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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Simple, Personal Classroom Décor- Name Posters!

When I showed you my room the other day, you might have noticed the huge white space above the cabinets.
As soon as I can manage to get a ladder in my room, I plan on decorating it with students’ names. I got this terrific idea from Molly at Lessons with Laughter, although I think hers turned out cuter.
Cut white construction paper in half, and then trim an inch off of the side and the top.
Write out students’ first names in bubble letters. Next time I’ll use a thicker Sharpie.
Let them decorate to their heart’s content.
Cut long construction paper in half and glue it on as backing.
This was one of those great activities that kids can work on when their work is finished at the beginning of the school year, and I love how I could already tell something about their personalities from just this one activity alone!

If you try this easy back-to-school activity, please make sure you check out my inspiration here!
Not too talented with bubble letters? WordArt will work for these name posters, too!

As a side note... thinking about moving my freebies over to a TpT or TN account. I'm just getting discouraged with spending lots of time on a post and freebie, seeing it get lots of traffic, but getting hardly any comments. I know that people won't leave feedback on TpT/ TN much more, but at least it would tell me how many people downloaded.

I've also been making some custom lesson plans for people, and when they are satisfied, I need to be able to charge them. I'm trying to look into the benefits of TN vs. TpT vs. a separate PayPal account. I would probably rather set up a store in case I want to sell other things later, but I'm debating TN vs. TpT. It sounds like TN is the better deal per product (and pays immediately), but TpT tends to get more traffic and therefore more sales. Am I right?

Thoughts? Suggestions?

Have a great week!

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Open House or Meet the Teacher Night for New Teachers- FIVE freebies!

I've been running a series of new teacher tips called I Just Got a Teaching Job… Now What?!

I don’t know about you, but for me, meeting the kids is nowhere near as nerve-wracking as meeting the parents.

If your school has Open House, Back to School Night, Meet the Teacher Night, or anything of the sort, it’s probably one of your biggest worries as a new teacher. For me, I student taught in Spring- so I hadn’t been part of any of this beginning of the year stuff, and I felt downright clueless.

Since my parents didn’t officially come in before the first day, I made a brochure to leave on my door during registration with very basic information to know before school even started. Not every parent picked one up, but I had two or three parents mention it later, so I think it was a good move!


Yes, the Scotch tape is not the best look, but it was falling apart without it!


This is one of those areas where talking to your fellow co-workers is so very important. You need to know:

- Is there an open house?
- Is open house before school starts, or after?
- Is there a set day/ time for the whole school or grade level, or do I choose when to have it for my class?
- Are students invited? What about siblings?
- What things do you hand out and talk about? Can I have copies? (Remember- digital is best for easy tweaking and not having to reinvent the wheel!)
- What sort of things do you set out for parents? Do you have them fill anything out?

At my old school, it happened before school, for the whole school on the same night, with a specific schedule. At my new school, we have a “walkabout” on the first day where parents can visit their child’s classroom before leaving, and most teachers also have their own parent meeting or open house in the next couple of weeks.

The time of your open house makes a big difference on what to do. It’s also a good idea to find out or decide if there’s a specific time frame for all of the parents to listen to you present, or if families will trickle in and out over a longer time frame.

If your open house occurs before school starts, think about what parents need to know. You need to tell them:
  • what their child needs for the first day
  • how to best prepare their child for a new school year
  • how to communicate with you, and how you will communicate with them
  • that you are competent and confident
And the kids want to know:
  • where your room is
  • where their desk is
  • something about their teacher
  • something that will get them excited about the year!
When parents arrived at open house (for me, it was the 2nd week of school), here’s what they saw.


The Target pocket chart had directions, and then I put out a parent sheet and packet. The sheet I wanted them to return was BRIGHT pink, to hopefully make it stand out.


Grab your freebie copies of the parent information sheet and generic parent packet here.

When parents are trickling in, you want them to have something to do. I like to have things the kids are excited about, because then the kids drag their parents straight to their desks.

I had my kids give their parents a “quiz.” That day at school, kids filled out their favorites, and a note to their parent.


When parents got there, the right answers were hidden, and the kids got to give their parents a quiz and grade it. (The novelty of this is so amusing to 3rd graders.)


I got the quiz from Rachel at Minds in Bloom. You can pick up her freebie here.

After a quick summary of the packet from me, I gave parents time to check out a couple of stations where things were set out for them. I like to use some kind of tripod sign to make it clear where things are, and don’t forget to leave out some pens and pencils. Flower pens are great for making sure they don’t disappear! (You can see how to make flower pens here.)


You can also get a copy of my parent volunteer form here (free).

The kids also got to share some of the work they’d done- a mini-book, Graphing Myself (grab as a freebie from The Tattooed Teacher!), and an All About Me writing project.


This was our first writing project. I model brainstorming important things about myself, such as things I like, things I’m good at, things about my family, places I’ve been, what I look like, how old I am, and if I’m a boy or girl.


Kids can use more than one page if they need to, and I staple them together along the top.

Then, we glue it onto a big piece of construction paper folded in half. When parents come, they read the All About Me’s and see if they can guess who the page belongs to. If they think they know, they lift up the flap, and…


see if they are right! We discuss ahead of time that their head should almost fill the page, and that they don’t look like a smiley face. We have noses, eyebrows, and eyes that don’t look like just dots. Unless long hair is covering them we have ears, too! We really focus on filling the page and adding lots of detail, and they turn out great.

The kids love seeing if they can stump their parents, and they make a really nice keepsake. I also hang onto them until the end of the year so kids can see the difference in their writing skills, their handwriting, and their drawing.

You can pick up a freebie copy of the All About Me writing sheet here.

A couple last tips:
- Make sure you have a parent conference sign-up sheet, so that parents with concerns can be pointed in the direction of a sign-up, and hopefully you won’t have to stay all night.
- Get yourself a new outfit for the night. You don’t want to do the whole try-on-10-outfits-until-you’re-satisfied thing and be late! Don’t forget a piece of jewelry or two- I’m no fashionista, but you want to look pulled together to both make a good impression and to feel confident.
- Consider making a quick slideshow of the basics you want to cover. It’ll help you focus on your presentation.
- Good luck! :)

To recap, here are your freebies:
Parent Information Sheet (updated for 2013-2014)
Parent Packet for Open House (editable .doc)
Parent Volunteer Form
All About Me writing page
Parent Conference Sign-Up

And links to 2 freebies from friends:
Graphing Myself from The Tattooed Teacher
Parent Night Quiz from Minds in Bloom

Whew. I hope this helps! I’d be so happy if you’d consider following or pinning anything you love, too! Happy back-to-school time!

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Where I Teach Wednesday

I love the idea of linking up to Teacher Week- but it hasn’t happened yet. So I’m going to jump in halfway, and catch up later.

I moved classrooms and grade levels this summer, and while I fully intended to go in and do lots to make my room amazing, I didn’t end up doing that.

Still, I like my new room and I’m pretty happy with how it turned out!



Keep in mind that we started school last week, and there are lots of things I’d still like to do! (Isn’t a classroom always a work in progress?) I also have 5 extra desks in my room at the moment… here’s hoping the custodial staff finds somewhere to put them!


When students come in the room, they look at the CHAMPS acronym on the board. (You can get the freebie procedures poster here.)

They hang up backpacks here. There are coathooks beside the door. (Since they’re still learning their numbers and we’re still expecting a few new students to trickle in, I used some Super Sticky Post-Its for reminders.)


Last year my kids’ hooks were inside the closets, which meant a little less storage but a little more neatness during the day. I know I’m lucky to have the storage, though!

For open house, I posted our “different names for a number” charts. (Each group brainstormed to see how many different ways they could think of!) You also might’ve noticed the huge white space up above- but I have a plan for that. (I’ll show you soon!)


After kids hang up coats and backpacks, they turn in homework here, by the door. (Homework on top, homework folders on the bottom!) I took this picture before open house, but the mini pocket chart stand (Target, of course) is great for quick morning reminders.


The next step is for them to turn in all notes, money, etc. to the blue basket on my desk. (Garage sale find!)


Next, they make a lunch choice with their popsicle stick. (Magnetic bins from Dollar Tree and labels are Super Sticky Post-It notes that have lasted since last year. LOVE these things.)


If they brought their lunch, kids put them in the blue lunch bin near the door (see below). Two kids wheel this down to the cafeteria every day as their job, and then wheel it back afterwards.


Now, they make sure to have sharpened pencils. (Target Dollar Spot buckets, and those Super Sticky Post-It notes again until our color printer is working again!) The pencil sharpener is right here, too.

Finally, kids start their morning work at their desks.


My boards are all the same color background with silver sparkly border from Wal-Mart. The alphabet is from Dollar Tree. I don’t love it, but it will do.

My carpet is the one I used in college, so it’s kind of falling apart (and it’s nowhere near big enough for the whole class), but it works. I also use shower caddies and Dollar Spot baskets to hold art supplies so they aren’t in desks all the time.


Of course, these are from Ladybug’s Teacher Files. (Thank you for the freebie, Kristen!) I’m just starting Daily 5/ CAFÉ with some modifications this year. I love that Response to Text is part of my strategy menu- I think that’s huge for the upper grades! The little froggy came from JoAnn Fabrics.


We are working on our Read to Self stamina- 9 minutes so far.


I love this number line. It comes with adorable frogs, and my friend Melanie gave it to me! I also have the writing process from Second Grade Shenanigans which I loooove. (It’s free- how great is she?)

On the right is my small group area…


More chalkboards… (don’t worry, I’ll tell you about these fish soon- with a freebie!) The last teacher left life skills up on the top of the wall, but I added special cards (also freebies from Kristen at Ladybug’s Teacher Files).


My desk area… (currently the messiest area- but I guess my students come first? Smile) I’ll be putting spelling and vocabulary words on this bulletin board.


And on the left of the main wall…


The clip chart, our postcard map, and the beginnings of the classroom library.


You can see that the library is not totally finished yet- I have lots of books to still put away! There are big, beautiful windows on this side of the room, though, and between those and the comfy seats, this is definitely my favorite part of the room!


The classroom library actually extends on the other side, too, along with an old coffee table from a friend of mine. I think it’s going to become our listening center.


I love seeing our book boxes full! (Boxes from IKEA, 5 for $1.99, and numbers from Technology Rocks. Seriously.)


I also love this guy. He has a pocket just perfect for displaying a book, and if you haven’t read a Captain Raptor book, you and your class are missing. out.

Past the cabinets, I have a little counter/ sink area. Currently it’s a little overrun by tissues and antibacterial wipes. The wipes were actually left over from last year’s class!


Posters were from Dollar Tree, and are filling the space until I use the bulletin boards for something else.


The rest of this corner is the computer area- 4 student computers on 2 trapezoid tables, with our basket of flash drives. Computer login cards to come!

It could be better, but if I wait until it’s perfect, you are never going to get to see my room!

Make sure you link up with Blog Hoppin’ and show us some pictures of your classroom! I especially love seeing other 3rd grade classrooms for ideas!

Hope you are having a GREAT week!