrong name for months! I don't ever want a student to feel embarassed by their name or be afraid to correct someone for mispronouncing their name. Whether a name is easy to pronounce or hard to pronounce, they were chosen for us with purpose. They have meaning to them. They are special and we should be proud of them. This story is beautifully written about a girl who feels embarrassed by her name, only to come to realize that it is uniquely and beautifully hers. It's a perfect story to start off the year, and have students research the meanings of their names.

Grab The Name Jar on Amazon by clicking HERE!

5.  First Day Jitters by Julie Danneberg
First Day Jitters on Amazon 

The first day of school can be scary and intimidating. We all feel nervous! This story adorably goes through all those first day feelings at a new school in an easy to relate way. Students are sure to connect with the main character, only to be met with a twist at the end that is sure to get your students laughing! The perfect book to ease the tension on the first day. An easy follow up would be creating a "First Day Jitters" anchor chart and writing. A must have for the first day of school!

Grab First Day Jitters on Amazon by clicking HERE!

6.  What if Everybody Did that? by Ellen Javernick
What if Everybody Did That? on Amazon

This book shares the important message of thinking critically about how our actions can effect the world around us. I especially love how it helps set the tone for the school year by reminding kids the rules and expectations that are set are there to make our classroom a better place and a better experience for everyone. It dares kids to think outside of their own world and to think about making things better for everyone. The beautiful illustrations and hilarious dialogue make it a must read at the beginning of the school year (and anytime a reminder is needed) for explaining why classroom expectations are set.

Grab What if Everybody Did That? on Amazon by clicking HERE!

7.  Do Unto Otters by Laurie Keller
 Do Unto Otters on Amazon

Besides that this book has the cutest pun that makes me smile every time I see it, it also has the cutest story line that reminds kids about the "golden rule" of "Treat others the way you would like to be treated". The cute interaction between the otters and the rabbits is a perfect introduction to diversity and treating everyone with kindness and respect. As the story progresses, Mr. Rabbit learns that, even though he has never met an otter before, they have a lot in common and can still be great friends. It's a great story to start the discussion of what makes a good friend.

Grab Do Unto Otters on Amazon by clicking HERE!

8.  A Bad Case of the Stripes by David Shannon
 A Bad Case of the Stripes on Amazon

David Shannon is one of my absolute favorite children's authors and I love everything he writes, but besides that, this book is one that hilariously points out the importance of just being yourself! Poor Camilla is afraid to eat lima beans because she doesn't want her classmates to make fun of her. But not being herself has wild consequences that she only learns at the end can be fixed by being true to who she is! One of my favorite first week activities is giving kids a face and letting them draw in whatever designs they want. Creativity oozes and it's a beautiful thing!


Grab A Bad Case of the Stripes on Amazon by clicking HERE!

9.  Beautiful Oops by Barney Saltzberg
Beautiful Oops on Amazon 

Perhaps the most beautiful thing about my copy of Beautiful Oops is that it has been so well loved that the cover is falling off of it and some of the pages are hanging on by a thread. Beautiful Oops teaches kids that mistakes are ok, in fact, they are opportunities to try again and make something better. A message that every perfectionist child needs to read over, and over, and over. Plus, it's really fun to have each student crumple up a piece of paper, have a quick "snowball fight" with them, and use those crumpled papers to make our own Beautiful Oops! :)

Grab Beautiful Oops on Amazon by clicking HERE!

10. Giraffe's Can't Dance by Giles Andreae

Giraffes Can't Dance  
After seeing this book all over the internet for so long, I finally snagged a copy of it last year and it instantly became a forever favorite. Through the relatable story line, students learn several important messages. Gerald the Giraffe wants to dance, but the other animals tell him that he can't. Sad to not be included, he gets encouragement from a cricket, he discovers that his dance looks different, and that he can do anything he wants to do. This story is perfect to help students stand up for themselves against bullying, tackle a growth mindset, and be proud of who they are.

Grab Giraffes Can't Dance on Amazon by clicking HERE!

Full disclosure, this list was extremely hard to narrow down to ten books. There are so many great books for the first week and month of school. If only we could spend more time soaking up literature! What books would you add to this list?

Also, I feel like I should add that these opinions are 100% my own. I was not paid or sponsored to write this post, but wouldn't it be fun if I was that cool! 😉

*This post contains Amazon affiliate links. Please read my disclosure statement to learn more.*
As always, I would love for you to help me spread the word about these amazing books by re-pinning the image below. 😀

Set the tone for the entire year with positive, encouraging read aloud that teach students about diversity, community, kindness, and collaboration. Read more to find out why each of these books are valuable to share during the first week of school! #BackToSchool #GoodReads

 

How I Eliminated Paper Piles in my Classroom



*This post contains affiliate links. Please see my disclosure statement to learn more.*

I've talked about my jump from kindergarten to 3rd/4th before. Obviously, it was a little traumatizing. ;) In many ways, it was like being a first year teacher all over again. I had to rethink and retry many of my management and organization tricks. I won't pretend to be an expert on anything, but there were definitely some things that I learned, that I think could be so helpful for others!

Before I fully explain this, I'm going to give you a little back story (you can skip on down to the picture if you want to avoid my real life breakdown). I had gone from a self-contained kindergarten classroom to a 3rd/4th grade blend that rotated for nearly every subject. I had a 3rd/4th Grade Homeroom, 3rd Grade Reading, 4th Grade Math, 3-5 Reading RTI and a 3-5 Math RTI every day. To say it was an overwhelming change would be an understatement, but I had the most supportive and patient teammates and administrators while I tried to work out the kinks.

Probably the hardest part for me was keeping up with the paper piles. I had 5 different classes to make copies for each day (with different quantities of kids in each group. Five different groups turning in assignments to the same turn in basket. I had copies everywhere, and could never seem to find what I needed when I needed it. I was a hot mess to say the least. Just before Thanksgiving, the stress of feeling like I was drowning in a sea of endless photocopies hit me so hard. I remember breaking down sobbing in front of a co-worker, who happened to have a student teacher with her, and then the principal walked in. They were gracious, but I decided I needed to find a way to keep all of my papers organized so that I wasn't losing them, so that kids knew exactly where to find things, and so that I could access them easily when needed.

So here's what I did...And it has worked beautifully!  

I found these awesome Sterilite slide drawer storage containers. They come in stacks of 3 drawers, but the thing that I loved most about them is that I could detach and re-stack the drawers to make them any height I wanted. (This is not true of all Sterilite drawers, so be sure you are buying the ones that can detach.). You can find the ones that I used HERE. I also printed the labels on Astrobright paper. I check my local office supply store, but Amazon usually has the best price. You can snag some by clicking HERE (affiliate links).

Let's talk about those paper piles for a minute... Are they driving you crazy?! Are you looking for an organizational system that will eliminate paper piles, increase student accountability and ownership, and help save your sanity?! This organizational system helped save my sanity in my 3rd grade classroom! Read more to find out how I set it up, maintained it, and taught my students how to utilize it!
My drawers are five high and four across. Each drawer has a specific purpose.

On the left are my turn in drawers. Since I teach different groups for each subject, it’s easier for me to manage the paper piles if they turn in their assignments separately. I always print a few extra copies and extra copies drawer is there for if students lose an assignment or are absent (these become scratch paper if not used). I send home missing assignment reports every Wednesday, so they always know what they need to find. The No Name speaks for itself. 😉 I also put any incomplete assignments there. I clear out all of these drawers at the end of the week to start fresh.
 
In the Monday-Friday drawers, I keep my copies for the week. I also put my read alouds and our emergent readers for the week in these drawer so I don’t lose them. This makes it especially easy if I have a sub. All of my copies are already printed and in an easy to find place. I've actually had so many compliments from subs on this!

Let's talk about those paper piles for a minute... Are they driving you crazy?! Are you looking for an organizational system that will eliminate paper piles, increase student accountability and ownership, and help save your sanity?! This organizational system helped save my sanity in my 3rd grade classroom! Read more to find out how I set it up, maintained it, and taught my students how to utilize it!

I swear our printer hates me and WILL break if I wait until the last minute, so I make all of my Wonders reading copies 5 weeks at a time. I also make my homework copies in 5 week chunks. Those get stored in the Weeks 1-5 drawers. On Fridays, I just pull them out and sort them in to the Monday-Friday drawers and I'm ready to go!

On the right are the drawers that are mostly for my own benefit. The “grade” drawer is for things that I’ve pulled out of the turn in drawers that someone else can grade for me. A parent maybe (wishful thinking 😉). The Hand Back drawer is for things that have been graded and entered, and are ready to send back to the kids. I have student helpers who can pull from that drawer and put assignments in mailboxes. The “To-Do” drawer is where I hide things that I need to do, but don’t want to. 😉 Lined Paper and White Paper are there for students to grab whenever they need.

Let's talk about those paper piles for a minute... Are they driving you crazy?! Are you looking for an organizational system that will eliminate paper piles, increase student accountability and ownership, and help save your sanity?! This organizational system helped save my sanity in my 3rd grade classroom! Read more to find out how I set it up, maintained it, and taught my students how to utilize it!

The clipboards...This is where I keep my weekly homework. Each students has about 10-15 minutes of homework per night. They get this on Monday and it’s due on Friday. Most of my kids do it all on Monday and have nothing for the rest of the week. It's really up to them. If they lose it or are absent, they always know where to find an extra copy.

Let's talk about those paper piles for a minute... Are they driving you crazy?! Are you looking for an organizational system that will eliminate paper piles, increase student accountability and ownership, and help save your sanity?! This organizational system helped save my sanity in my 3rd grade classroom! Read more to find out how I set it up, maintained it, and taught my students how to utilize it!

One of the bonuses to this system is that it makes kids take accountability. It's really hard for me to lose an assignment, and they know exactly where to look if they're missing something. It gives them tremendous ownership and responsibility. And that, my friends, is a huge win!

I get asked a lot about my labels. I made them and printed on my favorite Astrobright papers. I actually printed, laminated, and taped them to the inside of the drawers, but you could attach them to the outside of the drawer too. If you want to snag them for yourself, I have two versions in my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can snag them by clicking the photos below. The one on the left can be printed on Astrobrights paper like the photos in this post, the one on the right has colorful stripes and is more suitable to be printed on white paper (they are what I used last year). Both include editable templates, so you can customize. The labels are absolutely not necessary, but they are helpful! :)

https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Classroom-Supply-Organization-Labels-BUNDLE-Color-BW-and-EDITABLE-3047390?utm_source=Blog%20Post&utm_campaign=Bundle%20Labels   https://www.teacherspayteachers.com/Product/Simple-Classroom-Supply-Organization-Labels-2519219?utm_source=Blog%20Post&utm_campaign=Simple%20Supply%20Labels

 If you end up using these, or something similar, I'd love to hear about it! This system has legitimately saved my sanity, and I wish I would have done it sooner! As always, if you loved this post, I'd appreciate you re-pinning for me! :) Thanks, friends!
 

PIN FOR LATER:
 Let's talk about those paper piles for a minute... Are they driving you crazy?! Are you looking for an organizational system that will eliminate paper piles, increase student accountability and ownership, and help save your sanity?! This organizational system helped save my sanity in my 3rd grade classroom! Read more to find out how I set it up, maintained it, and taught my students how to utilize it!








How I make State Testing a little less stressful

A note of encouragement can go a long way! I believe there is tremendous power in encouragement, and the rapport it builds with students is incredible. Every student should be offered a handwritten note on several occasions throughout the year. These ready to print seasonal, testing, and punny notes make that much easier!

A few years ago, I  made the terrifying leap from teaching kindergarten to teaching a 3rd/4th grade blend. Now, if you've ever been proposed with the idea of jumping grades like that, you will empathize with my initial response of, "Yeah...thanks for thinking I was talented enough to do that, but I'm going to have to pass..."

After the idea of moving grades finally sunk in, I dove in head first without looking back. Turns out, it was a desperately needed change that helped reignite my teaching heart that was feeling weary, but that's another story.

The year went as well as you could have imagined, considering I was hired by my new school just 6 days before classes started and it was a mad scramble to move out of my old school, set up a new classroom, learn a new curriculum, learn a new culture (I went from private to public school) and prepare for a whole new class of 31 darlings who I was sure would be taller than me (some were)...

That is, until the spring came and I could no longer pretend that we didn't have to complete state testing. By the way, whoever decided that 8 year olds should take high stakes, computer based tests, needs to spend a week in an underfunded, overcrowded classroom of 8 year olds, that has no heat or air conditioning, and only tiny pencils left... but I digress...
 
So here I was, a nervous wreck of a teacher trying my best to cram every last minute fact into my kids brains and trying not to let them know how terribly nervous I was for them (and for me!). And on DAY ONE, I had three 3rd grade students cry. I taught the low reading group and they could barely read the instructions, let alone answer the questions. It was too hard. ... and after I was done comforting them and alone in my classroom, I bawled like a baby and overate on any chocolate I could find stashed in my desk. 
I had to stop. I had to stop for me. I had to stop for them. So I decided I was going to take the opposite approach and be the biggest cheerleader on the field (since I couldn't be a coach or a player...). I thought of puns. I walked down the isles of JoAnn's and Target. I found treats. I made notes. I decided that each day of the test my students were going to get a little something-something that reduced the seriousness of it, because 8 year olds should not be so stressed about something as arbitrary as a test! Here are a few of the things we had during the weeks of testing.

A note of encouragement can go a long way! I believe there is tremendous power in encouragement, and the rapport it builds with students is incredible. Every student should be offered a handwritten note on several occasions throughout the year. These ready to print seasonal, testing, and punny notes make that much easier!

A note of encouragement can go a long way! I believe there is tremendous power in encouragement, and the rapport it builds with students is incredible. Every student should be offered a handwritten note on several occasions throughout the year. These ready to print seasonal, testing, and punny notes make that much easier!

A note of encouragement can go a long way! I believe there is tremendous power in encouragement, and the rapport it builds with students is incredible. Every student should be offered a handwritten note on several occasions throughout the year. These ready to print seasonal, testing, and punny notes make that much easier!
A note of encouragement can go a long way! I believe there is tremendous power in encouragement, and the rapport it builds with students is incredible. Every student should be offered a handwritten note on several occasions throughout the year. These ready to print seasonal, testing, and punny notes make that much easier!
And in case you were wondering, yes I did let them wear that mustache and pirates patch while they were testing, because it made them feel relaxed. And when kids are relaxed, they are going to do better work!
A note of encouragement can go a long way! I believe there is tremendous power in encouragement, and the rapport it builds with students is incredible. Every student should be offered a handwritten note on several occasions throughout the year. These ready to print seasonal, testing, and punny notes make that much easier!
My absolute favorite comment of that first year of state testing came from one of my 4th grade boys. When our principal asked him how testing was going, he responded with something like, "Oh, it's going great! Mrs. Bates has a new treat for us each day, and it's exciting to come in and see what it is!"

If we haaaaave to do the testing, we might as well make the day something to look forward to! You can click the link below to check out my notes. What do you do to get students excited to come to school on testing days?



 

 

 

 

 

GRAB THESE NOTES HERE:

FULL SET: 

A note of encouragement can go a long way! I believe there is tremendous power in encouragement, and the rapport it builds with students is incredible. Every student should be offered a handwritten note on several occasions throughout the year. These ready to print seasonal, testing, and punny notes make that much easier!

FREEBIE:  

A note of encouragement can go a long way! I believe there is tremendous power in encouragement, and the rapport it builds with students is incredible. Every student should be offered a handwritten note on several occasions throughout the year. These ready to print seasonal, testing, and punny notes make that much easier!

OR PIN FOR LATER: 

A note of encouragement can go a long way! I believe there is tremendous power in encouragement, and the rapport it builds with students is incredible. Every student should be offered a handwritten note on several occasions throughout the year. These ready to print seasonal, testing, and punny notes make that much easier!