Friday, July 29, 2011

Welcome Back to School Bulletin Boards - Setting Up the Classroom Series

Andy Warhol? Is that you?

These self-portraits are so fun. I'm a big fan of mounting on black to make them pop. I love the backgrounds that they colored.
To view more pictures of this teacher's classroom click here.

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Wednesday, July 27, 2011


We have a list of spelling words that accompany our reading curriculum (Treasures). I use that as a guide, but differentiate my lists to meet the needs of my learners. This meant I needed to create activities that were open-ended in the sense that the students could be doing the same activity, but with their own personal word lists.

I use these with spelling lists, word study lists, vocabulary, and content area words. I also use them as homework pages. And they are great to leave when you have a sub. Oh, and if you are a "Daily 5er" then these rock for Word Work.

I finally organized them all into one packet. The packet includes:
  • TEN CENTER SIGNS - These are optional to use, but are great for letting the kids know what to do. Each sign prints as a 8.5 x 11 ince page and can be displayed in acrylic frames or just placed at the center.
  • MATCHING ACTIVITY PAGES-There are activity pages to go with each of the center signs, but can be used on their own as well as each has directions stated on them.
  • ADDITIONAL ACTIVITY PAGES-There are also 6 blacklined reproducible pages with additional activities.
  • HANDS-ON IDEA LIST-Includes a list of 10 hands-on activities that you can implement in your classroom or supply to the parents to use as homework.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

FREE Clip Chart Behavior Plan

I had posted about my behavior management system a little while ago and have received a few messages asking how I made it. I designed it in photoshop using the template that Vistaprint has available for banners and then saved it as a jpg.
I uploaded it to VP and had it printed as a vertical banner. You'll notice there are 3 columns. I did this so I could cut the banner and get 3 charts out of it. I was able to share them with coworkers to use. It lasted all year and is still in great shape.

I just added the jpg file I designed to my Teachers Pay Teachers store. You can download it there for free. I'm assuming you can then upload it to Vistaprint, snag a good deal and get your own free clip chart.


Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Best. Thing. Ever.

I can't take any credit for this idea, but it is my civic duty to pass it along to you.

It has rocked my world. And it rivals Find-it / Fix-it for the top slot of 'all-time best thing to grace my classroom.'

I feel like there should be a drum roll and spotlights as I introduce you to.....

The Clip Chart!

I've used flip cards and tally charts and dabbled around in a whole bunch of other complicated behavior management systems. Truth be told, I have found that with clear guidelines and consistency, the room runs itself and kids rise to meet your expectations. However, it is important to have something in place.

This was an interesting start to a school year. I heart my class. They are a great group of kids, but were by far the chattiest collection of kiddos I had ever encountered. At one point when they were still talking over me and not listening to directions in late September I told my student teacher, "I've got nothing left. I've pulled out every trick I know. But, I'll work on it over the weekend and find something new to try."

Our second grade teachers had started using a clip chart this year and spoke highly of it at lunch. I resisted at first because of the size, but decided to look into it more. After visiting the site they suggested, I thought it was worth a try. That Monday morning I quickly made a chart using construction paper and introduced it when the kids came in.

Holy Cow!

It was as if I had flipped a switch. The behavior was flawless and has been ever since.

Here's why....

In any given class you are going to have your talkers and your rule-breakers and you are going to have your good little doobies. The clip chart makes the doobies work for you. They become your allies and they love it.

Each student has a clothespin and they all start the day in the middle of the chart on "Ready to Learn." The clothespins move throughout the day. Positive choices will move you up one level at a time. Negative choices move you down. There is a buffer zone between "Ready to Learn" and facing any form of consequence so if a child "clips down" he has the opportunity to clip back up.

Here's the best part....

The good little doobies are rewarded for being good little doobies. They can "clip up." So when the room gets a little chatty, I don't focus on the chatty ones. I find a few doobies, ring my bell and make a nice show of appreciating their role model behavior. They clip up. They beam. The others are quickly redirected without me needing to mention their chatting at all. It keeps things so positive and upbeat.

Here's the mostest bestest part....

There are no prize pails or trinkets or tickets or tokens or tchotchkes to manage or track. Instead of striving for useless junk, the kids strive for acknowledgement of good behavior. When a child reaches outstanding at the end of the day, we add a little star sticker to the clip and I give them a label to take home. When they earn 5 stickers they get a new clip and color it red. We repeat the process in "rainbow order" meaning they then work to earn an orange clip and then a yellow, etc. The ultimate goal is the coveted "glitter clip." They manage this on their own by getting a new clip from the drawer and coloring it with a marker.
You simply pass out the labels and move the clips back to their original spot each morning (or do as I did and train a responsible, tall child to do it).

I love the simplicity.

I love the consistency (it travels to specials with them) throughout the day.

I love the positive feeling to it.

I love that even if a child makes a not-so-good choice, she can rally and move back up. As a helpful hint, I usually try to "clip up" my friends who have a tendency to "clip down" early in the day so that they have a bit of wiggle room.

I really, really love that the focus is on my students that make positive choices. I feel that they often get taken for granted and the attention goes to those who don't. This turns things around and the others learn from their example.

Here's the link to the site with lots and lots of info. I would just whip up your own chart though. It was very easy to make out of construction paper/poster board, but you can also create a Vista Print banner. I made 3 on one banner and cut them apart.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Monday, July 18, 2011


Do Y'all Know Jodi?

Not me sillies.

The other Jodi.

I know. Cool name, right?

I'm talking about Jodi from Fun in First. She's hosting a What's Your Favorite Back to School Activity linky.

I was going to wait until August to post this, but since she asked...

I always start the year by making playdough the day before school starts. It's really easy and cheap to make and kids LOVE it regardless of how old they are. I leave it white when I make it.

I roll it into balls (one for each student), poke a small hole in each with my finger, add a few drops of food color and then cover the hole. I then place each ball into a ziploc bag and put a bag at each child's seat for their arrival.

After they arrive I instruct them to squish up the bag to see what happens. They oooh and ahhh over the "magic" (even in 3rd grade). Having them mush it in the bag prevents them from getting the food coloring all over their hands. After the color is well-blended I have them take it out of the bag. I give them about 5 minutes of "free play" with it and then instruct them to make certain things:
  • their initials
  • their favorite animal
  • their favorite food
  • something to represent their favorite subject in school
After they create each we share them. It's a great get to know you activity, but also gives them something to do to release any nervous energy they have. Also if something unexpected occurs (student added to roster, parent that stops by, crying child who won't come in) it gives the class something quiet to do at their seats until you can focus your attention on them. This is key since you will not have any guidelines, rules or expectations in place at that point.

You could also have large sheets of paper and crayons available to have the children illustrate a self-portrait. Not only do these make an easy, colorful and appropriate display, but I love having them repeat this activity at the end of the year. They always grow so much as artists.

Another favorite activity of mine is to create a "Who's in Our Class" word search. There are some great free online sources for generating them. All you need to do is type in the first names, print and copy. Just be sure to check the word search and make sure everyone is included.

I've also done crossword puzzles with their names, but find that some children need help. The goal is to have some fun, independent activities available so that you are free to tend to unexpected first day issues that may arise.
I've compiled some of my favorite activities for the 1st week of school to create a collection of "Back To School Printables" for grades 2-5. There are elements that could be used for grades K-1 as well (illustrating, self-portraits, handwriting samples, handprints) and you could scribe for the little ones if you wanted, but these are designed for 2-5 to do independently. They are also great to use as part of your emergency sub plans.

The unit includes:.

1. Teacher Guide

2. All About Me
This is a 2 page set. It includes a lined paper titled, “All About Me” and a drawing page titled, “This is Me.” Students use these pages to write about themselves and/or illustrate a self-portrait. These activities are great to do at the beginning, middle and end of each school year as they really show the progress the child has made as a writer and artist. They also make a quick and easy bulletin board display.

3. Bio Poem
The students complete the cloze activity to create a bio poem about themselves. The pages can be kept as is or they can be used as a rough draft. These are beautiful keepsakes when they are typed and illustrated by the children.

4. Classmate Bingo
Each student begins by completing the sentences at the bottom to tell about themself. The student then cuts that part of the page off and gives it to the teacher. The teacher provides the class with a list of student names (either reproduced individually or written on the board to be copied) and the children write one name in each box. If there are more boxes than names you may consider asking specialists, the nurse, the custodian, or the principal to fill out a paper as well. To play: pick one info page from the collection and read the sentences out loud. See if anyone can guess who it is before reading the name at the end. Students then mark that space on their bingo board (pasta makes a cheap and easy marker if you do not have bingo markers).

5. Getting to Know Me Gazette
Students use words and/or pictures to complete this personal newspaper about themselves. You can use the completed pages to make a bulletin board display or bind them into a class book that is sure to be a favorite throughout the year.

6. How I Spent My Summer Vacation
This is a 2 page set. It includes a lined paper and a drawing page that are both titled, “How I Spent My Summer Vacation.” Students use these pages to write about and/or illustrate the highlights of their summer. ou can use the completed pages to make a bulletin board display or bind them into a class book that is sure to be a favorite throughout the year.

7. I Am Poem
This is a 2 page set. It includes a graphic organizer for branstorming ideas and a cloze activity to create the poem. The cloze activity can be the finished product or it can be edited for spelling and then published as a final draft. These look beautiful when you add a photo of the child and create a display. They are also cherished keepsakes and make wonderful holiday gifts for the families.

8. K-W-L About My New Grade
This is a 2 page set. It includes two KWL charts. The first is formatted in narrow columns and the second has been created with wider columns. This is a great way to introduce or review what a K-W-L chart is. Start by having the students brainstorm a list of things they already know about their new grade level (or classroom or teachers). Then have them generate a list of questions about their new grade level. Bring the class together to share their lists. You may want to compile them into a master list on poster paper or using an overhead projector. At the end of the 1st week of school have the sudents complete the last column by recording some things they have learned about their new grade.

9. Math About Me
The students begin by completing the sentences using the numbers that apply to them personally. Next, they create a collage of those numbers. To create the collage you can either have them write the numbers using markers, crayons or colored pencils or you could have them cut those numbers out of magazines and newspapers and glue them to the page.

10 My Picture is Worth Many Words
They say a picture is worth a thousand words. To complete this activity attach a photo of each child to the center of the page (or have each student draw a
self-portrait). Next, have each child brainstorm a list of words that tell about themself. This is a nice opportunity to discuss nouns and adjectives or even introduce a thesaurus. Have the children count the number of words they wrote and write that number on the line in the title. Cut out the box, mount onto colored paper and either display the finished products individually or create a class book.

11. New Classroom Scavenger Hunt
This activity can be done individually or in pairs. The students explore their new classroom and record something that fits into each category onto the chart. They can either use words, pictures or labeled illustrations to document their findings.

12. Squiggle Art
This activity shows that everyone is unique and that people often see things differently. The black squiggle is the start of a picture. Encourage the children to use their imaginations and incorporate that black squiggle into their own drawing. There are lines below the drawing box to write about what they drew. This makes a fun display or a class book. It is also a nice activity to do at the start and end of a school year to show personal growth in each student.

13. Time Capsule
This is a 5 page set. You may elect to do any or all of the activities. The idea is for the students to complete the activities at the start of the year and then revisit them at the end of the year. This set includes:
-a self-portrait
-a handprint (either painted and stamped or simply t
-a handwriting sample (perhaps the alphabet or a
dictated sentence)
-a list of things the student hopes to learn about that
-a collection of favorite things

After the students complete the pages you may want to seal them all into one box or else create individual time capsules using Pringles can. If you keep portfolios for your students then you could also use these as the first pages.

14. Who Am I?
Have the students complete each sentence starter to tell about themselves. Staple the top of the finished paper to construction paper so that the page can be lifted from the bottom. Attach a photo of the student underneath so that people can guess who it is and lift the page to check. These are especially fun for open house nights as parents love “finding” their litle darling.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Happy New Year

Here is a Happy New Year board that would work well with school.

I had each friend create a paper-pieced self-portrait and hot glued blowers onto them. I also attached the hat which had been cut in half. I love when things pop off a board.

I usually do a variation of this where I take pictures of the kids blowing blowers wearing a "Happy New Year" hat and display them on the board the first week of school.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

FREE GENRE LABELS for your classroom library

As promised, I have uploaded my Genre Labels to my TPT store for free as a thank you for helping me reach 700 followers. These are the same labels I use in my classroom library.
Speaking of which...

Today's feature in the setting up your classroom series is Classroom Libraries.

It will post later today. an added "thanks a bunch," I am having a 20% off sale on my newly added GENRE KIT for today and tomorrow to keep with the classroom library theme du jour.

Happy Sunday!

free printables labels for the library classroom library labels inspired by beth newingham teaching genre how to teach genre how to set up a classroom library Thistlegirl Designs clipart clip are Thistle girl classroom organization setting up a classroom

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Oh, the Supplies!

Tips for Collecting Supplies on the First Day of School

Despite having a slightly unhealthy love affair with shiny new school supplies (just typing those words makes me float off to a happy daydream involving pointy crayons that reek of Crayola newness and unsharpened pencils with perfect little erasers), I despise the chaos that they can evoke on the first day of school.

If you have been teaching awhile you know what I mean.

If you are new to the classroom this year, you will thank me for sparring you the headache.

Here’s how it plays out: A classroom of kids enters wearing their spiffy new duds, modeling their stylish new haircut and sporting their brand-spanking new backpack full of the bounty you enlisted them to acquire via your annual “supply letter.”

They are excited and they can’t wait to force upon you said backpack. Those who elected not to adhere to the list that specifically said 24 yellow, #2 pencils are especially excited to show off their collection of Mario Kart pencils with (gasp) scented erasers.

Yeah, I get it. I’m not so far removed from my own brand-spanking new Trapper Keeper excitement days to have forgotten the glee it brings. But, as ring master of this circus it is important to have a plan.

A good plan. A damn good plan.

The first day sets the tone and it is doubtful that you want that tone to be “crazed lunatic who breaks down on day one when the Rosearts, Sharpies and glue sticks start coming out. So I have a few options for you.

I’ll start with the best one. Because it is the most efficient and organized way I know.

Start by schmoozing with the teenage bagger at your local grocery store. If you can’t butter him up then just go straight to the head Honcho and play the teacher card with the store manager. However you go about it, you need to get a large paper grocery sack for each child in your class. If you aren’t in the business of begging for free goodies then just answer “paper” to the “paper or plastic” question for the next few weeks and you should be all set when school starts.
Write the children’s names in big, bold letters on the front of the bags and then place them on their desks.

Make a copy of your supply list for each child and staple it to the back of the bag. Write their name on that as well.

When the students arrive, instruct them to put all of their supplies into the bag on their desk quickly and silently, hang their bag onto their chair and sit quietly.

Collect the bags and put them out of the way. Go about your first day plans. Then after the kiddos are on their way home (or if you are lucky enough to have an aide or a student teacher she can do this), sort through the supplies. Use the checklist on the bag to make sure that everything is accounted for.
If you are going to use community supplies then put them where you want them.

If you are going to have them be responsible for their own supplies then print out a sheet of labels with each child’s name on it and stick them on.

I suggest recruiting a parent volunteer or a former student to help with this task.

I also print out a list of the supplies w/ each child's # and check off each item as I organize.

Be sure to follow my blog and store  and Facebook Page for notification of the FreebiesClick here to access a collection of Teacher Tips or tour my Classroom Makeover here.

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