Tuesday, August 27

First Day Back

Today was my first day back.  We have in-service this week, and kids start next Tuesday.

My desk at the beginning of the day...


....and my desk at the end.

Hopefully I'm not alone on this one! ;)

- Katy

Sunday, August 25

Open House Signs Freebie!

I am super tired...I went to my cousin's wedding in Iowa this weekend and had lots of fun, but now back to reality.  Our Open House is this week, and I made these little signs to help direct parents on where to drop off school supplies.  I am planning on putting them in these little frames I bought at Ikea and spreading them out on different tables.  Grab 'em if they will be helpful to you as well!

Just click the picture above or use this link!

- Katy

Tuesday, August 20

Welcome Back Week: Class Information

I am linking up with Mandy's Tips for Teachers for Welcome Back Week!  I am feeling very blessed not to be "back" yet, but I will share what our team did last year!


Last year was the first year that our district moved to "specialization".  I had not heard of this in elementary before, but I am actually loving it.  I teach math to all of the first graders, and my teaching partners do reading and science.  We teach phonics and writing to our own "homerooms".  I LOVE teaching math, and I feel like I am a better math teacher because I can really focus my efforts on fewer subjects.  I do miss teaching reading, but overall the benefits outweigh the perks, at least for me.

Because this was a new thing for everyone last year, we put together a packet that explained the new "system" and invited them to visit the other classrooms.  I am hoping that a year into specialization that most parents will know how it works (because it was also done in K), but it will still be a big transition for any new families.

We also have the standard "meet the teacher" info, supply drop, classroom management plan, etc. info....in fact, I should probably find those and begin tweaking them for the new year!

Alrighty, it's off to bed for me!  Hope tomorrow is a Wonderful Wednesday for you! :)

- Katy

Friday, August 16

Meet the Teacher Week: "Taming the Wild" & "Tips & Tricks"

Today's post is a combination of yesterday & today's topics for Blog Hoppin's Teacher Week.  I don't have a lot of pictures from my room to show you yet, so I will just have to tell you about it today and then show you in more depth (and with pictures!) in a week or two once I have full access to my room again.

Classroom Management:
Ok, are you ready for this............I don't use a clip chart! (Gasp!)  I know....I'm a rebel.  I used to use the "traffic light system", but I didn't like how you started at the top and could only go down.  Since then, I've seen a lot of clip charts that allow students to go up as well, but the system I do now works for me.  What is it?  Well, I don't think it has an official name, but I unofficially call it the "cup & stick system".  (Because I like to be technical.) ;)  I heard about it from another teacher at my school and since then, many of the classrooms in our school use it as their individual management system.

Basically, each kid has a cup with their name on it, and the cups are all taped onto a board.

This board has seen better days, but you get the idea.

You purposefully arrange the cups to place kids who need reminders about certain things in between two kids who do really well with those certain things.  Each "block" of the day has a certain color stick (math = blue, reading = red, etc.) and it ends up being 6 sticks a day.  Kids can earn a stick to put in their cup for demonstrating positive behaviors.  I give my kids one (maybe two) reminders, and anything after that is no stick. 

At the end of each block is "stick check", where the whole class gathers together and you put sticks in the cups of kids who've earned them.  BUT, here's the real beauty of it.  As you put a child's stick in their cup, you take the time to PRAISE them for something specific that they did well during that block.  This helps me make sure that I am really focusing on the positive and connecting with each child to encourage more positive behavior.  If a child didn't earn a stick, I say ABSOLUTELY NOTHING about it.  But, I DO praise the child before them and the child after them for the behavior that they needed to work on.  This helps the child know what they need to work on for the next stick check.  Of course, you will have that kid who is still oblivious as to why they didn't get a stick.  If that happens, I pull them off to the side when I get a chance and we go over why they missed that stick and how they can improve to earn the next one.

I also like it because at the end of the day, I have a visual picture for how each child did throughout the day.  HUGELY HELPFUL considering our firsties switch classes & I don't see my kiddos for science and reading.  If there are a few kids that always "forget" why they didn't earn a stick or have trouble consistently earning them, we have them track their sticks on a behavior log and write why they didn't earn a stick after each block.

At the end of the day, we look at how many sticks we have.  If they've earned 5 or 6 sticks (6 is the maximum), they earn a "Super Day" note to bring home.  If they've earned 4 sticks, they earn a "Good Day" note.  They are just little pieces of paper, but man are they powerful!  It lets parents know about their child's day, and it is a (free!) reward for the child.  They are so proud of themselves when they earn Super Days!  I do build in other treats for Super Days to mix it up & add interest as the year progresses, but they are always small things like a sticker or a Skittle. 

Whew....that took longer than I thought!  Moving on....

Tips & Tricks:
Some advice that I would give to all new teachers is to go super slow the first month of the year.  Focus on building a classroom community, focus on practicing and reviewing behaviors, focus on building the positive and giving tons of praise.  Yes, content is important, but if those expectations aren't firmly established, you will have to take lots of time away from content later in the year to deal with classroom management issues.  I was so worried about getting through all of the content my first year that I didn't spend as much time reviewing and practicing behaviors.  Bad idea.  Last year, I purposely went very slowly for probably the first 4-6 weeks of school, doing some content but also doing lots and lots of repetition with practicing procedures, reviewing behavior expectations, and praising kids for positive choices.  I'm sure you know the ending to this story....last year went a lot smoother.  This year, I am planning to repeat a lot of the stuff that I did last year to build community and set those firm expectations.

This post was a little text-heavy, but I hope it was helpful and gave you an idea to add to your "teacher toolbox".  Head on over to Blog Hoppin' to get some more great tips!

 - Katy

Wednesday, August 14

Teacher Week....Now Teach! {Organizing for Instruction}

Why hello!

I am linking up again with Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week!


 I have some quick pictures to show how I keep things organized in my room.  Sorry in advance for the bad picture quality....they are from my really old phone when I quickly popped into school to grab something this afternoon.  When my classroom is all done & lookin' nice, I will take pictures with my real camera.

1. Math manips - I'm sure a lot of teachers have these cubbies, but I just love how they keep things organized!  My kiddos can come and grab whatever they need quickly and easily.  If I get to it this summer, I am hoping to make some cuter labels for the front.  If not, the old ones will do!

2. Writing bins - We keep our writing binders in these bins so when it's writer's workshop time, the "table monitor" can just grab the bin and bring it to their table.  The white labels on the front have their table numbers as well as velcro spots for kids' names.  I've found it's an easy way to change the groups around when we switch seats.  There's also a little basket clipped inside that holds special writer's workshop pencils and erasers.  (I wish it had occurred to me to take pictures of those...oops.)

3. Guided math drawers - I keep these right by my guided math table, and they have saved me so much time!  I house our most common math manips in here so that when I'm leading a guided math group, I can easily pull out the tool I need without having to walk over and get it from the math tool cubbies.  They help to keep my groups running smoothly!

I have a few more things I wish I could show, but unfortunately they are all still packed away. :(

Before you head back over to Blog Hoppin' to get some other fabulous organization tips, make sure you visit Jennifer Drake over at her facebook page: Crayons, Cuties, & Common Core.  She is having a FANTASTIC giveaway that I am thrilled to be a part of!  Head on over & check it out!

- Katy

Tuesday, August 13

My latest experiment...creating QR codes! (Plus a FREEBIE!)

Ok, so I am supposed to link up with Blog Hoppin' with a big classroom reveal.  Well, I was just in there for a few hours today getting a few things done, and lemme tell you....it is not ready for any kind of reveal.  So, I will give you a little freebie in hopes that it will suffice. 

In one of the classes I took through my district this summer, I learned about creating QR codes.  I thought it would be complicated and time consuming, but it SO isn't!  There are actually websites that allow you to type in a URL, upload a photo, or even add plain text and it will create the QR code for you.  I used the site http://atomurl.net/qrcode/  but there are many sites that do this.

When I was in the class, I immediately thought of using QR codes as a way for students to independently check their work.  During our math workshop, I am running guided math groups, so I don't always get a chance to go over and see how kids are doing on the math games.  Sometimes I wonder if kids are practicing a skill incorrectly or just guessing for the heck of it.  I especially worry about this with "True" or "False" games because a) it's a hard standard to master, and b) it's so easy for kids to mix them up and not even know it!  So, I am in the process of creating a whole bunch of true or false games that allow kids to check their work using QR codes.  I have 3 done so far, and one of them I am offering up as a little freebie!

 Click one of the pictures above to grab it!

Thanks for playing along!  I hope to have my room done in a couple weeks & will post pics then!

- Katy

Monday, August 12

Teacher Week '13....Meet the Teacher Monday!

Hi there!

I'm linking up with Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week!

Now, I have to admit, I feel a little sad because Teacher Week signals "Back to School", BUT we don't go back until after Labor Day, and in my head that is still oh so very very far away so that makes me feel a little better. :)  In fact, it is sooooo far away that I won't even be able to link up tomorrow for the classroom tour because mine is not even done!  (Although, believe me, it is not for lack of wanting to....I just have to wait until they've cleaned my carpets before I can really get anything set up.) 

Anywho, here are a few facts about me....


1.  I moved to from Michigan (where I grew up) to Wisconsin 2 years ago to teach 1st grade.  I really like Wisconsin, but I am a Michigangster at heart!

(Photo from michiganawesome.org)

2.  I am a huge nerd (see above photo....I own this t-shirt) and love things like this:

Kitchen Print Rolling Pin - They See Me Rollin - 11x14 Poster art decor cooking baking rap hip hop quote minimal eggshell aqua pastel yellow     Coffee Tea Print Typography - I like big cups - 11x14 Poster wall art decor kitchen white cup bird light blue aqua eggshell cathrineholm art
Oven Kitchen Print - It's gettin' hot in here - 11x14 Poster wall art decor cooking baking rap quote pie teapot minimal eggshell aqua teal
(Photos from Noodlehug shop on etsy, although I totally own the top 2 pictures and will probably own the 3rd one soon) :)

3. I have a younger brother that is almost done with college.  My first graders LOVE when I show them pictures of me & my brother because they think it's hilarious that my "little" brother is taller than me.  Haha!

It isn't the best photo, but you get the idea....

4. I love love LOVE to travel!  I studied abroad in London during college, and I also traveled to Scotland, France, Italy, and Greece while I was over. there.  I love experiencing things outside of my own little world and seeing what other cultures are like.  I would love to spend my summers in different countries, but unfortunately, international traveling is kind of an expensive hobby....





 The Leaning Tower of Pisa!
 The Ruins of Pompeii

Beautiful Venice!

5. I'm left handed & so it took me a little while to use scissors in elementary school.  I didn't (and still don't!) get why scissors only work in your right hand!  When I was a kid, I used to think it was magic.

6. I'm a picky eater, so while I love to travel, I am very hesitate to try new foods at the places I go.

7. This will be my 3rd year teaching.  I am by no means an expert or veteran teacher, but I am so happy to be out of the "brand new" teacher phase.  I am really excited to keep growing and learning this year with my new group of kiddos!

8.  I really like going to the zoo!  It's so fun to see all of the animals, and the zoo near us has some great events during the year.  I am hoping to go in a couple weeks to a food and wine tasting event at the zoo, as well as go and touch some stingrays at their summer exhibit.

Here I am with a lil' ol' giraffe! :)

9. I do not like to cook, and therefore, I do not cook very well.  It's a vicious cycle.

10. I love geometric patterns!  I have a hard time decorating my apartment because I love so many patterns, but they don't all go together.  Oh well....I will keep plugging away and shopping I guess.....

Whew!  That was actually a little a hard to think of 10 things!  I am generally a pretty private person, so I would start something and then change my mind about sharing it.  Maybe some other time! :)  I am hoping to link up to some other Teacher Week days, but my classroom tour will have to come at a later date. 

Happy Monday!

- Katy

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