Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Classroom Reveal 2015! {Teacher Week}

I am very excited to be linking up with Blog Hoppin' for this year's Classroom Reveal as a part of Teacher Week 2015! 

And also with Ashley and Angie for #2getherwearebetter September!

This is the first time in 7 years of teaching that I had a different classroom to decorate... in a completely new school... so I was totally starting from scratch! When I first arrived to assess the situation at my new school, I knew I had my work cut out for me. My school was built in the 1970s, and the room and furniture definitely showed its age! Starting with this terribly hideous brown chalkboard... YIKES!

There was no way I could stand looking at that thing all year... and I noticed that both of my teammates had covered theirs up in their classrooms, so I got to work with some butcher paper and covered that sucker up!

Much better already!

I added some black and white border around it, added my calendar and decor, and voila! Transformed!

Disclaimer... I've been in school for an entire month, so my classroom looks more lived in with more clutter (see the hundreds chart askew on the top left?) than it did before school started! Real teacher life, baby! Haha.

I have a ton of bulletin boards in my room - I've never had so many before! It took me awhile to figure out exactly what I wanted to do with them. I bought Amy Groesbeck's Editable Subject Banners on TPT, edited them to make a few signs, and hung them up with some black ribbon and miniature clothespins! I LOVE how they turned out!

I'm using this bulletin board to hang resources, posters, anchor charts, and anything pertaining to what we are currently learning. In my old classroom, whenever we had made a big chart or poster, I'd always have to move it around everywhere based on where I needed space to write on our whiteboard. I'm hoping making a dedicated space for that kind of stuff will be more beneficial to both me and my students!

I hung up our anchor chart with a couple of pushpins and binder clips! So easy to move and change for anything I want to hang here.

I also used the banners to create a math wall...

Where we hung up our first few math vocab posters!

You can grab these more/less gator signs here!

This is my word wall. I made a section with a pocket chart specifically for vocabulary, picture cards, and any other kinds of labeling words I want my students to use while they are there. I used one of these KUSINER storage baskets from IKEA (A set of 3 is only $4.99!!!) and hung it from the board. I put all of my sight word cards in there that we'll be using throughout the year. That way, they're all right there in one easy go-to spot.

I wanted to create a cute, functional way to display student work, so I came up with this adorable tree idea! I used brown butcher paper and twisted it up to make the branches on the bulletin board; then I wrapped green yarn around the branches to make something to clip clothespins to. 

I wanted to keep with the tree theme, so I printed off some leaf clip art and hot glued them to clothespins! Then I just hang work from each one!

Here is the area around my teacher desk:

I love this little area with my DIY filing cabinet I made over the summer. It's filled with all sorts of special gifts and decor from former students, teammates, and friends.

And a little peek at a few other areas of my room:

Dismissal Clip Chart Freebie from Wild About Firsties

It's still a work in progress, even though school has already begun! I plan on adding many more details as the year goes on. I'm really looking forward to making it a print and visually rich classroom environment for all subjects!

If you want to share your own classroom reveal or just check out other amazing classrooms, head on over to link up with Blog Hoppin' for Teacher Week Classroom Reveal 2015!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Currently... September!

I'm so happy September is here. It's been blazing hot in Arizona, and I mean HOT with humidity (which we usually don't have). The worst part is, we have had to have indoor recess for the majority of the past two weeks. Now, I have GoNoodle Indoor Recess to save me, but everyone has their limit eventually (AKA, kids are wild and they need to run outside before we all crack). Maybe it was my imagination, but a storm rolled through last night and today felt much cooler, like there was a change in the air. Now by much cooler, I mean it was only 99 degrees instead of 108. Ha!

Okay, enough about the weather. What I meant to say in my roundabout way is that I am excited for September because it means Fall is creeping ever closer! And since it's a new month, I'm also linking up with Farley for this month's Currently!

{Listening}: Joy Williams, "One Day I Will"
I can't get enough of Joy Williams' new solo album. It's amazing. If I can't have The Civil Wars back together, *sniff sniff*, this is the next best thing. So. dang. good.

{Loving}: My AZ Blogger Tribe
Sometimes you just meet bloggers and they instantly become your people: Cassandra from Mrs 3rd Grade, Ashlyn from The Creative Classroom, and Jennifer from The Blessed Teacher are blogger friends of mine that I am SO grateful for. They are so amazing, fun, supportive, and encouraging and I couldn't ask for a better group of blogging besties! We just did a BLAB live chat together and it was a blast! Love these girls!

{Thinking}: Changing grades... IS HARD!
I'm not sure if I've actually posted this here on the blog, but this year I unexpectedly got moved to first grade! It was already going to be a big year of change: I switched districts and schools, but I was still going to be teaching kindergarten. Unfortunately, the district decided that enough students weren't enrolling, so they cut my spot. Thankfully, there was a first grade opening at my same school! That made the unexpected switch a little bit easier knowing that I could stay at my new school that I am so excited to be working at. I also already knew someone on the first grade team... a fellow Arizona blogger, Sample's Superstars! So even though I was sad to leave kinder (it has my heart), first grade is pretty great too. However... I now feel like a first year teacher again after 7 years of teaching. I spend a lot of long hours finding and creating resources for first grade and a lot goes into the planning part. It's all about finding balance, which I am struggling with right now!

{Wanting}: Cooler Weather
For reals, Arizona. Stop being so hot.

{Needing}: More Time in My Day

{3 Goals}:
1. Wake Up Earlier (I'm more productive working at school in the morning!)
2. Make Time for Me (Instead of spending so much time working)
3. Be a Light (I want to be a kind, loving person to those around me)

Click on the button below to link up!

Teacher Week 2015: Five Fun Facts!

Teacher Week is back and I am so excited to link up with the Blog Hoppin' girls for Monday's theme - 5 Fun Facts About Me!

And here we go!

1. I'm currently in my 7th year teaching - 6 of those years were spent in Kindergarten, all at the same school, with my amazing kinder team pictured above! Sometimes you get blessed to work with an incredible group of people that become your close friends, and I love them all dearly! The phrase we wrote on the sidewalk sums it up... I may be teaching first grade this year, but my heart will always love teaching kinder! I'm at a different school now, but I'll always love my amazing former teammates!

2. It's true - I love my hometown sports teams and enjoy watching and attending games, especially hockey (Coyotes), baseball (D-backs), and football (Cardinals)! Even though I live in the desert... hockey is my favorite! In the picture above, I had just won a team signed stick from the Arizona Coyotes. (Oddly enough, I also have a strange knack for winning sports-related contests... why couldn't it be the lottery? HA!)


3. I feel so blessed to be able to sing and play music on the worship team at my church. Better yet, I get to do it with some of my closest friends. My faith is one of the most important things in my life and this is one way I absolutely love serving Him. We play some pretty rockin' songs, too!

4. My favorite band is Switchfoot and it has been for YEARS! I love their music and lyrics, their live show is unbelievable, and they are five of the nicest guys you'll ever meet. When I met them in the above photo, I had told them they had outdone themselves with their newest album, so Jon Foreman (the lead singer) said, "Well, we need to outdo ourselves in this photo!" And so the above crazy photo ensued. It makes me laugh and it's one of my favorites!

5. My favorite book of all time is Outlander by Diana Gabaldon. The entire series is my favorite series as well (there are 8 books so far) but I love the first one, Outlander, the most! I've read it 3 times and it definitely will not be the last. So imagine my excitement when they made it into a TV show?!? And it turned out to be A.MAZ.ING! I had viewing parties all year with a bunch of my friends. And seeing Jamie Fraser in the flesh? Yes please! Love these books!

Phew! It was hard to narrow it down to these five, but there you have it! Hope that gives you more of an inside glimpse into my life! Link up with the ladies of Blog Hoppin' and join in the fun!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

The Creative Classroom's GRAND Giveaway!

One of the best things I have experienced since opening a TPT store back in 2012 is making connections and friendships with fellow bloggers, especially my hometown Arizona folks. That's why I am so excited to share that my amazing friend Ashlyn over at The Creative Classroom is celebrating reaching 1,000 followers on TPT with a GRAND giveaway!

Keep an eye out on all of our Instagram accounts over the next few days where you can join in the fun and tell us what you would spend a GRAND on if you had it, plus other fun questions to interact with each other.

The best part? You can win a $100 gift card to TPT! How amazing is that?! I wish I could enter and win... just think about how many great resources you could buy! Want a shot to be a winner? Enter by participating in the Rafflecopter below:

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

All About This Kinder Teacher {Kinder Tribe}

As a teacher-blogger, there are few things better than the opportunity to collaborate and connect with other teachers. And some may argue that Kindergarten teachers are an entirely different breed altogether... and I'd have to agree! Haha! That's why I was so excited to connect with fellow Kinder teachers as a part of the Kinder Tribe. They are hosting a linky called "All About This Kinder Teacher"... it's a great way to connect and find fellow kindergarten bloggers!

I'm Caitlin, and I've been teaching kindergarten for 6 years. I wasn't necessarily looking to get a teaching job in kinder when I graduated, but that's where I ended up... and totally fell in love with it! Here's a little peek into my Kinder life:

I totally couldn't live without a projector in my classroom. I use it ALL. THE. TIME. I show educational video clips, use interactive online games, model lessons on the document camera, have GoNoodle brain breaks, and more! It's such a useful tool, especially for young learners who are very visual and need to get the wiggles out often!

I have many school supplies I love, but my favorite ones to use are Flair Pens! I just love the way they write and they have so many fun colors to choose from. 

Only one other kind of pen has started to give them a run for its money... Inkjoy Pens! But the Flairs are still tops for me.

As for my favorite Kinder book, it is literally impossible to choose just one. Any number of books could have landed on the top of this list! I went with a series that is not only one of my favorites, but the kids' favorite too: The Pigeon books by Mo Willems.

These books totally crack me up. When I'm reading them, I pretend like the Pigeon is actually asking my students those questions, and they always get all into it and respond "NO!" every time he "asks" them to let him do something. So fun!

There are so many great Kindergarten blogs out there. My very favorite blog is The First Grade Parade, but since Cara's blog is technically K-1, I'll say that my favorite Kindergarten only blog is Mrs. Wills' Kindergarten. I swear, Deedee always comes up with the perfect kindergarten activities. I can't get enough of her math journal prompts and editable sight word RTI pack. And don't get me started on her reading/writing activities... every last one is amazing! It's like she reads my mind and comes up with the exact activity I want to use in my classroom. Love her!

Lastly, I love Kindergarten because...

They are SO excited about ALL things school!

We may have our work cut out for us at the beginning of the year (potty accidents, crying, runners, repeating instructions 5000x) but you can't deny a kindergartener's excitement for learning. They get so happy about anything you tell them - they get as excited over getting a brand new pencil as they would to go on a field trip! And boy, do they love you. They make it fun to come to work every day. I just LOVE working with this age!

I hope you'll link up with the Kinder Tribe to connect and find out more about fellow Kinder teachers! There are some great ones out there!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Ways to Successfully Implement Centers at the Beginning of Kindergarten

Have you been wanting to implement centers in your classroom, but aren't sure where to start? With just a few steps, you can have your kindergarten kiddos successfully participating in small group center activities within the first two weeks of school!

Six years of teaching kindergarten has taught me the importance of implementing centers in the classroom. They help encourage student independence, motivation, and work ethic. They allow students to feel successful by completing an activity by themselves. And most importantly, they can be FUN! Every year, my students beg and plead for center time to arrive during the day. Taking the time to implement a few important routines and procedures at the beginning of the year can set the stage for successful small group center activities all year long.

Let's flash back to my first year of teaching. I had no idea how challenging teaching kindergarten was going to be, especially at the beginning of the school year. I very quickly learned the hard way what happens if you don't explain every detail to your students. And I mean E V E R Y detail. Because 5-year-olds will continue to find new ways to surprise you with a "Why would you ever think that was a good idea?!" moment. That brings me to Tip #1:

Teach your routines and don't leave out any details. Sit your students down and explain to them what center time is and what they will be doing during this time. When I first start explaining my center routines, I let them know that they are going to be with a small group of their friends that are going to stay together the whole time to complete different learning tasks (of course, I put it in kid-friendly speak, but you get the idea!). I let my students know that they are to stay at their center the entire time until it is time to switch. Letting students know this expectation will help reduce the amount of students that wander around to other centers bothering other kids.

This is also the time to introduce what transitions they should listen for so that they know when it is time to either switch centers or clean up for the next activity. The transition I like to use most during center time is the clap and response: I clap a beat and the students stop what they are doing to repeat the claps back to me. I like using this as an effective attention-getter because it requires my students to actually stop, respond, interact, and listen for my next instructions. They know that when they hear "The Quiet Clap", that they are to stop, clap, look, and listen. It's a quick and easy way to let my students know what they will be doing next. You can also do a speak and respond attention getter: You say a statement, and they respond with the rest of the phrase back to you.

Attention getters like "1,2,3 Eyes on Me!" and "Class, Yes!" are simple transition responses you can use that are easy for kids to remember. You can pretty much make up whatever phrase you want - the options are limitless!

Tip #2: Practice, Practice, Practice. I can't stress this step enough. If there is one thing you will want to do to prepare your kindergarteners for the routine of centers, it is to have them practice being at centers! You don't even have to have real centers for them to do when you get to this step. I tell my students to pretend they are working hard at centers - they love this part - and to listen for my attention getter to know when they are to stop, look, and listen. They pretend to write with their pencils or cut an invisible piece of paper and they think it's the greatest thing since sliced bread! I let them go on for about a minute and then use the Clap and Respond strategy, they clap it back to me, and then I have each group practice moving together to the next table as if they were going to the next center activity. We go through that again and again until they return to their own table seats.

Why is this important? 

Well, now your students have actually experienced what it is like to stay at one center for a specific amount of time and switch to the next one after that. Beginning of the year kindergarten students need those tangible experiences to really understand what it is you want them to do. It isn't enough just to tell them, you have to show and do.

Tip #3: Press the "Easy" button. The beginning of kindergarten is already stressful enough, so why add more to it? Another way to successfully implement centers at the beginning of kinder is to make your life easier by using simple centers for the first go-around. Use center activities that students can do independently so that you are not running around the classroom putting out fires every day. Here are some ideas for simple centers you can use:

Shapes, pattern blocks, play-doh, stamps, roll and cover games, sight word tracing, alphabet arcs, and easy cut & glue activities are all wonderful choices for your first rotation of centers at the beginning of the year. These are all simple, yet academic, centers that your students should be able to do independently, for the most part. Pressing the easy button with your first few rotations of centers will allow you to help students in small groups, complete assessments, and make yourself more available to all of your kindergarteners.

Tip #4: Don't Rush. It's okay if you need to do these simpler centers for the first couple of weeks of kindergarten. You will know when your students are ready for more rigorous activities. As the weeks continue, you can keep some of these activities the same and slowly add in 1-2 more difficult centers until they get the routines down.

Need some ready made activities for your beginning of the year centers?

Letter sorts are a perfect activity for the beginning of the year. These printables help students work on letter identification, formation and distinguishing between uppercase and lowercase letters. They are a super easy task for kindergarteners to complete at center time all while helping them practice letter concepts.

You can find these printables in my "I Can Sort My ABCs!" packs in my TPT store. There are two different sets: Uppercase/Lowercase Letters and Mixed-Up Letters. Click on the pictures below to check out both packs; and make sure you download the preview on each one - there's a freebie for you to try out to see if you like it!

 photo I Can Sort Alphabet Cover_zpsoc5pqoso.png photo I Can Sort My ABCs cover_zpsg5dydlu4.png

Pocket chart centers and predictable sight word practice pages can also be an easy activity for the beginning of the year. My Time for School {Predictable Sentence Builders for Little Learners} pack is filled with activities to help your students practice and grow their skills in sentence structure, writing concepts, punctuation, sight words, and reading/tracking print. Predictable sentences are repetitive and help students recognize words and structure.

It has differentiated activities to fit your students' needs including multiple recording sheets to choose from; Read, Write, Build, Draw printables, pocket chart activities, and more. Click on the preview picture below to take a closer look!

 photo timeforschoolpreview_zps8c33043f.png

Hopefully some of these tips and tricks will help you pull a little less hair out during the first few weeks of school. Would you add any more tips to this list? I'd love to hear of everyone's strategies for center success!