Wednesday, September 7, 2016

The Best Get to Know You Games For the First Days of School

Today I am brining you the perfect combination of back to school ice-breakers and games for those first days of school! 

Back to school is a crazy time and we all want to hit the ground running. There are routines and procedures to teach and we are ready to get to them the second those kids walk in the door. Building community and getting to know your kids has to come before or alongside all of that, though.

 As a kid, I remember starting the first day of school with an ache in my stomach because I was so anxious about having to make new friends and meet my new teacher. The unexpected and unknown terrified me. 

These games are meant to warm your kids up to one another and get them feeling comfortable in their new classroom one- step- at- a- time!

This first one is the most comfortable for kids. They don't feel super vulnerable because it is predictable and they have the support of the whole group during a very short share.  

It’s called Pick a Stick. I use these colored toothpicks in the container. You can also use colored popsicle sticks, straws, or anything else you have around. You can print the editable handout here or create a chart and hang it up. 

1. Have the kids sit in a circle.
2. Model for the class by choosing a colored stick at random and matching it to the prompt. Start by sharing your name and then whatever the prompt was. 
3. Have the kids take turns passing the sticks around the circle and sharing using the color code. 

If you’re worried about them choosing a specific color you could put them in a paper bag or have the kids close their eyes. This is a great one to start with because kids can see the questions/prompts ahead of time and feel prepared. They don't feel vulnerable standing up in front of the class or working one on one or in a group with people they don't know at all. 

The next game is perfect as kids are getting to know one another and becoming more comfortable. To play you pair kids up or allow them to choose a partner. Give each student a key. 

Before getting together with their partner teach them to play “Math Pop”. Math Pop i like rock paper scissors, but instead they each hold up 0, 1, 2, or 3 fingers. They then find the sum of both of their fingers. Easy peasy!

1. Now that they know how to play Math Pop have them pair up and begin. 
2. The sum of their two hands corresponds to numbers on the key. They can answer a question more than once. 

This game goes by pretty quickly (5-10 minutes per partners). In my classroom we play several rounds by mixing up the partners after those 5-10 minutes.  They make lots of new friends before recess!

This download is also editable. You can change the questions or prompts and if you teach upper elementary you can make it work for multiplication by having them find the product of their two hands!

Now the kids are really getting to know one another and settling into their new classroom!
Last year I took an equity course. One of the things that we did to get moving and learn more about one another was this amazing game. It didn’t have a name so I decided to call it Master in the Middle. So, here is what you do:

1.     Have kids make a big circle with their chairs. Depending on how your classroom is set up, you could also have them stay at their desks or their tables.
2.      Take away one chair. There has to be one less chair than there is a person.
3.     The teacher will demonstrate Master in the Middle first by saying something like, "My name is Mrs. Newport, and I have 2 pets."
4.     Everybody that has 2 pets has to get up and swap chairs as fast as they can. They cannot go to the same chair, but because there is one less chair than there are people there will be a new Master in the Middle!
5.     The new master in the middle has to think of something they want to share. They might say, “My name is Joey and my favorite color is green.” Everybody who has the favorite color is green has to get up and find a new chair. Whoever is chairless is the new Master in the Middle and the game continues. Each time the kids are recognizing friends that they have something in common with and they're engaging in some fast paced fun movement!

I always start by modeling and allowing them time to think of 1 or 2 things they would want to share so that they are prepared if they become Master in the Middle. In the younger grades you may even want to make a list. Some ideas might be somewhere you've gone on vacation, a favorite food that you have, a book that you read, a sport you play, that you took swimming lessons, or what your   favorite animal is.

Click HERE or any of the pictures above to grab your editable printables!

I would love to hear about games and ice-breakers you use in your classroom to build community and get kids feeling comfortable! Share your ideas in the comments with all of us.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Guided Math Resources from Oriental Trading

I am excited about this post for two big reasons: 

One, I had no idea that Oriental Trading had so many resources specifically for teachers and they are priced for a teacher budget. And two, I get to give away a set of everything I show you so that you have the chance to use it in your own classroom!! #winning

You can check out the video above to see these resources in action!

When choosing the things I wanted to try out I thought about all of you. Many of us are just getting started with guided math and others have been at it for a couple of years and are still trying out what works best. Guided math is by far my favorite time of day. My kids love it and I have an opportunity to help them explore new concepts and ideas in small group settings where we can really dig deep and challenge our thinking. 

I wanted to try out resrouces that would help us all do that in our own classrooms. I am new to first grade this year so if I'm being honest, I am still yet to discover all the ways I will be able to use these resources to help students build number sense. Here are some of the ideas I've come up with so far. 

These dry erase math skills boards were a favorite in our house. The dry erase marker wipes off so easily. They are perfect for encouraging kids to show their thinking in multiple ways. On the front side there is a 120's chart and on the back ten frames and numberlines. 

Kids could add, subtract, count, or make ten using dominoes, flashcards, dice, counting bears, or a number spinner. My son loved racing forward and backward to and from 120. This is a game that you could play with a partner using two different colored dry erase markers. Each partner rolls a die and each time moves forward on the number line. The first partner to 120 wins. 

These come in a package of 30 and if you have more than 30 kids in your class, I'm sorry. Been there a million times and it stinks to have to buy a second package of something for a few kids. 

The weiner dog number line sliders are a lot of fun. The slider moves smoothly and easily. They would be a great way for kids to get hands on practice using a number line.  These come in a pack of 12 so though there may not be enough for your whole class, they are perfect for a guided math group or to have out for kids to access during math time. 

These bead slides are perfect for helping students develop one to one correspondence. As they are counting, adding or subtracting they touch and slide each bead. They are sturdy and won't break. I also love that they come with 48 slides and in all of these colors to help kids visualize number relationships. 

Last are these number bond cards. They came with a huge stack of cards to provide tons of practice. I plan on having them out on my group table after kids are familiar with them. While I am helping the rest of the class get settled during math centers the kids in my group can work on these while they're waiting those couple of minutes. I am so impressed with all of the dry erase products. I've bought many other things where the marker still shows, even if it is just slightly. This is not the case with Oriental Trading products. After wiping off the marker they still look brand new. 

Oriental trading now has a teacher wish list. I love that I can add things I need for my classroom and share with parents and friends. You can check out my teacher wish list and create your own HERE

Now on to the good stuff! Do you want to win everything you see here for your classroom? Just enter using the Rafflecopter! 

SaveSave a Rafflecopter giveaway

Thursday, August 25, 2016

End the Chaos and 'ZEN' The End of Your Day!

Does the end of the day chaos leave you with a giant case of the grumpies? Have you ever had an amazing day with your kids only to have it ruined by the madness that ensues during pack-up? Do you ever feel like you become a Miss Viola Swamp because you’re just trying to survive and get these kids out while they’re each still in one piece?

There was a time where I felt this way too. It was awful. I would dread the end of the day and totally lose control of my kids. I am here to tell you how I’ve created Zen in my classroom at the end of each and every day!

When it is time to get ready to pack up the very first thing we do at the end of every day is Magic Scrap. We do this every single day, all year long, and it never gets old.

You might have heard of a version of Magic Scrap somewhere else, but this is what I do. As the day is drawing to a close I simply say, "I have a magic scrap in mind," The kids hear this signal and begin frantically cleaning ev-er-y-THING. They know that the magic scrap can be anything in the classroom. It doesn't have to be a scrap, it could be a glue stick with the lid off, a chair that's out of place, or Goldfish crackers crumbs. They clean faster than lightning and it takes 2 to 3 minutes and the classroom is spotless.

 Someone may have found the Magic Scrap I was thinking of in the first 5 seconds, but I don’t announce that it has been found until the room is clean. Once the room is clean I say… “The Magic Scrap has been found”. At that point, the kids know that they have 5 seconds to be in their seats. I tell them that if they're not in their seats after 5 seconds, they can't win the magic scrap. I don't know if I would hold true to that, but I've never had to, because they're always all in their seats at the end of 5 seconds. Teacher win!

Now is the fun part, I announce the winner by saying, "Oh, Florencia," and then they would all repeat. Next I say, "You found the magic scrap." and again they repeat. Sometimes we'll do it in an opera voice, or a little mousy voice, or a big deep voice, whatever just to keep it fun. Now we’ve just taken 3 minutes and our classroom is spotless and the kids are settled in their seats.

Kids have been sitting still for a good portion of the day, and expecting them to sit still for 5 to 10 minutes longer and do nothing, is a really unrealistic expectation. So next, I have a student pass out a half sheet of blank paper.  If kids would like to, they can doodle or color. They know that this is not the time to make their best masterpiece, but of course they can take it home if they would like. Some kids choose to put their heads down and rest or take out a book and that’s totally fine too. The point is that every kid has something to do while they are waiting for their turn to pack up or for others   to finish packing up. 

For the end of the day to go smoothly you need to have a clear set of routines that you have practiced and perfected together. Brooke from Teach Outside the Box reminded me at the beginning of the year, “When it comes to teaching procedures, assume they know nothing”. We need to teacher them the tiniest of details.

While the rest of the class is keeping busy on their art:
1.     A table excuser go around and they do a double knock on one table at a time.
2.     When that table it excused they follow the path around the perimeter of our classroom (tiny detail>>) They cannot weave or go between desks or tables). Following that path, they first stop and get their coat and backpack.
3.     Next they continue around the path and stop at the cubbies. (tiny ,but very important detail>>) They do not pack up at their cubby. They must grab their mail and take it back to their seat to put in their backpack. If everyone stops and to pack-up at their cubby it will take much longer and cause a traffic jam. These are the details they need to be aware of and practice. 
4.     Once the first table has cleared out of the coat area the table excuser may excuse the next table (tiny detail>>) They are in charge of avoiding traffic jams and keeping things flowing)
5.     After packing up at their seat they place their backpack beside them and work on their art piece.
6.     Each table continues the pack-up process while I complete all the important tasks that can ordinarily be overwhelming among all the end of the day chaos that now no longer exists!

All of these routines along with our clean classroom allow me to focus on checking in with kids at the end of the day, getting any last minute transportation notes in order, filling out behavior forms if I need to and I’m sure I’m missing a zillion and one other tasks that we’re responsible for.

The last piece is to make it fun. These are our end of the day challenges. They are fun and silly and we love them. 

You can click any of the pictures or grab them HERE!

We don’t have a challenge everyday, but the kids always beg to have one. Challenges have three main rules you always have the goal of being the quietest and the quickest and you must always be safe. Before ever beginning pack-up I let them know if we will have a pack-up challenge for the day and what that challenge is.  I watch for a single students or a table team that works really hard to complete the challenge whiIe packing up quickly, safely and quietly. 

When we are all lined up I announce the winner(s) of the challenge, and then they get some sort of reward. That reward doesn't have to be a treat. Sometimes I'll do the little erasers that you get in the dollar spot at Target. Other times it will be something as simple as the winner getting to leave the line first to walk out to recess.

Some of my kids favorites are “Smile-a-thon”, “Zombie”, “Criss Cross” and “Buddy-Pack”, but as I’m sure you can imagine that one is a bit less quiet.

It feels good to end each day feeling like the teacher I always want to be. I haven't seen that grouchy end of the day teacher in a long time and I never want to. Most importantly, my kids are leaving with smiles on their faces and they're excited to come back the next day. That alone can tell us we’re doing something right.

I hope these tisp will he you find “Zen” at the end of your day!

Thursday, August 18, 2016

Home Visits: How I Make Them Happen

I am so excited to share what I’ve been working on with you all today! It's a little long, but I promise it's worth the read and I have a FREEBIE share for you at the end. 

Last year, I began home visits along with a few other teachers from my building. Home visits are not just for head start or preschool. They are a great way for teachers to get out in the community and make the first connection with families a positive one!

I have been spending some time the last couple of days getting prepared. I start by putting together little goody bags. 

 Inside, are a few things to get them thinking about back to school and build excitement for our year together.

Miniature composition books:

How cute, right? You can find them at Walgreens 6 /$1. It cost $4 for my entire class. I added a cover to encourage them to write or draw about their summer and to bring it to share with all of us on the 1st day.


These are from the dollar section at Target.  Still only totaling $5 for the whole class.


3 packs from the dollar section at Target. I’m still only totaling $8

Treat bags:

From the Dollar Tree. I only had to buy one pack, so total I spent $9 for my entire class.

Last, I printed and cut a set of flashcards to practice and review the facts they began learning last year.

After the bags are ready to go I print these letters on Astrobright paper.

The letter gives a little preview of all we’ll be learning together and gets them pumped about 1st grade! I also include important dates like Back to School Night. I print a few for the families that aren’t home when I stop by, as well. They just have a little extra line that says, “I’m sorry I missed you.”

Now, before you check out and think that you can’t find time for home visits or they’re unrealistic let me show you how we structure them at our school. I promise you will see the possibility.

When you think of home visits, you might think of days and days, or hours and hours, of time that you have to commit. You might picture stopping into each home and sitting down with every single family for who knows how long. That is not how home visits have to be. That's not how we do home visits. When we know something is important we have to begin thinking outside of the box.

This is how we’re able to make it happen:

I stop by, completely unscheduled. They have no idea that I'm coming. You might think this sounds crazy, but I promise it works. The visit is quick and informal and this is what makes it possible.

I knock on the door. Parents, or sometimes the child answers the door, and I say something like, "Hey, I'm your first grade teacher," or, "I'm your child's first grade teacher." I introduce myself and I say, "I'm just stopping by for a second. I wanted to drop off a little goody bag and let you know that I'm excited to start our first day together and that I'm excited that I get to meet you early." I give them the goody bag, maybe ask how their summer is going, the parents talk a little and that’s it. Done. I made my first family connection and I’m on to the next.

Here’s what has happened during these visits. Parents are blown away. I hear a lot of, "Wow, I can't believe you stopped by." or "We've never had a teacher stop by before and can’t believe you took the time." and “This is so cool that you’re doing this.” They're always really excited and surprised that we are coming to them rather than the other way around. It’s a really good feeling that were able to make this happen.

I have had families invite me in and I always let them know that I have to go visit so many other families and I really appreciate it, but that I am unable to come in. They're always really understanding. This keeps your visits short, but still has the same impact.

The time spend allows you to get to know families and build a relationship that will last for the rest of the year. The families and kids feel at ease having seen me, knowing that I care, and that I am dedicated to teaming with them this year.

That’s it. That is how we run home visits at my school. I finish them all in one day and I would say it takes me about four hours to do them all. Now, hopefully I have you seeing the possibility!

There is one last thing that I do to prepare and that is simply planning the best route to be as efficient as possible.

Using our school attendance system I print out an address list for my class. Our lists sort by common addresses so all the students who live in one apartment complex are grouped together.  I visit the apartment complexes first because I park at one and walk around to each home.

One of my favorite parts about being out in the community and in the apartment complexes is that you get to a couple of houses and by then the word is out that you’re there. After a while you have these little groupies following you around because they're so excited.

After I do all of the home visits at the apartment complexes, then I move on to the houses. When I'm planning out the houses, I put all of the addresses into Google Maps. Usually, I only have about ten or so. You have to do this on your computer, you can't do it on your phone. Put in each address and it will show you the most efficient way to go in order to stop at each house. I follow along the route and before I know it I’ve visited the home of every family.

So, I just spent four hours of really quality time connecting with kids and families. I feel really good about having already seen them.  They see me out in the community and know that I care, that I am truly excited to be their teacher, and that we're going to have this amazing year together.

Are you thinking outside the box yet? Seeing the possibility? Feeling hopeful? Are you going to try home visits? Maybe, you already do them? Leave a comment. I know we would all love to hear from those of you who are going to try home visits this year and those of you who are still unsure of how you can find the time. Let’s work it out together because teaching is better together. We all need to hear one another and find ways to feel hopeful and inspired!

To help get you going I have the editable forms for you in my TpT store for FREE! Just head HERE or click the picture below to download.