Teacher Week: What I LOVE plus 3 FREEBIES!

I am linking up with Blog Hoppin' again today for the last day of Teacher Week 2014.  Today's topic is what do you like to teach?  I am sure this will sound incredibly cheesy, but I honestly love to teach almost everything.  I am obsessed with my pre-k babies and how ridiculously smart they are.  If I had to pick one subject, though, I would have to say that writing is my favorite thing to teach.  My babies come to school in September not knowing how to write their names or being able to recognize more than 4 or 5 letters.  They leave in June being able to write sentences, their names, and knowing every letter and sound.  It honestly amazes me every.single.time.

We start the year off by learning that our names are made up of these crazy things called letters.  I always introduce letters with one of my all time favorite books, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom.  We also do the Chicka Chicka Boom Boom song, art projects, centers and more!  You can read all about it and find all of the resources {here}.

Another favorite beginning of the year activity is Friend bingo.  I love that the kids have so much fun that they do not even realize they are learning!  Check out the details {here}.

Reading names with Friend Bingo turns into writing names in the writing center.

I love this scaffolded name writing practice sheet.  It is a great way to figure out where each of my little friends are at the beginning of the year and what they need next.  Informal assessments are my most favorite!

And {HERE} is your first freebie.  The font shown in my photos is Jessica Stanford's KinderPrint.  I changed it to Century Gothic in the freebie so that it works for everyone.

Another one of my very favorite ways to introduce writing at the beginning of the year is with class books. Class books are another of my favorite beginning of the year activities.  I love the moment when children realize that THEY can be authors too!  So powerful!

 I just totally re-did my Brown Bear, Brown Bear inspired class book.  Instead of the little clip art kids shown above, I use real photos of my kids.  Instead of typing their names, I have them try to write it.  You can grab the whole twelve page class book freebie {here}.  This freebie is fully editable so that all you have to do is insert your kids' photos and print!

I am super excited about another class book that I created a few days ago.  This one is inspired by our other class favorite book... Pete the Cat: Rocking in My School Shoes.

So cute, so easy.  Your preschool, pre-k or kindergarten students will love to read this book over and over.  You will love how easy it is to make!

To snag this freebie, all you have to do is like my Facebook page {here}, then click on the Fan Freebies tab.  You will be able to download it right away!
Word cards are my favorite way to support emergent writers throughout the year.  You can click {here} to check out all of the different word cards I have in my shop.  Family, School, Weather, Butterfly and Colors just to name a few!
My kids love to grab the word cards and write words independently. They take SO much pride in their independence.  It makes me so proud too!  The word cards are a great way to support ELL students, too!  All word cards come in both English and Spanish.

Mid-way through the year I see a HUGE change in my babies' ability to write.  This is when I begin to push my students by encouraging them to make scientific observations.  We do this as a class at the beginning of the year, and through the use of gradual release of responsibility they can do so independently or with minimal help by the end of the year.

Amazing for pre-k, right? 
All of the butterfly examples come from {this} unit.

Aaaand that's it for Teacher Week!  I hope you enjoyed it :)

Teacher Week: Schedules

 I'm back linking up with Blog Hoppin' for day four of Teacher Week.  Today it's all about schedules.  After seeing Mrs. Lamb's adorable visual schedule, I know that I am going to have to make me one of those ASAP!  School doesn't start for us for another two weeks, so I do not know exactly what my schedule will look like.  I am sure that it will be pretty similar to last year's, so here we go!

And here is a break down in the day in the life of this teacher:

5:40 am
Alarm goes off.  Groan and stumble out of bed into the shower.  Stumble around to get dressed, make coffee, grab lunch out of the fridge and make coffee to drink in the car.  Spray gel in hair and cross fingers that frizz hasn't taken over.
Leave house.  Run back inside to grab whichever one of my 6 schoolbags I have forgotten.  Drive to work.
Arrive at work if there was no traffic.  Sign in, do photocopying before there is a line.  Clean classroom, take down chairs, set up centers, write morning message, set out read aloud books and do whatever other things are on top of the mountain of paperwork otherwise known as my desk.  Check school & personal emails if I have time.  At 8 I set up breakfast at the lunch table in the hallway right outside my classroom.
Little ones arrive!  We sit around and read books until most of the kids have arrived.  I LOVE this time of day... they are so sweet all in the library together reading.
Breakfast & bathrooms.  I sit and eat with the kids and make conversation with them (this is part of our NAEYC accreditation).
Morning meeting.  We have a daily greeting, then read the morning message and fill in the blanks, fix any "mistakes" or fill in a graphic organizer on the white board.  Next, the "star of the day" does our calendar.  We quickly talk about the day, week, month & year, then sing a song about the day of the week.  The star of the day picks which language we will count in before singing.  So far we can count to at least 5 in French, Spanish, Vietnamese, Polish and Cape Verdean Creole.  Love this! This is when we introduce any new centers and activities that reinforce our theme.  At the end of morning meeting I pass out each child's picture so that they can pick there center.  See {HERE} for more on our center board... my favorite classroom management tool ever!
Center time.  I LOVE this time of day.  My para and I circulate around the classroom, do activities with the kids, help with any he's hitting me!  she's not sharing! social issues, develop oral language and help set out additional materials as necessary.
Small groups.  Ms. C and I each take a group to do a guided activity that relates to our theme.  It could be anything from science to math to art, although usually it is literacy related.  
Read aloud.  My other favorite time of day.  The book is usually one that our curriculum suggests, although I will also pull in other books if they are high quality and relate to our theme.  One of the most important goals in read alouds in our classroom is to develop vocabulary since almost all of the kids are ELL.
Sing, dance, set up for nap time and get ready to go outside.
Recess.  We love to go outside to play, but if it is too snowy, rainy, cold or icy we have a variety of indoor recess activities.
Lunch!  I check my email (again!) and escape upstairs to the teacher's room for a few minutes of grown up time. 
Nap.  I am SO LUCKY to have this time to prepare activities, test kids who are awake or fill out paperwork.  I try not to move around very much so that they can rest without being distracted.  I also usually have to go yell at nicely ask the big kids to quiet down in the hallway and stop waking the little ones up.
Wake up, clean up, bathrooms
Specials!  We have art, science, computers or phys ed depending on the day.  I use this time for prep or planning, and once a week we have a team meeting.
Pick up the kids, do a quick math mini lesson and break into math centers.
Clean up, pack up and say goodbye to each other.
Dismissal.  I either bring the little kindergartners out to the busses, or dismiss the walkers (we rotate dismissal duties every month).
Clean the tables, do any prep work for tomorrow
Go home, go to the gym or on Wednesdays teach adults how to pass our state teacher test.
Make dinner, tidy up the house, pick out clothes for tomorrow
Collapse on the couch and work on school stuff on my laptop
Crawl into bed and try to read for pleasure for about 3 minutes before I pass out

Teacher Week: Organization and a Freebie!

I am super envious of people who are naturally organized.  Unfortunately, I am more of a "creative type" (or at least that is what I tell myself), which is why it is extra important for me to have strategies that work at school. 

My first organization strategy is super simple, and technically happens at home.  I'm not allowed in my classroom yet, so I have to get a little creative here.  

I am absolutely not a morning person.  I am perfectly happy if nobody talks to me until my first cup of coffee is completely gone.  This, combined with waking up at 5:15 on school days is not the best combination.  I have been known to be driving down the highway, suddenly realize that I have forgotten my lunch, my laptop or my lesson plans, and have to go racing back to my house to grab them.  I have also been known to change my outfit 37 times in the morning, leaving me frazzled and my bedroom a mess.

 My simple solution is to have EVERYTHING I need for the day ready to go the night before.  I hang my outfit (including jewelry and undergarments) on the guest room door and place my shoes on the floor underneath.

I also have my breakfast, lunch and water packed and ready to go in the fridge so that all I have to do is grab it.  I also place my teacher bag, laptop, purse and car keys right next to the front door.  The fewer brain cells I need to use in the morning the better!

My second strategy happens both at home and at school.  A few years ago, I realized that my classroom was way too full of junk.  I did a major purge, giving away anything I did not use.  Then I purchased 10 bins during a back to school sale at Target, labeled them with each month of the school year and used them to store my necessities for each month.
I  have literally NO closet and NO storage at school, so it is really important for me to use my space wisely and efficiently. I keep these bins in my basement, and each month I bring one to school and leave it there for the month.  For example, at the end of September I will put all of my September items back in the bin, bring it home, and return the next day with my October bin.

 The insides of my bins are definitely not too pretty, but they don't need to be.  Inside I store anything that I use in that particular month.  It could be a craft that we always do that month, left over supplies, thematic books and so much more.  In the September bin above you can see stickers for my annual Chicka Chicka Boom Boom craft, classroom decor, a new pocket chart that I want to remember to bring to school and underneath are some items for our apple theme.

Here is an example of the January bin.  We have some Martin Luther King biographies, a snowman name craft example, felt scarves, hats and mittens for our epsom salt snowman sensory table, and The Mitten story retelling pieces.  My rule is that once the bin gets full, I have to get rid of something in order to put something else in.  So far, I have been using the bins for two years and most aren't even half full.  Yay!
Each bin is labeled on the side and on the lid.  This makes it easier to find exactly what I am looking for with a quick glance.  Sorry for the awful picture quality... I am still learning how to use our fancy camera :)

My last organization tip is for the dreaded teacher desk.  I am totally guilty of having very organized kid spaces in my classroom, but a desk that looks like a bomb went off.  On my desk at any given time are: a plan book, a 6 month old candy cane, three books with ripped pages that need repair, an assortment of dried up markers and at least 17,000 pieces of paper to grade, copy or file.

 I have seen these bins all over teaching blogs and Pinterest, and decided that I needed one to combat my paper problem.  I scooped this puppy up at Walmart for under $10.

I cut some pretty scrapbook paper that was left over from my wedding into strips that are approximately 2.75 by 9.75 inches.  My paper cutter one of my absolute favorite teaching tools and I am obsessed with it - it is second only to my little laminator!  I whipped up some labels, glued them on and VOILA!  A grown up looking place to stash the mess.
No more rummaging around to find Johnny's permission slip or that one little piece of paper that the office needs right.this.second. 
I am pretty excited to see how this works!   If you like the labels, you can snag a free (and editable) copy of them {here}.  Happy organization!

Also, don't forget that there is a one day only sale going on right now.  My whole shop is 28% off!

Teacher Week: Check Out my Digs

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' for day two of teacher week.  For me, my classrooms my home away from home.  My husband might even complain that I spend a LOT more energy and time cleaning and organizing my classroom than I do my home.  Oops!

School does not start for two more weeks, and unfortunately the building is still closed.  When I walk in, I am definitely anticipating another  moment just like this one from last year.

That said, I can't show you pictures of my room.  I can, however, show you pictures from last year and show you my centers.  I am a HUGE proponent of center based learning.  I don't do worksheets, I do hands on, inquiry based learning.  I know that I am very lucky to work in a district that supports developmentally appropriate practices for our kinders.

I work in a gorgeous, old building located in an urban community in a large city in New England.  I was hired to work at my school straight out of college and am about to kick of my eighth year.  I LOVE urban education and never want to work anywhere else!

Right before you enter my room, there is a family news board.  I keep a copy of all of my newsletters here, as well as a monthly calendar with upcoming events, book order due dates, etc.  To see how I made this board for only a few dollars, click {here}.

Right inside the entrance to my room are the children's hooks and cubbies.  I am so lucky to have a huge classroom, but very unlucky in that there is absolutely no storage.  Not a single closet, shelf or anything that I haven't dragged in there myself.  If you like the fabric banner, there is a free tutorial {here}.

Now here are the centers:

Dramatic Play
I loveee spying on my littles in dramatic play.  I  also love that they are learning how to read and write without even realizing it!  I always keep mini word walls, paper, pencils and clipboards here so that the veterinarians can find out what is wrong with a puppy, the ice cream shop workers can take an order, or the firemen can write down the address of the latest fire.  You can check out the mini word walls {here}.
This is my favorite, favorite place!  It is a round nook area tucked into the middle of the classroom, but it feels like a mini oasis for my little ones.  Within the library I have books (of course), comfy pillows and a little couch for reading, and a retelling/drama center.

Sensory Center
Next up we have a sensory center.  Different types of playdough can be found here most often, but you can also find colored rice, gak, and all sorts of other activities here depending on our unit of study.  I love it for the fine motor aspect, but also because I often find that my shy students gravitate to this center.  It is a safe space for them to play and observe others until they feel comfortable enough to join in at the louder centers like blocks or dramatic play.

 Science Table
I love having a dedicated area for science!  I am always rotating materials to pique my little ones' interests.  They love to bring in rocks, sticks and flowers for their friends to observe, too! 
 You can read more about our butterfly study {here} and get this butterfly unit {here}.
The easels are off to the side of our art studio area.  I loveee seeing what my babies will create here.  It is another great space for quieter kids and of course the artsier bunch.

Block Area
 Who doesn't love blocks?  I think that sometimes they are underestimated... where do you think many of our great architects and builders got their start?  I would be willing to bet it was with a set of wooden blocks.

I will be back in a few weeks with much better room photos, and some up close and personal snaps of the centers I didn't cover today.  If you're curious, they are:
Writing Center
Listening Center
Art Studio
Teacher Desk & Storage