Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Sharing Sunshine with Hello Sunshine... New Dollar Tree Finds for Classrooms!

This year has been a somewhat difficult transition for me: EVERYTHING changed. I switched districts, I switched schools, and I switched grades. After being in the same place in the same grade with the same team for 6 years, suddenly everything was different. I had to get used to different routines, different curriculum, different standards, a different team, different school procedures... you name it, and it was totally flipping what I knew about teaching and being a part of a school community. Now, don't get me wrong - I absolutely LOVE where I work and I wouldn't change anything about my new journey. However, it has definitely provided for some more stressful times than one normally has in their 7th year of teaching... sometimes I feel like a first year teacher all over again! That includes working LONG hours on planning, finding resources, and doing all the little things our job entails. When our teaching lives get stressful, it can be easy to reside in that zone of negativity: complaining, putting too much on our plates, and not bothering to find solutions to make things better. Once we place ourselves in that mindset, it can be hard to get out of it and see and share the positive things that are happening in our schools and classrooms!

That's why I'm so excited that my friends and I over at our collaborative blog, Hello Sunshine, are starting a new monthly linky... Sharing Sunshine!

Sharing Sunshine is a linky where you can write a blog post sharing some teacher-y sunshine with your fellow peers! It can be anything you are excited to share about: a new product, a freebie, a great lesson you taught, teacher deals, favorite products, favorite classroom supplies... ANYTHING! Share something you love about teaching and link up with us on every 15th of the month!

This month, I'll be sharing a little sunshine about some of my favorite classroom items from Dollar Tree! I picked up all of these things this summer and I am so excited to put them to use in my classroom.

The first item that I was SO excited to find were these magnetic spinners:

Seriously, I went on the hunt for these babies after my mom told me about them and it took me going to 4 different Dollar Tree stores before I actually found them. So if you see them at yours, RUN to buy them! I tested them out and they work perfectly! I plan on using them for whole group spinner games, voting activities, and more! I'll also be using the finger pointer spinner in the middle of my GoNoodle spinner to choose our new class champ:

You can download the spinner for free HERE!

Dollar Tree is also the absolute perfect place to grab gobs and gobs of baskets, bins, and containers! They have them in all shapes and sizes in adorable colors... you can even get 2-3 baskets for $1! The little orange buckets and the long skinny green baskets came 2 to a pack! How are these even a dollar? You'd find these kinds of baskets at most retail stores for $3-$4... but not at Dollar Tree! Such a steal. And I don't know about you, but I can never have too many baskets in my classroom!

This summer, they actually had a lot of things I hadn't seen before at a Dollar Tree, such as these magnetic speech bubble dry erase boards. You could use these in so many ways! I was thinking I could make some sort of area on my magnetic cabinets where I'd post a student's picture and have them write something about what we are currently learning about: a math fact, something new they've learned, their favorite thing to do at school, etc... the options are limitless! You could also use them as an adorable label and change it out when you need to, since they are erasable!

Another great item I was able to score at Dollar Tree were these colorful, big, plastic tweezers. 

These are GREAT for helping students develop strength and fine motor skills. I plan on using these in many different center activities where they'll have to pick up items with tweezers to sort them instead of just moving them around with their fingers. And don't even get me started on how completely excited your kiddos will be to use these! It can put a fun twist on any learning activity.

Here are some other favorite Dollar Tree finds:

Recycling Game:
This is a magnetic sorting game that I can't wait to use with my kids on Earth Day! It has tons of pieces to help students sort items by plastic, paper, and aluminum. Such a fun hands-on activity!

Big Foam Dice:
I can't get enough of these giant foam dice that come two to a pack! You can't find jumbo dice like this ANYWHERE for the price of a dollar. They are very durable and I use them all the time in my classroom to play dice games in both math and reading centers.

Magnetic Mirror:
I love these! Mirrors can be used for so many different things. I plan on using a couple of these in guided reading groups to help my kiddos struggling with articulation of sounds so they can see how their mouth moves when they attempt to say them correctly. I also have one for a non-educational purpose: making sure I don't look completely scraggly after school if I'm headed to a parent or staff meeting! You know how we all feel and look at the end of a school day! Ha!!

I hope these affordable classroom ideas brought a little sunshine to your day! Be sure to link up with us over at Hello Sunshine to share some sunshine (and read about other bright ideas) today and then again on the 15th of every month!

Saturday, September 5, 2015

GoNoodle Back to School Blogger Blitz... win GoNoodle SWAG!

As a teacher, I love discovering new resources that make my life in the classroom a little easier and a lot more fun! GoNoodle is definitely one of those great resources! GoNoodle is a website that offers free brain break videos that help channel classroom energy for good. They have 7 different categories of videos including guided dancing, free movement, stretching, sports and exercise, kinesthetic learning, coordination, and calming. There are so many options for getting students up and moving or relaxed and calmed down when they need it most! I use it EVERY DAY in my classroom and couldn't imagine life without it! I believe in it so much that I'm joining with the fine folks at GoNoodle for the GoNoodle Back to School Blogger Blitz to share some ideas for how I'll be using it in my classroom this year. Keep reading to the bottom... I'll have a huge giveaway for you at the end!!

It's super easy to sign up - you just fill out a small information form, choose a class champ, and voila! You're on your way to GoNoodle brain break fun.

This year, I'll be using GoNoodle in my classroom in a variety of ways!

The first way I'll be using GoNoodle in the classroom is as a behavior motivator. I tell my students that they can earn a brain break for completing any number of tasks: working quietly, following directions quickly, doing their best work... anything goes! They instantly get straight to the task at hand when I tell them they can earn GoNoodle time. It's the easiest no-prep behavior reward around! 

My students also love to be able to choose their class champ. Sometimes, I'll let a student who exhibits extraordinary behavior choose our next champ when it's time to pick a new one. 

Other times, we'll do a whole class vote where my students will put tally marks next to the class champ they want to choose. This year, I'm planning on implementing a new way to choose: the Class Champ Spinner! I created circular pictures of every class champ. I'm going to cut them out, put magnets on the back, and arrange them in a circle. In the middle, I'll put a magnetic spinner, like these:

I found these at Dollar Tree!

...let a student spin, and whatever picture it lands on will be our class champ! You can download the spinner for FREE by clicking on the picture below!

 photo spinner graphic gonoodle_zps4tz2i8v6.png

The second way I'll be using GoNoodle in my classroom this year is our favorite way -- as a brain break resource! I've taught kindergarten for six years and now first grade for one; and kids, especially those in the primary grades, NEED time to move and groove around! We know that we can't have our students sitting in one place for too long, but sometimes it's necessary. Whenever we've had a time where I notice my kids getting wiggly or they've been working hard for a long period of time, we will do a brain break video just for fun! Our favorite channel is Koo Koo Kangaroo Party, where you can watch random, silly, and just plain fun videos such as ZAP IT!, which encourages kids to try their best!

And Pop See Ko 2.0!

There are tons of amazing videos that are so fun... even for me!

The last way I'll be using GoNoodle in my classroom is for academic resources - they have an amazing feature where you can upload any YouTube video and create your own channel! I'll upload video links from Harry Kindergarten, Have Fun Teaching, HeidiSongs, and more! That way, when we'll be watching videos anyway for our morning routines, calendar routines, etc., we can watch it through GoNoodle and get points for it! It is also a great way to have all of your Youtube links in one place.

Have I convinced you yet? No? Well, I've got some more amazing news for you. GoNoodle has an incredible online shop where you can get GoNoodle themed t-shirts, tumblers, student gifts, lanyards, and MORE! I've already made use of the store... I own the POP SEE KO shirt and "My Class is a Dance Party" shirt.... so fun!!!

You can also get fun classroom decor like this window decal (I hung it in my classroom window!):

You can get these things and even more amazing items in the GoNoodle shop at a 15% OFF DISCOUNT from now through September 11th! Just use the code BTSWithGoNoodle!

How generous are the people at GoNoodle? Not only are they offering a discount, but they are letting me have a big giveaway here on the blog! You could win a class set of 25 "Champtastic" Activity Books! How fun do these look?

Can you even imagine how excited your students would be if you gave them all one of these Activity Books?! I know mine would!

Just enter the Rafflecopter below to enter and WIN!

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!