Monday, 27 January 2014

Patching Up with Storybook Sunday... Double the linky fun!

I'm linking up with two of my bloggy buddies today!  Brooke at Teachable Moments is hosting a Patch-Up Post linky for bloggers who need to show their blogs a bit of love - and after a loooong Summer holiday I'm afraid my poor old blog has been a bit neglected.  

What better way to reaffirm my love for my little spot in cyber space than with Paula's Storybook Sunday - a weekly linky for us to share great picture books that we are using in our classrooms.  I'm always on the lookout for a great read-aloud and have snagged plenty of ideas from this linky.

This week I'm going to use 'The Kissing Hand' by Audrey Penn to help springboard some discussions with my Preppies about their feelings of coming along to 'big school' for the first time.

"The Kissing Hand" tells the story of Chester the racoon, who is off to school for the first time.  He's feeling a little nervous so his mother, Mrs. Racoon, lets him in on a very old secret.  By placing a kiss on the palm of his hand, she can send her love and warm feelings with Chester to school. Anytime he feels lonely or anxious, he can press his palm to his cheek and remember how much his mother loves him.  

Such a gorgeous story!  I've seen so many blog posts and Pinterest pins about this book but have never read it... until a little forage in the storeroom (looking for clear contact paper!) unearthed a copy.  I decided straight away to use it as the book focus for our first week of Prep.  A quick google or TpT search will give you a tonne of ideas of how to use this book in your classroom, but I plan to do just a few simple activities in amongst the busy-ness of the first days of the year.

We will make a 'First Day Feelings' poster to display, inspired by this one from Once Upon a First Grade Adventure:

We will listen to the story read by the author on Barnes and Noble Online Storytime, and complete the response sheet from this freebie on TpT.  Each child will print their hand with paint, and when it's dry they will glue a heart on the palm to make their own hand into a kissing hand. :)  I hope we have time to make this super cute racoon craft also!

So that parents understand the idea behind "The Kissing Hand" I'll send a note home tomorrow with a link to the video so that they can share the story as a family and be sure to send their kidlet off to Prep with a kiss in their palm for as long as they need it! :)

I'm off to finish organising for tomorrow - the first day of Prep! - and do some last minute cleaning and tidying.  (All those weeks of holidays and I leave it until now to get the housework done? Crazy!)


Saturday, 25 January 2014

Five for Friday (with a classroom tour)!

First week of the school year = done! Five days without kidlets should have been enough time to get everything ready and organised... but meetings, catch up chats and general procrastination meant that Friday afternoon saw me madly rushing to make sure that my classroom was set up ready for next week.   I'm linking up with Doodle Bugs (for the first time in ages!) to share some random moments from my week back at school with Five for Friday.

1. After moving all of the furniture into piles in the middle of the room for the carpets to be cleaned over the holidays, it took me a while this week to decide where I wanted everything to go.  It was tempting to set the room up just the same as it was last year - but changing the layout and look of the classroom always helps me to feel excited about the new school year.  I don't think I've ever shared photos of my room before (apart from the odd one here and there of specific areas) so I took a few snaps before I left yesterday.  Please excuse the bare pinboards that are waiting to be covered with art and crafts when the kidlets arrive!

This is my main teaching area.  The kidlets sit on the coloured mat, and the board above the whiteboard is home to the calendar (free on TpT), birthdays, rules and soon will have our monster manners (from Growing Kinders pack, also a freebie!).  The Share Chair lives in the corner to the right, and that's the Writing Corner to the left.

Storage shelves - the glass panel looks into my office.  The yellow sheets on the window are sticker charts. :)

Small group table and reading corner.  The white door leads out to the foyer.  

 Looking back to the desk area.  From the left - home corner against the wall (goes around the corner too), Creation Station (those white baskets won't stay there!), door to the outdoor area, smart board, door to the TA office, kids' lockers.

Almost the whole room, looking this time from the back door.  Word wall on the purple board. The door on the right leads into the kitchen.

2. iPad storage has always been a bug bear of mine. Previously I had just piled them on the shelf, but they always looked messy which annoyed me.  Turns out that one of the file storage racks (I call them toaster racks) I had sitting around was the perfect solution! I'd seen this idea somewhere, probably Pinterest, and am so glad I remembered to try it out.  It's super easy to plug the chargers in when they're stored like this, too!

3. After my first year of using the peg chart as a behaviour management strategy, I made my 'Super Kid Hall of Fame' poster to display the pegs of the sweeties who earned themselves 2 jewels during 2013.   I make it very, very tricky to earn a jewel so they are a super special reward.  I'm hoping that the chance of appearing in the 2014 Hall of Fame will be a great motivator for this year's Preppies. :)

4. Bargain of the week - $1 Jump Frogs to use in fine motor activities!  These froggies are perfect for little fingers to play with.  Either have them jump the frogs onto the plate that comes in the pack, or create paper/card 'ponds' with letters, numbers or words on them and have the kidlets read whatever their frog lands on.  They look easy, but some children really struggle with using their pointer finger to make the frog jump. (Aussie friends can find them at Big W.)

 5. To celebrate the beginning of our school year, I'm having a sale in my TpT store!  Everything is 20% off until Monday night.  Pop on over to grab a bargain!

Well folks, that's all from me.  Happy Australia Day weekend everyone! :)


Wednesday, 22 January 2014

Summer's Over... Back to School!

Well hello there poor, neglected blog!  I wonder if there's anyone out there still reading??  After a very long and relaxing Summer break, it was back to school for me this week.  Even though we don't have kidlets until next Tuesday (after the Australia Day holiday) the early alarm has been tricky to hear and getting out of bed on time is still touch and go! :)

So far I've been keeping myself busy with the usual setting up stuff - rearranging furniture, changing displays, putting name labels on everything - as well as staff meetings and catch up chats with friends.  I still have tonnes to do, but am hopeful that it will all be done by the time I leave on Friday. (Yeah, right!). I thought I'd stop in and share 2 very quick ideas that might be helpful for you if you're in the same boat as me, getting ready for a new batch of kidlets!

In the past, we have wrapped birthday presents for each of the children to give to them on their special day.  To be honest, that was something that I did purely because it had been done forever before I joined the Prep team - but I had been really feeling that it was a waste of money and time.  Obviously, buying 25+ decent birthday gifts is expensive, so the bits and bobs they would get were from dollar stores and were less than impressive for kids whose birthday wishlists these days seem to be more and more extravagant.  Once the few minutes of excitement (all eyes on them as they opened their gift) were over I'm pretty sure our little gifts were forgotten about.  I still want my kidlets to feel special and excited on their birthday, so I put together a class set of 'Party Packs' ready to give out during the year.  We can still sing to them and celebrate their day - and the balloon, crazy straw, party blower, patterned pencil and glow stick bracelet can be taken home to help with birthday festivities!  Everything I needed cost less than $20 (for the whole class) and there's one ready for every kidlet - no early morning present wrapping for me this year!

Right before I left this afternoon I whipped up some desk group labels.  Last year I named my groups after Dr. Seuss characters (Cats in Hats, Brown Barbaloots, Foxes in Socks and Horton's Whos) and was horrified to discover that many kids had no idea who those marvellous characters were!  To begin this year, my groups will be colours instead (represented by a cute monster thanks to My Clip Art Store) so I have time for them to get to know Dr. Seuss and his friends.  Each desk group will have their little monster in an Ikea frame ($1.99 each).  These frames are also handy to grab and move around the room to show kidlets where they need to be for group rotations until they get used to the routines.  It's also super easy to print another label if group names change and slide it into the frame.

I'll be back hopefully very soon to share some some more ideas from my classroom... these two simple ditties were an easy way to ease back into the blogging world after my accidental hiatus. :)  I'm off to have a hot shower (this old teacher's shoulders and knees are sore after a day of moving desks!) and blob in front of the TV. :)


Monday, 6 January 2014

New Products (with a giveaway)!

Hi everyone!  Seems that people everywhere are having extreme weather - there's the snow and ice across the US, and here in Queensland we've been having a serious heatwave that's resulted in some big electrical storms.  Today I woke up to a crack of thunder, and it's been storming all day since, which is quite odd.  There was just a story on the news that said that flying foxes have literally been dropping from the sky with exhaustion because it's so hot! The heat and then the rain have made it really easy to be a homebody and stay inside, so I've been putting together a few products that I'm going to get ready to use with my Preppies when the new school year starts in a few weeks.

 To help my kidlets with their upper and lowercase letter recognition with some phonics practise thrown in for good measure I made these 3 piece puzzles.  There's both colour and black and white versions in the file, so if you're conscious of saving ink and want to print them to coloured card there's that option for you.

Of course, I'll be using the Queensland print version. :)

Because I was in a puzzling mood, I made some number puzzles also.  They've got numerals, number words, ten frames and pictures.

Last but not least, I was inspired by the story, The Gingerbread Man to make a sight word card game called Run, Run!.  The idea is simple - kidlets draw a card, read the word (as fast as they can!) and keep it if they read it correctly.  If their card shows the gingerbread man saying 'Can't catch me!' this acts as a freebie that they can keep, but if they draw a 'Run, run!' card featuring that tricky fox, all of their cards go back into the pile.  The kidlet with the most cards at the end wins. :)

You can grab this in Dolch Pre-PrimerPrimer and First Grade - the cards are colour coded so you can mix and match the words cards to suit the words your kidlets need to work on.

Well folks, time for the giveaway.  Just leave me a comment with your email (make sure you follow my TpT store) and let me know which product you'd like.  I'll come back on Wednesday evening to pick 3 winners and send you the product of your choice.  Good luck! :)

Congrats to Cherie, Kirra and Bec - check your email for your prizes! (On another note... numbers 1, 2 and 3 doesn't seem like too much of a random number selection from! Oh well, all's fair in love and giveaways.) :)


P.S. Don't forget to link up your 10 Top Tips for New Teachers!

Sunday, 5 January 2014

10 Top Tips for New Teachers - A linky party!

I remember the first day I walked into my very own classroom... I was nervous, excited and overwhelmed with the possibilities of the year that lay ahead.  As our new school year approaches here in Australia, I can imagine that there are lots of new teachers feeling the same way I did! What to plan? What to buy? What to wear on the first day?  And, most importantly, how can I win over my kids? :) 

In the spirit of 'passing on wisdom' (the small amount of it I have after my 11 years of teaching!) I'm hosting a linky party for us older and more experienced teachers to share 10 Top Teacher Tips - aimed at our friends who are new teachers just in time for the new school year, but also to remind ourselves of good habits and tricks to use. :)  Our Northern Hemisphere neighbours are heading back to school after their Winter break, and I reckon that new teachers in that part of the world might be looking for some tips to get them through the rest of their year after successfully surviving the first few months!

Grab the above image (kindly made by Mel at Graphics From the Pond) and link up - doesn't matter how long you've been teaching for! - to share your top tips.  There's a list below that you can use if you'd like, but feel free to create your own!

1.  Top Tip for Classroom Organisation
2. Top Tip for Behaviour Management
3. Top Tip for Being a Team Player
4. Top Tip for Time Management
5. Top Tip for Engaging Students
6. Top Tip for Getting Along with Parents
7. Top Tip for Teacher Fashion
8. Top Tip for Bargain Hunting
9. Top Tip for Eating Well at School
10. Top Tip for Staying Sane

Don't forget to share this linky with anyone you know starting out on their teaching journey, and if you are a new teacher who stopped past to read a post or two it'd be great to hear about your plans for your new class!

Well, here goes, my 10 Top Teacher Tips!

1.  Top Tip for Classroom Organisation

The best thing I ever did in my classroom was create a labelled shelf space for each of my group rotations - I labelled mine Reading Groups, Writing Workshop, Maths Time and Brain Boosters because those are the 4 sets of rotations I do.  On Monday morning, I put all of the worksheets, games, activities, books, iPads, whatever will be needed in those shelves and they stay there all week.  The kidlets know that when they are moving off to a group that everything they need will be there, and that's where it goes back at the end of the session.  I don't have to hand anything out or put anything away - because it's in the same place every time the kidlets can do it themselves! :) You can read my post about it here.

2. Top Tip for Behaviour Management

Rather than pointing out inappropriate behaviour, I find it's much more productive to acknowledge the kidlets who are doing a great job and reward them, either just with praise or by moving their peg up the chart.  I'm always very specific with what is is they're doing that's making me happy, and that's usually enough to make my little friends who have lost the plot a bit change their behaviour so they can be praised, too.  I might say something like "Wow, I really love the way that such-and-such is showing that she is a good listener by keeping her eyes on me!"  Not sure if it's the same in older year levels, but Preppies are so eager for you to acknowledge them for doing a great job.  There will always be times when someone needs a time-out or a talking to, but by keeping your expectations clear and being generous with praise will keep these to a minimum... in most cases!

3. Top Tip for Being a Team Player

Hopefully, working in a new team of teachers will mean lots of support, new friends and the workload shared!  I think the most important thing to remember when coming into a new school is that you don't know what time and effort have gone into making resources, organising activities and planning events before you got there.  So before you pooh-pooh something - remember that it might be something that one of your teaching partners is very proud of creating, and there's no quicker way to lose a friend than by offending them early in the relationship!  If you want to change something, find out why it was implemented in the first place, and then make sure you suggest changes in a gentle way. :)

4. Top Tip for Time Management

Is there ever enough time in a school day?  I'm always running out of time to get everything I want done.  What makes it worse is that I'm the biggest time waster ever!  I'm easily distracted and love to chat... a bad combination for ticking things off the to-do list. In an attempt to use my time wisely, I make sure to write down the most important tasks for the day in the morning (usually about 3) and make sure the list is somewhere I can see it.  If I haven't got those important jobs visible, I can find all sorts of less productive activities to fill up my time! 

5. Top Tip for Engaging Students

In Prep, the number one way for keeping everyone engaged, all the time, is using hands on activities!  Cards, games, manipulatives, puppets, puzzles, sorting... anything that they can touch and move. :)

6. Top Tip for Getting Along with Parents

When communicating with parents, it's always good to keep the relationship as professional as possible.  While you want to be friendly and approachable, sharing too much about your personal life and being too chummy with parents can sometimes mean that their respect for you as a teacher is affected.  When you pass on information or concerns, you want parents to trust you as a professional and if you've shared with them all about the party you went to on the weekend, or the problems you're having with your partner they'll be less likely to do that.  

7. Top Tip for Teacher Fashion

This one is tricky for me, because at my school teachers wear a uniform! I'm therefore very limited with my fashion choices.  I probably would be anyway though, because teaching Prep I need to be able to get down on the floor with the kids, join in with their games and not be afraid to get paint/glue/shaving cream/food colouring on my clothes.  I wish when I was a new teacher that someone had told me to make sure I was always wearing decent shoes.  After years of wearing cute flats with no support and standing all day, my feet and back are shot. :( 

8. Top Tip for Bargain Hunting

I love dollar stores! I buy most of my craft supplies and math manipulatives from the local Discounts Galore.  I wish I was a good online shopper, because I know there are some good bargains to be found there, but I'm usually out buying things in the day or two before I need them.

9. Top Tip for Eating Well at School

Some days it can be really tricky to even find time to stop and eat at school!  I like to have a stash of food in the fridge/cupboard for those days that I haven't had time to make a salad or a wrap and bring it for lunch.  I keep muslei bars, single serve cans of soup, tinned fruit, rice crackers etc. so I can grab something semi-healthy if I haven't brought anything from home.  When I see things on special while I'm grocery shopping I grab them and add them to my stash at school.  There's nothing worse than starving all day and then stuffing yourself with chips and chocolate when you get home!

10. Top Tip for Staying Sane

Don't compare yourself to other teachers.  While it's great to gather ideas and inspiration from colleagues (and bloggers) you will drive yourself nuts trying to keep up with everyone. There will always be someone doing something better than you, so concentrate on your kidlets and on making sure that everything you do for them is taking them a step forward in their learning.  Realising that in recent years has saved my sanity, for sure. )

I'm looking forwards to reading the other top tips shared by my blogging buddies, there's always new tricks to be learnt!  Link up below. :)


Thursday, 2 January 2014

It's {Currently} January!

I must admit that when the first 'Currently' posts started popping up the other day I got a bit of a fright. January, already?  Even though I'd stayed up to see the new year in just the night before, it's not until Farley's linky that the reality of 2014 set in. :)  

Listening: I live right by the beach so during holiday seasons, and particularly Christmas, there's lots of 'tourists' visiting to enjoy the sun.  This time of year most people bbq on their balconies, so around dinner time there's lots of talking, laughing and noise of kids playing.  It's nice! :)

Loving:  Not sure how I'm going to get used to the 5am alarm again, but at the moment I'm truly taking advantage of the time to sleep in.  2 more weeks!

Thinking:  I'm starving, so my eye fillet steak sizzling away is going to go down a treat when it's all ready. I'm having potato and greek salads with it. I've got Malteasers for dessert, too.  Yum!!

Wanting:  We're having a heatwave at the moment, with temperatures almost at 40 degrees and expected to get hotter than that over the next few days.  That makes time at the beach way too uncomfortable after about 9am (unless you're there just for a swim).  That combined with my aforementioned sleeping in means that I haven't been spending as much time there as I usually would.

Needing:  I know that the more I get done before we go back for our pupil free days the more relaxed I will feel about starting the new school year, so I need to set myself some daily goals to work through the to do list of projects and organising I'd like to do.  Wish me luck!

Favourite Memory: Each Christmas Day my Mum's extended family meet at one of our houses for an afternoon/evening party.  We swap presents, have dinner, dance and chat.  There's a lot of us (about 40 this year but usually more than that) so it's usually noisy and fun.  

Better get to eating my dinner and watching a repeat of The Bachelor finale (Sean's season).  Go link up and join in on the Currently fun!