My 6 *NEW* Favorite B2S Freebies!

Two years ago, I shared some of my favorite back to school freebies.  I do teach 2nd so they are resources that have worked for my classes in the past.  However, some are adaptable to other grade levels.

Well this year I am back with 6 more favorites and guess what? They are all *FREE*!

My favorite 1st day morning work is a coloring page. It's simple and does not require directions so you can focus on everything else going on that first morning! 

FREE Back to School Coloring Pages! {Pre-K-5} {Beginning of the Year}

This year I plan on using one of these by Khrys Greco. I love how there are SO many options for PreK-5. You can find them here.

So I just realized this was on my list of favorite before but it's too good not to mention again! This back to school ABC order is a simply perfect way to ease into some skills. Since it's cut and paste, it is the perfect opportunity to go over procedures for using glue and scissors (while informally assessing those fine motor skills!).  I don't use this on the very first day but sometime in the first week.  ABC order is a permanent fixture in my word work centers so it is important I make sure all my students are familiar with this skill early on.
Back to School ABC Order Cut and Paste Printable---FREEBIE
I love that More than Math by Mo includes large picture cards to first sort before cutting and pasting.  She also has a TON of ABC order cut and paste freebies for all sorts of seasons/holidays.

I love love love this freebie that goes with the book "This School Year Will Be the Best".  It includes ideas for questioning during the read aloud and a writing extension for after!

This School Year Will Be The Best - Back To School Read Aloud and Class Book
I read this at the end of the first day last year (you can see the rest of my first day plans here) and it really helps to build that excitement for what is in store! Bonus: it gets students writing so you can see where they are all at on day 1! If you don't already read this book the first week of school, you need to add it to your collection! <<buy it here on Amazon>>
Getting to know our students as readers is SO so SO important! To get them engaged, we have to know what they like! This kid-friendly reading survey by Stomping Through First provides great information about your students' interests.  I keep it in my guided reading binder and update it from time-to-time throughout the year.  It helps guide me in choosing books for my small reading groups and making book purchases for my classroom library.
Back to School Reading Surveys for Beginning Readers
Do you send an intro letter to your students before school starts? We have PIN before school (Parent Information Night) but students aren't really invited... SO I send home these letters with the parents introducing myself.  
This was my one from last year. You can find the editable version here by Rowdy in Room 300.
I like to hand out a small gift at the end of the first day.  I give out highlighters since it is something I would have already bought for students since we use them all the time.  But, attaching a gift tag (find it here!) makes it extra special! The highlighters are 4 for $1 at Dollar Tree and they aren't junk!

I hope you find some of these freebies useful in your B2S planning!

Happy Teaching : )


5 Ways to Get in Grammar

Math, reading, writing, phonics, skills groups, enrichment, social studies, seems impossible to fit it all in. Grammar seems to be one of those subjects that just gets pushed to the side and often forgotten. Yet, it still deserves a place in your students' day in some way.  Here are some ideas for getting it in!

Do you use interactive notebooks in your classroom? In the past, I have used mine mostly for math.  However, this year we used it for everything including grammar.

Now they do take a bit of time to set up and get used to.  But if you are already using for another subject, once students are familiar with how interactive notebooks work, they are great independent activities to review previously taught skills.  Sometimes we get started as a whole group and they finish on their own (usually during our guided reading block when they aren't at "teacher time").  This gives me the chance to see if they are picking up on what I taught and can cut down on time spent on a whole group grammar lesson.

Still on the fence? Try it out! Check out this freebie by Education to the Core.

If you aren't ready to commit to an entire notebook, students could also complete this on a loose leaf sheet of paper.  But, the notebook is meaningful because they can reference past lessons all year!
Interactive Grammar Notebook FREEBIE for types of sentences! Interactive notebooks are a great way to implement grammar and language arts standards for primary students!

I try to teach 1-2 grammar lessons per week depending on the difficulty of the skill and my students' readiness. I keep these lessons super short like 5-15 minutes at the most! One way I cut down on time is by using a book we have already read as a mentor text.  We revisit that familiar text and find whatever it is we are looking for (nouns, adjectives, contractions ect.) Then we might make an anchor chart together like the one below for nouns.
You can find all the pieces for this anchor chart in my store here: Noun Anchor Chart
I love that this chart can be created together, reinforcing the concept and also referenced in the future. Students are more likely to reference something they have had a part in making!

After we have had a mini-lesson, students will continue to practice during centers. 
Here's a few examples as to what that looks like:
 Each of my centers requires some kind of sorting or matching. There is also a recording sheet but I have to be honest, depending on the center, I don't always require the recording sheet.

In this Roll-A-Contraction center, students roll a dice and read the word above the number they rolled. Then they must find the two words that make up the contraction and record it. Anything using a dice is all sorts of popular in my classroom!
If you'd like to check out these centers, you can find them individually here or the bundle here (over 20 centers!)

I know there is debate about whether or not morning work is the best use of our instructional time. A lot of teachers are moving to more hands-on AM activities. However, morning work WORKS for me and my students so I am sticking to it.  #ifitain'tbroke I like the routine it creates.  It provides a great review of skills.   By the end of the year, my students become so independent, they take turns leading going over the answers and it is just one of the many areas in which I see so much growth!
Smiling and Shining in Second Grade: Daily Practice for Second Grade
I just love love love all morning work by Shelly Sitz at Smiling and Shining in Second Grade. She has math morning work, grammar and a combo of both. You can try some of her morning work pages for free here. The constant spiral of grammar skills is crucial for mastery!

In addition to lack of time, sometimes grammar gets pushed to the side because it's just not all that exciting.  Good news! You can make review for ANY grammar skill into a game.   One of my favorites is this digital version of Connect 4.  Project the Connect 4 document onto your whiteboard or SmartBoard. Split your class in two teams. Have a student from one team answer a grammar question.  If they get it right, they make a move for their team.  If they get it wrong, the other team has a chance to answer. First team to get 4 in a row, wins!  This will turn any "boring" grammar skill into fun--I promise!

Don't want to come up with the questions?
Simply pair it with a copy of grammar task or scoot cards like these:

Read more about my ideas for engaging with games here.

I have to be honest.  Apps are not my strong suit.  I promised myself last year I would sit down with all my iPads and update them with the most fun, exciting apps.  That didn't happen.  #nextyeargoal  Luckily, others are experts and have compiled a great list of grammar apps!

eLearning Industry shares 11 apps for teaching grammar.  The best part? They are all FREE!

I love this one called Grammar Fun that allows students (or you) to specify example which skills students are working on.

I hope you gained at least one new idea for getting grammar into your day. What other ways do you teach grammar? I'd love to hear about them!

Happy teaching!


How I Handle Homework

I am popping in today to chat about the "H" word. No, not that one....Homework. Sometimes I wish parents and students knew that most teachers share the same sentiments about it. I wish I didn't have to give it.  But, alas, I do.  While I don't think there is anything wrong with the responsibility homework brings, I severely dislike a few things about it.

1. Hearing when students spend WAY too much time on it at home.  Mostly because they are burnt out and give their parents a hard time.  Whenever I hear "It takes Johnny at least an hour every night" to do what I assume should take 15 minutes, my teacher heart cries a little.

2. Keeping track of it, correcting it, handing it back. 

But I have to because we do give a "grade" for homework (1, 2, or 3 for completion). I have tried to scale it back to a simple operation to avoid any headaches. Here's how my homework system works.

On any given night, students have a spelling assignment (they choose from a list of options to practice their words), 1/4 of a page of math facts (on their level) and a math review page.  This is THE MOST I ever give. Spelling and math facts are handed in on Fridays.  The math review page comes back the next day. Homework is turned into this basket every morning.

In the beginning of the year, I check the homework for completeness, star it and mark it on my checklist. Then it gets handed back at the end of the day. But once class jobs kick in (usually after 1st marking period), I have two students fill the positions of "homework checker" thus taking over this responsibility.  I keep the checklist on a clipboard directly next to the basket.

What happens when kids don't do their homework?

Let's be honest. We have 10,000 things to do each day.  Chasing down kids for not doing their homework is simply, in my opinion, not the best use of my time.  So, instead of running to make copies before lunch then having students complete it during recess, I *gasp* let it go. I realize this may not align with teaching responsibility. But those kiddos who habitually forget their homework or just plain don't do it need recess the most.
(I don't just start counting at 2, #1 moved this year which is why that number is no longer)

Instead of a "punishment" for not doing homework, I reward students for doing it. I don't LOVE rewarding kids for something they should be doing anyway.  But it's monthly and the prize costs nothing so it all works.

Everyone starts the beginning of the month in the homework club. Don't do your homework? You are out! Try again next month! (Sometimes I let one missed hw slide depending on the situation.) This adorable freebie is from The Magic of Teaching and you can find it here.
Students who stay in the homework club all month get a FREE homework pass! I say free because hw passes are also for sale in my weekly reward store (20 Stahl Stars).  This motivator combined with having their number up on the homework club chart seems to work well. You can find a copy of these passes here for free : )

Well, that's it! Not too complicated.  How do you handle homework in your classroom?