5 Ideas for Ringing in the New Year

Although we might not be *quite* ready for that first school day of 2018, it will be here before we know it. #3daysleft #shortestwinterbreakever
So while inside I am dreading it (sorry, not sorry), outside I am prepping.  Here's how I plan to ring in the new year with my second graders.

That first day back can be rough.  The kids are tired from sleeping in and staying up late.  It is inevitably dreary or possibly raining out (or is that only in Pennsylvania?) It's the perfect time to reflect on 2017 and set some goals for 2018.  Do both at once with this freebie you can find here.

I printed single-sided for photo purposes.  However, this is perfect to print double sided to save paper, reflect and create resolutions all at once! Each question corresponds with each other (example: a book you read in 2016, one you want to read in 2017).  I plan to hang these up so both sides show or they can easily flip back and forth.

Ring in the new year with ring pops. Who doesn't love them? Such a cute idea from Around the Kampfire! Let your students suck on them while they brainstorm resolutions or eat them at the end of the day while they read to ensure a quiet end to that first day back ; )

You can't assume all of your students did something super special on NYE, so recreate that countdown experience on your first day back! This *freebie* by Mrs. Richardson's Classroom is perfect to make a countdown chain! Each hour, choose a student to rip off a chain and then do the activity on the slip of paper! These are simple (and free!) and they really create an excitement for the new year!

Start by reading or watching Squirrel's New Year's Resolutions. 

Then have your students write their resolutions on this free New Year's poster by Brenda Tejeda. 
FREE: New Year 2018 posters
Play some New Year's games! ABCYA offers both a New Year's Crossword Puzzle and Word Search. Or you can kick it old school with this freebie by Hello Mrs. Sykes. Before students play, have them brainstorm all of the words that make them think of the New Year.
New Years Day Word Find and ELA Word Work

What are your favorite New Year's ideas for the classroom?

Happy Teaching!


4 Favorite Thanksgiving Freebies

Hope you are surviving the long haul until Thanksgiving Break.  In my district, we do parent-teacher conferences the Tuesday before Turkey day.  So on one hand you are excited for those much deserved days off. On the other, it is stressful to think about all the work that goes into prepping for and holding 20+ conferences in one day.

If you are looking for some activities to get you through, here are my 4 favorite Thanksgiving Themed Freebies!

"The best part of Thanksgiving is shopping for the food." said no person ever.  I saw all the fixings for Thanksgiving when I went shopping today and, even though I love to eat it all, seeing it in the store made me overwhelmed! I am just not at the stage in my life where I could handle all that prep! #thankgoodnessformyparents

Shopping for Thanksgiving Dinner {A Math Activity}

BUT kids do enjoy it! Even if it is just for pretend.  This shopping for Thanksgiving activity by Blair Peterson gets everyone hungry and practicing real world math so it is a win win!  Students have a budget for shopping and get to choose what to buy.  Then they must add it all up and make sure they didn't go over.  It is always so funny to see what they buy.  You always have the one who doesn't get any turkey-ha! #nomeatthanksgiving #nothankyou

One thing my team does to stay sane is Thanksgiving rotations.  We each (5 of us) pick an activity to prep then rotate our classes which usually takes the whole day.  I pretend I teach middle school and do the same thing 5 times throughout the day! It's fantastic and the kids love it.  Last year I did this roll-a-turkey by Cori Bloom which you can find for free here---> Roll A Turkey

Next up is from my talented friend, Lauren, at Teaching in Stripes.  I am ALWAYS looking for engaging ways for students to show their place value knowledge.

How stinkin' cute is that turkey?! What I love is how you can so EASILY differentiate this activity for all levels of learners! Just assign different numbers and BAM--fits all the needs. 
Cute craft with a purpose--my fav!
You can never have enough turkeys! Pick this one up here in her TpT store for FREE!

This last freebie won't necessarily help you before Thanksgiving but it is definitely a great activity to reflect afterwards!  We all know the kids want to share all about what they did so it is a perfect time to encourage some writing!  I really enjoyed reading all about their breaks last year and it made me giggle when I read that the best thing one of my kiddos ate was pizza. #obviouslynotafanofturkey

Click here or on the picture to grab this freebie!

Well I hope you found something you can use! I'd love for you to share your favorite pre or post Thanksgiving activity!

Happy Teaching!


5 Ways to Stay Sane until Thanksgiving Break

This school year has been Tough with a capital T so far. 
And it has been a long, long time since a 3 day weekend (see: Labor Day).
I asked the following question a week ago...

{the answer is NO}

If you feel like you are on a treadmill going too fast and also that treadmill is underwater and you are drowning, you are probably a teacher and here are a few things you can try to make it to Thanksgiving break alive ; )

1. Find your anthem and play it as many times as it takes to make you feel better.  This has been mine: "Garden Party" by Ricky Nelson.  You are welcome to borrow it.

2. Binge printing. Since I bought an HP Instant Ink printer, my life happiness has increased 6.8% (The average is 5%.)  Now I print like there is no tomorrow.  The best part? Printing has no calories!!  There is just something about no limitations on everything I want to print that makes me happy.  It is almost like retail therapy but cheaper.

{sometimes I even print my plans in color #becauseican #sorrynotsorry}

If you want to know more about HP Instant Ink, read this awesome post from A Teachable Teacher.

3. Do some team bonding.  Go out to dinner with your colleagues.  Buy matching shirts to flaunt on dress down Fridays.  Send a ridiculous amount of group texts griping or celebrating about anything and everything school and family. Get your troubles off your chest and have a laugh.  Bring a special treat for lunch. ANYTHING to show your school family you care and also to commiserate with the ones who understand the most.

{I purchased these from Spiritopia on Etsy}

4. Start a new whole class incentive.  Have the reward be a movie and make sure they earn it.  Plan it for the day before Thanksgiving break and then everyone wins.

{Find the materials for this incentive here}

When all else fails...
5. Match their excitement. Stop fighting it and join in.  #ifyoucantbeatum Jump up and down to countdown to turkey day.  Plan FUN, engaging activities {see my plans for this week here} and remind yourself why you are losing your mind.  You are a teacher and it is Tough with a capital T. But you will have everything to be thankful for this Thanksgiving break.

Happy Teaching!


A Peek at my Election Week Plans

After 9 LOOOONG 5 day weeks in a row, I am so ready for a "short" week. AKA the kids are off on Tuesday and we have PD (that may not seem ideal but I will take what I can get!) We were originally supposed to have off Friday for Veterans Day but now it is a "mold make up" day.  #dontask

This week is all about comparing 3 digit numbers, reviewing adjectives (all of the below adjective activities are free!!) and comparing/contrasting story elements.  I just LOVE when there is a cross over of skills between subjects.  When anyone brings up something we did in math while I am teaching science, I go a little crazy from excitement! Connecting learning is what it is all about!


Truth: I do not even want to bring up the election in my classroom.  Yes, they are still sweet, innocent 2nd graders but man do they regurgitate the things they hear with preciseness (even if they have no clue what it actually means)!  So originally, like 10 months ago, this week would've been planned much differently.  Instead, we will read a close reading passage whole group.  I wrote it to focus more on the process and less on the political candidates.  Hoping that cuts down on any unnecessary drama. *crosses fingers*


If you would like to read more about the block of time which is WIN/Guided Reading and Reading Centers, check out my post here. 

In Social Studies, we are studying communities and I cannot wait to use some new S.S. materials because we are without any curriculum resources! That communities unit has EVERYTHING you need plus more!!! The centers will be a great review for assessments.

     And I couldn't make visual plans without setting unreasonable anchor chart expectations for myself.  In all honesty, I am lucky if I make 1/2 of what I set out to do.  #goalsetter

You can click here or on any of the above pictures to access the free Google Doc Download of these plans.  Once you download and save, you can click on the pictures to find the resource.  If you have any questions about my plans, leave a comment and I will get back to you : )

Happy Teaching!


Getting Guided Reading Ready

I realize it may be a bit late in the school year for this post. And I would be embarrassed to admit how many times I altered my guided reading block last year. #toomanytocount  But, maybe, even if you've been doing guided reading for weeks (or months or years-ha!), you are ready to make some changes.

Personally, I don't think you should ever feel bad about tweaking things to find what works. Obviously you don't want to do a complete overhaul every week because we know students need consistency (and who has time for that?) Examining what needs to be fixed and making changes can feel like a big deal.  Even your tried and true strategies can need some adjusting depending on your students' needs. Guided Reading is just one of those things that is constantly a work in progress.

We all know, classrooms are like snowflakes. I hope, if anything, you can take away one small idea to help your reading block run a little smoother.

The biggest factor in guided reading group success is making sure the other students are engaged and on task. Above is an example of what my schedule looks like for one rotation.  I have 4 rotations a day and each day is unique.  Personally, I feel the novelty of activities keeps it fresh and prevents students from becoming bored and as a result, unfocused.  The balance of activities needing weekly, bi-weekly, monthly or even better--no prep--helps me stay on top of it all.

There are 8 centers total. Well actually 9 if you include teacher time.  I roll them out very, very slowly one at a time in the first 6 weeks of school.  Our students use a reading center structure in first grade so that definitely helps kick start many routines and procedures.  However, modeling and practicing are still very much required for success.
  • Independent Reading: My students exchange books on an as-needed basis but NEVER during their read to self time.  I encourage them to use an extra time in the morning, afternoon or when they have finished work to switch out their books.  I don't do leveled book bins.  I really believe this is a time for students to relax and enjoy reading. I do check in with what they have in their bin.  Sometimes during one of my "free" blocks of time, I will sit and listen to them read one of their books.  Other times I have my groups bring their book bins to the guided reading table and share about what they are reading. (Also a perfect idea for a substitute if you don't want to leave complex guided reading plans!)
{just a subtle hint}
  • Word Work: This is one of my favorites.  It is the only center where I allow students to work together in partners.  Words are just more fun that way.  I try to incorporate all of those activities you feel like you don't have a lot of time for.  I incorporate sight words, phonics skills, grammar and vocabulary.
Some of the favorites lately have been:

{freebie by SSSTeaching}

Spelling Battleship with bigger boards!

{sorry for the glare but if someone could tell me how to photograph lamination without a glare, you would be my new bff}

     Hands on
My students LOVE these Wikki Stix!
      Grammar/Phonics sorts
  • Word Work on iPads: I am very fortunate to have 6 iPads in my classroom.  I also am sad to say this is my most neglected center.  I just can't ever seem to find the time to sit down and update apps on the iPads.  It is one of those things I always want to do but just gets pushed to the side. Apparently the kids don't care much because they rated Word Work iPads very high on their reflection sheets (see below for more info about those).
  • Listen to Reading (read about how I use Symbaloo here)
  • Writing: I was on the struggle bus forreal when it came to my writing center last year.  This year, my kiddos love writing and I purchased some great resources.  They especially love these idea cards with vocab from A Cupcake for the Teacher. I love how cute they look hung with magnets on our dirty old AC unit. #winwin

  • Raz Kids (Kidsa-z.com)
        This program is AMAZING.  I could do a post just about Raz Kids and all its usefulness. A must-have is computer log in cards (Don't worry--the ones below are fake students).  They are seriously a life saver! I also assign one student a day to be the "tech" helper.  They answer all the iPad and computer questions. 
  • iReady Reading Lessons: My district pays for this program which we also use for benchmark assessments.  Honestly, it is many of the students' least favorite center which I learned through this reflection sheet you can find for free here. But since I now know this, I have added some incentive to meet our districts' 45 minute per week per student expectation.
{of course it is not this students' least favorite of whom I happen to have a picture of their reflection sheet but I swear, most of my kids rated it a 7 or 8}

  • Read and Find: Reading a passage and answering questions isn't always the preferred activity.  But, add highlighters and engagement immediately increases 48% (it's true, I read it somewhere.) 
{This is real life people.  Messy desk, hand written label, Dunkin Donuts in the background.  Not everything is picture perfect.}

I choose passages based on the group's reading level (the ones pictured above are from Rooted in Reading), stick them into colored folders, allow the use of fluorescent markers an ta-da, read and find is way more fun than plain old answering questions.  I do one of these as a whole group and in small groups before expecting students to complete independently.

I also used these wonderful differentiated passages by Meet Miss Parker.  She offers 3 levels of each so they are perfect for my highest 3 groups.
Differentiated Reading Comprehension Passages

I have in no way perfected this system.  But I have those moments I glance around the room and just revel in students who are actively engaged in what they are doing.  Their gasps of excitement when I introduce a new book on Listen to Reading or a new Word Work game.
We have a dedicated hour as a grade level specifically for Guided Reading. During this time, two of our amazing reading specialists are pulling skills groups.   We can also share groups as a grade level if needed.  In addition to that hour, there is a flexible 15 minutes before lunch that our reading time inevitably falls into.  It is so nice to have such a nice chunk of time to fit it all in!

Below is my schedule this year for my groups. I had to work around students being pulled for Tier 2 intervention during this block of time as well. I don't have times because I like to have a few minutes of flexibility.  I typically set my timer for two minutes and turn it on as I am wrapping up my group.  If we are in the middle of a great discussion about the book, I hate to cut it short (especially if all my other students are still engaged in their centers).

 I do not have any group that I meet with everyday. But I do have those gray areas--extra chunks of time--to meet with skills groups.  This is where I can address specific needs outside of the guided reading group. 

I like to color code everything since the students within the groups will likely change every few
 weeks. So I keep all of my materials in color-coded bins as well. And I am going to be honest, I didn't think about color coded my lesson plan template until just now so  here it is.


I have it in grayscale too which you can download here.

Finally, I leave you with a picture of my guided reading table area.  It always looks like this. : )
When that lamp is on, it means no interrupting! And that pink chair helps me be a better teacher.

In short:
  • Setting up reading centers may feel overwhelming. (Implementing 8 different centers does not happen overnight.) You may not want to do 8 or even 6 or 7.  Whatever you choose, roll it out slow and practice whole group first!
  • Changes will happen.  We teachers, oh, we are a flexible group...and we teach flexible groups.  Remember, if it isn't working, tweak and alter as needed.
This post was originally going to answer like 5 questions but I got tired and realized unless I wrapped it up now, it was never getting published so..
          if you have any further questions, I would be happy to try and help...just leave a comment : )

Happy teaching!