Welcome to my Completely Unfinished Classroom!

Yesterday was the first day I spent in my classroom.  My lovely friend Kendra was sweet enough to come along and help.  Thank God for her, because she is "The Organization Fairy" and helps me organize things in ways I would never be able to do myself.  Here is a tour of my very sad, yet to be touched classroom:
Sorry for the crazy, shaky, Blair Witch style camera effects!  Also I was giggling like crazy because of how crazy the room looks right now.  I can't wait for you to see the final product!

Today I decided to go to Ikea for a few things I desperately needed.  Unfortunately they had sold out of the bookshelf I really wanted, but at least I was able to get a bunch of cool accessories.

 These little planters were only 79¢!  I am going to use them in our writing center for pencils, colored pencils, markers, etc. 
 This adorable rug was $7.99.  I just know the kids will love driving cars and trucks around on it.  I love the splash of color it will add to the room.
I saw this idea when I toured a fantastic classroom last year.  They are plant stands, but the teacher used them as chairs in her art area.  They will fit perfectly at my science table, which is a little cramped right now.  Replacing the chairs with stools that tuck underneath the table will really help the flow of that area.
This plastic bag dispenser will stick right onto the side of one of my cabinets.  We always seem to need tons of bags, whether someone has had an accident, wet shoes from a particularly tempting puddle on the playground or whatever other mischief they tend to get into.  This dispenser makes it super easy to grab a bag, and to monitor how many bags we have on hand.  At only $1.99 you can't beat it!

I also got these curtains on clearance (two curtains for $9.99).  I am so happy because I have been looking for curtains all summer, but they were way too expensive since I have five windows.  These ones are cute and affordable.  Of course I bought a few more things too.  Apparently I can't resist cute things at extremely reasonable prices, or $1 cinnamon buns!

It's a Beautiful Day for...

Online shopping!

Thanks to Hurricane Irene, there are crazyyy winds and rain everywhere!  You literally could not pay me to go outside right now (or to get out of my PJs, but that's another story).  Bath and Body Works must have been reading my mind, because they sent me an email with a perfect one day deal.  Their antibacterial handsoaps are on sale!  5 soaps for $15 or 7 for $20 (that's only $2.85 each!).  I love these yummy smelling soaps and always have them next to my kitchen and bathroom sinks.  Of course I had to order seven of them!  I got this little guy for my classroom.  Isn't he cute?  Cute (or scary) soaps are one way to make sure that kindergartners wash their germy little hands!

I also got sucked into looking at the pocket sized hand sanitizers, which are on sale 5 for $5.  I was so happy to find these spooky ones:
 And these DELICIOUS smelling back to school scents!  Yum!  How can anyone resist peanut butter and jelly, or rice krispy treats.  It's making me hungry already.
Also, they are offering $1 shipping if you order $25 or more (and how could you not?!?).  The promo code is ANTIBAC25.  Hopefully we will all be smelling good and not getting sick when school starts (even though I ALWAYS end up with at least one case of strep throat per year). 

Free For All Friday

I LOVE doing Brown Bear, Brown Bear What do You See? at the beginning of each school year.  The kids love the repetition, beautiful illustrations and variety of animals.  Last year I made this great book with the kids.  It came out so cute... I wish I had taken a picture!

It was our first class book, and they were OBSESSED.  Not just for the first few days, but for the whole year!  We had to start sending it home because the kids were so in love with the book and wanted to share it with their families.  The parents loved it too!  Making this book also helped the children to learn each others' names and served as a quick name writing assessment tool for me!  I also want to share this amazing resource from Doodle Bugs Teaching.  She has tons of downloads to share!

Brown Bear, Brown Bear Freebie

1. Print out each page on cardstock.  For page 3, print one for each child.
2. Children glue their photo onto the page and write their name three times.  They can decorate around their photo with stickers or stamps if desired.
3. Glue your photo onto the second to last page, and class photos onto the first and last page.
4. Laminate the book.
5. Assemble and bind the book.  Personally, I like to put the children's names in alphabetical order.  An easy way to bind it is to three hole punch each page and use three binder rings to attach them.

Three for Thursday

I couldn't participate in "Where it all goes Down Wednesday" yesterday because not only is my classroom not finished, I haven't even started!  We aren't even allowed in the building until Monday, which is great for me because I have about a thousand little projects to do before then PLUS some adventuring to do as well.  This is where I adventured yesterday with my best friend:
 Beautiful Rockport, MA.  Isn't it cute?  We ate lobster rolls and went shopping at a bunch of adorable little shops.
 Recognize this building?  It is called Motif No. 1 and is the most famous building in Rockport.  It was featured in the movie "The Proposal" with Sandra Bullock and Ryan Reynolds, which was supposed to take place in Sitka, Alaska but was actually filmed along the coast of Massachusetts.

ANYWAY, here is my Three for Thursday:
1. Favorite Fonts
2. Favorite Blog
It was WAYYYY to hard to pick just one!
The blog that inspired me to start blogging myself was First Grader... At Last!
The home/food/photography/crafts/fonts blog that I HAVE compulsively check every day is Kevin and Amanda.
My newest favorite blogs are Creating and Teaching and Crafty Teacher Lady.

3. Favorite Online Resource
 This is another toughie.  I adore Pinterest for letting me save all of the fabulous ideas I find and categorizing them.  I also get tons of great ideas and printables from Making Learning Fun.

Teacher Talk Tuesday

Teacher Talk Tuesday is all about providing advice for new teachers.  This is a combination of things I did and things that I should have done as a first year kindergarten teacher.

1.  Communicate with parents and students before the school year starts.  I always send home a letter for parents briefly explaining my teaching philosophy, letting them know what to bring on the first day, etc.  In the same envelope I send home a letter for students welcoming them to school and letting them know some of the things we will do on the first day.  I have found that giving them some details (for example which book we will read) helps them feel comforted.

2.  Do things for yourself!  My first year I was a crazy teaching zombie.  I am sure my friends were bored out of their minds with all of my school stories.  I would even go into school on Saturdays and during vacations!  I know, it's horrible!  I even stopped going to the gym because I was so exhausted from all of this crazy prep I was doing.  My new philosophy is to take time for myself.  I go to the gym, hang out with the girls and get massages and pedicures from time to time.  Go ahead, you deserve it!

3.  Don't be TOO nice to the students.  Establish rules on the first day and do not cave in when they are broken.  I highly recommend the book Teaching with Love and Logic for help with behavior management.

4.  HAVE FUN!  Find ways to sneak fun and excitement into your lessons.  If you are teaching about measurements, cook something!  If you are learning about plants, grow them!  Kids always learn more when the activities are hands on.

5.  Go outside!  There is nothing wrong with teaching outdoors.  My school even opened up an outdoor classroom last year!  Simply going outside for 15 minutes for a read aloud will give students a whole new perspective.

6.  Don't bankrupt yourself.  Yes, we all spend money on our classrooms but don't overdo it!  I totally did my first year.  Ask for donations from stores, ask parents for items they might have at home, and use Donors Choose.

7.  Find a mentor at your school if your district does not provide you with one.  One of my fabulous teacher friends stepped up my first year when I was afraid to fight for special ed services for one of my kids.  She taught me to not be afraid to stand up for what you know is right.

8.  Collaborate with your grade level team whenever possible.  Why reinvent the wheel?  If someone has a great activity or worksheet, ask for it.  Then share yours with them. 

9.  DON'T GOSSIP.  This can be hard in schools, but it can also get you into trouble!

10.  Keep yourself educated.  There is a lot of teacher and union bashing going on in America today.  We need to stand up for our profession and demand the respect that we deserve.

11.  LOVE YOUR JOB.  There are very few jobs where you can get your hands dirty, laugh, sing, play outside and learn something new every day.  We are very lucky to be educating little minds, and learning from them as well.

Meet the Teacher Monday

Tell us a little something about you...

I'm Mary, lover of all things pink and fabulous.  I am inspired by kids, great teacher bloggers and of course, Fancy Nancy!  I graduated from Boston University four years ago with a degree in early childhood education in 2007.  I am currently working on the Master's degree that never ends!  I started in the Reading Specialist program and switched to the Early Childhood program last year.  I teach Kindergarten 1 in an "inner city" school and love every minute of it.  I live with my boyfriend of three years and we are super happy together (but if one more person asks me when we're getting engaged I might scream!).

How long have you been teaching?

This will be my fifth year teaching.  I taught Kindergarten (K2) for two years and then switched to K1 three years ago.  At first I was terrified of the four year olds (they seemed so LITTLE!) but now I am absolutely in love with it.  The kids are so curious, silly and hilarious.  I LOVE them!  We also have an amazing inquiry based, developmentally appropriate curriculum that allows us to be flexible and add our own ideas and activities.

You might not know...

That teaching was not my first choice career!  When I was a little girl I came home from school every day, lined up my dolls and stuffed animals on my bed and taught them using a little easel and my picture books.  When she would sit still, I would make my little sister participate too.  I even had seating charts and name tags!  When I was applying to college, though, I decided that I wanted a job that paid a little more and that I would not have to stand up and fight for.  I initially persued a degree in psychology, but changed to early childhood education halfway through my sophomore year.  I was not completely happy, and realized that it was because for the first time in my life I was not around little ones.  I truly had the call to teach.  Even though it meant that I had to overload classes while working three jobs, it was totally worth it.  I'm so happy that I made the switch!

What are you looking most forward to this school year?

I can't wait to see twenty two new little faces looking up at me!  The first few weeks of school are exhausting but so exciting as well.  I love revealing our fabulous centers and reading new books so excitedly that the kids actually clap.  Yes, this really happened MANY times this past year!  It really does melt my heart.  Of course, I'm not so much looking forward to the crying and pants wetting that inevitably comes with the first few weeks, but it's well worth it.  I am also looking forward to working with the world's best Para for the third year straight.  She really is my "right hand" and is so fabulous with the kids.  We are so lucky to get along so well :)

What do you need to improve?

We are working towards our NAEYC accreditation, and let me tell you it is HARD!  I would love to hear from you if you have been accredited.  Anyway, there are lots of things I need to change to fit the NAEYC standards.  The ones I plan to work on first are the handwashing protocol, cleaning protocols.  Of course we clean and wash hands, but everything in NAEYC is so darn particular!  

Another thing I need to work on is keeping my teacher space and storage organized.  I hate to admit it, but it's just not something that comes super easily to me.  I have already gotten started with my book organizing bonanza, but I want to keep my desk and "closet" organized this year.  I say "closet" because my classroom came with ZERO storage and I had to rig up a pretty shower curtain that dangles from a ceiling pipe... pretty ridiculous but it's better than nothing.
Last, I want to

What teaching supplies can you *not* live without?

I already wrote about my most favoritest things {HERE} but here are a few more must haves:

 Heavyweight sheet protectors
I use these to "laminate" game boards, display work, keep all of my lesson plans and ideas organized and much, much more!

Dunkin' Donuts Coffee
This is my lifeblood.  I literally cannot function without it.  The kids are constantly reminding me "Ms. P, you left your coffee in the art center/on the bookshelf/on the floor again!"
Heavy Duty Scotch Tape
I LOVE this stuff!  I use it to "laminate" in a pinch, hang things on our damp, crumbly basement walls and so much more.

ELMO Document Camera
I am so lucky to have this as the *one* piece of technology in my classroom.  The kids LOVE seeing their work projected onto the wall.  I also teach math lessons this way, give drawing lessons, teaching writing and so much more.  I also love to use the ELMO to re-read books.  The kids are completely fascinated by seeing the illustrations projected.  It is also great to teach text features and concepts about print.  This spring I used it to read Make Way for Ducklings for the third time, and it was by far their favorite!  It is amazing to see the detail in the illustrations, and to be able to zoom in on it.

Fill in the Blank Friday.

1.   My favorite color is: pink!  I am a total girly girl.  I also love yellow and turquoise. 

2.  My travel destination of choice is: anywhere warm where I can lay on the beach with a fancy drink in one hand and a book in the other hand.

3.  My favorite  food is: Can I only pick one?!?  Some favorites are lobster and anything sweet (especially if it has chocolate in it!).
4.  My happy place is: in my cozy apartment.  I have also always loved going to the library and bookstores.  I love finding new and exciting books for the kids.  My last "happy place" would have to be at the mall.  I can't help it, I love to shop!
5.  My favorite saying is: I have a few....

Oh, How Pinteresting Wednesdays


I found a fun party to link up with... Oh, How Pinteresting Wednesdays at The Vintage Apple. Of course, with school starting in a few weeks, classroom setup is on my brain.  Here are a few of my latest, most exciting back to school/classroom related pins:

I love how this word wall lets little ones find words super easily.  I just might have to do this!  I would probably make the letters on black paper a contrasting color, though.
Found {HERE}

Totally loving this birthday display!  The kids will love to see their pictures, and it gives them a little more understanding of months (always a hard one for kinders!)
Found {HERE}

I have different types of writing displayed in my writing area, but this one is so much cuter!  It would be nice to begin with it blank and add pieces as the children learn each type or genre of writing.
Found {HERE}

I am going to take photos of anchor charts before I remove them from the wall.  I will print the photo onto an 8.5 x 11" piece of paper and add them to the Anchor Chart Binder.  This way, children can still access the information and my walls will not be cluttered.  This website has some great ideas for anchor charts as well.
Found {HERE}

Not exactly teaching related, but hopefully this will remind me to relax and be happy while setting up this year!
Found {HERE}

Guest Blogger - How to Create an Organized Library

Hello everyone! This is Clare from A Day in the
. For my guest post I wanted to share with you how I organize my classroom library. Even though it's only my 3rd year teaching (is that all? feels like much longer!), I have a TON of books! I've been collecting them for years- picking them up at garage sales, rummage sales, used books from the library, etc. And for the past 2 years that hasn't really been any rhyme or reason as to how they were organized.  They were just flung on a shelf and I had to sift through them all
when I needed a certain book.  At the end of last school year, my long term sub (I was out on medical leave) packed up my ENTIRE classroom. So when I opened all the boxes with books and saw they were all jumbled up, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to reorganize. Here's what I came up with!

These 4 tubs have my science/social studies books for our four "modules"- Community Helpers, World Cultures (USA for my class), Weather/Seasons and Animals.
This is a bookshelf I got last year through Donor's Choose. It's hard to see the labels, but the books are all sorted into categories: rhyming books, math books, ABC books, various Language Arts books, school books, books about feelings, and fairy tales/fables.
And here's my last bookshelf! It has all my author tubs as well as other categories.
Here's a close up of the labels I made. You can find some of them HERE
on my Google Docs. Sorry I don't have them all to share, I can't find the other file (I made some 2 years ago and I guess I didn't save that file!).
The first day of school, the kids won't be able to see any of the books. The shelves will be "wrapped" in butcher paper, and as we learn classroom rules and procedures they'll gain book privileges. Last year I had to limit their access because they kept putting the books back in the wrong place, but I think this year with plenty of practice it'll work great!  Looking forward to a great school year and no more searching for lost books!!
- Clare from A Day in the Life

Guest Blogger - Great ABC Matching Game

This is a fantastic post from guest blogger Pamela at Rayos de Kinder (that's Kinder Rays en ingles!).  She has a great little blog, with lots of tips for teachers who teach immersion, bilingual or just regular old kindergarten.  Enjoy!

Letter Matching Game
Did anyone buy those letter coasters from the dollar spot?? I did! And I ended up making a matching game out of it that I'd love to share with you. Now, you must know that I am NOT crafty, creative, etc. so my version is simple, but judging from many of your wonderful blogs I'm sure you can make it a lot more "pretty".

Before I continue let me just thank Mary for giving me the opportunity to be a guest blogger. THANK YOU!! I am a new blogger, new mother to a beautiful 9 month old girl, and love to share (and take) ideas. This will be my 4th year teaching kinder in a dual immersion school in Southern California. I actually teach Spanish language arts all day. My partner and I teach the same lesson twice a day, switching with each other's class, with only a 30 minute ELD lesson to another coworker's class. The kids adjust . . believe me. Now, moving on . . .
I started with 3 dollar spot coaster sets (25 of the same color and letter per set) in order to make 2 sets of the game (need 26 for English and 29 for Spanish) and bought a plastic queen mattress cover from the dollar tree. I actually should have just bought a dollar tree plastic table cloth though. Much easier. ACTUALLY, to complete the 2nd set I think I'll go to the local thrift store and purchase a plain white sheet. It'll last longer and maybe the colors will pop out more.
Since each set of coasters is only of 1 letter I typed up and printed out all the letters of the alphabet to match with the pattern of coaster colors I had decided upon: pink, blue, purple. (I could have just done them all in black, but . . . you know. I KNOW YOU KNOW :) Click here to get a copy of the letters. If you need it tweaked just e-mail me.
I printed them out, cut them up and modge podged them onto the coasters. This is the first time I used modge podge as glue! I know, a little late in the game, but I had no idea until you lovely people filled me in on the not so secret secret.
Then I took the mattress cover, cut it in half, and slit the corners (since it was fitted). Then of course, I didn't like the way the corners looked so I cut a wavy corner. Better than before. I think.
after (I tried :)
Then I just traced circles in random positions using a sharpie (in the color of the coaster, of course!) and wrote the corresponding lowercase letters in them). Just be careful to write the letters all in the same direction so that the kinders don't become confused about correct letter formation. I added the title "las letras" (the letters) to help kids identify the correct direction of the letters as well as to give another little reminder of the difference between letters and words. Gotta get it in when you can!
In the end it looked like this:
sorry, hope you get the idea - it's the glare
And students simply play by matching the uppercase coaster to the lowercase letter on the sheet. I think they'll have fun. Anything giant sized (really practice in disguise - hahaha) is fun for the kiddos.

I will present it to them like this:
Just modge podge one of the extra letters to the front of a paper bag, place the sheet and coasters inside, and voila! Now, they'll just need a few lessons on how to fold it and put it away . . . . let's see how it goes :) This will be one of the activities students can "play" if they finish their required center work early.

Please let me know what you think! I love getting comments. Hope you'll keep checking in on my blog as well :-P  Happy New School Year to those who have or will be starting soon . . . you CAN wake up early . . . you CAN wake up early . . .

Fill in the Blank Friday

1. The last thing I ate was magical homemade peanut butter chocolate chip ice cream!  I took the basic recipe and added peanut butter and chocolate chips.  It is positively sinful! 

2. The next thing I'd like to eat is breakfast at a diner... pancakes, eggs and bacon.  Or maybe Belgian waffles with strawberries and whipped cream on top... YUM!

3. The best things in life are the simplest things... Hugs, kisses, "i love yous," seeing a child read for the first time... the list goes on and on!

4. Something that makes me supremely and utterly happy is teaching a lesson where you can almost see the lightbulb go off, or that the kids really connect to.
 5. Sports are not my thing.  Unfortunately, my boyfriend is completely obsessed so I happen to know a LITTLE too much about the Boston Celtics!
6. I miss my little friends from last year.  Is that crazy?  I am always sad at the end of the year when I have to say goodbye to them.  I had some HUGE personalities this past year and I miss the constant entertainment (and the millions of hugs and "I love you Ms. P!"s I get every day during the school year). 

7. Right now I am relaxing and on vacation!  In the back of my head, though, I am planning for September and making about 1,000 mental to do lists!