Okay. So let’s be real. My floor can get so gross. Six year olds are not the cleanest animals on the planet.
BUT! One thing about six year olds that IS awesome is the fact that you can get them to do anything if you call it a game.
So how to I use this to my advantage, you ask? We play the Magic Trash game.
When our floor is a mess, especially after we have art, I pull out this little game.
I walk all around the room and decide on one piece of trash in my mind. Any little piece will do – paper scraps, pencils, crayons, glue caps, etc. I then stand where I can see the piece out of my peripheral vision so it’s not quite so obvious which piece I chose. (I’ve heard of some teachers writing a description of the piece on a piece of paper, that way there can be no claims of cheating!)
When I say “GO!” my kids quickly go around the room and pick up pieces of trash. I watch everyone as they pick up the pieces and show it to me. I don’t tell who picked up the “magic piece” until after the floor is clean, though. Because we both know that if I said that the first kid who picked up the piece was the winner, the floor would still stay a mess.
Once the winner is announced (and most importantly the floor is clean!), I give away the prize. I’m all about those free rewards in my room. The prize could be a coveted high five or a ticket. We use our tickets for free classroom prizes that I will blog about later.
I’ve heard another variation of this game where each student has to pick up a certain number of pieces. My kiddos do better with a competition, though. Another friend shared that she puts a smiley sticker on a piece of paper on the floor at a random point of the day. The kids are constantly pickup up paper and checking it throughout the day!
How do you keep your floor clean?
I sometimes live a super exciting life on Friday nights. The kind where you throw your hair up in a bun, put on leggings, turn on the TV to watch some Netflix, and tackle the pile of papers that I neglected to grade all week. To be fair, this doesn’t happen every week, but, hey, it happens. This week included Valentine’s Day, Parent/Teacher Conferences, PD, and penguin lesson plans prep. Clearly, this Friday night was going to be spent at home.
I decided to watch a documentary that has been on my watch list for a while. I figured I could watch “Minimalist: A Documentary” in the background and still be able to get a lot accomplished. Little did I know that I would get sucked in.
Now, let me preface the rest of this post – I am not a “minimalist” nor do I intend to adopt this lifestyle. But it definitely made me stop and think about job as a teacher. Probably because of the pile of papers on either side of me and marker in my hand.
One of the ideas that stuck out to me the most was that a goal in many people’s life is to work at a job to climb the ladder of success. It is generally thought that being “rich” is earning 50k a year. But once many people reach this bracket, they don’t “feel” rich.
I’m still a fairly new teacher, so my salary isn’t very much. On top of that, I have a massive amount of student loans I have to face monthly. Oh, how I wish money wasn’t an issue – but it definitely is. I wish I had a larger pay check where I wouldn’t have to budget for every little thing. Ha – I even have a category in my budget to spend on school! I mean, what other jobs do you have to budget in order to put right back into your work? Oh, that teacher life.
BUT. You know what? I wouldn’t trade my status as a teacher for anything. Is teaching hard? Absolutely. Is it tiring? All the time. Is it frustrating? Way too often. Is it fun? YES! Is it hilarious? Every day. Is it the best? In my opinion, definitely.
Although I’m not “rich” by America’s standards, I cannot imagine myself doing anything else. I’m rich in my life because of my job (among other things – my faith, family, friends, etc.).
My life is so full bring surrounded by my students. They bring me so much joy and laughter! I promise that we don’t get through an hour without laughing. I love my little firsties so much because they make me see things in a whole new light. I love reading their writing and seeing the world through their eyes. They value the simple things, which makes me value the simple things. We cherish hugs, smiles, and silly jokes. We crave time to read books together. We enjoy simply talking to each other during snack time. Recess is good for the soul – enjoying fresh air, laughter, playing with friends, and of course chats with the teacher while playing beauty shop. I could go on and on, trust me.
Not only do my students mean the world to me, but also my relationships with my coworkers! I absolutely could not do my job NEAR as effectively without my dream team. We laugh together, plan together, eat together, and simply do life together. Sometimes I feel like I’m losing my mind talking to six year olds all day…so it’s necessary to pop into my friends’ room to gesture pulling out my hair through the window. Or share a funny picture that was drawn. Or fill my mug with her Keurig (one of my love languages, in case you were wondering.)
The main thing I took from the documentary was “How do you define success?” It’s easy to get wrapped up in wishing I earned more money to buy more things. I truly believe that I am doing what the Lord has called me to do with my talents that he has entrusted me with.
I truly believe that I’m a rich teacher. Are you?
What about your job makes you feel rich?
Do you give your students a welcome back to school gift? I decided to this year and I think it was a hit!
Open house is always so awkward – the students are shy and don’t really want to talk to anyone but their parents. This year I was able to show the kiddos around the room a little, stopping by the ever so popular turtle, and ending at my guided reading table where I had a surprise waiting for everyone!
I’ve used these little fellas during guided reading in the past and they are so much fun! I was in Target the other day…shocker, right?...and found these little guys again. They were in the party section, just begging to be picked up. So, I did.
I whipped up a little phrase to put with the eye finger puppet when I got home. Super cheesy, but I do teach first grade. Cheese is definitely called for. All the time.
(Y'all - please excuse my fingernails. It's back to school time - you know how it is. Ha!)
Once I printed and cut the cards out, I just hot glued the eyeballs onto the card and was ready to go!
I hope you can use this free card with your finger puppets!
I’d love to see your pictures on Instagram – tag me at @mirandalarayne!
What do you do for your students’ birthdays?
I love to give my students birthday balloons! These are such a easy gift to put together before school starts and have them ready to go. It only takes me a few minutes to cut out the circles and tape them to the straws. I put them in a basket and then forget about them.
I’m the worst at remembering and planning for student birthdays, so it is fantastic to have these ready to pass out when the announcement comes on. Anyone else have too many other things in your mind? Nah – you’re a teacher. You’re a super star.
My kiddos love the silly straws so much! I let them choose their color, which thrills them!
I’d love to share these editable birthday balloons with you! Just click on the document below and download!
When you open it in Adobe, just click below "Happy Birthday!" and you should be able to type in your name.
I’d love to see pictures of you using “birthday balloons” in your classroom! Please tag me on Instagram @mirandalarayne!
Does this statistic frighten anyone else? How in the world are we supposed to bridge that gap? We have students coming into our classroom with all different backgrounds, yet we are supposed to grow them all academically one year. Seem like a daunting task? IT IS!
What do you do to help close this gap? Of course we all read aloud to our students, but what else can we do?
Vocabulary is the key! The more words we know, the better we understand the world around us.
I was fortunate enough to stumble across a really cool program called Big Word Club last fall. I immediately signed up because I am always on the hunt for new and better ways to teach my firsties.
What is Big Word Club? I’m so glad you asked! Big Word Club (now being referenced in this post as BWC) is an awesome online explicit vocabulary instruction. The program is divided into different grade level bands, so it meets the needs of your students! Each week there is a new digital book that is read aloud, a song to go with the book, and dance along version of the song. There are daily videos that explicitly teach a vocabulary word that is found in the weekly book.
The books cover some really cool topics! Our favorite books were any that dealt with dinosaurs, the rain forest, and the Galapagos Islands! I loved how we could experience different places just sitting on our classroom rug. Our conversations that sprung from these videos were much more rich than our normal talks. Seriously – having my students using the word symbiotic correctly blew my mind!
One of the reasons I love this program is because it helps not only our vocabulary grow, but also our schema. I would have NEVER thought about teaching my students about the Galapagos Islands, but we certainly did have fun looking up more information and imaging a field trip there!
Another reason my firsties and I love BWC is the fact that it is multimodal – you listen, see the video with context, see how it is spelled, dance along, and discuss it as a class. You reach all kids by hitting all of these areas. I may or may not have dance along sometimes.
It is very easy to use, too! I would pull up the website on my interactive board while my students were doing student-led calendar time. I had the link bookmarked in my browser, so I could easily click on the link and find the week and day we were ready for. We would watch the day’s videos and then take turns going around the room using our new word.
This past spring we went through BWC’s content one week at a time, starting at week one, then moving to week two, etc. Now that I know the different themes, I may go “out of order” and do some weeks when they better line up with my curriculum. Either way works, I just think I can extend the learning a little better if I do it this way. Do you already do a rainforest or dinosaur unit? These videos will fit right along with your current content!
Have you used Big Word Club? Comment below - I want to hear about your experience with it!
Has anyone else gotten caught up in all of the WONDERFUL Target Dollar Spot finds lately? Oh my word. SO many good finds!
I, too, have fallen victim of a good Dollar Spot haul. Or two. Or three. Here’s a pic of ONE of my trips. It’s a disease, y’all.
There have been so many good finds, but one of my favorites is this awesome little puzzle set! I love how simple it is, yet has some good educational purposes! First off, I love a good puzzle and so do my students! I pull out puzzles especially at the beginning of the year during centers and then throughout the year during indoor recess. I love how puzzles help with fine motor skills, spatial skills, problem solving, hand eye coordination, self esteem, and so many other important skills! Above all – they are just plain fun!
This particular puzzle set has four two-sided discs that pull apart into five pieces, thus creating eight different puzzles to match. While students can match the puzzles with the background color, they can also look at the words/pictures and find the rhyming words.
I’ve been in schools before that don’t want just play time during centers (which is a whole other blog post coming your way). Administration wants proof of learning, aka documentation. One way to go about this is to have the students take a picture with an iPod of their work. I have a few donated iPods in my classroom, but we use them at another center, so this doesn’t work for me. I sometimes have my students use the manipulatives in the centers and then record their findings on a sheet to turn into a center basket. I don’t grade center work, but I do look through it and see if there are any areas I need to go back and address. I always pull out their writing and make comments or have them read their work to me before sending them home.
For this fun puzzle, I decided to whip up a little recording sheet. Once the students match all the puzzle pieces, they will choose four puzzles to record on the sheet. Nothing too fancy, nothing too hard. Just practicing writing the rhymes and handwriting.
Click this link to grab your freebie to use with your target dollar puzzles, too!
Do you use puzzles in your classroom? How do you use them?
If I know one thing, it is that everyone has an opinion. Especially first graders.
What better way to use their (sometimes) sweet and strong opinions than to get them writing about them!
I have been focusing helping my students become better authors this year. I am doing a lot of modeling and we are doing a ton of brainstorming on the board together. They are blossoming into the best little writers!
One of our favorite writing pieces recently has been our opinion piece to go along with the story DUCK! RABBIT!
We started out the week reading this funny book. The kiddos love it! At first, they are really confused, but as the story goes on, they understand that the author is showing them how the shape can look like both a rabbit and a duck, depending on the way you are looking it.
Once we read the book, we took a poll to talk about which students saw the different shapes. We then graphed our opinions and answered some questions about the results of the graph.
The next day we reread the story and looked for the reasoning for each shape. We wrote our reasons in a t-chart to help sort out our ideas. The students also circled which of the animals they want to write about.
Day three is a big day. We begin writing our ideas out in paragraph form! We have been using the “Stoplight Paragraph” format this past year and so we went back over the three main parts of a paragraph.
Using the animal we chose the day before, we got to writing! We filled in the template for the topic sentence, three details, and closing sentence. For some kiddos this was a tricky part, but we pushed through. I talked through the sheet with each kid as they read it back to me. We corrected any misspellings and punctuation errors. What an authentic way to practicing editing and reading back over your work! We talked about how this was a rough draft because it wasn’t perfect yet. Several students were worried that this piece would go in the hallway for everyone to see. It was good to talk about the writing process and the fact that we only publish our best work.
The next day we took our template and rewrote our completed paragraph in our best handwriting. We discussed how this would be our final draft that we would put in the hallway for everyone to see. It was great to see them taking their time and trying their best! We don’t teach handwriting, so this was a good time to have them slow down and really work on their letters and spacing.
Day five was our favorite! We each got the silly shape and transformed it into the animal that we wrote our opinion piece about. Oh man, we were PUMPED. My teammate had a genius idea of putting the book under our document camera and having the students trace the body shape onto their construction paper. They went nuts! They loved adding details to the animal.
We put all of our hard work together so everyone could see our process and displayed them proudly in the hallway. Friends, I love them. My students love them. I even hear the students walking to and from the bus stop talking about which animal they see in the shape. :)
If you’d like to check out the resources we used, click here!
IF you want to purchase the book to use in your room, click here!
How do you teach opinion writing in your room? What animal do you see? :)
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.*
Listening: Pandora – Drew Holcomb and the Neighbors. Yall, I’ve always got Pandora playing. We listen to it in my classroom most of the day. I have several stations that I listen to during planning, too. I listen to Pandora while in Starbucks or Panera, working. I listen to it at home while grading/lesson planning/anything school related. I tell myself it makes the activity more bearable. I even got a cool shower speaker for Christmas…so I listen to Pandora in the shower. I just love the variety it plays.
Loving: my happy planner! I recently got a happy planner this past month and I LOVE IT. I love how cute and customizable it is! The inspiring quotes and adorable graphics make me smile. I love that I can move the pages around wherever I like and can purchase so many different add ons. My assistant principal at my school has the notebooks from MAMBI and is obsessed. We had a good planner gab session – it was good for the soul. She even has the hole punch. I am beyond jealous and will probably be purchasing one soon.
Thinking: about all that has to be done this week! You guys know what I’m talking about. These last few weeks are nuts! We have to worry about benchmark testing, wrapping up skills, reviewing skills, musicals, field day, assemblies, tired kids, tired teachers, tired parents, spring carnivals, cleaning your classroom, packing up your classroom…the list goes on and on.
Wanting: a nap. I mean, is there really other explanation than that?
Needing: coffee! How else are we going to get all of our stuff done??? My sweet teacher friend blessed me with a Starbucks giftcard this past week – I think I may need to use it later today. I love my Kureig and all, but I may need some ‘bucks today.
Truth: teacher burn out is real and it makes me super sad. I have several friends who are leaving the profession at the end of the year. I hate to see this happen because they are all fantastic teachers! The stress of all the extra stuff that goes on has just gotten to be too much. Several of them are leaving for other reasons, like family or other business opportunities, but still. It just makes me that that our profession is so hard and that we have a huge turn over rate. I wish we all were appreciated for all that we do. Don’t get me wrong, I know our students appreciate us, but you know what I mean. I hate that we hardly receive recognition for the good that happens in our rooms. Take some time this week and let your coworkers know that you appreciate them!
Well, poo. I didn’t mean for this to end on such a debbie downer note!
Press on, teacher friends. What we do matters in so many ways.
We’ve got this. Only a few more weeks until BREAK. :)
*This post contains Amazon affiliate links.*
What does the shape say?
Oh my goodness, friends. Do you remember this CRAZY song that was a hit a few years ago? What does the fox say? Bless.
Well…we may not be talking about what a fox says, but we sure can talk about what shapes say! This is a fun, engaging way to learn about shapes’ attributes.
We use several songs throughout our shape unit. I don’t know about you, but I LOVE Have Fun Teaching. They make some great videos.
We started by creating a graphic organizer with 4 different shapes and their attributes. We used the most common shapes – circle, triangle, square, and rectangle. We wrote the number of corners and sides each one had. Once we did the on the board, we used Reagan Tunstall’s shape interactive notebook page to sort the shapes and their attributes. I love her and her work.
Anyway, I let them choose ONE of those shapes and colored the column all the way down. We used our information to imagine what our favorite shape would say. We wrote the description in little word bubbles. One of my friends said, “It’s like we are writing a riddle!” I thought that was a super smart connection!
We then cut our favorite shape out of our favorite color of construction paper. We added some eyeballs and a few extra details. Once it was all together, we proudly displayed them in the hallway.
Our first grade team is fantastic. We plan together and help each other out. I love how we have the same structure, yet all do something completely different with it! Here are a few more pictures of what my teammates did with their students.
I’m excited to be linking up with Oh Boy It’s Farley for the first time! Here’s what I’m up to these days. :)
Listening: Gilmore Girls! Y’all. I love me some Lorelai and Rory. I have seen the seasons so many times that I can’t even keep track. I just start at the beginning and keep going. I have seen the episodes so many times that I don’t have to watch the screen at all, so I can actually get a lot done while listening to it. Do you have a favorite show that you’ve seen over and over? Or maybe it’s just me. Who knows.
Loving: My Class. Cheesy, I know, but seriously. I have such a great crew this year. Lately I have been reflecting on my past two years of teaching, and this one is by far the best. I have some crazy funny kids this year. They are silly and love to laugh. We are constantly laughing. These kids tell the silliest jokes and crack themselves up. They love learning and get so excited about understanding a new concept. (Who knew compound words could be so fun until this week?) They have such kind hearts, too! My kiddos are always helping each other, whether it is cleaning up or helping read a book. I definitely lucked out this year, you guys. I don’t even want to think about them leaving me!
Thinking: About the LIRPA LOOF. Yesterday was April 1st, better known as April Fools. I got my class GOOD this year. We read a story about the Lirpa Loof Bird and then found the adjectives. (We’ve been studying adjectives this past month!) When we read that these special birds migrate in the first week of April, the kiddos got SO excited. Then after reading that they eat carrots, I shared that I actually brought a carrot if they wanted to go look for one. We decided to make our own carrots and head outside. They bought it hook, line, and sinker. They were holding those carrots above their heads and chanting, “lirpa loof, lirpa loof!” It was hilarious!
Wanting: A piece of cheese toast. Sounds weird, but it’s true. It’s my favorite go to snack. A piece of Bay’s Southern Sourdough Bread, lightly toasted, with a slice of thin-cut provolone cheese is quite close to perfection. Thank goodness my mom got me a loaf when I was home in Nashville for spring break last week.
Needing: This pretty weather to stay! Today was so pretty! It was in the 60s and sunny! We had some storms earlier this week, but this weekend’s weather has been so good. We were even able to go outside for recess yesterday – something the kids and I BOTH need.
Whatever: #teachertired. It’s a real thing. I love my job. I love my kids. I love my friends. But whew. Sometimes I’m just worthless! Coming back after spring break was rough this time! Our schedules are all messed up – eating, bathroom, sleep, all of them! Gracious. You’re a teacher, you get it.
Hope you all have a great April! :)